Rationale

Anti-Vietnam War protest in Auckland (source image)

I chose this picture to show that there were also protests against the Vietnam War that happened in other countries. This particular protest was led by the Band of the Royal New Zealand Artillery and accompanied by soldiers from the New Zealand Special Air Service and the 161 Battery. They used fire-crackers and red paint bombs to attract attention. The paint was supposed to symbolise the meaningless bloodshed that was going on in Vietnam. It was believed by 1971, this event has had 35,000 citizens taking part in these civilian outrages towards the war. When things got too out of hand, the police showed up to disperse the crowds. Later on, there were debates on this topic, whether New Zealand should even take part in a “civil war” that was already going on in America.

Notions

Iron Curtain

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The Iron Curtain was a term used by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to describe the barrier between the West and Soviet Union. His exact phrase was: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” It symbolised the isolation of communist countries from the Western capitalist countries. During the Yalta Conference in 1945, there was a demand that all Soviet citizens would return back to their home countries. Migration from East to West fully ended in 1950. After the death of  Joseph Stalin in 1953, restrictions on the border were starting to be removed. However, they were quickly restored in the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. This lasted for around 30 years until the collapse of the U.S.S.R in 1991.

Truman Doctrine, policy of containment, arms race

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The Truman Doctrine was, in a way, a “declaration” of the Cold War. On March 12, 1947, President Truman held a joint meeting with Congress to request for Turkey and Greece both to be given financial and medical aid from the US. Both of those countries had rivalled with the Soviet Union on their territories. This was also another way to stop communism from spreading further into Western Europe. He wanted 400 million dollars to be used for this purpose. Two months later, that amount was accepted by Congress. Even though both countries became severely right-winged, but it set the terms for a “fight” with the Soviet Union.

A State Department diplomat named George Kennan proposed a Policy of Containment in 1947. This was sort of a prototype version of the Truman Doctrine. It was at first an anonymous article written on the journal Foreign Affairs, aptly named “X-Articles”. Kennan wrote, “must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” To that end, he called for countering “Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world” through the “adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy.” With this, he believed that it would help halt or even diminish the Soviet powers.

In general, an arms race is a competition between two countries to show who has the more powerful arsenal of weaponry to combat their opponent. One such prominent arms race was between the US and the Soviet Union. After America acquired the use of nuclear weapons, the U.S.S.R wanted to gain such weapons themselves. They conducted their first nuclear experiment in 1949. In just 8 years, the US had over 2,000 warheads while the Soviets had 84. But during the mid-’60s, the Soviet Union had gone through one of the fastest passive military growth in history, which led to the US backing down, but not until coming back in 1979. The whole arms race created a lot of anxiety among countries and somehow ended so abruptly.

McCarthy era

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Joseph Raymond McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. He and President Truman had political conflicts between each other, calling their rival a communist, which was a very offensive term used in America. McCarthy was also the one who brought in fears of communist infiltration within US politics, different industries and other major parts. He was so extreme with his accusations that the US Senate had to censure him. His beliefs gave way to something called “McCarthyism” which was used in anti-communist propaganda. In 1950, he claimed in a speech that he had 205 names of members of the Communist Party in the State Department, who were “shaping policies with the intention of ruining the United States.” He had many supporters, however, in 1954, McCarthy had suspicions that communist infiltrated the armed ranks. His interrogation was filmed and became known as the Army-McCarthy hearings. People started to realise what kind of a person McCarthy really was. With his evasive answers for questions and intimidation tactics, the Army’s chief counsel said “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” after attacking an Army lawyer. The Senate responded to this event, saying that his actions were inexcusable. McCarthy kept his job but lost the power he once had.

The Korean War

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On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. The invasion caused the United States to quickly come to aid their ally. To them, this was not just an invasion of another country. It was an attack on democracy and the officials felt threatened of the spread of communism to other countries. President Truman exclaimed: “If we let Korea down, the Soviets will keep right on going and swallow up one after another.” General MacArthur commanded an assault, showing that the Allies are now on the offensive. It was an amphibian assault on the North, with plans to “liberate” the country from communism. It was successful in taking Seoul. The soldiers advanced until they reached the Yalu River, which The People’s Republic of China fiercely demanded to not move in on. They would see it as an attack on their country and sent forces on the riverside. After that, the war reached a stalemate, with a few skirmishes going on near their border. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, redrawing the new borders, including 1,500 miles of land for South Korea and a 2-kilometre demilitarized zone between the neighbouring countries.

The role of J. F. Kennedy

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He was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. His family was one of the wealthiest in America, giving Kennedy an elite education and career choice. He attended private schools such as Choate and Canterbury. In 1937, he became a US ambassador in Great Britain, where he wrote a book on the unpreparedness of England during WWII called “Why England Slept”. John joined the US Navy in 1941 but abandoned it in 1944 for a career as a journalist. In 1952, he ran for the Senate, and successfully beat the popular Republican Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. In his political career, he was nominated by the Democratic Party as their candidate for Vice President in 1957. And in 1960, announced his campaign for the presidency, which he won. During his presidency, he was one of the establishers of the Peace Corps, a corporation which sent members to underdeveloped countries. He also was endorsing the March on Washington and sent federal troops to desegregate the University of Mississippi. It helped him try to reach one of his two goals as a president: The Civil Rights Bill.

Bay of Pigs and the Cuba Crisis

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The Bay of Pigs invasion was an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s recently acquired power in Cuba. The CIA had sent 1,400 American-trained Cubans to provoke an anti-Castro uprising among the civilians. It was supposed to be clandestine, although the government had somehow known about this operation. The invasion started on the southern side of the island to take over the Cuban airports. A lot of problems occurred in the operation, with paratroopers landing in the wrong area and boats getting stuck in coral reefs. The Cubans had broadcast towers that broadcasted every detail about the invasion to all of the Cuban people. In just under 24 hours, 114 exiles were killed and 1,100 were taken as prisoners.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was an event in 1962, which could have ended with the declaration of World War III. Soviets were stationing their nuclear warheads in Cuba in secret. It was made as a deal between Khrushchev and Castro to help in any future US invasion attempts. This aroused the attention of Kennedy, who quickly discovered this. As America was just 100 miles away from Cuba, Kennedy demanded Khrushchev that they would remove their WOMDs from the island. He put up a “quarantine” around Cuba, so long as this issue was resolved. Khrushchev responded to this, saying that it was an “act of aggression” towards the Soviet Union. US reconnaissance planes found out that that the missiles were ready to fire, the US was getting ready for another war until a Soviet agent in the White House suggested that the Soviet Union was ready for an agreement. Khrushchev agrees to remove the missiles on one condition: that the US removed their Jupiter missiles from Turkey. After a few months of back-and-forth messages between Kennedy and Khrushchev, Kennedy ordered the removal of the missiles in April of 1963.

Space Race

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On October 4, 1957, a Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile launched, named Sputnik (Russian for “traveller”), the world’s first artificial satellite and the first man-made object to be placed into the Earth’s orbit. This whole endeavour was seen by Americans as another challenge from the Soviets. Just one year later, the US launched their first satellite: Explorer I. This was also designed by the German leading rocket scientist Wernher von Braun with the support of the US Army. Developments in a new field of science led to the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA). The first probe to land on the moon was Luna 2, made by the Soviets in 1959. Two years later in March, Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space orbiting the Earth in his spacecraft Vostok 1. Alan Shepard became the second man and first American to be in space. Because of the Soviet advancements in space engineering, Kennedy set out a bold claim. He said that Americans will be the first people to step on the moon. This project was dubbed Project Apollo. They started to advance quicker than the Soviet Union, partly due to the death of their chief engineer in the space program, Sergey Korolyov. The biggest achievement NASA has ever done was the launch of the Apollo 11, where Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins were sent off to the moon in 1969. This ultimately showed that the US had won the Space Race. In 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz mission was a plan to dock the American Apollo spacecraft with the Soviet Soyuz in orbit. Their “handshakes in space” became an event signifying the lowering tensions between both sides.

