anti–Vietnam War movement

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

anti–Vietnam War movement

anti–Vietnam War movement, domestic and international reaction (1965–73) in opposition to U.S. policy during the Vietnam War. During the four years following passage of the Tonkin Gulf resolution (Aug., 1964), which authorized U.S. military action in Southeast Asia, the American air war intensified and troop levels climbed to over 500,000. Opposition to the war grew as television and press coverage graphically showed the suffering of both civilians and conscripts. In 1965 demonstrations in New York City attracted 25,000 marchers; within two years similar demonstrations drew several hundred thousand participants in Washington, D.C., London, and other European capitals. Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, though acts of civil disobedience—intended to provoke arrest—were common. Much of the impetus for the antiwar protests came from college students. Objections to the military draft led some protesters to burn their draft cards and to refuse to obey induction notices. By 1967 the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) invoked the language of revolution in its denunciations of the war in Vietnam as an inevitable consequence of American imperialism. There was also a more moderate opposition to the war from clergy, elected politicians, and people such as Dr. Benjamin Spock. In 1968, President Johnson, who was challenged by two antiwar candidates within his own party for the presidential nomination, Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, chose not to run. The election of Richard Nixon in 1968 and his reduction in U.S. ground forces did little to dampen the antiwar movement. His decision to invade Cambodia in 1970 led to massive demonstrations on college campuses, most tragically at Kent State Univ. where four people were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard. The legacy and meaning of the massive protests against the Vietnam War are still debated.

See T. Gitlin, The Sixties (1989); M. Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990 (1991); A. Garfinkle, Telltale Hearts (1995).

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