More and More Americans Oppose the War
They watched government officials issue optimistic statement after optimistic statement. Soon, a “credibility gap” emerged between what the Johnson administration said and what many journalists reported
Credibility gap- Americans growing distrust of statements made by the government during the Vietnam War
More groups organized against the war, their names corresponding with whom they represented—Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Another Mother for Peace. Antiwar Americans—rich and poor, black and white—read reports from war correspondents who questioned U.S. progress in Vietnam.
This gap referred to the American public’s growing distrust of statements made by the government.
The intimacy of television made news of the war unavoidable. But unlike World War II, there was no march to victory. Americans could not put maps of Vietnam on their walls and trace the routes the troops were taking to Hanoi.
Outside college campuses, other Americans soon enlisted in the antiwar cause
The Draft Becomes Increasingly Unpopular
In accordance with the Selective Service Act of 1948, the government drafted more than 1.5 million men into military service during the Vietnam War.
Critics of the Selective Service System argued that the draft was not fair. The system gave local draft boards considerable influence in selecting men for service, and it also granted deferments to college students and men who worked in certain designated occupations. Most of the 2.5 million men who served in Vietnam came from working-class and poor backgrounds.
Draftees—young men drafted into military service—who had been assigned a tour in Vietnam
African Americans suffered more than 20 percent of the total combat deaths, roughly twice their percentage of the U.S. population. Additionally, African American soldiers were more likely to serve in combat positions and less likely to become commissioned officers.
By 1965, most of the troops sent to Vietnam were no longer volunteers who had enlisted in the army. Instead, they were draftees
Activism Spreads on College Campuses
Professors and students criticized the war for a variety of reasons ranging from pacifism and the war’s effects on the economy to a personal desire to avoid military service.
Between 1946 and 1970, the number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education increased from 2 million to 8 million. Many college students became a class unto themselves—segregated from the workforce, free from many adult responsibilities, and encouraged by their professors to think critically.
The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was founded in 1960 at the University of Michigan. Originally formed to campaign against racism and poverty, the SDS soon began campaigning to end the war in Vietnam.
By 1964, SDS had organized campus “teach-ins” and demonstrations against the war and encouraged draft-age males to sign “We Won’t Go” petitions
Many of the students who embraced the antiwar cause came from middle-class families. Students from working-class families were less likely to protest against the war.
Students Clash With Authorities
The students formed the Free Speech Movement to contest the decision.
Students at the University of California at Berkeley protested against the school’s decision not to allow them to use university grounds to organize off-campus political activities
Student activism led to a clash with administrators and police in 1964.
When protesters occupied a university building, the police arrested them. In response, students cut classes to march in support of the FSM
University officials eventually relented and allowed students to engage in free speech activities on school grounds. The victory by students at Berkeley led to challenges at other colleges and universities
Communist Assault Shocks Americans
Tet Offensive- communist assault a large number of South Vietnamese cites in 1968
The Tet Offensive—named after the Vietnamese lunar new year—was a coordinated assault on 36 provincial capitals and 5 major cities, as well as the U.S. embassy in Saigon.
In early 1968, U.S. officials anticipated a communist offensive. As expected, on January 21, the North Vietnamese Army hit Khe Sanh in northwest South Vietnam. However, nine days later, the communists expanded their attack by hitting U.S. and ARVN positions throughout South Vietnam.
The communists planned to take and hold the cities until the urban population took up arms in their support.
It demonstrated that the communists had not lost the will or the ability to fight on