Vietnam War DBQ Lesson
October 12, 2010
The Document Based Question (DBQ) lesson is intended to aid in the instruction of
analyzing Primary Sources. Students will not only analyze the documents, but will also combine
their analysis and their background knowledge of the topic to construct a thoughtful and coherent
essay. This lesson is designed for an 11th grade advanced placement high school student. It is
imperative that higher level high school students are able to interpret documents and are able to
describe how those documents relate to a specific event or time period. It is also very important
that the student can formulate a stance for an argument and support that stance through evidence
from the documents as well as their outside knowledge.
This DBQ lesson is designed to have students analyze different aspects of the Vietnam
War and think about how these aspects affected American and Americans at home as well as in
Vietnam. It is also designed to make the students look at the roles of different Americans during
the time period and how their part helped shape this era in American History.
I have selected specific document that show the range of people and event that were
influential during the Vietnam War period. The four main subjects I focused on were the
conditions and situations that the soldiers were fighting in, the role of the U.S. government in the
war, the role of Americans supporting or protesting the war at home, and the effects the war had
on the nation. The documents selected provide insight and example from each of these four areas
so students can piece together events that helped can explain the impact the Vietnam War had on
Students will first read the brief synopsis of American involvement in the Vietnam War
from 1964 to 1975. Then they will view the video America and the Vietnam War to get a visual
and audio sense of the scenery, climate, and atmosphere of the time period. Once the students
have a basic understanding of the background knowledge of the Vietnam War, they will be given
11 period documents for them interpret. Students will have a sheet with various questions that
they will answer about each document. The documents include a chart, a map, letters, speeches,
song lyrics, pictures and a political cartoon. Students must analyze each document and conclude
what the document is stating, the importance of the document, and how it relates to the topic of
the Vietnam War.
Once the students have finished their analysis of the documents, they will then use their
analysis to construct a five paragraph essay answering the prompt provided. Students will have
to site the documents in their essay as evidence for their argument. They will cite the documents
following a thought or argument by referencing the document at the end of a sentence in
parenthesis as follows: (DOC. A). Students must cite at least 8 of the 11 documents provided or
points will be deducted from the essay. Essays will be graded based on the rubric for grading
DBQ’s on the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam.
Explanation of the Documents
Document A: Transcript of Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964)
I selected this document because it provides a starting point for the students to identify
America’s “official” entrance into the Vietnam War. Students can also refer back to this
document as they discuss the unpopularity of the war and the questioning of why America was
actually at war.
Document B: Map of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
This document was included so students could refer to the resolve of the Vietnamese people
against the much stronger U.S. forces. It also opens the door to discuss the North’s leader Ho Chi
Document C: A letter of disapproval to President Johnson
This document provides an example how people who once supported the President have turned
on him as the war continued. Students can cite this document as they discuss Johnson’s decision
not to run for reelection.
Document D: A picture of a protest rally in Washington D.C.
This document was included to show the masses of people on the home-front that opposed the
war and their participation in protesting it. Students can use this document to help discuss the
types of people that were involved in protests and to what extent the protests went to.
Document E: Picture after the Kent State Massacre
I wanted students to be familiar with this famous picture and be able to discuss the role of the
government as well as students for this event. Students can use this image as a foundation to
discuss Nixon, Cambodia, and the escalation of student protests on college campuses.
Document F: Walter Cronkite’s Broadcast After The Tet Offensive
This document is included for students to refer to the Tet Offensive and the point that it is
considered the turning point of public opinion over the war. Students can also refer to this
document when discussing Johnson not running for reelection.
Document G: Lyrics to the protest song Draft Dodger Rag
Students can analyze the lyrics of this song and use it as an example of how young people felt
about serving in Vietnam. It also provides an example of the extent some went to dodge the draft
and not participate in the war.
Document H: Address to the Nation by President Johnson
This speech provides insight for students to analyze on how President Johnson felt about the War
following the Tet Offensive. It also provides some explanation of why he did not run for another
term as President.
