Vietnam War and the Economy - History

Vietnam War and the Economy - History

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The Vietnam War had several effects on the U.S. economy. The requirements of the war effort strained the nation's production capacities, leading to imbalances in the industrial sector. Factories that would have been producing consumer goods were being used to make items from the military, causing controversy over the government's handling of economic policy. In addition, the government's military spending caused several problems for the American economy. The funds were going overseas, which contributed to an imbalance in the balance of payments and a weak dollar, since no corresponding funds were returning to the country. In addition, military expenditures, combined with domestic social spending, created budget deficits which fueled inflation. Anti-war sentiments and dissatisfaction with government further eroded consumer confidence. Interest rates rose, restricting the amount of capital available for businesses and consumers. Despite the success of many Kennedy and Johnson economic policies, the Vietnam War was a important factor in bringing down the American economy from the growth and affluence of the early 1960s to the economic crises of the 19

History of Vietnam since 1945

After World War II and the collapse of Vietnam's monarchy, France attempted to re-establish its colonial rule but was ultimately defeated in the First Indo-China War. The Geneva Accords in 1954 partitioned the country temporarily in two with a promise of democratic elections in 1956 to reunite the country. However, the United States and South Vietnam insisted on United Nations supervision of any election to prevent fraud, which the Soviet Union and North Vietnam refused. North and South Vietnam therefore remained divided until The Vietnam War ended with the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

After reunification in 1975, the newly reunified Vietnam faced many difficulties including internal repression and isolation from the international community due to the Cold War, Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and an American economic embargo. [1] In 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam changed its economic policy and began a series of reforms to the private sector and to the economy through what is known as Đổi Mới, a political movement primarily led by Prime Minister Võ Văn Kiệt. During the 6th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the country abolished its planned economy system in favor of a market oriented one. Ever since the reforms in the mid-1980s, Vietnam has enjoyed substantial economic growth.


Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Although one of the Mon-Khmer languages of the Austroasiatic family, Vietnamese exhibits strong influences from Chinese. The language of the Khmer minority also belongs to the Mon-Khmer group, whereas Cham belongs to the Austronesian family.

Many Montagnard peoples—such as the Rade ( Rhade), Jarai, Chru, and Roglai—speak Austronesian languages, linking them to the Cham, Malay, and Indonesian peoples others—including the Bru, Pacoh, Katu, Cua, Hre, Rengao, Sedang, Bahnar, Mnong, Mang ( Maa), Muong, and Stieng—speak Mon-Khmer languages, connecting them with the Khmer. French missionaries and administrators provided Roman script for some of the Montagnard languages, and additional orthographies have since been devised.

The largest of the northern highland groups speak languages belonging to the Tai language family and generally live in upland valleys. Thai, the national language of Thailand, also belongs to this language family. Hmong ( Miao) and Mien groups, who speak Sino-Tibetan languages, are scattered at higher elevations.

Impact of Vietnam War on American History

The Vietnam War had a significant role in shaping the history of America. At the time when America was fighting for equality and freedom abroad, Black Americans were fighting for the same rights in the same country. These events were all aired on the television depicting the violence and the atrocities that were being committed during these events. It is from this point that the counterculture began to grow. It was this war that catalyzed and enabled various groups to come together and initiate changes. This, on a larger note, impacted America to present age. This essay will highlight the effects of the Vietnam War on American culture.

This advancement was not without effects to both the Vietnam and the American soldiers. The American troops bombed southern Vietnam mercilessly. The soldiers never minded about civilians. They completely disregarded the lives of the locals. There was a series of incidences when the American soldiers took it as a light matter to conduct several atrocities to the locals. They discredited human rights and the media went forth to present these scenes on American television. These horrific images, and the several accounts of lives lost went forward to the shaping of public opinion (Isserman & Bowman, 2003).

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To begin with, the events that led to the advancement of the war are highlighted here. So as to curb the spread of communism, the government developed a policy of containment and a doctrine named Truman doctrine that offered help to any nation that was subject to it. In 1961, President Kennedy was sworn into power.

