History 183/American Studies 156/Asian Studies 256


Professor Richard H. Immerman MWF 08:40-09:30
Fall 2000
Tuttleman 103
tel:  (215)204-7466
Office Hours:MWF from 10:45-11:45 in Gladfelter Hall 909 and by appointment
TA: Ginger Davis
e-mail: grdhistory@hotmail.com
Office Hours: M, 9:30-10:30, W, 9:30-1030; 11:30-12:30 in
Gladfelter Hall 956


The War in Vietnam was a defining moment for both Americans and Vietnamese, although the peoples of neither nation can agree on what precisely it defined. For the United States, the loss of the war produced a crisis of national identity. For Vietnam, the victory meant the culmination of thirty years of revolutionary struggle to establish a national identity. To the present day both suffer from the failure to resolve problems inherent in these outcomes.

If anything, the urgency to resolve these problems is greater now that, more than three decades after the last American helicopter ignominiously escaped from the rooftop of its Saigon embassy, the United States has recognized a Socialist Republic of Vietnam that seeks more complete integration within an international system whose most powerful player is--the United States. In this context, the objective of this course is to promote a better understanding of the history between these two nations. This understanding of the past is a vital precondition to mutually beneficial relations in the future. At the most fundamental level, then, the course is designed to address the question of why almost complete strangers prior to World War II became such bitter enemies so soon thereafter, and as a consequence, engaged in mortal combat for longer than any other war in which the United States has been engaged. Finding an answer will require that we explore the war's social, political, economic, military, and diplomatic dimensions and ramifications.

The Vietnam War is a microcosm of the forces that forged the twentieth century world and thus will shape the architecture of the "new millenium": colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, revolution, modernization, nation-building, Third World development, the clash of cultures, capitalism, communism, the cold war, and more. This course's agenda is accordingly ambitious. Your enrollment serves as your pledge to make a serious effort to fulfill it. I pledge, in return, that the rewards will be worth the investment.

Requirements:Course work will include readings, discussions, six "op-ed" essays, one comparative book review, one mid-term, and one final examination.

Texts: All available at the Temple Bookstore: George Herring, America's Longest War (3rd edition); Le Luu, A Time Far Past; Graham Greene, The Quiet American; David Anderson, ed., The Human Tradition in the Vietnam Era; coursepack distributed in class; on line documents.

Grading: Grading will be based primarily on a system that awards a possible 500 points, which will be divided by five in order to determine final grades according to the following standard: 90-100= from A- to A; 80-89= from B- to B+; 70-79= from C- to C+; 60-69= from D- to D+; 0-59=F.

Book Review: There will be one book review comparing two books, five-to-seven typed double-spaced pages in length. To make your selections easier, a list of "additional readings" is available on website for this course. The url for the website is http://www.temple.edu/ ~rimmerma/00his256.html. The "additional readings" is at: http://www.temple.edu/ ~rimmerma/256bks.html. An exponentially more comprehensive bibliography is available at http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~eemoise/bibliography.html. A handy guide to writing a book review is available as well at http://www.temple.edu/histdept/256revs.html. If you lose these addresses, simply go to the Home Page for Temple University's History Department (http://www.temple.edu/histdept)and you'll easily find them all. Needless to say, you need not confine yourself to these bibliographies and are welcome to conduct your own search for the purpose of selecting your books.

Once you have decided on the two books you want to compare, see me. I must approve your selections. The review will be due by the end of class (2:30) on **Friday, December 1**. No late papers will be accepted.

It goes without saying that the review will be original to the student. Paraphrasing reviews that have been published in journals or newspapers is not acceptable (even if footnoted). The review will be graded on substance, critical analysis, and presentation (I expect correct grammar, spelling, etc.). The medium counts as well as the message. The guide referred to above (http://www.temple.edu/histdept/256revs.html) explains the distinction between a book "review" and a book "report." Make sure to ask me questions as they arise--not after the review's due date. For the book review you can earn up to 150 points toward the final grade.

Alternative to Book Review: As an alternative to writing the comparative book review, students may choose to read two books and use the information, interpretations, and arguments therein to analyze critically one of the oral histories available on this courses website. Students interested in pursuing this option should see me for further explanation no later than November 20.

Op-Ed Essays: As specified on the syllabus, during six of the weeks of the semester, you will respond to a question by writing an essay of no more than twoparagraphs in length. In your essay you will cite as evidence supporting your argument a quote from at least one appropriate document that you have "located" either in the coursepack or on this course’s website. You can earn up to 10 points for each of these essays (at total of 60).

Mid-term Examination: You will be expected to write in class one informed, sophisticated, and coherent essay responding to one question selected by me from a list of up to four questions that I will distribute at least a week prior to the exam. The examination will take place on Wednesday, October 22, 1997. You can earn up to 100 points toward the final grade.

