HIST 266 JY P12
Second Paper Topic – Effects of Vietnam War on American Society
Often, wars result in severe implications that may take a long to mitigate, especially if they happen for a long duration. The study pays attention to the Vietnam War and its impact on U.S. society. The report provides a brief overview of the war and illustrates the circumstances under which the U.S. took part in the war. The paper shows that the war had severe effects on various aspects of American society. The country suffered significant financial setbacks, and the military suffered traumatizing experiences, which also affected their families and loved ones. The high number of fatalities incurred during the war caused severe social problems that took many years to overcome. The study’s findings urge administrators and war strategists to make considerable thoughts before sending troops to the battlefield to avoid the negative consequences the U.S. experienced in the Vietnam War.
Brief Background of the War
The Second Indochina War, popularly referred to as the Vietnam War, started on 1 November 1955 in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and lasted until April 1975, making it one of the long-lasting fiercest battles.It is ranked as the second wave of theIndochina Wars, mostly a contention between South Vietnam and North Vietnam (Singhal). North Vietnam received overwhelming support from affiliates such as China and the Soviet Union, and several other countries that supported the idea of communism (Singhal). On the other hand, South Vietnam received the support of countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, South Korea, and the U.S, among other nations that opposed the idea of communism. Some scholars refer to the Vietnam War as being part of the Cold War. The confrontations emanated from the First Indochina War (1946-1954) against the Viet Minh that supported the communist ideology (Singhal). The Viet Cong from South Vietnam emerged as the Viet Minh’s major opposed and opted to initiate a guerrilla war in the southern part.
U.S.’s Involvement in the War
U.S. engagement in the Vietnam War escalated when President John Kennedy ascended to power. He relied on the Military Assistance Advisory Group program to increase the number of military advisors from below one thousand in 1959 to more than 15,800 in 1963. Initially, various groups were opposed to the U.S.’s involvement in the south (Gawthrope). The American public was one major party that felt Americans made a mistake by joining the war (Gawthrope). The opposition became more robust with drafting a plan dubbed “Vietnamization” that secluded President Richard Nixon’s administration from the mechanism to send troops to Vietnam. The seclusion denied Americans a clear chance to work with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, which steadily became one of the most potent forces globally (Gawthrope). However, the U.S. got the chance to participate in the battle when it was inevitable that South Vietnam and affiliated parties badly needed help.
Effects of the War on the American Society
In the post-war period, Americans strove to conceptualize its military intervention’s effects in the Vietnam War. The standard view emerging from the entire experience is that American society suffered a significant impact because it participated in the confrontation. America’s poor performance in the war is usually perceived at different levels and institutions. Some have argued that the failure was due to the political incapability of U.S. leadership. Consequently, the loopholes caused the U.S. in several ways, ranging from the cost of involvement to loss of life. Gawthrope projects that the U.S. spent approximately $170 billion on the war between 1954 and 1975, which would be the same as $1.3 trillion in 2018. The high spending resulted in a massive federal budget deficit that affected many development initiatives across the country. The heavy spending on the war interfered with the government’s record-keeping practices, which further crumbled America’s financial stability. Besides, it is projected that at least 3.1 million Americans participated in the war in different capacities, some 1.6 million who encountered the battle (Gawthrope). Gawthrope informs that at the height of the U.S.’s engagement in 1968, about 544,000 U.S. military officers were stationed on the battlefield, but only 81,000 were termed combat personnel (Gawthrope). As of 2012, the American government is remitting payment to veterans who took part in the Vietnam War, their families, and survivors at least $22.3 billion annually in war-connected claims.
The Vietnam War had devastating effects on the American military, which significantly impacted the entire U.S. society. Nearly 58,300 U.S. soldiers lost their lives, and more than 160,000 others sustained severe injuries by the time the war came to a halt. Approximately 21,200 others were eternally disabled. The mean age of the U.S. soldiers killed in the battle was 23 years, which means that a significant portion of America’s future generation was wiped out. Berry (46) argues that an estimated 840,000 American veterans developed some level of posttraumatic stress depression. Berry (46) further contends that the strong psychoactive medications such as amphetamines issued to the fighters during the war, which caused them to be unable to sufficiently their disturbances at the time, contributed to the increased emotional disturbance. As the war progressed and became more harmful to American society, disciplinary issues emerged, and morale subsided among many officers (Berry 47). Other than the officers who felt the severe effects of the Vietnam War, the affected people’s family members suffered a massive blow because they shared in the pain that their loved ones experienced. The traumatizing encounters by military personnel affected American society caused panic and apprehension among members of the public.
Many families were disrupted by the war that caused many people to leave their loved ones to participate in the battle. Apart from men who went to their homes and stayed in Vietnam for several months, sometimes without formal interaction with their loved ones, women also left their homes’ comfort and sacrificed the love for their husbands and children to serve in the war. Berry (69) describes how American nurses engaged in active duty carrying out a wide range of responsibilities and giving the example of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) that recruited many women to join the Operation Nightingale initiative variety of medical services in Vietnam. Other women who were majorly volunteers worked in the military. They also experienced intense challenges both on the battlefield and the stress of leaving one’s family behind and engaging in an affair where no one knows their ultimate fate (Berry 69). The separations interfered with the context of some families that never reunited. The disrupted family ties mostly affected American society because children were left without parents, wives without husbands, and men without wives. Many affected people found it difficult to cope with the new circumstances.
The high number of casualties had devastating effects on American society and can be termed one of the war’s catastrophic impacts. Womack (72) writes that nearly 1.3 million succumbed to the impact of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, established in Washington, D.C., reported that 57,940 individuals serving for the U.S. Army lost their lives or were missing due to the fierce confrontation (Womack 72). The Memorial went ahead to inscribe all these victims’ names in honor of their commitment and boldness. Over the years, additions to the inscribed names have brought the total number to more than 58,250 (Womack 72). The high numbers of those who lost their lives caused a public uproar to encourage the government to cease sending more troops and bring home those at high risks due to injuries or other threats. The families of those who lost their loved ones became desperate, and some developed emotional complications that were difficult to address.
The study shows that the Vietnam War had a considerable impact on American society, and the implications vary in nature. The war derailed the U.S.’s financial status because of the heavy spending incurred in various areas. The government still feels the heavy impact of remitting payments to some of the causalities, survivors, and families. The U.S. military suffered a significant blow because many military personnel lost their lives while many other sustained fatal injuries. Many others developed emotional complications that were difficult to address and had a long-lasting effect on survivors. The war caused families to separate, further dismantling American society. The results of the war urge planners to consider several factors before sending troops to unknown terrains.
Berry, Jan. Demilitarized Zones – Veterans after Vietnam. East River Anthology, 1976.
Gawthrope, Andrew. “Ken Burns, the Vietnam War, and the Purpose of History.” Journal of
Strategic Studies, vol. 43, no. 1, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2019.1631974
Singhal, Saurabh. “Early Life Shocks and Mental Health: The Long-Term Effect of War in
Vietnam.” Journal of Development Economics, vol. 141, 2019.
Womack, Brantly. China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry. Cambridge University Press,