Kennedy began secretly sending troops to Vietnam. He also arranged for their withdrawal just before he was assassinated in 1963 (Tichenor & Harris, 2010). President Lyndon Baines Johnson ascended into presidency as the 36th President of the United States immediately after the assassination of President Kennedy. President Lyndon Baines Johnson expanded the involvement into the Vietnamese war greatly through making a resolution on the Gulf of Tonkin conflict (Tichenor & Harris, 2010). In the March of 1965, two U.S battalions waded to the shore of Danang. It was the first time for U.S to dispatch these 3,500 soldiers to Vietnam in support of the Saigon government in the efforts curbing communism.

The mission of these troops involved protecting the airbase that the Americans were using in a series of bombing activities in Vietnam. President Kennedy fitted in the shoes of President Truman and Dwight, who diligently fought against communism. By his rising to the power, Lyndon did not have any alternative other than proceed with the intents of his former. Kennedy did this without a formal consent from the Congress. A bombing campaign then followed in which the Northern Vietnam began destroying the enemy. This war involved burning up of villages and killing men, women and girls. The process involved destroying churches and temples that were considered as safe.

To make matters worse, then war and its effects were aired for American families to behold. As mentioned earlier, this resulted in horrific images of the war. This shaped the opinions of the many Americans as never before. The massacre at My Lai dominated the scenes in the American Television as one of the most horrific scenes done on the civilians during the war. There were various protests all over from 1965 in different colleges and the major cities. By the end of 1968, every corner of the country had felt the effects of the war (Flores, 2014).

A counterculture ensued in the 1960’s that rejected the social norms in America from 1950’s. The movement was in conflict with the America’s involvement in the Vietnamese war. It lasted eight years, from 1964 to 1972. The youths in America could no longer agree with the cultural standing of their parents, especially the racial segregation and the support for the war in Vietnam. The culture conducted themselves on the basis of the premises of free sex, antiwar, and lots of drugs. This was not what Americans advocated for. It was turned to be ironical that the soldiers supported for peace and yet the treatment they gave to the civilians was contrary to what they professed.

This movement divided the country. For some of the Americans, these attributes made a sharp reflection on the ideals of America on equality, world peace, free speech and the pursuit of happiness. For others, this counterculture movement showed an America that was self-indulgent, rebellious, unpatriotic assault on the traditional moral order of America.

Rejection of the mainstream culture was reflected in the many other genres of music, pop-art, and explorations in spirituality. Music became an integral part in spreading the counterculture majorly in the large outdoor festival, especially the Woodstock music.

Most significant was the emergence of civil right activist, Martin Luther King, Jr, in 1967 that came out in full support for this movement for moral reasons and elaborated his views in a church in Riverside, New York. Martin Luther asserted that the war was draining resources on home programs. Luther as well pointed concerns about the percentage of black American casualties concerning the total population (Hasday, 2007). King’s sentences voiced the black American activists as the cause for the antiwar and, therefore, established a new dimension to moral objections of the activism.

Upon election to office, President Nixon began withdrawing American troops from Vietnam in the June of 1969 and made a replacement of the military draft using lottery by the ending of that year (Tichenor Harris, 2010). In the December of 1972, America began a series of large-scale bombing of North Vietnam after peace talks did not materialize. These attacks led to the Congressional Democrats to demand to an end America’s involvement in Southern Asia in the January of 1973 (Isserman Bowman, 2003).

The war undermined many other liberal reforms. There was increased inflation because President Johnson did not raise taxes to fund the war. This severely affected the U.S economy. This made many Americans lose trust in the government. Several decades later, the American remains torn between the meanings of the conflict. Before 1980s, America went through a period of what can be called social change (Hall, 2009). The war went ahead in changing the attitudes and beliefs of the people of America. This has impacted American culture permanently to this present age.

In his book, Fitz-Gerald discusses matters arising from the involvement of America in the Vietnam War and the failed efforts by Richard M .Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson the U.S Presidents in bringing about the withdrawal of America from that conflict in the period of 1960s. After President Richard M .Nixon in June 1969, the troops of America were withdrawn from Vietnam.

