The Vietnam War Lesson Guide

Theme 7: The War at Home—All Sides

Theme Overview

Lessons will explore how the war affected domestic politics, the civil rights movement, the elections, popular culture. The explosive change in American culture, generational conflict and changing attitudes. How the war affected both N & S Vietnamese? What went through the minds of the families at home as their sons and daughters went off to war? How did the war divide families, while they were at war? When they came home, either dead or alive? The anti-war movement addressing the question: Should citizens have the right to protest against government policies with which they disagree?  The role of anti-war protesters as agents of democracy or unpatriotic?  The ways the anti-war protests incited public discussion/conflict on the Vietnam War; In contrast, the negative public perception of the anti-war movement against what anti-war protesters were saying and the democratic principles upon which they were speaking and protesting. The effects, if any, on the U.S. policy? On the enemy? How music (both supportive and critical) played a role in explaining the war to the public. What did the music say and how did it say it? Who was saying it? What was the impact on the public and America’s view of the war?

Essential questions:
  • How did the political and societal changes of the 1960s serve as a catalyst to the divergent views of the Vietnam War? 
  • How can a democratic public be patriotic to the country and still hold the government accountable for its actions? 
The lessons
  • The 1968 Democratic National Convention—1968 was a pivotal year in America: The Tet Offensive, President Johnson's decision not to run for a second full term, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The cauldron of chaos caused by these events will descend on Chicago, site of the Democratic National Convention. In this lesson, students view segments from The Vietnam War featuring news reports of 15,000 protestors and Chicago Mayor Daley’s reception. Students then assume the character of someone witnessing the convention and write a letter to a friend or family member commenting on what they saw.
    Timeline: August, 1968

    Video Clips:

  • Patriotism and Protest—Students view segments from The Vietnam War which provide different perspectives about the value of fighting in the war and the value of protesting the war. The class will examine the testimony of Navy veteran John Kerry testifying against the war,; Phil Gioia, an Army second lieutenant who questions and criticizes the validity of Kerry’s testimony; and veterans throwing away their medals to protest the war. Students will use the video clips, in-class activities, and a writing assignment to explore the meaning of patriotism.
    Time period: 1970-1973

    Video Clip: 

    • Vietnam Veterans Against the War: VVAW: Veterans Protest the War (forthcoming)