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        Leadership and Decision Making: Classroom Activity Pack | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        In these scenario-based activities, students view video segments from selected episodes of The Vietnam War, describing specific situations facing each of five US presidents during the course of the war. Students then engage in decision-making activities to analyze the circumstances, explore the president’s options, and define a course of action.

        The essential questions are:

        1. How effective were the decisions made by American and Vietnamese leaders toward achieving their respective goals?
        2. How can government leaders decide the best course of action during a time of war?

        Themes pertain to: leadership, imperialism, nationalism, exceptionalism, and the Cold War

        Visit The Vietnam War website to learn more.

        Activity 1: Truman’s Decision to Aid the French | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        In these scenario-based activities, students view video segments from selected episodes of The Vietnam War, describing specific situations facing each of five US presidents during the course of the war.

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        Activity 2: Eisenhower, the French, and Dien Bien Phu | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Students examine the impact of the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu on US policy in Vietnam.

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        Activity 3: Kennedy and the Diem Coup - The Torch Is Passed | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Students will explore the military coup of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and the Kennedy administration’s degree of complicity.

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        Activity 4: The Gulf of Tonkin Incident | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Students examine the circumstances that led to the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the decisions made to authorize the resolution that bears its name.

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        Activity 5: Operation Rolling Thunder and Widening the War | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Students will examine the 1965 US bombing campaign of North Vietnam, code-named “Operation Rolling Thunder,” and President Johnson’s decision to send ground troops into South Vietnam.

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        Activity 6: 1965 Troop Escalations | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Students will review the conditions on the ground in Vietnam in mid-1965.

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        Activity 7: General Westmoreland Promises to End the War | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Students will review General Westmoreland’s assessment of the progress in the war and his request for an additional 200,000 troops to end the war within two years.

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        Ho Chi Minh's Quest To End French Colonial Rule | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        By the spring of 1945, the United States government was looking for allies behind the lines in Vietnam when they were contacted by Ho Chi Minh.

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        Truman Faces a Cold War | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        After Russia became a nuclear power, Communist forces seized control of China, and the British colonies Burma and Malaya. Mao and the Soviet Union formally recognized Ho Chi Minh's insurgency, providing them with arms, equipment, and military training.

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        Truman and Vietnam | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Truman was blamed by his political opponents for failing to contain communism. He approved a 23 million dollar aid program to the French in Vietnam—meaning the United States was no longer neutral.

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        The French Fight a Dirty War in Vietnam | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        By 1953, the French had been fighting for seven years, had suffered over 100,000 casualties, and had failed to pacify the countryside. Large parts of the French population were horrified by reports of brutality and the use of napalm.

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        Battle of Dien Bien Phu | ​Ken Burns & Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        In July 1953, the Korean War ended in a negotiated settlement and a divided peninsula. American policymakers saw it as proof that communism in Asia could be contained. Ho Chi Minh agreed to meet with the French to discuss ending the fighting in Vietnam. But then came the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

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        Eisenhower and Dien Bien Phu | ​Ken Burns & Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        The French government asked President Eisenhower to intervene, but Eisenhower refused to act without the approval of Congress and support from European allies.

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        Promoting a Coup in South Vietnam | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        President Kennedy and his advisers were sharply divided regarding the decision to promote a coup in South Vietnam.

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        South Vietnam: Diem and Nhu | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        President Kennedy instructed Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. that the United States would neither stimulate, nor thwart, a coup in South Vietnam.

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        The USS Maddox is Attacked | ​Ken Burns & Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        The Gulf of Tonkin incident was one of the most controversial and consequential events in American history, and resulted in the escalation of United States involvement in the Vietnam War.

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        The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        After American radio operators mistranslated North Vietnamese radio traffic, they concluded a new military operation was imminent—causing the United States to respond.

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        President Johnson Responds | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        On August 7, 1964, by a vote of 88-2, in the Senate passed what came to be called the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. In the House, not a single congressman opposed it.

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        Pleiku and Operation Rolling Thunder | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        A week after his inauguration, President Johnson was informed that the United States' strategy in Vietnam was not working, and he was given options as to how to move forward.

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        Widening the War | ​Ken Burns & Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        In March of 1965, President Johnson sent American ground troops to Vietnam.

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        Conditions Grow Worse | ​Ken Burns & Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        Conditions steadily grew worse in South Vietnam and the country was near collapse—causing General Westmoreland to request tens of thousands of additional American troops.

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        Troop Levels | ​Ken Burns & Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        President Johnson sends 50,000 more troops to General Westmoreland, and pledges another 50,000 by the end of 1965—and still more if they were needed.

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        Pressure to Increase the Scope of War | ​Ken Burns & Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        General Westmoreland addresses a joint session of the United States Congress and states that the United States will prevail in Vietnam, but behind the scenes, neither Westmoreland nor the administration are confident.

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        Johnson Seeks a Middle Ground | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        President Johnson tries to find a middle ground—he expands the list of bombing targets but refuses to mine the harbors.

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