In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War and examine the situation after the coup of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. They will then assess the South Vietnamese government’s ability to defend itself against the insurgency of North Vietnam after the coup.
1. Assess the readiness of the South Vietnamese government to defend itself.
2. Examine the effects of the Diem coup on the morale of the Viet Cong.
3. Examine the optimism the US government had for the new South Vietnamese leader.
4. Evaluate whether the Diem coup was a benefit or a loss to South Vietnam.
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.
- Distribute the handout to all students and prepare to view the video segment “A Crumbling and Unstable Government.”
- Before you begin, review the summarizing points in the handout with students. Have them take notes in the second section of the handout while viewing the video clip.
- After students watch the video segment and take notes, students should meet in small groups to complete the third section of the handout. Have them use the summarizing points and their film notes to formulate questions in the fourth section.
- When students are ready, bring them back to a whole class discussion. Have students ask their questions and the class respond in a general discussion.
- At the end of the discussion, cover the following points:
- What in the video clip was most memorable to you?
- Characterize the state of readiness of the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese government to defend itself against North Vietnam.
- Discuss whether you feel the coup of President Diem was a benefit or a loss to South Vietnam. Would the country be better off if he had stayed in power? Explain.