History 4360/6360

The Vietnam Wars

Mon-Wed-Fri, 1:25, Hardin 233

Spring Term, 2024

Prof. Edwin E. Moise
Office: Hardin 102
Cell: 650-8845

Messages can be left in my mailbox in Hardin 124, or in the box on my office door.

Office Hours: I will try to be in my office at the following hours. It is possible that I may occasionally miss office hours, but on the other hand, I will be in my office, and available to you, at a lot of other times. E-mail me, or just check and see if my door is open.

    Monday                  2:30-3:20
    Tuesday    11:00-12:00, 2:00-3:15
    Wednesday               2:30-3:20
    Thursday   (none)
    Friday     (none) 

Learning Environment

If something unfortunate happens I might have to change my plans, but I plan to teach this as a traditional history class. Lectures, the quiz, and tests will take place in the classroom. Most discussion will be in the classroom, though some will take place through Canvas. You will turn in written assignments (other than the quiz and tests) through Canvas.

Course Description

The First Indochina War (1946-54) and the Second Indochina War (1960-75) were both fought mostly for control of Vietnam, and fought mostly in Vietnam. The course will deal with the first at moderate length, but most of the emphasis will be on the second.

There are no prerequisites for HIST 4360/6360.

Course Objectives

To give students an understanding of the two major wars, which are in an important sense two stages of one long war, that have been fought for the control of Vietnam: the First Indochina War (1946-54) and the Second Indochina War (1960-75). Strategy, tactics, political factors, and technology will be included.

Learning Outcomes

What goes into your grade

Research Paper: The most important single part of your grade will be the course paper. You can write it on whatever topic you please, within the limit of the subject matter of this course. The papers should be at least eight pages long typed double spaced for the actual text (not including title page, maps, illustrations, or Works Cited page). Longer papers are acceptable. If footnotes take up a lot of each page, make it at least nine pages.
Papers for students in HIST 6360 should be fiftten to twenty pages, or more.

When you are trying to decide what sources to use for your term paper, or if you are just curious about something that has come up in the course, I suggest you consult my Bibliography of the Vietnam War on the Web. But bear in mind that when you see a book listed in this bibliography, this does not necessarily mean you will actually be able to find a copy of that book, in or near Clemson.

A lot of things that have been written about the Vietnam War are not true. As you do your research, you should be thinking actively about whether you believe the things your sources are saying. I will not flunk you for guessing wrong, but you should make an effort to judge who is telling the truth and who is not; don't just take things on faith. Don't dodge the problem by sticking to questions on which you believe everything you read, either. Explaining why you think a particular source was wrong about a particular fact will tend to have a good influence on your grade.

For more detailed guidelines on the term paper, see Writing a Term Paper in Military History.

The paper is due Wednesday, April 24. I request that you turn it in electronically through Canvas, which records the date you submitted it. If Canvas says it was turned in on April 24 (in other words, if it got in before 11:59 pm), it will be considered on time. There will be a five point penalty if the paper is submitted on April 25 or 26. The penalty will be fifteen points if it is not in by midnight April 26.

You can have a pretty free choice of topics for this paper, within the limits of the subject matter of this course. You must talk with me, in person or by Zoom, and discuss the sources you will be using. It is not enough to say to me as we are walking out of the classroom one morning "Professor Moise, is it OK if I write about the American bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail?" You will need to talk things over with me for ten or fifteen minutes, not just a few seconds. After we have talked, I will give you a blank topic sheet, which you will then fill out and return to me. The sheet should describe your topic, with a list of the main sources you plan to use. There will be a five point penalty if you have not given this to me by March 13, an additional five points if it is not in by March 27.

If you give me a preliminary draft of your paper as an e-mail attachment by April 12 (preferably before that), I will look it over and give you suggestions about how you could improve it.

Tests: The midterm test (70 points) and the final exam (120 points) will be mostly essay.

