The Vietnam War started in 1955 and has since been often described as one of the most controversial wars the world has ever seen. With almost 60,000 deaths, thousands of people left severely scarred, physically and mentally with affects still being seen more than three decades on, the Vietnam war caused one of the world’s biggest super powers to not only lose its reputation but also the backing of its nation.
I am going to investigate the long, short and international significance of foreign policy, tactics, war journalism, and the role of the protests and say why I think these four themes are extremely significant and should be included in the new TV series airing on Channel 4. Journalism The journalism and media coverage returning from the front line did more than inform the general public, some may argue the shocking and honest front pages helped end a war – this indicates the huge significance journalism had in the Vietnam War.
Before the US went into Vietnam, journalists had always kept American viewers hopeful and proud – during the Korean War, the American soldiers and government were always presented in a good light. However this media opinion changed post 1955 as journalists began to show a negative presentation of the US in Vietnam. Journalism in Vietnam was very significant in the long term because we are still seeing affects of it in the current wars today.
The affects are still being seen both nationally and internationally as wars after the Vietnam War have always had stricter controls on journalism as a result of the public’s reaction from Vietnam – in the first Gulf War when America went into Iraq in 1990, post Vietnam, journalism was very restricted and all interviews were monitored. “Our journalists in Iraq have been shoved to the ground, pushed out of the way, told to leave the scene of explosions; we’ve had camera disks and videotapes confiscated, reporters detained,” says Sandy Johnson, Washington Bureau chief for the Associated Press.
This quote proves how far the military were willing to go in order to stop the media from getting the stories back to the US public. The quote is significant as it shows how military actions changed towards journalism after Vietnam; journalism definitely did result in change. The media stories returning from Vietnam resulted in change in how reporters would be allowed to get their stories in the future.
Media coverage in any war currently happening is extremely monitored and the public doesn’t see or hear about what is really going on; facts and figures from Iraq currently are never published – this is as a result of the stories which returned from Vietnam. If the American public wouldn’t have reacted how they did to the shocking media reports, then media coverage in wars today might still be how they were in Vietnam.
It wasn’t only in Vietnam or the surrounding countries in Asia where media was strongly restricted but also in wars on the other side of the world to Vietnam like the Gulf war – this proves its international significance. Vietnam was a turning point. The journalism returning from the war had immediate significance at time because it was like nothing that had ever been seen before – the reports were resonant as they were the fuel which influenced the protests that occurred all over the world.
Images such as the world famous photo by Nic Ut of nine-year-old Kim Phuc is the type of evidence that proved to the US public how brutal the war in Vietnam really was – on 8 June 1972 a South Vietnamese aircraft accidentally dropped its napalm payload on the village of Trang Bang, the image shows a young child in horrific pain as a result of this catastrophic mistake. This was revealing as the US public didn’t understand the lengths their army were going to in order to fight communism – it was images like the photo of Kim Phuc that opened the American’s eyes and prompted the protests.
The short term significance this media coverage had was expressed through the American’s reactions towards the headlines they were hearing – the headlines revealed shocking news about the deaths and inhumane activities the American soldiers were carrying out, especially affecting innocent women and children. They also had large short term significance as they revealed to the US citizens how far the government were willing to go to fight communism – this came as a shock to most people that they would kill so many people in violent ways for no real gain.
The Pentagon papers had a big impact on how significant the news reports were. The papers were first released in New York Times on June 13th 1971 and they contained figures from Vietnam that said higher American casualties and less successful battles than had been stated in the documents the government had official released. This release was resonant as it was followed by more protesters standing up against the government which proves war journalism’s short term significance.
The release of the papers soon split American citizens and the US government because of their views on Vietnam; Lynden Johnson’s administration saw the war as a lot more optimistic and necessary than the critics did. This difference between the US citizens and government became known as the credibility gap. The newspaper articles published in 1971 helped to confirm public suspicion that there was a significant “gap” between the government’s reports of controlled military and the reality of what was really going on in Vietnam.
