“You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’” Singer, Barry McGuire famously says in his 1965 anti-war song called “Eve of Destruction”. This is one legendary example of protesting the Vietnam war through song. America, the 1960’s was a time of complete division and controversy. Oak Ridge students should become aware of how protesting for something they believe in through music and voicing their opinion through song can really help national struggles and conflict. This is exactly what people did in the United States did during the Vietnam war. Vietnam anti-war songs were very important because they voiced the concerns of the people and helped end the war earlier.
America had just endured the struggle of 2 world wars and was beginning to piece itself back together into normality. Although many Americans did not want to become involved in the conflict between north and south Vietnam, the US decided to take on the long and treacherous war that killed over 3 million people. Progressively, the US slowly became more involved in the war. Surprising to most, the US began sending aid to the French fighting in Vietnam as early as the 1940’s. The United States didn’t officially become part of the war until 1954 when the communists defeated the French. At first, the US only sent financial aid and military advisors to South Vietnamese as they fought Northern. The big step toward becoming a part of the war was in 1964 after North Vietnamese attacked the USS Maddox while in international waters. Finally, President Johnson and the Congress decided it was time to step in officially. In August of 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that allowed Johnson to up the military involvement. Johnson and Nixon used this as a reason to get more involved in the Vietnam war for years after this resolution was passed.
In the years to come, many battles were fought and throughout America, thousands lost their lives fighting a war that many believed to be a mistake. By November 1967, the number of American troops in Vietnam was almost at 500,000.To make matters worse, the United States was already involved in the continuing war with the Soviet Union. To say Americans were in complete controversy is an understatement. More than 3 million people (including over 58,000 Americans) lost their lives in the Vietnam War, and more than 24,000 of the dead were innocent Vietnamese civilians.
An overwhelming amount of Americans found themselves turning against the government and strongly opposing the war. This point in time is when Americans looked back in time and found that song has always helped people convey their feelings and let their voices be heard. Music was a way for the people of Vietnam to escape the brutal war, as well as US soldiers. A great example of impacting songs on the American people is “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire. This song brings up important points with the war and tells the sad and unfortunate truth that many very young men were being drafted and killed in the war that many were very much against. As mentioned earlier, McGuire wrote the bold and eye-opening lyrics “You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’.” The youngest soldier killed in the war was 15 years old. This soldier is known as Pfc. Dan Bullock. At least 12 soldiers lost their lives younger than 17. It is very hard to imagine kids in our very own class going to war and fighting in Vietnam. Another great song written during this time period is called “Dear Uncle Sam”. This particular song is written as if it was a wife singing to Uncle Sam or the Military. It showed the emotional effects on the families of the US soldiers also. “Dear Uncle Sam” by Loretta Lynn, talks about Uncle Sam needing her husband for the war, and the wife loving her country, but also loving her man. The last stanza of this song reads “Dear Uncle Sam I just got your telegram, and I can’t believe that this is me, shaking like I am, for it said, ‘I’m sorry to inform you’” This is the telegram that massive amounts of wives and families got during these war times. This song connected with many people because it portrays both sides. One side being how our country comes first and we love our country. And the other side portrays the loving care and affection towards husbands going off to war and being killed. No one wants to lose their husband in a war and especially if they don’t believe what they are fighting for, like many people in the US. Music also brought up important issues with the war. Many people did not agree with the Vietnam war and wanted it to end as soon as possible. Many songs sparked passionate riots and protests against the war. These songs really allowed people to tell the nation how they were feeling about their situation.
Music and songs helped end the war earlier. It gave a voice to the people and projected their concerns nationally. An example of people voicing their concerns is in a song called “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It talked about sons born into wealth not having to enter the war, and how the singer is unfortunate for not being a senator’s son, which did not have to enter the war. Many congressmen and people with power were in favor of going to war. One perk of being rich is not having to risk your life when wartime is proceeding. This song perfectly states the inequality of how when you’re not risking your life in war then, of course, you want to help, but when you are poor and everyone around you is going to war you have no choice but to enlist. This song caused a lot of American to turn further against the government and high officials. Ultimately, the controversy of the people forced president Nixon to lessen the anti-war movement and opease the majority of Americans. In an attempt to limit the number of American casualties, he created a program called Vietnamization. This is a program that took out U.S. troops, and increased weapons on the south border to minimize lost lives. Through persistent protest and voicing concerns through songs, President Richard Nixon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973. Communist forces ended the war by seizing control of South Vietnam in 1975, and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year. Protesting through united song helps bring together Americans and stick up for what they thought was right for the country. Anti-War songs helped voice people opinions and helped end the war sooner. In turn, saved lives that could have still been killed if the war had not ended. In the time to come, sometime in our lifetime or our kids lifetimes America will be involved in another war. In this time of controversy, using music to voice opinions and help end the war is an important and useful tool used by many in the past and will be used by many in the future.
Article by Hannah Dardano and Video by Joel Hamersley
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