Newspaper Research Exercise: 40 points. (Two newspaper exercises for students in HIST 6360.)

Short Questions Based on the Reading: I will ask eight questions about the reading, which I will post on Canvas and you will answer on Canvas, due ten minutes before the beginning of class, ten points each but only your six best count toward the final grade: 60 points.

There will be 20 points possible for class participation, either in class or through the Discussion section on Canvas. If you are the sort of person who feels comfortable speaking up in class, do so. If you don't feel comfortable with that, post in the discussion section on Canvas so you won't lose out on this. If you catch me in a mistake and persuade me that it was in fact a mistake, you get two points in the gradebook, over and above the regular poinst for discussion. If you present a good clear argument that I am wrong about something, with evidence, then your grade may be boosted even if you do not succeed in convincing me.
This adds up to 460 points for undergraduates, 500 for graduate students. The basic grade scale is that 90% (414 points for undergraduates) is the bottom of the A range, 80% (368 points for undergraduates) is the bottom of the B range, 70% (322 points for undergraduates) is the lowest C. Sometimes I alter the scale in the students' favor, never against them. Thus 432 points (90% of 480) is a guaranteed A for an undergraduate; 428 or 424 points might be an A, depending on how the rest of the class does.

DO NOT TRUST WHAT CANVAS SAYS ABOUT YOUR AVERAGE GRADE. If Canvas says you got 36 points on a particular paper, that should be reliable. But if Canvas says your average for the semester so far is 90.32%, that might be wrong by a significant margin.

If there are graduate students, I will meet with them once a weeks to discuss materials covered in the past week, either in person or by Zoomm depending on how it is easiest to schedule this.

I do not emphasize trivial factual details in this course. On tests and quizzes I will NOT ask you to tell me the date of the Battle of "Hamburger Hill", or to name the American units that fought in it. There are some facts you need to know, but they are more important things than dates. On the other hand, I will expect you to get an idea of the sequence of events, what came first and what came later.

Academic Integrity Policy

Academic integrity requires that we not try to pass other people's work off as our own. The ways students have gotten into problems of academic dishonesty in courses I have taught that were similar to this one, in past years, have been:

    Large portions of a term paper copied from a book or web site, without any indication that the material was copied. Typically this involves both large amounts of material quoted word-for-word, without quotation marks, and also a serious shortage of source notes pointing to the book from which the material came. Often there are misleading source notes claiming the material came from some source other than the one from which it was actually copied word-for-word. These false source notes are especially strong evidence that the copying was dishonesty and not just carelessness.

    Whole term paper obtained from some source (a commercial term paper service, or the Internet, or the collection of term papers that one of the fraternities used to have, and may still have).

    One student copies another student's 40-point newspaper research exercise, maybe changing a few words and substituting synonyms, but leaving the two papers still so similar that it is obvious the resemblance could not be coincidence. I would be likely to bring charges both against the student who copied and the student who allowed his or her paper to be copied.

If a student copied a paper from someplace without citing that source, but rephrased it, substituting synonyms for enough words so that the copied paper was not identical, word for word, to the original, this would still be academic dishonesty, but would be more difficult for me to prove.

There are some ways in which it is all right for students to help each other. If two students want to study together getting ready for a test, that is perfectly OK. Only after I have handed out the questions does help on a test become improper. But if two people work together on a newspaper research exercise, and turn in papers that are very similar because each has been getting a lot of help from the other in writing it, both will be in deep trouble. If one of your fellow students asks to look at your paper, to get a better idea of how the assignment was to be done, please say no. They should come to me to ask for further explanations of the assignment, rather than looking at a completed paper to give them their clues. If two papers are so similar it is obvious the author of one must have seen the other, I will file charges.

In furtherance of its Academic Integrity policy, Clemson University has a license agreement with, a service that helps prevent plagiarism in student assignments. I will request that you submit your research papers, at the end of the semester, to Turnitin through Canvas. You will have the right to refuse to do this, if you wish. Turnitin will provide me with an originality rating and notation of possible text or contextual matches with other source documents. Turnitin does not make any determination of plagiarism. Rather, it identifies parts of an assignment that may have significant matches with other source documents found on the Internet, in the Turnitin database, or from other sources. If matches are identified and indicate the possibility of inclusion of material that is not properly cited, I will discuss this information with you before reaching any judgment or decision.

Do not turn in a paper in this course that you have also submitted in some other course, in this semester or a previous one, without consulting me first.

Policy on late work

Under normal circumstances, my policy is: If you do not do written work on time, you will be able to make it up. However, you will be marked off for lateness. You will be marked off even if your excuse is very, very good. You can avoid a penalty only if I have told you before the work was due that you would be able to do it late without penalty. Forty-point short papers will not usually be accepted at all (you just get an F) if they are more than seven days late.

Attendance policy

You are allowed up to six cuts INCLUDING EXCUSED ABSENCES. You lose two points for every unexcused absense after that. I would advise you not to take even five. I am going to be saying quite a few things in lectures that are not in the reading. Even if you are very careful about doing all the assigned reading, you will have trouble answering the questions on my tests if you have not been at the lectures.

If I am Late

If I have not gotten to class by five minutes after it was supposed to begin, I would be grateful if a student would go bang on my office door and see whether I am there. If I still have not arrived by ten minutes after the time the class was supposed to begin, you can give up on me and leave.

If Class Is Cancelled Due To Weather

If class is cancelled due to weather, on the date for the midterm test, it will simply be postponed to the next class, unless I inform you otherwise by e-mail.

Title IX (Sexual Harassment) Statement

Clemson University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, veteran's status, genetic information or protected activity in employment, educational programs and activities, admissions and financial aid. This includes a prohibition against sexual harassment and sexual violence as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This policy is located at Ms. Alesia Smith is the Clemson University Title IX Coordinator, and the Executive Director of Equity Compliance. Her office is located at 110 Holtzendorff Hall, 864.656.3181 (voice) or 864.656.0899 (TDD).

Accessibility Statement

Clemson University values the diversity of our student body as a strength and a critical component of our dynamic community. Students with disabilities or temporary injuries/conditions may require accommodations due to barriers in the structure of facilities, course design, technology used for curricular purposes, or other campus resources. Students who experience a barrier to full access to this class should let the professor know, and make an appointment to meet with a staff member in Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible. You can make an appointment by calling 864-656-6848, by emailing, or by visiting Suite 239 in the Academic Success Center building. Appointments are strongly encouraged – drop-ins will be seen if at all possible, but there could be a significant wait due to scheduled appointments. Students who receive Academic Access Letters are strongly encouraged to request, obtain and present these to their professors as early in the semester as possible so that accommodations can be made in a timely manner. It is the student's responsibility to follow this process each semester. You can access further information here:

Assigned reading

I will try to hold the assigned reading in this course down to a moderate level, since you are supposed to be putting a lot of work into your course papers. There are two books you should buy:
    The Killing Zone, by Downs
    America's Longest War, by George Herring

There will also be reading assignments that I will make available online.

January 10: Introduction to the course.

January 12: Background to Vietnam. Vietnamese civilization began in the Red River Delta of what is today northern Vietnam, slightly more than 2,000 years ago. It spread southward gradually. The French conquered Vietnam, in chunks, in the late 19th century. Vietnamese could not effectively defy French power.
>>> Read Moise, The Vietnam Wars all the way through, to give you an idea of the overall pattern of events we will be seeing in this course, and to allow you to get started thinking of what topic you might want to choose for your term paper.


January 17: Ho Chi Minh founded the Vietnamese Communist movement, and the Second World War gave the Communists their chance to try to make Vietnam an independent country. In 1945 the Communists established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
>>> Herring, pp. 3-10.

