Masaryk university brno faculty of education

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Department of English Language and Literature

The Vietnam War, Public Opinion and American Culture

Diploma Thesis

Brno 2008

Supervised by: Written by:
Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A. Zuzana Hodboďová


Prohlašuji, že jsem tuto diplomovou práci zpracovala samostatně a použila jen ty prameny, které jsou uvedené v seznamu literatury.

Souhlasím, aby práce byla uložena v informačním systému (IS) Masarykovy univerzity v Brně, popř. v knihovně Pedagogické fakulty MU a aby byla využita ke studijním účelům.


I proclaim that my diploma thesis is a piece of individual writing and that I used only the sources that are cited in bibliography list.

I agree with this diploma thesis being stored in the Information System of the Masaryk University, eventually in the Library of the Faculty of Education, and with its being taken advantage for academic purposes.

16th April 2008, Brno …………………………………………....


Ráda bych poděkovala panu Mgr. Zdeňku Janíkovi, M.A., vedoucímu mé diplomové práce, za jeho cenné rady a připomínky, které přispěly ke konečné podobě této práce. Dále bych ráda využila příležitosti a touto cestou poděkovala svým rodičům za jejich pomoc a nevyčerpatelnou podporu, kterou mi věnovali nejen v době mých studií.


I would like to thank to Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., the supervisor of my diploma thesis, for his valuable advice and comments that contributed to the final form of this work. Furthermore, I would like to use the opportunity and thanks to my parents for their help and inexhaustible support which they dedicated me not only at the time of my studies.




1.1 The martial history of the USA till the conflict in Vietnam 7

1.2 Historical development of Vietnam, background of the international situation till the beginning of the Vietnam War 10

1.2.1 The First Indochina War, 1946-1954 11 The U.S. foreign policy and military support 12

1.2.2 The Second Indochina War, 1954-1975 13

1.3 The United States goes to the war in Vietnam, 1964 - 1973 14

1.3.1 The American way of conducting of the war, military strategy 16

1.3.2 The Tet Offensive 17 The impact of the Tet Offensive 18

1.3.3 Vietnamization, Cambodia, 1969 – 1970 20

1.3.4 Paris Peace Talks, 1971 - 1975 22

1.3.5 The Post-war impact of Vietnam 25


2.1 Interpretation of the Vietnam War 31

2.2 The Official Policies of the U.S. Government during the Vietnam War 33

2.2.1 The U.S. System of War Propaganda 35 Power of Television 38

2.3 Development of the Public Response as a Reaction on a Course of the Vietnam War 40

2.3.1 Anti – war Movement 43 College Protests 45 Mass Media against the Vietnam War 45


3.1 American Literary Culture and the Vietnam War 50

3.1.1 Novel 51

3.2 American Music at the Time of the Vietnam War 56

3.2.1 Music of Combat Zone 57

3.2.2 Protest music 58

3.3 The Reflection of the Vietnam War in Television 62

3.3.1 News coverage 62

3.3.2 Documentary film 72

3.3.3 Soap Opera, Serial Story 74

3.4 Film Production 80





Attachment 1: Woodrow Wilson - “The Fourteen Points Strategy” 112

Attachment 2: The Korean War 112

Attachment 3: Part 1 - The Battle of Hue, 112

Attachment 7: The-I-Feel-Like-I´m-Fixing-To-Die Rag 112

Attachment 8: The representatives of gate-keeping: 112

Attachment 9: Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey´s proclamation 112

Attachment 10: Documentary film production 112

Attachment 11: “Casualties of War” (1989) 112

Attachment 12: “Heaven & Earth” (1993) 112

Attachment 15: Location of City of Hue, 1968 113


Woodrow Wilson - “The Fourteen Points Strategy” 113

The Battle of Hue 115

The Battle of Khe Sanh 116

The Battle of Saigon 118

Stanley Karnow 119

Students´ campuses organizations, anti-war activities 120

Vietnam War Poetry 127

The-I-Feel-Like-I´m-Fixing-To-Die Rag 129

The representatives of gate-keeping: 130

Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey 131

Documentary film production 132

“Casualties of War” (1989) 138

“Heaven & Earth” (1993) 140

Chronology of the history of Vietnam, 1940s – 1990s 141

Location of City of Hue, 1968 149


The Vietnam War was one of the most obscure episodes and, at the same time, one of the most serious conflicts not only of the Cold War period but also of the whole modern history. It was one of the longest and the most unpopular American war that took place in the 20th century. The overall impact of the war conflict managed to influence lives of American next generations. Furthermore, it resulted in scission of American nation that had to face up to the defeat that was the first one in its total history. The American involvement in South Asia started in 1964 and ended after a long-lasting period of hard struggle by a frantic departure of all remaining U.S. military personnel from South Viet Nam´s capital of Saigon in 1975.

The exceptionality of this war conflict did not consist only in its long duration or on a large number of war casualties. On the contrary, many other innovative factors contributed to the new way of war perception. The talk is about the transmission of war information by means of various sorts of mass media, particularly by television, whose impact on the Vietnam War played much more decisive role than in any other war conflict of the 20th century. It was an absolutely innovative method that replaced newspapers and radio broadcasting, which was till that time the only way how to acquire information.

Thanks to the attitude of the U.S. government towards the presence of the mass media in Vietnam, the general public was actively involved in the Vietnam struggle, which caused and finally raised the wave of public opposition. The unlimited access of journalists and photographers in the battlefield enabled the American public to see the war as they had not seen it so far. The themes of the Vietnam War started to fill title pages of all various kinds of newspapers. Moreover, the policy that was maintained by the American president and his administrators caused the wave of anti-war protests and public commotions on the home front. Although the anti-war movement itself did not have the power to turn the American people completely against the war, it achieved to influence American political and military strategy.

The general questions of the Vietnam War themes are considerably complicated. Therefore, the main aim of this diploma thesis is not to cover all aspects and points of view that have connection with the topic. On the contrary, the work will concentrate only on some specific topics that are, from the author´s point of view, interesting and, at the same time, in the period of the war in Iraq also timeless. The main aim of this thesis will be engaged in a problem of the impact of the Vietnam War and its themes on the development of public opinion and cultural life of American nation. One of the features of the work will be an endeavor to find out how much decisive the impact on the belief of the general public the Vietnam War had and which methods the American nation finally used in its fight against the U.S. involvement in South Asia. This work will also try to find out some more detailed information about the ways and other resources of the U.S. government´s pro-war propaganda. On the top of that, the work would try to answer the questions relating to different sorts of cultural life of Americans and the influence of the Vietnam War topic. For instance, how much the literature, music or film production reflected the Vietnam themes during the active fights in Vietnam and how much the attitude of the public towards this topic changed after the end of the warfare.

As for the methods of elaboration, the study of literary sources will be the predominant factor for the creation of this diploma thesis. The attention will be concentrated on classically written literary works whose content draws on the events and development of the Vietnam War. Furthermore, other necessary publications dealing with the impact of after-matches of war on the public opinion will be put to use. On the top of that, the content of the diploma thesis will depend on many various internet sources whose large selection will provide many different points of view and attitudes towards the themes of the Vietnam War. In the matter of the last part of this work that will be connected with the cultural life of Americans, the study of some American film productions based on the Vietnam themes will also contribute to better understanding.

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