The Impact of Student Activism on the Vietnam War

Student Activism: How Intellectuals Sparked the Antiwar Movement


The Vietnam war was a long, daunting, and devastating conflict that pitted South Vietnam and its primary ally the United States against North Vietnam, a communist government. The ongoing Cold War between the Soviet Union and the U.S. added more fuel to the fire, paving the way for a much-needed anti-war movement.

For the younger generation, particularly students, protests against the Vietnam war became a center of campus unrest. It gained unprecedented public attention. If you want to know why was the antiwar movement especially strong at colleges, you’ve come to the right place. Here you can find some practical facts on the impact of student activism during the Vietnam War era.

The Effect of the War

About 1 in 10 Americans who served during the Vietnam war lost their lives. Out of 2.7 million who served, 304,000 ended up seriously wounded, and 58,148 died. Amputations were reported to be 300% higher compared to World War II.

For the Vietnamese, the Vietnam war was even more devastating. As many as 2 million civilians died on both sides, resulting in innumerable losses. If you have essays to write on these topics, then you might want to read premade Vietnam war essays to get you started. As a college student, writing essays is a fundamental component of your studies. Students who read free essay examples on these topics can get valuable insight.

You will be expected to research different topics and titles for your paper. Reading helps students develop communication and vocabulary skills. The newly gained knowledge can help you creatively use your language.

OW Staffer May 1969/South Vietnam

How Did Students React At the Start of the Vietnam War?

Students marched by the thousands. More than 9,000 students joined the fray. They selected various targets including the Pentagon and Dow Chemical. They acted out of common belief, experts explain. One student protest mirrored the other and spread all over the country.

When we take a look at the actions of our ancestors we can see the sheer impact of history. Studying history is not just important for history majors, but for everyone else as well. When we study our own history, we can prevent making the same mistakes. Especially with civil wars. Historical materials are here to provide practical examples of how people act.

It serves as data of the past that provides a clear insight into our societal settings. With that in mind, learning about the Vietnam war also has its uses. Earlier events were prompted by faculty members. Here is a quick look at some of the most impactful student activism events:

        October 1963: Forces from South Vietnam suppressed Buddhist religious followers and leaders. This caused a political crisis, inspiring the first sizable demonstration.

        April 1965: Was the biggest protest in Washington D.C. amounting to 15,000 to 25,000 marchers. Close to the number of American soldiers stationed in Vietnam at the time.

        May 1966: Students burned a draft card in public for the first time at the University of California.

Active discussions and lectures inspired further Vietnam’s anti-war movements. Intellectuals combined their theories to organize events and oppose the government. This generation came of age during an affluent economy. Many read books of postwar America.

As intellectuals, they questioned the corporate and communist policies. From their written works, students believed that it was up to them, to vanguard their believes. But, most importantly, dismantle the Power Elite of corporate executives, federal bureaucrats, and union leaders from within. The pursuit of social justice spiked an outroar, promoting Vietnam war protests.

6 Soldiers on search and destroy patrol 1966/Exhibition Images

What Kind of Impact Did Students Have?

What began as small unrest obtained national prominence. Student activism attracted massive attention and gained noteworthy support from the community. Even though a huge amount of families still supported the Vietnam administration policy, more and more people rejected authority.

The movement reached a turning point in 1967 after Martin Luther King Jr. joined the efforts. Literature and culture were heavily influenced by the whole ordeal. Reading essay summaries on the topic can be a good way to see the cultural changes. Vietnam protest songs are the perfect examples. Like “What Are You Fighting For?” by Phil Ochs and “Bring ‘Em Home” by Pete Seeger.

Final Thoughts

This war was without a doubt a dark part of history. With countless people losing their lives and livelihoods to years of unrest. But, intellectuals at the time didn’t let the situation hold them down. Instead, they fought for what they thought was right and gained remarkable attention. Their efforts paid off. They reached the ears of the community and spiked unrest, inspiring significant cultural changes. From their experience, we can see that people can make a change. No matter how hard it may be. 

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