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What were the effects of the Vietnam War on United States? Thomas Liao U. S. History Mr. Magill February 18, 2010 Word Count 2785 Table of Contents The Paper3 Works Cited12 From 1959 to 1975, America has been engaged in her longest and most disappointing war she has ever been in, the Vietnam War. The war heavily taxed the country’s patience and will of the government. There were several bad decisions which led to the ultimate defeat and retreat of U. S. The Vietnam War had a mostly negative impact on United States, by showing eventual failure of the American government, the collapse of U.
S economy, and the loss of trust from the American People. There was political pressure. There were many presidents who dealt with the Vietnam War. The very first president involved with the Vietnam War was Harry S. Truman. Although he didn’t do too much involving the Vietnam War, he did send some money to help aid the French in their efforts to hush up the small revolutions happening in Vietminh. In 1953, Dwight Eisenhower became the president of the United States. During his term, he came up with the Domino Theory.
The theory is that if one of the nations becomes a communist state, all of nations adjacent will soon fall under the ideals of communism as well. He believes that communism can be stop from spreading if it is stopped it at Vietnam. He then sends in 100 military advisors to help the Southern Vietnamese. In addition to aiding South Vietnam with military advisors, he also sent massive economic and political aid to political party leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. He did not, however, start sending the American troops because he has led troops there before and he doubts that U. S would win if they went to direct war with the Vietnamese (Rotter).
In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected the president. During his time in the office, he secretly sent thousands of military personnel into Vietnam. In the end there were about 16,000 military advisors. Along with that, he also sent in the U. S Special Forces to train the Southern Vietnamese how to fight against the Northern Vietnamese. He also authorized free-fire zones, bombings, and the use of napalm in order to destroy the enemy. After a few loses, Ngo Dinh Diem was embarrassing the American competence so President Kennedy planned for the Southern generals to overthrow Diem on November 1st, 1963.
Then on October 11th, 1963, he issued the National Security Action Memorandum, NSAM, #263. This stated the extraction of 1,000 military personnel by the end of 1963. However, before he could complete that task, he was assassinated on November 22nd, 1963. After the assassination, Lyndon Johnson became the 36th president of the United States. One of Johnson’s first decisions was to reverse Kennedy’s Memorandum with his own NSAM #273. Instead he greatly expanded American involvement in the Vietnam War, increasing the number of military personnel and also aided the Vietnam War through bombing.
Johnson accomplished this through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave him the right to the use of military force in Vietnam without the formal consent of the Congress. His resolution was a response some events that happened earlier in August 1964. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the American public that in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam, there was an attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on American destroyers. “While on routine patrol in international waters the U. S. destroyer Maddox underwent an unprovoked attack. McNamara. This was a complete lie. In fact, the CIA had been secretly attacking the North Vietnamese coastal bases. The attack could not have been unprovoked because it was not a routine patrol; the Maddox was on a special electronic spying mission. As it turns out, it was not in international waters but in Vietnamese waters and there no torpedoes were fired at the Maddox, as McNamara had said (Zinn, 466). Using his right under the Tonkin Resolution, Johnson was able to start the bombardment of North Vietnam send over 500,000 American in a time-span of 3 years.
His rational to increase the Vietnam War effort was his own version of the Domino Theory, which basically the same as the original version, but with more aggression. Yelland summarized Johnson’s motive by this statement. “If you let a bully come into your front garden one day, the next day he’ll be up on your porch, and the day after that he’ll rape your wife in your own bed. ” (Yelland). The military force bombed Vietnam without sympathy simply destroying anyone considered to be an enemy. Large villages with women and children were bombed and even temples and churches that were in “fire-free zones” were destroyed in the process.
President Johnson’s popularity was at an all-time low and he publicly announced that he would not run for president for a second time (Zinn 474). Richard Nixon vowed to get United States out of Vietnam and with that promise; he won the election and became president in 1969. Nixon withdrew the majority of the troops back to the United States and by February 1972 there were 150,000 troops left in Vietnam. He trying to please the American citizens by solving their main problem that they had against the war. The problem was the fact that the American soldiers put their lives on the front lines in Vietnam.
He was enforcing a policy he called Vietnamization which meant replacing American troops with Vietnamese troops (Zinn 474). However, during the spring of 1970, Nixon secretly approved the bombing of Cambodia and suspect places of where the Viet Cong might be. This was a failure. Then in 1971, He supported the South Vietnamese decision to invade Laos. This was also a failure. They dropped, in total, over eight hundred thousand bombs in all of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Eventually he successfully ended American involvement in Vietnam when he signed the Paris Peace Accords and ordered a cease-fire in Vietnam in 1973.
