“Hell no, we won’t go!”: a common slogan for the anti-Vietnam War movement
The Vietnam War occurred from November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975 and took place in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. On one side of the war was the Vietnam People’s Army (Viet Minh) of North Vietnam backed by communist China and supported in South Vietnam by the guerrilla efforts of the communist Viet Cong. The opposing allies of the war were composed of the Republic of Vietnam (the democratic government of Southern Vietnam) France and the United States. The United States joined the war to prevent communist takeover in South Vietnam because they believed it would lead to the communism throughout the region, a strategy known as containment.
In 1955, President Eisenhower deployed the first American troops for military assistance to South Vietnam. The deployment was in response to North Vietnam ignoring the 1954 Geneva Conference decision to hold national elections in 1956 for the reunification of Vietnam. Instead the Viet Minh began training and mobilizing troops to overtake Southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Over the course of 20 years, the war would claim the lives of almost 2 million Vietnamese on both sides of the war including heavy civilian losses.
During the war, over 58,209 American soldiers were killed and 303,704 were wounded. At the time, the Baby-Boomer generation was entering young adulthood and many of the young men born between 1944-1956 faced the threat of being drafted into the war. Officially, the draft of the Vietnam era lasted from 1969-1973 and was from a pool of approximately 27 million young men. The draft raised 2,215,000 men for military service (in the U.S., Vietnam, West Germany, and elsewhere) during the Vietnam era.
The draft also raised widespread anti-war movements across the United States, particularly after people became aware of the failure of the 1968 Tet Offensive. College campuses and major cities such as New York, Washington D.C., Oakland, and Berkeley exploded with protest movements. Selective Services reported that a total of 206,000 persons were reported as conscientious objectors or delinquent for dodging the draft. The number of draft resisters was so great, that they eventually outnumbered the actual draftees, rendering the draft ineffectual.
During the early 1970s-1975, the Nixon administration sought means to end American involvement in the war due to the rising anti-war tension of Americans at home and at war. His administration adopted a policy of Vietnamization, the process of training Southern Vietnamese forces and aiding them with fire power, as well as beginning peace talks with North Korea. Despite protests by South Korea, the last American troops pulled out of Vietnam by 1974 and on April 30, 1975, the capital of South Korea, Saigon, fell to North Korea. In 1977 after the war, President Carter granted general amnesty to all those men charged with dodging the draft.