The Vietnam War as Represented in the Media

The Vietnam War lasted from 1965 until 1975, with the United States withdrawal in 1973. The war began as a civil war between the communist North Vietnam and the capitalist South Vietnam, but escalated when the United States joined and began sending troops. The North Vietnamese fought with guerrilla warfare tactics, while the South Vietnamese fought a much more westernized war under US influence. These two fighting strategies were incompatible and left the North Vietnamese with the upper hand. The United States had two main reasons for joining what may seem like not their war to fight. The first was their containment foreign policy, which was a policy stating that the US did not want communism to expand to other countries after the Soviet Union and China became main communist world powers. The seconds was the Domino Theory, which was President Eisenhower’s theory that if Vietnam were to fall to communism, other countries in South East Asia would fall as well, thus tipping the global scales in favor of communism. The United States began drafting for the war in 1969 and continued drafting until 1973.

The draft was very unpopular in the US because the war was very unpopular. Anti-War protests became commonplace, and many American men dodged the draft by getting married, fleeing to Canada, and going to college. Public opinion plummeted after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, a classified government document detailing US involvement in Vietnam, specifically that the government knew the war was un-winnable and continued to send American boys to die regardless. The United States pulled troops and funding for South Vietnam in 1973, setting the stage for an easy defeat of South Vietnam and a reunification as a communist country by 1975.

Veterans of the Vietnam War were not welcomed home with open arms. Mr. Pacini, a Vietnam War veteran, recounted his return to the United States, remembering being denied service by cab drivers, and being spit on in the airport by an individual who was opposed to the war. In the decade following soldier’s return, the Vietnam War was ignored. Soldiers were not able to work through their post war trauma, and this was a very difficult time for US vets, not sure whether what they did was wrong or if this was a noble war. Eventually the United States decided that regardless of the morality of the war, veterans should not be blamed for government mistakes. In 1982 construction began on the Vietnam Veterans

Memorial. The memorial represented a shift from honoring a war to honoring those who fought and died instead. While steps were made to help Vietnam Veterans feel more welcomed and appreciated, it is not clear whether they were successful. The war did not have the moral implications of World War II, defeating Hitler, or the National outcry against terrorism after 9/11, however the war remains relevant even today. Vietnam is often brought up as an example of foreign policy and the US government continues to refer to lessons learned during that time period. The emotions surrounding the war, such as embarrassment at the first US defeat, or anger at the waste of US lives, have subsided, and the war is rarely a topic of discussion in formal settings, which leads some individuals to question whether the war is being forgotten. The graph to the right illustrates the breakdown of news articles published in 2018 that mention World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Vietnam War. As is clear, the Vietnam War is the least mentioned war in recent US history.

Another recent push for Vietnam Veteran recognition was made by President Donald Trump on March 28, 2017. He declared that March 29 would be National Vietnam War Veterans Day. To the left is a graph showing the number of articles about the Vietnam War published each day in March 2018. The red dot indicates March 29, the day set aside to celebrate Vietnam Veterans. As is clear from the data visualization, there was no increase in articles written on that day, showing that the media did not take this day to honor veterans by an increase in articles.




It is important that the people of the United States don’t ignore the sacrifices made by Vietnam veterans, notwithstanding their opinions or lack thereof of the war. If you know a Vietnam Veteran, please thank them for their service the next time you see them!


Works Cited:

“DOD to Commemorate 1st Anniversary of National Vietnam War Veterans Da.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 27 Mar. 2018,

Herring, George C. America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-75. McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Ward, Geoffrey C., Ken Burns, and Lynn Novick. The Vietnam War: An Intimate History. First edition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.


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  1. April 27, 2018 by Nhat Minh Nguyen

    I think that while Vietnam veterans deserve respect for their sacrifices during the war, I think their actions are romanticized in war novels. There are tens of thousands of books written that cover the Vietnam war, yet, not many of these books gives a voice to those most affected – Vietnamese people. Rather, they play a minor role, a supporting cast to the American who came and attempted to save them. While Vietnam veterans gave up a lot, I don’t think to dedicate a day to them is necessary. I think it should be a day that reflects on the war as a whole. A day that brings to light how the atrocities that happen during the war still affect Vietnamese people today. To pay respects to the people of Vietnam who still suffer from the effects of agent orange.

    • April 27, 2018 by Alison Selman

      I agree with you that the Vietnamese suffered and continue to suffer terribly. I am not taking a stance on the war or saying that it is okay. I am merely communicating that Vietnam Veterans were treated very differently from veterans in other wars. This year I have met with several veterans, all of whom were treated terribly upon return to the United States. Many soldiers in Vietnam were drafted and thus didn’t have an option, and were blamed for the war when the US government should have been the ones to blame. The government is moving away from celebrating the war as a whole because people did not and do not feel that the US should have joined the war in the first place.

    • April 30, 2018 by BBracker

      And if I remember anything from U.S. history (I might not; correct me if I’m wrong), wasn’t Ho Chi Minh’s planned style of communism quite different from that of China’s or the U.S.S.R.’s? I seem to remember discussing the question of whether or not Vietnam really needed “saving”.

      I suppose in any case, that’s not the point of this article. As many are saying here, it is true that it’s not the U.S. soldiers who planned to go to war.

  2. April 28, 2018 by Nakul.Bajaj

    I found this paper to be quite detailed and explicative considering I watched the movie “The Post” just a few days ago. The Pentagon Papers indeed decreased public opinion of the wars and it is still debated to this day if the release of those papers contributed to a decline in national security.

  3. April 29, 2018 by Esther Bedoyan

    Alison, I really liked your pie chart visual, because I think it helps put in perspective which conflicts involving the US took media presence the most, which probably indicates, like you said, public opinion at the time. I also really like how you gave background history on the topic. Nice job!

  4. April 29, 2018 by Naoya Okamoto

    It’s interest that a lot of the public reaction associated the veterans with the government which was pushing the war effort. Even though a lot of the veterans were against the war, I think many veterans were clumped up into a stereotype believing that all veterans were in support.

  5. April 29, 2018 by Jimmy Chen

    Very important information. The service members of the Armed Force should be recognized for their sacrifice, however the war may be regarded. They are not the ones to make policies, but they are the ones to give up the most.

  6. April 29, 2018 by Jason Chen

    I really liked your pie chart. The background info was also really helpful!

  7. April 29, 2018 by Justin.Chen

    I greatly enjoy movies and have seen many that have romanticized the events of this horrible conflict. Luckily, recent ones like “The Post” have proven effective in communicating the real aspects of this conflict. Great article and visuals!

  8. April 29, 2018 by Melle.Koper

    I just learned about the Vietnam war in US history, this article really helps my understanding of what happened.

  9. April 30, 2018 by Huy Tran

    As a vietnamese, this article is really interesting. It provides a lot of background info. I really like your line chart.

  10. April 30, 2018 by Ananth J Josyula

    Thanks for this project, Alison. Additionally, I completely agree with Jimmy’s statement above. Our soldiers must be given credit for the sacrifices they make regardless of the outcome.

  11. April 30, 2018 by Cole.Biafore

    I remember learning about the Vietnam War in US history and how terrible it really was. It is definitely a war that many people seem to stay away from for whatever reason, but you are right. Many people seem to forget that despite that some of the soldiers who were drafted to fight, many of them may not have been in favor of the war in the first place. The Vietnam War was a very disturbing war, especially for those who had to live through it whether they were soldiers or citizens, and they should be recognized for their efforts.

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