The article further discusses the large scale bombing of Vietnam in the north by the United States, without any sympathy or care for the lives of the civilians. At the same time the media coverage was uncensored in that it was broadcasting and showing horrific images on American Television, regarding to the accounts of those who lost lives and shaping public opinion. Due to this the U.S. involvement in the South-East Asia was called off by the Congressional Democrats and in 1973, a ceasefire agreement was signed by Viet Cong, the United states, South Vietnam and North Vietnam. Later United States withdrew from South Vietnam willingly.

According to Gerald, the program of “Vietnamization” initiated by Nixon is looked unto in details in the article and this plan had its repercussions: for instance, drug abuse increased until it was no longer considered wrong, the combat units of U.S ended up devastating casualties, racial tensions erupted, individual groups refused combats and their troops killed several officers. At home things were not good either people went on the streets of the cities demonstrating as the antiwar campaign gained support from people (FitzGerald, 2009).

The book by Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, third volume, details an American historical account regarding Martin Luther King Jr., a history account which is read widely and regarded highly in terms of the United States civil rights movement. Upon some extensive primary research Michael Kazin, a history professor at George Town University, reviewed Taylor’s book. In the review, the author mentions the King’s tragedy and his movement as that of the lack of readiness of Americans to embrace his goals, though in the end after his death they were willing, as a means of honoring the eloquence with which he presented them with.

Michael Kazin further outlines the state of things in 1960s, a time when the white citizens had unprecedented prosperity starting from the lower middle class and the working class. Yet most of them were not secure in their jobs, their cultural status, their homes which were affected, or even dominated by the War, higher tax rates and the requirements of King’s policies on solidarity based on ethnic class (Kazin, 2009).

Additionally, A history of the U.S. political system: Ideas, interests, and institutions, by Daniel J. Tichenor and Richard A. Harris examines the ideas, the policies and institutions that have impacted the American Politics and Government throughout the history and are looking at the how the ideologies of U.S. have developed. The authors document the state of America after the World War II, which marks the beginning of emergence of United States as an International Power, something that would have brought profound implications on how Americans viewed the Government. With the former President working against the racial tensions, the author talks of the beginning of the anti-war emotions concerning Vietnam after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and how the involvement of America conflicted president Johnson. The author further speaks of the movements on civil rights at home and the coming of the counter culture (Tichenor & Harris, 2010).

Furthermore, America, the Vietnam War, and the World: Comparative and International Perspectives by Daum et al., 2003 introduces the war as having essentially changed the political and the social spheres of America. The book however argues that the war was not only involving America and Vietnam but also had the interest of the entire world. Several chapters of this volume link the various reverberations identified there as having traces in Europe, Asia and South Pacific Region.

The chapters also look at the various political and cultural conflicts that Vietnam caused in the allies of America. This chapter too looks at the various dynamics of various alliances as the source of sparking the war. The authors have the mind of exposing the effects of the war as all originating from Vietnam (Daum et al., 2003). This book therefore seeks justice to explain the impact of the war on many parts of the world and its impacts to both social and political factors of America and the world.

Lastly, Franklin speaks about Vietnam War being the first television war representing the atrocities committed on the civilians in Vietnam and the impacts of the war to shaping the political and the social phases of America in Vietnam and other American fantasies. The book presents the irony behind the war. American soldiers commit crimes against humanity that cause the civilians’ endless woes. The soldiers are ruthless. They go ahead to torture even monks in a church. To the monks, these soldiers appear harmless and without ill intentions. They later torture them with both women and girls (Franklin, 2000).


Flores, D. (2014). Memories of War: Sources of Vietnam Veteran Pro- and Antiwar Political Attitudes. 29 (1), 98-119.

Hall, M. K. (2009). Vietnam War Era: People and Perspectives. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Hasday, J. L. (2007). The Civil Rights Act of 1964: An End to Racial Segregation. New York: Chelsea House.

Isserman, M., Bowman, J. S. (2003). Vietnam War. New York: Facts on File.

