DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives, is full of primary sources and tools for teaching about the Vietnam War.
For instance, you could use the following document in a document analysis exercise with your students. It focuses on a pivotal event in the Vietnam War — it is the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, as originally introduced. Students should look for both small details and the big picture to truly understand this important document. Ask them: What stands out to you?
When working with a primary source, sometimes the small details reveal important aspects of the historical context. Ask questions like, how would you describe the document to someone who can’t see it.
As students explore this draft, they may notice details like 88th Congress, Senate, and Armed Services Committee that show this is a congressional document. They also might notice handwritten, stamped, and crossed out text that explain its rushed nature.
As students dive deeper, they start to pull out the Gulf of Tonkin resolution’s purpose and goals. Ask: What phrases in the document stand out as important and reveal its purpose?
In a close read, students will see phrases like “deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels” and “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President.”
They can even compare it to the approved version from the following week and see no major changes, hinting at the lack of significant debate on the issue. As they study the escalation of the Vietnam War, they will see the Tonkin Gulf Resolution’s role in supporting that.
More Vietnam War Resources on DocsTeach
You can explore the Vietnam War in depth on our feature page – with primary source sets and online activities. The page includes topics and activities related to the Vietnam War, and from the Cold War era such as the space race.
We’ll highlight just a few topics from the page:
Check out documents related to French colonialism and Vietnam’s desire for independence prior to U.S. involvement, like this letter from Ho Chi Minh to the Secretary of State from the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I.
You can also find primary sources related to public opinion and the anti-war movement, including events like Kent State, the March on the Pentagon, and the Tinker v. Des Moines court case.
DocsTeach also has ready-to-use online teaching activities for the Vietnam War for middle and high school. Activities cover topics like propaganda, documentary photographs, and U.S. involvement. Search at www.docsteach.org/activities and use the filters to refine your search by grade level, historical era, skill, or type.
Some of the teaching activities featured on our Vietnam War page include:
- The War in Vietnam – A Story in Photographs
- Analyzing U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War
- Introduction to the Domino Theory and Containment Policy in Vietnam
- Analyzing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution