Part II, Paper 26 The American Experience in Vietnam, 1941-1975

Part II, Paper 26
The American Experience in Vietnam, 1941-1975
Wednesdays 2-4, Latimer Room, E Staircase, Clare College
Dr. Andrew Preston, amp33
The Vietnam War stands as one of the defining events of the twentieth century. Nearly four
decades after its end, the war continues and reverberate through the international system. While
its emotional impact has eased somewhat, it still haunts the American imagination and exerts a
profound influence upon U.S. domestic politics, foreign policy, intellectual life, media, and
culture. Needless to say, the war has also had a lasting effect on the people of Southeast Asia.
This paper aims to provide students with an understanding of the causes, course, and
consequences of American involvement in Vietnam between 1941 and 1975. In doing so, it
will explore all of Vietnam’s major conflicts—the First, Second, and Third Indochina Wars—
and complicate much of the conventional wisdom about “the Vietnam War.” It will also
address a number of questions that are still contested among historians: Why did the United
States perceive Vietnam as integral to American national security? What was the relationship
between the wars for Vietnam and the processes of decolonization and the Cold War? Why did
the initial commitment, sustained at a relatively low level for nearly fifteen years, escalate
dramatically in the 1960s? Did American and Vietnamese leaders stumble into war by
misunderstanding each other? Was the conflict a national civil war or a major international
war? How did the war complement, and in many ways exacerbate, the many social changes
affecting the United States and other countries in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s? How did other
countries view and react to the war? Was the war winnable? What are the war’s legacies, in
Vietnam, the United States, and the world at large?
This paper has the United States (especially) and Vietnam as its main subjects, but it will also
explore in depth the Vietnam wars as seminal events in twentieth century international history.
Thus we will also investigate, when relevant, the actions of the Soviet Union, China, France,
the rest of Europe, etc. Moreover, while this paper will examine the military history of the war,
it will pay greater attention to its political, diplomatic, social, cultural, and historiographical
Aside from an introductory lecture, this Specified paper will be taught in weekly 2-hour
discussion classes; each student will also receive 4 supervisions in groups ranging between two
and four. The emphasis of Paper 26 is on discussion and debate based on readings and student
presentations. Presentations and supervisions will be assigned at the beginning of Michaelmas
Term. This paper is capped at a maximum of 15 students.
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Reading List
Key readings, which every student is expected to complete, are marked with a *. Presenters
will be given additional readings from the list based on the topic of their presentation.
Michaelmas Term
Week 1, October 15: Introduction to the paper
These are all broad surveys; although they are not listed again below, their individual chapters
are also relevant for every topic covered in the weekly classes.
Larry H. Addington, America’s War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History (2000)
Christian G. Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (2003)
Eric M. Bergerud, The Dynamics Of Defeat: The Vietnam War In Hau Nghia Province (1991)
*Mark Philip Bradley, Vietnam at War (2009)
Mark Philip Bradley and Marilyn B. Young, Making Sense of the Vietnam Wars: Local, National,
and Transnational Perspectives (2008)
Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of
Difference (2010), chapters 1, 12-14
Robert Buzzanco, Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life (1999)
Timothy Castle, At War in the Shadow of Vietnam: U.S. Military Aid to the Royal Lao
Government, 1955-1975 (1993)
David P. Chandler, The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War, and Revolution since 1945
Andreas W. Daum, Lloyd C. Gardner, Wilfried Mausbach, eds., America, the Vietnam War, and
the World: Comparative and International Perspectives (2003)
Phillip B. Davidson, Vietnam at War: The History, 1946-1975 (1988)
William J. Duiker, Sacred War: Nationalism and Revolution in a Divided Vietnam (1995)
——, The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam (1996)
*John Dumbrell, Rethinking the Vietnam War (2012)
*Jeffrey A. Engel, Mark Atwood Lawrence, and Andrew Preston, eds., America in the World: A
History in Documents from the War with Spain to the War on Terror (2014), esp.
chapters 9-12
Tom Engelhardt, The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a
Generation (1995; 2007)
William Conrad Gibbons, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative
Roles and Relationships, 4 vols. (1986-1995)
Natasha Hamilton-Hart, Hard Interests, Soft Illusions: Southeast Asia and American Power
George C. Herring, “‘Peoples Quite Apart’: Americans, South Vietnamese, and the War in
Vietnam,” Diplomatic History (January 1990)
*——, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (4th ed., 2002; 5th
edition, 2013)
Gary R. Hess, Vietnam and the United States: Origins and Legacy of a War (1990)
*Michael H. Hunt, Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945-1968
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Hy V. Luong, Revolution in the Village: Tradition and Transformation in North Vietnam, 19251988 (1992)
Seth Jacobs, The Universe Unraveling: American Foreign Policy in Cold War Laos (2012)
Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam (1993)
George McT. Kahin, Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam (1986)
Benedict F. Kiernan, How Pol Pot Came to Power: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism
in Cambodia, 1930-1975 (1985; 2004)
Peter S. Kindsvatter, American Soldiers: Ground Combat in the World Wars, Korea, and
Vietnam (2003)
Gabriel Kolko, Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical
Experience (1985; 1994)
Heonik Kwon, The Other Cold War (2010)
A. J. Langguth, Our Vietnam/Nuoc Viet Ta: A History of the War 1954-1975 (2000)
Michael E. Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development, and U.S.
Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present (2010)
*Mark Atwood Lawrence, The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (2008)
Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, eds., The Cambridge History of the Cold War, 3 vols.
(2010), esp. but not exclusively Fredrik Logevall, “The Indochina Wars and the Cold
War, 1945-1975,” vol. 2
Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (1978)
Craig A. Lockard, Southeast Asia in World History (2009), chapters 7-11
Robert J. McMahon, The Limits of Empire: The United States and Asia since World War II
Robert Mann, A Grand Delusion: America’s Descent Into Vietnam (2001)
Mark Moyar, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (2006)
James S. Olson and Randy W. Roberts, Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 19451995 (5th ed., 2008)
Stewart O’Nan, ed., The Vietnam Reader: The Definitive Collection of Fiction and Nonfiction on
the War (1998)
James T. Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (1997)
——, Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore (2005)
John Prados, The Hidden History of the Vietnam War (1995)
——, Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975 (2009)
David Reynolds, One World Divisible: A Global History since 1945 (2000)
Andrew J. Rotter, ed., Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Vietnam War Anthology (1999; 2010)
Qiang Zhai, China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950-1975 (2000)
*Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975 (1997)
Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (1988)
James W. Trullinger, Village at War: An Account of Conflict in Vietnam (1994)
Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our
Times (2005)
Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 (1991)
Marilyn Young and Robert Buzzanco, eds., A Companion to the Vietnam War (2002)
Week 2, October 22: World War II and the Vietnamese Revolution
American involvement in Vietnam—which, directly and indirectly, helped bring about the
three Indochina Wars—began in response to Japanese expansionism in Asia and the Pacific.
Although Indochina itself played little role in the war effort, Vietnam would pose new
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
problems once the war ended and the Cold War descended. How exactly did Vietnam influence
U.S. foreign policy? Conversely, how did U.S. foreign policy affect Vietnam? How did
Vietnamese and Americans perceive one another in the war years and early Cold War? How
did Americans perceive, and Vietnamese resist, French colonialism? And, finally, how did the
emergence of the Cold War, both in Europe and Asia, shape events in Southeast Asia?
*Mark Philip Bradley, Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam
Pierre Brocheux and Daniel Hémery, Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858-1954 (2010)
*Lloyd C. Gardner, Approaching Vietnam: From World War II through Dienbienphu, 1941-1954
(1988), chapter 1
Gary R. Hess, “Franklin Roosevelt and Indochina,” Journal of American History (September
Akira Iriye, The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific (1987)
Eric T. Jennings, Imperial Heights: Dalat and the Making and Undoing of French Indochina
(2011), chapter 12
Warren F. Kimball, The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman (1991), chapter 7
Walter LaFeber, “Roosevelt, Churchill, and Indochina, 1942-1945,” American Historical Review
(December 1975)
Erez Manela, “Imagining Woodrow Wilson in Asia: Dreams of East-West Harmony and the
Revolt Against Empire in 1919,” American Historical Review (December 2006)
David G. Marr, Vietnamese Anticolonialism, 1885-1925 (1971)
——, Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945 (1981)
——, Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power (1995)
Sophie Quinn-Judge, Ho Chi Minh: The Missing Years (2002)
David Ryan and Victor Pungong, eds., The United States and Decolonization: Power and
Freedom (2000)
Christopher Thorne, The Issue of War: States, Societies, and the Far Eastern Conflict, 1941-1945
Peter B. Zinoman, The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862-1940
Week 3, October 29: The First Indochina War and the settlement at Geneva
By first supporting the French in the Franco-Vietnamese War, and then succeeding the French
as the main sponsor of anti-communism in Indochina, the United States deeply entrenched
itself in the political affairs of Vietnam. How did this happen? Why did the United States
“assume the burden” of the European colonial powers, especially France, when it had
previously opposed French colonialism and supported de-colonization? What characterized the
Franco-American and Sino-Vietnamese alliances?
Laura M. Calkins, China and the First Vietnam War, 1947-54 (2013)
Bernard B. Fall, Street Without Joy (1961)
Gardner, Approaching Vietnam, chapters 2-11
*Mark Atwood Lawrence, Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War
in Vietnam (2005)
*Mark Atwood Lawrence and Fredrik Logevall, eds., The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict
and Cold War Crisis (2007)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Steven Hugh Lee, Outposts of Empire: Korea, Vietnam, and the Origins of the Cold War in Asia
1949-1954 (1995)
Melvyn P. Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration,
and the Cold War (1992), pp. 1-24, 164-74, 374-83, 469-76, 495-518
Fredrik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam
Peter Neville, Britain in Vietnam: Prelude to Disaster, 1945-6 (2007)
Andrew J. Rotter, The Path to Vietnam: Origins of the American Commitment to South-East Asia
Kathryn C. Statler, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam (2007)
Stein Tønnesson, Vietnam 1946: How the War Began (2010)
*James Waite, The End of the First Indochina War: A Global History (2012)
Week 4, November 5: Reading Week
Week 5, November 12: Eisenhower, Dulles, and the two Vietnams
Just as they did in China and Korea, U.S. officials sponsored a local nationalist, anticommunist, autocratic leader to govern the part of the country that had not come under
communist rule. Known derisively as “America’s mandarin,” Ngo Dinh Diem was criticized, at
the time and since, as both an elitist who was out of touch with his own people and a puppet
created by a foreign power. Similarly, South Vietnam itself has been criticized as an artificial
state that could not survive without American backing and protection. Are these criticisms
accurate or do they over-simplify political life in South Vietnam? How did theories of
development and modernization shape U.S. policy? What did Washington and Saigon mean
when they spoke of “nation-building”? How did that differ from political development in North
Vietnam? Why did the period from 1954 to 1961 mark a time of relative peace? What did
events in the 1950s indicate about the future of Vietnam, and of America’s role?