January 19: Continue discussion of those events, particularly looking at a Communist viewpoint on them.
>>> Truong Chinh, The August Revolution (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1958), pp. 1-40. The story of the Viet Minh siezure of power in 1945. Truong Chinh was General Secretary of the Indochinese Communist Party at that time; he published the Vietnamese original of this work in Su That in 1946. By the time this translation was published in Hanoi as a book, Truong Chinh had been demoted as punishment for his errors in the Land Reform campaign of 1953-1956. The text has been placed on-line in the Virtual Vietnam Archive of the Vietnam Project at Texas Tech University, in two parts. I am asking that you read only the first part, up to page 40.

January 22: All-out war between Vietnam and France broke out in 1946. It was a classic guerrilla War. Meanwhile, the Cold War was deepening. US policy was ambivalent.
>>> Herring, pp. 11-15.
>>> Reading for January 22, posted in Files on Canvas

January 24: In 1950, the war in Indochina became much more entangled in the Cold War.
>>> Herring, pp. 16-23.
>>> "Indo-China Viewed as Key Asia Point," New York Times, January 24, 1950, p. 11.
>>> Robert Trumbull, "Asia's Vital Rice Bowl Now Communist Target", New York Times, January 29, 1950, E5
>>> "Asia's Rice Bowl", New York Times editorial, January 31, 1950, p. 19.
>>> Draft report by the National Security Council, "The Position of the United States with Respect to Indochina", February 27, 1950.
>>>C. L. Sulzberger, "Bao Dai is Held Ineffective as Popular Viet Leader," New York Times, June 11, 1950.

January 26: In the early 1950s, the Democratic Republic was gaining ground in the war.
>>> Herring, pp. 24-32.
>>> One of the most important sources of information about the war is the collection of documents, with analysis, commonly known as "The Pentagon Papers." Originally compiled inside the Defense Department between 1967 and 1969, it was a long and detailed history of U.S. policy toward Vietnam from 1945 to about March of 1968, plus about 4,000 pages of the actual texts of some of the most important documents dealing with Vietnam, up through 1963, found in Defense Department files. Substantial portions were leaked to the press in 1971; the complete text was declassified and released to the public in 2011. In the section "U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954," read pages A-17 to A-30 (pages 23 to 36 the way the computer counts pages in the .PDF).
>>>"NATO and Indo-China," New York Times editorial, December 19, 1952.

January 29: In 1954, The United States didn't quite jump openly into the war when France got in bad trouble in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
>>> Herring pp. 33-44
>>>Hanson W. Baldwin, "Conflict in Indo-china Is Vital to Free World," New York Times, March 28, 1954.
>>>"French Units Smash Vietminh Besiegers," New York Times, March 29, 1954.
>>> Bernard Fall, "Indochina--The Last Year of the War," Military Review, XXXVI:7 (October 1956), pp. 3-11.

January 31: The Geneva Accords of 1954 ended the First Indochina War and split Vietnam in half. Ngo Dinh Diem became prime minister of the State of Vietnam.
>>> Herring pp. 45-63

February 2: Ngo Dinh Diem managed to get actual control of South Vietnam. The Communists did a very bad job of running North Vietnam.
>>> Herring pp. 64-81

February 5: The war began again in 1959-60, both in South Vietnam and in Laos. The guerrillas, who came to be called the Viet Cong did pretty well.
>>> Herring, pp. 81-95

February 7: The guerrillas gained strength, despite increasing U.S. aid to Diem.
>>> Herring, pp. 95-109

February 9: By 1963, Diem was in bad trouble.
>>> Herring, pp. 110-117
>>>> David Halberstam, "Vietnamese Reds Win Major Clash," New York Times, January 4, 1963.
>>>> "War Without Will," Wall Street Journal, January 10, 1963.
>>>> "Felt Sees Defeat of Vietnam Reds," New York Times, January 12, 1963.