Tichenor, D. J., Harris, R. A. (2010). A history of the U.S. political system: Ideas, interests, and institutions. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

FitzGerald, F. (2009). Vietnam.56 (1), 53-57.

Kazin, M. (2009). Martin Luther King, Jr. and the meanings of the 1960s. 114 (4), 980-989.

Tichenor, D. J., Harris, R. A. (2010). A history of the U.S. political system: Ideas, interests, and institutions. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Daum, A. W., Gardner, L. C., Mausbach, W. (2003). America, the Vietnam War, and the world: Comparative and international perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Franklin, H. B. (2000). Vietnam and other American fantasies. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press.

Free «Vietnam War Heightened Social, Political, and Economical Tensions» Essay Paper

Vietnam War was one of the major military conflicts of the XX century that lasted from 1961 to 1975. In Vietnam it is called &lsquoLiberation war&rsquo and, sometimes, &lsquothe American war&rsquo being considered the culminating point of the Cold War. At first, common Americans believed that participation of their country would be justified, serving the democracy. Consequences proved contrary: considerable human losses on both sides and millions of hectares burned by American toxic chemicals. In this paper, we will discuss the ways in which Vietnam War heightened social, political, and economic tensions in the USA during 1964-1975.

Social tensions caused by Vietnam War entailed thousands of young lives wasted in it. American draftees, as well as Vietnamese peaceful population, died in large numbers and this fact caused numerous protests in the USA. Martin Luther King was one of those who started civil rights movement against continuation of this war. In one of his speeches he wondered why young people are crippled in a war, while defending liberties of Asian country? He also stated that for some reason poor people were the ones who suffer the most, while the rich were the ones who started the war (Document C). The situation with draftees was complicated and difficult to understand. Though, the military reserves of the USA could not be mobilized because it could possibly be viewed by other countries as mobilization for global war. Vietnam War was fought by draftees and, as it was stated by draft board members, they were like a cattle sent to slaughter (Document D). People gathered and shouted anti-war slogans during organized protests. One of such protests was Moratorium Day in 1969, when Americans protested peacefully against this bloody war. Anti-war songs became a popular means of expressing dissatisfaction with military actions in Vietnam. One of such songs was &ldquoI feel like I&rsquom fixing to die rag&rdquo by Country Joe and the Fish (Document B). Another reason which caused considerable social tensions was the fact that this was the first war covered by the media. Parents literally observed the horrific picture of their children dying in the battles. They could not understand what can possibly be the reason to keep the troops there.

Political tensions were also heightened considerably during and after the Vietnam War. One of the reasons was the fact that sons of politicians were not drafted and did not take part in the war. They were sent abroad &ndash to Canada or Europe. Thus, government used draftees to fill in ranks of soldiers and to fill in the spots of politicians&rsquo sons. The Selective Service System resorted to the draft lottery that aimed at determining the order of call. &ldquoParticipants&rdquo were en born between 1944 and 1950, there were 366 balls corresponding to the number of days in a year. Consequently, the anti-war stance became more pronounced as people disapproved of enrolling solely uneducated, low-income members of society (Starr, 1997). It seemed to average citizens that upper class people wanted war but were not actually fighting it, while lower class wanted to stop war and had no choice but to fight it. Political tensions were furtherly aggravated by the fact that politicians did not or could not stop it. In the &ldquoGulf of Tonkin Resolution&rdquo the Congress supported president&rsquos determination to repel military attacks against the USA and prevent further aggression by any means (Document A). Though, this was not American war in the first place. As Robert Kennedy said in his speech, Americans misunderstood the very nature of the war. Problem between the two parts of Vietnam could not be resolved by military conflict with involvement of the USA (Document E). When the majority of American citizens were already against the war, the president Richard Nixon still encouraged people to continue fighting. He considered that North Vietnam could not win and humiliate the USA as a country (Document G).

