History of the Vietnam War

I.     Course Prefix/Number: HIS 121

       Course Name: History of the Vietnam War

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course examines the history and politics of the Vietnam War, beginning with the war between the French and the Vietnamese following World War II and ending with the defeat of the South by the North in 1975.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After successfully completing this course, the students should be able to:

  1. Identify the essential historical figures and events of the period covered.
  2. Describe the political and military events associated with the Vietnam conflict, and interpret their historical consequences.
  3. Analyze the relationship between the historical events of the Vietnam conflict and their impact on military and political issues since 1975.
  4. Evaluate conflicting interpretations of the history of the Vietnam War.
  5. Analyze primary and secondary sources pertaining to the period covered.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. Introduction: The Roots of the War
  2. The First Vietnam War: the Vietminh v. the French
  3. Dienbienphu and After: The Eisenhower Years
  4. Ngo Dinh Diem: America’s Mandarin Fights His Own War
  5. Vietnam is the Place: The Kennedy Years, Counterinsurgency, Escalation, and the End of Diem
  6. Deepening Commitment, Disorder, and Decision: The Early Johnson Years
  7. America’s Enemy: The Vietnamese People North and South
  8. The U.S. Takes Over the War: The Later Johnson Years
  9. The War at Home: The Domestic Conflict Over the War
  10. Tet: The Offensive and Its Impact
  11. Vietnamization: The Early Nixon Years
  12. Fallout from the War: Cambodia and Laos
  13. “Peace With Honor:” The Later Nixon Years
  14. Communist Victory
  15. Legacies and Lessons

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Methods of instruction include lecture, class discussion, films, and computer simulations.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Students are expected to attend each class, having read the assigned textbook material before coming to class, bringing with them any questions they might have on the text or other related materials.  They are also expected to be actively engaged in the class sessions through such things as attentiveness to lectures and films, note‑taking, asking questions, doing the assigned writing, and involvement in class discussions.

Students will be required to write outside of class the equivalent of 12‑15 typed pages of material that will be graded.  This writing may take the form of a research or term paper, summaries of Journal articles, and/or a series of shorter analytical papers.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

A standard history of the Vietnam War will be assigned, such as:

Berman, Larry, Planning a Tragedy: the Americanization of the War in Vietnam, New York : W.W. Norton, 1982.
Herring, George, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975, New York: McGraw Hill, 1995.
Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History, New York, Penguin Books, 1997.
Young, Marilyn B., The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

In addition, supplementary texts may be used, such as:

Halberstam, David, The Best and the Brightest, New York: Ballantine, 1993
Herr, Michael, Dispatches, New York: Knopf, 1997.
McNamara, Robert and Brian Vandemark, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, New York: Times, 1995.
Prochnau, William, Once Upon a Distant War, New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
Rotter, Andrew, Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Vietnam War Anthology, New Yor: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.
Sheehan, Neil, Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, New York: Random House, 1988
Steinman, Ron, The Soldiers’ Story: Vietnam in Their Own Words, New York: TV Books, 1999.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Grades are based on exams, written assignments, classroom participation, and, when employed, class presentations.

At least two exams will be given in addition to other required papers and assignments.

XI.   Other Course Information

Support Services: Tutoring is available at the Learning Center.

Important Dates: *

XX/XX: Last day to withdraw and have course dropped from record
XX/XX: Last day to change to Audit
XX/XX: Last day for students to submit materials to make up incomplete from the previous semester
XX/XX: Last day to withdraw from classes with a "W"

*These dates differ for each semester. You'll find the correct dates on the Academic Calendar.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at www.oakton.edu/title9/.

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.