The Battle of Ap Bac: Plan and Assumed Enemy Situation

The Battle of Ap Bac: Situation About 1400 (2:00 p.m.)

February 12: The U.S. encouraged a coup that overthrew Diem
>>> Herring, pp. 117-133

February 14: After Diem's death, Le Duan escalated the war on the Communist side; President Johnson hesitated about expanding the American role.
>>> Herring, pp. 135-146

February 16, 19 (no class)

February 21: Communist forces continued to strengthen, the Saigon government was weak and divided, President Johnson finally decided to escalate.
>>> Herring, pp. 146-177

TEST February 23

February 26: The war was complex and messy
>>> Herring, pp. 183-213

February 28: What was happening in the United States? Also, an American infantry unit in 1967.
>>> Herring, pp. 213-231
>>> Begin Downs, Section 1

March 1: An American infantry unit in 1967.
>>> Continue Downs, Section 1

March 4: Air War.
>>> Herring, pp. 177-183

March 6: One infantry unit around the end of 1967.
>>> Downs, pp. 99-147.

March 11: Continue reading Downs, and also consider the issue of Counterinsurgency vs Conventional Warfare
>>> Downs, pp. 147-184
>>> "Reading for March 11" in Files on Canvas

Due date for term paper topic sheets: March 15

March 13, 15: One infantry unit around the end of 1967.
>>> Downs, sections 3 and 4.

            March 18, 20, 22: SPRING BREAK, NO CLASS

March 25: Le Duan decided to launch the Tet Offensive
>>> "Reading for March 25" in Files on Canvas

March 27, 29: The Tet Offensive of 1968: a major Communist offensive, that attained partial surprise. Militarily it cost the Communists a lot of men, but it produced important political benefits for them by shaking American confidence that the war could be won. Tentative peace talks began in Paris.
>>> Herring, pp. 233-275

April 1: Richard Nixon came into office as President in 1969.
>>> Herring, pp. 276-289.

April 3: In 1969, the US began to pull out of Vietnam.
>>> Herring, pp. 289-93
>>> Articles dealing with the My Lai Massacre, the Battle of "Hamburger Hill," and related topics will be assigned. Photo taken during the My Lai massacre

April 5: Laos and Cambodia
>>> Herring, pp. 295-301

April 8, 10, 12: The U.S. pullout continued until U.S. participation in ground combat ceased in 1972. But Laos continued to be a battleground, and Cambodia became one. U.S. bombing declined in 1971, but increased again in 1972, especially after the Communists' Easter Offenive began.
>>> Herring, pp. 301-317

April 15, 17: The Paris Peace Agreement
>>> Herring, pp. 318-329

April 19: The War after the Paris Agreement, 1973-1974
>>> Herring, pp. 330-341

April 22: The End, 1975
>>> Herring, pp. 342-353

April 24: Submit term papers online through Canvas

April 26: Aftermath and Legacies of the War; Review
>>> Herring, pp. 353-74.

Final exam: Friday, May 3, 3:00 p.m.


Other Links

Photos Taken in Vietnam, 1986 and 1989

Photos Taken by Robert D. Jester, 5th Special Forces Group, Vietnam, 1965-66

Web site of the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas

Military History Map Library: Vietnam War (U.S. Military Academy, West Point)

President Johnson's Speech, March 31, 1968

Clemson University Academic Success Center, which provides help and tutoring for students encountering academic problems. It does not, however, have tutors specifically for History courses.

Edwin Moïse's homepage

"Vietnam State Army Is Formally Created", New York Times, December 9, 1950.

"More Aid for Indo-China", New York Times, September 6, 1953.

Dana Adams Schmidt, "French Due To Get More U.S. Planes as Indo-China Aid", New York Times, March 23, 1954.

"Test in Far East", New York Times, March 28, 1954.

"The U.S. and Indo-China", New York Times, March 30, 1954.

"Invading China's Air Space", New York Times, August 22, 1967.

Revised March 3, 2024. **