Perspectives on Vietnam

The Vietnam War was a complex and heated political issue and was one of the most unpopular and divisive wars in U.S. history. During this time, people who had pro-war stances were called “hawks, “while those who were anti-war were called “doves.” Some people think that the majority of people who were against the war were “hippies,” young people who were part of a counter-culture movement. In reality, all kinds of people had strong feelings about the War, and many of these feelings were negative.

In this lesson, students will analyze five primary sources, all from different groups or individuals, to explore differing opinions about the War. These documents are just a small sampling of opinions about the War, and are in no way representative of all of the arguments and opinions about the War, nor are they representative of the opinions of HSP.  However, from these documents, students will better understand the complexity of this issue. 

Essential Questions

How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to American society?
What role does analysis have in historical construction?

Objectives

Students will be able to:
• Understand different perspectives on the Vietnam War by reading multiple primary sources
• Analyze primary sources by answering questions about author intent and purpose and the organization of information
• Synthesize arguments presented in a document by answering questions about the document and discussing them in class

Other Materials

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1. Each student should have a copy of all the documents (in physical or digital form).
2. Either individually or in groups, have students read through all the documents and fill out the worksheet. 
3. As a class, come up with a brief timeline of the Vietnam War and write it on the board. Ask students to find the dates of each document and place them on the timeline. (If students cannot figure out the date of the document, it is listed on the source’s page on the Digital Library.) Discuss what was going on when each document was written and how this may have influenced the argument made by the author(s) of each document. Ask students how arguments about the War might have changed in the later years of the War.
5. For a concluding activity, have a panel discussion. Divide class into five groups. Each group is assigned one of the documents. For the panel discussion, pretend that the year is 1967 (all the documents are from 1965-1967) and the panel is discussing what the U.S. should do in Vietnam. Each group should prepare some arguments based on the document by using the worksheet questions for guidance, thinking about what had happened up until 1967, and reading carefully over their document. Each group should nominate one person to be on the panel and represent the author(s) of the document. The five students should take turns making an argument based on what their group came up with. Once all five students have gone, they can ask each other questions or the audience can ask them questions. If the student on the panel gets asked a question, the rest of their group can help them answer it.
4. For homework, have students interview someone who was alive during the Vietnam War. Students should ask this person how old they were when the War began and ended, what their strongest memories are about the War, the opinion they had about the War then, and the opinion they currently hold about the War. They should record these answers and share them in class. 

Vocabulary

Dove: Those who support resolve international conflicts without the threat of force.
Hawk: Those who advocate an aggressive foreign policy based on strong military power.
Viet Cong: The Communist-led guerilla force and revolutionary army of South Vietnam; the armed forces of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam