Vietnam, and Social activism among the youths of America have
left the 60’s with a very profound effect on our society. Without question, the
decade of the 1960’s was one of the most controversial in American History.
Throughout this period of social unrest, anti-war attitudes were gaining
prevalence in a peace-loving subculture, and individuals began to question
certain aspects of governmental policy and authority. This was the decade of
peace and war, optimism and despair, cultural turbulence and frustration.
Arguably, no conflict during this era more profoundly affected
American societal structure than did the Vietnam war. While an average tour in
Vietnam lasted only about one year, the physical, economical, and psychological
effects of the war proved so phenomenal that they would remain forever imprinted
in the minds of both the American soldiers who fought, and all Americans of
military age who feared they would go next. During the course of the Vietnam war
more then twenty-six million men came of age to be eligible for the draft, 2.15
million of which were sent to Vietnam. The army assembled for the Vietnam war
was significantly younger than any other American army, with the average age of
soldiers ranging from seventeen to twenty one.
There were many feelings of
animosity towards the war and
draft, especially from the soldiers themselves.
Corpsman Douglas Anderson represented popular feelings of animosity towards the
war, especially regarding the youngest of the soldiers fighting when he was
quoted saying: “if your parents signed certain kinds of papers, you could get
over there and die at seventeen.”
As evidenced by his words, it was not
simply a matter of going over there at the age of seventeen to fight for one’s
country. Rather, it was a matter of leaving behind the safety and security of
the home to which you were accustomed, with little expectation of returning. At
a time when these ‘kids’ should have been enjoying, they were burdened with the
trepidation of being drafted.
Those who were not chosen by the draft to
fight overseas were left back to fight on the home front in an effort to bring
about the American soldiers return home. College students played a large role in
the anti-war movement, as the soldiers fighting in the war were their peers to
whom they could closely relate their predicaments. During this time many colleges
shut down completely while students and faculty voiced their opinions. One of
the most influential battles encountered by the anti war movement occurred on
May 4, 1970 at Kent State university. Under orders to control the passionate
protesters at the school, the National guard opened fire on the protesters
wounding 15 and killing 4. Though these students were not directly involved with
the war, they clearly felt the effects of standing up for their rights.
many unfortunate young men who were chosen to fight, the mental and emotional
hardships began the in the life-altering moment that they received their draft
They war effected all Americans greatly, and influenced our country
getting involved in other foreign wars. But the effects were not felt more then
by the soldiers fighting. Many questioned whether they were the lucky ones
because they survived, or if there friends who had not survived were the lucky
ones because they did not have to deal with the traumatic effects of the war.