Vietnam War – American Experience Since 1945

The Vietnam War was the longest and most unpopular war that the United States ever took part in. there was great loss of life and major financial repercussions. The war took away around 58000 American lives and severely wounded 304,000. The war was a military struggle that was fought between the years of 1959 to 1975 between the North Vietnamese and the national liberation fund alongside South Vietnam which had the obvious support of the United States.

The United States failed drastically to retain the South Vietnamese government from collapsing and ultimately Vietnam came under communist rule. The financial loss, as well as the loss of lives, was astounding for the Americans and the citizens had deep-rooted resentment due to their country’s involvement in the war.

In May 1970, thousands of Iowa state university students gathered together and formed a huge uprising against the Vietnam War as well as protesting against the killing of four unarmed students in Kent state university. Students across the United States opposed the Vietnam War calling it unjust and deceptive on part of the government of the United States. The outrage of the students spread across the country and took the form of slogans, banners, and peaceful but effective demonstrations.

The Vietnamese war took the lives of four American students at Kent where a demonstration was being held to protest the invasion of Cambodia. Members of the Ohio National Guard were dispatched to bring the protests to an end while resorting to violence to do it. This resulted in the death of the fours students which ultimately saw the disapproval of the entire nation. (Vietnam, n.d.)

During the 1960s the American students began to come out of their shells and voice their opinions bluntly and without fear of repercussions so much so that the 1960s and 1970s have been termed by some as the era of the student union protesting against the war and the establishment. It was not up until the war and the passing of the draft that required young individuals to take part in the war did the students become active nationwide.

This drive was instilled in them because they wanted more control over their lives 1970 can be marked as a key year for student activism. At the University of Oregon, the students attacked the ROTC and burnt their facility causing them thousands of dollars in damage. Frustrated at the fact that they were unable to have their demands met to oust the ROTC from campus 300 students took over the administrative building to show their deep-rooted resentment at having the military’s presence on campus.

Unrest ended with the bombing by those who were suspected to be student radicals of the prince Lucian Campbell building. 1970 was a turbulent year seeing bombings and devastation to the peace-driven closure of 13th avenue. Thereafter many demonstrations were held on campus which was curbed by the police through the use of tear gas which had the effect of only increasing the mild protest into violent behavior.

It became quite evident that the students were making a thorough effort to organize their student bodies and they were able to gain considerable authority as a result of their demonstrations. As student activism increased in colleges they came to a change in student leadership. It became a fundamental prerequisite to have a stand-in Vietnam if one wanted to run for a position in the student government. (Graves, 2005)

There was a strong nexus between student activism and student government. The national student association was a group of student government leaders from across the United States. Ron Eachus was on the board of NSA and was part of a group of NSA members who took a visit to Vietnam in 1970. The delegation was not allowed to meet with student unions from South Vietnam so they moved towards North Vietnam. In the meantime, the NSA students in the north and South Vietnam wrote a draft of a document which was titled peoples peace treaty which was signed by American, North, and South Vietnamese students.

Essentially the document confirmed that none of the students were in favor of war and all they wanted was to live independently and in perpetual peace. The students from each country vowed to make their respective governments accept the peace treaty. This bond between the student government leaders and the anti-war document that they formed shows the brunt that individual student leaders and world events had on one another.

People often believe that the protests were nothing more than heated demonstrations that produced no results but the students achieved more than they could ever imagine had they not formed themselves into governmental bodies. They were in a position to have more say and control both in their private matters and those of the country. Proof of this lies in the fact that the very students who formed the student government are now playing a huge role in the policy-making of Oregon governmental policies as part of state legislators as well as state policymakers. The student body of the 1970s ensured their prominence and influence which had proved to be more than just a short-lived façade. (Graves, 2005)

In 1965, the roots of the anti-war movement sunk in deep. It was a revolutionary period for the Americans when new concepts began to involve such as counter-culture, establishment, free love, and many more such words that were added to the American dictionary. It was indeed the advent of the hippie generation the drug culture and the sexual uprising. These were just some of the social changes that had a drastic impact on American society. It was a period that saw much violence, disobedience, and disregard of the law. People began to infuse their norms and values whilst negating the effects of their previous culture. (Bette, 2002)

The humiliating defeat of the Americans made the citizens of America lose faith in the government. People who once believed that the United States was almost impossible to defeat lost all the pride that they had for their country. Apart from the obvious economic hurdles that the war caused it also brought a feeling of despair amidst the American people as far as their trust in the government lay.

In the wake of the war, many Americans had a very skeptical view brimming with suspicion about all forms of authority, and the military, in particular, was treated as not being credible. The biggest consequence of the American war was that the people never trusted any public institution thereafter. The loss in Vietnam made congress take the reigns of power and the democrats especially began to question whether America should take part in containing communism.

The democrats were wary of Americans using force abroad to bring about democracy. Thereafter the democratic majority in congress enacted the 1973 wars power resolution stopping the president from sending us military into combat for more than ninety days and without the agreement of Congress. The fear of failure at war again made congressmen state that America shall only take part in war if and only if the country’s national interest is present, the people’s will is there, and only if a quick and inexpensive victory can be guaranteed. This they believed was the only way another Vietnam can be avoided. (Sitikoff, 1999)

Another very important impact of the war was perhaps the treatment of the veterans. The veterans were believed to be bad soldiers and depicted by the media as deranged psychotics who were perpetually affected by drugs and it was their fault that the war was lost. The veterans were ostracized and many were not given any aid at all after they came back from service. They suffered heavy physical and psychological wounds and several veterans were missing in action. No compensation whatsoever was given to the families of the veterans and this kind of treatment was met with deep-rooted resentment on their part.

Thousands of veterans committed suicide after the war unable to cope with their conditions back home. Approximately 700,000 draftees many of them destitute, uneducated, and nonwhite were deprived of education and medical benefits driving them to commit crimes to cope with life. They were unable to sustain or even find jobs and the state did not provide them with any kind of assistance at all. Many realized that the veterans deserved more than moral condemnation and required serious help but little or nothing was done to provide them aid. (Sitikoff, 1999)

Today, the Vietnams veteran memorial is the most visited site in the nation’s capital but it in no way symbolizes the glory, patriotism, and heroism that comes with normal memorials of war but it’s just a reminder of a failure that resulted in even worse consequences. (Sitikoff, 1999)


Camas Chapman Graves , 2005. Web.

Harvard Sitikoff, 1999, the postwar impact of Vietnam. Web.

Martina Bexte, 2002, the Vietnam War protests. Web.

Vietnam, n.d. War history. Web.