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    Vietnam: The First Television War – Pieces of History

    Today’s post comes from Madie Ward in the National Archives History Office. The Vietnam War (1955–75) was a time of great controversy in the United States. Cold War tensions ran high as the country…

    Vietnam: The First Television War

    January 25, 2018 By Jessie Kratz, Posted In - The 1960s, Remembering Vietnam, The 1970s

    U.S. soldiers in position in the first wave of a helicopter combat assault, 10/26/1967. (National Archives Identifier 66956835)

    The Vietnam War (1955–75) was a time of great controversy in the United States. Cold War tensions ran high as the country relentlessly fought against the alleged evils of communism.

    At the same time, advances in video and audio recording enabled both easier and more news coverage. From 1950 to 1966, the percentage of Americans who owned a television skyrocketed from 9 percent to 93 percent as televisions became essential for everyday life.

    With the proliferation of televisions, news networks strived to have the most exciting, dramatic, and attractive stories. They competed for the finest reporters, highest-rated equipment, and largest number of viewers. To succeed, they had to do something unprecedented: coverage of the war in Vietnam. For the first time in American history, the news from the front lines was brought straight into the living room.

    So why was Vietnam called the first “television war”?

    During World War II, morale was high. Camera crews stayed in noncombat areas to show the happier, more upbeat side of war. The stories were broadcast as motion pictures shown in theaters. And the newscasters shared only good news and reported bad news with a cheery disposition.

    Government censorship over the media influenced this outlook—if the press wanted access to stories about the war, they had to receive credentials from the military. This ensured that the news didn’t report anything that the military did not want disclosed to the public. Big stories like the A-bomb stayed out of the news until after the war ended. The main focus of the media was high morale and support for the war effort.

    In contrast, the television news networks had a bleaker view of the war in Vietnam. After the Tet Offensive in 1968—which the public saw as a defeat—reports turned unfavorable toward the war effort.  The censorship that was in effect during World War II was much more lax by the 1960s. Camera crews were on-site almost constantly in combat zones. Journalists wrote day-to-day coverage and recorded their stories in the field. This gave Americans a more realistic glimpse into the lives of their soldiers, and they didn’t like what they saw.

    On April 1, 1968, the day after President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection, he stated:

    As I sat in my office last evening, waiting to speak, I thought of the many times each week when television brings the war into the American home. No one can say exactly what effect those vivid scenes have on American opinion. Historians must only guess at the effect that television would have had during earlier conflicts on the future of this Nation: during the Korean war, for example, at that time when our forces were pushed back there to Pusan; of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, or when our men were slugging it out in Europe or when most of our Air Force was shot down that day in June 1942 off Australia.

    US soldiers searching for Viet Cong near Laikhe, 1/8/1966. (National Archives Identifier 66956820)

    Televising the Vietnam War helped to divide a nation that took pride in its ability to unify. The dramatization of stories in the news distorted the public’s perception of what was actually happening in the field. Since it was visible in their homes, Americans were able to connect and empathize with the soldiers more than ever before. This caused an outcry of public opinion against the war.

    By seeing the war on television, the anti-war advocates argued that the war was unnecessary, and hundreds of thousands of “American boys” were not dying for a noble cause. In fact, they believed that the United States was involved in a war in which they shouldn’t be involved at all.

    U.S. soldiers searching for the Viet Cong near Tuy Hoa, 2/27/1966. (National Archives Identifier 66956688)

    In contrast, the pro-war supporters regarded anti-war marches as disloyal to U.S. soldiers. They saw the perils of the battlefield and felt an obligation to support their troops regardless of whether they should be there or not. The disagreements between the pro-war and anti-war advocates caused a partition in the American population that still persists.

    In addition, the strong public anti-war opinions expressed in the media influenced U.S. policy makers. Americans could see military abuses on television, such as the My Lai Massacre in 1968, which sparked riots in cities and university campuses across the nation. This outrage, fueled by television coverage, ultimately led to the decision to withdrawal of U.S. troops in 1973, and end of the U.S involvement in the war.

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    Source : prologue.blogs.archives.gov

    Chapter 25 History Final Flashcards

    Start studying Chapter 25 History Final. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools.

    Chapter 25 History Final

    10 studiers in the last day

    The goal of Agent Orange was to destroy the Vietcong's ablity _______.

