HST 404/504 The Vietnam War in Movies


Summer 2003

Classroom: TBA

Term: July 14-Aug. 8, 2003

Time: MTWTh 10:30-1:20


Instructor: Dr. Pingchao Zhu

Office: Rm315 Administration Building

Office Phone: 885-7166 or 885-2563

Office Hours: MW 1:30-2:00pm, or by appointment

Email: pzhu@uidaho.edu

Website: www.uidaho.edu/~pzhu


Course Description

For the Americans, Vietnam was only the war.  But for the Vietnamese, it is their country.  This course is not just about America’s war in Vietnam.  It is, as Loren Baritz puts it, about “how American culture led us into Vietnam and made us fight the way we did.”  It is about the study of two different cultures, which came to be in real contact, not before and during the Vietnam War, but after the war.  With this in mind, this class has several goals: to study the cultural traditions of both American and Vietnamese societies and how they affected the way of war from both sides; to examine policymaking process of both Washington and the North Vietnamese leadership regarding military campaign strategies and peace negotiations, to explore how the war has changed America and Vietnam, and to learn major theories and recent scholarship debating U.S. involvement in the war.  Our primary mission in this course is to “Reinterpret the Vietnam War” through individual understanding and through identifying major problems in the war and important lessons we have learned.



1.      Loren Baritz, Backfire, Baltimore, MD: The johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.


Course Requirements

1. Four movie reviews                                                   50 points each

2. In-class presentation                                                   50

3. One term paper                                                        100

4. Attendance                                                                 50


Information on Assignments

The movie reviews are on six of the movies under discussion in this courses.  Specific movies will be given at the beginning of the course.  The review must be typed, double spaced and 3-4 pages in length. 

Please follow the guideline below in your writing:

        --a brief background of the movie making (director's name, main characters' name, or interesting stories about the movie making);

        --a general summary of the story;

        --historical reality behind the movie (most of the movies on the list have a history or event behind);

        --your comments on the movie in terms of how the movie portrays the war and people in the war (on both sides, if applicable).


Graduate students should see the instructor for graduate credits.


Grade Scale

        A=500-450   B=449-400   C=399-350   D=349-300   F=299 and below


Course Schedule

Week One                   July 14-17

Monday                      Vietnam in early history

                                    French Indochina

                                    Ho Chi Minh

                                    Film: Documentary: Ho Chi Minh


Tuesday                      Vietnam and the Cold War

                                    Kennedy’s strategies

                                    NLF & VC

                                    Film: We Were Sildiers


Wednsday                   Escalation of war

                                    The Tonkin Gulf Resolution      

                                    Film: The Green Beret


Thursday                    Americanization

                                    The Tet Offensive

                                    Film: Full Metal Jacket


Week Two                   July 21-24

Monday                      Home Front, USA

                                    Anti-war movement

Film: Born on the Fourth ofJuly


Tuesday                      Counter-culture

                                    Film: Hair


Wednesday                 The Realities of War

                                    Film: Hamburger Hill



Thursday                    Casualties of War

                                    War atrocities

                                    My Lai

                                    Film: Casualties of War


Week Three                July 28-31

Monday                      Vietnamization

                                    Invasion of Cambodia

                                    Film: When the October Comes (North Vietnamese movie)


Tuesday                      “Peace with Honor”

                                    Peace talks

                                    Film: Documentary


Wednesday                 The End of the War

                                    The fall of Saigon

                                    Film: Heaven & Earth


Thursday                    Reporting Vietnam

                                    Media & Literature

                                    Film: We Were Soldiers


Week  Four                 Aug. 4-7

Monday                      Remembering the War

                                    The Memorial

                                    Veterans of both sides

                                    Film: Dear Hunter


Tuesday                      The POWs

                                    Film: Hanoi Hilton


Wednesday                 Postwar Vietnam 

                                    Communist Rule


                                    Film: Three Seasons(North Vietnamese movie)

                                            Heading South Going North


Thursday                    Overview

                                    Film: TBA


This schedule is subject to changes by the instructor.