The credibility gap created by the war journalism was significant in the short term as it affected how the US public trusted the government. When the credibility gap was first widening it was remarkable as the US government had never been doubted by its people and they expected the same support they had always received, unfortunately this support never really surfaced. A Journalist for the Time-Life Magazine published in 2000 that “We don’t take things as face value; we don’t believe officials, as we did before Vietnam. This quote is confirming the significance of the credibility gap made in the Vietnam War as he is referring to Vietnam as an example of when the US people stopped trusting the officials – it also proves that the credibility gap had long term significance as people in the year 2000 are still talking about its affects on America. Overall I think war journalism in Vietnam had long, short and international significance therefore it is defiantly one of the most important themes which should be included in the TV series.
I think its short term significance was the strongest as the credibility gap created by war journalism has always been remembered and was ground breaking and remarkable at the time. One of the most significant things that came from the journalists in Vietnam was that they were allowed right to the front line to witness the gruesomeness of the war – this was remarkable because it was unseen and unheard of; and in today’s wars it is unimaginable that this would occur.
Reporters being allowed on the front line was not only remarkable but also resonant because if reporters hadn’t have been allowed to retrieve such shocking information then the media reports wouldn’t have been published and appalled a nation. Jack P. Smith, an American veteran, offers one of the most eye-opening accounts of being wounded in combat which was published in the media: “I willed myself to stop shaking, and I stopped breathing…
They (The North Vietnamese) took me for dead, thank God. One of them lay down on top of me and started to set up his machine gun. The Cong opened up on our mortar platoon. The platoon returned the fire, killing about half of the Cong, and miraculously not hitting me. ” It was accounts like these which brought home to the American’s the atrocities going on in Vietnam – had the reports not been allowed to retrieve this information the US public would have had no idea. Tactics
The tactics used in the Vietnam War were significant both in the short term and the long term – this was because both opponents were using tactics that had in some cases never been seen before, and rightly so never seen again. In one way the Vietcong had an immediate advantage over the Americans as they were fighting on territory they knew and were familiar with – this confidence came across in some of their tactics as they built underground networks made up of nearly 200 miles of tunnels.
The Americans however used more violent tactics as they dropped nearly 20,000,000 gallons of napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam, they did this as when Vietnamese soldiers were faced with the chemical weapons they would abandon their positions in which they would otherwise fight to their death. One of the most significant things about weapons used in Vietnam was the Agent Orange and napalm the US was using; these weapons have always been remembered as they were so shocking, brutal and indiscriminate towards the Vietnamese people.
The fact that the Americans were using these types of weapons revealed quite how far they were willing to go to fight communism and be victorious, even if it was at the cost of thousands of innocent people’s lives. Although the Americans never expected this at the time that they were dropping the chemicals – the tactics used had huge significance long term as even today more than 3 million people are sick and dying from birth defects, cancer, and other illnesses that can be directly traced to Agent Orange.
The weapons used by both the Vietnamese and the US also had short term significance as well as long term; this was evident by the amount of people who died in the war – this affected thousands of families all over Vietnam as when the war was over there was no one that could go out and earn money for the family therefore the deaths in the Vietnam War were resonant to the people whose families were affected.
In December 1965, Ho Chi Minh ordered a change in the way the war in the South was being fought. From then on, he ordered that the Vietcong would avoid full battles with the Americans unless the odds were clearly in their favour. He suggested that there would be more hit and run attacks and ambushes on the Americans, also as Ho Chi Minh noticed the significant rise in American soldiers he recruited more men for his army and sent more North Vietnamese troops into South Vietnam.
This change in the way the Vietnamese fought had short term significance as it helped them to fight back more successfully against the Americans. This shocked the American troops as they had to put up a very strong fight against a non experienced and ill equipped army – this wasn’t something they were familiar with. The Vietcong’s guerrilla warfare was significant as it was resonant in making it very difficult for the US to win their fight against communism.
Had the Vietcong given the American’s what they wanted, which was a traditional war made up of gruesome battles, then there is it is possible that America would have won and regained influence in Vietnam. Another factor which proves tactic’s long term significance is that almost a decade after the war had ended the veterans sued the American defoliant manufacturers and this was settled out of court in 1984 by the payment of $180 million – this shows that almost ten years after the war the US were still having to put right the mistakes they had made in Vietnam.