As soon as Nixon pulled America out of Southern Vietnam, the North Vietnamese invaded and took over the South in 1975. This led to a small lapse of time where no one wanted to talk about the Vietnam War, America’s longest and the only war they were defeated in (Sitikoff). At the conclusion of the war, the Congress created the War Powers Resolution, restricting the power of the President to freely send U. S Armed Forces into action. The resolution states that the President could not start another war without authorization of Congress unless the United States is already under attack or under serious threat.
This resolution passed the congress and was vetoed by President Nixon; however that was overridden by a two thirds vote of the congress. The politics were messy and the secrecy of the government led to the general mistrust from the people and the press (Hall). Protests starting in 1965, were originating from campuses and were against the war in Vietnam; however since there was not much public concern for the war then, the general public did not join in. Then the bombings started during the time when Lyndon Johnson was president. This event spurred on the protests of the public (Barringer).
The main group of these organizations that greatly escalated the anti-war movement was the Student for a Democratic Society, SDS. They called for a march onto Washington D. C and protested against the bombing. The numbers of protesters were between 15 and 25 thousand people. Then again, another event happened called “Vietnam Day”. This was an event that called out thousands of people to talk and discuss about the Vietnam War. Some of these topics included the drafting of young, American men. Outbursts of protests began in 1964 from young men saying “We Won’t Go”.
Some of these young men burned their draft cards in protest against the drafting. One of these famous cases was David O’Brien. He burned his draft card and was arrested and trialed. The court declared this unconstitutional because it’s a form of freedom of expression (Zinn, 476). Students from universities created two networks to share information: the Underground Press Syndicate and the Liberation News Service. These two networks became the means of distributing information. In 1967, over one thousand students wrote to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in protest against the Vietnam War.
In June, over ten thousand students wrote to him again suggesting ways that would allow people who did not want to get violent to be conscripted. In October, 1967 a two day march outside the Pentagon. The organizers of the event and of the anti-war group asked all the young men who were being drafted to turn in their draft cards. In 1966, a major event happened in “Fort Hood 3” when conscripted men refused to serve in Vietnam. These men fled to Canada or to churches offering protection from conscription (Barringer).
All this showed how the Vietnam War affected America by changing the way the younger generation reacts to orders. This also heavily affected the African American community. In 1955, African American students in Macomb, Mississippi found out that one of their classmates was killed in action. The students distributed leaflets against the drafting of African Americans. This led to several more disputes arguing that the American government was trying to give the Vietnamese freedom that even their own African American citizens don’t have. Famous people who protested were Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King, Jr. Zinn, 475). The anti-war protests against the Vietnam War had even started from the traces of the racism from the Civil War and the Battle in the Mississippi Valley, how the black men were sent to the front lines to die. The young men also tried sabotaging the military campaign against the Vietnam War. Two Americans hijacked a U. S munitions boat for the Vietnam War, and moved it away from the main airbase. Also five protesters tried to disable the railway that made the bomb casings used in Vietnam, but they were arrested (Zinn, 478).
Aside from protesting against the conscription, people also protested against the inhumanity of the war itself in Vietnam. There had been several sacrificial burnings in public against the war including a thirty two year old man named Norman Morrison and an eighty two year old woman named Alice Herz. When the bombing began, over a hundred thousand people gathered in the Boston Common to protest against the war. The two million people across America in small towns have never seen an antiwar meeting before.
In 1971, twenty thousand people gathered outside of Washington D. C to try to block traffic in an effort to show their protest against the killing in Vietnam. Fourteen thousand people were arrested that day which is the largest mass arrest in American history (Zinn, 477). The protests were heard from all kinds of people even those in art. Writers such as Robert Lowell and Arthur Miller were both invited to a White House function, but refused to come. Californian artists erected a 60-foot Tower of Protest on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood.
In New York, there were the National Book Award ceremonies, and a speech was being given by Vice-President Humphrey when fifty authors walked out on him. There were religious protests too. Priests and nuns of the Catholic Church had been provoked by the civil rights movement or by their experiences in Latin America when they saw that the United States was supporting their corrupt governments. In 1967, Father Philip Berrigan, Tom Lewis, David Eberhardt and James Mengel, went to the draft board in Baltimore, Maryland, ruined the draft papers in blood. They were put on trial and sentenced to prison.
When Philip was released, he and his brother Daniel Berrigan, along with seven other people, raided another draft board and burned the papers. When they came to arrest Daniel, he disappeared. While the FBI searched for him, he showed up at an Easter festival at Cornell University. Suddenly appearing and disappearing onto a truck. He stayed underground for four months, silently protesting. He appeared suddenly in a church to give a sermon and then disappearing again. FBI finally got hold of him when an informer’s found a letter with the information of where he is and he was imprisoned.
