Abstract During the earlyyears of the Vietnam War, many American supported liberating South Vietnam fromcommunist influence. Communism was a spread of ideas that threatened freegovernment globally and it was not tolerated by the United States.
When the warbegan to be seen as a battle that resulted in nothing but casualties, Americansgrew exhausted. A small movement against the war soon became a force to bedealt with, forcing American leaders to step in. According to some historians,this anti-war movement was a critical influence in getting America out ofVietnam and ultimately ending the Vietnam War. However, other historiansbelieve that the end of the Vietnam war was caused by other deciding factors.Did the anti-war movement directly lead to the end of the Vietnam War? To answer thisquestion, events prior to the war and views of historians and authors areexamined to analyze the end of the events that led to the end of Vietnam War,in particular the anti-war movement and events that led up to it. This will beachieved by looking at primary sources from both viewpoint to determine if theend of the Vietnam War was based on the anti-war movement.
IntroductionDuring the Vietnam Warand in the years leading up to the war, many debates were conducted on whetherthe United States should enter foreign affairs in Southeast Asia. The UnitedStates had to make a decision on whether to allow communism in Southeast Asiato continue to spread or to intervene in that region of the world. The decisionwas made in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson began to send Americanmilitary units to Vietnam.1This operation was famously known as “Operation Rolling Thunder.”2 By the end of the year, the UnitedStates had sent over 200,000 troops there.2The Vietnam War wasfought in order to keep Communist North Vietnam from overtaking South Vietnam,thus America’s intervention was prominently a result of their fear of globalcommunism. As the war continued, many young men were drafted and the war tookits toll.
3Photographs and videos of the war were shown on the news, displaying the war’seffects on American soldiers. This brought the unsupported war to center ofAmerican lives and became an issue they couldn’t ignore. The investigation willfirstly consider the impact of the events that took account in Vietnam it willthen move on to incidents that happened within the states, examining the use ofthe anti-war movement. Following this, consideration will be given to thesignificance of these events had a major impact on American society. Involvementin VietnamBy the year 1968, threeyears after President Lyndon B.
Johnson had ordered the first military unitsinto Vietnam, around 540,00 troops had been sent to the war.2 During that same year,the North Vietnamese military, known as the Vietcong or the National LiberationFront, began to change their war tactics against the South Vietnamese andAmerican military.4 In November 1968, general Westmoreland statesthat the National Liberation Front are declining in strength and cannot mount amajor offensive.
However, a couple of months later on January 31, 1968, thefirst attack of the Tet offensive began, targeting major southern cities,including Saigon. The United States Embassy was the target for the Vietcongwhile taking Saigon, resulting in the deaths of 5 marines. In addition, theNational Liberation Front also captured the radio station in Saigon, destroyingthe confidence of Americans citizens and soldiers. Though the NationalLiberation Front took more casualties than the American and South Vietnamese militaries,the counter attack by the North left a hole in the United States’ militarypride.4 The surprise attack ofthe Tet offensive indeed took America by surprise, weakening the morale ofAmericans in and out of Vietnam, It also proved to the United States’ militarythat the National Liberation Front was a force to be reckoned with.4 The communistdemonstrated that they were still able to put a dent in the war.As a result, the policyof winning and gaining victory in the war shifted to gaining peace instead in1968. This was the beginning of the increase in the credibility gap where moreAmericans turned against the war after the Tet offensive from North Vietnam.
During the same year after the Tet Offensive, Eugene McCarthy and RobertKennedy announced their candidacy for presidency. Both candidates were againstthe war, believing that the war should end because It was draining resourcesaway from the fights against discrimination and poverty. In March of 1968President Johnson announces that he would seek a negotiation to put an end thewar. In addition, President Johnson also announces that he would seek reelectionin 1968 which stunned many Americans. Because of his unpopularity for theVietnam War, he wanted someone who wasmore favored by the American people. Continuing in 1968, more shock came to thehomes of Americans when it was announced that both Martin Luther King Jr. andRobert Kennedy was assassinated, both of whom were big contributors who pushedfor peace in Vietnam and Civil Rights.
