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Month: October 2020

Alex OLoughlin 11/2

Platoon by Oliver Stone highlighted and brought attention to the cruel realities of war in Vietnam, and was a testament to what the soldiers had to go through. I think one of the reasons that this film was so raw and powerful came from the fact that Oliver himself went to Vietnam, giving him a unique perspective on just how much the soldiers experienced. It also allowed him to create a tone that could be received well and was respectful towards the people who served in the war, something that goes along with the idea of respecting the soldiers even if they don’t respect the war.

One of the things that I found interesting was the lack of training that these soldiers had towards the style of warfare in Vietnam. The Guerilla Warfare was new and dangerous for the United States who was not familiar with the climate, geography, and tactics. This, combined with the soldier’s attitudes towards war made success very difficult. Chris represents a viewpoint of a lot of the soldiers, who were scared and hated that they were fighting in this war. I think that with all the hard things the soldiers had to go through, and how they did not want to be there, it is so impressive that they kept risking their lives for our country. As my stepdad is in the military, I already had so much respect for the soldiers, but this just increased it.

 

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Julia Borger Blog Post 11/1

After watching Platoon, I have gained a newfound respect and perspective on soldiers fighting and enduring the conditions of war. My father was in the Marines, and he and my older brother enjoy watching films associated with wars, and I would always shy away from watching these with them because personally I don’t really love the violent and gruesome scenes that generally frame those movies. However, after watching this film and finding it extremely riveting and inspiring, I think I will definitely join in the next time they are watching or even watch them on my own.

I found it very interesting to see the contrast between the soldiers lives while in uniform and on the fields, compared to hanging out in their bunks while “off-duty”. It seemed so strange – there was a war raging miles from them that they were participating in, yet they still could relax enough to dance, sing, and joke around with each other. I feel like this ability to let their guards down a little and experience some type of normalcy in their insane routine of eat, sleep, and fight, is a very crucial aspect to keep their morals high and serve as a distraction from what was happening around them. It is crazy how we take chilling with our friends whenever we want for granted, when for these men it could possibly be their only saving grace during the war.

I was also struck by the concept of being a drafted solider vs one who volunteered, especially for the Vietnam War, as there was so much controversy surrounding that idea. I thought it was interesting how in the film, Chris informs his fellow comrades that he volunteered for the war, and they were dumbstruck, unable to fathom why, as they could tell he was an educated white man who definitely would have gone to college. Chris explains that he gave up going to college because he wasn’t going to learn anything worthwhile anyways. The class stereotypes surrounding the war are evident here and allow us to understand how many felt about them during this time.

 

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Tess Keating Blog Post 11/1

I feel like it is easy to get caught up in the cinematics of war movies and forget that they actually portray something that really happened. While watching Platoon I tried to watch it through the lens knowing that the things that happened in the movie are actually what soldiers in the Vietnam War had to go through. This made the movie even more shocking and horrifying to watch. The awful conditions and gruesome things the men had to do and saw were all highlighted. Soldiers had to sleep on dirt with dangerous bugs and animals, watch their friends get shot, and be terrorized in the middle of the night. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to go to such a different environment than I am used to and be pushed to do things I would never do before. I never really learned much about the Vietnam War so watching this and realizing that it is something that actually happened and people had to go through it was eye opening. 

After watching Platoon and being able to understand just how horrible the conditions of the Vietnam War were, I thought about how it must have been so terrible for the soldiers who didn’t even believe in the war and still had to live through it because they were drafted. Something like that changes you forever and while some men volunteered for it, others were chosen at random, had no choice, and were changed forever. I can imagine many soldiers had feelings of resentment, especially since they didn’t even win the war and had to come back and try to return to normal life after what they went through.

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blog post 11/1

After “Platoon” I was in shock about the realities of the Vietnam War. I did not realize how much action the soldiers had to take against their own will. It was surprising to see that most of the soldiers did not want to go into warfare. It was also shocking to see how the different soldiers treated each other. I did not expect the men to be so disrespectful to each other. It seemed as though the soldiers were not even fighting for the same team. I expected the soldiers to be extremely supportive of each other and have each other’s back. This makes me wonder if this is common throughout other wars as well. It seems as though it was every man for himself and I never expected it to be like that.

