The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Home Collection Search

Vietnam

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The First Steps

During World War II, the United States supported Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh in his struggle against the Japanese. But after the war, when he sought assistance from Communist powers to win independence from France, the United States opposed him as an agent of Communist expansion.

A 1954 cease-fire agreement partitioned the country into a Communist north and an anti-Communist south. President Dwight Eisenhower sent hundreds of military advisors and $1 billion to support South Vietnam. President John F. Kennedy increased the number of advisors and tripled U.S. financial support.

The United States found itself propping up a series of corrupt regimes in a fight against the Communist-led Vietcong in South Vietnam and their allies in the North. This force proved to be not Soviet puppets, but Vietnamese nationalists dedicated to reuniting the country under an independent Communist government.


Exhibition Graphics

North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh

North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh

President John F. Kennedy speaking to the nation, 1961

President John F. Kennedy speaking to the nation, 1961

Secretary McNamara and General Taylor with President Kennedy

Secretary McNamara and General Taylor with President Kennedy

South Vietnamese premier Nguyen Khanh welcoming U.S. allies

South Vietnamese premier Nguyen Khanh welcoming U.S. allies

U.S. Army advisor and South Vietnamese soldiers

U.S. Army advisor and South Vietnamese soldiers

U.S. Marine advisor with South Vietnamese soldiers

U.S. Marine advisor with South Vietnamese soldiers

Volunteers and draftees inducted into the U.S. Army

Volunteers and draftees inducted into the U.S. Army

Buddhist monk protesting the South Vietnamese Diem regime

Buddhist monk protesting the South Vietnamese Diem regime


Related Artifacts

7th Special Forces Group Airborne Green Beret

Escalation

When President Lyndon Johnson sent thousands of air and ground forces to Vietnam in 1965, most Americans supported him. As casualties mounted and the draft expanded, antiwar sentiment grew. In 1968, the Tet Offensive—a widespread Communist assault—deepened disagreements over the war’s conduct and meaning. Even veterans and some in active service questioned America’s involvement.


Exhibition Graphics

Lyndon Johnson is sworn in after Kennedy’s assassination.

Lyndon Johnson is sworn in after Kennedy’s assassination.