The weapons used by both sides were resonant as they had long term lasting effects on the rest of the world, tactics should definitely be included as one of the themes covered in the new TV series as weapons and tactics changed how the war was fought and played a huge part in the changing the world’s opinion of America’s years spent in Vietnam. The long term affect of the tactics used is that they were remarkable and shocking – the US tactics have never been used in wars since and this shows that America learnt that the tactics were wrong to use.
The tactics also had long term significance because of the amount of people still suffering from illnesses that’s symptoms can be traced straight back to agent orange – 3 million people are sick and dying from birth defects, cancer and other illnesses that they wouldn’t be suffering from had America not dropped millions of gallons of chemical liquids in Vietnam. Because of the arguments stated above I think that tactics should definitely be included in the new TV series as the tactics used were resonant in changing who was going to win the war.
Foreign Policy America’s foreign policy was significantly affected by the Vietnam War. At the start of the Vietnam War America had recently emerged as triumphant after defeating Japan by launching atomic bombs in World War 2, they therefore thought they could defeat any foe just as easily using their superior military power. This theory was provided incorrect as the Vietnamese people fought back with means that America was unfamiliar with causing them to be humiliatingly and expensively defeated.
This loss to Vietnam was extremely significant as it had resonant affect on how America would fight future wars – post Vietnam War America have never gone into another country alone and without the backing of significant allies. In Vietnam America sent financial aid, medical aid and also put their own men on the front line which is something they haven’t done since Vietnam, without another country doing it also. When America first went into Afghanistan post the Vietnam War, they only sent money and weapons to the existing troops in Afghanistan – they never put their own men on their front line.
When America went into Somalia in 1993 they did so to help the locals and provide the medical services the Somalian’s desperately needed, soon after giving the locals what they needed the American’s left – they did this because they were hesitant to stay in another country. Although the Americans went to Somalia to help the people – it wasn’t always seen like that by the locals and people began to fight back against the Americans and US soldiers were beginning to be hurt – soon after this being made apparent the American’s left to prevent it from growing into a larger war.
There are huge differences between the America in Vietnam and America in Somalia which outline the significance of what America learnt in Vietnam – the US went to Somalia for humanitarian reasons, they wouldn’t have gone in for ideological reasons as they did in Vietnam, also the US had the backing of 35 other countries in Somalia as nations offered military and financial help – this support was nonexistent when America was in Vietnam. What America learnt in Vietnam had huge long term significance as they still haven’t gone into another war alone, this is because of the huge mistake they made going into Vietnam.
General Maxwell Taylor who had contributed to Kennedy’s decisions on Vietnam spoke after the War and said “So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we’d better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It’s very dangerous. ” This quote explains America’s attitude towards their foreign policy and also suggests why America haven’t gone into a war since without allies; they learnt in Vietnam not to go into a war they knew little about.
The American government recognised that they had made a mistake by going into Vietnam and this quote is therefore significant as it reflects America’s attitudes about fighting future wars. A second quote which backs up my previous point was spoken by President Richard Nixon; “It (the Vietnam Syndrome) has tarnished out ideals. Made us look like military giants but diplomatic dwarfs. ” This famous quote reflects how the US was defeated in Vietnam – the war ruined America’s hopes of beating communism.
It also refers to America’s foreign policy becoming weaker as he states they look like “diplomatic dwarfs”; their positive relationships with other countries are very weak if not nonexistent. These quotes underline the significance of America’s foreign policy after the Vietnam War as main politicians were recognising what a big mistake had been made. America in Vietnam had resonant affects made visible by the long term significance we are still seeing.
Foreign policy should therefore be one of the themes covered in the TV series as it has huge long term significance – America still haven’t gone into another war without the backing or support of another country since going into Vietnam ignoring what the rest of the world thought. Protests The Vietnam War saw for the first time American citizens unhappy with the deployment of their troops and government policy regarding the war. Increasingly throughout the conflict protest movements grew more vocal, especially when the emerging media delivered bad news to people’s homes.