Vietnam War (causes, outcome and consequences)

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The war started in 1954, with Ho Chi Minh’s communist views and the anti-communist politician Ngo Dinh Diem’s declared Government Republic of Vietnam (GVN) being on completel opposite sides on their views. With the support of the US by sending weaponry and other resources, Ngo cracked down on Minh supporters. He caught around 100,000 Viet Cong (Vietnam Communists), most of whom were either tortured or killed. The National Liberation Front (NLF) was created to fight back against Diem’s regime. Members were both communist and anti-communist. They fought many bloody conflicts against the soldiers between 1959-1961. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term “Domino theory” suggested that if one South-Asian country falls into communism, others would follow the same steps. Kennedy, believing in this as well, sent out 9,000 American troops to Vietnam in 1962 for securing the peace. On November 1963, Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were murdered by a coup. This was just three weeks after Kennedy’s assassination. Lyndon B. Johnson, J. F. K.’s successor, wanted to deal with the ever-growing political instability in Vietnam. And an attack in 1964 on two US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin allowed him to retaliate. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution gave him the power to regularly bomb North Vietnam with air bombers. This was codenamed Operation Rolling Thunder.

The outcome of the war was a protest by the American people to stop war. Around 500,000 soldiers deserted due to mistrust towards the capital. The peace treaty was written down on January 1973, although the war raged on between the North and South until 1975. The South Vietnam capital, Saigon was captured on April 30 1975, and renamed as Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled in 1982 in Washington D.C. It had 58,200 names of the Americans who died in the war, including civilians.

Consequences of the war were quite enormous. The view of the Americans as “always strong” and “that nothing could stop them” was diminishing after the loss of the war. A lot of veterans suffered under PTSD. This caused alcohol poisoning, divorce and suicide rates to increase drastically. The nation spent 120 billion dollars on the war, leading to inflation. Especially in the oil crisis of 1973, when oil went to monumental heights in terms of price.

Richard Nixon and the Watergate Affair

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Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. He is believed to be one of the most disliked presidents in America. This is because of a scandal involving the President and five burglars. In 1971, he orders a secret taping system which records all of the conversations in the White House offices. The New York Times found the Pentagon Papers, harbouring secret history involving the Vietnam War. Nixon, hearing about this leak, sent in “Plumbers” (were ex CIA and FBI operatives) to deal with the situation. They tried to sneak into Daniel Ellsberg’s office, the man who leaked the Papers, in an attempt to smear his reputation. This was unfortunately unsuccessful. In 1972, five of the Plumbers were sent to wiretap phones and steal documents. This was also unsuccessful, but now they were actually caught. The Plumbers had the number for the reelection committee written down. This gave speculation as to whether Nixon was involved. He later addressed in a speech that this was not the case. On the same year, he was re-elected as President. However, later on, it was discovered that Nixon was giving the burglars’ hush money to cover up his tracks. For that whole scandal, he instructed the CIA to stop the FBI’s investigation. This was a much more serious crime than the burglary. A White House counsel named John Dean testified against Nixon, saying that he had secret tapes of conversations. Archibald Cox, an independent special prosecutor demanded that he hand over the tapes. Nixon threatened to fire him, leading many of the Justice Department officials to resign. In July of 1974, the Supreme Court told Nixon to give them the tapes. The House of Representatives quickly decided to vote for Nixon’s impeachment. Before that, Nixon managed to resign by himself.

The role of Henry Kissinger

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Diplomat Henry Kissinger was U.S. secretary of state under Richard Nixon. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping resolve the Vietnam War and keep relationships between the two countries on their good sides. Kissinger combined diplomatic initiatives and troop withdrawals with devastating bombing campaigns on North Vietnam, designed to improve the American bargaining position and maintain the country’s credibility with its international allies and enemies. However, his ways of dealing with the war were highly controversial. His strategy called “peace with honour” helped prolong the war to four years, increasing the fatality rates among soldiers and civilians. He negotiated the creation of SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, helping to ease relations between the two superpowers of the world. Kissinger founded the international consulting firm Kissinger Associates in 1982, and he serves as a board member and trustee to numerous companies and foundations. Additionally, he has authored several books and countless articles on American foreign policy and diplomatic history.

Counterculture, Summer of Love and Woodstock

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The Counterculture movement began in the ’60s as a way to be different from the norm, leaving behind their studies. Many other movements by college and high school students, such as the civil rights movements helped boost the creation of other similar movements. The New Left was created to appeal to left-winged middle-class students. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), founded at the University of Michigan in 1960, was the organisational base for the New Left. The term “New Left” was coined in the group’s 1962 Port Huron Statement, which criticised the lack of individual freedom and the power of the bureaucracy in government, universities, and corporations and called for participatory democracy. Topics such as school dress codes, discrimination and segregation were the hot topics within these campuses.

