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The Tragedies of The Vietnam War

Updated on March 8, 2013

The Vietnam War

The battle between the United States and Vietnam, known as the Vietnam War, was fought to end the leadership governing, called communism. One might believe that the war was necessary, but the only thing the war accomplished was to ruin people’s lives. Most importantly, American troops were withdrawn from the unfinished war, leaving North Vietnam to continue to take complete control of South Vietnam, without resistance. The death toll of American soldiers to fight a war that we gave up on is absurd, and we should have never gone in the first place.

Vietnam is a country that is filled with a lot of history and tradition; it is located East of Cambodia and Laos. It is a tropical country with many caves, mountains, and rivers. The Vietnamese people lived mainly in caves until their groups became so big that they had to move down the mountain to a delta, known as The Red River Delta (Discover Vietnamese Culture in Shortest Term). Within the Red River Delta, they found better conditions such as rivers, lakes, and ponds (Discover Vietnamese Culture in Shortest Term). Vietnamese are well known for fishing, because they border the South China Sea and has many bodies of water within itself (Discover Vietnamese Culture in Shortest Term). Vietnamese people also cultivate wet rice due to the fact that they had to get used to the large accumulation of water from the rainy climate (Discover Vietnamese Culture in Shortest Term). Water affects the daily life of the Vietnamese people dramatically (Discover Vietnamese Culture in Shortest Term). Because Vietnamese’s life is built around water, the terrain becomes their main advantage when it comes to defending the country (Discover Vietnamese Culture in Shortest Term). Although the Vietnamese people had a great culture and tradition to have a great relationship, they gradually became segregated by their different political preferences.

There was political division in Vietnam that is still in existent for over fifty years. Vietnam and France signed The Geneva Peace Accord in the summer of 1954 (Brigham). The Geneva Peace Accord is the agreement to the temporary partition of Vietnam at the seventeenth parallel, which made the distinction of North and South Vietnam (Brigham). “According to the Geneva Peace Accord Vietnam would hold national election in 1956 to reunify the country” (Brigham). After the election, the seventeenth parallel division would be eradicated (Brigham). However, The Geneva Peace Accord was not supported by several anti-communist countries and the United States of America (Brigham). John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, believe that the political protocols of the Geneva Peace Accord gave too much power to the Vietnamese Communists (Brigham). Therefore, “In 1956, Ngo Dinh Diem, an anti-communist President of South Vietnam, urged the United States to support his counter- revolutionary alternative, claiming that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam or North Vietnam wanted to take South Vietnam by force” (Brigham). As a result, a team was sent, in 1961, by President Kennedy to report on conditions in South Vietnam and to consider future American aid requirements (Brigham). Leading to, “The report now known as the “December 1961 White Paper,” which argued for an increase in military, technical, and economic aid, and the introduction of large-scale American advisers to help stabilize Diem’s government and crush the NLF” (Brigham). In accordance to the December 1961 White Paper, “The United States would escalate the level of its military involvement in South Vietnam through more machinery and advisers, but would not intervene with a large number of troops” (Brigham). Because of the political problems in Saigon, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the new president, was convinced that more aggressive action was necessary, especially when there was a suspected communist attack on two United States ships in the Gulf of Tonkin (Brigham). The attack on the United States ships made the war more popular for the Americans.

There were plenty of reasons for the fight against communism, causing Americans to volunteer for the war. Ultimately, the main reason for the war was to obstruct the spread of communism, which consists of the abolition of private property, heavy progressive income tax, and abolition of rights of inheritance (Communism and Amorality). The irony is that Communism supposedly tries to improve civility within society, but obliterates the concepts of Absolute Morality, the very cornerstone of civility (Communism and Amorality). Furthermore, after communism is instituted by the people, the system becomes totalitarian, resulting in an increased oppression of the people it was intended to serve (Communism and Amorality). The people would evidently have less pride in their country and evidently revolt against their government.

Although there are many examples of the effects of communism, Russian populations for example have experienced demeaning circumstances. In 1931, Russia started a five year plan to increase factories, industries, and agricultural productions to make the country ready for war if ever encountered one (Russia under Stalin). However, in terms of the social features contemporary in Russia at that time, the five year plan was not at all effective (Russia under Stalin). The enormous demands caused the people to live in harsh conditions, working on massive projects in the interior of Russia (Russia under Stalin). Also, “Because of the large emphasis on heavy industries, consumer goods were high in demand” (Russia under Stalin). There were empty shops, short supply of clothing, and many unavailable household items (Russia under Stalin). One example of the decline of standard living is the lack of consumer goods (Russia under Stalin). Huge influx of people going into the cities from the countryside caused the insufficiency of medical schools, houses, and facilities (Russia under Stalin). Workers were not paid enough for their labors (Russia under Stalin). Thus, the workers may not work up to standard because they become less and less motivated to do their work.