*David L. Anderson, Trapped by Success: The Eisenhower Administration and Vietnam, 19531961 (1991)
*Pierre Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (2013)
Robert Buzzanco, Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era (1996),
chapters 1-2
James M. Carter, Inventing Vietnam: The United States and State Building in Southeast Asia,
1954-1968 (2008), chapters 1-4
Philip E. Catton, Diem’s Final Failure: Prelude to America’s War in Vietnam (2003)
Jessica M. Chapman, Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, The United States, and 1950s
Southern Vietnam (2013)
Ilya V. Gaiduk, Confronting Vietnam: Soviet Policy toward the Indochina Conflict, 1954-1963
Graham Greene, The Quiet American (1955): the best edition is by the Viking Critical Library,
ed. John Clark Pratt (1996), which has Pratt’s insightful introduction plus over 300pp of
external criticism, commentary, and analysis from the 1950s to the 1990s
Richard H. Immerman, ed., John Foster Dulles and the Diplomacy of the Cold War (1990)
Seth Jacobs, America’s Miracle Man in Vietnam: Ngo Dinh Diem, Religion, Race, and U.S.
Intervention in Southeast Asia (2004)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Lawrence S. Kaplan, Denise Artaud, and Mark R. Rubin, eds., Dien Bien Phu and the Crisis of
Franco-American relations, 1954-1955 (1990)
Matthew Masur, “Exhibiting Signs of Resistance: South Vietnam’s Struggle for Legitimacy,
1954-1960,” Diplomatic History (April 2009)
*Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam
Gareth Porter, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam
(2005), chapters 1-4
Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province (1972;
Tony Smith, “New Bottles for New Wine: A Pericentric Framework for the Study of the Cold
War,” Diplomatic History (Fall 2000)
Kathryn C. Statler and Andrew L. Johns, eds., The Eisenhower Administration, the Third World,
and the Globalization of the Cold War (2006)
Truong Nhu Tang, A Vietcong Memoir (1985), chapters 1-8
Peter Zinoman, “Nhân Văn–Giai Phẩm and Vietnamese ‘Reform Communism’ in the 1950s: A
Revisionist Interpretation,” Journal of Cold War Studies (Winter 2011)
Week 6, November 19: The “Best and the Brightest” and the Cold War
For both U.S. foreign policy in particular and the international system in general, the great
paradox of the early 1960s is that when the Cold War reached its climax in 1961-62—during
crises over Laos, Cuba, and Berlin—Vietnam remained relatively calm, and when Cold War
tensions eased after 1963, fighting in Vietnam intensified. How central was Vietnam to the
Cold War after all? How was U.S. policy toward Vietnam affected by crises in other areas of
the world, and in other parts of Indochina? And what does this reveal about great power
politics in general? Why did the precedent of neutralism negotiations over Laos not apply to
South Vietnam? We will also use this class to examine John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B.
Johnson’s foreign policy advisers, the so-called “best and the brightest,” and the theories they
relied on, such as gradual escalation, signaling, and modernization, in the escalation of the war.
Kai Bird, The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy: Brothers in Arms (1998)
James G. Blight and janet M. Lang, The Fog of War: Lessons from the Life of Robert S.
McNamara (2005)
H. W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power
Warren I. Cohen and Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, eds., Lyndon Johnson Confronts the World:
American Foreign Policy, 1963-1968 (1994)
David L. Dileo, George Ball, Vietnam, and the Rethinking of Containment (1991)
*Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (2000), parts I-IV
Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, “One Hell of a Gamble”: Khrushchev, Castro,
Kennedy, and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1997)
*John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American
National Security Policy (1982; 2005), chapter 7
Gordon M. Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam
*David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (1972)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
*Diane B. Kunz, ed., The Diplomacy of the Crucial Decade: American Foreign Relations during
The 1960s (1994)
G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot, The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of
Change in the 1960s (2008)
David Milne, America’s Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War (2008)
Andrew Preston, The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam (2006), chapters 13
*——, “John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson,” in Steven Casey and Jonathan Wright, eds.,
Mental Maps in the Early Cold War Era, 1945-68 (2011)
Deborah Shapley, Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara (1993)
Thomas W. Zeiler, Dean Rusk: Defending the American Mission Abroad (1999)
Week 7, November 26: From Project Beefup to the Buddhist Crisis and the fall of Diem
From the number of “advisers” (i.e., soldiers) to the amount of military aid, American
intervention in Vietnam escalated dramatically under Kennedy. Simultaneously, relations
between Saigon and Washington deteriorated dramatically, and North Vietnam decided to play
a direct role in expanding communist/nationalist influence in South Vietnam. What do U.S.South Vietnamese relations tell us about the origins of the Second Indochina War? What were
Kennedy’s alternatives? Did the overthrow of Diem make war inevitable?