The last groups of draft board were called the “Camden 28,” were priests and nuns who raided a draft board in Camden, New Jersey, in August 1971. They were all acquitted of their charges (Zinn, 491). The soldiers at war also wanted to lash out against the administration leading their moves. Such was the case during the My Lai acts. There was dissent in these acts as it involved the mass murder of hundreds of innocent Vietnamese citizens. One case was the testimony of James Dursi and the trial and conviction of Lieutenant Calley.
James Dursi was ordered by Lieutenant Calley to fire upon hundreds of Vietnamese citizens. Several of the G. I’s hated the way they were ordered to kill people. They would raid the villages; shoot people and burn down their houses. Finally all this protest has even spread amongst the people in the government. In June 1971, Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo working for the government collected all the information that the government has kept hidden from public and compiled it into a seven thousand page document and gave that to the New York Times.
These were called the Pentagon Papers. This created mayhem as it revealed all the things the government has kept behind its citizens back. It informed the people of how Lyndon Johnson was planning to invade Vietnam even though he publicly stated that he wasn’t going to. As soon as the New York Times printed these however, Nixon’s administration soon put an end to this, restraining the newspaper company from printing the documents. This was only effective for fifteen days for this was brought to the Supreme Court. The newspaper company eventually won the through the first amendment.
The Supreme Court declared Nixon’s administration’s action unconstitutional and allowed the press to freely print out the documents for the public viewing. This along with the Watergate Scandal forced President Nixon to resign. The Watergate Scandal happened when some tapes recorded some implicating evidence against the President. The President then hired five men using the election funds to sabotage those tapes. They were caught and arrested, Nixon was forced to resign. After these major incidents, the people of the United States no longer trust their government.
What’s more is that the government has not been spending their money wisely. Instead of putting more money into domestic affairs, over 2. 3 billion dollars went in to the Economic aid for Vietnam alone over the course of twelve years (Campagna, 4). Also, estimates have shown that it costs 25 to 30 thousand dollars per soldier in Vietnam which cost America about 1. 5 million dollars annually from 1953-1960 and 1. 8 million dollars in the year 1961 (Campagna, 5). With all the American young men being sent to support the Vietnam War effort, the workforce is greatly reduced back home and with less workforce, comes less goods.
Since the United States is at war, in another country, this opened up an opportunity for factories to produce military products instead of consumer goods. Along with that, the government increase interest rates and there was inflation. In the 1960’s, President Lyndon Johnson launched a full-scale war upon Vietnam and he did so without significantly increasing taxes. This created some problems. His decision created massive inflation and federal debt that destroyed the American economy and withered the living standards from the late 1960s all the way to the1990s. With the major failure of the government, the eventual collapse of the U.
S economy from it, and the now harboring distrust from the American citizens, the Vietnam War has obviously brought a negative impact on America in general. If Lyndon Johnson had not gone to a full scale war, America would have become a stronger nation without a crumbling economy. Of course the Vietnam War would lead to a much more different American in the 1970’s all the way to the 21st century. Popular American movies would spring up describing the political injustice and the personal lives of the Vietnam veterans with stories of how they adjust back to their original homes.
The loss would bring to reality the fact that America is not invincible. It made sure that in the future, America would only use military force as a last resort and that the general public approves of it, it is deemed a way to preserve national interest to use military force, or if there is a high chance that there would be a quick and easy victory. The departure of the American force allowed the North Vietnamese to invade the South and eventually, Vietnam became a communist state. Works Cited Secondary Sources Campagna, Anthony S. The Economic Consequences of the Vietnam War, http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o;d=22876075, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991 Barringer, Mark, “The Anti-War Movement in the United States” in The Oxford Companion to American Military History, http://www. english. illinois. edu/maps/vietnam/antiwar. html, New York: Oxford UP, 1999 Hall, Sara, “How Media Coverage of the Vietnam War Changed America, Journalism” http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/454065/how_media_coverage_of_the_vietnam_war. html? cat=37 November 25, 2007 Rotter, Andrew J. “The Causes of the Vietnam War” in The Oxford Companion to American Military History, http://www. english. illinois. edu/MAPS/vietnam/causes. htm, New York: Oxford UP, 1999 Sitikoff, Harvard, “The Postwar Impact of Vietnam” in The Oxford Companion to American Military History, http://www. english. illinois. edu/MAPS/vietnam/postwar. htm, New York: Oxford UP, 1999 Yelland, “Why did USA get involved in Vietnam? ”, http://www. schoolhistory. co. uk/gcselinks/britishworld/vietnam/getinvolved. pdf Zinn, Howard, A People’s History of the United States, England: Longman Group UK Limited, 1980