The Vietnam War – G.C.S.E. History Coursework

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---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 ...

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