James G. Blight, janet M. Lang, and David A. Welch, Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived: Virtual
JFK (2009), plus my review, Michigan War Studies Review (May 2011):
Buzzanco, Masters of War, chapters 4-5
Catton, Diem’s Final Failure
Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger, eds., Vietnam: The Early Decisions (1997)
*Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, part V
Howard Jones, Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the
Vietnam War (2003)
David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War (2000),
chapters 1-9
Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and “Nation Building”
in the Kennedy Era (2000), chapter 5
*Fredrik Logevall, “Vietnam and the Question of What Might Have Been,” in Mark J. White, ed.,
Kennedy: The New Frontier Revisited (1998)
*——, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (1999),
chapters 1-2
Miller, Misalliance
Porter, Perils of Dominance, chapter 5
Preston, The War Council, chapters 4-5
——, “A Game of Cold War Chess: Kennedy, Forrestal, and the Problem of Laos in the War for
Vietnam,” in Christopher Goscha and Karine Laplante, eds., L’Échec de la paix en
Indochine/The Failure of Peace in Indochina (2010)
William J. Rust, Kennedy in Vietnam (1985)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Week 8, December 3: Escalation and Americanization: November 1963-July 1965
This session examines the critical events of what Fredrik Logevall has called “the Long 1964.”
When Lyndon Johnson succeeded Kennedy as president, he inherited a rapidly deteriorating
situation in South Vietnam. Johnson was renowned for his domestic policies and success as a
politician, especially for his tenure as Senate Majority Leader in the 1950s, but he was not
known for his skill in matters of foreign policy. Determined to continue and extend the
Kennedy legacy, both at home and abroad, Johnson found himself escalating America’s
military role in Vietnam. But he did so gradually, uncertainly, even reluctantly. How, then, did
Vietnam become “Lyndon Johnson’s war”? What other factors, besides geopolitics, played a
decisive role in the Johnson administration’s decision-making? Was Johnson indeed a
“reluctant warrior”? Was Americanization inevitable after Pleiku, if ever? If so, why did
Johnson continue to hesitate? What influence did the passage of Great Society and civil rights
legislation have on LBJ’s Vietnam policy-making? Were the “great debates” of July 1965
simply set-pieces because the real decisions had already been made earlier?
Francis M. Bator, “No Good Choices: LBJ and the Vietnam/Great Society Connection,”
Diplomatic History (June 2008), plus subsequent commentaries
Buzzanco, Masters of War, chapters 6-7
*Robert Dallek, “Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam: The Making of a Tragedy,” Diplomatic History
*Gaddis, Strategies of Containment, chapter 8
James G. Hershberg and Chen Jian, “Reading and Warning the Likely Enemy: China’s Signals to
the United States about Vietnam in 1965,” International History Review (March 2005)
Kaiser, American Tragedy, chapters 10-16
*Logevall, Choosing War, chapters 3-12
H. R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies
That Led to Vietnam (1997)
Edwin E. Moïse, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (1996)
Porter, Perils of Dominance, chapters 6-9
Preston, The War Council, chapters 6-9
Brian VanDeMark, Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War
Randall B. Woods, “The Politics of Idealism: Lyndon Johnson, Civil Rights, and Vietnam,”
Diplomatic History (January 2007)
Lent Term
Week 1, January 21: “Waist deep in the Big Muddy”: U.S. and Vietnamese military strategies,
Americanizing the war prevented the immediate collapse of South Vietnam, but it also
committed the United States to waging a protracted limited war for uncertain objectives on
hostile, unfamiliar terrain. And the more difficult the war became, the more soldiers Johnson
had to commit. Within three years, more than half a million U.S. troops were in South Vietnam
and U.S. aircraft had dropped more bomb tonnage on Vietnam than it had during all of World
War II. Why did the U.S. military find it so difficult to wage war in Vietnam? Why did
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Johnson decide not to invade North Vietnam, bomb PAVN sanctuaries in China, or expand the
war to the rest of Indochina? How did other difficulties—for example, in financing the war—
affect military strategy? What advantages, both tactical and strategic, did the NLF and PAVN
have? How did other countries perceive the war, and what role did third parties and nonbelligerents play? Why was the Tet Offensive such a pivotal turning point?
