Teaching the Vietnam War with DocsTeach

A brand new page on DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives, includes primary sources and activities for teaching about the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War Page on DocsTeach.org


Troops move through an area cleared during Operation Abilene, 1966. From the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. Available on DocsTeach.

More than 50 years after the United States committed combat troops to the war in Vietnam, and more than 40 years since the war ended, the complexity of the conflict is still being unraveled. Historical records preserved at the National Archives provide insight into this critical period.

On the new DocsTeach Vietnam War page, you can find primary sources and document-based teaching activities related to the war and U.S. involvement.

Explore Primary Sources

Teach with Online Activities

Communism Means Terrorism Poster

This 1954 poster says “Anywhere there is communism, there is terrorism and assassination!” From the Records of the U.S. Information Agency. Available on DocsTeach.

Many of the documents, photographs, and other sources on the DocsTeach Vietnam War page are featured in the new exhibition, Remembering Vietnam: Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War.

The exhibition, which opens this Friday, November 10, at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, presents both iconic and recently discovered National Archives records related to 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War. They trace the policies and decisions made by the architects of the conflict and help untangle why the United States became involved in Vietnam, why it went on so long, and why it was so divisive for American society. DocsTeach also pulls photographs from the related traveling exhibit Picturing Nam: U.S. Military Photography of the Vietnam War.

You can also explore Vietnam War Topics, an interactive timeline, and more resources related to the Vietnam War on our new Vietnam War research page.

Remembering Vietnam was created by staff at the National Archives and is presented in part by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, AARP, and the National Archives Foundation.


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Favorite Stories of the Home Front from the Remembering WWI App

Today’s post comes from Marissa Friedman, intern at Historypin. Historypin teamed up with the National Archives to develop the Remembering WWI app. You can learn more about the national collaborative Remembering WWI project on archives.gov.

Remembering WWI App Welcome screenFor the past eleven months, I have scoured digitized collections of World War I materials from the holdings of the National Archives, looking for the most compelling, significant, and relevant stories to share with the public through the new Remembering WWI tablet app and Historypin’s companion digital platform.

In examining the diverse experiences of Americans on the home front during the war, I’ve had more than my fair share of “wow” moments of discovery. From profoundly moving, to immediately thought-provoking, these WWI materials are full of amazing and sometimes forgotten stories just waiting to be found. Here are a few of my favorite stories I’ve discovered so far:


The Pigeons of Valor collection provides film clips detailing the U.S. Signal Corps pigeon training activities and facilities during the war. World War I is often characterized as the first “modern” war, due in part to rapid wartime advancements made in weaponry, medicine, and camera and film technology. National Archives collections on pigeon training serve as a great reminder to the limits of these technological innovations, as both sides often relied on pigeons for crucial and speedy communications.

The best part of all? The collection includes film of the commendation ceremony in which pigeons who served honorably during the war received medals! You know you’ve always wanted to see pigeons getting medals.

“Famous war hero pigeons of the Signal Corps, U.S.A., are decorated,” a clip from HOMING PIGEONS (111-H-1220).

Women’s Roles

The war instigated sweeping changes in American society in terms of gender and gender roles. Women entered the workforce in record numbers to fill the places of men sent to the front lines, and became literally indispensable to the country’s wartime economy. They found newly accessible occupations in formerly male-dominated fields, especially in industry–they mass produced guns, cars, engines, parachutes, planes, munitions, fabrics, and soaps, large amounts of foodstuffs for the front lines, and so much more. Empowered and employed, women remained pivotal producers and makers on the home front and were involved in labor activism during WWI.

The woman brandishing a blowtorch while on the lines in the Packard Motor Car Company factory in Detroit Michigan exudes such a sense of “cool” that I had to highlight this photo from the Women in WWI collection:


Liberty engines manufactured for government use. 165-WW-582-A1

Wartime opportunities for female employment also bolstered the growing suffrage movement and went hand-in-hand with women’s prominent roles as activists, reformers, union organizers, pacifists, and political dissidents. They fought for women’s rights (including suffrage), union rights and labor protections, pacifism and an end to war, social justice, socialism, or simply access to cheaper food for their families. Women demonstrated and marched in the streets, petitioned, gave speeches, organized the day-to-day activities of activist organizations, and produced pamphlets and other forms of mass media.

