To many, the Vietnam War symbolizes controversy, myth and question in America.There are many events that made Americans wonder what reasons we had for puttingour troops and families in Vietnam. Up till that point, many other Americans hadnever questioned the acts of the American government and armed forces. Issuesdealt with in the Vietnam War showed great impact on the American people,particularly the students. American involvement started off very low key.
Twomarine battalions landed in Da Nang on March 8, 1965 (Doyle, Lipsman). They werenot fighting a war yet, though a war was going on in the very country that theywere in. Their job was to merely protect an air field in Da Nang, not look fortrouble or initiate any kind of war tactics. But soon, holding off the enemy wasnot so easy for the American soldiers, and more troops were sent in. Thiscontinued on, and when May rolled around there were 46,000 American Troops inVietnam (Doyle, Lipsman).
It was at this time when American troops were thengiven the “permit to use more active defense,” and soon after, thenumber soared to 82,000 American troops in Vietnam (Doyle, Lipsman). From there,the American defense quickly turned into an offense, and transportation flightsturned in to rescue missions. This was about the time that Americans at homebegan to become worried that the war in Vietnam was getting out of hand. Smallprotests broke out amongst college students across America, but these began tobecome very serious. On April 17, 1965 The Students for a Democratic Societyorganized a national protest on the steps of the capitol in Washington D.
C.(Doyle, Lipsman). Television coverage enraged people by misleading facts anddisturbing war images of troops killing women and children. Frustration inAmerica grew and riots and protests got out of hand as no questions seemed to beanswered. Students protested and gathered, building rage against the warspurring events like the Kent State Massacre.
The Kent State Massacre is namedafter a calm protest uprooted when guards killed and wounded students by openingfire on a mass of students as they gathered on the Kent State campus (Encarta).Events such as the Kent State Massacre enraged Americans more than ever causingviolent riots and outbreaks. Meanwhile, America’s position in Vietnam worsened.More and more were sent, and more and more troops were killed.
America’s greatoffense was tattering down and guerrilla warfare on unfamiliar terrain hamperedsoldier performance. The war then quickly switched over and put more weight onair attacks and bomb raids. Helicopters became America’s best friend as theywere a brand new invention that had not previously seen much use. The helicoptermade landing and exiting in rough terrain easier than any other method seenbefore by the United States military. Other weaponry made its debut in theVietnam War.
Spurred from the second world war, where tanks were introduced, theanti-tank missile launcher was a key weapon for all countries to develop. TheVietnam War was the first war that the anti-tank missile launcher waseffectively used. Standard guns also were changing; they become lighter inweight, more accurate, and able to function better with less maintenance andmalfunction. All of these new, and newly perfected, weapons made the Vietnam Waran unfamiliar territory for everybody as the death toll soared through the roof.More troops were sent, more black troops. Racism raced through the veins of manywhite Americans at this time, and blacks still felt discriminated against by thegovernment and the people of America. All of this as more black troops werebeing put on the battle front to fight. Black gangs erupted and dodged thedraft, became violent, and held to one another very closely.
This was the firstsign of gangs in America, as we see gangs today. Many black Americans did notunderstand why they were being force to fight and die for a country that hatedthem. They felt as if they were being sent in place of whites, but in fact only12.
5% of all troops in Vietnam were black, and it was merle stretched facts andmedia influence that caused the black eruptions in America (Westmoreland, VHFCN).As America boiled, the “photographers war” continued in Vietnam(Cohen). The Vietnam War has been said on countless occasions to be the mostphotographed war in history. The reason for this is the development andimprovement of the camera.
The camera had become small enough and agile enoughto be carried almost anywhere. Also, with the fire burning in America, the mediawas raping the troops of their dignity as the photographers followed themeverywhere. Disturbing pictures were sent back to the press and media in Americafor public coverage, giving the public its first ever visual images of war.Unable to handle these shocking of images of troops killing ruthlessly, Americacontinued to rage. The war rolled on through 1972 and Americans wondered if itwould ever end.
An end was soon to come, as peace talks began, on January 23,1973 president Nixon announced the end of U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam(Cohen). America took a deep breath and let down it’s arms, but the tension wasstill there along with the grieving loss of young men. The Vietnam War was veryconfusing, especially as it was going on.
