The Vietnam War is firmly embedded in the nation’s consciousness. Even a mention of the conflict conjures up a variety of thoughts, feelings, and mental images. Unfortunately, much of what people think about the war is either misguided, incomplete, or entirely untrue. As such a historically significant part of America’s history, it’s important for everyone to continue learning more about the Vietnam War. Let’s explore a few facts about this momentous moment in world history that you might never have known.
There’s a common misconception that the vast majority of Vietnam veterans were forced into conflict through the draft. The idea all soldiers were draftees was a common talking point for those who were hostile to the war effort. In reality, around two-thirds of the brave men and women sent over to Vietnam volunteered to put their lives on the line. Only about one-third of the veterans were drafted. This fact flies in the face of the narrative that the US government was forcing the country into war against its will.
It’s no coincidence that the Vietnam War was one of the most hotly contested wars at home. In fact, the conflict is often dubbed the “first television war” because of its concurrence with the advent of mass televised media. Up until that point, wars weren’t highly publicized. New technologies allowed reporters to get footage from the battlefield directly to the US quickly. It’s commonly said that this change brought the war into the living rooms of the average American, forever changing the public perception of wars.
Needless to say, the draft was never a popular policy among the US public. Instead, it was viewed as a necessary evil during times of conflict. However, the Vietnam War was one of the first times Americans at home were able to see the terror that soldiers experienced which greatly hurt domestic support. The widespread realization of the cruelty of war, the sheer length of the Vietnam War, and the campaign efforts of President Ronald Reagan all contributed to the eventual end of the draft. The Selective Service System is still in place, but there hasn’t been an active draft since the Vietnam War.
It’s common knowledge that the US fought with South Vietnam to prevent communist North Vietnam from overtaking the whole country. What’s not so well known are the various other countries that sacrificed for the effort too. Brave soldiers from the Khmer Republic (Cambodia), Laos, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines helped to fuel a valiant resistance against the belligerent North. Many of these countries have their own Vietnam War memorials in commemoration of these events. It’s crucial to remember their contributions to the effort too.
The density of the Vietnamese wilderness and the expanse of the conflict made it difficult to keep American soldiers well-supplied. On top of that, the challenging conditions of the jungle including torrential rain, unrelenting humidity, and unforgiving muddiness quickly damaged equipment that wasn’t designed for the environment. These supply chain and equipment issues forced soldiers to get innovative with a lot of DIY solutions. For example, super glue was often used to close wounds and slinky toys were retrofitted as radio antennas. These are just two examples of the ingenuity soldiers had to display to survive in battle.
It’s our duty as Americans to ensure the memory of those who selflessly served in the Vietnam War doesn’t fade away. One of the best ways to show appreciation and recognition for our brave soldiers is through memorialization. At Oregon Vietnam Memorial Fund, we’re currently fundraising to establish a monument in Oregon to accomplish those goals. Visit www.OCVVM.com to learn more about the project and how you can contribute.