Christian G. Appy, Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam (1993)
Pierre Asselin, “‘We Don’t Want a Munich’: Hanoi’s Diplomatic Strategy, 1965-1968,”
Diplomatic History (2012)
Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam (1993)
Michal R. Belknap, The Vietnam War on Trial: The My Lai Massacre and the Court-Martial of
Lieutenant Calley (2002)
Larry Berman, Lyndon Johnson’s War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam (1989)
Robert K. Brigham, Guerrilla Diplomacy: The NLF's Foreign Relations and the Viet Nam War
(1999), chapters 1-5
——, ARVN: Life And Death in the South Vietnamese Army (2006)
Buzzanco, Masters of War, chapters 8-10
Carter, Inventing Vietnam, chapter 7
Chen Jian, Mao’s China and the Cold War (2001), chapter 8
Gregory A. Daddis, No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the
Vietnam War (2011)
John Dumbrell and Sylvia Ellis, “British Involvement in Vietnam Peace Initiatives, 1966–1967:
Marigolds, Sunflowers, and ‘Kosygin Week,’” Diplomatic History (January 2003)
Bernard Edelman, ed., Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (1985)
Ilya V. Gaiduk, The Soviet Union and the Vietnam War (1996)
*Lloyd C. Gardner, Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam (1994)
Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger, eds., International Perspectives on Vietnam (1999)
——, The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968 (2004)
*Marc Jason Gilbert, ed., Why the North Won the Vietnam War (2002)
*George C. Herring, LBJ and Vietnam: A Different Kind of War (1994)
James G. Hershberg, Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam (2012)
David Hunt, Vietnam’s Southern Revolution: From Peasant Insurrection to Total War, 19591968 (2009)
Douglas Kinnard, The War Managers (1977)
Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., The Army and Vietnam (1986)
Meredith Lair, Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War (2011)
Lorenz Lüthi, The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World (2008), chapter 10
Edwin A. Martini, Agent Orange: History, Science, and the Politics of Uncertainty (2012)
Harish C. Mehta, “Soviet Biscuit Factories and Chinese Financial Grants: North Vietnam’s
Economic Diplomacy in 1967 and 1968,” Diplomatic History (April 2012)
Kendrick Oliver, The My Lai Massacre in American History and Memory (2006)
Andrew Preston, “Operation Smallbridge: Chester Ronning, the Second Indochina War, and the
Challenge to the United States in Asia,” Pacific Historical Review (August 2003)
Mary T. Sarnecky, A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (1999), chapter 10
*Heather Marie Stur, Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era (2011)
Truong Nhu Tang, Vietcong Memoir, chapters 10-11
Karen Gottschang Turner, Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
James H. Willbanks, The Tet Offensive: A Concise History (2007)
James J. Wirtz, The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War (1991)
Week 2, January 28: Nixon, Kissinger, and détente
When Richard Nixon entered the White House in January 1969, American power was at its
lowest ebb in three decades. In addition to its disastrous war in Vietnam, the United States was
beset by foreign policy crises abroad, an incipient economic crisis wrought by inflation and
deindustrialization, and race riots and political strife at home. Even its allies, such as France
and West Germany, challenged U.S. policy. Under these circumstances, and with the SinoSoviet split offering him an opening, Nixon sought to rebalance America’s role in the world by
defusing Cold War tensions, restructuring the U.S.-dominated bases of the world economy, and
withdrawing American forces from Vietnam. In doing so, Nixon relied heavily on his National
Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger—so much so that some historians refer to them together as
“Nixinger.” What overall principles guided the Nixinger foreign policy? Did it really mark
such a radical break from previous U.S. foreign policy?
Thomas Borstelmann, The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic
Inequality (2012)
William P. Bundy, A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon Presidency
Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (2007)
Mario Del Pero, The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign
Policy (2010)
Niall Ferguson, Charles S. Maier, Erez Manela, and Daniel J. Sargent, eds., The Shock of the
Global: The 1970s in Perspective (2010), chapters 2, 10-14
Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to
Reagan (rev. ed., 1994)
*Jussi M. Hanhimäki, The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy
*Fredrik Logevall and Andrew Preston, eds., Nixon in the World: U.S. Foreign Relations, 19691977 (2008)
*Charles S. Maier, “Consigning the Twentieth Century to History: Alternative Narratives for the
Modern Era,” American Historical Review (June 2000)
Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008)
Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (2007)
Week 3, February 4: Nixinger’s war: from Cambodia to Paris
Just as Johnson had inherited the war from Kennedy, Nixon found his presidency immediately
besieged by the fighting in Vietnam when he assumed office in January 1969. Nixon had
campaigned for president on a vague pledge to end the war, but once he became president he
seemed as committed to attaining victory—that is, the survival of a non-communist South
Vietnam—as Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson had been before him. What exactly did
Nixon’s plan for “peace with honor” mean? Did he sincerely pursue “peace with honor” or
merely a politically convenient “decent interval” in between an American withdrawal and the
collapse of South Vietnam? How successful was Nixinger’s use of linkage and triangulation in
ending the war? Could they have achieved the same peace in 1969 as they eventually did in
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
1973? How did Hanoi and the PRG respond to Nixinger’s policies of simultaneous military
withdrawal and escalation?
*Pierre Asselin, A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi, and the Making of the Paris Agreement
Larry Berman, No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger and Betrayal in Vietnam (2002)
Brigham, Guerrilla Diplomacy, chapters 6-7
William Burr and Jeffrey Kimball, “Nixon’s Secret Nuclear Alert: Vietnam War Diplomacy and
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Readiness Test, October 1969,” Cold War History (January
*Jeffrey Kimball, Nixon’s Vietnam War (1998)
——, ed., The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy (2004)
Lorenz M. Lüthi, “Beyond Betrayal: Beijing, Moscow, and the Paris Negotiations, 1971–1973,”
Journal of Cold War Studies (Winter 2009)
*Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam
Nguyen Tien Hung and Jerrold L. Schecter, The Palace File (1986)
Stephen P. Randolph, Powerful and Brutal Weapons: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Easter Offensive
William Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia (1979; 2002)
Lewis Sorley, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last
Years in Vietnam (1999)
Special Issue on “The Politics of Troop Withdrawal,” Diplomatic History (June 2010)
Truong Nhu Tang, Vietcong Memoir, chapters 12-18
Week 4, February 11: The New Journalism at war
In all of America’s previous wars, the media operated under tight government and military
controls. But, ironically, such controls were hardly needed, as journalists readily practiced a
form of self-censorship that reflected official views. The Vietnam War changed things, due in
large part to the rise of “the New Journalism.” Newspaper and television reporters, both in the
field and in the Washington press corps, challenged rather than corroborated the official view.
