Background On Vietnam:
Vietnam was a French colony until May 7th 1954, when Viet Minh’s forces ended French involvement in Indochina at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. This victory led to the Geneva Conference, where French forces and Viet Minh negotiated a ceasefire and signed the Geneva Accords.
The terms of this agreement would establish a temporary border at the 17th parallel of Vietnam where civilians were able to move freely between the two states. This border separated the Northern Vietnam communists and Southern Vietnam anti-communists. Shortly following the Geneva Accords, Vietnam was able to establish their own unified government. The first elections were to be held two years later in 1956. However, countries like the United States called into question the integrity of the elections that were to be held.
At the height of the Cold War, the United States feared that the elections in Vietnam would not be fair nor just so long as Vietnam was still under Communist influence. The U.S. also feared that if communist leaders were elected into office then Communism would spread into South East Asia creating a bigger threat to Democracy. The U.S. government feared that losing Vietnam to Communism would be the domino that effect that would result in the loss of an entire region. The Vietnam War was result of the prolonged struggle between the communist nationalist forces wanting to unite northern and southern Vietnam and the United States, allied with South Vietnam, who were fighting to prevent the spread of Communism.
Media And The War:
In 1966, it was recorded that 93% of all Americans owned a television at home. It was estimated that as many as 58% of these Americans relied on television as their primary news outlet. These statistics suggest why Vietnam became one of the most documented wars of all time.
The nation relied on media as their primary source for what was happening on the Vietnam Homefront. This came in the form of newsreels, protest music, newspaper adds and articles, propaganda posters, and a variety of other different mediums. These sources were often bias, only addressing the side of the war that the author wanted to portray. A person’s perception of the war was largely influenced by the source in which they recieved their information. Many protestors refused to acknowledge the government’s reasoning for going into war. Similarily, those who supported the war were often naive to what was actually happening in Vietnam. And finally, the Vietnamese perspective was nearly ignored all together by the American people. The only way to accuartely tell the story of what happened during the Vietnam War is to look at all three perspectives: U.S. Pro War, U.S. Protestors, and the Vietnam perspective.
In this activity, you will explore a variety of sources that support different perspectives of the Vietnam War. As you analyze each source consider the following:
1. Did the media have a postive or negative impact on the Vietnam War?
2. What techniques did the media use to influence the persepective of the war?
3. How does the story of the Vietnam war channge when all three perspectives are represented?