After reading into this source I have learnt that the main reason for the U.S.A s involvement in Vietnam. In the year 1956 the U.S.A was the world’s most powerful nation. Also at this time the cold war was at full strength. The USSR (Soviet Union) was the communist world’s most powerful nation and was fast catching up on the USA for world supremacy. Both sides had huge nuclear arsenals which were poised to strike each other; despite this both sides didn’t want a nuclear war and were trying there best not to aggravate the other. This however changed when the USSR sent nuclear missiles to Cuba, a new communist nation.
John F Kennedy’s statement shows the fear of the capitalist world of the growing communist world. They believed that if communism spread through south-east Asia then ‘ the free-world ‘ would be threatened. The theory that when one country turns to communism then so will its neighbours is known as the domino theory.
Vietnam was always a country that could easily be swamped by ‘ the red tide’ of communism. This was due to its history it had been robbed of all its wealth by the Japanese, the British and then the French, 5% of the population owned 95% of the land. The communist who JFK believes ‘ threatened’ the Vietnamese people however supported the communist due to the fact that they offered land to everyone regardless of there status in society.
Another reason that JFK touches on is the economic power of Vietnam and the surrounding areas. He believed that if Vietnam’s huge food recourses fell into the hands of the communists then the power of communist nations such as the USSR and China would grow tremendously.
JFK’s statement is aimed at the middle-class and upper-class segments of US society I believe this is because he is trying persuade them to join the armed forces. These people would be persuaded be speeches such as these because these segments of society would be the ones threatened by communism.
He uses words such as ‘ red tide ‘ and ‘ threatened ‘ when talking about communism. Words such as these place a negative feeling of the communist. When talking about the capitalist he uses words such as ‘ the free world’ and ‘ liberty’ which give an impression of freedom.
Sources B and C in my opinion do support source A because they are both concerned about the spread of communism in south-east Asia. Source B supports source A because the aims of both of them is to justify military action in Vietnam. Both of the sources support each other because they criticize the communists way off life by saying words such as ‘threatened’ and ‘rebellion’. The author of both sources A and B believe the only purpose of communism is to destroy ‘ the free-world’
This in my opinion is just part of the story senator Kennedy is just trying to create a similar situation to that which existed in the war between North and South Korea in the 1950s. In this way he is trying to justify military action.
Source C is a short extract from ‘A Rumour of War’ which was written in 1977 by Phillip Caputo an ex-US solider who volunteered to join the army. The fact that he joined up voluntarily shows us how much his opinion changed. The book is based on the authors own experiences in the war. He wrote ‘ we were persuaded to go into uniform by Kennedy’s challenge’ this tells us how much the politicians lied to get the people to join the armed forces. He believes that the propaganda broadcasted by the government was anything other reality. Phillip Caputo says ‘ our mission was not to gain terrain but to simply kill’ this tells us that the only reason in his opinion to invade Vietnam was to destroy the communist population.
I believe that source C differs from A and B because it is a first-hand report whilst A and B are political views whose aims are to persuade the public that the war is justifiable, this could mean that it was used as a piece of propaganda. Due to this I believe that source C is more reliable.
Source D is an extract from Newsweek magazine and source E is the results of Gallop opinion polls from the year 1961-1968.
Source D suggests that a majority of the American public supported the war. I however believe that this isn’t correct because in the year 1967 televisions weren’t available in every household due to there price. This meant that only that upper and middle class could afford to have one. These people would support the war due to` that fact that communism would effect them negatively.
Source E is the results of opinion polls regarding America’s biggest problem. The opinion polls were made by Gallop an international company who are regarded by many as the leaders of the field. The Gallop opinion polls are constructed from questionnaires taken from people who have different status, different towns, different religions and different sexes thus giving a complete view of opinions.
The opinion polls suggests that as the war became old and many thousands of American men came home the public discovered that the U.S.A would lose its first ever war. It also suggests that the public started receiving unofficial reports regarding the war crimes that American troops were committing. In my opinion Source E is more informative then Source D because it offers a broader view of Americas opinion.
I believe that public opinion changed regarding the Vietnam War between 1967 and 1970 because of the media and letters being sent home not being censored.
For example Source F an extract from a letter written by a U.S soldier gives a first hand view from the average American soldier, he describes how un-pleasant the war is for them. In any other war soldiers weren’t permitted to send letters which could damage public opinion, as this one did. This letter uses extremely strong language such as ‘kids ripped to pieces’ this phrase shows the true graphic horror of war. Source I which is an extract from a British magazine it describes the public’s opinion of war as a ‘cinema’ and that when they see real life clips they get ‘squeamish’.
Also in Source F the writer uses the phrase the writer uses the phrase ‘I am sick to death of it’. This gives the impression that he cant take any more of this ‘tragedy’ and that he could be possibly be on the verge of a mental breakdown as was common with a vast number of Vietnam veterans.
The solider also describes the events of Christmas in Vietnam he says ‘Christmas came and went marked only by tragedy’ this suggests that nothing abnormal happened during the Christmas period. He later goes on and describes these ‘normal’ things by saying ‘kids ripped to pieces’ and ‘there whole lives ahead of them, cut off’.
Sources G and H are both regarding the massacre at MY LAI. Source G is an article from the Time Magazine, it is written by an American army reporter and depicts a despicable event. A G.I (American solider) is said to strip a young female Vietnamese teenager, the girl escapes from him. A solider then orders for the civilians to be killed this shows the U.S army’s disregard for human life.
Source G was published in the year 1970 to years since the massacre. In my opinion the reason for the delay was that the authorities were concerned of the effect news like this would have on the already shaky public opinion.
Public opinion change could also have been caused by revelations such as Source F this is because articles such as these were being mass-broadcasted and were first hand reports.
The range of sources available shows that MY LAI was not an isolated incident. The gallop poll, source E is significant because it shows the change in the concern of the U.S public. It shows how from being concerned about issues at home they are now concerned about international issues. Due to this I believe that issues at home are being repaired.
The writer in Source I believe that T.V changed people’s opinion over the Vietnam War. I believe this is true because he says that people want T.V to be fake and when they see what is really going on the get ‘squeamish’. This meant that people could see the crimes against humanity the Americans had done.
The Vietnam War was the first war in which television was able to show ordinary people precisely what was happening in Vietnam this along with the American government’s decision not to censor any form of media or communication allowed the normal person to see atrocities such as MY LAI. Because of this the war had a direct impact on the emotions of the American citizens.
Source F is a letter from Vietnam it describes the harsh manner in which soldiers die in rather strong language. First hand information such as this would have had a direct impact on people’s attitudes towards the war. At any other modern day war soldiers weren’t allowed to send letters which would dampen support. The Americans decision to break with tradition was one that resulted in defeat.
In the past wars were not on Americans minds because they were fought along way from home such as World War 2 which was predominantly fought in Europe. However the Vietnam War was still far from home but due to advances in technology this became irrelevant news of incidents in the war took hours rather then days to come back home.