quotations about the Vietnam War
Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America -- not on the battlefields of Vietnam.
MARSHALL MCLUHAN, Montreal Gazette, May 16, 1975
Hell no, we won't go!
ANONYMOUS, Anti-Vietnam War slogan
This war in Vietnam is, I believe, a war for civilization. Certainly it is not a war of our seeking. It is a war thrust upon us and we cannot yield to tyranny.
FRANCIS CARDINAL SPELLMAN, speech, 1966
I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA, Apocalypse Now
The Vietnam War was arguably the most traumatic experience for the United States in the twentieth century. That is indeed a grim distinction in a span that included two world wars, the assassinations of two presidents and the resignation of another, the Great Depression, the Cold War, racial unrest, and the drug and crime waves.
DONALD M. GOLDSTEIN, introduction, The Vietnam War
Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is fully independent and reunified.
HO CHI MINH, statement, December 19, 1946
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I'm not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn't have to draft me, I'd join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I'll go to jail, so what? We've been in jail for 400 years.
MUHAMMAD ALI, attributed, Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties
The war against Vietnam is only the ghastliest manifestation of what I'd call imperial provincialism, which afflicts America's whole culture -- aware only of its own history, insensible to everything which isn't part of the local atmosphere.
STEPHEN VIZINCZEY, London Times, September 21, 1968
You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.
HO CHI MINH, a warning to French colonialists, 1946
It has been said that the United States was deceived into entering and expanding the Vietnam War by its own overoptimistic propaganda. The record suggests, however, that the policy-makers stayed in Vietnam not so much because of overly optimistic hopes of winning ... as because of overly pessimistic assessments of the consequences of losing.
JONATHAN SCHELL, The Real War
North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.
RICHARD NIXON, speech, November 3, 1969
We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, speech at Akron University, October 21, 1964
Numbers have dehumanized us. Over breakfast coffee we read of 40,000 American dead in Vietnam. Instead of vomiting, we reach for the toast. Our morning rush through crowded streets is not to cry murder but to hit that trough before somebody else gobbles our share.
DALTON TRUMBO, introduction, Johnny Got His Gun
Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.
WILLIAM WESTMORELAND, Time Magazine, April 5, 1982
Although both popular imagination and academic research on the Vietnam War continue to flourish, there is no consensus in sight. Only the U.S. Civil War rivals the power of the Vietnam War to divide and inflame generations upon generations of Americans.
ANDREAS W. DAUM, America, the Vietnam War, and the World
There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech at Riverside Church in New York City, "A Time to Break Silence", April 4, 1967
The bastards have never been bombed like they're going to be bombed this time.
RICHARD NIXON, statement to White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman and Attorney General John Mitchell, April 4, 1972
No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.
RICHARD NIXON, New York Times, March 28, 1985
In World War One, they called it shell shock. Second time around, they called it battle fatigue. After 'Nam, it was post-traumatic stress disorder.
JAN KARON, Home to Holly Springs
It is a key fact about American policy in Vietnam that the withdrawel of American troops was built into it from the start. None of the presidents who waged war in Vietnam contemplated an open-ended campaign; all promised the public that American troops would be able to leave in the not-too-remote future. The promise of withdrawal precluded a policy of occupation of the traditional colonial sort, in which a great power simply imposes its will on a small one indefinitely.
JONATHAN SCHELL, The Real War