Themes Modern History Essay

Submitted By lhoff
Words: 2124
Pages: 9

Themes in Modern History

Escalation of Vietnam and Radicalization of the Youth of the United States There is a huge connection between the escalation of the Vietnam War and the radicalization of the youth of the United States. The United States’ involvement in the war in Vietnam began in 1965 when the first US ground troops were sent in. Each following year the amount of troops drastically increased. During this time, there were many factors of the war that made people protest the war effort. For example, there was mass media coverage of the war and at the time; television was a huge factor in what shaped many people’s view of the war. The violence that people saw in the comfort of their own homes was outrageous. Many Americans did not agree with the US involvement in Vietnam. There was a mandatory draft, which the youth protested extensively due to that fact that they did not want to fight a war they did not agree with. This new generation of youth was not like any generation before it. The youth was against authority and wanted change. The anti-war effort was widespread, and various youth groups developed to voice their protest against the war. Their ways of protesting were laidback at first, but in order to get a reaction, they realized they had to radicalize and escalate their actions. Vietnam was originally a French colony, and in 1954, they fought for their colony back from the Vietminh, which was led by Ho Chi Minh. At this time, the US was funding about 4/5 of the resources for the French involvement in Vietnam. North and South Vietnam split the country at this point, and Ho Chi Minh and the Vietcong led the North. Chris Harman describes the US’s involvement in Vietnam in a very interesting way, “The US was trapped in a war of attrition from which there was no easy way out.”1 It is true that once the US became involved in the Vietnam War, they were essentially “stuck.” The first ground troops were dropped off in 1965, and each year after that, the number drastically increased; in 1966 there were 380,000 ground troops, in 1967 there were 485,000, and finally in 1968 there was a total of 549,000 ground troops and an American death toll of 14,000.2 The longer the war went on; the more the American presence in Vietnam increased, which created a cause and effect reaction for the youth in the US. The US used various war tactics in Vietnam. For the first time in a US war, guerilla warfare was used. The US also used various chemical warfare, including the use of napalm. Napalm is a thickener that turns fire into a jelly-like substance that burns with extreme heat and sticks to whatever it is fired at, whether soldier, civilian, or landscape. This was also a call for protesting, due to that fact that it is inhumane and wrong. Dow Chemical produced napalm; college campuses all over the country protested this company extensively.3 People saw the use of napalm on television, and were against it because it is inhumane, it burns anything it touches, this was being used all over Vietnam and many civilians were injured and killed due to napalm. “If there is a march or sit-in and it is not covered by the press, did it happen?”4 Martin Luther King Jr. agreed that in order to attract the media, they needed an event to take place that would be worth their while. He agreed that the “rhetoric of violence” was the most effective way to get coverage. The protestors can be nonviolent, but they must provoke a violent reaction.5 This is very true due to the fact that the media makes a huge impression on the everyday American at this point. If a normal, everyday US citizen saw a nonviolent protestor being beaten by police on TV, it would provoke a reaction inside of them that would be full of disgust. Creative nonviolence can go unnoticed unless someone is attacked. The Flower Brigade was made up of young antiwar activists who were considered “hippies.” The Flower Brigade was created specifically…