quotations about the Vietnam War

Vietnam War quote

Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America -- not on the battlefields of Vietnam.

MARSHALL MCLUHAN, Montreal Gazette, May 16, 1975


Tags: Marshall McLuhan

This war in Vietnam is, I believe, a war for civilization. Certainly it is not a war of our seeking. It is a war thrust upon us and we cannot yield to tyranny.



Tags: Francis Cardinal Spellman

Hell no, we won't go!

ANONYMOUS, Anti-Vietnam War slogan


I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.



The Vietnam War was arguably the most traumatic experience for the United States in the twentieth century. That is indeed a grim distinction in a span that included two world wars, the assassinations of two presidents and the resignation of another, the Great Depression, the Cold War, racial unrest, and the drug and crime waves.

DONALD M. GOLDSTEIN, introduction, The Vietnam War


Tags: Donald M. Goldstein

Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is fully independent and reunified.

HO CHI MINH, statement, December 19, 1946


Tags: Ho Chi Minh

The war against Vietnam is only the ghastliest manifestation of what I'd call imperial provincialism, which afflicts America's whole culture -- aware only of its own history, insensible to everything which isn't part of the local atmosphere.

STEPHEN VIZINCZEY, London Times, September 21, 1968


It has been said that the United States was deceived into entering and expanding the Vietnam War by its own overoptimistic propaganda. The record suggests, however, that the policy-makers stayed in Vietnam not so much because of overly optimistic hopes of winning ... as because of overly pessimistic assessments of the consequences of losing.



Although both popular imagination and academic research on the Vietnam War continue to flourish, there is no consensus in sight. Only the U.S. Civil War rivals the power of the Vietnam War to divide and inflame generations upon generations of Americans.

ANDREAS W. DAUM, America, the Vietnam War, and the World


Tags: Andreas W. Daum

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I'm not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn't have to draft me, I'd join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I'll go to jail, so what? We've been in jail for 400 years.

MUHAMMAD ALI, attributed, Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties


Tags: Muhammad Ali

You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.

HO CHI MINH, a warning to French colonialists, 1946


Tags: Ho Chi Minh

North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.

RICHARD NIXON, speech, November 3, 1969


Tags: Richard Nixon

Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.

WILLIAM WESTMORELAND, Time Magazine, April 5, 1982


Tags: William Westmoreland

No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.

RICHARD NIXON, New York Times, March 28, 1985


Tags: Richard Nixon

It is a key fact about American policy in Vietnam that the withdrawel of American troops was built into it from the start. None of the presidents who waged war in Vietnam contemplated an open-ended campaign; all promised the public that American troops would be able to leave in the not-too-remote future. The promise of withdrawal precluded a policy of occupation of the traditional colonial sort, in which a great power simply imposes its will on a small one indefinitely.



Tags: Jonathan Schell

There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech at Riverside Church in New York City, "A Time to Break Silence", April 4, 1967


Tags: Martin Luther King, Jr.

In World War One, they called it shell shock. Second time around, they called it battle fatigue. After 'Nam, it was post-traumatic stress disorder.

JAN KARON, Home to Holly Springs


I have to keep my mouth shut about Nam though. All of these guys want to believe they were fighting an honorable war, and that their conduct deserves respect. They want the public to treat them like they're heroes--like the WWII vets were. Instead, smart ass, pampered kids call them names and throw dog shit at them.

BUD RUDESILL, Hurricane Ginger


Numbers have dehumanized us. Over breakfast coffee we read of 40,000 American dead in Vietnam. Instead of vomiting, we reach for the toast. Our morning rush through crowded streets is not to cry murder but to hit that trough before somebody else gobbles our share.

DALTON TRUMBO, introduction, Johnny Got His Gun


As I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., speech at Riverside Church in New York City, "A Time to Break Silence", April 4, 1967