The need for the extinction of communism was vital. Therefore, fifty thousand troops in America were deployed to Vietnam in 1965 (On This Day 1950-2005). The monthly draft calls became the highest since the Korean War (On This Day 1950-2005). The number of American troops sent to Vietnam increased, by the end of 1965, to one-hundred and eighty thousand, and doubled in 1966 (On This Day 1950-2005). Consequently, “Eight thousand Americans had been killed or wounded in the Vietnam War by summer 1967” (On This Day 1950-2005). The war eventually became less supportive by Americans, causing there to be less volunteers for the war.

America finally came to an ultimate conclusion for the war. “The war was fed by stripping the Army divisions in Europe on continental United States of their best personnel and materiel, while a river of new draftees, twenty thousand of them each monthly flowed in to do the shooting and the dying” (Moore 15). To show how Vietnam’s land was put to the Vietnamese advantage, there was a brave soldier, who had endured the obstacles thrown at him by the North Vietnamese Army, was temporarily defeated by a swarm of angry, stinging insects (Moore 133). “The war spanned for ten year, and the lives of fifty thousand young Americans died in a war which ended in a humiliating defeat on a nation that have never lost a war” (Moore 374). Three hundred and five American troops died in the Pleiku campaign, between 23 October and 26 November, 1965 (Moore 375). In only one battle, too many Americans either died or were injured whether by weapon or the dangers of the natural elements of the Vietnam jungles.

The Vietnam jungle was filled with many environmental factors that pose a strong difficulty to travel on. Temperatures above one hundred degrees, high winds and fog make it dangerous to fly (Westheider 109). It rained either seventy-eight or eighty-two inches in one month (Westheider 109). There are animals such as leeches and snakes in the rivers, to mosquitoes, snakes, scorpions, and tigers on land (Westheider 109). Troops were also attacked by monkeys (Westheider 109). “Troops in Vietnam had to contend with torrential rains, swollen rivers, and muddy quagmires, making life in the field miserable” (Westheider 109). The bombing of Vietnam was idealized to make the war safer and easier.

Carpet bombing gave American soldiers a break from constant combat. The main purpose of the carpet bombing was to destroy any large Vietnamese targets, such as their industrial bases and air defenses, and to demolish the will of the North Vietnamese soldiers to fight by stopping their flow of men (Saturation Bombing). The raid eventually came to an end after a substantial agreement was made (Saturation Bombing). Due to the given conventional images, North Vietnamese economy did not largely cease because of United States bombing (Fforde). An American General said that, “North Vietnam was not bombed back to the Stone Age” (Fforde). Modern-day studies argue that the external aid from other countries counterweighs the problem from the bombing economically (Fforde). There also is the problem of cultivation that the Vietnamese does not have anymore, causing the young Vietnamese to have no jobs and to be troublemakers.

The explosive bombs did do a lot of damage, but it does not get into caves and other bomb shelters. So, the United States Air Force dropped a substantial number of incendiary devices (Simkin). “The most infamous of these was the napalm, a mixture of petrol and a chemical thickener which produces a tough sticky gel that attaches itself to the skin” (Simkin). Chemicals were sprayed from the air to destroy the National Liberal Front’s hiding places (Simkin). One million, thirty-four thousand, three hundred hectares of forest were demolished by the chemicals in 1969 (Simkin). As a result, the chemicals caused chromosomal damage in people (Simkin). Crops were also sprayed with the chemicals to deliberately deprive the National Liberation Front of food (Simkin). According to research, the civilian population suffered more from the poor rice harvests that was caused by the spraying of chemicals than the enemies (Simkin). As did the Vietnamese, Americans suffered mentally and physically by the devastating war.

Although you may think that physical problems are the only thing that affects soldier, mental problem is also a major concern. “The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, which was a study of a random sample of Vietnam-era veterans and a random sample of demographically similar civilian controls, found that more than one-third of Vietnam veterans met the full APA diagnostic criteria for Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder” (Coleman 90). Furthermore, suicide is usually the outcome of combat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; if this would have been observed earlier, it would have profoundly changed the feeling of embarrassment to seek assistance and the feeling of failure (Coleman 146). “The man who can endure the mental and physical stress of combat-still has such an inner and usually unrealized resistance toward killing a fellow man that he will not of his own volition take life if it is possible to turn away from that responsibility…At the vital point, he becomes a conscientious objector,” quote by United States Army Brigadier General Marshall (Coleman 72). Vietnam Vets experience a restricted range of emotions that makes it difficult to be joyful and takes away the sensations that relationships usually bring (Coleman 21). According to the wife of a fellow soldier, Barbara Chism, “It is not really the institution of marriage I am against, it is just the whole idea of being commited to someone and having them hurt you so bad by killing themselves,” (Coleman 92). “Men turned to “skag,” as troops called heroin, was cheap; it was easy to find, more easily concealed, and far more dangerous than marijuana” (Coleman 115). Congressmen Robert Steel and Morgan Murphy astonished the country with a message that fifteen to twenty percent of American servicemen in Vietnam were hooked on heroin (Coleman 115). “America’s combat role in Vietnam eventually ended in 1973” (Sitikoff). The end of the war brought on more Vietnam Vets who will potentially have a difficult time surviving in the civilian life.