Chris had an interesting perspective on the war. It seemed as though his perspective was always changing; his experience and role were never constant. He seems like he had such a positive perspective at the beginning of the war and as time went on it slowly shifted to be more negative and negative. Chris made it evident that the men in the war struggled mentally as well as physically in the war. 

I found the scene when they destroyed the village to be extremely disgusting. I know that war is gruesome but to see that in “real life” was honestly shocking and gross. It was scary to see that the young girl was raped and that the mom got killed. I did not think that American soldiers would do such a thing. 

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Margot Roussel’s Blog Post

After watching Platoon I was in shock. I didn’t know much about Vietnam and so I was shocked with the horrors it depicted. There were many times that I had to look away because it was too gruesome. I found the scene when they destroyed the village especially when they raped the young girl and killed the mom. I was shocked at the war crimes that were committed and how little accountability there was. I always thought that the military had a strict power hierarchy and when there were good people on top, it worked out. That was not the case for the characters in Platoon because even though Lieutenant Wolfe was in charge all the men deferred to Barnes.

This movie really highlighted the horrors of war and how easily people can be pushed to do things they normally wouldn’t. I cannot imagine going through what these men experienced and wonder how much it truly effected their mental health. I know PTSD is a common diagnosis after returning from war, but I wonder if anyone truly saw into the soldier’s minds. I think taking someone’s life in such an up close and personal manner can be truly harming and that made this war different from others where they were constantly hiding in a trench.

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Blog Post 11/2

The award-winning film, Platoon, provides an in detail and realistic portrayal of the incredibly dangerous, cruel, and horrendous conditions that veterans of the Vietnam war were forced to endure during their time in the service. After the conclusion of the movie, I instantly changed the way I thought about the war and gained an immense amount of respect and pride for the men who fought in Vietnam due to the harsh conditions and the danger that the American Soldiers were put through; many of them without a willingness to do so.

Early in the movie Chris Taylor, an enlisted man in the military, outlined the harsh environment and lifestyle that the military men fighting in Vietnam were forced to endure. Chris alluded to Vietnam as hell and clearly outlined his hatred for the place just a few days into his arrival. Chris then alludes to the idea that he made a mistake enlisting in the service and questioned his ability to survive and make it through his one-year bid overseas. While Chris’ hatred for the war and his time in Vietnam was not the only point of view on the war, it seems that there was general disapproval and dislikes for the war by many soldiers who actually partook in it. The platoon made it easy to understand why, understand the hatred of the war and where it stemmed from, and finally provides insight as to why many veterans of the Vietnam war suffer from severe mental health problems as well as physical health problems; a heartbreaking scenario that many veterans wish they never partook in.

Later on in the movie, the motivations of the soldiers to continue fighting in the war are revealed and that scene enabled me to understand why the soldiers kept pushing their way through. The motivation in the minds of the soldiers was to stay alive, and that life would be easy once they made it home. This idea was likely present in the minds of most soldiers fighting in the war as making it home to their families is typically of utmost importance to men in the service.

Overall, Platoon was an insightful movie that provided a deep and detailed insight into what life for soldiers was like throughout the war and allowed me to understand the utter dislike and disapproval of the war by many Americans, active soldiers, and people around the world.

 

 

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Blog Post 11/2

Oliver Stone’s Platoon effectively displays the harsh reality of the Vietnam War. Throughout the film, we are exposed to the inhumane conditions and unjust treatment that soldiers were exposed to on a daily basis. The environment of Vietnam and the unique guerilla warfare tactics used by the Viet Cong caught many US soldiers off guard as they were not given the necessary training to be prepared for these challenges. Of course, to top this all off, many soldiers were, who often didn’t even want to be there in the first place, were treated like scum by their commanding officers.

The fact that Oliver Stone was a Vietnam War veteran himself added a lot to the production of this film. With his first-hand knowledge, many people including me were able to properly understand the true struggle that was the Vietnam War. While there is only so much one can learn from reading from a book, I felt that the film really brought the harsh conditions and improper treatment to life. As I watched this film, I wondered what other films of certain events in our history were created by people who experienced them first hand and how much of an effect this had on a film compared to a filmmaker who made a film based on something they read in a history book.

