The Problem With Vietnam
Wartime in the United States has always placed pressure on the government and the citizens of the country to provide support by whatever means to the situation. During World War II, that support was propagated by the government in the form of censorship and a strategic public relations plan to maintain the public opinion in favor of the cause. Glorification of America's involvement in the war helped America maintain the image of "a cause worth fighting for." Technology and de-censorship would later transform America and the world's image of war, which had been formed by such propaganda as seen during WWII, into the truth about war as seen in the media's coverage of the Vietnam War. During this period, uncensored media coverage helped to morph American views about military conflicts forever as well as changing the media's role in war.
World War II was a time in American history of patriotism. However, that patriotism came a price to the American public according to The Censored War, written by George Roeder. He discusses the impact that censorship had on the American public, and how lies and propaganda gave the citizens of America a false view of war. By portraying participation in the war as heroic, using such propaganda as posters depicting fallen GI's as Christ-like figures (Rodeder 33), the US government formed the perspective for the public, rather than allowing them to develop their own sense of reality. Photographs of dead or wounded soldiers were withheld from the public in order to keep public opinion on the side of the government. Pictures of dead or wounded American soldiers were kept in a file dubbed "the Chamber of Horrors", not to be released for public viewing until many years after the wars end (Roeder 1). Withholding of information during this war angered many people, making them feel as if they had been lied to, which in fact they had. However, the flip side to the censorship, the side that is not often seen, is the fact that this helped to break down many barriers in the country, including race, gender and even religious. Its effects on the outcome of the war cannot be measured by traditional means, but indeed it created an atmosphere of pride and loyalty for one's country. World War II may have been a censored war, but that censorship may have indeed won that war. According to Philip Knightley's The First Casualty during World War I, censorship was so tight that even reports of a gift of wine cases to American troops by the French were not reported for fear of making the American's look unsavory (Alter 38).
An after effect of World War II's propagation can be seen in the tremendous press coverage of the Vietnam War. Feelings of mistrust and betrayal toward the US government could very well have been why Vietnam had so much coverage. American citizens wanted the truth, feeling that they had been lied to for so many years. The truth was what was received thanks to Television...