Document I: Chart showing American Deaths in Vietnam by years
I included this document for students to use so they can describe how the year 1968 was a pivotal
year. 1968 was the year of the riot at the Democratic National Convention, the Tet Offensive,
and the election of new President Richard Nixon. Consequently, it was the year the U.S. suffered
the most deaths in Vietnam.
Document J: Political Cartoon on the effects of Vietnam on social programs at home
This document is intended to provide perspective on the financial effects the war had on
domestic programs. I want students to understand that Johnson’s Great Society fell short of
expectations as the money dried up in Vietnam.
Document K: A letter home from a Vietnam Soldier
This document was included as evidence of how soldiers viewed the war and their involvement.
It also provides a first-hand account of the conditions as well as the atmosphere in Vietnam
DBQ: The Vietnam War
Analyze and interpret the 11 documents provided relating to the events surrounding the Vietnam
War from 1964-1975. As you analyze the documents, answer the questions on the sheet
provided. Be sure to describe the details for each document and explain how the document
relates to the topic. In addition, add some outside knowledge that also relates to the document.
Use the analysis of the documents as well as outside knowledge to construct a cohesive and
coherent essay answering the following question:
How did the events during the Vietnam War, both foreign and domestic, affect Americans at
home as well as the soldiers overseas? Explain how these events affected America socially,
economically, and politically.
Background Knowledge on the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War has its roots in Vietnam’s struggle against French imperialism dating
back to the late 1800’s. With the emergence of strong Vietenemese leaders such as Ho Chi Minh,
who founded a militant nationalist organization called the Viet Minh, resistance to imperialism
grew stronger through the 20th century. Following the surrender of Japan at the end of World
War II in 1945, Ho Chi Minh’s forces took the capital of Hanoi and declared Vietnam to be an
independent country, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. France, however, refused to
acknowledge Vietnam’s independence. Ho Chi Minh appealed to the United States for assistance
but since the French were a key ally during this “Cold War” period, the U.S. declined.
A civil war persisted as the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh continued to fight the
French for independence. The Geneva Accords of 1954 declared a cease-fire and divided
Vietnam officially into North Vietnam (under Ho Chi Mihn and his Communist forces) and
South Vietnam (under a French-backed emperor). The dividing line was set at the 17th parallel
and was surrounded by a demilitarized zone, or DMZ. By this time, American foreign policy was
dominated by the “Domino Theory” which was the belief that if countries in Asia turned to
Communism, eventually they would all fall, strengthening the Soviet Union.
After North Vietnamese forces allegedly attacked U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin
in 1964, President Johnson was given “blank check” in the form of the Gulf of Tonkin
Resolution and began to send U.S. troops to Vietnam. This marked the “official” entrance of the
United States into the Vietnam War. Bombing campaigns such as 1965’s Operation Rolling
Thunder followed, and the conflict escalated. President Johnson’s “Americanization” of the war
led to a presence of nearly 400,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam by the end of 1966.
Although the United States was far superior in military strength to the “Viet Cong”
militaias, Vietnamese soldiers as well as civilians showed resolve in enduring relentless attacks
on them and their land. Through guerrilla tactics and civilian unity, Vietnamese Communist
forces frustrated American forces. Through massive airstrikes, U.S. forces used unconventional
weapons like Napalm and Agent Orange to counter, but to little avail. Villages would rebuild
damaged roads and supply lines in the middle of the night, keeping the Ho Chi Minh Trail
operational and significant.
In 1968, an event known as the Tet Offensive appeared to be a major turning point in the
war. Tet was a Vietnamese Holiday which was supposed to assure a cease fire. The communist
forces attacked anyway and inflicted much damage to American forces. Even though the U.S.
eventually earned a victory, broadcasts at home about the event dramatically turned public
opinion against the war effort. As a result, many anti-war protests spark up all over the nation,
mostly on college campuses. These events in 1968 led President Johnson to decline a bid to
return as President of the United States.