When these newly-aggressive investigative journalists exposed inconsistencies and outright lies
in the official narrative on the war, it led to the emergence of the “credibility gap,” which in
turn fed domestic unrest about the conduct of the war (the topic for Week 6). What explains
these changes in media practice? Were they a result of new military transportation technology,
particularly the widespread use of the helicopter in Vietnam? Were they simply the result of
generational differences? What influence did photojournalism have on public perceptions? In
challenging the official narrative, did the New Journalists distort the war in other ways? How
did the Pentagon Papers case emerge? How did it affect the war, if at all? More broadly, and
with the recent Wikileaks and Edward Snowden controversies in mind, do people with access
to official documents and decisions have a moral duty to leak secret information if they feel it
is wrong?
Chapters by Michael Herr, Norman Mailer, and Nicholas Tomalin in Tom Wolfe and E. W.
Johnson, eds., The New Journalism (1973)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Chapters by Malcolm Browne, Bernard Fall, David Halberstam, and Neil Sheehan in Library of
America, Reporting Vietnam (1998)
Tad Bartimus, et al, War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam
Peter Braestrup, Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the
Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington (1977; 1983)
Larry Burrows, Vietnam (2002)
Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002)
Daniel C. Hallin, The “Uncensored War”: The Media and Vietnam (1986)
*William M. Hammond, Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War (1998)
George C. Herring, ed., The Pentagon Papers: Abridged Edition (1993)
Don McCullin, Shaped by War (2010)
Chester J. Pach, Jr., “‘We Need to Get a Better Story to the American People’: LBJ, the Progress
Campaign, and the Vietnam War on Television,” in Kenneth Osgood and Andrew K.
Frank, eds., Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the
American Century (2010)
*John Prados, “Daniel Ellsberg: The Man Who Uncovered the War,” in David L. Anderson, ed.,
The Human Tradition in the Vietnam Era (2000)
John Prados and Margaret Pratt Porter, eds., Inside the Pentagon Papers (2004)
*William Prochnau, Once Upon a Distant War: Young War Correspondents and the Early
Vietnam Battles (1995)
*David Rudenstine, The Day the Presses Stopped: A History of the Pentagon Papers Case (1996)
Jonathan Schell, The Real War: The Classic Reporting On The Vietnam War (1988)
Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)
*——, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003)
Kathleen J. Turner, Lyndon Johnson’s Dual War: Vietnam and the Press (1985)
Sanford J. Ungar, The Papers & The Papers: An Account of the Legal and Political Battle Over
The Pentagon Papers (1972)
Clarence Wyatt, Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War (1993)
Week 5, February 18: Reading Week
Week 6, February 25: The war at home: antiwar protest and the crisis of legitimacy
The war in Vietnam triggered the largest antiwar movement in American—if not world—
history. Initially confined to the university campus, antiwar protests eventually included other
important groups, such as the clergy and middle classes. Even the U.S. Senate became a forum
for debates about the war and a place to announce antiwar positions. The antiwar movement
also spread to other countries, eventually touching most major cities on every continent.
Moreover, the antiwar movement overlapped considerably with other social protest movements
of the 1960s, such as the civil rights and women’s movements. What is less clear is the war’s
ultimate impact on the Johnson and Nixon administration’s decision-making. Did the
movement bring the war to an end or prolong it unnecessarily? We have already examined how
the Vietnam War helped bring about America’s geopolitical “crisis of hegemony,” but how did
the antiwar movement help trigger the nation’s “crisis of legitimacy”?
