In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War that examine the concern held by some Johnson administration officials, Congress, and even President Johnson himself over US involvement in Vietnam. Students will view excerpts from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings that took place in 1966 as well as the testimony of various experts about the war’s progress. Students will then consider whether to support future funding for the war.
- Examine the military situation of the United States in early 1966.
- Assess reasons the Senate began hearings on the progress of the Vietnam War.
- Analyze the comments George Kennan made during the hearings.
- Make recommendations as to whether Congress should continue to support the war in 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 then prepare to show the video segments to the class.
- Review the summarizing points in the handout with students. Have students take notes in the second section of the handout while viewing the segment.
- After students watch both segments and take notes, have them meet in small groups to complete the third section of the handout.
- Have students use the summarizing points in the handout along with their film notes to write questions in the fourth section.
- When they are ready, bring groups back to a whole-class discussion about the video segments. Have students ask their questions and the class respond in a general discussion.
- At the end of the discussion, cover the following questions:
- What questions were members of the Johnson administration and Congress asking?
- Why was the US military seemingly a prisoner of its past success in fighting a war?
- Why do you think the Senate Intelligence Committee felt compelled to hold public hearings on the Vietnam War?
- What efforts did President Johnson make to distract or take the public’s attention away from the hearings? Was this the right thing to do?
- Why might George Kennan’s comments have had a negative impact on the US war effort in Vietnam? (For students to fully understand the significance of this question, have them look up George Kennan and find out what he is known for.)
Tell students they are to assume the role of a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after hearing the testimony of the various experts. Have them write recommendations for future legislation that would either support additional funding for the war effort or cut back funding. Students should explain their reasoning.