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Vietnam War on the Home front

The Vietnam War is just like all other wars in that it not only affects the soldiers waging the war, but it also affects the civilians who remained in the country and did not fight to preserve the ideals held by America. The Vietnam War is memorable not only for what happened overseas but also for the many events that occurred within the United States during the war.

On the home front one of the best remembered controversies due to the Vietnam War was the draft, or conscription. Conscription is “compulsory enrollment, especially for the armed forces; draft.”(http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=conscription). Conscription allowed the government to increase the number of troops fighting in Vietnam at any time. The draft was a system in which, “There were 366 blue plastic capsules containing birth dates placed in a large glass container and drawn by hand to assign order-of-call numbers to all men within the 18-26 age range specified in Selective Service law.” (http://www.sss.gov/lotter1.htm) Ultimately people would try everything that they could to avoid serving in the war. Some would even flee the United States entirely and find safety in Canada. “In active protest against United States involvement in the Vietnam War, many Americans publicly burned draft registration cards, risking imprisonment; others fled to other countries, such as Canada.” (http://www.answers.com/topic/draft-dodger) Many draft dodgers went to Canada for the Canadian government was very welcoming even though the Americans were committing federal crimes in the United States. “During the Vietnam War, about 100,000 draft dodgers, in total, went abroad; others hid in the United States. An estimated 50,000 to 90,000 of these moved to Canada, where they were treated as immigrants. Though their presence was initially controversial within Canada, the government eventually chose to welcome them. Draft evasion was not a criminal offence under Canadian law.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft_dodger) Even though many people were dieing overseas defending the principles of the United States, people in the home front were trying their best to put themselves first and not the defense of freedom for the other people living in America.

During the Vietnam War major developments occurred in the Executive Branch of the United States government. Toward the beginning of American involvement in Vietnam, a new president took office due to the assassination of Kennedy. “In November 1963, President Kennedy visited Texas to patch up feuds among Texas Democrats. On November 22 … Oswald fired three shots that wounded Texas Governor John Conally and killed the president… Vice President Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office as president on Air Force One while the blood-spattered Jacqueline Kennedy looked on.” (Goldfield, 904-905). With the assassination of President Kennedy the country changed a great deal, the new president, Lyndon Johnson, began to implement his own goals which were similar to Kennedy’s but were actually implemented. He made significant advancements in the civil rights movement to give rights to blacks. Johnson enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed segregation in public accommodations and it outlawed employment discrimination for federally assisted projects. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was created as a result of the act and it included gender in the list of categories protected against discrimination. Another act implemented under the command of Johnson was the Voting Rights Act signed on August 6, 1965. This was also advancement in civil rights and it outlawed literacy tests and provided for federal voting registrars in seven southern states. (Goldfield, 906-907). This greatly affected the view of the American people concerning politics for now far more people were able to vote and also blacks were much closer to being equal with whites.

Due to the Vietnam War, a large number of Americans decided to remove themselves from traditional society and to not follow the law. As a result of the youth culture and counterculture decided to display their alienation from society by experimenting in drugs and simply ignored traditional standards set by society, they were known as hippies. (Goldfield, 919). The hippie movement was one of the few downsides to the Vietnam War.

Even though African Americans gained many rights during the 1960s, racial riots occurred in cities across America. “Riots in Rochester, Harlem, and Brooklyn in July 1964 opened four years of racial violence. Before they subsided, the riots scarred most big cities and killed two hundred people, most of them African Americans.” (Goldfield, 920). One famous riot occurred in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles starting on August 11, 1965.

A Los Angeles police officer pulled over motorist Marquette Frye [who was with his brother Ronald]; he suspected Marquette of driving drunk. While officers questioned them, a crowd of onlookers had begun to form. When Rena Frye, the boys mother showed up, a struggle ensued which led to the arrest of all 3 members of the Frye family. More officers had arrived on the scene and had hit the brothers with their batons. The crowd had grown and by this point had become angry. After the police left the scene, the crowd & tension escalated and sparked the riots, which lasted 6 days. More than 34 people died, 1000 wounded, and an estimated $50 - $100 million in property damage. (Watts Riots).

The one riot was bad but the cause of the riot was determined yet the problem was never resolved only creating more tension between the races.

After the riots, then Governor Pat Brown named John McCone to head a commission to study the riots. The report issued by the Commission concluded that the riots weren't the act of thugs, but rather symptomatic of much deeper problems: the high jobless rate in the inner city, poor housing, bad schools… no great effort was made to address [the problems], or to rebuild what had been destroyed in the riots. (The 1965 Watts Riots).

The violence continued in many different cities due to discrimination of blacks and Hispanics. The riots all seemed to follow a consistent scenario. Police action would draw a crowd, when the police are unable to disperse crowds the onlookers become rioters. After the police withdraw, the disorder would continue and escalate until the National Guard arrives, consequentially causes deaths when the soldiers fire on crowds they feel to be threatening. (Goldfield, 921). The riots in the United States were simply more violence not needed since many brave soldiers were dying fighting in Vietnam.

Another movement taking place in the home front during the Vietnam War was the rise of “Black Power.” This in turn led to an increased interest in the Nation of Islam giving power to people such as Malcolm X. Malcolm X preached ideas such as black people should stop allowing white people to set the terms by which blacks are judged. Malcolm X also emphasized the African cultural heritage and economic self-help and proclaimed himself an extremist for black rights. Malcolm X was assassinated in February of 1965 due to internal rivalries. (Goldfield, 922). Malcolm X was one of many prominent American figures assassinated in the 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who wanted equality for all and used nonviolent methods to try and achieve his goal. He was killed on April 4, 1968 by James Earl Ray. Only a few weeks later on June 5, Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan ensuring the Democratic nomination for Humphrey who lost to Nixon in the election of 1968. (Goldfield, 926). These assassinations shook the foundations of America for many great leaders were killed standing up for what they believed to be right.

The Vietnam War was a major event, but a great deal occurred on the home front. During the war many things changed in America ranging from culture to the leadership of the country. Had it not been for the war the United States would have had drastically different events take place on the home front.



Works Cited

“The 1965 Watts Riots.” USC Online. Internet. 2 June 2006 Available http://www.usc.edu/libraries/archives/la/watts.html.

“Conscription.” Online. Internet. 2 June 2006. Available http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=conscription.

“Draft Dodger.” Online. Internet. 2 June 2006 Available http://www.answers.com/topic/draft-dodger.

“Draft Dodger.” Wikipedia Online. Internet. 2 June 2006 Available http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft_dodger.

Goldfield, David. The American Journey. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001.

“The Vietnam Lotteries.” Selective Service System Online. Internet. 2 June 2006 Available http://www.sss.gov/lotter1.htm.

“Watts Riots.” PBS Online. Internet. 2 June 2006 Available http://www.pbs.org/hueypnewton/times/times_watts.html

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Defoliation_agent_spraying.jpg (152KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)

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  • Description: Vietnam. Defoliation Mission. A UH-1D helicopter from the 336th Aviation Company sprays a defoliation agent on a dense jungle area in the Mekong delta., 07/26/1969
  • Source: US Archiv ARCWEB ARC Identifier: 530626
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  • Licence: Public Domain


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