Christian Appy and Alexander Bloom, “Vietnam War Mythology and the Rise of Public
Cynicism,” in Bloom, ed., Long Time Gone: Sixties America Then and Now (2001)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Howard Brick, Age of Contradiction: American Thought and Culture in the 1960s (2000)
David C. Carter, The Music Has Gone Out of the Movement: Civil Rights and the Johnson
Administration, 1965-1968 (2009), chapter 6
*David Farber, The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s (1994)
Carole Fink, Philipp Gassert, Detlef Junker, and Daniel S. Mattern, eds., 1968: The World
Transformed (1998)
Michael S. Foley, Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War
Adam Garfinkle, Telltale Hearts: The Origins and Impact of the Vietnam Antiwar Movement
John Hagan, Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada (2001)
Walter L. Hixson, “Containment on the Perimeter: George F. Kennan and Vietnam,” Diplomatic
History (April 1988)
Simon Hall, Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s (2005)
——, Rethinking the American Anti-War Movement (2012)
Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s (1999; 2012)
Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Peace Now! American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War (1999)
Andrew L. Johns, Vietnam’s Second Front: Domestic Politics, the Republican Party, and the War
Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America
(2006), chapters 7-8
Douglas L. Kriner and Francis X. Shen, The Casualty Gap: The Causes and Consequences of
American Wartime Inequalities (2010), esp. chapter 6
*David W. Levy, The Debate Over Vietnam (1991; 1995)
David Maraniss, They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October
1967 (2003)
Gerald Nicosia, Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans’ Movement (2001)
*Seth Offenbach, “Defending Freedom in Vietnam: A Conservative Dilemma,” in Laura Jane
Gifford and Daniel K. Williams, eds., The Right Side of the Sixties: Reexamining
Conservatism’s Decade of Transformation (2012)
Shawn Francis Peters, The Catonsville Nine: A Story of Faith and Resistance in the Vietnam Era
*Andrew Preston, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
(2012), chapter 26
——, “Tempered by the Fires of War: Vietnam and the Transformation of the Evangelical
Worldview,” in Axel R. Schäfer, ed., In and Of the Times: New Perspectives on
American Evangelicalism and the 1960s (2013)
W. J. Rorabaugh, Berkeley at War: The 1960s (1989)
Jonathan Rosenberg, How Far the Promised Land: World Affairs and the American Civil Rights
Movement from the First World War to Vietnam (2006), chapter 8
Dominic Sandbrook, Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism
(2004), chapters 7-10
Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente (2003)
John Tirman, The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars (2011), chapter 5
Jeremy Varon, Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and
Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies (2004)
*Tom Wells, The War Within: America’s Battle Over Vietnam (1994)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Randall B. Woods, J. William Fulbright, Vietnam, and the Search for a Cold War Foreign Policy
——, ed., Vietnam and the American Political Tradition: The Politics of Dissent (2003)
Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during
the Vietnam Era (2013)
Week 7, March 4: The “postwar war,” Cambodia’s killing fields, and the Third Indochina War
In January 1973, the United States and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords,
officially ending American participation in the war; a few months later, the last U.S. soldier left
South Vietnam. But the war did not end. For the next two years, North and South Vietnam
would fight each other in the so-called “postwar war,” which the North Vietnamese won in
April 1975 when they captured Saigon and reunified all of Vietnam under communist rule,
bringing an end to the Second Indochina War. And yet war still stalked Vietnam. From
neighboring Cambodia, the ruling Khmer Rouge launched raids against Vietnam. Vietnam
responded by invading Cambodia in 1978, which triggered a Chinese invasion of Vietnam the
following year. What was the American role in the wars that followed their official military
departure? Would continued U.S. aid to South Vietnam have prevented its collapse? Who was
responsible for the Khmer Rouge? Why was peace in Indochina so elusive?
David Butler, The Fall of Saigon: Scenes from the Sudden End of a Long War (1985)
Nayan Chanda, Brother Enemy: The War After the War (1986)
Arnold R. Isaacs, Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia (1983)
*T. Christopher Jespersen, “The Bitter End and the Lost Chance in Vietnam: Congress, the Ford
Administration, and the Battle Over Vietnam, 1975-76,” Diplomatic History (Spring
Laura Kalman, Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974-1980 (2010)
*Benedict F. Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide in Cambodia under the
Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979 (1996; 2002; 2008)
*Dominic Sandbrook, Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right
(2011), chapter 5
Odd Arne Westad and Sophie Quinn-Judge, eds., The Third Indochina War: Conflict between
China, Vietnam and Cambodia, 1972-79 (2006)
Ralph Wetterhahn, The Last Battle: The Mayaguez Incident and the End of the Vietnam War
*Julian Zelizer, “Conservatives, Carter, and the Politics of National Security,” in Bruce J.
Schulman and Zelizer, eds., Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the
1970s (2008)
Xiaoming Zhang, “Deng Xiaoping and China’s Decision to go to War with Vietnam,” Journal of
Cold War Studies (Summer 2010)
Week 8, March 11: Legacies and historiography
As the presidential election of 2004 demonstrated, the legacy of Vietnam continues to haunt
Americans. The war itself has had a profound impact on U.S. foreign policy, while the antiwar
movement fuelled a conservative counter-revolution that lives on in the presidency of George
W. Bush. Yet in Vietnam, which suffered incalculably greater physical and psychological
damage, the war is a distant memory, and anti-Americanism has all but disappeared. Why,
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
even after the triumphalism of Reagan, the end of the Cold War, and the 1991 Gulf War, have
Americans found it so difficult to move beyond Vietnam? How has Vietnam affected the
international system? Does its influence still exist? Was Afghanistan or Iraq another Vietnam?
Does it matter?
