In the beginning of the 1960’s America’s involvement with the Vietnam had been well supported by the American people. As the war began to drag on throughout the 1960’s, the war became very costly money and life wise. The American public began to turn against the war.
Most people were in favour of the war in the early 1960s because of many reasons. One of them reasons was the fear of communism and the Domino theory. The Domino theory was thought up by President Eisenhower. The domino theory was the idea that if countries like East Asia decided to become a communist country then other countries around them would also become communists. Communism would spread and collapse likes a row of dominos. This theory was believed by a lot of people at the time.
The American Public had different views on what and how long the war would go on for. They had the idea that the war would have been short and very easy; however, they were very wrong. Although more men were lost on the opposite side, still many Americans died. But the public were still unhappy with this amount.
Although most people were in favour for this war Pacifists and Communists were against the war. Because of their beliefs in equality and peace, war was something that they did not want to get involved with. Pacifists were actually strict religious people and their religion had taught them that war was wrong.
By the late 1960s the public opinion had started to change. Social Attitude had started to change as well. People began to become hippies believing in peace rather than war and independence. Love was the main issue for people now. Nobody wanted any sort of war anymore. Pop music became the fashion as well as things like flower power that made things seem wrong.
People began to find out other things that made them turn against the idea of war as well though. One of these things was that the public had been lied to by everyone including their own government. The public became unsure about who they could trust and who they couldn’t. The pentagon papers had a large roll in this. Pentagon on its own is the headquarters of the USA’s Armed Forces. A employee, Daniel Ellsberg, in 1967 found all the government papers on Vietnam after the 1940’s. After he had completed this task of collecting over 4000 papers, Ellsberg, along with others added a further 3000 papers of analysis to the documents. Put together all these documents became known as the Pentagon Papers.
These secret documents showed how the US government and its officials had sometimes lied or covered up instances that had happened during the long war. Members of the Congress had became angry as well because it had know been proven that important desions had been made about the war without the Congress being even told let alone involved and up to date on what was happening. The documents also showed something important and this was that the American government hadn’t really known what they had got the country involved in during this war.
By 1969 even Ellsberg himself had begun to become an opponent of the war. Secretly he photocopied all 7000 pages of the “Pentagon Papers” and he eventually passed them on to the New York Times. He began to realise the war was very immoral and that many thousands innocent civilians were getting killed. He thought the publication of the Pentagon Papers would help to end the war and so in June 1971 the New York Times started to publish them.
President Nixon didn’t know what to do and in matter of fact there was nothing that he could actually do. But the papers were actually classified meaning they were stolen which meant the publication of them was a criminal act. The papers also put the whole of the war into a bad light but it was the Kennedy and Johnson government that it did this to. So both these men were Democrats and therefore political opponents putting the Democrats into a bad light.
Nixon decided to take action and stop the publication and prosecute Ellsberg for theft and conspiracy. But however, the publication was not illegal and therefore could not be stopped and it did continue. It turned out that in 1973 the charges against Ellsberg were dropped. This was because Nixon had used illegal methods to get the evidence he had against Ellsberg. These methods included bugging his private telephone and a breaking into his psychiatrist’s office and viewing private files.
The publication of the Pentagon papers proved very harmful for President Nixon – even though none of the documents said anything about his presidency. The publication the papers made him more obsessed with security. He began to use many methods, some being criminal ones, to stop “leaks” happening again. This later led on to him using illegal method to cover up the truth about the Watergate scandal. Because of this he had became forced to resign in 1974.
By April 1975 one and a half million people had been killed during this one long war. Many of these had been people not involved in the war such as women and children. 58 000 American troops had been killed but 587 000 civilians had also been killed along with them. People had lost many members of their families and many people had lost many friends to. Nobody wanted to loose more people and so they became opposed to the war.
The American Public were also shocked by all the Media. The Tet Offensive in 1968 was basically when 70 000 Vietcong attacked South Vietnamese towns during the Tet holiday or New Year. Many soldiers were on holiday and so their forces were down. The news media of the Tet Offensive had cause a dramatic effect. The film of the Vietcong guerrillas fighting in the Americans grounds had been especially shocking for the American Public.