The Summer of Love is a phrase given to the summer of 1967 to try to describe the feeling of being in San Francisco that summer when the so-called “hippie movement” came to full fruition. The Human Be-In rally in San Francisco on 14 January is considered the starting point. The event itself was the first time hippie culture was given exposure by the media. In that way, the viewpoints of hippies started to spread throughout America and even towards Europe. The Haight-Ashbury district, where disaffected student groups gathered, became the focal point of hippy counterculture, and 100,000 young people arrived there over the summer. After a power shortage, the band Jefferson Airplane played and LSD was being distributed among the students to “enhance” the experience. In Autumn, the whole scene deteriorated, with teenage drug abuse, violence and rape cases increasing within the area. A mock funeral named “The Death of a Hippy” was made to memorialise the culture that was so vibrant in that district. People had to get jobs and live on with their lives after the Summer.

The Woodstock Music Festival began on August 15, 1969, as half a million people waited on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, for the three-day music festival to start. John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang were the four men behind the planning of this event. The initial plan for Woodstock called for the event to be held at Howard Mills Industrial Park in Wallkill, New York. Officials did not like the whole outlook of the event and passed a law to ban all concerts within that area. But luckily, just a month ahead of the concert, 49-year-old dairy farmer Max Yasgur offered to rent them part of his land in the White Lake area of Bethel, New York, surrounded by the verdant Catskill Mountains. The event was supposed to have tickets but due to large unaccounted for masses arriving at the scene, they changed it to be a free event. Shows by rock bands were performed, while most of the people took drugs, it was an event that defined the hippie culture.

Critical Response

The movie I will be reviewing is directed by legendary director Stanley Kubrick and was made in 1987. It is called “Full Metal Jacket”. The movie is divided into two parts: one takes place in Boot Camp and the other in Vietnam. It follows the experiences of J. T. Davis, nicknamed “Joker” by Gunnery Sergeant Hartman during their first meeting.

Now onto the good parts of the movie. The cinematography in every single scene is crafted to perfection. As expected of Stanley Kubrick’s obsession about even the most minuscule details. Watching each part feels more like looking at a moving painting than a movie. The acting was impeccable, with a statement made by Richard Propes reading as follows: “Kubrick maintains an “A” range film primarily based upon his vision in the film, and upon the simply outstanding performance of Ermey along with Matthew Modine as a war reporter longing for action, Adam Baldwin as the almost equally psychotic Animal Mother, Vince D’Onofrio as the chubby recruit Gomer Pyle, and the likes of Dorian Harewood, Kevyn Howard and Arliss Howard.” I agree with this statement, as all of the actors were chosen to play the perfect roles for them. The way this movie showed the cruelty of the Americans towards the local Vietnamese people helped paint a picture of how the war wasn’t just “good guys versus bad guys”. With them being called “gooks” and treated like garbage, the superiority complex of the American people was clearly seen throughout different scenes. Also, all of the scenes were actually not filmed in a Vietnamese jungle, but in England, the amount of work trying to carve a tropical climate war-zone from the British plains was astounding. I would have never thought that all of the palm trees were imported to make the scenery more believable.

There were only a few bits here and there which I find not that well executed. The story felt a bit off. Part one, or as I refer to it as “The Boot Camp Part”, was somewhat detached from the other half of the movie. If someone were to watch the movie without seeing the introduction to all of the Privates’ first-hand experiences with Sergeant Hartman and how Pyle lost his mind, then that wouldn’t have affected anything within the story. It felt like filler, although quite enjoyable filler to the upcoming Vietnam War part. The ending to the movie seemed like a weird way to bring it to a closure. As Stanley Kauffman said in his review of this movie: “It’s a last-ditch attempt to claim a bitter-satire badge for the film.” I sort of agree with this statement, but I don’t think it was a “last-ditch attempt.”

All in all, a very good movie, even one of Stanley Kubrick’s best to ever come to the cinema. If people were to be interested in looking into what was going on in the Vietnam War, especially on the American side, then this movie gives a good explanation about it. It’s extremely well-shot scenes and very good acting helps bring out the good and bad sides of the war.

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