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The Basics


US Cultures






Common Core Standards
11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media in order to address a question or solve a problem.  

11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

PA Standards for History
8.4.9 D – Interpret how conflict and cooperation among groups and organizations have impacted the growth and development of the world (military conflict)

The Lesson

The Vietnam Experience

The reasoning behind this lesson is to give an insight into the experience of the war from the viewpoint of a soldier or individual involved in Vietnam and wars as a whole. The effect upon all involved will be emphasized and then evaluated by way of a culminating project. Music will serve as introductory activities to help students make personal connections to the subject matter. The students will have already received an introductory to Vietnam, and units on Korea and the World Wars. The students will be introduced to the realities of war and how they can work to change what they feel is morally wrong for the future. The songs all relate to certain aspects to the war and the war experience for all sides.



The students will be able to articulate certain aspects of the soldier experience within a war and the ongoing effects that war can have upon surviving veterans.



Credence Clearwater Revival “Fortunate Son”



Billy Joel “Goodnight Saigon”(first minute)



Pete Seeger “Bring Em Home”



Bruce Springsteen “Born in the U.S.A.”



(Extended Learning Opportunity) Country Joe “Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag”





“Fortunate Son” (Draft Dodging, evaluate the song, read through accounts of draft dodgers and people who fought honorably)

  • Who do you believe they are referring to as Fortunate Sons? (Because these people were well connected, they got to avoid serving in the war)
  • In the context of the draft, who do you think received favorable treatment in regards to getting picked? (Well-connected people with a father in politics or business or other personal connections)
  • How do you believe young men who could not avoid the draft felt about these draft dodgers, along with their families? (Upset) Explain that this song was created as a means to express this frustration
  • Who do you think is more likely to be forced to fight, the wealthier or those less well off?

“Goodnight Saigon” (Mass Death, Read Diary of Dang Thuy Tram and discuss)

  • What do you think it means by “leaving Vietnam in plastic?” (leaving dead)
  • Thinking back to “Fortunate Son,” seeing how over 58,000 American soldier lives were lost, over 303,000 were wounded and 1,649 people were MIA, how do you think this played into great sadness and anger back in America and with the surviving troops?

Bring Em Home”(Movement to end the war and the long term effects on veterans, coupled with “Born in the U.S.A.”)

  • Judging by what we have learned so far about the war, why would someone come out with the message “Bring em Home?”
  • What sorts of problems do you suppose soldiers face upon return from war?


Day 1: “Fortunate Son”

  • Listen to “Fortunate Son” using the “I can hear it now” method.  Discuss
  • Listen to the song again, this time with written lyrics and then use the previously mentioned questions in order to create a discussion
  • Have students read accounts of draft dodgers Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Rush Limbaugh and Ted Nugent, and accounts of those who served honorably, John Kerry, John McCain, Oliver Stone and Tim O’Brien


My dad was a governor. I studied at a university and then went on a religious mission to Paris I avoided the draft. –Mitt Romney


I became close with a US Senator and I went to Great Britain to study at a university – Bill Clinton


I had an in-grown hair and received a “medical deferment” and avoided the draft – Rush Limbaugh

I got my notice to get a physical examination for the draft and decided to stop showering for weeks so that I would be able to avoid being cleared to join the army – Ted Nugent


I was a commander of a Swift Boat in Vietnam and our ship was hit with a rocket propelled grenade and I still have shrapnel in my leg to this day – John Kerry


I was a navy fighter pilot and my plane was shot down in Vietnam. I was held and tortured as a prisoner for five and a half years until I was finally released. My dad was promoted to commander of all forces in Vietnam and I was offered release from the prison. I turned down the offer because I said everyone else needs to be released too, not just me because of my situation. – John McCain


I took the call of the draft and served. I regret having been involved in that, but it was my obligation – Oliver Stone


I served for three years on the ground in Vietnam and lost quite a few friends. Today I have written some books based upon my experience in the war. – Tim O’Brien


  • Evaluate some of the conditions faced by those fighting in Vietnam including the environment, constant impending sense of death, booby traps and risks.
  • What sorts of feelings would you have if you were fighting in a place like this with a constant risk of death? Risks were facing you every corner in battle, and for many in the country, and even the soldiers on the ground, no one really knew what the war was about.


Day 2: “Goodnight Saigon”

  • Listen to first minute or so about "Goodnight Saigon"
  • Do the “Plotting the Story” graphic organizer and discuss the previously mentioned questions and relate the terrible reality of death in the war.
  • Evaluate the following journal entries from Dang Thuy Tram, a Vietnamese native drawn into the war. Her diary was found by a US soldier after she was killed and kept because it was so special. The vet did not reopen it until forty years later and then he tracked down the woman’s remaining relatives.


Two entries from Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram


22 April 1968

Oh Huong! Huong died? The news stuns me like a nightmare. One comrade falls down today, another tomorrow. Will these pains ever end? Heaps of flesh and bones keep piling up into a mountain of hatred rising ever taller in our hearts. When? When and when comrades? When can we chase the entire blood thirsty mob from our motherland?

It’s over, our nights of heart-to-heart will never happen again. I can still hear Huong’s soothing voice encouraging me, praising me for the faithfulness of my love. It’s over.


2 June 1968


For such a long time, I have forgotten the feelings of a Chu Van An (her school) student chewing on the end of a pen, listening to the teacher’s lecture, absentmindedly looking out through the drizzle to the blurred surface of West Lake, and thinking of silly matters


How can you relate to the feelings the author is suggesting in her journal? How many times have you ever zoned off while I was lecturing in class and felt bored? Can you imagine the pain and anguish you would feel or have felt, in losing a close loved one in that manner? Looking at that picture of her, does she look like an enemy? By reading these excerpts from her journal, does she seem like a bad person? She would end up being among the 1.1 million lost combined Vietnamese lives during the Vietnam War. Think about what questions in your head you have about this and war in general, write them onto a post-it, put them into this box and I will place them up on the wall. If you cannot think of a question, write down your answer in sentence form to this question “What are some things that all sides experience in a war?”