 

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11/2 Post

Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” does an excellent job of portraying the harsh realities of being a soldier in the Vietnam War. Many of the soldiers didn’t want to go and fight in the first place, so they were already not in a good headspace. Then, once they arrived they had horrible conditions and were essentially harassed and in part dehumanized to endure things that humans should never have to endure. The climate and terrain in Vietnam was something that was incredibly hard to replicate and prepare for. Something that stuck out to me was the fact that the new soldiers that arrived were not properly trained. They were thrown right into the fire often with no instructions. To me, this is completely unfair. Many people didn’t want to be there, but if soldiers had more guidance or help things might have been at least a little better.

Another thing that stuck out to me was the lack of help and response from the government. It is so disheartening to me that Americans can be so against something but have little to no power in what actually ultimately happens. The incredible loss and pain shown in the film is only a small testament as to what these poor soldiers had to see and endure everyday at war. I am upset that the government firstly forced so many people to go fight, but then not give them the resources they deserved to recover from the trauma of war. Overall, this film did a great job of portraying the unimaginable trauma of war and I am deeply saddened that the government and America as a whole did not provide adequate support and resources for the soldiers after all they had to go through. 

 

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 11/02

Overall, Platoon did a great job of exemplifying the struggles American soldiers faced while in the Vietnam War. For one, no matter how much training the soldiers had before being deployed, Vietnam’s social and physical environment paired with their guerilla warfare tactics made this war much more difficult to win. In the opening scenes, the American soldiers had to bear the humid hot climate of Vietnam and any wildlife that lived in the jungles- snakes, spiders, mosquitos, and red ants. Secondly, there were internal obstacles that undermined America’s military strength in that most of the infantry unit in Platoon was segregated by race, military rank, and popularity. Most soldiers who were drafted into the Vietnam War came from rural, uneducated, low-income families; thus, providing evidence to support the claim of how America wanted to resolve anti-Vietnam protests and classism inequalities. Nevertheless, the leaders and their followers of the infantry in Platoon had different views on how to win the war in Vietnam, which we see when the infantry unit raids the first Vietnamese village. Some soldiers were more prone to inflict violence on innocent civilians to gain information on what the Viet Cong were doing than other soldiers. This made me contemplate how war can mold an average citizen into becoming a “trained killer” as one of the soldiers in Platoon said. What benefit does this process, then, have on our society?

Towards the end of the movie- and of the Vietnam War in general- American soldiers’ morale dramatically decreased as they knew that Vietnam was going to win the war. In my opinion, the perspectives of the men and women fighting on the ground should be superior to those officials who are ignorant of what’s happening across the ocean as they are sitting comfortably in a secured facility in D.C. To see the amount of terror that gripped every soldier and how some of the soldiers died was heart-wrenching, and I wish that America would treat its Veterans and their families so much better after enduring so much trauma. In essence, the U.S.’s involvement in the Vietnam War should have ended far earlier than the late-1960s to the early-1970s. Moreover, I feel that our involvement in the wars in the Middle East should end too because the legacies of war breed cycles of mental illness in soldiers, poverty in conflict-afflicted communities, and, ultimately, violence.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 11/2

The Academy Award winning movie Platoon, which was directed by Oliver Stone (a Vietnam War veteran), provides an incredibly realistic portrayal of the brutal lifestyle, danger, and cruelty of the Vietnam War. After watching the movie, I gained a tremendous amount of respect for veterans of the Vietnam War as the movie depicted the tough conditions and danger the soldiers had to endure while fighting in Vietnam. 

In one of the opening scenes of Platoon, Chris Taylor, a former college student who enlisted in the Vietnam War, reveals the difficult lifestyle that soldiers had to deal with while serving in Vietnam. While digging a hole in a very hot jungle in Vietnam, Chris states that “this place feels like hell,” and that he “hates it already and it has only been a week.” Upon his arrival, Chris questions his ability to survive his entire year long service in Vietnam and admits that he thinks he “made a big mistake coming here.” Chris’ thoughts are representative of many soldiers in Vietnam as many soldiers were deployed without actually wanting to serve in the war. After witnessing the harsh lifestyles of soldiers in Vietnam in Platoon, I now can understand why so many soldiers returned from the war deeply traumatized by experiences. 

