A United States’ president looks bleakly into a camera to address the nation. Lyndon B. Johnson informs the American public that a US destroyer was blatantly attacked by Communist forces on the high sea. However, history would prove that Johnson had, at the very least, bent the truth. Regardless, in the eyes of the American people this act was nearly tantamount to a declaration of war. After this incident two thirds of the American public would support American intervention in Vietnam. But as the conflict progressed it would lose more and more support of the American people and eventually a large anti-war movement would solidify.
One source of fuel for the popularity of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and that added to the war’s presences in the American psyche, was the steadily increasing amount of American casualties (until it hit it’s high point in 1968). Americans watched as men started coming home injured or in a box, the reality of the Vietnam War would move ever closer to their minds. While the casualties were fuel for the anti-war movement, they also effected the general population and the pro-war population. Whether or not an individual was for, against, or had no opinion whatsoever about the war didn’t matter when compared to the reality of the war on the average American’s mind. This sense of closeness to the war by the American people would define the conflict and was unique to it. Never before and never since had or has an armed conflict been so real in the mind of the American home front.
While casualties did help the Vietnam War achieve this, there were many factors that contributed. The previous Post indicated the way in which media and specifically, television had helped to present the war in a more real and stark view compared to previous US engagements like the World Wars and the Korean War. Upcoming posts will also help to give evidence for this observation.
William Tecumseh Sherman once said: “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation.” Yet in this war, American’s who had never seen battle would be brought so close to its reality (partly through the literal dead and wounded that came home) that they too would become sick of war. Their beliefs aside, the American public would fall to this epidemic.