Theyear of 1968 also held the National Party Conventions for the candidates forpresidency. During the Republicans’ Convention, they were harassed by manyanti-war protesters in Miami. The Republicans nominated Vice President RichardM. Nixon to represent them, his statement would be widely known as “peace withhonor.
” However, the Democratic Convention, held in Chicago, was more violentbetween anti-war protesters and pro-war advocates. Inside the DemocraticConvention, there was huge verbal fights between the Hawks who were for the warin Vietnam and the Doves who were against the war in Vietnam. The Democratics electedVice President Hubert Humphrey, who continued Johnson’s war policies, overMcCarthy, the anti-war candidate. At the same time, outside the Democraticconvention, the Chicago police clashed with the protesters. The protesters were sprayed with mace andbeaten with clubs and as a result they responded by throwing rocks and bottlesat the police. All of this was broadcasted on national television, which shocksmany Americans at home about the violence of the convention.
Also to an extent it also increased peoplejoining the anti-war bandwagon after viewing the violence and turmoil theVietnam War had created in American society. With the UnitedStates’ first major loss of the war, many American citizens were starting tofeel skeptical. My LaiMassacreTo make matters worsefor America, the My Lai Massacre took place in 1968, weakening support fromAmerican citizens.
My Lai was a village located about 100 miles from the UnitedStates’ military base of Danang.5 1st Platoon, commanded byLieutenant William Calley, was sent intoMy Lai for a “search and destroy” mission of the National Liberation Fronttroops. My Lai, at the time, was an area in which the National Liberation Frontwas very active. When the platoon arrived, they began to fire and kill thevillagers that were living there. Most of the people killed at the time werewomen, children, and the elderly. The men had gone to the fields to work andwere not present in My Lai.5 Tran Vuc Duc, who wasa My Lai survivor, quoted “Without warning,gunshots were fired into the ditch, hitting a number of bodies.”6InNovember of 1969, the My Lai massacre was made public.
The incident onlyintensified the domestic opposition to the Vietnam War in America when theattempts to cover up the killings were exposed. When the event was exposed toall of America, the United States military launched an investigation and foundthat this episode of the Vietnam War was indeed true and many hundreds of MyLai citizens were killed. Soon after, in 1971, all 14 men who were associated with the MyLai massacre were charged with crimes related tothe My Lai incident, including LieutenantWilliam Calley. All soldiers that were charged were acquitted except for LieutenantWilliam Calley, who was found guilty of premeditated murder and was sentencedto life in prison with hard labor.7 Lieutenant William Calleyserved only three years in prison and was released in 1974 because people sawhim as a scapegoat since he claimed that he was only following orders.As theAmerican war efforts in Vietnam were beginning to wear down in the early 1970s,America’s confidence for the war did as well. With the Nixon administration of”Vietnamization,” many troops were being pulled out of Vietnam, but those thatwere still there were filled with anger and frustration. With the announcementof the My Lai massacre, spirit of the American citizens began to plummet evenfurther than it already has and sparked anti-war activism.
8 The United States military wasexcessively criticized through the media. With events like the My Lai massacreand the United States’ attempt to cover it up and American war tactics whichled to the deaths of thousands of innocent Vietnamese citizens. Americansupport for the war was not won over.8The Event of the My LaiMassacre paved way to show the differing perspective of the war, shown on theother side of the globe. Because of the terrors of the raided villages shown onthe media, the American people get a glimpse of the realities of what happensbehind the scenes of the war. Accordingly, after seeing the horrors of seeingthe actuality of the war, it was only natural for the American people to havethe reaction they did. People’s resentment towards the war began to expand as aresult of the incident. Anti-War MovementAs of1970, protests against the war were becoming nationally popular.
At first manyof them were large and peaceful, however as the year moved on, the protests werestarting to become violent.9 Universities were common places forantiwar protests to be held because though college students were not the onlyones to protest, student antiwar activism brought many antiwar ideas to thelarger public. One major protests that happened as a result of student anti-warmovement was the Kent State University protest demonstration that was held inMay 1970, resulting in the deaths of students.On Saturday May 2,1970, there were rumors that radicals were threatening businesses and buildingson Kent State University’s campus in Ohio. Mayor Leroy Satrom asked Governor Rhodes tosend the National Guard to Kent to calm tensions in the area. The Ohio NationalGuard arrived at Kent State the following night.