In another scene of the movie, King reveals to Chris the soldiers underlying motivations to keep fighting in the Vietnam War. Before King boards the helicopter to leave Vietnam to go back home, he explains to Chris that, “all you gotta do is make it out of here,” and then “every day of the rest of your life is gravy.” Based on King’s statement it is evident that all the soldiers in the Vietnam War were motivated to stay alive and endure the arduous conditions of Vietnam in hopes of one day making it back to their families in the United States and living in comfort again.

Overall, I was very impressed with Platoon and believe Oliver Stone did an outstanding job of realistically capturing the events that occurred in the Vietnam War.

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Blog Post for 11/2- Zachary Andrews

I thought Platoon to be a very interesting and engaging movie. One aspect of the movie that I thought made this film stand out from others was how Chris would go in and out of narrating. These small, or sometimes large, pieces of narration made the movie more personal and showed the audience what was really going on in a soldiers head during this time. Other than the narration pieces that were scattered throughout the movie, there was one scene that really stood out to me. This scene was the when the platoon was had just seized a village in Vietnam and were looking for Viet Cong soldiers, munitions, or just general information about them. When arriving to the village, the American soldiers immediately started to harass a Vietnamese man and his family. First, the US soldiers made the man “dance” or in other words, they shot at the man’s feet, thus forcing him to move his feet to not get shot. These actions made it look as if the man were dancing. From there, a US soldier shot the Vietnamese man’s wife in front of him and his child and then held a gun to the child’s head, showing how ruthless and inhumane some of these soldiers were. Shortly after we see Chris help a young Vietnamese women from getting sexually assaulted from some of the other US soldiers. Chris then went on to call his fellow soldiers “animals.”  I was shocked to see that during times of war, people believe that all humane acts, boundaries, and ways of civilized life fly out the door. It is as if during times of war, humans revert to being wild animals.

 

In addition to this scene, I found it interesting to see how Chris changed over the course of his 1 year enlistment. In the beginning he was scene as the new guy who people weren’t a massive fan of but then he breaks into a bigger role of calming situations between Elias and Barnes. He also talked in the beginning of the movie how he was almost eager to be there even though he really didn’t like the conditions whereas at the end of the movie, he tells us that he “struggled to maintain my sanity.” This really shows that the horrific events within war can really change a person.

 

In class we talked about the movie Saving Private Ryan and how Steven Spielberg tried to make the movie as accurate as possible. We know from Dr. Bezio’s past job of working at the movie theater and comforting World War II veterans that Spielberg accomplished his goal of making an accurate movie. I was wondering if Platoon had a similar effect on its audience? Is Platoon considered to be an accurate depiction of the Vietnam War?

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Charley Blount Blog Post (11/2)

The 1960s and 1970s were a period of rebellion and change in the United States. In high school, I spent the most time learning about the Civil Rights Movement. This chronology was relatively simplistic: Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks protested, and then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed, and the Brown v. Board of Education decision was made. The truth is, the Civil Rights injustices carried into the 1970s and onward. Notably, mass incarceration and mistreatment of prisoners became a fundamental political issue in the early 1970s. These injustices became widely recognized following the Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971, which resulted in the deaths of ten hostages and twenty-nine inmates. Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns of the prisoners that led them to riot, Governor Rockefeller instituted harsher penalties for violating prison rules. Rockefeller’s response to riots over injustice and racism in New York remained consistent when, two years later, he signed the “Rockefeller Drug Laws,” which served as the model for “War on Drugs” legislation that would be used to incarcerate millions of people, mostly African American men, in the coming decades. The War on Drugs and the War on Poverty were the results of politicians exploiting soft issues to criminalize poverty and drug use rather than fighting to fix the broken institutions that perpetuate the problems. The disparities in enforcement are evident when comparing two different types of theft:

In 1969, there were 502 convictions for tax fraud. Such cases, called “white-collar crimes,” usually involve people with a good deal of money. Of those convicted, 20 percent ended up in jail. The fraud averaged $190,000 per case; their sentences averaged seven months. That same year, for burglary and auto theft (crimes of the poor) 60 percent ended up in prison. The auto thefts averaged $992; the sentences averaged eighteen months. The burglaries averaged $321; the sentences averaged thirty-three months. (10557)