In the election of 1968, Richard Nixon was selected to continue the war effort as
President. Part of his campaign promises included ending American involvement in Vietnam
quickly. Nixon, however, escalated American involvement with bombings in Cambodia. College
campus protests began to boil over reaching a horrendous climax in 1970 when 4 students were
killed on the campus of Kent State by national guardsmen.
In 1971, the publications of the secret “Pentagon Papers” in newspapers helped push
Nixon to make a Peace agreement. In January of 1973, President Nixon signed a cease-fire and
official military personal left Vietnam over the next two months. The U.S. government continued
to fund the South Vietnamese army, but this funding did not last long. Congress and the
American people were finished with the events in Vietnam and even a plea from new President
Gerald Ford could not muster further support for the cause. North Vietnamese forces stepped up
their attacks on the South and finally launched an all-out offensive in the spring of 1975. On
April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, who
reunited the country under Communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, ending the
Video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_keQ38EcbH0
Transcript of Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964)
Eighty-eighth Congress of the United States of America
AT THE SECOND SESSION
Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the seventh day of January, one thousand nine hundred and
To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.
Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United
Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United Stated naval vessels lawfully
present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and
Whereas these attackers are part of deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in
North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of
their freedom; and
Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protest their freedom and has no territorial,
military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these people should be left in peace to work out their
destinies in their own way: Now, therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That
the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary
measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.
Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of
international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the
Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense
Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including
the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty
requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.
Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is
reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it
may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress
WALTER CRONKITE'S "WE ARE MIRED IN
STALEMATE" BROADCAST, FEBRUARY 27, 1968
Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we'd like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis
that must be speculative, personal, subjective. Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities?
I'm not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a
draw. Another standoff may be coming in the big battles expected south of the Demilitarized Zone. Khesanh could
well fall, with a terrible loss in American lives, prestige and morale, and this is a tragedy of our stubbornness there;
but the bastion no longer is a key to the rest of the northern regions, and it is doubtful that the American forces can
be defeated across the breadth of the DMZ with any substantial loss of ground. Another standoff. On the political
front, past performance gives no confidence that the Vietnamese government can cope with its problems, now
compounded by the attack on the cities. It may not fall, it may hold on, but it probably won't show the dynamic
qualities demanded of this young nation. Another standoff.
We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to
have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. They may be right, that Hanoi's winter-
spring offensive has been forced by the Communist realization that they could not win the longer war of attrition,
and that the Communists hope that any success in the offensive will improve their position for eventual negotiations.
It would improve their position, and it would also require our realization, that we should have had all along, that any
negotiations must be that -- negotiations, not the dictation of peace terms. For it seems now more certain than ever
that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer's almost certain standoff will either end
in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation; and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can
match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one
hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation,
the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster.
To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been
wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are
mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and
political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last
big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to
negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the
best they could.
This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.
Source: Reporting Vietnam: Part One: American Journalism 1959-1969 (1998), pp. 581-582.
DRAFT DODGER RAG
I'm just a typical American boy from a typical American town
I believe in God and Senator Todd and keeping old Castro down
And when it came my time to serve I knew better dead than red
But when I got to my old draft board, buddy, this is what I said:
Sarge, I'm only eighteen, I got a ruptured spleen
And I always carry a purse
I got eyes like a bat, my feet are flat, and my asthma's
O think of my career, my sweetheart dear, and my poor old
Besides, I ain't no fool, I'm a goin' to school, and I'm
working in a defense plant
I've got a dislocated disc and a racked up back
I'm allergic to flowers and bugs
And when bombshells hit, I get epileptic fits
And I'm addicted to a thousand drugs
I got the weakness woes, I can't touch my toes
I can hardly touch my knees
And if the enemy came close to me
I'd probably start to sneeze
I hate Chou En Lai, and I hope he dies,
but one thing you gotta see
That someone's gotta go over there
but that someone isn't me
So I wish you well, Sarge, give 'em Hell
Yeah kill me a thousand or more
And if you ever get a war without blood and gore
Well I'll be the first to go
Copyright Appleseed Music, Inc.
recorded by Pete Seeger on Dangerous Songs
President Lyndon B. Johnson's Address to the Nation
Announcing Steps To Limit the War in Vietnam and
Reporting His Decision Not To Seek Reelection
March 31, 1968
Good evening, my fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to speak to you of peace in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
No other question so preoccupies our people. No other dream so absorbs the 250 million human beings who live in
that part of the world. No other goal motivates American policy in Southeast Asia.
For years, representatives of our Government and others have traveled the world--seeking to find a basis for peace
Since last September, they have carried the offer that I made public at San Antonio. That offer was this:
That the United States would stop its bombardment of North Vietnam when that would lead promptly to productive
discussions--and that we would assume that North Vietnam would not take military advantage of our restraint.
Hanoi denounced this offer, both privately and publicly. Even while the search for peace was going on, North Vietnam
rushed their preparations for a savage assault on the people, the government, and the allies of South Vietnam.
Their attack--during the Tet holidays--failed to achieve its principal objectives.
It did not collapse the elected government of South Vietnam or shatter its army--as the Communists had hoped. It did
not produce a "general uprising" among the people of the cities as they had predicted.
The Communists were unable to maintain control of any of the more than 30 cities that they attacked. And they took
very heavy casualties.
But they did compel the South Vietnamese and their allies to move certain forces from the countryside into the cities.
They caused widespread disruption and suffering. Their attacks, and the battles that followed, made refugees of half
a million human beings………………
With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes
and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my
time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office--the Presidency of
Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.
But let men everywhere know, however, that a strong, a confident, and a vigilant America stands ready tonight to
seek an honorable peace--and stands ready tonight to defend an honored cause--whatever the price, whatever the
burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may require.
Thank you for listening. Good night and God bless all of you.
American Deaths in Vietnam by Year.
“Onward and Upward” (1967)
Howard M. Sherpe (b. 1944) grew up in Westby and lived in Madison prior to being drafted into the army
in December, 1965. Sergeant Sherpe served as a field medic (4th Engr. Bn., 4th Inf. Div.) near Pleiku
from July, 1966, to July, 1967. Following his discharge in November, 1967, he returned to complete his
education at the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. Sherpe currently works as a commercial
artist and lives in Madison. In this journal entry, he reflects on his participation in the war.
August 19, 1966
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about why it is we are here and what we're fighting
for. So far I have yet to see even one Vietnamese soldier fighting or even in the field. The only
Vietnamese I've seen fighting are on the other side and the rest of the Vietnamese around here
seem to be on their side too or helping them in one way or another. So who the hell is it that
we're supposed to be trying to help. No one seems to want our help. They all seem to be against
us, unless they want our money or a free handout....
I guess personally, after seeing how the people live here, I'm fighting not for the people,
but for the people back in the states, so they never have to live like this, and so our kids never
have to be like this. Even the worst slums in America are better than the way most people live
here. I guess I'm fighting for the continued freedom and prosperity of America. But then when I
think about it, that doesn't make much sense either. How the hell is my being here helping
America keep its freedom? To stop the dominoes they say. Stop the Communists here or they'll
eventually take over America. That's a bunch of ... bullshit! As far as I'm concerned, unless we
quit trying to kill each other there won't be anyone left to rule the world.
I don't think anyone wants us here. From the sound of the news we get in the Pacific Stars
and Stripes, the majority of Americans couldn't care less that we are here either. Everyone's
against us. Be that as it may, I'm stuck in this ... place now and I'm going to get in a few licks for
me and my family and we'll let the dominoes fall where they may....