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.
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
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
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
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
Oct. 30-Nov. 3: Ngo + Ho = NLF
Herring, chapters 3-4
Nov. 6-10: Into the Quagmire
Herring, chapter 5
Anderson, chapter 3
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
Nov. 22: Film: Homefront USA
November 24: Home for the Holidays
Nov.27-Dec. 1: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Herring, chapter 7
Dec. 1: Due Date for Book Review
Dec. 4-8: Creating the Vietnam Syndrome
Anderson, chapters 5-8
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.