Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Marco Macias
The Vietnam War is remembered in a variety of ways. It is remembered as a war against communism, yet one that was also against American ideals of freedom. It is remembered as a war of patriotism, yet one that was also against the numerous military members who fought in it. It is remembered as a war for integration and unity among black and white, yet many African-Americans remember the time period as a war being fought abroad and at home. Memory of the war is obviously contradicting, but then again the 1960s and 1970s oftentimes were.
This thesis examines how the Vietnam War has been remembered in the American collective memory. The Korean War, a war similar in many ways, is used as a reference for comparison. Despite shared characteristics, people have alternative memories of each, with the Korean War being remembered as a forgotten war. Much of these differences can be explained through sensory history, which is a fairly new field of historical analysis.
By examining how soldiers and citizens were sensing the wars (through sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching), it becomes evident that the memory of the Vietnam War diverges due to different cultural interpretations. Media, especially through the television, acted both as a preserver of memory as well as a stimulator of the senses. Contradictions arose within these memories and senses based off of cultural characteristics. The counter-memory from the minority populations spread to the dominant memory of the whites. This split the overall memory of the war, resulting in no clear dominant collective memory. This analysis of the Vietnam War provides a new perspective on the war not previously done before.
Randolph, Jacob, "Remembering the Experience of War: A Sensory Study of the Vietnam War and Collective Memory" (2021). Master's Theses. 3178.
© 2021 Jacob Randolph
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