Final Examination: You will be expected to write in class two informed, sophisticated, and coherent essays responding to two questions selected by me from a list of up to five questions that I will distribute at least a week prior to the exam. The examination will take place on Friday, December 12, 1997, 11:00 A.M.-1:00 P.M. Each essay will count for half of the total 150 points (i.e., each essay will count 75 points) you can earn toward the final grade.

Oral Participation: Each student can volunteer to present orally at least one distillation of a previous class session. This distillation should be succinct (no more than three minutes). It should not recapitulate/summarize the previous lecture/discussion. Rather, it should identify the three primary points/arguments that emerged during the previous lecture/discussion and provide one example for each point/argument. Students will also be expected actively and regularly to participate in class discussions. By doing so and providing one class distillation, 40 points can be earned.

Consultations: I encourage students to discuss the course material, book reviews, and any related academic matters with me as often as each's heart (and mind) desires. I will hold regular office hours every MWF from 10:45-11:45 in Gladfelter Hall 909 (204-7466). Meetings may also be arranged for any mutually convenient time. The same invitation applies for Ginger Davis, the teaching assistant.

Skills: A history course provides instruction in myriad skills that are applicable to diverse disciplines and, indeed, diverse careers. As an intermediate level course, the History of Vietnam will stress the development of the following set of skills. I urge you to keep them in mind as the course progresses. The more "conscious" you are of the skills the course "features," the more rapid and systematic will be your development and honing of them.

Syllabus and Weekly Assignments

Week Topic and Reading

Sept. 6: Introduction

Sept. 8: Film: Regret to Inform

Sept. 11-15: The "Other" (Indochina)

Le Luu, chapters 1-5

Sept. 18-22: Roots of the American Empire

Le Luu, 6-9


Sept. 25-29: Nationalism/Communism in Indochina

Le Luu, 10-conclusion

Op-Ed Essay #1, due on September 29: Based on your reading of A Time Far Past, identify one aspect of "traditional" Vietnamese society that fell victim to the War in Vietnam. Provide an illustration.

Oct. 2-6: FDR, WWII, and Revolution

Herring, chapter 1


Oct. 9-13: The French War/The Cold War

Anderson, chapter 3

Greene, Part 1

Coursepack, pp.31-38

Op-Ed Essay #2, due on October 13: True or False--America’s inability to understand Vietnamese history and culture fundamentally explains the Truman administration’s opposition to the establishment of a Vietnam state independent of French rule.

Documents for Essay #2

Oct. 16-18: From Dienbienphu to Geneva
Greene, Parts 2-3

Coursepack, pp.38-45


Op-Ed Essay #3, due October 18: After analyzing critically the text of the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference, provide an explanation for the United States decision to withhold its signature and issue instead its unilateral declaration. Use as your evidence wording from the Final Declaration

Documents to Essay #3

Oct.20: The Battle for Dien Bien Phu.

Oct. 23: Review

Oct. 25: Mid-term Examination

Oct. 27: Trapped By Success

Herring, chapter 2

Anderson, Chapter 1

Coursepack, pp.45-50


Oct. 30-Nov. 3: Ngo + Ho = NLF

Herring, chapters 3-4

Coursepack, 50-60



Nov. 6-10: Into the Quagmire

Herring, chapter 5

Anderson, chapter 3

Coursepack, pp.60-70


Op-Ed Essay #4, due on November 10: True or False--At the time of his assassination President John F. Kennedy was preparing to withdraw U.S. support for South Vietnam.

Documents for Essay #4

Nov. 13-17: No Fronts

Herring, chapters 6

Coursepack, pp. 70-91


Op-Ed Essay #5, due on November 17: True or False--In light of the information and advice Lyndon Johnson received, his decision to escalate the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and conduct the War in the manner that he did was both predicatable and rational.

Documents for Essay #5

Johnson's Phone Conversations

Video Clips: Ia Drang Valley

Nov. 20: Home Fronts

Anderson, chapters 9-12

Coursepack, 125-134

Nov. 22: Film: Homefront USA


November 24: Home for the Holidays

Nov.27-Dec. 1: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Coursepack, 92-125

Herring, chapter 7



Dec. 1: Due Date for Book Review

Dec. 4-8: Creating the Vietnam Syndrome

Anderson, chapters 5-8

Coursepack, 135-179


Op-Ed Essay #6, due on December 8: Why did President Thieu oppose the U.S. effort to negotiate a peace treaty with the North Vietnamese? Was his resistance justifiied?

Documents for Essay #6

Dec. 11: Winners and Losers

Herring, chapter 8


Dec. 13: Review

Final Examination: Monday, December 18, 2000: 08:30-10:30 A.M.