The involvement of U.S. combat troops in the Vietnam War led to historic incidences in the U.S. related to protest protocols. There were obviously some U.S. citizens who supported war and, on the other hand, there were some U.S. civilians who were against the war. Among the protesters of the war were college/university students. The student protests were so passionate that they eventually turned into riots that halted operations in most cities of the United States.
Efforts by guardsmen to counteract the riots led to the deaths of a number of students and protesters, and they also left a score of casualties. This had many effects on the socio-political structure of the United States with the masses losing their trust in their leaders and new anti-riot protocols being adopted (Roberts, 2005, p. 1). This paper explores the connection between the Vietnam War and student unrest and also looks into the socio-political changes that the two caused in the United States.
By the end of the 1960’s decade, American colleges and universities had become increasingly tumultuous as more American troops were killed in Vietnam. The United States government had sent troops to Vietnam at the middle of the decade to help South Vietnam in their War. South Vietnam was fighting with North Vietnam which was governed by communists.
As the decade ended, more than 38000 Americans had lost their lives in the Vietnam War. This made the war increasingly unpopular among American citizens with college students being the most vocal against the Vietnam War (Ryan, 2008, p. 1).
The reason why students were actively involved in Vietnam War protests is because the government was forcing students to go to war after completion of their college education. Male students were expected to register for military service after attaining age eighteen.
They would then wait for two years after which the probability of being drafted for the war was very high. This is because American casualties in the war were many and replacement soldiers were required (Roberts, 2005, p. 1). Young men, therefore, hid themselves in colleges and were not thrilled by the approach of their graduation dates.
The students had to find a way out. Some of them went to hide in Canada while others opted for protests aimed at making the congress end the requirement of the students to go to Vietnam after graduation. This was the main connection between the Vietnam War and Protests by students. The most remembered of the student protests against Vietnam War was the protest by Kent University students.
It all started with the announcement by President Nixon on the 30th day of April that the United States had decided to attack Cambodia. This led to the burning down of an army training centre in the Kent State. Several stores in town were also broken into. Loaded with M-1 rifles the guards went out searching the protesters and determine to utilise the combination of their arms with tear gas. Students then called for a rally during midday to continue their protests.
This led to a teargas-versus-stones battle between the guard officers and the students. The officers were overpowered by the students and they took refuge in a nearby hill where they opened fire killing four and injuring nine. This led to a week-long protest of students all over the U.S. who were angered by the Kent state shootings, the Vietnam War and several other grievances for specific universities (Roberts, 2005, p. 2).
An example of such protests were held by the by the University of Washington during the national strikes that took an approximate one week as a reaction to the Kent University shootings and a culmination of the student unrest over the involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam war and also the sending of students to Vietnam to die in the war after the completion of their studies.
The students from the University of Washington also had their institutional needs that they wanted the government to address during the week-long protests. They particularly wanted the government to give them their status as opponents of the war in Southeast Asia. These protests had a significant change on the social and political structure of the United States government.
As mentioned earlier, the Vietnam War and the resultant student protests had a lot of socio-political effects in United States. The financial repercussions brought about by the war weighed the United States government down to the extent that President Johnson had to increase taxes to finance the additional troops that were required with increased frequency. Social programs suffered greatly as their budgetary allocations were decreased substantially to finance the war.
Prior to the Vietnam War, the American public had confidence in their leaders (Ryan, 2008, p. 2). With the involvement of the American government in the war, the public was not able to figure out why a military intervention was necessary in Vietnam. This made the public lose their trust and confidence in their leaders and thus they stopped supporting those in government. The war also impacted the polls. Most American civilians held the idea that their government ought to stop exercising control over the rest of the world.
There was therefore a change in the preference of political candidates. The masses supported politicians who promised to help in ending the war. Republicans secured more political seats in the elections that followed with their counterparts, the democrats losing most of their political seats (Bexte, 2002, p. 1). The most significant impact of the involvement of university students in war protests was an overnight change in the way protests and riots were treated in the United States.
The famous picture of a fourteen-year-old female student crying over the killing of her fellow student in the Kent state riot scene remains indelibly imprinted in the minds of the Americans who saw it at the time. Whenever protests are counteracted by the police violently in the United States, the memory of the Kent state riot and the subsequent killing of four students occupy the minds of Americans (Ryan, 2008, p. 1). It can be argued that the Vietnam War student riots revolutionized protests in the United States.
The involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War can be viewed to have been, arguably, a good thing. The forcing of young men to be involved in the war was, indubitably a bad thing but it gave the Unites States government and the world a very important lesson: that no government can force its young citizens to go to war and escape protests.
The financial crisis and political shift that followed the war was also a lesson. It is no doubt that the United States government remembers the Vietnam War and makes several considerations based on the Vietnam War before being involved in any war. It is no doubt that if the aforementioned draft was re-introduced, the government will face a lot of protests whose effects could even be worse than the Vietnam-War student riots.
Bexte, M. (2002). The Vietnam War protests. Retrieved June 11, 2010, from,
Roberts, K. (2005). 1970 tragedy at Kent State: with the Vietnam War escalating, Ohio National Guard Troops fired at a crowd of student protesters, killing four of them. Retrieved June 11, 2010, from,
Ryan. J. (2008). Student unrest and the Vietnam War. Retrieved June 11, 2010,