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The Vietnam War - why the USA became involved and how the media covered the war.

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Vietnam Coursework Question 1 The Vietnam War lasted from August 1964 to April 1975. In 1964 the American President, Lyndon Baines Johnson used the Gulf of Tonkin incident to get Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This allowed him to wage all out war against North Vietnam without ever getting an official declaration of war. This signalled the beginning of American involvement in the war until 1973, when they ended the draft and began to pull out their troops. But why did they get involved in the first place? In 1947, President Harry Truman made a speech to Congress outlining his plans for the Cold War. He said "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." He was outlining the American foreign policy of containment. In Source A, President Johnson references the Truman Doctrine when he says "Since 1954 every American President has offered support to the people of South Vietnam" When he made the decision to expand American influence with Operation Rolling Thunder, his justification was the policy of containment. ...read more.


Another well respected anchorman Walter Cronkite said "What the hell is going on? I thought we were winning this war" when he saw the footage of the attack on the Saigon embassy. President Johnson's reaction to this was "If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Mr Average Citizen." Cronkite's opinion would influence millions of Americans and the war had managed to alienate him. Photo's like Source E showed the kind of images that shocked people. It shows two children who were hit with napalm running away while American soldiers stand and take photos. This picture could have been enticed a bad reaction out of the people who saw it. It could have also been edited extensively. In the original photo, the background shows smoke rising from the children's village that had just been destroyed. This possible editing of the source affects its usefulness but this doesn't affect the fact that the soldiers who were supposed to help them were taking pictures of their suffering. Source F is from an American journalist in 1970. Despite the war being largely documented by the media, the fact that it is by limits the usefulness of the source because he could have been very selective about what he was writing about and leave out anything good that the American's were doing or anything bad that the North Vietnamese did. ...read more.


What the hell do you think we accomplished by doing this?" Many of the soldiers did not see the massacre as doing anything wrong. This was the effect of the war on the young men who fought. Nearly 500 civilians were slaughtered at My Lai and no one saw anything wrong with it. The American public however were appalled that their soldiers could commit such acts of atrocity and the media didn't help. Pictures were broadcast showing the scenes of horror at My Lai and this turned even more people against the war than ever before. The Vietnam War was the world's first ever televised war. It was also a devastating loss for the United States. Each of the sources provides evidence to support media being an important reason behind the defeat of America. However, not all of the sources are completely unbiased. For example, Source D is a North Vietnamese poster and is therefore very biased in support of the Viet Cong and against the American troops. Despite this, sources such as Source E, Source F and Source J, provide evidence which is mainly unbiased although it is limited to some extent. Because of this, I believe that there is sufficient evidence in the sources to claim that media was an important reason behind why America lost the war. ?? ?? ?? ?? Ben Storrie 11N ...read more.

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