Defense secretary Robert S. McNamara conducting a briefing

Defense secretary Robert S. McNamara conducting a briefing

General William Westmoreland in Vietnam

General William Westmoreland in Vietnam

U.S. Marine conducting a “search and clear” operation

U.S. Marine conducting a “search and clear” operation

U.S. Army nurse at South Vietnamese orphanage

U.S. Army nurse at South Vietnamese orphanage

Antiwar demonstrator burning his draft card

Antiwar demonstrator burning his draft card

Wounded U.S. Army paratroopers being evacuated

Wounded U.S. Army paratroopers being evacuated

U.S. Marine looking for snipers

U.S. Marine looking for snipers

U.S. Navy landing marines at Da Nang

U.S. Navy landing marines at Da Nang

U.S. Marine training a special-operations soldier

U.S. Marine training a special-operations soldier

U.S. Navy nurse on a hospital ship

U.S. Navy nurse on a hospital ship

U.S. Marine awaiting evacuation from the Ashau Valley

U.S. Marine awaiting evacuation from the Ashau Valley

U.S. Army Green Berets

U.S. Army Green Berets

U.S. Marine rifleman near Khe Sanh

U.S. Marine rifleman near Khe Sanh

American and Vietnamese river patrol forces

American and Vietnamese river patrol forces

Naval bombardment supporting ground troops

Naval bombardment supporting ground troops

Medical corpsman awaiting an evacuation helicopter

Medical corpsman awaiting an evacuation helicopter

Antiwar demonstration in Madison, Wisconsin

Antiwar demonstration in Madison, Wisconsin

U.S. casualties in Saigon on first day of the Tet Offensive

U.S. casualties in Saigon on first day of the Tet Offensive

Antidraft protest in San Francisco

Antidraft protest in San Francisco

U.S. Army soldier in the muddy waters of the Mekong Delta

U.S. Army soldier in the muddy waters of the Mekong Delta

Army infantryman in Kien Hoa Province calling in air support

Army infantryman in Kien Hoa Province calling in air support

President Lyndon Johnson listening to news about the war

President Lyndon Johnson listening to news about the war

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. denouncing the war

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. denouncing the war

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite on location in Vietnam

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite on location in Vietnam

South Vietnamese chief of police executing a Vietcong agent

South Vietnamese chief of police executing a Vietcong agent

Vietnamese civilians killed by U.S. troops at My Lai

Vietnamese civilians killed by U.S. troops at My Lai

U.S. Marine clearing vegetation near Da Nang

U.S. Marine clearing vegetation near Da Nang

Assassination of presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy

Assassination of presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy

U.S. Marines south of Khe Sanh evacuating their dead

U.S. Marines south of Khe Sanh evacuating their dead

U.S. Navy Skyhawk taking off on a bombing run

U.S. Navy Skyhawk taking off on a bombing run


Related Artifacts

Marine Corps Uniform
U.S. Army Fatigue Uniform
United States Navy Utility Shirt

“When Will It Ever End?”

By 1970, President Richard Nixon began to withdraw American troops, but expanded the war into Cambodia and Laos, resulting in widespread protests at home.

On May 2, 1970, the governor of Ohio dispatched more than 900 National Guardsmen to quell antiwar protests at Kent State University. During a campus confrontation on May 4, twenty-eight guardsmen opened fire: four students were killed and nine wounded. The incident fueled vehement protests and student strikes; hundreds of colleges and universities canceled exams and graduations and sent students home.

As the war dragged on and home-front protests became more widespread, many troops in Vietnam—often unwilling draftees—became increasingly disillusioned with the war. Many modified their uniforms or ignored military regulations; some sported peace signs. And they adopted as their mantra a popular song by the Animals, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place (if it’s the last thing we ever do).”

U.S. forces left Vietnam in 1973 and South Vietnam fell to the Communists in 1975.


Exhibition Graphics

Vietnam moratorium demonstration in Washington, D.C.

Vietnam moratorium demonstration in Washington, D.C.

Richard M. Nixon taking the oath as thirth-seventh president

Richard M. Nixon taking the oath as thirth-seventh president

President Nixon explaining expansion of the war into Cambodia

President Nixon explaining expansion of the war into Cambodia

Prowar demonstration in New York City

Prowar demonstration in New York City

Reaction to Kent State Massacre

Reaction to Kent State Massacre

Police dispersing students at University of Maryland

Police dispersing students at University of Maryland

Students at New York University being urged to strike

Students at New York University being urged to strike

U.S. Air Force F-4 fighters refueling at Phu Cat Air Base

U.S. Air Force F-4 fighters refueling at Phu Cat Air Base

U.S. Air Force B-52 bombing Vietcong targets

U.S. Air Force B-52 bombing Vietcong targets

Demonstration after testimony by antiwar veterans

Demonstration after testimony by antiwar veterans

GI with a peace-sign medallion

GI with a peace-sign medallion

'U.S. Army soldiers on the border between South Vietnam and Cambodia near an area know as the 'Parrots Beak' are interviewed by a NBC television news crew shortly after their pullback from Cambodia in May of 1970'

"U.S. Army soldiers on the border between South Vietnam and Cambodia near an area know as the 'Parrots Beak' are interviewed by a NBC television news crew shortly after their pullback from Cambodia in May of 1970"

South Vietnamese soldiers celebrating on top of an NVA tank

South Vietnamese soldiers celebrating on top of an NVA tank

President Nixon conferring with advisor Henry Kissinger

President Nixon conferring with advisor Henry Kissinger

Civilians fleeing South Vietnamese napalm attack

Civilians fleeing South Vietnamese napalm attack

U.S. Navy jet ready to launch in the Gulf of Tonkin

U.S. Navy jet ready to launch in the Gulf of Tonkin

Actress Jane Fonda visiting Hanoi to support North Vietnam

Actress Jane Fonda visiting Hanoi to support North Vietnam

President Gerald Ford ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

President Gerald Ford ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam.


Related Artifacts

Kent State Rifle


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