The American public did not haveanswers, and were frustrated with the constant loss of family and friends.”No event in American history is more misunderstood that the Vietnam War.It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many peoplebeen so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of theirmisunderstanding been so tragic. (Nixon, VHFCN)” This quote by presidentNixon may be one of the most well said statements about the Vietnam War that Ihave ever heard. The war was so chaotic that there was no time to give anyanswers, or find any answers; this gave the media a big loophole to deceive thepublic.
Only now can we look back at the facts and correct them as we teach whatis right and give back the pride that we have taken from these veterans. Themost logical way that I can possibly confront the “facts” of theVietnam War is to do just that. I am going to end this report with some facts tohelp fix what might be misinterpreted or confusing about the Vietnam War.Because I believe that there are men and women, dead and alive who deserve thegratitude of the American public to atleast know the truth. I will do this byaddressing what could be defined as myth, confusion, misreporting, andmisinterpreting, and show you the statistics that will prove these embarrassingthought wrong, and give the veterans the hero image that they deserve. Myth:American soldiers were addicted to drugs, and feel guilty for their actions androle in the Vietnam War by using cruel and inhumane acts.
This is not true, 91%of all living Vietnam veterans say that they are proud that they served theircountry, 74% would serve again knowing that there would be the same outcome, and97% of them were discharged under honorable conditions (Westmoreland, VHFCN).False: Vietnam Veterans resemble the homeless population in American and aremore likely to be in prison. This is an incorrect statement, in fact, Vietnamveterans are less likely to be jailed and only .5% of them have been jailed forcrimes.
85% of Vietnam veterans have made a successful transition to ordinarylife (Westmoreland, VHFCN). The myth of all American troop is also incorrect.two-thirds of all men who served in the Vietnam War were volunteers; that’s justthe opposite as W.W.
II where two-thirds of the men who served were drafted(Westmoreland, VHFCN). “Approximately seventy percent of those killed inVietnam were volunteers (McCaffrey, VHFCN).” Another myth is that thesuicide rate of Vietnam Veterans is higher than non Vietnam veterans, but infact it is not as bad as the media portrays it to be. There have been reports of50,000 to 100,000 suicides among Vietnam Vets, when 9,000 is a more accuratenumber (Houk, VHFCN).
The number 100,000 is absurd. Black Americans were not atarget of the American government to be used in place of white troops. In fact,of 541,000 men and women who served in Vietnam, 86% were Caucasians, 12.5% wereblack, and 1.2% were of other races (Westmoreland, VHFCN). These may only be afew small facts that are a grain of sand when you look at the whole war. Butthese issues are those that were the heart of the fire in American youth whenthe war was in action.
These were the issues and answers that may have preventedthings such as the Kent State Massacre. To all of the Vietnam Veterans, thecountry that they supported, their families and friends; to those who died in orafter service, to those who are still alive and carry the memories of war withthem every day, a memorial for them has been created. Its groundbreakingceremony was held on March 26, 1982.
The memorial has 57,929 names inscribed init of those men and women who never came home from Vietnam (Ashabranner). Adiamond after a name means that he/she was accounted for at the end of the war,a cross after a name means that he/she still is not accounted for. Also, theright is reserved to put a circle around the cross of any person who becomesaccountable for, but a circle has yet to be put on the wall. The groundbreakingceremony was held on March 26, 1982.
The memorial has 57,929 names inscribed initBibliographyAshabranner, Brent. Always to Remember. New York: G.P Putnam’s Sons, 1989.
Cohen, Steven. Anthology and guide to a television history. New York: Alfred A.Knopf, inc., 1983 Doyle, Edward, and Samual Lipsman. America Takes Over-TheVietnam Experience.
Boston, MA: Boston Publishing Company, 1982. MicrosoftEncarta Complete Interactive Multimedia Encyclopedia. Computer software.Microsoft, 1995. CD-ROM. Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network. www.
vhfcn.org.2000. Westmoreland, General William C. Address. Third Annual Reunion of theVietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. Washington D.C.
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Washington D.C. May 1993.Houk, Dr. Address. Hearing before the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs UnitesStates Senate one hundredth Congress second session.
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