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Master Syllabus

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Administrative Unit: History and Political Science Department
Course Prefix and Number: HIST 318
Course Title: The U.S. and the Vietnam War
Number of:
Credit Hours 3
Lecture Hours 3
Lab Hours 0
Catalog Description:

Analysis of American involvement in the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975. The events of the armed conflict are placed in a multiplicity of contexts to reveal political, diplomatic, military, social and economic factors. This course considers the deployment of armed forces in addition to the impact of the peace movement. Significant attention is given to the challenges of the Cold War, the dynamics of popular culture, and the fall of South Vietnam. Prerequisite: HIST 122.

Prerequisite(s) / Corequisite(s): HIST 122.
Course Rotation for Day Program: Occasional offering.
Text(s): Most current editions of the following:

A required text must be assigned and supplemented with a minimum of two recommended text. Additional primary and secondary sources may be assigned as well.

Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War
By Robert McMahon and Thomas Patterson (Houghton-Mifflin)
Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam
By James S. Olson and Randy Roberts (Wiley-Blackwell)
America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam 1950-1975
By George C. Herring (McGraw-Hill)
The Trajedy of Vietnam
By Patrick J. Heardon (Pearson)
Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War
By John Prados (University Press of Kansas)
The Vietnam War: A Graphic History
By Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Wayne Vansant (Hill and Wang)
Course Objectives
  • To review the impact of the Cold War on Vietnam.
  • To recognize American strategies and tactics during the various phases of the armed conflict.
  • To assess the impact of domestic politics, the peace movement, and the news media on the U.S.
  • To compare and contrast various historiographical perspectives on the Vietnam War.
Measurable Learning
  • Describe the conditions and decisions that led to American involvement in Southeast Asia.
  • Examine the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam in the context of the Cold War.
  • Study the Gulf of Tonkin incident and its impact on American policymakers.
  • Explain the evolution of the long struggle between American and communist forces in Vietnam.
  • Analyze the impact of domestic politics, the peace movement, and the news media on public opinion.
  • Evaluate the successes and failures of the Vietnamization policy.
  • Analyze the consequences of South Vietnam's fall.
  • Describe the influence of the Vietnam War on the U.S. in the 1960's and 1970's.
  • Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and trends in the historiography of the Vietnam War.
Topical Outline:
  • Because the course represents an upper-level history elective, it bears a distinctive responsibility for teaching advanced knowledge within the discipline. It must be distinguished as an advanced course by three structural components: extensive reading, intensive writing, and historiographical thinking. It must require advanced students to complete both in class and out of class projects (i.e., midterms, finals, individual presentations, team reports, quizzes, research papers). It must demand a minimum of 1,000 pages of required text reading, 5,000 words of type-written work, and a consideration of the range and variance of historical scholarship. Finally, it must develop student skills and abilities for researching diverse sources of knowledge and organizing findings through synthesis.
  • Vietnamese history and nationalism
  •  American containment policy
  •  Nation building after the Geneva Accords
  • The communist insurgency in South Vietnam
  •  Gradual escalation
  • Rolling Thunder and the deployment of American troops
  • Tet
  • The rise of draft protests and anti-war demonstrations
  • Vietnamization and the Pentagon Papers
  • Incursions in Laos and Cambodia
  •  Withdrawal
  •  The Paris Peace
  •  Saigon falls
  •  Legacies and memories of an "unwinnable war"
Culminating Experience Statement:

Material from this course may be tested on the Major Field Test (MFT) administered during the Culminating Experience course for the degree. 
During this course the ETS Proficiency Profile may be administered.  This 40-minute standardized test measures learning in general education courses.  The results of the tests are used by faculty to improve the general education curriculum at the College.


Recommended maximum class size for this course: 35

Library Resources:

Online databases are available at You may access them from off-campus using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

Prepared by: Brad Lookingbill Date: October 18, 2012
NOTE: The intention of this master course syllabus is to provide an outline of the contents of this course, as specified by the faculty of Columbia College, regardless of who teaches the course, when it is taught, or where it is taught. Faculty members teaching this course for Columbia College are expected to facilitate learning pursuant to the course objectives and cover the subjects listed in the topical outline. However, instructors are also encouraged to cover additional topics of interest so long as those topics are relevant to the course's subject. The master syllabus is, therefore, prescriptive in nature but also allows for a diversity of individual approaches to course material.

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