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        How the War Was Fought: Trying to Find the Right Formula | Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War and evaluate the crossover point strategy and the use of overwhelming force in fighting the war. In the effort to find the right strategy for winning the war, US General William Westmoreland believed the key was to destroy the North Vietnamese Army and stop its infiltration into South Vietnam. He believed if he could reach a “crossover point” where US and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces were killing more enemy troops than could be replaced, then North Vietnam would have to stop and negotiate for peace.

        Lesson Summary

        In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War and evaluate the crossover point strategy and the use of overwhelming force in fighting the war. In the effort to find the right strategy for winning the war, US General William Westmoreland believed the key was to destroy the North Vietnamese Army and stop its infiltration into South Vietnam. He believed if he could reach a “crossover point” where US and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces were killing more enemy troops than could be replaced, then North Vietnam would have to stop and negotiate for peace.

        Learning Objectives

        1. Analyze four military strategies open to the United States in 1966.
        2. Evaluate the merits of the four US military strategies conducted in 1966. 

        Supplies

        Video Clips

        1. General Westmoreland’s Crossover Point
        2. Search-and-Destroy Campaigns and Body Counts
        3. Bombing the Hồ Chí Minh Trail

        Student Handout

        NOTE: Teachers might want to seek out additional information on search-and-destroy missions, descriptions of the military strategy of search and destroy, and some of the misconceptions that surround it through reputable online resources.

        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

        1. Tell students that in this activity they will examine the point when the United States began to significantly escalate its military involvement in the Vietnam War. The US commanding general, William Westmoreland, introduced his concept of the “crossover point”—the point where US and ARVN forces were killing more enemy troops than could be replaced.
        2. Distribute copies of the handout to all students and then view the video segments as a class.
        3. Review the summarizing points in the handout with students. Have students take notes in the second section of the handout while viewing the segments.
        4. After students watch the video segments and take notes, students should meet in small groups to complete the third section of the handout.
        5. Ask students to use the summarizing points and their film notes to write two questions in the fourth section.
        6. When they are ready, bring groups back to a whole-class discussion. Have students ask their questions and the class respond in a general discussion.
        7. At the end of the discussion, ask students to evaluate the merits of the four US strategies presented in the video segments:
          • The crossover point
          • Search-and-destroy missions
          • The use of body counts in measuring American success of the war
          • Bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail 

        Culminating Activity

        Students can write a paper, make a digital presentation, or conduct a debate with one side supporting the strategy and the other rejecting it.

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