The impact of the Tet had been a large reason. A journalist had actually filmed a tied up Vietcong suspect being led by a group of ARVN troops, as this was being filmed, the chief of the Saigon Police casually walked up to the suspect and just shot him in the head. The suspect fell to the ground with large amounts of blood gashing out of his head. So to the American public, television viewers, the incident was shocking. A man had been displayed on public television were he had been killed on the spot with no trial and no defence.
Another reason was My Lai in 1968 although the story did not break until later. On March 16 1968, just south of Khe Sanh, an American patrol approached a tiny village called My Lai. At this point the battle of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive was still raging. Lieutenant Calley and his platoon entered My Lai while searching for VC. After this together, they committed the worst reported American atrocity of the war. After an American investigation had taken place after the event of the massacre it was reported that 347 men, women and children and babies had been murdered, many of the women had been raped first. Other reports though recorded the number of deaths to be over 500.
The impact of My Lai was even greater than the Tet Offensive. The massacre was actually kept quiet for a while after the event. Officially the operation was known as a success, with 90 VC troops being killed. The American Troops had only one injury report was he had been shot in the foot. But at a later date he had stated that he injured himself so he could leave and not take part in the killing on many innocent people. But eventually the press got the story of an American solider who had heard all the rumours. This happened in November 1969. Calley was in fact the only soldier who was convicted of murder because he was in charge of the Platoon after another investigation. He was sentenced to life for personally killing 22 villagers. But after three and a half years President Nixon realised him and he was a free man again.
All the killings split America. Some people decide to defend Calley and his men because they were thought to have done the best, while fighting for the country. Many thought that the people killed had been helping the opposition, the VC. In a poll it was actually found that 49% of the people did not believe in the report at all.
Later photographs were published in the American Newspaper. Complaints were made that the paper was just Anti-American. Others just claimed that these photos showed how nasty the war was and that this was just one of the many massacres that had happened and hidden from the public. Many believed the Army should be put on trial as well as Calley. The American people were used to thinking they were a good country but their minds began to change because of the soldiers who were responsible for the massacre.
In 1968 the USA’ Central Intelligence agency, also known as the CIA, set up an operation called Operation Phoenix. This was meant to identify and arrest VC suspects in the areas that were controlled by South Vietnamese governments. It had an aim of neutralising 3000 suspects each month. The thought they could arrest them and then they would reveal other names and then imprison them all. In the three years this operation took place The South Vietnamese along with American advisers managed to capture and imprison 28 000 VC suspects. A further 20 000 were assassinated and 17 000 changed sides and gave their support to the South instead.
Many people were actually imprisoned or killed just to make up the figures for their aim. Once again many innocent people suffered. But however, there were many VC people who suffered so some justice was done. Many VC and NVA forces ran and escaped from the assassination groups to places like Cambodia. But in 1970 Nixon sent troops in to Cambodia after them increasing the scale of the war. Later, after the War had finished America admitted that the Phoenix programme had wiped out many communist camps. Many of the American Public began to think that the war was a crime and the USA was acting criminally.
As people began to oppose the war more and more, people started to protest along the streets to try and put a stop to the things they were unhappy with. One of the biggest protest was when people tried to protest against the war altogether. One hundred and sixty American soldiers and troops were being killed per week. Too many people were losing relatives.
At the time of the war Martin Luther King began to protest and try and make the country equal. Martin Luther King was a persecuted everyday of his life. He was black and made to feel inferior to the white people in America. But deep down he knew he was as good as any other person on the entire earth. He began to try and change the way America was run. Many people began to protest which began to cause a lot of question of why the black people were good enough to fight in the war but not good enough to do things like sit on the front of buses. The black people protested and rioted and decided that if something did not change they would no longer support the war.
After this point of time protest carried on happening and got worse. In 1970 President Nixon troops had been released into Neutral Cambodia to destroy only the VC forces there. But people thought that another war would break out, just as Vietnam had. Protests began to take place but mainly at universities. In one protest that took place in May where four students were shot by a National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio. These killings sparked off four hundred other protests
Many things changed the minds of the American public for whether the involvement in the war should carry on. The war had caused serious rising costs which had no end and the War itself seemed to have no end. Many things such as media and casualties as well as America and there social problems led to the public with drawing their support. Their involvement had finally ended in 1973.