The history of the vietnam war (05438-2) (Monday)

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Dr. Lee Bruce Kress History Department

Spring 2010 Robinson Hall

Office Hrs: M: 11-12:30, 5-6, W: 3:30-4:30, and

R by appt.

256-4500, ext. 3987
This course presents a review and analysis of America’s involvement in Vietnam. The course will mainly cover the years from 1950 to 1975, as well as a discussion of the background and aftermath of the conflict in southeast Asia. Its purpose is to foster an understanding of the reasons and influences of the war of the life of both countries and the world. Among the issues to be covered are the formation and growth of the American policy; the strategies, tactics, and weaponry of leading engagements; the personalities and contributions of political and military leaders; and the social and economic role of the war in national development. It is assumed that the student has some prior knowledge of general American history and the history of the Cold War period. It may be necessary, therefore, for you to review your notes or textbooks from earlier courses in order to be prepared.


The requirements for this course include brief geography quiz, which is worth about 10 percent of your semester grade, a mid-term examination, a research term paper, and a final examination, which will each count about 30 percent. Examinations will consist largely of identification items and essays, and you will get to select from a choice of questions presented in each category. There also will be opportunities for extra credit. Class sessions will consist of lectures, discussions, and some videos. All students are expected to prepare the assigned readings in advance of class, to participate in all class discussions, and to give brief reports on the progress of their research. Failure to take part adequately in classroom activities and discussions may affect your grade.

Consistent attendance is also expected, and attendance will be taken in every class. You are allowed two absences for any reason whatsoever and you do not have to provide me with any excuse; on the other hand, you will lose a point from your final average for every absence beyond two and almost no excuse will be acceptable. Therefore, you would be wise to save up your absences since you never know when situations will arise that may cause you to miss class.

Unless verifiable evidence of an emergency excuse is presented, such as a physician’s note testifying to illness, all examinations and written assignments must be completed at the time stated on this syllabus. Otherwise you will automatically receive a grade of a zero for that test or paper.

Your academic success is important. If you have a disability or medical condition that may have an impact on your work in this class, please contact me. Students also need to provide documentation of their disability to the Center for Academic Success in Savitz Hall in order to receive official University services and accommodations. Please come to see me in my office hours or at other times that are mutually agreeable if I can help you in any way with this course. Also use e-mail or voice mail to maintain contact.
Final grades will not be posted and cannot be obtained by calling or e-mailing me or the History Department. However, they can be obtained from the Registrar by the Banner system. See the Rowan Spring Schedule booklet for details. Additionally, at the time of the final examination if you will provide me with a stamped, self-addressed business-sized envelope, I will mail your graded exam to you along with your semester grade. Alternately, if you provide a stamped postal card, I will just indicate your semester grade. Official semester grades on a transcript can be obtained from the Registrar on request after the end of the semester.
Herring, George C., America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
McMahon, Robert J. and Thomas Paterson, eds. Major Problems in the History of Vietnam War: Documents and Essays. 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/Cengage Learning, 2008.
Caputo, Philip, A Rumor of War: With a Twentieth Anniversary Postscript by the Author. New York: Henry Holt, 1996.
ASSIGNMENTS: (by week)

I. Background and Communist Threat

Founding of the Cominform, (1945) (See Issues homepage for document)

Winston Churchill, “Sinews of Peace” (Iron Curtain) Speech, (1946),

NSC-68, (1950) only Parts I-VA, and Conclusions,

Excerpts from Chinese Communist Publication, (1960) (See Vietnam Syllabus homepage for document)

McMahon, Chapter 2

  1. Roots of American Commitment

McMahon, Chapter 3

  1. Geography Quiz. Feb. 8

Term Paper Proposal and Tentative Thesis due: Feb. 8

First Indochina War, 1950-1954

Herring, Chapter 1

McMahon, Chapter 4

IV. Eisenhower and the Development of South Vietnam

Herring, Chapter 2

McMahon, Chapter 4

The Enemy: North Vietnam and Vietcong

McMahon, Chapter 9
V. Kennedy Administration

Herring, Chapter 3

McMahon, Chapter 5

The Ally: South Vietnam

McMahon, Chapter 11
VI. Preliminary Bibliography due: March 1

Johnson Administration, Part I, 1963-64

Herring, Chapter 4

McMahon, Chapter 6

VII. Midterm Examination: March 10

VIII. Johnson Administration, Part 2 1965

Herring, Chapter 5

McMahon, Chapter 7, pp. 171-204

IX. Preliminary Paper Outlines due: March 22

Johnson Administration, Part 3, 1966-67

Herring, Chapter 5, pp. 204-223

McMahon, Chapter 8

X. Johnson Administration, Part 4, 1968

Herring, Chapter 6

McMahon, Chapter 10

  1. Nixon Administration, Part 1, 1969-1970

Herring, Chapter 7, pp. 271-283

McMahon, Chapter 12

  1. American Homefront

Herring, Chapter 7, pp. 283-310

McMahon, Chapter 13

  1. Nixon Administration, Part 2, 1971-1972

Herring, Chapter 7, pp. 310-320

McMahon, Chapter 13

XIV. Term Paper due: April 19

Paris Peace Accords and Fall of Indochina, 1973-1975

McMahon, Chapter 14


Herring, Chapter 8

McMahon, Chapter 15

  1. Final Examination: Week of May 4

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