The Vietnam War is considered to have begun in the early 1960s, but like all wars, there was a series of events leading up to the Vietnam War that preceded American troops entering a prolonged armed conflict with the Vietnamese (Bailey & Farber 34). American involvement in the war occurred as an extension of the U.S.’s support of France in its attempt to reestablish control of its former colony after Vietnam declared independence in 1945 (Bailey & Farber 34). The U.S. had provided France with monetary and military support, as it wanted to maintain friendly relations with France and call upon it as an ally in the fight against Communism in the Soviet Union (Bailey & Farber 34).
The U.S. also ideologically opposed the growing Communist movement in Vietnam and it was this factor that motivated President Johnson to initiate a military offensive against Vietnam in 1964, effectively declaring the U.S.’s own war against Vietnam (Bailey & Farber 38). The Vietnam War continued to escalate through the 1960s and is one of the most important events in the history of that decade. The events that had the most impact on the development of the Vietnam War are the Antiwar Movement, the Tet Offensive, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam that resulted in the fall of Saigon. When the war finally reached its end in 1973, however, it did not signal that conflicts had been resolved abroad or at home, and the country was demoralized and divided.
The Antiwar Movement was one of the earliest, most persistent, and most significant influences on the trajectory of the Vietnam War and is one of the most recognizable revolutionary movements in the United States. Initially, most Americans approved of the war, but their support waned quickly and dramatically. By 1967, as the war was reaching one of its most intense and controversial phases, “an increasing number of Americans had begun to question and even actively oppose the war” (Bailey & Farber 40). The Antiwar Movement was unique in that it united a diverse group of people for the same cause, among them, leftist college students, pacifists and peace activists, and people who feared the draft and opposed the institutionalized racism of the war and its policies. Antiwar advocates organized and actively participated in events intended to convey their opposition to the war directly to the government officials who supported and perpetuated the war.
Antiwar efforts included protesting in front of the White House and in the streets of the nation’s capitol. President Johnson and later, President Nixon, ordered the FBI and CIA to stop the protests and to investigate antiwar adherents, but the swell of opposition could not be contained (Mann 671). The largest antiwar movement in U.S. history, the individuals who comprised this important part of history were so effective because of their sheer numbers, but also because of the diversity of their techniques (Small & Hoover xv). The purpose of the protest and civil resistance, mostly through non-violent protest and civil disobedience which are activities to directly oppose the war, educate other Americans about the history of the U.S. in Southeast Asia, to oppose the draft, and to advocate for the Vietnamese people’s self-determination with respect to their own political and social future by asking the President to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal from the region (Bailey & Farber 41).