The Vietnam War in U.S History

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The Vietnam War has been known in U.S history as the longest and most controversial war. The United States became involved in Vietnam to avoid having the country fall to a communist form of government. There were numerous fateful battles that claimed countless lives of those on both sides of the war. This war also resulted in many conflicts for the United States on the home front of the war, when the American people no longer supported the war. North Vietnam eventually won the war and the United States suffered many hardships afterward that mainly affected the economy.

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Soldiers also faced dispirited Americans upon their return from the war, which just added to their pre-existing troubles. The involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War led to animosity amongst the American citizens, economic problems, and impacted trading and how soldiers felt about themselves. The Vietnam War was damaging to the U.S physically, mentally, and psychologically.

A larger regional conflict with France, known as the Indochina Wars, is what originally started the conflict that ended up becoming the Vietnam War. The Indochina Wars was a series of wars that were fought against communist forces, such as China, against countries that were in opposition to communism, such as France. A leader named Ho Chi Minh rose to power while fighting off Japanese forces from World War II and French forces from the Indochina Wars and tried to take control of Vietnam and make it a communist country. Emperor Bao Dai was in control of Vietnam during this time and believed in an anti-communist government. Ho Chi Minh took over the northern part of Vietnam, while Bao Dai controlled the southern part. The country officially divided into two in 1954 and separated itself on the 17th Parallel when they signed a treaty at the Geneva Conference.

This conflict first officially began in the 1950s, and the United States had only a small involvement during this time, such as sending over advisors to help assist with war strategies. As the war progressed into the 60s and 70s, the United States gradually sent over troops and supplies, until they removed themselves from the war in 1973. North Vietnam also received support during the war, but from mainly communist countries, such as the Soviet Union and China. This conflict also escalated the United States and Soviet Union’s already ongoing Cold War. Both sides of Vietnam wanted a similar outcome of having a unified country, but they wanted different types of unification. Their beliefs could not be solved in a diplomatic way, such as coming to an agreement so the war had officially begun. There would be lots of bloodshed and lives lost in the battles to come.

As the war proceeded, there were many impactful battles that occurred on the way to win the war. One of the first crucial moments in the war was when the warships that the United States provided for South Vietnam’s use was attacked at the Gulf of Tonkin. These warships did not provoke the North Vietnamese troops before the attack, so the attack was unexpected. This event caused the United States Army to become more involved in the war, and send more troops over to combat the North Vietnamese army. One of the most impactful attacks that North Vietnam used was the Tet Offensive, on the Lunar New Year holiday. South Vietnam believed that they had created a truce for the celebration, but North Vietnam launched an attack. The ambush at Tet proved that this war would not be won easily to all American people. The United States also participated in a number of bombings, some of which occurred around Christmas, earning the nickname “The Christmas Bombings.” These attacks that the U.S committed received worldwide backlash, and did not advance them any further into the war. Overall, North Vietnam was succeeding more in the form of military advancements. The “My Lai Massacre,” was also the cause of more repercussions that the United States received. At this massacre, the United States soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed citizens and after word reached the states, many Americans turned their backs on the soldiers that were serving in this war. This event caused many protests in America and changed the entire dynamic of the war.

The United States also experienced many difficulties at home as well. Many Americans protested the Vietnam War and did not believe that we should have been fighting in first place. People could also experience the war through just turning on their television because scenes from the war were widely broadcasted across the entire country. The longer the war went on, meant the more American troops being involved in the war, and led to many Americans becoming more intolerant to the war. The United States citizens began to revolt against this war in the form of protests, many of which led to violence. In November of 1969, the American people initiated the largest anti-war protest in American history. This occurred in Washington D.C, and they were protesting for the removal of American troops from Vietnam. More and more protests continued to happen in different areas across the country and led to more and more violence. For example, there was a shooting at Kent State College, where an officer on duty shot and killed four students. This was not the only shooting at a protest that occurred on a college campus. The other college campus shooting was at Jackson State University, where more students were met with gunfire and killed by police. This led to a growing amount of animosity in the American people, and all of these problems on the home front led to the eventual removal of United States troops. When the troops finally did come home they still faced the American people who were upset over the loss of the war, or they were not supportive of the war, to begin with.

The end result of the war was a Northern Vietnam victory. After the United States removal of their forces in 1973, the war continued for two more years. It was finally ended when North Vietnam took control of Saigon in South Vietnam and created the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976. The violence across Vietnam still continued for fifteen years with some of the neighboring countries participating in the violence. After the war, Vietnam had great problems with their economics, due to the change of economic structure now being under a communist regime. It took until the year of 1986 for the economy to improve, and the main reason was due to the oil exports in the country. With Vietnam getting back into a solid economy, their trade and diplomatic relations began to improve. The United States relations with Vietnam returned by the 1990s, even though the U.S was still dealing with the outcomes of the war.

The amount of money that the United States spent on the Vietnam War led to inflation that was made worse by the oil crisis of 1973, which led to higher fuel prices in the United States. This war also caused lots of ongoing conflicts and negative feelings amongst the American people. Some people believed that the American soldiers in Vietnam were killing innocent bystanders and some people who had previously supported the war, were upset by the soldiers coming home in defeat. American soldiers faced many obstacles on their return to their homeland, and some even turned to drugs to cope. The main thing that the Vietnam War proved to all Americans is that they are not invincible or indestructible. This left a lasting legacy on America and the citizens who live across all 50 states.

The Vietnam War had an impactful legacy. It showed us that we cannot succeed in every endeavor that we take on. It also showed us that a war that is not supported by its citizens will fail. The Vietnam War symbolized the United States falling to strong communism views because a North Vietnamese victory meant communism had won too. The end of this war also isolated the United States and threw the country into enormous debt. Losing this war left the lasting legacy on the U.S that would be remembered for decades after the immediate consequences of the war. The war also left scars on all of the hearts of American’s and Vietnamese that were involved in the conflict. The overall legacy of the war showed that the United States could not win without the support of the entire country and that it could not take out communism on its own. The whole country must want to get rid of communist beliefs in order to completely rid it. The Vietnam War was very exposing for America and will forever live in our memory’s as one of our most controversial, long, and impactful wars.

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The Vietnam War in U.S history. (2020, Feb 26). Retrieved from