Economic tensions caused by Vietnam War were appalling. The country was already in relatively bad economic conditions but the war&rsquos cost, which amounted to billions of dollars per year, worsened existing unfavorable situation. Every killed Vietnam communist, each soldier&rsquos ammunition and weapon, air strikes and air raids &ndashall these things were very costly. During the war stagnation connected to inactivity of business overwhelmed the country. Adding to this, when Johnson won the election of 1964, he faced the risk of losing this anti-communist fight since being accused of ignoring foreign affairs. Johnson found himself between Scylla and Charybdis: the idea of the Great Society was jeopardized by the war but leaving it would make &ldquomy nation an appeaser&rdquo (Campagna 1991, p.14). In the picture from document D we may observe how the Foreign Policy is dragging Great Society into the precipice. This caricature implies that America cannot support the Foreign Policy started by Lyndon Johnson and Great Society, it has to choose whom to rescue once and for all (Document D). While war producing manufactures were thriving during the Vietnam War, economic tensions were becoming more and more severe. The country had to at least conserve those limited resources left and stop spending money on weapons to fight war which, as it became apparent in the future, was not America&rsquos war to fight (Document H).

What was the impact of the Vietnam War?

Lasting for 20 years (1955-1975), the Vietnam war, as bloody as any other wars, took away more than 2 millions lives, in which many of them were civilians. 3 millions were wounded, and hundreds of thousands of children were left orphans. The war ruined both North and South Vietnam.

Between 1965 and 1973, the U.S. Air forces dropped around 8 millions ton of bombs in Vietnam. Basic infrastructure in the North was devastated especially after Operation Linebacker II lasting from 18 to 29 in December 1972.

In the South, the U.S. forces had used around 20 million gallons of herbicides from 1962 to 1971 especially in the North of Saigon and along the borders with Laos and Cambodia to reduce the dense jungle foliage that might conceal the Viet Cong (National Liberation Front) as well as to destroy crops that the enemy might use for subsistence. In 1969, around 1,034,300 hectares of forest was destroyed. “Agent Orange“, one of major herbicides used, has left a serious ecological and human impact on Vietnamese people’s lives. Today there are still many children in Vietnam growing up with various diseases and disabilities affected by the harmful chemicals carried out in the war.

What is more, after the fall of Saigon, the Communists promptly began to operate “re-education” programs which captured millions of people in South Vietnam to the so-called “re-education camps” and “new economic zones” and forced them to do extremely harsh works. Their actions caused a lot of hatred between the North and South Vietnamese people, whose effects, to some extent, still last to date. Besides, millions of people who couldn’t stand the harsh political policies & treatment of the new government tried hard to escape from South Vietnam and became refugees. It is estimated that around 200,000 to 400,000 “boat people” died on the sea. A few decades have passed but Vietnam remains a developing country under the Communist government.

On the United States’ side, more than 58,000 American soldiers were killed while more than 150,000 others wounded. Moreover, according to Indochina Newsletter, Asia Resource Center (Special Issue 93-97), the U.S. government spent around $350 billion to $900 billion on the Vietnam War including veteran benefits and interests, which left a heavy burden on its economy.

But blood and money were not the only prices they had to pay. The news of atrocities such as the My Lai massacre questioned the U.S. claim of moral superiority and its status as the world defender of freedom and right. Together with the Watergate scandal, the war weakened American people’s faith and confidence in their governments. In fact, there was a widespread public distrust of the government, especially in military decisions right after the war.

The Vietnam War also left many long lasting effects on the veterans who had fought hard in the war. Around 700,000 Vietnam veterans suffered psychological after-effects. The Vietnam War thoroughly changed the way the American approaches military actions.

Damage the Economy

The Vietnam War damaged the U.S. economy severely. The U.S. had poured some $168 billion into the war, but the real cost of the conflict was its impact on the economy .

After a few truly good years during 1962 – 1965 when there was low inflation, almost full employment and a favorable balance of trade , President Lyndon B. Johnson, who succeeded President Kennedy after his assassination in 1963, declared a “War on Poverty” through his “Great Society” programs while escalating the war in Vietnam at the same time.

However, his decision to finance both “guns and butter” – a major war and the Great Society simultaneously, without a significant increase in taxes unleashed an acceleration of inflation peaking at a runaway double-digit in mid 1970s.

