Marissa Rivera, 10th grade Student Historian
This is a bumper sticker that was prominent during the Vietnam War, especially during the early 1960s. The sticker is black, with the words written in a mustard yellow. Written in all capitals are the words: “THE FOOTPRINT OF THE AMERICAN CHICKEN” with a symbol of the peace on the left hand side. People most likely placed this sticker on the bumpers of cars, or perhaps even windows or other easy to see places.
The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), the organization that initially produced this sticker, was founded on September 11, 1960, one year prior to U.S involvement in the Vietnam War. YAF was a highly conservative group that held on to traditional values of how the government should be run. The words “Footprint of the American chicken” imply that anyone who thought about peace or who didn’t want to fight were chickens. To be a chicken is to be a coward, and this term was most likely used to demean American citizens to the point where they felt obligated to go serve in the war effort. In a way, this bumper sticker can be seen as a tool of propaganda-forcing people to fight so they’re not labeled by society and maybe even the government.
Of course, peace activists would have made the counterargument that choosing not to fight is actually brave, with many convincing reasons. One reason was that since Vietnam is not territory of the United States, we had no business to fight. Another reason to stay out of the war was the fact that many of the soldiers were not at all used to this new kind of guerilla warfare, and sending them out to fight would be a waste of money and innocent lives. The costs of the war was very high, and this was at a time where the country was not at an economically sound place. Lastly, the U.S. increased fighting and conflict, especially in smaller proxy countries such as Laos and Cambodia where villagers and civilians were victimized and killed. Such an act violates the national conscious of the U.S. Propaganda such as this bumper sticker was simply more fuel to the ongoing battle of anti-war versus pro-war.
This bumper sticker connects to my oral history subject, Merle Ratner, who was an anti-war activist during the Vietnam War. It seems as though many people didn’t let such propaganda heavily influence their actions or beliefs. Merle, like many others did not feel like a coward for not fighting-in fact it was quite the opposite-many anti-war activists felt brave and vital in their actions. Due to pro-war propaganda, more and more men were volunteering into service. The increase of draftees and volunteers served to incite a more pronounced response from the anti-war movement; so much that they decided to create their own anti-war propaganda.
The idea of the American cowardliness can also be a racist battle, since the Vietnam War was primarily fought by men of poorer backgrounds. The act of calling the people who didn’t fight chickens inadvertently targeted white, richer people since they were the ones who had the resources to ensure that they could avoid the draft. Strategies that were used included claiming they were still in school, faking medical injuries, or by fleeing to Canada where the draft was not implemented. For example, Donald J. Trump used student deferments and a medical deferment-for a bone spur in his foot-to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War. Sadly, it was more challenging for black men who might not have the resources to flee or claim student deferments.
To sum up, one can easily see the propaganda that is rich in this bumper sticker, and the contribution it makes to the battle of anti-war versus pro-war battle during the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War went beyond fighting, there were racial issues, and definitely a clash of ideas-political, socially, and even morally.
“History.” Young America’s Foundation. Accessed August 08, 2017. http://www.yaf.org/about/history/.
“Five Reasons U.S Should Not Have Invaded Vietnam.” Accessed August 08, 2017
History.com Staff. “Vietnam War Protests.” History.com. 2010. Accessed August 08, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-protests.
“For 50 Years This Has Been the Symbol Of Peace. Far Out.” The Washington Post. April 04, 2008. Accessed August 10, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/03/AR2008040303648.html.
Palazzo, Chiara. “How Donald Trump avoided the draft during the Vietnam War.” The Telegraph. August 02, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2017. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/02/how-donald-trump-avoided-the-draft-during-the-vietnam-war/.
“The Military Draft during the Vietnam War.” Omeka RSS. Accessed August 10, 2017. http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/exhibits/show/exhibit/draft_protests/the-military-draft-during-the-