Vietnam War Outcome Influenced by the Media
Term 3 Paper: The Media and Vietnam War The Vietnam War was a war of mass destruction, leaving Vietnam to become bitterly divided and claiming the many lives of Vietnamese civilians as well as American soldiers. Out of all the wars in American history, the Vietnam War was the first war to be broadly televised and covered by the media. It came to be known as the first “Television War”. Journalists began to pour into Vietnam from all over the nation, to cover the lives of the American Soldiers as well as Vietnamese civilians.
As television brought horrendous images of the war into American living rooms, the perception of an American solider as a hero slowly became the image of the American enemy. Thus, the media is a major factor that resulted to the Vietnamization of the conflict, following the end of the war during the fall of Saigon. Television was the main source of news for the American public, and perhaps the most influence on the public opinion of the war. A study showed that “In 1950, only nine percent of homes owned a television. By 1966, this rose to ninety-three percent. (McLaughlin). As television popularity rose, Americans began to depend of television as an accurate source of how they understood the war. In addition, no censorship was established to limit the amount of information being put out to the American public. In the website article, Vietnam: A Censored War, John a. Cloud states “the fact that there was no military censorship, there was still censorship among the government” (Cloud). Due to lack of censorship, journalists could follow the military into combat and report their observations without formal censorship.
Therefore, journalists that experienced the violent combat were able to present the public with more graphic images that the nation has ever seen. One of the most influential journalists was Walter Cronkite, “Cronkite turned against the war and called for peace negotiations. ” (NPR). As an anchor for “CBS Evening News”, Cronkite made his statement against the war. This influenced all other journalists to follow his lead. As a result, journalists reported the actions of the soldiers negatively. Gradually, Support for the war began to decrease by the fall of 1967.
One of the most turning events of the Vietnam War was the Tet Offensive in 1968. During the Tet Offensive, the media presented images of soldiers sweeping through over one-hundred southern Vietnamese cities. After the televised coverage of the Battle of Tet, majority Americans withdrew their support for the war. In the book Eyewitness Vietnam War, Admiral Grant Sharp argued “the reality of the 1968 Tet Offensive was that Hanoi had taken a big gamble and lost on the battlefield, but they won a solid physiological victory in the United States. ” (Murray 18).
This proves that, the media was creating false claims to provoke the people into pushing the government to stop the war. The media also portrayed the attack as a defeat for the United States, “the media, not the military confirmed the growing perception that the U. S was unable to with the war. ” (McLaughlin). With this advantage, the north Viet Cong was using the media to win the sympathy of the American public, so that they would turn against their government. The anti-war movement by 1965 influenced many Americans to oppose their government’s involvement in the war.
Thus, “… after the Tet offensive, the number of protesters skyrocketed” (Langer 235). One example is the Kent State Massacre, which led to the death of four students. There was a significant national response to the shooting, such as the closing of schools thought the United States due to student strikes. However, the most damaging event for a U. S soldier’s reputation was the massacre of My Lai, “images of dead children, women, and families flooded newspapers and television. ” (Murray 23). When the incident became public, it promoted the widespread outrage thought the world.
The American solider was now portrayed as “monstrous killers with no qualms about killing Vietnamese civilians. ” (Cloud). Critics of the war created accusations towards the soldiers such as: drug use, rape, and barbaric acts. This led the people to question the purpose of America’s involvement of the war. The media was also used to expose government information regarding the Vietnam War. There was a conspiracy that, an alleged attack on the U. S spy ship (USS Maddox) was purposely created to become the pretext for war in Vietnam. Also known as the “Gulf of Tonkin”, the event granted congress permission to invade Vietnam.
American journalist, Nigel Sheehan exposed the documents that told the truth about the start of the war. As a reporter for The New York Times, “in 1971, Sheehan obtained the classified Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg. ” (Shah). Sheehan collaborated with Ellsberg (a former pentagon staff) to publish the series of articles that contained the history of the U. S involvement in the war. The official secret history of the war would reveal that “administration officials had drafted the gulf of Tonkin resolution themselves, two months before the attack of Maddox. ”(Shah).
This caused the people to become outraged, censuring the government for the start of the war instead of the Viet Cong. An article from Media Beat in 1994, explains that the “heavy reliance on U. S government officials as sources of information and reluctance to question official statements on national security issues, led to a lot of inaccurate media reporting” (Langer 256). Many stories about atrocities of the war were witnessed, but were initially never reported. Even if atrocities were reported, they were perceived as a tragedy because the government did not want to take the blame.
For example, when the My Lai Massacre was reported on the “Newsweek” the banner headline was “An American Tragedy” (Murray). This caused sympathy for the invader and deflected from the truth about the atrocities. Above all, the atrocities were in fact, a Vietnamese tragedy. With the influence of media, the Americans failed to have public support for the war to carry on. Moreover, tensions between the news media and the Nixon administration only increased as the war dragged on. Finally, Nixon was pressured to find a resolution to end the war.
As a result, on November 3, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon made a televised speech laying out his policy toward Vietnam, “promising to continue to support the South Vietnamese government and held out a plan for the withdrawal of American combat troops. ” (Wyatt). With this he created Vietnamization to slowly withdraw troops out of Vietnam, along with plans to end the war. In brief, the media was a major factor that motivated the American public to pressure the government to stop involvement of the war. As a result, the media is one of the factors that resulted in America’s cost of the war.
Works cited Cloud, John A. “Vietnam: A Censored War. ” Thecrimson. com. The Harvard Crimson, 9 Mar. 1991. Web. <http://www. thecrimson. com/article/1991/3/9/vietnam-a-censored-war-pby bou-cant/> Considered, All Things. “Cronkite on Vietnam War : NPR. ” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. <http://www. npr. org/templates/story/story. php? storyId=1147965>. Langer, Howard. The Vietnam War: An Encyclopedia of Quotations / Howard J. Langer. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005.
Print. McLaughlin, Erin. “The Media and the Vietnam War. ” The Warbird’s Forum: AVG Flying Tigers, Brewster Buffaloes, Flying Wings, Japan at War, Vietnam, and Other Military History Stuff. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. ;http://www. warbirdforum. com/media. htm;. Murray, Stuart. Eyewitness Vietnam War. NY: DK Pub. , 2005. Print. Shah, Anup. “Media, Propaganda and Vietnam — Global Issues. ” Global Issues : Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All — Global Issues. 24 Oct. 2003. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. ;http://www. globalissues. rg/article/402/media-propaganda-and-vietnam;. Cloud, John A. “Vietnam: A Censored War. ” Thecrimson. com. The Harvard Crimson, 9 Mar. 1991. Web. ;http://www. thecrimson. com/article/1991/3/9/vietnam-a-censored-war-pbybou-cant/; Considered, All Things. “Cronkite on Vietnam War : NPR. ” NPR : National Public Radio : News ; Analysis, World, US, Music ; Arts : NPR. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. ;http://www. npr. org/templates/story/story. php? storyId=1147965;. Langer, Howard. The Vietnam War: An Encyclopedia of Quotations / Howard J. Langer.
Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005. Print. McLaughlin, Erin. “The Media and the Vietnam War. ” The Warbird’s Forum: AVG Flying Tigers, Brewster Buffaloes, Flying Wings, Japan at War, Vietnam, and Other Military History Stuff. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. <http://www. warbirdforum. com/media. htm>. Murray, Stuart. Eyewitness Vietnam War. NY: DK Pub. , 2005. Print. Shah, Anup. “Media, Propaganda and Vietnam — Global Issues. ” Global Issues : Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All — Global Issues. 24 Oct. 2003. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.