29.2 U.S. Support of the War at Home and Abroad The vietnam war
Focus Your Thoughts . . . • Why was the war in Vietnam considered a “rich man’s” war?
The Air War • Operation Rolling Thunder • A bombing campaign began in North Vietnam in March of 1965 • U.S. pilots bombed military targets, army bases, and airfields; they also bombed anything they thought the Vietnamese might find useful • Their primary target was the Ho Chi Minh Trail • A trail which snaked through dense rainforests in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia which was used to transport soldiers and supplies
The Air War • Weapons • Napalm – a jellied form of gasoline • Cluster bombs – sprayed sharp metal fragments when they exploded • Carpet bombing – strings of bombs dropped from high altitudes that destroyed large areas of land but had no specific target • Success of the Air War • The Air War was largely unsuccessful, when trails were damaged on the Ho Chi Minh trail, they were quickly repaired or done without; they also had underground bunkers
Johnson’s Frustration • Frustrated with the lack of progress in Vietnam, Johnson ordered American troops to increase their bombing, which only led to hostility among the South Vietnamese who then joined the Vietcong in their opposition of the American war effort
The Ground War • The U.S. strategy • In order to combat the guerrilla tactics of the Vietnamese, we ordered “Search and Destroy Missions” to drive enemy forces out of hideouts; once a hideout was located, air forces commenced bombing • The Search and Destroy Missions were largely unsuccessful as well, as the Vietcong would immediately return after we had “cleared” the area, and terrorize citizens they suspected of aiding the Americans
The Ground War • Pacification • A program instituted to win the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people • Nonmilitary pacification involved construction projects to improve the country’s infrastructure and economy • Military pacification involved moving people out of their villages when the Vietcong were nearby • Villagers were relocated to safe camps where they were provided with food and shelter; unfortunately, most of the Vietnamese people resented being moved
Declining Troop Morale • Success was difficult to illustrate on a map, they couldn’t necessarily show any physical progress, so instead they measured success based upon body count • U.S. troops began to grow unhappy, the Vietcong were proving a powerful adversary, striking unexpectedly and melting back into the forest • Ambush attacks – It was nearly impossible to tell Vietcong soldiers apart from South Vietnamese citizens • Booby traps – Punji stakes: sharpened bamboo sticks hidden in holes in the ground • Tunnel systems – The Vietcong established elaborate underground tunnel systems where they had everything from bomb shelters and firing posts to kitchens, hospitals, dorms, and weapon storage facilities
The Draft and “Draft Dodgers” • At the start of the war, the majority of the troops were professional soldiers, volunteers who enlisted in the armed forces • As time progressed, however, more and more young men, primarily from poor families, were drafted to serve in Vietnam • Wealthier kids received deferments so long as they were in college • The draft was EXTREMELY unpopular, especially because it favored wealthy kids, they eventually instituted a lottery system which chose draftees at random based upon their birthdays, and finally, called the draft off all together
Non-combat Positions • Most Americans, including 50,000 women, working in Vietnam served in non-combat positions • Administration • Communication • Engineering • Medical care • Transportation
Public Opinion Shifts • Most Americans initially supported the war, but as more and more Americans began to die, public opinion began to shift, primarily due to the role of the media What is the ‘media’? How might it influence public opinion?
Television Coverage • The U.S. government supported coverage of the first “living room war”, but the coverage actually worked against them • Scenes of firefights and burning villages • Stories of civilian homicides and rape
The Hawks & The Doves • Hawks: Supported the war, but disapproved of the way the government was handling it • More troops • More bombing • Doves: Disapproved of the war for a variety of reasons • In no way impacted American security • Did not represent the interests of the majority of Vietnamese citizens Why might anti-war sympathizers have called themselves ‘doves’?
The Antiwar Movement • As opposition to the war grew, an antiwar movement began, primarily among college students • College students began to hold rallies and debate U.S. involvement in the war • Students for a Democratic Society • Organized a 20,000 + person march to Washington D.C. in protest of the war
Response to the Antiwar Movement • President Johnson continued to insist we were protecting an ally against an aggressor • Protesting escalated: • Flag burning • Self-immolation
In-Class Writing Assignment Had you been alive during the Vietnam War, would you have supported U.S. involvement? Were we really defending the interests of our allies, as Johnson claimed, or ourselves? The Vietnam War is the only war in which a draft was ever implemented; if a draft were implemented today, how would you feel if you were called up to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan?