Browse Exhibits (38 total)

Life in the United States During the Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War was one of the longest military conflicts in the history of the United States. Thousands died fighting thousands of miles from home. Life in the United States during the Vietnam War was tumultuous. The timing of the War coincided with some of the most impactful movements in American history. What was it like to live in the United States during this time? How did people's perceptions of the war change with the president, news coverage, or other events? 

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Communism in Vietnam

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As one of the few remaining socialist states that officially adheres to the Marxist-Leninist model, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s only legal political party remains the Communist Party of Vietnam. While no longer officially following the centrally-planned socialist economic model in favor of economic liberalization, the Communist Party of Vietnam retains complete political control over the state. How exactly did this party come to power? While seemingly a relic of the cold war, the days of bipolar balance of power between the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence as well as the US and its western allies, as well as the newly-formed People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong, the Communist Party’s power came as a result of Vietnam’s very own class conflict situation in the days of the French-occupied Indochina. While the communist ideology espoused by Ho Chi Minh certainly helped unify the Vietnamese people against the French, it played a significant role in American involvement in Vietnam as well.

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Heroes and Hueys: American Choppers of the Vietnam War

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While the helicopter saw limited use by the US Armed Forces in both the Second World War and the Korean Conflict, numerous contributing factors in the 1950s and ‘60s, including advances in technology, new and emerging conceptions of air warfare, and the geographic conditions of Vietnam itself helped to further define the battlefield role of the helicopter, allowing this new technology to flourish in the unconventional conditions of the Vietnam War; in the wake of failure by older conceptions of airborne warfare, changing perceptions of battle lines, and as-yet-unseen levels of air superiority, the helicopter emerged victorious as both an invaluable military asset, and as a symbol of the war itself, a lasting cultural icon of Vietnam to the jungle-bound G.I. and the stateside Joe alike.

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The Kent State Incident

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     On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on an anti-war rally on the campus of Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio. As noted by Phillip Caputo in his book 13 Seconds, it was the first and only time that American troops had fired upon and killed American students.    

     In order to understand what transpired on the campus of Kent State University on May 4, 1970, there must be a background and a context in which to explain the event. First and foremost, what specifically sparked the ongoing turmoil at Kent State? And who was involved? What were the preceding events that led to the Ohio National Guard firing on an unarmed group of students, killing four and wounding nine others? Although anti-war demonstrations had been gaining traction for at least two years prior to the Kent State debacle, it seems the accelerant was President Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia.

 

 

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Afghanistan... America's New Vietnam?

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On April 30th, 1975, America's involvment in Vietnam came to an abrubt end. After 9 bloody years, and consuming the lives of over 58,000 American KIA, it offcially mark the longest war in U.S. military history. That was until September 11th, 2001. Two weeks after the terrorist attack by Al Queada in New York City, U.S. Special Forces were depolyed to Afghanistan. In March of that next year, Operation Andaconda was under way and the offical start to the conventional war in Afghanistan began. It wasnt until Decemeber of 2014, that President Obama offially ended Operation Enduring Freedom, including direct combat operations, and Afghanistan became the newest, longest war after 13 years. Although through newer military technologies and tactics, the death toll was significantly minimized, the cost still weighed heavy. Many veterans, historians, and media have argued over our continued involvement in the Middle East. Is it worth the loss of money, time, and lives, both to our service members and the local population? Can we really claim victory over an ideal? How do we defeat an enemy that we cannot see? Many have refered to Afghanistan as the new Vietnam, and it is still an answer we seek today. 

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Agent Orange in the Vietnam War

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Throughout the Vietnam war there were many things that caused devastation on both sides of the battlefield. The Viet Cong and the NVA were masters of guerilla warfare and were able to kills thousands of US soldiers using primitive traps like punji sticks and keepsake traps that allowed them to attack us without being seen. There ability to hide and maneuver around the Vietnam landscape without being seen proved to be there most valuable asset during the war. Two or three men could seem like twenty as they fired random shots at US troops while in the cover of darkness.

It soon became clear to the United States government that if we were going to win the war, we would need to do something to make the enemy come out of hiding and face our soldiers on a more even battle ground and after months of deliberation they came up with a simple yet deadly idea. The easiest way to bring the enemy out into the open so we could fight them head on was to remove the cover they were using to hide, the vegetation in Vietnam. And thus, Agent Orange was introduced in Vietnam. With the ability to level an entire acre of jungle in mere minutes Agent Orange proved to be an effective tool and could accomplish the task we needed it to do but not without dire consequences. Agent Orange continues and forever will be one of the most devastating results of the Vietnam War.

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The Known, But Unseen Enemy of the Vietnam War

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Many solider who went to Vietnam talked about the hardship they had to endure during their time in country.  Most of the soldiers who spent time in Vietnam for the Army were draftees, men who were randomly selected to serve when the Army did not have enough man power needed to complete the task at hand.  These men were selected from desk jobs, office custodian, college students, etc. they were indiscriminately picked to serve.  This solves one problem but builds into many other problems, this can help the Army’s lack of personnel, but creates a problem with men who are not as physically fit, and not as well trained as other prior enlisted men.  The geography of Vietnam does not lend well to people who are under-trained and not as physical fit.  Under trained and under fit soldiers weren’t the only victims of the geography just like the draft the geography indiscriminately picked different people to affect.  Some of the problem’s soldiers had to faces when it came to Vietnam was physical terrain, the climate with it’s monsoon and dry seasons, and the jungle vegetation and the problems it had with troop movements and men’s health, all played a part in the outcome of the Vietnam War.

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The Last Years: Vietnam and the Draft

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I.      Introduction

In High School, in the days when my friends and I had to wait for our parents to pick us up from movies, I stood outside a theatre with Nick. He was nervous. He looked afraid. I knew something was wrong.

“Nick, what’s up, man?”

Nick shook his head and focused on the concrete. He tugged on his jacket and took a deep breath.

“I’m going to die, Justin, that’s what’s up. My grades are shit and the military is going to send me to the Middle East. I’m going to get shot in the back of the head in some dessert. My life is over.”

I stared at him. I had no clue what he was talking about. Sure, it was 2002, so the World Trade Center was on all our minds, but he wasn’t a soldier. How could the military force him to fight? If he didn’t want to go, he didn’t have to, right?

After my parents picked me up, I told them about this conversation. They smiled, but I could tell they were worried. They tried to assure me that Nick was overexaggerating and that there would not be a draft.  A draft? Like in football? I was nearly sixteen, almost able to drive and I was completely unaware that in a time of war, I could be drafted into the military.

Later that night, my Dad sat with me and we talked about the draft. He explained that I would have to register when I turned eighteen. It was the law. He told me that my uncle, his brother, Russ was drafted during the Vietnam War. My Grandfather fought in North Africa during World War II. My Dad did not want me to go to war, but he made me aware that I might not have a choice.

When I reached 18, I registered. I watched friends and classmates enlist. I went to college. I was never forced to serve, but I can’t help but think, what if? What if George W. Bush would have sent me to war? Would I have gone? Would I have resisted? Russ, my uncle, was faced with this dilemma. He went. He served, but I don’t know what I would have done. Could I kill? Could I dodge?

During the Vietnam War, thousands of men who were eligible for the draft refused to be inducted into the military and joined the anti-war movement. Between 1965-1972, more than 4,000 young men were imprisoned for draft law violations.[1] In July 1966, in a Gallup poll, only 43 percent of those who asked said the draft was fair while 38 percent said it was unfair.[2] Despite the growing anger over conscription and the war, the United States drafted troops into the military from 1964 until 1973.

II.      Thesis:

Draft protests fueled anti-war sentiments at home and helped pull the United States out of Vietnam.  During the last years of the Vietnam War, the conviction rates of draft resisters, dodgers, and conscientious objectors plummeted. The military struggled to induct troops. Protests erupted in the streets. By 1973, the draft was over. Two years later, Saigon fell to Communist forces. The war was dead, and resistance to the draft helped kill it. 

Protests alone did not pull the United States out of Vietnam, but the draft was a popular reason why Americans opposed the war. Americans were angry. Parents, siblings, relatives, and friends were tired of the carnage. Tens of thousands of young men came home from faraway Asia in body bags. Many of them didn’t want to go to Vietnam. Young men who didn’t want to be soldiers died because they were forced into battle. The American public wanted the draft and the war to end.

Judges and lawyers had their own feelings about the war. As the conflict dragged on, support for the war faded. Draft offenders avoided war and jail. Prosecutors dropped cases. Conviction rates fell. By 1973, the year Nixon stopped the draft, the war in Vietnam was also near its end.

[1] Brock, Peter. 2004. “These Strange Criminals”: An Anthology of Prison Memoirs by Conscientious Objectors from the Great War to the Cold War. Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press. Pg. 407.

[2] Flynn, George Q. 1985. Lewis B. Hersey: Mr. Selective Service. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Pg. 241.

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Vietnam War Pop-Culture and Memory Through Comics

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This Project is an attempt to analyze the reactions to the Vietnam War through the comic books being published during and after the war. 

Perceptions of events in popular media have long been a fascination of cultural and social historians. An understanding of the zeitgeist can help scholars understand how the perception of events in history have changed over time. Understanding of popular culture is critical for recognizing how American’s perceived, and reacted to major historical events in the media. In the case of the Vietnam War, public opinion dramatically influenced media perceptions, but popular media has often been used to change national opinions or views on key issues throughout American history. There is a complicated relationship between popular culture and war. Media can influence ideas of society through movies, television, and print media like comics, reflect not only the opinions of the creators but also can echo the feelings of the entire nation. The legacy of this phenomenon is evident today emergence of terrorism and the threat of future attacks after September 11, 2001. The United States was changed forever and transformed the narratives of events and ideas in pop-culture also mimicked these changes. The attacks on 9/11 changed the face of American media as well. Television shows like Homeland, and 24 followed the new American paranoia of the terrorist attack. Comics reflects a similar change in their substance, the transition of comics to film allowed for a reworking of classic characters like Ironman and Batman that now reflected worries about terrorism coming from Arab Nations. This trend reflects what happened with comics during earlier periods of American history. Similar changes occurred during and following the Vietnam War. Perceptions of the government, soldiers, and America’s role in the world changed, and the creators of popular culture reflected these changes in their work.

Comic books have had to overcome a stigma as children’s literature. Similar to cartoons in the early days of media the artists working on these material have had the ability to make content that was acceptable as children and young adult media while also having the ability to approach some larger topics in their subjects. Scott A. Cord summarizes this special relationship that comics have with their audience,

“as long as they are considered a children’s medium (and subsequently at least partially directed toward them), the comic book will serve as an active way of teaching them. It remains to be seen whether this is for the betterment of mankind. Even adult comic book readers still wish to indulge their childhood feelings but read about adult themes at the same time.”[1]

This ability of comics to approach deeper subject matter in very discrete ways and also having a wide reach in terms of audience gives them a very important place in popular culture in America. Comics have created some of the most recognizable symbol and myths in America and in the world such as batman or superman. The wide reach of these characters is a huge testament to the cultural impact of comics. The cultural impact that comics have had on American culture is undeniable today. Movies and television frequently incorporate material, stories, and symbols from comics and graphic novels. The emerging popularity of the comic and graphic novel during the 1960s and 70s produced a powerful medium for changing ideas about the war in Vietnam. According to Marc Di Paolo, comics and their unique serialization provided not only a great place for artists to reflect on the world as it was changing but the nature of the comics industry allowed the same artists to venture into political waters and grapple with complex political and social issues through their story telling.[2] Historian Lisa M. Mundey in her work American Militarism and Anti-Militarism in Popular Media, 1945-1970, claims that “It is comic books that had the most consistent coverage of the Vietnam War.”[3]

This site will follow the evolution of the media throughout the war. It will document the comics that were considered for and against the war during the actual era. It will also look at the publications that emerged after the war to influence the national memory, and the legacy of the Vietnam War in comics today. The way authors use the war in their comics and their depictions of veterans and the native people can tell us alot about the reactions to the war and the way this information was protrayed to the readers of these comics. 

[1] Cord A Scott, “Comics and Conflict: War and Patriotically Themed Comics in American Cultural History From World War Ii Through the Iraq War,” n.d., 13.

[2] Marc Di Paolo, War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2011), 27.

[3] Lisa M. Mundey, American Militarism and Anti-Militarism in Popular Media, 1945-1970 (Jefferson, UNITED STATES: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers, 2012), 159, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/unomaha/detail.action?docID=867067.

Film and Propaganda

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Film and Propaganda had a major effect during the Vietnam War. It was in every ones daily lives in forms of magazines, posters, commercials, and other forms of media. Propaganda is used to promote a point of view or political stance but can sometimes can be misleading. Interpreting propaganda can be a dangerous thing because it isn’t always truthful and can sway the viewer into a bias point of view. The propaganda that influenced the Vietnam War the most were in forms of movies, magazine articles and posters.

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