They were greeted withprotesters who set fire to the ROTC building on campus while watching andcheering.9 The night raged withclashes between the National Guard and the protesters resulting in dozens ofarrests.10On the third of May1970, tensions between the protesters and the National Guard were fairly calm.However, there was a scheduled protest at the burned ROTC building on KentState’s campus. At 11:00 the next morning.
10 The school officialstried to disperse the protest before it could start, but protesters stillgathered at the scheduled time. Students who were protesting were told todisperse or else the National Guard would use force. The National Guardsmenwere outnumbered by the protesters, but they were armed with M-1 militaryrifles and tear gas. At first the protest was peaceful, but when the crowd wastold to disband the students refused and began to throw rocks at the NationalGuardsmen.10The National Guardsmen were ordered to ready their weapons andthen shot tear gas into the crowd. The Guardsmen pushed the protesters passedtowards Blanket Hill and into a practice football field. They soon foundthemselves targeted by not a protest anymore but an angry mob.
The Guardsmenretreated to Blanket Hill and when they reached the top, witnesses say that theGuardsmen turned around fired into the air as well as into the crowd. Nearly 70shots were fired resulting in the death of four college students- JeffreyMiller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer.10Student-led protest developeda vocal left at the University of Washington which inspired many more studentsas the war in Vietnam and civil rights escalated by 1967.11 Many of the anti-war protesters’movements were not seen as different from those of any other movements such asthe civil rights movement. The left unified many forms of activist groupsduring time of turmoil. According to Jessie Kindig, she says “The Vietnam War served, as had the early civil rightsmovement, to sparked further struggles around race, identity, and gender.”11 The anti-war movementalso paved way for many perspective and ways of protesting. One prime exampleof this is the University of Washington student activists carrying the NationalLiberation Front’s flag as a way of protesting the war.
In the explanation forwhy they do so was because they wanted to “show our support for the victory ofthe Vietnamese fighting to drive the U.S. out of their nation.”12Though it may not be seen as radical protesting by many, it shows the extent ofhow far people will go to end the war. President Richard NixonAsmore people protested the Vietnam War, it had a big effect on the Americanpeople. Prior to the Vietnam War, many citizens placed their trust within thegovernment. People had appreciation for the government and trusted theinformation that was given to them.
However, as the tension and protest withinAmerica grew, people began to realize that the government wasn’t being honestwith them. As a result, Americans began to feel skeptical about theirgovernment. Asthe war progressed long after 1968, the new president, Richard M. Nixon, hadbegun his outline for the Vietnamization program. This program was a way tobring home American soldiers and force South Vietnam to take responsibility forthe war. However, behind the scenes, Richard Nixon was actually increasing thetension of the War. Nixon did this by secretly sending American troops intoLaos and bombing Cambodia. In addition, still hidden from the general public, Nixonthreatened the North Vietnamese, saying that if they don’t cease to attack,they will feel the full force of American power.
13Continuing with President Nixon’s increase in tension and escalation to thewar, he proposed an assault known as Operation Duck Hook.14This operation was a plan to invade North Vietnam by land and the bombing ofmajor cities like Hanoi and Haiphong. Still,according to historian Tom Wells, the anti-war movement intervened and “made itimpossible for Nixon to seriouslyconsider implementing Operation Duck Hook”.
On October 15, 1969, over twomillion people skipped work and school to participate in the largest gatheringof rallies, demonstrations, church services, and organized groups. The moratorium was called upon to endAmerica’s involvement in Vietnam. One of the largest moratorium in the UnitedStates was the “March on Washington”. The moratorium attracted over 500,000people including performers and activists. The people would march down Pennsylvania Avenue to theWashington Monument, where rally speeches would be held. The moratorium had ahuge influence on President Richard Nixon, and as a result the Duck Hook planwas diminished. However, President Nixon only suspended the Duck Hook planbased on public opinions rather than of his own interest.
