Discuss the shifts In the American public’s attitude towards the Vietnam War over the period 1964-1973. To what extent did public opinion affect the government’s war strategy?
Since 1954 it is understood that, “every American President has offered support to the people of South Vietnam” (Johnson, 1965: 310), this understanding was placed into action when the state of South Vietnam was about to fall apart once North Vietnam had made it its goal to invade and capture it. During the winter of 1964-65, military strategy in America was relatively decided on fighting a war in Vietnam; however, planners in the government were divided as to how. Certain leaders believed an air-strike to be most effective, whereas others urged forces be sent to fight on the ground, ultimately what happened were expensive air-strikes in the North yielding little results, and an ever-growing number of soldiers needed on the ground in the South (Clifford, 1975: 305).
The statement that, “Vietnam became a test of America’s will” (Clifford, 1975: 302), essentially describes what occurred in domestic politics during the latter part of the 1960s and early 1970s. The American public did not understand or agree with the idea of a war on the other side of the ocean which did not seem to be any of their concern and demanded an increasing number of young soldiers to fight on behalf of their country. Initially there was little objection in 1965 when troops were sent to South Vietnam, however, when quick results did not emerge public opinion began to lose confidence in the American government, where explanations were wanted and only the experts knew the facts (Hearden, 2008: 140).
During 1966 an official stated that it seemed there was a, “feeling of unhappiness” (Clifford, 1975: 306) among the American public, and this was proven through the growing amount of war protest occurring between 1966 and 1967. Confused and losing trust in official statements, university campuses became the foreground...