HIST-286: The United States and the Vietnam War

Liberal Arts
Social Sciences
Academic Level
Course Subject
Course Number
Course Title
The United States and the Vietnam War
Credit Hours
Instructor Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Student Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Grading Method
Eligible to take ENG courses at HFC.
Catalog Course Description

Traces the causation factors leading to the escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict from 1945 until 1975. Emphasizes the political, diplomatic, and military strategy of the United States within the historical context of colonial rule over Vietnam, as well as the struggle for Vietnamese nationalism.

Goals, Topics, and Objectives

Core Course Topics
  1. The Rise of Vietnamese Nationalism
  2. The Japanese Occupation
  3. The French Colonial Era
  4. The Road to Dien Bien Phu
  5. Diem Takes Charge
  6. America Goes to War
  7. Student Research Project
  8. Cold War Crises
  9. The Concept of Limited War
  10. War at Home
  11. Nixon and Kissinger
  12. Expanding the War
  13. War Weariness
  14. The American Antiwar Movement
  15. Withdrawal and Postwar
  16. Final Research Project
Core Course Learning Objectives (Separated)

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
1. Outline time and chronology with regard to the Vietnam Era.
2. Identify, summarize, and analyze major elements regarding the evolution of U.S./Vietnamese interaction.
3. Analyze cause and effect in the escalation of the involvement of the U.S. in the Vietnam Conflict.
4. Trace elements of change and continuity with regard to the Vietnam Conflict.
5. Emphasize parallelism by describing the impact of major events, personalities, and places with regard to the Vietnam Conflict.

Detailed Learning Objectives (Optional)

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
The Rise of Vietnamese Nationalism
1. Describe the geography of Indochina.
2. Outline Vietnamese culture and heritage.
3. Identify the various factors contributing to the development of Vietnamese Nationalism.
4. Describe the important contributions of Ho Chi Minh with regard to the rise of Vietnamese Nationalism.

The Japanese Occupation
1. Identify the factors which brought about the Japanese occupation of Indochina beginning in 1940.
2. Discuss the organizational and ideological foundation of the Vietminh.
3. Describe the political and diplomatic factors associated with the initial involvement of the U.S. in Indochina.
4. Identify the main events and circumstances regarding the August Revolution and the emergence of Vietnamese independence in 1945.

The French Colonial Era
1. Identify the major factors leading to the French Colonial Era in Indochina.
2. Discuss the changes to Vietnam brought about by French rule.
3. Describe the changes in the Vietnamese social structure and intellectual outlook leading up to the Vietnamese Revolution of 1945.

The Road to Dien Bien Phu
1. Summarize the major factors leading to the Franco-Vietminh War.
2. Discuss the various factors regarding the Franco-American partnership and the impact it had on post-World War II Southeast Asian policy.
3. Describe the military strategies used by the French and the Vietminh forces at Dien Bien Phu.
4. List the major components of the Geneva Accords of 1954.

Diem Takes Charge
1. Describe the background of Ngo Dinh Diem.
2. Compare and contrast the American effort in nation-building in southern Vietnam with the process utilized by Ho Chi Minh in the north.
3. Discuss how the Eisenhower Administration’s economic, military, and political support for Diem’s government proved insufficient to create a viable nation.

America Goes To War
1. Summarize the basic international perceptions with regards to the expanding involvement of the United States in Southeast Asia.
2. Describe and explain the various factors surrounding the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in August 1964.
3. Analyze the decisions made by President Johnson and his advisers regarding U.S. policy and involvement in Vietnam.

Cold War Crisis
1. Analyze the various aspects of Cold War dynamics during the Kennedy Administration.
2. Analyze and summarize the various factors which helped the NLF succeed in creating a social revolution in South Vietnam.
3. Identify and analyze the various factors associated with the collapse of Ngo Dinh Diem and his regime.
4. Compare and contrast the positive and negative perceptions of the actions and policy decisions taken by John F. Kennedy with regard to U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

The Concept of Limited War
1. Evaluate the military strategies used by the U.S. during the early phase of the war.
2. Identify and evaluate the rationale for the strategy known as “Rolling Thunder.”

War at Home
1. Summarize the military and diplomatic impact of the Tet Offensive.
2. Describe the impact and influence of Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford on the war effort and U.S. policy on Vietnam.
3. Evaluate the influence of the media, particularly the televised coverage of events taking place in Vietnam.
4. Compare and contrast the diplomatic moves and the military encounters occurring during the later phases of the war.
5. Identify the significant factors regarding the 1968 election.

Nixon and Kissinger
1. Identify the diplomatic and military strategies of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
2. Describe the concept of Vietnamization as outlined by the Nixon Administration.
3. Describe the apparent flaws in Nixon’s Vietnam policies.

Expanding the War
1. Explain the U.S war effort in Cambodia.
2. Outline the U.S. war effort in Laos.
3. Analyze the effects of the tragedy at Kent State University on U.S. policy-making with regard to the Vietnam Conflict.
4. Evaluate the role of Communist China, with regard to North Vietnam, from 1965-1968.

War Weariness and the American Antiwar Movement
1. Identify the various groups within the antiwar movement and explain the ideology of each group.
2. Describe the role that women played as important figures in the antiwar movement.
3. Analyze and evaluate whether or not the antiwar movement was successful in shortening or ending the war.

Withdrawal and Post-War
1. Identify the various factors leading to the fall of South Vietnam after the withdrawal of American troops.
2. Discuss and evaluate the impact of the Watergate scandal on U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.
3. Describe and analyze the economic and political changes in Vietnam after the Communist takeover in 1975.
4. Summarize the economic, political, and human costs to the United States in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

Assessment and Requirements

Assessment of Academic Achievement

Assessment of academic achievement will be identified and implemented by the class instructor. Methods will include, but will not be limited to, individual projects, vocabulary, class participation (discussion and critiques), and tests.


These texts are only suggestions. Individual instructors may choose different texts:

  • Textbook: Vietnam: An American Ordeal, 4th edition. By George Donelson Moss. Prentice Hall Publishing.
  • Supplemental Textbooks:
    • Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War, 3rd edition. By Robert J. McMahon. Houghton Mifflin Publishing.
    • The Origins of the Vietnam War, Seminar Studies in History. By Fredrik Logevall, Longman Publishing.


General Education Categories
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities and Fine Arts
Institutional Outcomes
  • Civil Society and Culture - U.S. and Global
MTA Categories
  • Category 4: Social Sciences
  • Category 5: Humanities and Fine Arts
Satisfies Wellness Requirement

Approval Dates

Effective Term
Winter 2022
ILT Approval Date
AALC Approval Date
Curriculum Committee Approval Date
Review Semester
Winter 2022