Ch 16            The Vietnam War                    (1954-1975)

Students will understand the development (causes) and implications (results or outcomes) of the Vietnam War



This chapter discusses the developments that lead to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, from the decision to aid the French forces there in the early 1950s to the decision to send American combat troops in the mid-1960s. It also describes the growing opposition to the war, and the deep divisions developing within American society.


16-1 Cold War Roots of the Conflict
*U.S. aids France, which is trying to retain control of Vietnam
*Communist North Vietnamese forces invade South Vietnam.
*Trying to contain communism, the U.S. aids South Vietnam and challenges the
USSR over missiles in Cuba. (Cuban Missle Crisis)
*Ngo Dinh Diem, French Indochina, Ho Chi Minh (trail), domino theory, Viet Cong

16-2 War Expands in Vietnam
*As the war escalates, the number of American troops there grows.
*Despite superior technology, U.S. forces cannot win decisive victories.
*As the war drags on, American morale sinks.
*Gulf of Tonkin resolution, William Westmoreland, guerilla warfare, napalm, Agent Orange, Tet offensive

16-3 The Vietnam War Ends
*Antiwar movement challenges both the war and the draft
*Richard Nixon first escalates the war and then withdraws U.S. troops
*Vietnam War leaves a legacy of distrust and division
*doves, hawks, Vietnamization, Cambodia, 26th Amendment, War Powers Act

Vietnam (1:42)


The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis History Short

The Vietnam War - part 3
More social studies lessons on World Events at  


Vietnam War Story: After All These Years

Reasons Against

Involvement in Vietnam

U.S. Interests—The war is a civil war that does not directly threaten the United States.

Draft—The draft to select soldiers is unfair.

Social Program—The war takes money away from social programs.

Vietnamese Civilians—The war harms Vietnamese civilians.

Domestic unrest—The war causes too much domestic unrest. 


Reasons for Involvement in Vietnam

French Alliance—If the United States does not aid France, France may not aid in opposing the Soviets in Europe


Domino Theory—If South Vietnam falls to communism, other Asian countries may fall as well.


Nation-building—The United States can help South Vietnam establish a democratic government.


Cold War Crisis—Cold War crisis made the United States fear the growth of communist power. 

U.S. Weaponry--Superior U.S. weaponry can easily defeat the Viet Cong.  





- Music - 

10 Top Anti-War/Protest Songs About the Vietnam War

  1. Imagine (1971) John Lennon’s solo masterpiece was more than just a song in protest of the Vietnam War, it was an emphasis for world peace to “imagine all people living life in peace” in a world without religion, countries, possessions, greed or hunger. The song is generally regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time and listed as #3 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time and listed on the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America.
  2. Blowing in the Wind (1963) - This song was written and recorded by a then 21-year-old Bob Dylan as the United States escalated their involvement in the Vietnam War. The song, which gained larger prominence when it was re-recorded by the folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, became one of the most famous protest songs to come out of the 60s as well as an anthem for the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
  3. Born in the USA (1984) – The Bruce Springsteen single from the biggest selling album of 1985 was written to be a song about the troubles of a working class man forced into the Vietnam War but was largely considered to be a patriotic song. It was so popular that the Reagan administration asked to use it as part of the reelection campaign but Springsteen, a strong liberal, nixed the idea.
  4. Give Peace a Chance (1969) – Recorded during the famous “Bed In” in Montreal, this John Lennon composition was another anthem to the anti-war movement and his first hit single after he left the Beatles. Although there is no mention of the Vietnam War in the lyrics, it was sung across the country during the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, which was one of many anti-war protests that swept the country during the 60s and 70s.
  5. For What It’s Worth (1967) – Although this Buffalo Springfield hit was not meant to be an anti-war song, many listeners embraced it during the Vietnam War particularly with lyrics like “there’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right is everybody’s wrong, young people speaking their minds, getting so much resistance from behind.” The song, written by Stephen Stills who later gained enormous fame with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, was inspired by clashes between police and young people in Hollywood, California, whose participants included actors Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda.
  6. War (What is It Good For?) (1969) – This intense Vietnam protest song by Edwin Starr and written by one of Mototown’s top composers, Norman Whitfield, says it loud and clear “war, yea, what is it good for - absolutely nothing!” It was a #1 hit in 1970 and was later performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band during their tour of 1985.
  7. Eve of Destruction (1965) This song written by a 19-year-old P.F. Sloan, was made famous by Barry McGuire and contained the lyrics “you’re old enough to kill, but not for voting, you don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re toting” and “you can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace, hate your next door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace.” It was the #1 song in America around the time the United States entered the war.
  8. I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-to-Die-Rag (1967) – One of the most memorable moments of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969 was Country Joe MacDonald’s solo performance of this blatantly obvious anti-Vietnam War song with the chorus of “and it’s one, two, three what are we fighting for? Don't ask me I don't give a damn, next stop is Vietnam.”
  9. The Unknown Soldier (1968) – This anti-war song was Jim Morrison and the Doors contribution to their opposition to the Vietnam War. The Unknown Soldier is likely in reference to the Tomb of the Unknowns military memorial at Arlington Cemetery and the song contained a sequence that resembles a military funeral honors ceremony complete with a firing party.
  10. Orange Crush (1988) – This song by the alternative rock band R.E.M., who just split up last year, was in reference to the government’s use of the controversial herbicide known as Agent Orange to remove trees and dense foliage that the Viet Cong would use during the Vietnam War. Many diseases were later found to be associated with the herbicide including diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, prostrate cancer and lung cancer.