The Vietnam War, 1954-1975

The Vietnam War, 1954-1975,” is now available on the “United States Foreign Policy: History & Resource Guide,” a website sponsored by Historians for Peace and Democracy and Peace History Society. The essay examines, step-by-step, the series of imperious actions and public deceptions entailed in the 21-year effort to carve out a separate state in southern Vietnam. The 70,000-word essay is divided into manageable subsections and accompanied by over 200 images.

The essay begins with an exploration of Vietnamese history and the origins of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia from 1945 to 1965. It then turns to the conduct and costs of the American War in Vietnam, which are discussed under seven headings: “pacification,” the Phoenix program, “search and destroy” missions, the air war, the chemical war, negotiations, and costs of the war, especially for the Vietnamese. There is a separate, linked section on “Associated Wars in Laos and Cambodia.” The latter one-third of the essay is devoted to the American antiwar movement, an original synthesis. Rev. Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech in April 1967 is highlighted as part of the movement’s “consciousness-raising” efforts. Another separate, linked section is devoted to “Protest Music of the Vietnam War.” The essay ends with a discussion of the lessons and legacies of the war.

Two of the authors, Roger Peace and Jeremy Kuzmarov, are historians of American Foreign Relations. A third, John Marciano, Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Cortland, is the author of The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration? (2016). Howard Machtinger, working with the Vets for Peace Full Disclosure project, contributed to the essay as well.

Please share the Vietnam War essay with friends, associates, and students. It offers historical background and philosophical context for discussing Ken Burns’s new documentary film on the Vietnam War, due for release in September 2017, and for reframing the Pentagon’s narrow “honor the troops” message promoted in its 50th anniversary commemoration of the war. What are the lessons that should be learned from this war?