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Supplemental Materials includes an online lesson on "Re-education camps" using original paintings by the daughter of a re-education camp survivor, journals developed by teachers participating in the Teaching American History summer institute titled "Vietnam: Other Voices, Other Perspectives," and additional activities associated with "The Fog of War Teacher's Guide."
The Limits of Power: The United States in Vietnam
Eighth edition. March 2014.
The Limits of Power: The United States in Vietnam takes students back in history to evaluate how successive U.S. administrations between the late 1940s and early 1970s perceived the situation in Vietnam, weighed the stakes, gauged the options, and implemented policy decisions. In the central activity, students become decision-makers wrestling with four distinct policy options that confronted the Johnson administration in the summer of 1965.
The background readings prepare students to consider the policy debates surrounding the Vietnam War. Students explore the period following World War II, when communist Vietminh forces defeated the French, and consider the relevance of the Cold War to U.S.-Vietnam relations. Students then examine the shifting values underlying U.S. policy in Vietnam and the lessons that have been drawn from the United States' involvement in the war. The unit relies heavily on primary sources, including speeches, newspaper articles and editorials, political cartoons, songs, and policy memoranda.
The Choices Role Play
Students use primary sources to recreate the policy discussion within President Johnson's administration during the summer of 1965, a critical turning point for the Vietnam War. Working cooperatively in groups, students advocate for one of four policy options. Each policy option is grounded in a clearly defined philosophy about U.S. Cold War strategy, U.S. interests in Southeast Asia, and the nature of the conflict in Vietnam. A fifth group represents President Johnson as he evaluates the options. By exploring a broad spectrum of alternatives, students gain a deeper understanding of the competing values and assumptions that framed the debate on U.S. policy in Vietnam.
The 1954 Geneva Conference
In a simulation of the 1954 Geneva Conference, students articulate the viewpoints of the primary conference participants: Britain, the People's Republic of China, France, Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Vietminh), and the United States.
The Tonkin Gulf Resolution
Students consider the Gulf of Tonkin event and weigh the possible responses.
Students interview veterans and non-veterans who lived through the Vietnam War to understand the human dimension of war and consider different viewpoints on the same historical event.
The Four Options
Students engage in a simulation revolving around U.S. policy in Vietnam during the summer of 1965.
Songs of the Vietnam War
Students explore the relationship between political events and popular culture by interpreting Vietnam War-era songs from the United States, France, and Vietnam.
Retracing America's Withdrawal
Analyzing primary source documents, students examine key U.S. policy decisions from 1968-73.
Applying the Lessons of Vietnam
Students investigate lessons from the Vietnam War that historians and politicians have developed over the years. Based on their own opinions and knowledge, students then determine which lessons are valid and how the lessons can or should inform foreign policy today.
Misinterpretation and Failed Diplomacy
Through close examination of two critical events, students evaluate North Vietnamese and U.S. perceptions of each other and identify sources of misunderstanding.
Political Cartoon Analysis
Students identify the techniques used by political cartoonists and then analyze four political cartoons published during the Vietnam War.