As casualties rose and the costly war dragged on the protests against it became stronger and more vocal. The short term significance of these protests is that they were shocking at the time, nothing like them had ever been seen before. It was normally expected that the American public would support government actions especially where the troops were involved as previously seen in World War 2, however in this case not only did the American people not want to send anymore of their young men but they wanted the whole conflict to end.
They questioned publically the decisions of the government, whether this conflict was worth the cost and whether it was even America’s business. In 1969 President Richard Nixon made a speech which included him speaking directly to the protesters in America – “And so tonight to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support, for the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate. Let us be united for peace. ” I think this speech is recognising the significance of the protests as the President has taken time to ask people to stop.
I believe Richard Nixon spoke directly to the protesters because he, as well as them, believed the masses of people against the US being in Vietnam were a threat to the government; protesters were therefore something Nixon couldn’t condone. The protests had short term significance as they were revealing – on May 4th 1970, when four peaceful student demonstrators at Kent State University in Ohio were murdered by Ohio National Guardsmen during a noon-time campus anti-war rally and nine other students were injured by being shot this exemplified just how far the government were willing to go because they were threatened by the peaceful protests.
News that protesters had been shot by guardsmen was so shocking to hear in the media as the significant thing about the protests that were occurring all over the world is that they were non violent – therefore young students being shot dead only had a resonant affect in getting more people to protest, this isn’t what the government wanted. Protest movements had very large short term significance and although its long term significance wasn’t as large – it was still recognised.
In the Vietnam protests, it took until there were 30,000 dead G. I. ’s until there were 300,000 people marching; there were only 2,000 dead Americans as a result of the Iraq war and there were already 300,000 people marching in Washington. Although the number of protests around the US and the rest of the world doesn’t compare to the amount of protests during the 1960s, more people attended the worldwide anti-war protest in February 2003 than another other protest during the Vietnam War era.
This shows how significant the protests in Vietnam were; they were remarkable because people were scared that the Iraq war would turn out to be like the Vietnam War therefore they started to protest as soon as they feared a large war. After seeing how people protested in Vietnam the American public also felt like they could protest in the future hence why people protested so soon into the Iraq war – the Vietnam War resulted in change in how people felt about protesting and this proves its long term significance.
The protest movements that took place all over the world were extremely significant because they have been remembered; the protests were not only a reflection of the horrors in Vietnam but they also coincided with a social change and the new hippie era within the United States. This was a groundbreaking time for youth culture and musicians sharing their political views.
As with any of the previous three themes I have looked at, the protest movements had massive international significance as all over the world people were taking part in peaceful protests – in Australia over 200,000 people were protesting, 10,000 in West Berlin, and several thousand in major cities all over Europe.
Due to people all over the world hearing about the awful things going on in Vietnam and choosing to act upon it; this proves protest movements having massive international significance – it was affecting people all over the world. Conclusion In conclusion I think that the four most significant themes in the Vietnam War were protest movements, foreign policy, tactics and war journalism because of all the things they contributing towards changing people’s opinions all over the world both in the long term and the short term.
Foreign policy should be included because of the massive long term significance it has had – because of how Vietnam changed America’s foreign policy, the US have never been into another war alone and without the backing of another nation – this is a huge change and without the Vietnam war to knock America’s confidence it was only inevitable that something of the same scale would have happened at a later date.
Tactics should also be included because they were resonant; because of the tactics used, the media thrived in sending news of Vietnam back to the US and because of the media stories published more and more protests happened; this shows that the tactics used to fight and eventually end the war had extreme significance.
Tactics are also significant because of how many lives were lost and also how many people are currently still suffering because of the chemicals used; due to America only recently paying out millions of compensation to Vietnam it shows it is still something both countries are thinking about. Protest movements should be included as it is an unusual thing to link with a war of Vietnam’s kind – masses of people do not normally come together to fight against the war US are fighting in; protest movements should be looked at in the TV series because of their remarkable international significance.
Lastly, media coverage should be included because it could be argued that the stories sent back to the US helped end the war. The four themes that I have chosen all changed different things not just in America but some all over the world – this is why I think they are the main factors that people needs to know about because they will have affected how things in the public’s society are today, and should therefore be included in the TV series.