America left an unfinished war with a lot of casualties. “Initially, the humiliating defeat imposed by a nation, Secretary Henry Kissinger had described as “a fourth-rate power” caused a loss of pride and self-confidence in a million soldiers” (Sitikoff). In addition, “Nearly seven hundred thousand draftees, many of them poor, badly educated, and nonwhite, who had received less than honorable discharges, depriving them of educational and medical benefits, found it especially difficult to get and keep jobs, to maintain family relationships, and to stay out of jail” (Sitikoff). The war in Vietnam was just too long and the skills of the soldiers were essentially for war purposes.

The upshot of all of this is that the war, which was enacted to make peace in the world, merely brought grief and sorrow to the parents of deceased American soldiers, who died, and inadequacy and loneliness to the soldiers who became homeless, or has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes a war is not worth it if it does not pursue its purpose. So, before a war should ever be fought, it is beneficial to contemplate on why the war needs to take place and whether or not the lives of young American men or women are worth the risk. America’s readiness to uphold its policing around the world is great, but the continuation of unnecessary war can ultimately lead to political war, which may weaken the nation internally. Over one hundred and eighty thousand soldiers were sent to Vietnam and over eighty thousand were wounded or killed (On This Day 1950-2005). These are not just people; they are human beings who had a life outside of the war. To put it succinctly, the Vietnam War was unethical and gave up too many lives for a cause that was not accomplished.

Brigham, Robert K. “the wars for Viet Nam: 1945 to 1975.” Vassar College, N/A. Web. 15 Nov.


Coleman, Penny. Flashback: Post Traumatic Stess Disorder, Suicide, and The Lessons of

War. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006. Print.

“Communism and Amorality.” Philosophy. 2002-2011. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

“Discover Vietnamese Culture In Shortest Term.” IQ Travelling. IQ Travelling, 2010. Web. 22

Nov. 2011.

Fforde, Adam. “Economics, History, and the Origins of Vietnam’s Post-War Economic

Success.” Asian Survey 49.3 (2009): 484-504. University of California Press. Web. 7 Nov.


Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once and Young: Ia Drang- The

Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. New York, 1992. Print.

“On This Day 1950-2005.” BBC Home. BBC. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

“Russia under Stalin” Thinkquest. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

“Saturation Bombing.” Tripod. 25 Nov. 2011.

Simkin, John. “Chemical Warfare.” Spartacus Educational. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.

Sitikoff, Harvard. “Modern American Poetry.” The Postwar Impact of Vietnam. Oxford UP,

1999. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.

Westheider, James E. The Vietnam War. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007. Print.


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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Interesting writing. Normally when we see a source cited it is more specific, like date of a speech or page number for a quote. Lack of doing that kind of hurts the credibility.

      I do not agree with your conclusion. Have you ever drawn a line in the sand, and said "do not cross it"? Sometimes the victory is in just making the stand. Not the technical winner. I have fought some tough battles and won, but you could not look at me and tell. And as for Vietnam, look at it today and decide who won.

    • profile image

      Sarra Garrett 5 years ago

      What a great hub! My brother served as a Marine in Vietnam, my parents signing papers when he was only 16 years old. I thank God that he came home safe, but the reception he got was horrific. As a Marine, always a Marine. I'm very proud of my brother! Our family, I am happy to boast, has fought in every major war to include myself in Desert Storm. It still amazes me the way people have gratitude for the soldiers coming home now as opposed to Vietnam. They are similar wars as you don't know who you are fighting, can't trust anyone and you are fighting an idea. Thumbs up.

    • David Morrison profile image

      davidas 5 years ago from Far, Far Away

      I am glad you like this hub. I enjoyed the researching and learning about the effects the war had on Vietnam and America.

    • LadyLola profile image

      Lanie Robinson 5 years ago from Canada

      This article was very interesting to me, simply because I have a lot of Vietnamese friends. I love the culture and food and I am interested to learn more about this situation.