The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War – Personal Research

Civil Rights Movement – Following World War II, America was still divided racially. The army had remained largely segregated during World War II with black and white regiments, despite campaigns such as the “Double V” which stood for victory against fascism in Europe and victory against racism in America, many areas of the country remained largely segregated (especially in the Deep South where the Jim Crow Laws ensured that black and white people were segregated on buses, in restaurants, in toilets and even on pavements).

However, as the armies were integrated in 1948, the face of the Civil Rights Movement began to change with the push strengthening. In 1955, Rosa Parks along with Martin Luther King and other figures led the Montgomery Bus Boycott following Parks’ arrest as she refused to get off a bus as she was sitting in a “whites only section”. This, eventually, led to the integration of bus services. In 1957 there was the integration of nine black students with white students in a school in Little Rock, however, there was major violence with riots across the town, eventually President Eisenhower sent in troops to calm the situation.

The movement strengthened further with figures such as Martin Luther King and his “I Have a Dream” Speech in Washington in 1963, however, change wouldn’t come quickly and many black people began to feel angry at the pace of change, some opting for a more militant approach. Malcolm X became an influential figure to many, believing that there should be a separatist America where black people would live separately to white people but have the same rights. Also, there was the Black Panther movement which promoted the famous slogan “Black Power”, as famously displayed in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City when Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos both raised their hands in a clenched fist salute while wearing black gloves, this bought major controversy as both athletes were sent home from the games.

However, by this time, change was occurring. The Civil Rights Act 1964 had bought desegregation for black people across the country, in public places segregation was now banned. However, despite this, there was still discrimination and prejudice against black people, even as recently as 1992 there have been widespread riots across Los Angeles because of the arrest of a black man by the police.

Vietnam War – The war began in 1959 between Communist forces from the North of Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh and South Vietnamese forces led by Ngo Dinh Diem. The US became involved primarily to ensure that the threat of Communism wasn’t spread and were confident of victory, feeling as though that the conflict would be over in a matter of weeks or months. However, this would soon prove to be incorrect.

Ngo Dinh Diem was ousted and assassinated with the South Vietnamese failing to beat even the smallest of Viet Cong forces. The Americans struggled to cope with the Viet Cong tactics of guerrilla warfare, this led to the Americans being forced to change tactic, ground war wasn’t working so the Americans decided to use the Tet Offensive as an aerial attack against the Ho Chi Minh tunnel, however, this was a massive failure and the US soldiers began to become less popular in South Vietnam. Bombing of North Vietnam did eventually stop as it proved largely ineffective.

However, at the same time the US attempted another form of warfare otherwise known as Chemical Warfare, the use of Napalm becoming one of the main standpoints of the war, napalm was used from 1965-1972 and was known for how lethal it could be, burning for up to 10 minutes at extraordinary temperatures. Overall, 8 million tonnes of this was dropped over Vietnam. Another tactic which was used by the US was that of “search and destroy” where soldiers would tour the villages of South Vietnam looking for North Vietnamese workers, this was deeply unpopular and only worsened relations with the people of South Vietnam.

Despite these tactics employed by the US, victory didn’t arrive, in fact, as Nixon came into power America began to withdraw soldiers from Vietnam and by 1975 the conflict was practically over with the North Vietnamese unifying the country under Communist rule.

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One Comment on “The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War – Personal Research”

  1. […] The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War – Personal Research […]


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