The Impact of War. There are many events which can have a profound effect on societies and on the individuals who live in those societies. Perhaps none of these events is as great as the effect that war can have on a society .
The Impact of War
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There are many events which can have a profound effect on societies and on the individuals who live in those societies. Perhaps none of these events is as great as the effect that war can have on a society.
Has anyone experienced war? Or have family members that have experienced war?
War and Society
We’ve already seen how the end of World War II brought a baby boom to Canada and other nations.
Wars have had other effects on society.
World War I ended, at least for a while, the optimism of the early 1900s. The world went into mourning.
World War II sparked an unprecedented technological boom as technologies originally developed for the military were adapted for civilian use.
The increased participation of women in the workforce and the development of the welfare state in Great Britain can both be linked to World War II.
The end of both World Wars fostered a pride of nation that became a prominent force as people cheered the returning soldiers. It meant something to be a Canadian. But at the same time, families that had lived for years without husbands and fathers suddenly had to adjust to having them back in their lives again.
The War and the Individual
Even soldiers who returned victorious to a society ready to welcome them home, experience difficulties.
As you can see the end of World War II had a profound effect on Canadian society and on the Canadian soldiers who fought in that war.
But what happens when the war is not universally popular with the public? What happens when soldiers are not wildly cheered upon their return?
The Vietnam War was a military conflict fought between the communist forces of North Vietnam (supported by Russia and China among others) and the anti-communist forces of South Vietnam (supported by the United States and others).
The Vietnam War was not a war in the true sense of the word. The United States never officially declared war against North Vietnam, but in 1965, after quietly supporting South Vietnam since the 1950s, they began to send the first of almost 3 million soldiers to the Vietnam jungles.
This was a very different war. There were no clear combat zones, no clear front. This was a guerrilla war fought half way around the world, where territory was repeatedly taken, lost and then taken and lost again. There were few successes to cheer. And for Americans, this was no far-off war where deaths were muted by both time and distance. This was a war the American public could watch in real time.
This was the world’s first Television War. The war was brought into Americans’ homes every day. So were the mistakes, the defeats, the atrocities and the body count.
The vast majority of soldiers fighting in Vietnam were young. In fact, the average age of soldiers killed in Vietnam was 23. More 21-year-olds were killed than any other age group. It was hardly surprising that youth began to object.As the war dragged on, there was growing dissent, especially among youth.
War! What is it good for?
“Absolutely nothing”, was the answer Edwin Starr provided in his anti-Vietnam War anthem titled “War!” He wasn’t alone. Fellow musicians like Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Steppenwolf, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Edwin Starr wrote and recorded anti-war songs. Even John Lennon of Beatles fame staged a “bed- in” with his wife Yoko Ono to protest the war.
A reported massacre of civilians by American soldiers at a Vietnamese village named Myi Lai and the introduction of a lottery draft incited more protests.
These incidents helped weaken public faith in government and in the honesty and integrity of its leaders. An increasing number of Americans distrusted authority of all kinds. The military was particularly discredited. And as the protests escalated, so did the official response. Protesters were arrested and at a protest at Kent State University, the National Guard was called in. They fired on the crowd. Four protestors were killed and nine were injured.
Public opinion was inflamed. The protests became more widespread and even returning veterans of the war participated. Americans were questioning even the reasons why their soldiers had been sent to Vietnam. Many vets questioned their own participation in the war. After cries of “Baby Killers” began to welcome them home, the “honour” of serving one’s country, suddenly seemed less honourable.
In 1975, the American army completed its withdrawal from Vietnam.
Soldiers did not return en masse from Vietnam as they had in World War II. There were no ticker tape parades in Time Square. Vietnam vets were not greeted with the same kind of jubilation that had greeted the troops returning from World War II. There was no victory to celebrate, nor even a clear cause to rally behind.
They became the “forgotten soldiers” who received little official or public recognition. While post World War II movies portrayed soldiers as heroes, post Vietnam movies featured deeply disturbed vets, who had been forced to serve, were unbalanced by what they had seen or done and had trouble fitting back into society.
In truth, most Vietnam War vets returned and became productive members of American society. But many did not. It is estimated that more Vietnam soldiers committed suicide after the war than actually died in the war itself.