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        How the War Was Fought: The Theory and Reality of a War Strategy | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War and examine the tactical plans laid out by the US military command to find and destroy enemy forces. They will then see the reality on the ground as soldiers speak of their experiences and assess the effectiveness of the US military plan.

        Lesson Summary

        In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War and examine the tactical plans laid out by the US military command to find and destroy enemy forces. They will then see the reality on the ground as soldiers speak of their experiences and assess the effectiveness of the US military plan. 

        Learning Objectives

        1. Examine US military strategy in capturing and controlling various parts of South Vietnam.
        2. Examine the military tactics of the US and North Vietnamese/Viet Cong forces.
        3. Analyze the misunderstanding between the US military command and the situation on the ground.

        Supplies

        Video Clips

        1. The Four Tactical Zones in South Vietnam
        2. Malfunctioning Weapons and the Dead Marine Zone

        About The Author

        Greg Timmons has been a social studies teacher for over 30 years. He has written lessons for several PBS productions including The NewsHour, FRONTLINE, Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise and various Ken Burns productions including The War, Prohibition, The Dust Bowl, Baseball, The Tenth Inning, The Central Park Five, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, and Jackie Robinson. He is the winner of the 2007 American Educational Publishers Award. 

        Learning Activities

        Show students the two video segments and then discuss the following questions:

        1. What was the overall military goal of dividing South Vietnam into four sections? What are your thoughts on this plan? Does it seem to be well conceived and effective? Explain.
        2. Why was General Westmoreland so concerned about protecting the northern provinces? What was the role that US Marines were to play in seven locations along the DMZ?
        3. How were these plans compromised on the ground when the Marines established themselves along the border? What advantages did the enemy have to counteract the Marines’ placement? How did their close-quarter battle tactics neutralize the Americans’ airpower?
        4. What was the misunderstanding between the US military command and the situation on the ground? 

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