Not until 1969 did President Johnson decided to introduce a 10% income tax surcharge, which is considered by many economists “too little and too late” and in turn also slowed down the economy. It’s worth mentioning that Congress would not allow that “surcharge” to be implemented until President Johnson agreed to cut $6 billion from domestic spending on Great Society programs. Despite their relative success, Johnson could have undoubtedly spent more on these programs had he not had to pay for the war abroad, which Martin Luther King, Jr. had referred to as a “America’s tragic distraction” at the beginning of Johnson administration .

Moreover, huge spending on the war in Vietnam led to an increasingly unfavorable balance of trade, which contributed to an international monetary crisis and threat to U.S. gold reserves in 1967-68. That threat was seen as convincing evidence that the U.S. could no longer afford the war.

Inflation fueled by the escalation of the Vietnam and later Yom Kippur War also increased food prices and contributed to the oil price hike in 1973, which then led to inflationary expectations. President Nixon had to deal with these economic problems through various monetary and fiscal adjustments and ultimately wage and price controls in August 1971 through April 1973 .

Economic and political problems grow

The fighting with Cambodia and China only made the situation worse within the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The expense of fighting and maintaining troops in Cambodia reduced the money available to solve problems at home. In addition, the economic embargo made it impossible for Vietnam to trade with or borrow money from many other countries. Before long, the Vietnamese economy was suffering from terrible inflation (a situation where the cost of goods rises more quickly than people's incomes). By 1986, prices were rising by 600 percent per year. At that rate, one chicken would cost an average Vietnamese worker an entire month's salary.

The Vietnamese government also had trouble uniting the economies and cultures of the northern and southern sections of the country. People in the South tended to resist the socialist controls that the northern government tried to place upon them. "Historic differences between north and south were exacerbated [made worse] during three decades of war, and even the most heavy-handed methods could not force the freewheeling and resilient south into a made-in-Hanoi mold," George C. Herring explains in America's Longest War.

By the mid-1980s, even people who had supported North Vietnam during the war began to feel that the Communist leaders were doing a poor job of running the country. After all, the government had promised to reunite Vietnam and return it to peace and prosperity. But instead, conditions for many citizens were worse than they had ever been before. "By the time Vietnam's rulers staged huge public ceremonies to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their victory, it was no longer possible to conceal—even from themselves—how poorly their leadership had repaid the enormous sacrifices that had given their revolution its victory," Arnold R. Isaacs comments in Vietnam Shadows: The War, Its Ghosts, and Its Legacy.

Vietnam's economy after the war (1975-1986)

After the war, the Northern and Southern Vietnam were unified as one state: the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In 1978, Vietnamese government issued new currency of Vietnam Dong (VND), unified financial market of the North and the South. Socialist planned economy played dominant role in the economy.

Vietnamese government launched Five-Year Plans in agriculture and industry aiming at recovering after the war and building socialist nation.Government held a decisive part in the national economy. Family economy and collective economy were encouraged while capitalist economy was restrained. Foreign trade and assistance were mainly depended on Soviet Union and its socialist allies. Unfortunately, the economy still dominated by small-scale production, low labor productivity and lacked of modern technology. Vietnam&rsquos economy at that time faced an unexpected situation of stagnation and hyperinflation. Inflation evenreached the peak rate of 453.5% in the year of 1986.

Vietnam's economy in the war

During the period of 1945-1975, Vietnam was divided into two regions with two different governments. In the North, the authority government was the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the direction of.

Vietnam's economy since reform in 1986

In December 1986, the 6th congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam was taken place. At the congress, delegates reached consensus on a reforming program. Since 1986, Doi Moi (Reform) has been.

Vietnam War and the Economy - History

Much has been written about Vietnam. Our purpose here is not to review the long, tortured and tragic history of the build up, politics, military wins and loses, or the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Instead our purpose is to explore some of the ways that the Vietnam War affected rural America and the ways that U.S. agriculture affected Vietnam.

Traditionally, rural communities have been among the most patriotic in America and recent studies have suggested that rural recruits are joining the military and dying in Iraq at higher rates than urban residents. Today's Army is an all-volunteer force.