Last procedure is to discuss the questions and answers.

Days 3 and 4:  End the war movement and last effects upon veterans


“Bring Em Home” (Movement to end the war and the long term effects on veterans, coupled with “Born in the U.S.A.”)

  • Just have the students listen to the song and then answer the accompanying questions.
  • Have the students hypothesize why people are upset about this war
  • Students read and discuss “My Lai Figure Dies a Drifter in a Shooting”
  • Have students watch a clip of the documentary “4 hours in My Lai, to see the experience in training, Vietnam and the effect the situation had upon the veterans involved.
  • Do a short Socratic discussion regarding the toll war plays upon all involved.
  • Listen to “Born in the USA” and complete a plotting the story Graphic Organizer



The students will be assigned a veteran or family member of a member in the service from any war from Vietnam on, to research what they dealt with in regards to adjusting to civilian life. The fundamental questions will be, “Was a proper support system in place to help them with their struggles, what did the veteran do upon return to the country and would you consider their return to civilian life to be smooth?” The students will include biographical information, what branch of the armed services they were in along with where they served. The mode in which they do the biography is open. They can do a PowerPoint, Large Poster, Youtube Video and more .

Upon completion of the unit and lessons, as an extension activity, the students will write a letter to a politician or to themselves in the future trying to convince the recipient of the letter of how we need to conduct ourselves as a society and to each other in regards to war and violence in general. The key is to create a sense of empathy for all involved in war, and create a sense of empathy that transcends the topic and reaches into our daily lives and dispute resolution. How can we handle ourselves better than what we have learned in these lessons?


Presentations will be made by the students individually and the students will write letters to the President and Veteran’s Affairs representing the needs of the veterans and how they must be addressed in the transition to civilian life. 



I came to the idea of creating this unit because there are so many unaddressed issues when it comes to the return to civilian life for veterans. More vets are lost to suicide than are lost in actual battle. Veterans are coming home with severe problems that are not being addressed adequately to the point that many cannot function in a job, be able to overcome their struggles and sadly end up losing their lives. This is for them, this is for their families, this is for the innocent people in foreign nations that have lost their lives during wars they did not choose to be in.

My Lai Figure Dies a Drifter In a Shooting AP Published: September 14, 1988

Robert W. T'Souvas died homeless at the age of 39 years, shot in the head after reportedly quarreling over a bottle of vodka under a downtown bridge.

The end came Sept. 3 on the banks of the Monongahela River, nearly two decades after the Army veteran was charged with killing two Vietnamese children in mass killings at My Lai.

''He had problems with Vietnam over and over,'' said his father, William T'Souvas, of San Jose, Calif. ''He didn't talk about it much. But he had problems with the body counts, things like that. He lasted 20 years, but he was walking a tight line.''

Specialist 4 T'Souvas, then a 19-year-old high school dropout, was a member of one of three platoons that entered the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968, looking for Vietcong troops but finding civilians instead. Attack on Vietnamese Village

The platoon moved into My Lai, firing on fleeing Vietnamese, tossing grenades into houses and slaughtering animals. When the soldiers left, at least 175 men, women and children were dead, a 1970 Army report said.

Later investigations put the toll as high as 500.

The Army charged Specialist T'Souvas with premeditated murder of two unidentified Vietnamese with a machine gun. He was one of nine enlisted men to be charged.

George T. Davis, the lawyer who represented Specialist T'Souvas in the 1970 Army hearing, gave this account Monday: ''On the way out, T'Souvas saw two small children lying in the road with their intestines hanging out. In an emotional reaction, he took his M-16 and killed both to put them out of their misery.''

Lt. William L. Calley Jr. was convicted of killing at least 22 civilians at My Lai. Of the enlisted men, two soldiers were acquitted and the charges against Specialist T'Souvas and the six others were dropped. All were given honorable discharges.

Lieutenant Calley was sentenced to life in prison, but President Nixon later reduced his sentence to 20 years. After serving three years under house arrest at Fort Benning, Ga., he was released when his conviction was overturned by a Federal district judge, and remained free after an appeals court reinstated the conviction.

Relatives of Mr. T'Souvas said that while he awaited court-martial at Fort McPherson, Ga., he lived in an Atlanta commune, where he met and married a woman named Rebecca. Both later spent time in jail on marijuana charges before they moved to California, the relatives said.

They reared two children and Mr. T'Souvas worked in a bakery and at other jobs before their marriage broke up, said Lynn T'Souvas, an aunt. Companion Charged in Killing

About four years ago he met a carnival worker, who family members said assumed his last name in their years together, even though Mr. T'Souvas was never divorced. The Pittsburgh police have charged the woman, Kathleen T'Souvas, 36, with shooting him.

The police said the couple left California in August 1987, crisscrossing the country in a van for months before arriving in Pittsburgh, where Mr. T'Souvas hoped to get a job.

The police said that Kathleen T'Souvas's diary showed they lived in the van, working part-time in a food kitchen for the homeless. After the van broke down they built a shelter on the banks of the Monongahela, the police said. On Sept. 3, the police said, the couple and a homeless man, David Bozic, 42, spent the day drinking, fishing and using Mr. Bozic's .22-caliber pistol to shoot rats and cans under a bridge.

While Mr. Bozic was gone to get food, the police said, the couple argued over a bottle of vodka. The police said the woman took the gun and shot Mr. T'Souvas once in the head.

William T'Souvas said he talked to his son a few days before his death.








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