Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is fully independent and reunified. Ho Chi Minh, statement, December 19, 1946
The 60’s were turbulent times for the American people. They had fallen into blissful complacency after the Second World War and Korea, but that complacency would not last—Vietnam was lurking, like a Python, waiting to devour them!
In 1945 the country danced around the maypole of peace and the coming prosperity. That prosperity was only interrupted by the Korean War which took place from Jun 25, 1950 – Jul 27, 1953. For the next seven years America grew in prosperity again and the dream of a chicken in every pot, jobs for everyone that wanted to work, and a family home, came to fruition. Those were peaceful years, years where the American people could revel in their freedom and love for one another.
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit. Martin Luther King Jr.
But that was about to change. The French colonial government had been trying for years to colonize the Vietnamese people, until they got their asses kicked at Dien Bien Phu, leading to a decisive Viet Minh victory, Termination of French involvement in Indochina, and the signing of Geneva Conference Peace Accords. Most Americans didn’t know anything about Vietnam, couldn’t spell it or tell you where it was on the globe—but they were about to find out!
After the French defeat, France signed the 1954 Geneva Accords, which led to its withdrawal from French Indochina and the separation of Vietnam at the 17th parallel into North and South. However, a second Indochina war would begin in 1956 which would include American forces and would eventually escalate into the Vietnam War. U.S. involvement ramped up after Dien Bien Phu and we were sucked into the quagmire that was the Vietnam War.
The Daily Beast reported… The Geneva accords didn’t so much establish a lasting peace as set the stage for another war in Vietnam. Just a few months after the diplomats had departed from Geneva, Hanoi sent orders to the 15,000 clandestine Vietminh political agents who remained in South Vietnam to begin a subversion campaign against the Bao Dai administration. Meanwhile, the National Security Council in Washington called for the use of “all available means” to undermine the Communist regime in Hanoi, and “to make every possible effort to maintain a friendly noncommunist government in South Vietnam.” As 1954 ended, a CIA team under Col. Edward Lansdale had begun to implement a clandestine subversion program against Ho Chi Minh’s government in North Vietnam. The American crusade against Communism in Vietnam had begun in earnest.
In the minds of the architects of America’s new war, the French defeat in Indochina had very little to do with the strategic prowess and tenacity of the enemy, and everything to do with a lack of political will in Paris, and French military lassitude and incompetence in the field. In retrospect, it’s astonishing how little respect was paid by American decision makers to Ho Chi Minh and General Giap’s brilliant “protracted war” strategy against France—to the deft integration of guerrilla warfare, conventional operations, the methodical buildup of a shadow government in the countryside, and a worldwide propaganda campaign against Western imperialism and their deepening commitment.
There were, of course, many reasons for failing to give the Vietnamese Communists their due. Prominent among them was the arrogant and misguided belief that a new American way of war based on air mobility, heavy firepower, cutting-edge intelligence-gathering, and targeting technology, would render irrelevant the Communist Strategy Ho and Giap had developed over more than a dozen years of fighting for their country. How wrong the architects of the U.S. war proved to be! For in the end, Giap employed essentially the same highly flexible strategy and force structure to defeat the Americans that he had used to vanquish the French, albeit on a larger scale.
I think we have all underestimated the seriousness of this situation. Like giving cobalt treatment to a terminal cancer case. I think a long, protracted war will disclose our weakness, not our strength. George Ball
On March 8, 1965, the first U.S. combat troops came ashore near Da Nang, South Vietnam. No one could have foreseen that the 3,500 marines who landed that day would eventually be followed by over 2.5 million American soldiers.
Prior to 1965, America had limited its involvement to providing South Vietnam with military supplies and advisors. On the day the marines landed, 23,000 of these advisors were already in the country. These members of a Special Forces “A” team were helping South Vietnamese peasants defend their villages against communist guerillas who called themselves the Viet Cong (VC).
Ten years and 58,000 American deaths later, the last GI left Vietnam under the terms of a peace accord between the U.S. and North Vietnam. Two years later, in 1975, the South Vietnam defenses crumbled. North Vietnamese tanks rolled into the South Vietnamese capital, just hours after the last Americans were evacuated from the U.S. embassy in Saigon—Peace with honor.
The Vietnam War was the horror show of our time. Some fought while others protested, while yet others legislated. America had begun to crumble from her cornerstones up, and from the peak of the capitol rotunda, down. The very cornerstone of America’s democracy, the foundation our founders thought to protect, American’s freedom of speech and our free press, were about to bring, for the first time, a war into the living rooms of all Americans.
Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America -- not on the battlefields of Vietnam. Marshal McLuhan
It was only after the War in Vietnam was declared, that this country, her government, and her people began to unravel into an unruly mass of long-haired, sign carrying, anti-war, anti-American Soldier, citizens, hiding behind their first Amendment right to free speech. The peace movement, defined by the death of every fallen soldier that fought for this country's liberty in that theatre of war, flourished and with the help of do nothing politicians, turned America away from being "The Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" to the Land of the “Freebee, No Place for the Brave,” … where we remain to this day.
Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.
General William Westmoreland
Politics aside, “war” was declared, we went, we served, and some came home to the tumult that was now America. “All Gave Some, Some Gave All,” but the America that existed in the 60's and early 70's didn't give a shit, and the lucky ones didn't have to witness the continuing demise of this once great country—they came home in body bags—and every American with a TV set got the chance to watch it up close and personal. The eyes of every mother, father, brother, and sister were glued to the one-eyed monster every evening, watching the slaughter unfold as the talking heads described the carnage in vivid detail. The growing opposition to the Vietnam War was partly attributed to greater access to uncensored information presented by the extensive television coverage on the ground in Vietnam. They watched because they could. They watched in hopes of seeing their loved ones still alive, hoping, above hope, that their viewing wouldn’t be interrupted by an ominous knock on the door from a military officer and chaplain offering condolences to a grieving family. Fear gripped the families of American service members in the combat zone, just as it gripped the service members in the combat zone.
There was another thing that was front and center on America’s T.V. sets—the carnage on the home front. Protestors were ripping apart the fabric of the American Flag. They were called “hippies” and “war protestors,” and what they did was perfectly within their rights as Americans, but it didn’t make it right. Some self-serving protestors’ goal was to eliminate the draft, while others took the moral high ground of ending the death and destruction in a foreign country; but all the protests had one common consequence—it crushed the morale of the American soldier! They couched their protests in a shroud called “The Peace Movement,” disguising their intentions and message under a mask of harmony camouflaged as a flower child. But, make no mistake about their intentions and they became the festering malady that marked the times. Some, fearful of being drafted into service fled to Canada, while others joined groups of dissenters, groups intent on disrupting not only the war effort but the peace and tranquility at home. These groups of student activists under the guise of the free speech movement were started on the liberal college campuses of the United States. Other groups who were racially fixated and enveloped in the civil rights movement, further unraveled the threads that made up the fabric of our lives and our flag.
Arising out of this chaos was another kind of protestor. The idle rich and famous played the most demoralizing role in this drama. These were the turncoats, traitors, wrapped in the burning American Flag, and espousing, “flower power,” while brave American soldiers were being killed by the thousands. They should have been brought to the bar of justice, but their wealth, celebrity and political status gave them a free pass, for, as we all know, the justice system in this country is not fair and balanced, not blindfolded, like the myriad of statues on the courthouse steps. We all know who they are and we all know what they did. There is more severe justice that they will face. Justice dispensed by those they betrayed—REAL JUSTICE!