Over five thousand women from Harlem and the East Side descended upon City Hall in 1917 to protest the draft, as pictured below in this photo from the Keeping Peace: Pacifist Activity on the Home Front collection. It is powerful to see a protest of such scale with women engaged in collective political action, and testifies to the pivotal role such women played in the civic fabric of the nation during the war.


5,000 women in City Hall, New York, registry riot. Policemen clearing City Hall Park after five thousand women from the East Side and Harlem had gathered to petition the Mayor against the draft. When they learned the Mayor was not in his office they refused to leave. A number of policemen were slightly injured in the riot that followed. 165-ww-165A-026

“Alien Enemies”

The government used wartime necessity to justify the intensive surveillance of political dissidents (such as socialists, anarchists, and conscientious objectors) and those “alien enemies,” including German-born U.S. residents, spies, and those judged to be sympathetic to the enemy cause. The linking of anti-immigrant sentiments with wartime justifications for repression is a phenomenon not unfamiliar today.

The Alien Property Unit, given broad discretionary powers, seized around 25 million dollars worth of immigrants’ property during the war. Alien enemies were required to hand over their weapons to police, were fingerprinted and given special identification cards. Many enemy aliens and political “subversives” were interned or imprisoned, often without much evidence.

To top it all off, enthusiastic citizens actively participated in these anti-German surveillance campaigns on the local level. The photograph below, taken from the Under Surveillance: Enemies and Aliens collection, illustrates a famous example of citizen surveillance which occurred in at the shoe shop of C.B. Schoberg in Kentucky. The Citizens’ Patriotic League suspected Schoberg of pro-German sympathies, and he became the subject of an elaborate surveillance scheme involving a dictaphone hidden in his shop by League detectives. In a contemporary world, in which the costs and benefits of security and surveillance are similarly being negotiated, I found this photo and the story behind it particularly striking.


How sedition is ferreted out in Kentucky. A dictaphone was placed in the shoe shop of C.B. Schoberg, shown here (under pretense of men hunting electric light leak) under auspices of Citizens’ Patriotic League. The listening end was located in the 1st. National Bank of Latonia next door, whose officers were aiding the League. Detectives listening in gathered pro-German evidence and arrested Henry Feltman, a wealthy tobacco merchant; J.H. Kruse, a wealthy brewer; and two others. The Court of Inquiry for Kenton County sent the case to the Federal Grand Jury to try in August 1918. 165-ww-165A-041

The Bonus Army

One of the most moving stories I found is the film footage from the Veteran Activists: The Bonus Army Protests of 1932 collection. WWI veterans sought early payment in 1932 for the bonuses they had been promised for their service in the First World War, to be delivered in 1945. In the face of financial ruin precipitated by the Great Depression, veteran activists processed from Oregon to the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C., growing in numbers along the way, to demand their bonuses.

Thousands of veterans lived in well-ordered squatter camps in nonviolent protest for months while Congress refused to meet their demands; the resulting stand-off came to a head when President Hoover called in the Army to keep the protesters from disturbing government operations. General Douglas MacArthur gave the command to burn the shanties and run the Bonus Army off their makeshift camp.

Footage of soldiers and police dragging veterans out of abandoned buildings, tanks and soldiers marching down the street, soldiers lobbing tear gas, wearing gas masks, and setting the camps on fire gave me chills. This is a story that needs to be told, and I can’t believe that I had never heard of the Bonus Army protests until I stumbled upon this footage. Here is a newsreel clip highlighting media coverage of the events:

President Hoover’s order putting the Army in control,” a clip from BONUS ARMY RIOTS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 1932 (111-H-1225).


The war effort became integrated into the daily fabric of life for even the youngest Americans, despite the fact that no blood was shed on American soil. I was surprised by the number of photos in National Archives collections devoted to children’s activities on the home front. Children of all ages became active participants in the war effort, raising money for various wartime campaigns, making toys for refugee children abroad, and marching in parades. High school children received school credit to make gas masks in class (imagine making gas masks in school!).

Even young children could help gather the supplies necessary to make these and other wartime equipment–the photo below from the Children’s Activities in WWI collection shows very young Japanese boys in California gathering pits for making gas masks! Could these children grasp the magnitude of the war of which they were somehow a part?