While Zinn’s chapter ends in the 1970s, the problems he raises with the criminal justice system still persist today. Look to the opioid crisis to see politicians ignoring serious health concerns rooted in drug use. With the war on crime, broken window policing, stop-and-frisk policies, and marijuana laws continue to run rampant in cities across the country contributing to a prison system that includes more drug abusers than rehabilitation facilities and incarcerates one in three black men at some points in their lives.

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Sam Hussey Blog Post 11/2

Platoon gives viewers a look at how inhumane and vial war is. A human life is just as valuable as a few bullets or a position in the forest. Lives on both sides are not valued because if it is your life or the enemy. Soldiers are forced to learn this quickly and then killing becomes just another way to get one step closer to surviving. Chris, played by Charlie Sheen, has a hard time adjusting to this harsh reality of war. It is so unlike real life that the soldiers use these horrible acts as a will to live- murdering, raping, stealing, burning villages. 

As we discussed in class, the morale of the soldiers falls more and more every day after fighting such a treacherous war. There is fighting in between the platoon and the soldiers are losing sanity. Sgt. Elias, played by Willem Defoe, says towards the middle of the film that “We’re not gonna win this war. We’ve been kicking ass for so long I figured it’s about time we get ours kicked”. They are all trying to escape from reality by doing drugs, drinking, and other vices that make their lives seem better for a small period of time.

What made it difficult in this war was distinguishing between civilians and the Vietcong. In WWII, it was easy to tell who you were fighting against and who was simply living there. In Vietnam, the platoon would stumble upon a village that would look innocent but would start ambushing the platoon and attacking back. So, the soldiers can never be too sure when approaching a village in the jungle because they never know who is hiding there. 

In Chris’s final monologue, he begins by saying “We didn’t fight an enemy, we fought ourselves and the enemy was within us.” The mutiny and violence within the platoon were detrimental to their success in the war. They didn’t want to be there, they were in terrible, unfamiliar conditions, and they weren’t fighting for a common cause that could be used to unite the group. The final battle scene was telling of this when the Vietcong moved all together as a unit and the US troops were abandoning their posts and doing whatever they could to stay alive, not to benefit the war effort. The general at the post called in an airstrike because he knew it was the only way he would make it out alive even though many of his troops would die from the airstrike. In this war, no human life was as valuable as your own and that is why the war was a failure.

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Platoon Post 11/02

In the movie Platoon, we follow a group of soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. I found this movie to be extremely enlightening about the real truths of the war. The movie did a great job of depicting the challenging environments experienced by the soldiers. The movie highlighted the steep cliffs, dense shrubbery, bugs, snakes, rain, and humidity. This new environment was extremely unique to the United States military as it was difficult for them to train for these conditions. This gave the Vietnamese an advantage, as they were able to adjust and train for this environment. 

I also was surprised to watch the different types of relationships formed in the platoon. The men constantly swore at one another and disrespected each other. It often seemed like they didn’t have each other’s backs and did not act like a team. This makes me question whether the war effort was over before it even started. Can a military force win when the soldiers have a low morale and do not act like a team? 

Another eye-opening scene for me was the village scene. When the U.S. soldiers arrived at the village, they immediately harassed the civilians and destroyed their things. The soldiers proceeded to kill innocent civilians, sexually harassed girls, and burned the village down. Whenever I hear about these types of actions in war, I never assume that the United States could be responsible. I often forget that the country we praise to be ours can act the same way as other countries do.

 

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Platoon Post for 11/2

Throughout this movie, we can see an internal conflict within Chris and within the group of soldiers. The way this war was portrayed, it was more of a mental battle and that deeply affected the physical aspect of it. The soldiers had a lot to deal with mentally and it showed. Through Chris, we saw his perspective of the war change over time. When he first arrived, he was very optimistic and positive about how the war was going to go. It’s not long after he gets there that his positivity is quickly killed by the bad morale of everyone else there. Eventually, his optimism went away and reality was setting in that there was nothing good about what he was doing or the cause of the war. The way the movie played out, we saw each character have some type of internal conflict that they had to deal with whether it was racism, power dynamics, or even just coming to terms with the violence of war. There was also conflict between the soldiers because of actions that were wrong in every way. The breaking point for the group was the scene in the village. Many of them engaged in actions that were morally and ethically wrong in every way, and some didn’t agree but there wasn’t much they could do about it.

