The 60s is a decade important to the history of the United States. It was brought about by the counter-culture and social revolution near the end of the decade and it had been nourished by the social conformities of the 40s and 50s.One of the major events that happened during this decade was the Vietnam War which had begun after the Vietnamese had rebelled against the French colonial power. The United States sent aid in the form of strategic advisers, weapons, and money to the French. Ultimately the French had lost and pulled out, and this should have been a signal for the United States to also back out.The United States didn’t want to lose its credibility with its allies and damage its own reputation. The Vietnam War is the longest conflict the United States has ever been in and its efforts were all for naught since the North Vietnamese reunified the country. The United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War was not worth it and we should have not fought in the conflict.
The Vietnam War was a result of the Indochina War which was fought between the French and the Vietminh right after WWII. The United States began by financially backing up the French. They also created MAGG to train troops and to be military advisors. During the Geneva Convention a treaty was signed to divide Vietnam at the 17 parallel and France back out of the conflict and left all responsibility to the United States. Although the French were severely weaken after the German occupation and the puppet Vichy government it was still very capable of keeping its colonies together. One thing the French and the United States didn’t count on was their lack of knowledge of the terrain or culture of Vietnam. Kennedy said “Should I become President...I will not risk American lives...by permitting any other nation to drag us into the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time through an unwise commitment that is unwise militarily, unnecessary to our security and unsupported by our allies.”(1) Although after he became president he changed his view completely after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion saying “Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Vietnam is the place.” (1)The United States underestimated the communists and viewed them as nothing more than a mere army of untrained peasants.
Then the United States made another big mistake deposed the French backed monarch and placed American backed Diem. Diem was a devout catholic and he was now elevated to president of South Vietnam, but South Vietnam was primarily Buddhist. Diem had led a series of campaigns to get rid of communists who eventually consisted of Buddhists and other political dissidents. Then Diem began bombing communist controlled villages which had only hurt his popular support even more because he was killing too many civilians. The United States came to see Diem as a hindrance to their ultimate goal and supported a coup d’état. “Saigon celebrates the downfall of Diem's regime. But the coup results in a power vacuum in which a series of military and civilian governments seize control of South Vietnam, a country that becomes totally dependent on the United States for its existence. Viet Cong use the unstable political situation to increase their hold over the rural population of South Vietnam to nearly 40 percent.”(2)The United States thought they corrected a wrong by doing this since Diem was now dead, but this gave the Vietcong more of an advantage since the South was politically in turmoil. By 1964 General Khan seized much of South Vietnam and the Secretary of State visits Vietnam. “Following his visit, McNamara advises President Johnson to increase military aid to shore up the sagging South Vietnamese army. McNamara and other Johnson policy makers now become focused on the need to prevent a Communist victory in South Vietnam, believing it would damage the credibility of the U.S. globally. The war in Vietnam thus becomes a test of U.S. resolve in fighting Communism with America's prestige and President Johnson's reputation on the line.”(2)
The Vietnam War caused so much turmoil not only in South Vietnam, but also back home in the United States. Anti-war demonstrations began as early as 1964 although most of these protests were done by students at college campuses. By 1965 when the Draft was in place these protests became even stronger, “The prevailing sentiment that the draft was unfairly administered inflamed blue-collar American opposition and African-American opposition to the Vietnam war and to the military draft itself.” (3) Many people were openly burning and destroying their draft cards this often attracted a lot of media attention. Then in November 1965 two men set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam War, imitating the Buddhist monks of Vietnam. By 1968 the protests were escalating and during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, anti-war protesters marched and demonstrated throughout the city. The protesters met at Grant Park at first the protesters and the police were relatively calm until someone tried to take down the American flag and replace it with the Vietcong flag. After things calmed down at Grant Park tensions exploded between the protesters and Chicago police. The protesters were trying to march toward the Democratic National Convention but were blocked by police. “The police eventually charged into the crowd of demonstrators and begin to assault protestors who where attempting to flee or who attempted to resist arrest. Captured live on tape by the media and broadcast to the rest of the United States on several major broadcast stations, the police proceeded to ruthlessly beat and arrest both demonstrators and by-standers who where standing nearby the Hilton hotel, including a British diplomat who claimed that she was merely staying at the hotel and had no involvement with the Yippie movement.”(3) These protests were tearing the United States homeland as well as Vietnam. This was another shocking effect of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Luckily the “silent majority” did not sway either way or these protests could have become a revolution since many of the radical protesters sometimes used violence as a means to convey their message.