Japanese School Boys at Berryessa, Santa Clara County, Cal., gathering pits for gas masks. 165-WW-69E-013

You can get involved!

These are just a few of the interesting themes and stories that you can explore in Remembering WWI. This project is a work in progress, and here’s how you can help:

  1. Download the app on your tablet and make your own collections from these materials to share and reuse. See here for more information on how to do that.
  2. Visit the digital platform on Historypin to help us fill in more precise date and location information for the WWI photographs and films that are a part of this project. For example, the photograph of the anti-draft women protesters in New York City (mentioned earlier in this post) is missing a day and month. Can you help us locate an exact date for this protest? In addition, many of these photographs are tagged only to a geographic center of a city rather than the exact location featured in the photo. Do you recognize signs, buildings, or street names in the background that can help us place the photographs more precisely?

After signing up for a free Historypin account, use the “Suggest a better location” and “Suggest and better date” buttons found on the sidebar of each piece content.

3. Are there thematic tags that you feel are missing from these photographs? If you were cataloging these materials, how would you categorize them? Add your own tags!


Add a tag to WWI films and photographs from the US National Archives on Historypin.

This post originally appeared on our sister blog, The Unwritten Record. The Remembering WWI project is made possible in part by an anonymous donor and the National Archives Foundation.

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Adult Citizenship Education Summit at the National Archives

Today’s post comes from Katie Munn, education specialist at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Archives are hosting an adult citizenship education summit on using document learning strategies to teach ESL and civics education!

This event is scheduled for Monday, November 13, 2017, 9 AM to 4 PM at The National Archives in Washington, DC.

This free training is open to adult civics and citizenship educators and is designed to enhance the skills needed to teach U.S. history, civics, and the naturalization process to immigrant students.

Participants will discover how to:

  • Create lessons and activities using documents and primary sources to teach civics and history content.
  • Create lessons and activities using documents and primary sources to teach English language skills and proficiency.
  • Adapt instruction using documents and primary sources to meet the needs of students across English language proficiency levels.
  • Identify and access National Archives online resources for use in classroom instruction.
  • Identify and access USCIS online resources for use in classroom instruction.

Register at: uscis.gov/citizenship/organizations/libraries/training

Registration deadline: November 6, 2017

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Join us at NCSS!

Teachers at the National ArchivesThe 97th National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Annual Conference starts next month in San Francisco.

[Update: the Advise the President clinic previously scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 16th has been canceled]

Please join us for some or all of the following sessions:

Distance Learning Workshop with LIVE Demonstration

Saturday, Nov. 18, 9:15 am to 11:15 am

Distance Learning provides unique opportunities for students to connect to experts and places. Learn about distance learning opportunities for classrooms, professional development, and participate in a LIVE session.

Presented by:

  • Elizabeth Dinschel, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
  • Matt Hall, Internet2
  • Anand Marri & Graham Long, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Kathleen McGuigan, Library of Congress
  • Katie Munn, National Archives in Washington, DC
  • Lynne O’Hara, National History Day
  • Jennifer Rudnick, National Park Service
  • Jenny Sweeney, National Archives at Fort Worth
  • Jeff Urbin, Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Family History, Diversity, and Culture with National Archives Primary Sources

Saturday, Nov. 18, 10:30 am to 11:30 am

Engage students in authentic research to discover family history with primary sources. Tap into diversity found within family histories to understand immigration and diverse cultures. The past comes alive!

Presented by:

  • Missy McNatt, National Archives in Washington, DC
  • Jenny Sweeney, National Archives at Fort Worth

Exhibition Hall Booth 612

And don’t forget to stop by and visit with the Presidential Libraries and National Archives at booth 612!


Golden Gate Bridge

Aerial Photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge Being Constructed in San Francisco, California, 5/19/1936. Available at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/7455640

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Upcoming Webinar: WWI Resources for the Classroom

Join us for the free professional development webinar “WWI Resources for the Classroom: The Remembering WWI App and DocsTeach.org” on October 24, 2017, from 7-8 p.m. ET.

Register today

Remembering WWI App Welcome screenConnect with new resources for teaching WWI during this fun and informative webinar!

Remembering WWI is an app for iPads and Android tablets for exploring, collaborating, and engaging with our extensive collection of WWI photographs and moving images, along with contributions from other organizations and individuals.

