Effects of Vietnam War on society
The Vietnam War had a lasting effect on Vietnam Vets, Who although fought their hardest for their country returned to a country that saw them as murderers and less than heroes. There were no parades for them and they were met with contempt rather than gratitude. Many of the Vietnam veterans suffered from both psychological and medical problems from open battles, sniper attacks, chemical warfare and just the general stress of war life. Although the Vietnam war had many negative impacts, this war was the turning point in Australian society, It started the multicultural community that Australia boasts of today.
Although at first resistance to the war was limited, although the Australian Labour party(in opposition for most of this period) steadily opposed conscription. Anti war sentiment escalated rapidly in the late 1960s as more and more Australian soldiers were killed in battle. The introduction of conscription by the Australian government during the war also enraged some, and groups of people resisted the call to military service(which was punishable by a jail sentence) by burning the letters notifying them of their call to national service. Growing uneasiness towards the rapid atrocities committed against the Vietnamese civilians lead to the rapid increase of opposition between 1967 and 1970. In Australia support for the war waned as it went on. Many of those who opposed involvement in Vietnam joined the political left, contributing to the election of a Labour Government in 1972. The Vietnam era was a time of social upheaval in Australia’s case, the war galvanised the protest movement, giving disparate groups an organising principle. Those who sought social change across a range of issues unrelated to the war found common cause in opposing Vietnam and compulsory national service.
For obvious reasons the war in Vietnam had a major impact on both south and north Vietnam. The combination of American might and the tactic employed by the Vietcong(VC) all but ensured the civilians would be caught in the crossfire. America alone dropped 8 million tonnes of bombs between 1965 to 1973. The Americans used numerous types of bombs such as high explosive bombs used to carpet bomb large areas to using Napalm on clinical air strikes on a village.
Even to this day there are still many high explosive bombs scattered throughout Vietnam that have failed to go off and lay dormant until it is accidently triggered. America also dropped anti personnel mines by the thousands. One plan could drop up to and over 1000 mines in one flight. These mines were generally made out of metal or plastic and had the potential to inflict serious physical damage on whoever trod on it. In an effort to take away the VC’s ground coverage, where it was difficult to pinpoint exact locations using aerial surveillance, Defoliants were used to clear vegetation such as Agent Orange and Agent Blue. In 1969 alone 1,034,300 hectares of forest was destroyed by using Agent orange. Agent blue was sprayed on crops in an effort to deprive the North of its food supply. Between 1962 and 1969, 688,00 acres of agricultural land was sprayed(primarily paddy fields).
Eventually the stress of battle began getting to the soldiers. Some took their anger out on villages that may or may not have been helping the VC. The most famous of these took place in ‘Pinksville’ where the villagers at My Lai were massacred. This massacre was filmed and the US and Australian military had little opportunity to cover it up. It is generally accepted that there were other massacres of a smaller scale that were not recorded and would have been viewed as ‘what goes on in warfare’.
However villages in south Vietnam were very much vulnerable to VC atrocities. Any village that did not provide the VC with food or shelter could expect punishment. These punishments were generally the execution of the villagers.