The Things They Carried

by: Tim O’Brien

Protests Against the Vietnam War

Further study Protests Against the Vietnam War

According to the National Archives, over 58,000 American soldiers died in the Vietnam War, while the Encyclopedia Britannica says that between 200,000 and 250,000 Vietnamese people were killed. The catastrophic loss of life during the war drove protests across the United States in the 1960’s. Demonstrations against the War were often led by the young people most affected by the draft. The draft required all American men, aged 18 and older, to volunteer to be called to service in the war. The only people exempt from the draft were men with a medical, religious, or other legitimate reason that they could not serve. Some protestors publicly burned their draft cards, an illegal act that could get them sent to jail. Other men who didn’t want to serve avoided, or “dodged,” the draft by fleeing to Canada, just as the narrator considers doing in The Things They Carried. To many protestors, the United States had no business in the Vietnam War, as the country was not directly affected by rising tensions in Southeast Asia. In 1967, the boxer Muhammad Ali captured the sentiment of many Americans protesting the War (while outraging many others) when he refused to be inducted into the Army, famously saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”