During the 1960’s, there were many changes in views on the Vietnam War. The reason why there were different reactions was because there were major turning points in the war then, which affected whether there was any morality in fighting. The opinions changed from pro-war to ant-war, which for example led to things such as peace talks as a result of atrocities and war crimes committed which were revealed to the public.
However, at the beginning of the war pretty much most of America were pro-war (they supported it). They supported it because they were mainly influenced by the media, who made communism out to be the ‘ultimate evil’ and that it was set to take over the world-the Domino Theory. Propaganda heavily influenced the lives of the Americans e. g. anybody who was even suspected to sympathise with a communist party could instantly loose their job.
People believed in the same policies as the US government, that the spread of communism had to be stopped (even though it was falsely accused of spreading as China, the biggest ‘domino’, had become communist and hardly affected its neighbouring countries) and for patriotic reasons, it was a good thing to go fight. Through different events in the war, the media started to change its mind on whether to support it. The American public soon followed. The first turning point came on Wednesday 31st January 1968 with the Tet Offensive. It was a huge attack led by VC and NVA communists which had caught everybody off guard.
The US public had been told that America was winning the war, which kept a positive effect (pro-war attitude) back in America. However, when the VC attacked and held for 3 weeks, most of South Vietnams towns and cities, American views changed. They immediately jumped to the conclusion they had been mislead by the Army, and they began to question if the US could win the war at all because people began to think “How could a ‘peasant rebellion’ stage a full-scale attack on America’s elites? “.
There was also a change in attitude because the truth about the fighting in Vietnam had been revealed e. . the US used chemical weapons such as Napalm which had horrific effects on its victims, or defoliants that caused deformities and cancer in a generation of children. Gruesome events such as these were openly displayed by the media to the world, resulting in arguments against continuing the war. Even though the Tet Offensive came as a large comeback from the VC (with more than 500 Americans dead or wounded within the first 3 weeks of Tet), it was still seen as an American victory. This is because 47% of people killed during the Tet Offensive were VC, and only 2% were US deaths.
The VC suffered at least 30,000 casualties from this and never recovered. Even though the opinion of the war was changing in America, people still supported it for patriotic reasons and because of being influenced by the media. Different views came into contact and resulted in social upheaval, and new social groups, most of the anti-war cliques were made up of the young. Groups of youths opposed the war. Groups such as college students-self explanatory, or ‘hippies’; who were teenagers who had ‘dropped-out’ of society in protest against the war, opposed the war because they thought it was morally wrong.
The groups were influenced by the media mainly (the media was the background factor of the social change), which had portrayed gruesome yet effective coverage’s, such as the Buddhist monk setting himself on fire (in protest against laws), or the My Lai Massacre which was the unjustified killing of 500 innocent unarmed Vietnamese villagers; horrific photos were broadcasted which gave the impression that the American troops had no morale values. People were disgusted and wanted the war to end.
In protest to this, the teenagers dressed differently in casual, fashionable clothes such as miniskirts and jeans, instead of smartly dressed, mature young adults they were supposed to be. They also had a different taste in music and supported the new wave of ‘punk music’. Furthermore, anti-war marches were organised e. g. in 1967, a crowd of 100,000 protesters came onto Washington. The public of America weren’t the only ones who had changed views on the war. The attitudes of the soldiers in Vietnam itself changed over time. All they began to try and do was survive until they could leave.
The GI’s were mentally scarred as they watched their friends die in front of them and as they committed hideous crimes. They were slowly being demoralised by the atrocities of the war they fought. They began to lose their discipline and disobey orders (which resulted in fragging- a slang term used for when junior soldiers disobey their officers and blow them up with grenades) between 1969 and 1971 there were 730 fragging incidents and 83 officers had been killed in mutiny, and during the war; 1 in 10 troops were addicted to Heroin.
This justifies how the pro-war attitude of the soldiers changed to anti-war; it seemed to them the only way to ‘escape the fighting’. Overall, I think that the main reasons why the reaction to the war changed over time was because of the turning points of the war: The Tet Offensive, which brought up the question if the Americans were really winning the war, or the My Lai Massacre which had been revealed over a year later showed that the US tried to cover up the atrocities that they committed.
I also think it was because of the amount of troops that began to be killed towards the end of the war which contributed to a change in attitude. As morale issues began to take over soldiers, and they disobeyed orders, the reality of fighting a pointless war made sense; resulting in approx. 14,000 deaths in 1968, which caused much grief among the citizens. In conclusion, views on the war in Vietnam changed, resulting in a social change, which escalated the issue furthermore, leading to different views globally and peace talks in Paris under the pressure of the view change.