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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis examines the changing perceptions of Vietnam’s landscape and the Vietnamese in the eyes of American troops throughout the Vietnam War. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Vietnamese were depicted as a people misguided by the French and in need of political mobilization by the American media and government. Following heavy investment and a rigged election in 1956, South Vietnam was painted as a beacon of democracy in Southeast Asia and an example of what American aid is capable of. As an increasing American military presence was being established in South Vietnam in the early 1960s, American troops were reminded by pocket books and other forms of American propaganda that South Vietnam was a land of dignity and respect. At first, troops were shocked by the beauty of the landscape and recalled that Vietnam did not look like a war-torn country at all. Yet as the land became increasingly devastated due to defoliant and numerous bombings, the perceptions of the Vietnamese took a turn for the worst; eventually being subhuman and deceptive. Vietnam’s landscape became perceived as a land of death where youth was expendable. However, less than a decade after the United States had pulled out of Vietnam, veterans and those affected by the war begin to return in mass numbers constituting the largest population of Americans in Vietnam. This resulted in Vietnam’s landscape, which was seen as a land trap-laden wasteland, being seen a place of healing with a beautiful people that Americans helped save.


First Advisor

Christian Appy

Second Advisor

David Glassberg