I think what it all came down to was the resentment for the war that they all had. They didn’t agree with the war because they didn’t think that the United States should’ve been involved in the first place. The soldiers hated the acts they had to commit because they were horribly gruesome. They also hated the fact that they were there in the first place, doing a job that no one else in the country wanted to do either. There was just a lot of anger in most of them and it created a lot of conflict towards each other rather than the actual enemy. What got the best of the soldiers was the attitude that everyone there was going to die. At one point in the movie, someone said, “Everybody gotta die sometime.” All of the soldiers had this attitude that even though they would like to make it out, they were going to die there. They looked at the new soldiers as replacements for the bodies that were already dropped and that’s why they had respect for the people that were there longer. They respected them for being able to make it for as long as they did. A lot of it had to do with the gruesomeness that they saw and had to be a part of. No matter how much they fought, they didn’t seem to be making any progress to give them a sign of hope. Everything was just so bad for them that they thought if they were going to make it out of there, they’d be lucky, even if they were medically discharged.

 

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Episode 18

Leadership and the Humanities Podcast

Episode 18: Post-War Fatigue

Perhaps the most notable consequence of the Vietnam war has less to do with its political fallout on an international scale, and much more to do with the domestic social repercussions within the United States in terms of disillusionment with the American government and patriotism…

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The following works were used in this podcast:

Norman, Sonya B., and Shira Maguen. “Moral Injury – PTSD: National Center for PTSD.” General Information. Accessed October 23, 2020. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/cooccurring/moral_injury.asp.

IMDB. “Platoon.”

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Blogpost 10 (10/27)

I never really knew what exactly happened when the United States fought in Vietnam; this chapter has filled many gaps for me. In “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam”, Zinn explains how the United States lied about the war to keep its citizens calm. As usual, Zinn never fails to surprise me with the truth which always seems to be unpleasant. The United States has claimed the purpose of the war is to fight against communism in East Asia however, they wanted to benefit from the French and they gave them large amounts of military aid to them. The reason behind this is that both countries are world-dominating, upper class, capitalist countries, and building ties with them would be more helpful to the United States. Thus, France was seen as a country that would improve Vietnam if it managed to control it, and to do so, the US and France have used the help of Diem who was an aggressive anti-communist wealthy Vietnamese catholic.

 

The Dime regime was extremely unpopular and people in Vietnam were executed during the times of the war just for being suspected of supporting communism. The working-class American people were opposing this war as soon as it started, we see that in the antiwar movement. I was fascinated to see how many people were opposed to the war while the US media was trying to show that these working/middle-class people were in favor of the war. While in reality they were affected the most and the upper-class people had the power and as usual did not even care about the opinion of those who are more disadvantaged. Only until people from different groups in the lower class stood against the war, the government has stopped it. I was shocked again to see how the American government did not care about going to war knowing that its middle and lower class were against it.

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Blog Post 10/28 Maggie Otradovec

The Vietnam War has been a controversial topic since it’s beginning in 1954. One of my first experiences learning about the Vietnam War was by watching the movie Forrest Gump, in which the titular character fights overseas and later accidentally speaks at an anti-war protest in D.C. Similar to Zinn’s chapter “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam,” the movie does not glorify the war, but rather shows it through the eyes of Tom Hanks’ character, which is a simplified, but still valuable depiction. The war was not popular by any means. Many believed it was unconstitutional, and many men avoided the draft. As seen in Forrest Gump, there were anti-war protests. The anti-war sentiment was also held by many civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. and famous boxer Muhammad Ali.

The Vietnam War is another historical event that is seemingly glossed over in history classes. I did not learn about the Vietnam War in school until high school, and, even then, it was not covered extensively. Despite the fact that the war was so unpopular, it seems as though no one wants to talk about the atrocities committed in Vietnam. The country had unbelievable amounts of damage and casualties, all because the United States got involved in a war it had no business being in.

