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Vietnam War - Exploring Perspectives through Primary Sources: Getting Started

Before Beginning...

Before beginning this exercise, students should have a general understanding of the subject and be able to articulate basic answers to the following questions:

What was the Vietnam War?

Who was involved?

When did it take place?

Where did it take place?

What were some of the main reasons for the initiation of the conflict?

How and why did the conflict end?

In order to develop a better understanding of the topic and obtain more information on this subject before beginning, please consult the remaining boxes on this page.  Otherwise, please proceed to the next tab to begin the exercise.

Background Information on the Vietnam War

Conflict Dates: 1 November 1955 -- 30 April 1975

Other Names: Vietnam Conflict, Vietnam Police Action, Second Indochina War; in Vietnam it is called the American War, War Against the Americans to Save the Nation

Related Conflicts: Indochina Wars, Cold War

Key Concepts/Keywords:

French Indochina
Gulf of Tonkin Incident and Resolution
Ho Chi Min
Tet Offensive
My Lai Massacre
Vietnamization or Nixon Doctrine
Student War Protests and Kent State Shootings
Pentagon Papers
Paris Peace Accords

Suggested Background Readings and Activities

Acknowledgments and Credits

The original version of this exercise was created in 2012 by Appalachian Archivist Kate Black and graduate assistant Sheli Walker (the original exercise documents can be found at the LOEX 2012 website).
The exercise was adapted and placed online in 2013 by Education & Outreach Archivist Jay-Marie Bravent in order to meet the needs of changing course syllabi.

A goal of the Special Collections Education & Outreach program is to maintain exercises, such as this, that will continue to adapt and change based on faculty and student needs.  Additional versions of certain exercises will be available in the future, along with alternative activities, collections, online resources, and options appropriate for both hands-on and web-based active learning activities.


Description: A Viet Cong suspect, captured during an attack on an American outpost near the Cambodian border in South Vietnam, is interrogated.

Date: 12/20/1968

Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Records of United States Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations