The Vietnam War, 1945-75

History 470

SyllabusProfessor: Dr. Harold D. Tallant
Summer Term 1, 1997Office: Pawling Hall 206
Pawling Hall 102Phone: 863-8075
9:45-11:15 WeekdaysE-mail:
3 Credit HoursOffice Hours: 11:15-11:30 Weekdays
1:00-1:15 Weekdays

Landing at DanangCourse Description: This course is a study of the United States' participation in the Vietnam War. The course covers the origins, events, and consequences of the war from 1945 to 1975. Special emphasis will be given to the causes of American involvement in the war and the reasons for the failure of American policy in Vietnam.

Textbooks and Required Readings: Students are required to read the following books:

Student Protests at Columbia UniversityThe professor may, from time to time, assign additional readings to supplement the required books listed above.

Course Objectives: Students will be able to identify and discuss the factors which contributed to the United States' participation in the Vietnam War, the major events of the war, the reasons for the failure of American policy in Vietnam, and the long-term consequences of the war on American society and the international community.

Requirements of the Course

Exams: All exams will be essay exams. Three exams will be given during the course of the semester. Each of these exams will cover about one-third of the course material and each will count for 25 percent of the student's final grade. The exams have been tentatively scheduled for June 6, June 18, and June 30. On exam days, the class will be divided into two periods. During the first period (roughly 30-40 minutes), we will have a regular class lecture and discussion session. During the second period (roughly 50-60 minutes), the exam will be given.

Lyndon Johnson and VietnamAnalysis of the Vietnam War: Students will write an extended analysis of either the causes of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War or the reasons for the failure of American policy in Vietnam. This written analysis will be based on each student's interpretation of the materials presented in the required readings and in additional materials provided by the professor or gathered by the student. While there is no maximum or minimum length required for the analyses, papers of 10-12 pages are ideal. The analysis paper will be due on June 29 and will count for 25 percent of the student's final grade. More detailed instructions about the writing of the analysis will be given later.

Make-Up Assignments: Students will be allowed to make up missed assignments only with the consent of the professor. Ordinarily, the professor will accept make-up assignments only in cases of unavoidable student absences, such as those caused by illness or by a death in the immediate family. Students may be required to document the causes of their absences before the make-up work will be accepted by the professor.

Course Outline: See the schedule below.

Grading and Evaluation of Students: The following grading scale will be used in this course: A 90.0-100.0; B 80.0-89.9; C 70.0-79.9; D 60.0-69.9; F 59.9 and below. Final semester grades for the course will be determined by counting the course assignments and exams in the following proportions: exam 1-25 percent; exam 2-25 percent; exam 3-25 percent; analysis of the Vietnam War-25 percent.

Attendance: Class attendance will be checked in every class period. At the end of the semester, class attendance will be used in calculating the final semester grade.

Nixon and KissingerAttendance records will be used to determine the final grade of students who are on the borderline between two grades (i.e., students who are within one semester point of the higher grade). In the case of a student who is on the borderline between two grades, the student with 0-1 unexcused absences will receive the higher of the two grades.

Students with 4 or more unexcused absences will receive the following penalties: 4-5 absences-minus one letter grade from semester average; 6-7 unexcused absences-minus two letter grades from semester average; 8 or more unexcused absences-the grade of F for the semester.

Students who fall into the penalty range will have the option of doing an extra assignment to remove the penalty. The assignment will be a term paper, the length of which will be determined by the number of absences in class: 4 absences-5 pages; 5 absences-10 pages; 6 absences-15 pages; 7 absences-20 pages; 8 or more absences-25 pages. The term paper must be of C or better quality to remove the penalty. Students who exercise this option must see the professor in advance to obtain approval of their term paper topic and instructions for completing their papers.

Vietcong GuerrillaThe following constitute excused absences: (1) illness, with a note from a doctor or the dean; (2) death in the immediate family, with a note from the dean; (3) required appearance in a court of law, with a note from the dean; (4) representing the college in an extracurricular activity, with a note from the faculty or administrative adviser of the activity and the prior approval of the professor of this course.

Please note that some college extracurricular activities do not justify an excused absence, so prior approval of the absence by the professor is required. Athletes who plan to miss class for a game must notify the professor before each absence to receive an excused absence. Students who plan to miss class for such activities as work, job interviews, job fairs, weddings, vacations, completing work for other courses, etc., should save their cuts for these purposes.

Students who arrive late to a session of the class should check with the professor at the end of that class session to be certain that their attendance has been recorded. Students who arrive excessively late to a class period or who leave class early will receive only partial credit for their attendance that day.

Auditors: Students who are auditing the course will receive an audit credit only if they have 4 or fewer absences in the class.

Schedule: The following tentative schedule should be used as a guide for the completion of assignments and readings. Assigned readings should be completed by the class date listed in the left column.


May 27 Vietnam to 1940: French Colonialism, Development of Vietnamese Nationalism
  • Moss, Vietnam, vii-18
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 30-35, 38-71

May 28 Indochina in World War II, 1940-45
  • Moss, Vietnam, 19-38
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 35-38

May 29 France and the First Indochina War, 1946-50
  • Moss, Vietnam, 38-43
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 72-78

May 30 France and the First Indochina War, 1950-54; the Growth of U.S. Involvement in Indochina, 1950-54
  • Moss, Vietnam, 43-60
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 78-124, 134-145

June 2 The Geneva Conference of 1954 and the formation of SEATO; Eisenhower and the South Vietnamese Government of Ngo Dinh Diem
  • Moss, Vietnam, 60-93
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 124-133, 145-158, 282-285

June 3 Origins of the Second Indochina War, 1955-61
  • Moss, Vietnam, 93-108
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 133-134, 285-297, 312-336, 389-391
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, Introduction-40

June 4 Growth of American Involvement in Vietnam and Laos under John F. Kennedy, 1961-63
  • Moss, Vietnam, 109-128
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 159-206, 297-302, 303-312
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 41-86

June 5 The Coup Against Diem; the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and the Election of 1964
  • Moss, Vietnam, 128-165
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 207-210, 391-393

June 6 North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front War Policy, 1964-65
  • Moss, Vietnam, 165-166, 170
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 302-303
  • Exam 1 will be given on June 6.


June 9 Lyndon B. Johnson and the American Decision to Enter the War, 1965; The Escalation of the War, 1966-67
  • Moss, Vietnam, 166-190
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 210-245
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 87-130

June 10 The Air War and U.S. Military Policy, 1965-69
  • Moss, Vietnam, 215-225
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 248-249
  • Summers, On Strategy, 13-118

June 11 The Ground War and U.S. Military Policy, 1965-69
  • Moss, Vietnam, 191-215
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 246-281
  • Summers, On Strategy, 119-272

June 12 The War and Vietnamese Government and Society
  • Moss, Vietnam, 225-236
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 393-421

June 13 The Growth of Opposition to the War, 1966-68; the News Media and the War
  • Moss, Vietnam, 236-253
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 466-483, 487-519
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 131-182

June 16 The Antiwar Movement and the Tet Offensive
  • Moss, Vietnam, 254-288
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 337-341, 361-373
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 183-238

June 17 The Turning Point: 1968; the Election of 1968
  • Moss, Vietnam, 288-310
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 341-361, 373-388
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 183-238

June 18 The Coming to Power of Richard Nixon
  • Moss, Vietnam, 311-315
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 422-437, 443-465
  • Exam 2 will be given on June 18.

June 19 Nixon and the Expansion of the War into Cambodia and Laos, 1969-70
  • Moss, Vietnam, 332-350
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 437-440
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 239-354

June 20 Nixon and the Vietnamization of the War, 1969-73
  • Moss, Vietnam, 315-332
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 483-486
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 355-410

June 23 Nixon, Kissinger, and the Search for Peace, 1970-73; the Election of 1972; The Paris Cease-Fire Agreement of 1973
  • Moss, Vietnam, 350-379
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 440-443, 483-486, 562-569


June 24 The Third Indochina War, 1973-75
  • Moss, Vietnam, 380-390
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 582-594

June 25 The Collapse of South Vietnam, 1975; Indochina Since 1975
  • Moss, Vietnam, 390-404
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 569-581, 594-607

June 26 The Aftermath of the War in the U.S.: Veterans and the POW/MIA Issue
  • Moss, Vietnam, 404-407

June 27 The Consequences of the Vietnam War
  • Moss, Vietnam, 408-414
  • McMahon, Major Problems, 1-29, 608-647
  • Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties, 411-423
  • Analysis of the Vietnam War is due June 27.


June 30 Exam 3 will be given on June 30.

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Dr. Harold D. Tallant, Department of History, Georgetown College
400 East College Street, Georgetown, KY 40324, (502) 863-8075

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