App developer Historypin will introduce the app and demonstrate how teachers can navigate thousands of WWI photo and film primary sources from the holdings of the National Archives, and build their own narratives using the core collection-creation feature. Dive into analyzing thematic content within the app and explore how you can use this rich content in the classroom.

Participants are invited to follow along on the Remembering WWI app, but access to the app is not required to participate in the webinar.

We will also highlight additional classroom tools for engaging students with WWI resources through DocsTeach.org.

DocsTeach WWI page

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New Professional Development Webinar Series: Finding Resources Related to Native Americans and Alaska Natives

This year, a new, free professional development webinar series for educators will feature National Archives resources for locating and using Federal records related to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Look for new webinars throughout the year!

Register for one or both of our fall webinars:

What Does it Mean to Remove a People? Resources to Support Your Teaching of American Indian Forced Removals


“Map of Lands Assigned to Indians, Western Territory,” ca. 1834
View on DocsTeach

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Offered twice: 7-8 p.m. or 10-11 p.m. ET

Register today

Join the National Archives and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) with Robert Perry, Chickasaw storyteller.

Many people associate the term “Trail of Tears” with the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from the southeastern U.S. to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). However, there were other forced removals of tribes from the eastern and mid-western United States to various locations across the United States, some of which might have been from (or crossed through) your very own area of the country.

A new online lesson from NMAI provides perspectives from Native American community members, documents, maps, images, and activities to help teach an important and difficult chapter in the history both of Native Nations and the United States. Coupled with U.S. government records from the National Archives, these resources provide a fuller picture of the scope of removal and its impact on Native people. Join us to learn what resources are available so you can incorporate them into your own curriculum. Suitable for secondary grade levels.

Native American Perspectives on the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Honoring Tribal Legacies logoThursday, November 16, 2017
Offered twice: 7-8 p.m. or 10-11 p.m. ET

Register today

Join us for this program presenting details of the Honoring Tribal Legacies Handbook, in conjunction with the University of Oregon and the National Park Service Lewis and Clark Trail. The two-volume handbook and its seven sample Teachings (curriculum units) were designed to teach the Native side of the Lewis and Clark experience using primary sources, stories, songs, theater, video, and classroom experiments. It provides a foundation for designing your own curriculum. Suitable for all grade levels.

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New Professional Development Webinar Series on the Vietnam War

Join the National Archives and Presidential Libraries for a free, two-part webinar series examining U.S. involvement in Vietnam through the lens of government policy. Each webinar will connect educators with primary documents and online resources for teaching the Vietnam War in the classroom.

Register today for one or both webinars in the series.

Registered participants will receive a link via email to join the webinar the week of each program.

Remembering Vietnam: The Road to War

Wednesday, November 1, 2017, 7-8 p.m. ET

President Eisenhower Greets President Diem, 5/8/1957 www.docsteach.org/documents/document/eisenhower-ngo-dinh-diem

Join the National Archives, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum,  Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home, and John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for this special webinar. Explore the Vietnam policy of the United States government through documents from the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations. Practice primary source analysis techniques and learn about resources for bringing Vietnam War documents into your classroom from the National Archives.

Remembering Vietnam: The Road Through War

Wednesday, November 8, 2017, 7-8 p.m. ET

President Lyndon B. Johnson Signing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, 8/10/1964

Join the Center for Legislative Archives, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum for this special webinar. Explore the Vietnam policy of the United States government through documents from the Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations and the United States Congress. Practice primary source analysis techniques and learn about resources for bringing Vietnam War documents into your classroom from the National Archives.

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Picture This – With DocsTeach!

Connect students with historical photos to stimulate creative thinking and writing. Today’s post comes from Ang Reidell, education specialist at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

Girls working on activities

DocsTeach is an amazingly versatile educational tool. I was reminded of that this summer when I had the opportunity to teach a “Girl Power” workshop series for Philadelphia’s Mighty Writers.

The goal of the sessions, for girls ages 8-12, was to tap into participants’ curiosity and imagination, and stimulate creative thinking and writing. I did this by connecting participants with historical photos of girls from the records of the National Archives. And thankfully, there are many photos to choose from, right on DocsTeach!

Each week I led the girls through close examination of the photos from different times and places. Together we would discover more information about the who, what, when, where, how and why of the image. I created writing prompts based on each photo and asked the girls to write in their own voices and imagined “voices of history.” We wrapped-up each session with a connected hands-on activity.

