How useful are the sources A to G for explaining why there was an anti-war movement in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s?
The movement against the Vietnam War in 1960s America was one of the largest of its kind, in both national and international comparisons; the movement was heavily linked with other reform groups which were pressurising the American government during that time period. Due to this, opposition to the war came from a diverse number of groups who each had their own reasoning for their anti-militaristic stance - ranging from veteran’s opposing based upon their experience or Civil Rights demonstrators who felt they were trying to uphold the rights of the Vietnamese people, whilst not necessarily having the same themselves, domestically. What facilitated the exacerbation of the anti-war movement was the greater access to uncensored information in the extensive television coverage from Vietnam; not forgetting that the right to freedom of speech was also capitalised on by those in education who sought to bolster the importance of student activism, and their pressure group status. Others viewed the conflict as a war against Vietnamese independence, or as intervention in a foreign civil war; others opposed it because they felt it lacked direction and appeared to be potentially unsuccessful – devastation for a nation that was, and possibly still is, the largest international influence.
Source A, an extract from the book ‘Four hours in My Lai’ by Michael Bilton (published in 1992), is a piece that mainly focuses towards the military aspect of the war and the effects of the involvement had on real life soldiers – this would be the case, given that this secondary source is based upon an influential telling of events by some individuals who were involved in the My Lai incident on 16 March, 1968. The U.S. soldiers who had been interviewed for this process – a T.V. documentary had been produced prior to the publication of the book, in the late 1980s – may have been asked the questions quite a few years after their involvement in the war, but this bears not much significance on what they say – the vivid memories they would hold of that event would not leave for a long time and so, by and large, would be true to an extent beyond doubt. The source itself mentions that the “increasing” number of recruits scored “so low” on intelligence rankings that they wouldn’t normally have been given a place in the regular U.S. Army during a peace-time period. It then goes on to mention how the tours of duty affected each soldier, with some dying in the first month of duty as this was “highly likely”. Due to the soldier rotation and their differing lengths of duty (some of the soldiers were wounded, so would not serve the same length as those they had arrived with, for instance) the inexperienced recruits were often polarised by the conditions they faced – they were quite different to those they had probably been trained in, in the United States. The result of this continuing spiral of poor strategy and younger and younger recruits et al. meant many of the objectives which had been planned, ultimately failed in response to the effort which was being put in; low morale in existing, serving soldiers also played its part. A consequence of lack of planning and poor skill within soldiers trained, spontaneously affected those back home who saw lack of progress, especially at a time when the taxes were being increased by Johnson. With regards to the question, how useful is it for demonstrating why there was an anti-war movement – it isn’t that useful, since it doesn’t mention any of the direct causes itself, instead implying various reasons for one explanation (i.e. giving reasons for the lack of progress which frustrated those in America). However, it does also give an impression that with the large numbers of deaths came great anger within communities who had lost a relative, a friend or somebody else. This could be integrated into the logic behind the personal rationale that fell behind another reason why people demonstrated against the Vietnam War – they wanted to see an end to the ‘bloodshed’ and ‘unnecessary killing’ that engulfed the media reports throughout the U.S. Its advantages are also its downfall, ultimately – the limitations of the source are great, as it doesn’t consider the financial burdening on tax payers (or any other economic aspect), the Civil Rights movements, the failure of the Great Society programme, the suffering of the Vietnamese people shown in the media, or the media influence itself. So, therefore, it is useful for explaining the problems faced by the troops on the ground in Vietnam, who will have encountered people who weren’t responsible, nor mature enough, to make their own decisions and the horrific effects of the war on the Veterans – something they took back from their tour of duty, exacerbating the anti-war movement as people flocked to prevent their relatives from being seriously maimed or killed.