Perspectives on the Vietnam War

Alyssa Corpus

The Basics

The Vietnam War spanned almost 20 years from November 1955 to April 1975. In 1956, an election took place in the newly-independent nation of Vietnam which put a communist, Ho Chi Minh, in power in the North and an American-backed catholic, Ngo Dinh Diem, in the South. This election marked a permanent split between the two halves of the country. At this time, America was deathly scared of communism, so they invaded Vietnam to stop the spread of it. This war was heavily covered by the American media, which led to many civilian strikes and protests against it. In the end, over a million deaths occurred and North Vietnam emerged victorious. America withdrew its troops and South Vietnam was annexed by the North.

Media Portrayals

Thoughts After the War

"The End in Vietnam" is a U.S. News article published in 1975. It details the end of the war, its immediate aftermath, and possible long-term effects. American troops piled into helicopters to flee in the cover of night. Despite all the casualties and costs, the country had failed. The Viet Cong celebrated their victory against a force that was previously thought to be unstoppable. South Vietnamese citizens were put into immediate danger as many innocents were declared to be war criminals, and it was feared that many people would be killed. Vietnam would have to live under a united communist regime. America's involvement was an embarrassment that greatly weakened their public image.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/04/30/from-the-archives-the-end-in-vietnam

Public Opinion

The historical website ushistory.org published an article called "The Anti-War Movement" which detailed the growing resentment of the American public towards the Vietnam war as it progressed. At first, many citizens supported U.S. efforts to thwart communism, thinking that it was a necessary step to preserve freedom in the world. However, protests began growing exponentially as time went on as people began to believe the cost- in both lives and money- of the war was becoming much too high. Eventually this opinion, coupled with resistance to the draft, caused peaceful demonstrations to become radical, sometimes violent, affairs. By the end of the conflict, the vast majority of Americans were opposed to the war.

http://www.ushistory.org/us/55d.asp

Media Bias

"The End in Vietnam" holds a strongly negative bias against both American involvement in the Vietnam war and the communist Korean forces. It begins in just the first sentence with clear dislike for the war, calling it "bitter" and "ill-started". A pictures shows the victorious Korean troops looking strong, and this is contrasted with commentary about the fearful, frantic American retreat. However, he also shows contempt for the communist way of life. He describes what he believes the aftermath of the war will be. He gives examples of awful future possibilities for the citizens who will now have to live under a communist regime. Meanwhile, "The Anti-War Movement" is also negative towards the war. It described the conflict as an affair that "dragged on" and caused "mounting casualties and escalating costs". On the opposite side, he shows protesters as mainly heroic with justified anger despite occasional violence. He calls them an "unstoppable force" with a strong "commitment" to their cause. The following pictures show various media biases throughout the conflict, while the video on the bottom of this page features a campaign ad for Nixon. The advertisement demonstrates the public's unfavorable opinion of the war and their want for it to end.

"The End in Vietnam" Criticism

"The End in Vietnam" can be critiqued from both the historical and the cultural perspectives. During the time period in which it was written, the US had just lost its first war in an embarrassing defeat. All public opinion was skewed negatively towards the war. In contrast, most viewed the war as a good thing in its beginning years. The article's bias reflects the mass beliefs that American involvement in Vietnam was a costly mistake. Cultural criticism can also be applied as he puts the American "freedom" culture as better than the communist culture that prevailed in Vietnam. Communists are portrayed as ruthless killers who should not be running a nation.

"The Anti-War Movement Criticism"

"The Anti-War Movement" is best viewed from historical and marxist perspectives. Like "The End in Vietnam", this article is written after the war ended and American failure was evident. No one was in support of the conflict after its bitter end; so, the article's anti-war bias is historically understandable. In addition, marxist criticism can be applied when the article describes public resistance against the draft. Since college students were not required to participate in the draft, Vietnam soldiers who were drafted were usually uneducated and from poor families who could not afford to send them to college. Many viewed this as unfair discrimination since the rich got to live the nice, safe student life in college without fear of being drafted into a terrible war.
1968 Nixon Campaign Commercial - Vietnam War