Nixon himself wroteabout his opinions on the protest stating, “American public opinion would be seriously divided by anymilitary escalation of the war.” Nixon blamed the continuation of the war onthe moratorium. He believed that he could have ended the war with OperationDuck Hook if it wasn’t because of the moratorium that threatened PresidentNixon to revoke the plan. With the upcoming election of 1972, Nixon wasseeking to retain his role as president. However, in 1971, The New York Times released the Pentagon Papers15,which caused tension to rise even more in the United States. On July 13, 1971,the Pentagon Papers were released to the public, which consisted of declassified,”Top Secret”, information about the United States’ political involvement inVietnam.
More specifically, the Pentagon Papers also revealed the United States’secret bombings of Cambodia and Laos, which were not revealed on mainstream mediaat the time. As a result, Americans were beginning to feel outraged that such apiece of information had been kept away from the media. Of course, the releaseof these documents were made to inform the general public of the “actual”events that happened in Vietnam, but these documents also had the intention tostir up a revolt against the United States in Vietnam. Many people have argued that the United stateswas simply fighting in order to demonstrate its dominance as a worldsuperpower, largely right after its appearance in Korea in the 1950s. The warin South East Asia started out with having American support but after years offighting, the United States was unable to obtain victory.
The American peoplewere becoming tired of seeing innocent American soldiers die on an already lostwar, which the newly elected President Richard Nixon took into greatconsideration. The President of the United States, the American People, and theworld were ready for peace, no matter the victor. 1″Which American president ordered thefirst American combat troops into Vietnam? As a result of the Watergatescandal, President Nixon… these two questions are all2 “Timelineof the Vietnam War.” History Learning Site.
Accessed December 07, 2017.http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/vietnam-war/timeline-of-the-vietnam-war/.3 “AmericanViews on the Vietnam War.
” Historical Society of Pennsylvania. AccessedDecember 07, 2017.https://hsp.org/education/unit-plans/american-views-on-the-vietnam-war.4 “The Tet Offensive.” History Learning Site. AccessedDecember 07, 2017.
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/vietnam-war/the-tet-offensive/. 5 “My Lai Massacre.” History Learning Site. AccessedDecember 07, 2017.http://www.
historylearningsite.co.uk/vietnam-war/my-lai-massacre/.6 “UNCENSORED HISTORY: Dark Chapters Of History: Images OfWar, History , WW2.
” Unseen Images And First Hand Account Of The My LaiMassacre. Accessed December 07, 2017.http://uncensoredhistory.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-lai-massacre-unseen-images-first-hand-account.html.
7 History.com Staff. “My Lai Massacre.” History.
com.2009. Accessed December 07, 2017.http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/my-lai-massacre.8 “What was the impact of the My Lai massacre? – GCSE History- Marked by Teachers.com.
” Marked by Teachers. Accessed December 07, 2017.http://www.markedbyteachers.com/gcse/history/what-was-the-impact-of-the-my-lai-massacre.html.9 “Kent State University.
” History Learning Site.Accessed December 07, 2017.http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/vietnam-war/kent-state-university/.
10 History.com Staff. “Kent State Shooting.” History.com.2017.
Accessed December 07, 2017.http://www.history.com/topics/kent-state-shooting.
11 “Vietnam War: Student Activism.” Vietnam: Students.Accessed December 07, 2017.http://depts.washington.edu/antiwar/vietnam_student.
shtml.12UW Student Activism, Vietnam Era | Antiwar and Radical HistoryProject | Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects | Pacific NorthwestLabor and Civil Rights Projects. Accessed December 07, 2017.http://depts.washington.
edu/labpics/zenPhoto/antiwar/studentmisc/.13 Note, Jean Sainteny to Nixon, July 16, 1969, folder: Mister”S,” Vol. 1 (1 of 2), box 106, Country Files-Far East-VietnamNegotiations, Henry A. Kissinger Office File, Nixon Presidential Materials,National Archives.14 Nixon’s Nuclear Specter.
Accessed December 07, 2017.https://kansaspress.ku.edu/subjects/history-u-s/978-0-7006-2082-1.html.15 TheEditors of Encyclopædia Britannica.
“Pentagon Papers.” EncyclopædiaBritannica. September 18, 2017. Accessed January 30, 2018.https://www.britannica.