Many young Americans refused to join the army and go to Vietnam. Explain why.
During the Vietnam War, throughout the USA, young men were forced to become conscripts and go and perform a year’s service in Vietnam. Many young Americans refused to join the army. This was due to several reasons.
Throughout the 1960s, most Americans, as a crusade against communism supported the war in Vietnam. They believed they were spreading democracy and western values, which would benefit the Vietnamese people. But, gradually the anti-war protest movement grew. As the war continued, the amount it was costing the government spiralled. This caused taxes to rise. Because of this, every person in the USA was involved in the war; after all they were paying for it. It now became more of an issue to the people and many began to question its motive.
Due to advances in modern technology, this was the first ‘TV War. There was no press censorship according to the rules of democracy and this allowed the media to portray the war in whatever light they choose. They portrayed the full horror of the war in a way that had never been possible before. This was the American people’s first sight of what really when on during a war. Due to the extensive press and TV coverage, ordinary people could see the war close up on the TV news every evening. Also, because of conscription, many people had friends or relatives who were fighting in Vietnam. They became increasingly worried as to their safety. This extensive knowledge of what was going on in the war, did not encourage America’s young men to sign up to go and fight and was one of the main reasons for so many of them refusing to join the army.
Also, as the war dragged on, more and more Vietnam veterans were being sent home. Parents were shocked by the condition their children returned in. Many were permanently scarred both physically and mentally, shocked by the horrors they had witnessed. Young men, as the average age of soldiers was 19, had become brutal killers and many who had taken up drugs whilst in Vietnam were now addicted. Seeing these people returning in such a condition increased the determination of those people who were already campaigning for peace and discouraged new conscripts from joining.
Out the many young men who tried to avoid conscription or The Draft, as it was known, most who succeeded were rich whites. This upset the poor and the blacks, a large percentage of the population. This was not the only bone of contention, with the increasing cost of the war; money was no longer being spent on policies such as the Great Society. This meant that the poor and the blacks would no longer have any money spent to improve their living conditions. Because the war had cost them so much, this section of society turned against the continuation of the war and refused to join the army and prolong a war they no longer supported.
Because the USA was ‘propping up’ a corrupt dictator, it was hard for the US people and soldiers to believe in the rightness of the war. They had initially supported it because they felt it was a crusade against communism and to spread democracy for the benefit of the Vietnamese. This was no longer the case and most Americans were doubting the motive of the war.
This period of history was also represented by the spread of the hippie culture. It was a time when many youths questioned obedience of the elders and the justness of the war. Because of this, many young people did not want to go to war. The hippies encouraged anti-war protests and were responsible for many of the anti-war songs around at the time. Students across the country led increasing strikes, protests and demonstrations. They taunted President Johnson with slogans such as;
“Hey, Hey, LBJ!
How many kids did you kill today?”
As the war escalated, the US tactics became more brutal. The press reported in graphic detail, the horrors of such tactics as NAPALM, Agent Orange and Agent Blue, which not only destroyed trees used as coverage by the Vietcong but deformed many of the soldiers who used it and their children, and search and destroy in which many civilians were killed. Everyday, newspapers were covered with shocking photographs taken in Vietnam showing the results of these tactics. In 1968, the Vietcong launched the Tet Offensive. This was very successful and greatly increased the number of dead US soldiers. It was this sharp increase in the number of young Americans returning home in body bags that encouraged the American people that this war was no longer correct or just.
America became split; those who wanted to end the war and others who felt that they were only losing the war because the peace protestors were undermining public confidence. The army itself blamed the press for creating images of the war in Vietnam that lost them support of the, both at home and among their troops.
There were many different factors that threatened public support for the Vietnam war. It was a combination of all these factors the caused the growth of the Anti-War Protest movement. It was mainly this that led so many young men to refuse to join the army. The graphic press coverage and brutal reports of events in Vietnam, that reached the US public, convinced many ordinary people that they war was not justifiable and encouraged many men to spurn the government and refuse to go to Vietnam.