Explain the impact of the Vietnam War on the soldiers who fought in it.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There seems to be two elements within this question.  The first is the overall impact of how the fighting in the Vietnam War impacted the average U.S. Soldier.  I think that the conditions in Vietnam were different than anything else than the typical soldier had ever experienced.  From the intense heat and humidity, to the swarms of mosquitoes, to the elephant grass, the natural conditions of Vietnam were elements that American soldiers had never faced before.  Additionally, the manner in which the conflict between the Viet Cong and the American soldier was also different.  The unconventional hit and run techniques of the conflict was an element that played into the strength of the Viet Cong because American soldiers could not rely on their superpower attributes such as weapons and larger scale military formations for assistance.  Instead, the small band of hit and run potshots were effective in taking their toll on the U.S. Soldier.  Additionally, the knowledge of terrain made pursuit of the Viet Cong near impossible to facilitate.  In terms of the overall impact that the Vietnam War had on the U.S. Soldier, I think that one could make the argument that a lack of credibility or faith in the United States military emerged.  Many soldiers felt angry that the individuals in the position of military and political power would place soldiers in harm's way without much in way of recollection.  Adding to this was the fact that the political establishment of the nation failed to effectively convey the war's goals and purpose to the American people.  When the mission became complex and answers could not be given, the perception was that the soldiers "lost" the war, the first perceived "loss."  While this was far from the truth, it was a perception that stuck with many of the soldiers, causing even more stress and personal pain from an experience that was filled with it.

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