Historical Context

American Involvement in the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War began with a gradual escalation of U.S. forces in Southeast Asia during the 1950s and early 1960s and lasted until 1975, with the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front fighting the South Vietnamese and the United States military. America became involved out of fear that if Vietnam became communist-controlled, communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia. At home, the war was unpopular. Demonstrations, sit-ins, and anti-war songs became common in 1960s America.

In 1968, Richard Nixon defeated Lyndon B. Johnson in the presidential election, promising ‘‘peace with honor.’’ As he failed to make progress in peace negotiations, Americans at home became increasingly cynical. This attitude was reflected directly and indirectly; while protestors continued to voice their disapproval, others wrote songs, fiction, and drama reflecting America’s deepening concern and cynicism.

Despite the difficulties surrounding the war, Nixon won reelection in 1972. In January 1973, all participants in the Vietnam War signed the Treaty of Paris. Among the terms of the Treaty of Paris were the withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam (which occurred by the end of March) and a cease-fire.

The war’s casualties were immense; three to four million Vietnamese lost their lives, close to two million Laotians and Cambodians were killed after being drawn into the...

(The entire section is 384 words.)