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    hide in the jungle

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    With the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Congress gave its ___ to the president

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    more powers

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    Terms in this set (24)

    The goal of Agent Orange was to destroy the Vietcong's ablity _______.

    hide in the jungle

    With the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Congress gave its ___ to the president

    more powers

    When the French left Vietnam, the US stepped in to protect the _____ government in the South

    Pro-western

    When _____ fell to communism and the Korean War broke out, Truman became convinced that the US needed to help France in Vietnam

    China

    The Vietminh formed initially in Vietnam to win independence from ______.

    Japan

    The Pentagon Papers revealed that the ____ had not been honest with the public about Vietnam.

    US Government

    The Tet offensive marked a major turning point in the Vietnam War because Communist forces scored a major ____ victory

    political

    Nightly news coverage of the Vietnam War on television helped create a ______ gap

    credibility

    President Johnson refused to allow a full-scale attack on North Vietnam main ______ because it passed through the territory of countries not involved in the war

    supply line

    Operation Rolling Thunder was a sustained _____ campaign against North Vietnam

    bombing

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    The Vietnam War and the media

    Vietnam became a subject of large-scale news coverage in the United States only after substantial numbers of U.S. combat troops had been committed to the war in the spring of 1965. Prior to that time, the number of American newsmen in Indochina had been small—fewer than two dozen even as late as 1964. By 1968, at the height of the war, there were about 600 accredited journalists of all nationalities in Vietnam, reporting for U.S. wire services, radio and television networks, and the major newspaper chains and news magazines. The U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) made military transportation readily

    The Vietnam War and the media

    By Ronald H. Spector • Edit History

    Vietnam became a subject of large-scale news coverage in the United States only after substantial numbers of U.S. combat troops had been committed to the war in the spring of 1965. Prior to that time, the number of American newsmen in Indochina had been small—fewer than two dozen even as late as 1964. By 1968, at the height of the war, there were about 600 accredited journalists of all nationalities in Vietnam, reporting for U.S. wire services, radio and television networks, and the major newspaper chains and news magazines. The U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) made military transportation readily available to newspeople, and some took advantage of this frequently to venture into the field and get their stories first-hand. That proximity to the battlefield carried obvious risks, and more than 60 journalists were killed during the war. Many reporters, however, spent most of their time in the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), and got their stories from the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office’s daily briefings (which soon became known as “the five o’clock follies”).

    Faas, Horst

    German war photographer Horst Faas working in Vietnam in 1967.

    AP

    The Vietnam conflict is often referred to as the “first television war.” Film from Vietnam was flown to Tokyo for quick developing and editing and then flown on to the United States. Important stories could be transmitted directly by satellite from Tokyo. There has been much discussion of the way television brought battles directly to American living rooms, but in fact most television stories were filmed soon after a battle rather than in the midst of one, and many were simply conventional news stories. Indeed, most stories about the war on nightly TV news shows were not film records fresh from Vietnam but rather brief reports based on wire service dispatches and read by anchormen.

    The role of the media in the Vietnam War is a subject of continuing controversy. Some believe that the media played a large role in the U.S. defeat. They argue that the media’s tendency toward negative reporting helped to undermine support for the war in the United States while its uncensored coverage provided valuable information to the enemy in Vietnam. However, many experts who have studied the role of the media have concluded that prior to 1968 most reporting was actually supportive of the U.S. effort in Vietnam. The February 1968 assessment by Walter Cronkite, the anchor of the CBS Evening News (known as “the most trusted man in America”), that the conflict was “mired in stalemate” was seen by many as the signal of a sea change in reporting about Vietnam, and it is said to have inspired Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson to state, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” The increasingly skeptical and pessimistic tone of reporting may have reflected rather than created similar feelings among the American public. Reporting from Vietnam was indeed uncensored, but during the entire war period there were only a handful of instances in which the MACV found a journalist guilty of violating military security. In any case, American disillusionment with the war was a product of many causes, of which the media was only one. What most undermined support for the war was simply the level of American casualties: the greater the increase in casualties, the lower the level of public support for the war.

    White House press conference

    White House correspondent Dan Rather of CBS News asking Pres. Richard M. Nixon a question at a press conference, June 29, 1972.

    Jack E. Kightlinger—White House Photo/Nixon Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

    Ronald H. Spector

    Source : www.britannica.com

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