Students will

  • Examine the key decisions that shaped U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1968 to 1973.
  • Analyze the policy choices facing U.S. leaders from 1968 to 1973.
  • Identify the events and controversies connected to important historical documents.

Required Reading

Students should have read Part III in the student text and completed “Study Guide—Part III” or “Advanced Study Guide—Part III.”


Reviewing Critical Moments
one for each student

Document #1—Memorandum to President Lyndon Johnson, March 4, 1968

Document #2—Speech by President Richard Nixon, November 3, 1969

Document #3—Speech by President Richard Nixon, April 7, 1971

Document #4—Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, signed January 27, 1973

In the Classroom

1. America’s War

Ask students to explain why the decisions made by President Johnson in the summer of 1965 turned the Vietnam conflict into “America’s War.” Why was the Tet offensive considered a turning point for U.S. policy in Vietnam?

2. Forming Small Groups

Divide the class into four groups of three to four students and assign each group one of the four documents. (In larger classes, assign two groups to each document.) Distribute “Reviewing Critical Moments” to each student. Instruct each group to review its assigned document carefully and answer the questions in “Reviewing Critical Moments.” (Note that Document #1 is the most difficult and will require the most intensive review.)

3. Sharing Conclusions

After the groups have completed their worksheets, call on them to share their answers with the class. Focus on the connections between the documents. For example, in what respect did Clifford’s memorandum presage Nixon’s Vietnamization program? How did Nixon’s declaration that “Vietnamization has succeeded” shape the U.S. position in peace negotiations with North Vietnam?

4. Identifying Decision Points

Call on students to consider the options that were available to U.S. leaders at the time each of the four documents was written. How do these options compare to those that were under consideration in the summer of 1965? How did U.S. attitudes change in the intervening years? How did social upheaval in the United States influence U.S. policy in Vietnam?

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