The Vietnam War in American Childhood
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The Vietnam War in American Childhood

Title Details

Pages: 286

Illustrations: 19 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5629-7

List Price: $30.95


Pub Date: 11/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5611-2

List Price: $104.95

The Vietnam War in American Childhood

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  • Description

For American children raised exclusively in wartime—that is, a Cold War containing monolithic communism turned hot in the jungles of Southeast Asia—and the first to grow up with televised combat, Vietnam was predominately a mediated experience. Walter Cronkite was the voice of the conflict, and grim, nightly statistics the most recognizable feature. But as involvement grew, Vietnam affected numerous changes in child life, comparable to the childhood impact of previous conflicts—chiefly the Civil War and World War II—whose intensity and duration also dominated American culture. In this protracted struggle that took on the look of permanence from a child’s perspective, adult lives were increasingly militarized, leaving few preadolescents totally insulated. Over the years 1965 to 1973, the vast majority of American children integrated at least some elements of the war into their own routines. Parents, in turn, shaped their children’s perspectives on Vietnam, while the more politicized mothers and fathers exposed them to the bitter polarization the war engendered. The fighting only became truly real insomuch as service in Vietnam called away older community members or was driven home literally when families shared hardships surrounding separation from cousins, brothers, and fathers.

In seeing the Vietnam War through the eyes of preadolescent Americans, Joel P. Rhodes suggests broader developmental implications from being socialized to the political and ethical ambiguity of Vietnam. Youth during World War II retained with clarity into adulthood many of the proscriptive patriotic messages about U.S. rightness, why we fight, heroism, or sacrifice. In contrast, Vietnam tended to breed childhood ambivalence, but not necessarily of the hawk and dove kind. This unique perspective on Vietnam continues to complicate adult notions of militarism and warfare, while generally lowering expectations of American leadership and the presidency.

About the Author/Editor

JOEL P. RHODES is a professor of history at Southeast Missouri State University. He is the author of several books, including Growing Up in a Land Called Honalee: The Sixties in the Lives of American Children, The Voice of Violence: Performative Violence as Protest in the Vietnam Era, and A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: The Life of Louis Houck.