*Michael J. Allen, Until the Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam
War (2009)
*Beth Bailey, America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force (2009)
Thomas A. Bass, Vietnamerica: The War Comes Home (1996)
Milton J. Bates, The Wars We Took to Vietnam: Cultural Conflict and Storytelling (1996)
Susan Bayly, Asian Voices in a Postcolonial Age: Vietnam, India and Beyond (2007)
Philip D. Beidler, Re-Writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation (1991)
Tom Bissell, The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam (2007)
Robert K. Brigham, Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power (2008)
Walter H. Capps, The Unfinished War: Vietnam and the American Conscience (rev. ed., 1990)
Denise Chong, The Girl in the Picture: The Kim Phuc Story (1999)
Duong Thu Huong, Novel Without a Name (1995)
H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (2000), chapters 6-9
Christoph Giebel, Imagined Ancestries of Vietnamese Communism: Ton Duc Thang and the
Politics of History and Memory (2004)
*Patrick Hagopian, The Vietnam War in American Memory: Veterans, Memorials, and the
Politics of Healing (2009)
George C. Herring, “America and Vietnam: The Unending War,” Foreign Affairs (Winter
Godfrey Hodgson, More Equal than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century (2006)
Gabriel Kolko, Vietnam: Anatomy of a Peace (1997)
Heonik Kwon, After the Massacre: Commemoration and Consolation in Ha My and My Lai
——, Ghosts of War in Vietnam (2008)
Scott Laderman, Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory (2009)
Scott Laderman and Edwin A. Martini, eds., Four Decades On: Vietnam, the United States, and
the Legacies of the Second Indochina War (2013)
Jerry Lembcke, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (1998)
Wm. Roger Louis, “The Dissolution of the British Empire in the Era of Vietnam,” American
Historical Review (February 2002)
*Robert J. McMahon, “What Difference Did It Make? Assessing the Vietnam War’s Impact on
Southeast Asia,” in Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger, eds., International Perspectives
on Vietnam (1999)
*——, “Contested Memory: The Vietnam War and American Society, 1975–2001,” Diplomatic
History (Spring 2002)
Jonathan Mirsky, “The War That Will Not End,” New York Review of Books (August 16, 1990)
*Charles Neu, ed., After Vietnam: Legacies of a Lost War (2000)
*Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, “The Vietnam Decade: The Global Shock of the War,” in Niall
Ferguson, Charles S. Maier, Erez Manela, and Daniel J. Sargent, eds., The Shock of the
Global: The 1970s in Perspective (2010)
Thomas G. Paterson, “Historical Memory and Illusive Victories: Vietnam and Central America,”
Diplomatic History (January 1988)
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Andrew X. Pham, Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and
Memory of Vietnam (1999)
Walt W. Rostow, “Vietnam and Asia,” Diplomatic History (Summer 1996)
David Ryan and John Dumbrell, eds., Vietnam in Iraq: Lessons, Legacies, and Ghosts (2006)
Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for Peace: The Legacy of the Vietnam War (2006)
Christina Schwenkel, The American War in Contemporary Vietnam: Transnational
Remembrance and Representation (2009)
Mark Sidel, “Vietnam’s America Watchers in a New Era,” SAIS Review (Summer-Fall 1996)
Jonathan Stevenson, Hard Men Humble: Vietnam Veterans Who Wouldn’t Come Home (2002)
Marita Sturken, Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of
Remembering (1997)
David L. Anderson, “No More Vietnams: Historians Debate the Policy Lessons of the Vietnam
War,” in Anderson and John Ernst, eds., The War that Never Ends: New Perspectives on
the Vietnam War (2007)
*Robert A. Divine, “Vietnam Reconsidered,” Diplomatic History (January 1988)
Gary R. Hess, “The Military Perspective on Strategy in Vietnam,” Diplomatic History (January
——, “The Unending Debate: Historians and the Vietnam War,” Diplomatic History (April
*——, Vietnam: Explaining America’s Lost War (2009)
Jeffrey P. Kimball, ed., To Reason Why: The Debate About the Causes of U.S. Involvement in the
Vietnam War (1990)
Fredrik Logevall, “Bringing in the ‘Other Side’: New Scholarship on the Vietnam Wars,” Journal
of Cold War Studies (Fall 2001)
*Edward Miller, “War Stories: The Taylor-Buzzanco Debate and How We Think About the
Vietnam War,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies (2006)
*Edward Miller and Tuong Vu, “The Vietnam War as a Vietnamese War: Agency and Society in
the Study of the Second Indochina War,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies (Fall 2009)
Andrew Preston, “Decisions for War,” in Mitchell B. Lerner, ed., A Companion to Lyndon B.
Johnson (2012)
——. “Vietnam,” in Marc J. Selverstone, ed., A Companion to John F. Kennedy (2014)
Keith Taylor, “How I Began to Teach about the Vietnam War,” Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall
——. “Robert Buzzanco’s ‘Fear and (Self) Loathing in Lubbock,’” Journal of Vietnamese
Studies (2006)
Andrew Wiest and Michael Doidge, eds., Triumph Revisited: Historians Battle for the Vietnam
War (2010)
Easter Term
Week 1: Revision class
Week 2: Revision class
Paper 26: The American Experience in Vietnam
Sample Exam Questions
To what extent did the United States succeed the French role in southern Vietnam?
Compare and contrast the nationalist visions of Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem.
What role did the “new journalism” have in creating the credibility gap?
Assess the impact of America’s use of chemical warfare in South Vietnam.
To what extent did Robert McNamara’s doubts affect the Johnson administration’s Vietnam
policies? Discuss with reference to the period 1963-68.
What impact did religion have on the course of the war?
Why did public opinion remain supportive of the war until the Tet Offensive?
Compare and contrast the battles of Dien Bien Phu and Khe Sanh.
Evaluate the impact of American women on the war.
Assess the role of the war in creating a new global human rights consciousness.