During the Cold War, the government had enacted a draft system during peacetime for only the second time in U.S. history. (The first was right before the U.S. entered World War II.) From 1948 through 1973, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the military. At first, the system had a number of exemptions, the main one being an exemption for young men attending college. As the Vietnam War heated up, college enrollments soared. New small college campuses sprouted all over the country including in many rural communities. After the war was over many of those campuses died.

For instance, Wahoo, Nebraska – population around 3,600 in 1960 – opened a small liberal arts college in 1965 and named it John F. Kennedy College. It was able to attract a few hundred students for several years and the rumor was that most were from eastern states. It closed in 1975, after the educational deferment was abolished. In 11 states of the Midwest, there were 60s colleges that closed during the 1970s and early 80s.

In the early years of the war, a perception grew that rural, black, poor men were dying in larger proportions than their urban, white, rich brethren. So, in 1969, Congress did away with the education and other deferments and set up a lottery system. On December 1st, 366 blue plastic capsules were put into a hopper. Each capsule had a birth date in it – "January 1," "January 2," and so forth. Then, as radio, TV and film crews covered it, capsules were drawn and the dates were posted on a board. If your birth date was drawn first, you knew you were going to be drafted first. And you knew there was a good chance you were going to Vietnam unless you could get into a different branch of the military.

Recent studies have suggested that the draft lottery helped "democratize" the war drawing recruits to the military roughly equally from all segments of society.

John Turnbull (left) grew up in a family who were civilians working on a Navy base, so he always expected to join the military as a pilot. He ended up flying one of the "Huey" helicopters that made the Vietnam War so mobile. John saw some heavy action but he also took time to notice the agriculture of Vietnam. "Where we were flying was a large agricultural area," he says. "It's the Rice Bowl of Southeast Asia… [But] living conditions were really bad for most of those folks."

Don Freeman (right) was serving in a reserve unit in York, Nebraska, and remembers watching coverage of the war. "The Vietnam War always haunted me," he says now, "because it was so fresh. TV the same day. Live news." As it happened, he was discharged less than a month before his reserved unit was called up to active duty in Vietnam, and sometimes regrets he didn't reenlist to follow his unit. "Most of the people in the unit, I'd probably sworn in. And we went to summer camp together. You become more than just a unit. You become friends. And so, I felt that, yeah, I probably should have gone at that time."

Farm labor. As in any war, the increased number of men (and increasingly women) in the military draws labor from farms and rural communities. That, in turn, hastens the move toward more mechanized agriculture.

During the Vietnam War years, rough 9 million people served in the military, compared with the 16 million who served during World War II. Of the 9 million, roughly 3 million served in the Southeast Asia area, and half of those actually saw combat in Vietnam.

By 1970, roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population was living on farms or in rural communities where hired hands would be hired from. So, using the 9 million figure, roughly 2.25 million men would have left rural communities for the military during the Vietnam era. The Vietnam War had a significant impact on the rural workforce.

In the 1960s, almost all farms were mechanized, but the war forced many farmers to become even more efficient by buying larger, more specialized machines and concentrating their operations on one main crop.

Economic costs. The Defense Department reported that the overall cost of the Vietnam war was $173 billion (equivalent to $770 billion in 2003 dollars). Veteran's benefits and interest would add another $250 billion ($1 Trillion in 2003 dollars).

But the real cost of the war was its impact on the economy, including agriculture. After the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, President Lyndon Johnson vowed to carry on JFK's civil rights agenda and, after his own election, a host of social reforms known as the "Great Society." Johnson announced a "War on Poverty" and tried to quietly escalate the war in Vietnam. It didn't work. Eventually, Johnson had to admit that he was trying to pay for both "guns and butter," meaning pay for both the war and domestic programs without a tax increase.

For many economists, the last truly good years in the U.S. were 1962-65 when there was almost full employment, low inflation and a favorable balance of trade. During those years, farm price supports continued to prop up rural incomes and keep food prices low.