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Blog Post 10/28

Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States continues to leave me in shock, with this chapter, The Impossible Victory: Vietnam, to be one of the most outrageous sections yet because of the immense level of historical concealment from our history textbooks. Almost all Americans know this time period as the “anti-war”, “pre-hippie”, and opposition time period fueled by the Vietnam War, but there are usually little to no concrete reasons why there were so many protests throughout the United States. Is this because the government doesn’t want the public to know of their hypocrisy and vile war behavior for posterity and reputation, or so war-time action can take place later and look unprecedented? Whatever the reason is, the surface level explanation of the causation for Vietnam War protests in history textbooks is noticeable, especially after Zinn’s explanation of large-scale global efforts and smaller efforts from 1946 to 1969. 

As American politicians of the time began hiding information from the public and endorsed more brutal military tactics to fight communism to stop the “domino effect”, I was reminded of similar tactics the Axis powers used to achieve their goals. I am not saying that the government of this time period is comparable to the Axis powers as this is not true, but a lot of their political or military strategies produced similar outcomes.  This is highly ironic and deeply unsettling as America was seen as one of the most powerful and moral countries after the war, but their unneeded actions (which is the view of Zinn) were much more violent than their public image. America’s need to cover their actions is not unique, but the United States’ cover-ups are constantly rooted in war as all recent American wars have not been fought on US soil, meaning the government tries to keep people “in the dark” as the more information people know, the harder it is to morally justify a war. This is especially true with the Vietnam War as there was no true cause in comparison to the more concrete causes of World War II. Something that was not mentioned by Zinn that I think had a huge impact on the war effort was the increase of wartime media, even though there was also an increase in legislation against its publication. Overall, the combination of large-scale, various, and effective protests with government attempts to edit history created the perfect storm for wide-scale political and social unrest in the United States. With the increase of media presence in our lives, will there ever be a war the United States is involved in that will have popular support as war brutality can now be broadcasted?

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Class and the Vietnam War

In the opening chapters of A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn asserts that class is one of the strongest dividers of people in American history. Starting with the practice of indentured servitude, transitioning to slavery, and, eventually, manifesting itself in the mistreatment of workers, class has suppressed sizable groups of Americans across time periods. In the Vietnam War, as Zinn asserts in today’s reading, the impact of class was just as visible. Noticeably, class was visible in two places: the reasoning for war and the fighters of the war.

While the United States claimed that the war in Vietnam was in order to defend against Communism in East Asia, government memos reveal that the United States government truly wanted the French — who were viewed as modern, industrial, and capitalist — to control the country. In a way, France represented the upper class of countries in the global community. The United States, being a part of this upper class as well, encouraged French control of Vietnam because of their shared bond as powerful countries. Whereas Vietnamese politicians were seen as poor, unintelligent, and incapable of self rule, French leaders were understood as capable of effectively bettering a poor nation. To accomplish this, the United States and France established a puppet leader in Ngo Dinh Diem. Unsurprisingly, Diem’s government neglected the problems of the lower class inside Vietnam. The fact that the puppet leader put forth by America in Vietnam did very little to combat classism showcases the American government’s support of classist division, whether it be on a local or international scale.

Once the war had started, the lower and middle class Americans opposed the war; however, the government’s continued involvement in Vietnam into the 70s highlighted the government’s lack of care for the opinions of the less fortunate. In the early years of the formal war in Vietnam, civil rights groups were the largest opponents to the war. Indeed, leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. vehemently opposed the war effort because, they argued, it sent black Americans, many of which were poor, to die in a fight that would not impact the lives of the average American. As the war continued, this message struck a chord with many middle and lower class Americans, even those who were not black. By the 1970s, studies found that those with less money were more likely to oppose the war. Still, the war in Vietnam continued in the midst of protests against it. Only once people from across the class spectrum, including students, military personnel, and lower-class Americans, opposed the war did the government finally stop the war. The American government’s insistence on war in Vietnam in the face of disapproval from the lower and middle classes reveals the Vietnam War to be a case study in the different political rights and agency afforded to different classes in American society.

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