On Vietnam War Protests

The veterans of the Vietnam Conflict (that name itself is the subject of controversy) are now old men, but the terrible toll that war took on their generation still affects them today. Vietnam was the first war in modern times in which the average age of the soldiers fighting in the war was teenage–only 19 years old. Most of us are aware of the protests against the war that rocked the nation during the 60s and 70s.

As troop deployment to Vietnam increased over the 1960s, people began to question the motives of the government as to what the purpose of the conflict actually was. As we know, the government first sent military advisors to assist the South Vietnam government in the defense of their nation against what was seen as communist aggression by North Vietnam. That advisory role soon turned to outright deployment of active duty troops to the southeast Asian nation.

Wall-to-wall television coverage of the war brought the fighting into the living rooms of middle class society all across the nation; they could see for themselves the violence and the horrible depiction of the war, they could see for themselves how the fighting affected not only their own sons (and daughters, too) but also the lives of the people of both North and South Vietnam. Soon, soldiers began returning home in body bags and coffins, and families started to wonder if the fighting was worth it in the end.

Protests began to appear, first in some major cities (especially as the national military draft began taking young men out of their lives and into the armed forces), and they spread to even smaller towns and rural areas. Oh, certainly, there were voices that called for a continuation of the fight against communism, but, soon, these voices were drowned out by the protestors. And those who marched against the war came from all backgrounds, too. Older people, children, even mothers with sons in the war took to the streets to voice their opposition to the government policy of war. There were even veterans of the war itself who joined those protesting against the war.

It was a time of protests. Women, minorities, and other oppressed groups were also advocating for change in public policies. The war, however, the war provoked the most outrage and the most venom against the government. Those marches proved to be the biggest protest in the nation’s history. And they led directly to the end of the nation’s involvement in the conflict.

Yet, despite these protests, from 1962 to 1972 Australia sent over 60,000 troops to Vietnam. Almost 600 Aussies never returned alive.


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