But the escalation of the war fueled inflation and also increased food prices. Johnson finally asked Congress for a tax increase in 1968, but Congress insisted that the "surcharge" would be implemented only if Johnson cut $6 billion from domestic spending. The tax increase slowed the U.S. economy.

In addition, spending on the Vietnam war hurt the U.S. balance of trade, and that led to an international monetary crisis and threat to U.S. gold reserves in 1967-68.

Many of the problems were left to the Nixon and Ford administrations to deal with. A hike in food prices, in particular, led to wage and price controls from 1971-73, an embargo on exports of soybeans and cottonseed and a freeze on beef prices in 1973. All of those actions, precipitated by the Vietnam War, hurt farmers.

The "ecocide" of Vietnam. In Vietnam, American military strategists set out to deliberately destroy much of the farmland and rice paddies that fed the enemy and the jungle environment that hid their troops. The tools were a massive bombing campaign and technology borrowed from American agricultural innovation – powerful chemical herbicides. Critics charge that this was a policy of conventional and chemical warfare that created the "ecocide" of Vietnam – the destruction of entire ecology of vast regions.

Vietnam was the most heavily bombed country in history. Between 1964 and 1975, there were over 7.5 million tons of bombs and other ordinance dropped on North and South Vietnam. That compares with 2.1 million tons of munitions during all of World War II and 454,000 tons during the Korean War.

To supply all those bombs, WWII-era munitions plants, like the Hastings (Nebraska) Naval Ammunitions Depot had to be reopened and start building bombs again.

One of the effects of the bombing was the destruction of a vast irrigation system that captured monsoon rains and distributed the water to rice paddies for a string of villages. In addition, as early as 1961, the Kennedy administration approved the use of chemical weapons – herbicides – to destroy the rice crops of enemy-held areas. As a result of the bombing and the chemical weapons, Vietnam went from being a net exporter of rice (48,563 metric tons exported in 1965) to a net importer of rice the next year. By 1968, Vietnam was importing over 677,000 tons of rice to feed its people.

From the fields, the military shifted its attention to the forests of the jungles. Guerilla fighters need to be hard to find to be successful, and in Vietnam that meant hiding in the dense jungles. So, the U.S. military commissioned agricultural chemical companies Dow and Monsanto to develop powerful new herbicides to completely kill vegetation in enemy areas. They came up with Agents Pink, Green, Purple, Blue, White and – most famously – Agent Orange. This last chemical was one of the most powerful because it contained dioxin. Dioxin was soon shown to be a cancer-causing agent.

The U.S. soldiers and airmen who worked on "Operation Ranch Hand" borrowed a familiar Smokey the Bear saying and gave it an ironic twist – "Only we can prevent forests."

The U.S. sprayed over 20 million U.S. gallons of herbicide over 6 million acres of South Vietnam. The cost to the environment was apparent to anyone who flew over Vietnam. Vast stretches of formerly lush vegetation were nude.

A 1970 report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science claimed that Operation Ranch Hand had deprived some 600,000 Vietnamese of their normal food supply. The report said chemical agents had destroyed $500 million worth of hardwood, and that 400,000 acres of mangrove forests were now lifeless swamps. The destruction of mangrove forests killed seafood, as well.

There were also human consequences of the chemical attack. While the chemical companies dispute the links between dioxin exposure and specific human diseases, they agreed to pay a $180 million settlement into a fund to help compensate veterans who may have been affected by Agent Orange. Also, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs assumes that when any Vietnam vet show up with one of three forms of cancer or two skins diseases that veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and is entitled to compensation.

Also, a 1997 Wall Street Journal article reported that up to 500,000 children were born in South Vietnam with dioxin-related deformities – a rate four times higher than in the former North Vietnam. Recently, the government of Vietnam has asked the U.S. to compensate Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange exposure, but the U.S. has refused.

Agriculture played in large role in the Vietnam war. Vietnamese agriculture was a target. American agricultural innovation provided a powerful chemical weapons for the war. And American agriculture was affected by the draining of farm labor and the war's impact on the overall economy.

Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2007. A partial bibliography of sources is here.

Watch the video: How Vietnam Became An Economic Miracle?