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The Vietnam War changed the United States and its people forever. Lasting from 1955 to 1973, the Vietnam War took on the role as the longest battle in America’s history. For the first time, the United States didn’t accomplish its main goal when entering the war. Unlike any other American war, the Vietnam War introduced new war tactics and enemies that would ultimately cause great devastation. As the first war broadcasted on television, Americans could view what was happening on the battlefield, which allowed the war to affect not only the soldiers, but also American citizens. Overall, the Vietnam War divided the nation, affected politics, and would have a lasting affect on U.S. society and foreign policy.
Unlike other American wars, the United States didn’t enter the Vietnam War at any specific time. Entering in increments overtime, the United States went through several strategies and for different reasons. In 1950, President Truman gave economic and military to the French who were fighting for control of their portion of Indochina. After the Vietnamese Nationalists defeated the French, a Communist Vietnam was created north of the 17th parallel. President Kennedy then sent in Special Operations forces to South Vietnam to assist in fighting Communist guerrillas. After Kennedy’s assassination, President Johnson committed the United States to war with the authorization of bombing targets north of the 17th parallel. The war started without the U.S. involvement, but there was one direct cause for the entry of American troops. Every enemy in Vietnam was refereed to as an agent of communism. Once the Communist Party overtook China, the United States feared it spreading further. With communism opposing democracy, violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, closing trade, and military aggression, the United States viewed it as a disease that would spread if not stopped.
Several aspects of the Vietnam War set it apart from any other American wars. As the first war covered by the media, many conflicts within the United States erupted because of the amount of wartime they were witnessing on television. People began to focus on the news reports and numbers, which caused chaos across the nation. In Vietnam, new tactics, weapons, and equipment were being used which increased the brutality of the war. With a long, drawn out war and enemies that were fighting with guerilla tactics, the United States went in unprepared for what they faced. For the first time ever, the United States didn’t have the upper hand and would ultimately come out without a victory.
Although the Vietnam War was fought overseas, back at home America was affected in its entirety including its politics. Opposition to the war became a theme across America causing people to lose confidence in the system. The 1960’s were filled with major change including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the antiwar movement. With families, schools, and the Democratic being torn apart, many questioned the commitment of American troops in Vietnam. Americans no longer viewed the democracy as participatory. The draft also caused uproar in American politics. Young men were fleeing the country and burning their draft cards to avoid going to Vietnam. Overall, the Vietnam War caused mayhem within the United States and turned the political system upside down.
With the withdrawing of troops, the Vietnam War came to an end for Americans and changed several aspects of the United States and foreign policy. The death of 58,000 U.S. troops caused great devastation within American society. Loss of lives and public distrust made the military less popular in the eyes of the citizens. Although the U.S. was technically out of the war, what is known as “Vietnam syndrome,” lasted for the following years. American foreign policy was in disarray and the postwar policy was discredited. The Vietnam War affected the way United States citizens and the nation itself went about the next several years.
The Vietnam War came at a great cost. Thousands of lives were taken, billions of dollars were spent, America was divided, and society would forever be changed. Although the war damaged several aspects of the United States, many positive changes came during wartime. New rights and new understandings of freedom were produced. Many racial minorities were given new opportunities and government was viewed in a different light. The Vietnam War, although tragic, will always go down in history and have a strong affect on America.
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