The War in Viet Nam: A Story in Photographs
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 9 -Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
- Standard 2C -Demonstrate understanding of the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard IV.B.1. -Explain the principal foreign policy positions of the United States and evaluate their consequences.
This lesson relates to Article I, Section 8, which grants Congress powers to raise and support armies and make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.
Share this lesson with your history, language arts, and journalism colleagues.
1) Share with students the photograph of Marines riding on an M-48 tank. Ask the students to study the photograph for 2 minutes. Then ask them to create a chart listing the people, objects, and actions in the photograph. Ask students to share with the class what they saw in the photograph. Direct students to answer the following questions:
- What can you infer from the photograph?
- What questions does this photograph raise in your mind?
- Where might you be able to find answers to your questions?
- How might you categorize this photograph? (Try to lead students to a category/topic they would be able to research relating to the war in Vietnam, such as battle tactics, weapons, tanks, or jungle warfare.)
- Create a caption for the photograph.
2) Divide students into small groups and distribute one of the remaining photographs to each group. The photographs can be viewed on, or downloaded and printed from, DocsTeach following the links below. Ask each group to analyze their photograph as they did in step 1. Each group should categorize the photograph as a topic that will be easy to research and generate two to three questions from the photograph. Topics might include land warfare, air warfare, Marines in Vietnam, and roles of women serving in Vietnam.
- Marines riding atop an M-48 tank, covering their ears, April 3, 1968
- Operation "Yellowstone" Vietnam. Following a hard day, a few members of Company A gather around a guitar and play a few songs, January 18, 1968.
- Operation "Oregon," a search and destroy mission conducted by infantry platoon of Troop B. An infantryman is lowered into a tunnel by members of the reconnaissance platoon, April 24, 1967
- A sky trooper from the 1st Cavalry Division keeps track of the time he has left on his "short time" helmet, 1968
- Soldiers carry a wounded comrade through a swampy area, 1969
- Marines of Company H walk through a punji-staked gully, January 28, 1966
- Wet going - A Marine keeps a battery pack dry as he wades through a muddy hole while on a search mission.
- A Marine stands watch in an observation tower as a chaplain holds mass on Hill 950, July 31, 1967
- "Home is where you dig it" was the sign over a fighting bunker, 1968
- Members of U.S. Navy SEAL Team One move down Bassac River in a SEAL Team assault boat, November 19, 1967
- Loretta Clause plays cards, talks, etc. with Marines. She is a volunteer worker for the Red Cross, August 2, 1967
- Navy nurses check the medical chart of a Marine corporal aboard the hospital ship USS Repose of South Vietnam, April 22, 1966
- A nurse tends to a patient just out of surgery in the intensive care ward of the hospital ship USS Repose, October, 1967
Research and Present
3) Using the questions generated from the photograph and the category they defined in step 2, instruct groups to conduct research in order to answer their questions and obtain information about the war in Vietnam relating to their category. Next, ask each group to create a presentation about their photograph and general topic. The format for each presentation should include a display of the photograph, an overview of the research they completed on their topic, and a reading of a caption they created for their photograph that was based on their research. Encourage students to be creative! Following the presentations, lead a class discussion on the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
4) Direct students to take on the role of an exhibit curator who has selected these photographs to create an exhibit that will help people understand the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Direct student groups to write an exhibit script (story) that incorporates all of the photographs. Students may then share their scripts and discuss how their exhibits compare or differ.
5) As an independent writing activity, ask students to write a review of one of the other group's exhibits.