The Vietnam War G.C.S.E. History Coursework
---Peter Doherty---S.2.D---GCSE History Coursework---The War In Vietnam---
The Vietnam War – G.C.S.E. History Coursework
Question 1:What do sources 1 and 2 tell us about attitudes toward the Vietnam War?
Source one tells us that the American Anti-war movement was small in 1964 and was the view of the minority of people. The writer splits the population up into three groups, neutral, pro-war and anti-war. Pro-war was the biggest group as American patriotism appealed to the public at this early stage.
Source two tells us that support for the war declined between 1964 and 1971. It tells us that even at its lowest level support are still at a relatively large 25 per cent of the population that were polled. As support declines, opposition naturally increases.
Question 2: How reliable are sources 1-4 as evidence of American attitudes to the Vietnam War?
Source one tells us that the AWM was a minor factor in American opinion at the time. This evidence is limited as it is a neutral source and excludes the plus or negative views. We must ask whether this was an American or British man or what nationality he otherwise was. If he was American then we should more than likely expect a biased view. However, this source is mainly factual so I would expect the author to be British or of another such neutral nationality. Without all these facts my opinion would be different and without all these facts I may not be able to make an accurate judgement of a source.
Source two tells us a little about how some Americans thought about the war. This source is factual and therefore neutral. It is a statistical source also. Before we assess the reliability of this source we need to know why the poll was taken, who took it, what question was asked and could the person being asked have given the answer that the interviewer expected etc.? What we do know about opinion polls is this: they are commonly neutral sources and are factual pieces.
Source three is probably part of a speech given to the American public. It was more than likely a morale talk to the public (or the soldiers in ‘Nam) to boost patriotism .The good thing about this source is that isolates one individual opinion. The other good thing would be that the speaker represents the government so that may indicate that that is the way the whole of or a least the majority of America thinks. But the fact that the speaker represents the government is also a limitation of this source because if it represents the government that doesn’t mean that it represents the rest of the country. We also have to consider the context of the text. If it were being said privately then it would mean less than it would if it were said in front of an audience or indeed on television.
Source four tells us the viewpoint of the “doves” and the “hawks”. The doves being the anti-war members of the Democratic Party and the hawks being the pro-war members. The plus points of this source would be that it shows two sides of the argument for and against continuation of the war. And that it shows us that the doves are the minority group. The limitations however are that what is said may be part of a speech and speeches usually bring about exaggeration and exclusion of the argument of the opposition. It is for this reason that we need to know what context the source is in. Another limitation is that we need to know how many supported each group and how the supporters protested if they did so. As well as that we need to know the specific views are i.e. the doves believe that the US government spends too much money on a foreign war instead of health care at home.
Question 4: In what ways should sources 8-11 prove useful to an historian studying the AWM in the USA?
Sources 8,9,10 and 11 are generally useful but in their entirety they only sum to four sources, which in turn sum up to 4 individual insights. Four insights is not enough to fully conclude with on this topic.
Source 8 is useful because it tells us that 4 students were shot dead on Kent State University campus in 1970. It is a purely factual source. No bias can be detected. The factuality of the source is a merit but the still image is a negative aspect because we are not sure what the photograph is of. We could be seeing National Guardsmen attacking peaceful protesting students or we could be seeing violent rebelling students attacking National Guardsmen. A caption would be ideal for this source. Depending on the caption, two different, practically opposite opinions could be formed. What caption, if any was placed with this snapshot? Was the photographer biased? Probably not. Has the image been cut down to focus on a certain point? Probably not. We need to know how many students were involved, we need to know who started it and we need to know how common or rare this type of incident was in America at the time.
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Source 9 is useful because it tells us what President Nixon thought of students “blowing up campuses”. This source is a speech so immediately I can say it is biased and unreliable but not totally. The ferocity of this source suggests to me that Nixon may fear the power of the AWM. This aggression shows the tension between the previously mentioned “doves” and “hawks”. It also shows the extent and depth of the propaganda war. Also, because this is a speech Mr. Nixon may be letting is emotions run wild and therefore he may not be thinking rationally. This is an unreliable source because it tells us of the view of the American President but not of the rest of America.
Source 10 is useful because it tells us that the rational opinion of the father of a shooting victim at Kent State University. There is little emotion expressed in what he says but it comes across quite sensible, although the source is biased. What the father does is simply defend his daughters, and everyone’s right to free speech. There is nothing provocative in this source simply a statement and then a few rhetoric questions. The bad points are that the man may be suffering grief because of his daughter’s death and saying what he not normally say. Also the questions would be better coming from an AWM member because they would then have more impact.
Source 11 is useful to us because it tells us that Nixon (Having left office 4 years before) feels remorse for the girls who got shot at Kent State, whom he had called a bum. It tells us that he is shameful and sorrowful and this shows decent human feeling. But this is only Nixon’s perspective and he may be looking for favour after his dishonourable discharge from presidency. He may be looking for redemption from the public or looking to save is reputation as a decent human being.
Question 5a: How might reporters have used sources 12 and 13 to represent America’s role in the Vietnam War?
Photo one (Source 12) shows us a girl (called Kim Phuc) running down a road, with all her clothes and a sizeable portion of the skin on her back burned from her body by an American napalm attack in the late 1960’s.Source 13 shows an innocent civilian about to be shot in My Lai, Vietnam, in 1968, with an audience just as terrified as she is around her. Also, a young child is watching.
Source 12 would have been very good evidence for any member or supporter of the AWM. Some newspapers could have used this to portray America’s role; killing innocent civilians in the vain attempt of flushing out Viet Cong guerrilla forces –sheer brutality. Totally inhumane and this was the truth. Using evidence in such a way would surely have gained massive amounts of supporters for the AWM.
Source 13 would have been excellent evidence against supporters of the war. It shows inhumanity and brutality of American soldiers hurting and killing the innocent for no reason at all. Newspapers could have used this to demonstrate the sheer evil of American soldiers (probably high on drugs) killing innocent Vietnamese people in search for Viet Cong supporters.
Question 5b: Explain the image of the Anti-War Movement as represented in the two extracts from songs in source 19. Given your knowledge of the sources in this unit, how accurate do you think this image is?
The first song explains to people that AWM members smoke marijuana and took LSD and burned their draft cards on main street. “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee, We don’t take trips on LSD. We don’t burn our draft cards down on main street.”
The second song says that the singer (Merle Haggard) doesn’t approve of people disrespecting his country. “When they’re running down my country, they’re walking on the fighting side of me”. This song also calls the AWM a bunch of cowards and scroungers. Sources 7 and 9 back this up. Source 7 tells us that students at university only rebelled because it was a part of their fashion and source 9 tells us that the kids at university were bums and lucky and that the real heroes were at Vietnam on the front. Source 15 also supports Haggard. It states that the sheer image that the AWM projected of itself put people off supporting it and there for encouraged support for the war.
Sources 5,10 and 15 challenge Haggard’s view however. Source 5 says that the AWM are not all hippies who smoke marijuana etc. because even the patriots of America have returned from war without their legs and protesting about the was. Source 10 has a father of a shooting victim (Kent State Campus) saying his daughter was not a hippie bum and that not all AWM members are hippies. Source 20 has an average, married with children American office-working woman - no hippie at all – protesting in the place of war.. The fact that she is shocked when people called her a communist communicates sincerity.
Haggard’s unjust, stereotypical opinion of the AWM can be traced back to his political bias and his blindness to the variety that can be found among AWM members. The sources that oppose his view are more compelling and reliable than those which support his view.
Question 6: “The Anti-War Movement had little impact on the attitude of American people to the war in Vietnam”. Using the sources and your own knowledge explain whether you agree or disagree with this statement.
The Anti-War Movement did have an impact on the end of the war. This has been discovered from the studying I have done of these sources. It is only with careful deliberation and through analysis that we can define just how big or small that effect was. Some of the sources claim that the AWM had nothing to do with the end of the war and others state it did and some others say that the outcome we all know of came about because of different events and occurrences around the time. We must however keep in mind that the evidence is constantly changing and new evidence could change opinions and therefore outcomes, if the answer depends on opinionated sources etc. These sources are limited in number and some are unreliable (because of their bias) but not totally useless. I intend to study the sources in this booklet until I have come to a viable conclusion and have given my ultimate verdict. I shall begin by categorizing the sources, as follows.
The sources that claim the AWM had a large impact on the end of the war are sources 1,2,5,6,8,14 and 20. 1 and 2 go hand in hand. 1 simply tell us that there were more people in support of the war in 1960 than was in opposition. And source 2 tells us that this trend was to continue until late 1967. We need to know why so many people changed their minds in those years and what questions did the surveyors ask and was the question asked around any major event that happened that may have influenced opinions.
Source 5 tells us that veterans have returned from war and joined the AWM. This is a very radical, deep-impacting action and it speaks volumes on behalf of what that ex-soldier thought of what was going on in Vietnam. It got people thinking “if this soldier returned from war and opposed the war what should the normal people of America think?” This source is fully factual and I have no queries on its reliability.
Source 8 tells us there were riots on university campuses. We need to know if the riots had a large or small impact and if the impact was god or bad. Also, did this trouble occur at all universities? Was it only this once, does it happen every day?
Source 14 tells us the AWM view. Although it is obviously biased, it is very useful. It tells us one side of the argument. It tells us that the AWM had a huge positive impact on the end of the war. However, it could be an extreme AWM member’s view and therefore not totally honest. This is extracted from words spoken during a debate. This may add to the bias. The heat and the pressure get to you when you are debating and forces you to say things that may not actually be true. Also, this is said in 1990. This is recalling from 20 years ago how accurate is this mans memory? Can we trust him to think back 20 years accurately and reliably?
Source 20 tells us that the AWM stopped the nuclear bombing of Vietnam. It claims that the AWM was the rational view behind the headstrong American government. It claims that the AWM had a massive impact on the final outcome of the war situation. It also claims that most AWM members were normal people and they were not the stereotype found in Merle Haggard’s song lyrics, smoking marijuana and taking trips on LSD. However this source is biased and was written in 1972, could events have changed the writers mind?
We must always keep in mind that this is a personal opinion and therefore is not incredibly useful.
The sources deny that the AWM effected public opinion on the war include 4,7,9,15 and 19. Source 4 tells us that America is spending too much money on the war and not enough at home on health. Kenneth O’Donnell describes the war a “foreign adventure”. This tells me that he didn’t think the war was worthwhile and the use of the work adventure indicates that he does not think this war is planned or in any way organized and therefore the American Government was improvising as it went along in Vietnam. The good points of this sources are that the source gives us the economical side of the argument and it tells us that America is spending $30 billion in Vietnam in a year. The problems are that this source doesn’t tell us the other side of the argument and it does not tell us how much is spent on health and education at home per year in comparison to that spent on war each year.
Source 9 tells us that the ‘bums’ can be found on university campuses and the brave ones on the battlefield of ‘Nam. It also says that the ‘bums’ are the lucky ones. Mr. Nixon could be referring to the AWM as bums, at home, in university, protesting against the war while the brave ones are out fighting and dying in Vietnam. He means to say or he implies that the college students are the AWM members – “storming about, get rid of war”. This spells out to me that Nixon thought all the college students on the USA were AWM bums. The good thing about this source is that it tells us of the pro-war side of the argument and what the President of America thought of college students at the time. Also it tells us the Nixon thought the brave ones were out risking their live for America. The drawback of this source is that it only gives us one opinion about college students and warring soldiers. This source might be biased and therefore unreliable. So we cannot conclude on whether or not these kids were really “bums blowing up campuses” or not. Or whether the kids were “just doing their duty” should stand tall and be proud or not.
Source15 claims that the image that the AWM portrayed of itself put people off joining it and promoted the war. The positive aspect of the sources includes the fat that it gives us the anti-AWM view. A bad thing is that it was written in 1995 and this might effect reliability of the source. This source demonstrates to me that Garfinkle had an anti-AWM view and that he supported the general trend of sources 7,9 and 19.
Source 19 tells us what Merle Haggard think of the AWM. In his first song he tells us that the AWM members are long-haired hippies who smoke marijuana, take trips on LSD or burn their draft cards on main street. These statements are probably very generalized. The second song tells us that the writer does not appreciate people who oppose the American warring way but likes the country’s produce and are not violent etc. Again this song is directed at the “hippies” that were present in the 1970’s. He thinks that they were running down America and leeching off its produce. The good aspects of this piece are that it tells us another anti-AWM view, this time from a famous folk singer. It depicts clearly how Haggard detests the attitudes and appearances of “hippies” and how they protest against the war but yet use the country’s produce. The negative aspects would be that we are only given one side of the argument and we need to have another point of view. We need to ask whether Haggard wrote this song for fame, money or to get his point across? Or was it a combination of the three? It is most probable that he wrote it primarily to convey a message and secondly for combined money and fame.
Now I will examine and analyse those sources which claim another different factor to have resulted in a switch of public opinion. These sources include 3, 7, 12, 13, 16 and 17.
Source 3 tells us that an American advisor thinks, in 1967, that America cannot lose the war in Vietnam, that the communists will give in eventually in this situation as happened in Korea. The good aspects include the fact that this writer states his opinion clearly and gives it to us directly. The bad part about the source would be that it is only one view and that it is a biased opinion. This makes it useful and yet unreliable. This is useful because it tells us one side of the argument and it is a very direct argument in its approach to the topic. The source’s other disadvantages are that this statement could have been said in the heat of the moment and be a show of arrogance and pretentiousness.
Source 7 tells me that the media was that main influence behind the change in public opinion on the war verdict. It tells me that the kids were only rebellious because it was the fashion at the time to rebel against authority because you were young. This source is an unbiased source but yet still not totally useful as it was written in 1995 and the memory of the writer could have been impaired or he could have been resentful towards the people who called the college kids “bums”. However the bad points consist of the fact that the source only explains one of the views on this subject. Someone with the opposite opinion could have accused the kids of being evil and deliberately harmful to the American name etc.
Source 12 shows Kim running down a road with her clothes and part of her skin on her back burnt from her body after the US Air Force just dropped napalm on Vietnam. No opinion can be immediately detected although the photographer could have cut out part of the image to focus on a particular part of the image or to exclude part of it out. Because of the possibility of the photographer being biased we must ask, was the photo doctored with in any way before it was published?
Source 13 shows an innocent Vietnamese woman about to be shot in front of a horrified audience which included a baby, no older than 2 years old. No bias is obvious from looking at this photograph but we must ask if the photographer was biased. Would he have cut out a part of the photo before publishing it? Would he have focussed on one particular element to reinforce his opinion or to enforce an belief?
Source 16 claims that television was to blame for the massive decrease in support for the war in the 1970’s. It explains that the coverage by the media put people completely off another war or even a continuation of this war because what was being broadcast was uncensored and live and these sights frightened people so that they joined the AWM. This source may be useful because it is unbiased. It is a completely factual source and this gives it a merit in terms of reliability. But in usefulness it lacks merit because it only gives us one side of the case and it is written in 1989 and the memory of the writer may not be operating to its full capacity or he/she has been deeply effected by what they saw on the television screen themselves.
In source 17 we are told that studies had shown that television had invoked a change of heart, so that people supported the war it was said, in 1967. According to “Newsweek” 64% supported the soldiers and 26% opposed the war. We need to know what question the surveyors asked because the question may have been worded in such a way that people gave the answer the interviewer anticipated. Also, an event may have happened around the time that influenced the candidate’s decision. We also need to know if the company who conducted the survey were a reputable company or were they not as accurate as they could have been.
In conclusion, the AWM did have a very large impact on the altering of public opinion on the subject of the Vietnam War. However, although some of the sources say that other influences were to be observed, the overall trend is that that AWM was the key factor that effected the triggering of the end of the war.