For those of you who are interested in using DocsTeach in this or a similar informal way, here are the historical photos, writing prompts and activities from each week, along with photos of participants from the workshop. (Talk about Girl Power!)

Here’s to remembering the best of Summer 2017!

Week 1

Historical Photo: Girl at March on Washington

Girl with pennant

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Your Voice: Write a letter to this girl, telling her what you thought when you saw her picture
  2. Voices of History: Write a diary entry (or Facebook post) that the girl might have written about her experience.

Activity: Make a pennant that shows something you believe in, like Edith had at the March on Washington.

Week 2

Historical Photo: Immigrant children at Ellis Island

Girl with welcome sign

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Your Voice: What might you want to carry/hold on to (like the girl did with the doll) if you had to move to a new country?
  2. Voices of History: Write a diary entry from the perspective of one of of the girls in the picture.

Activity: Make “welcome” signs in the languages of the immigrants to the United States at the time of the photo and now.

Week 3

Historical Photo: Girls Delivering Ice (World War I)

Girl creating a poster

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Voices of History: Imagine you are one of the girls in the picture. What might you be thinking about while the picture was being taken?
  2. Your Voice: Have you ever been told that you can’t do something simply because you are a girl? What was it? How did being told that make you feel? What happened next?

Activity: Create an inspirational poster for or about girls.

Week 4

Historical Photo: Girls (and others) watching a parade for African-American soldiers, World War I

Girls with bookmarks

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Your Voice: Make a list of words you think of when you look at the photo.
  2. Voices of History: Write a diary entry from the perspective of one of the girls in the picture, talking about how she felt being at the parade.

Activity: Create a bookmark using words we talked about in the discussion.

I’d love to hear your feedback, so I welcome comments at andrea.reidell@nara.gov or below!

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Constitution Day Resources

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The National Archives in Washington, DC, is the permanent home of the original United States Constitution.

Here are a few resources that you can use to talk about the Constitution with your students on Constitution Day or any time.

The Constitution on DocsTeach

Bring the Constitution to LifeHelp your students understand ideas like checks and balances, separation of powers, amendments, the Bill of Rights, slavery and the Constitution, and more through primary sources and online activities on our special Constitution page on DocsTeach.org.

Students can connect primary sources that span the course of American history to the principles found in the Constitution. For example, in “The Constitution at Work” they will match historical documents to specific wording in the Constitution to understand how our government’s actions are guided by this document.

New Constitution Distance Learning Programs

Students in a distance learning programDistance learning programs are free of charge and are offered for 4th-8th grades. A National Archives facilitator will connect with your class for a fun and interactive experience via traditional videoconferencing equipment or through a web-based platform. (Programs must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.)

  • The Constitution at Work: Elementary Edition, for grades 4-5
  • The Constitution at Work: Middle School Edition, for grades 6-8

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook

You and your students can explore how the First Congress proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789 in “Congress Creates the Bill of Rights.” This package, including eBook, mobile app for tablets, and online teaching resources, shows how the ratification of the Constitution necessitated the creation of the Bill of Rights, and how the creation of the Bill of Rights, in turn, completed the Constitution.

Constitution eBook and iTunes U Course

Learn about the Constitutional Convention, drafting and ratifying the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the three branches of our Federal government, and how the National Archives is preserving our Constitution in a Constitution course on iTunes U. Or read “Exploring the United States Constitution,” an eBook that explores the Constitutional roots of the three branches of our government while featuring connections to historical documents in the holdings of the National Archives.

The Original Constitution at the National Archives Museum

Inside the Rotunda for the Charters of FreedomAnyone can visit the Constitution in person at the National Archives. And online visitors can learn about the creation and history of the Constitution.

The Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab

Kids at Computer in the Constitution in Action Learning LabYou can plan a trip to the National Archives in Washington, DC, to participate in a Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab. School groups, families, and other groups of civic-minded individuals can take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action.

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You’re Invited to Our Annual Educators Open House!


Download the Flyer (PDF)

Update: This PDF packet (5.5 MB) includes handouts from the open house, in case you weren’t able to join us or would like them electronically.

Announcing the fourth annual Educators Open House at the National Archives! You and your colleagues are invited to explore the National Archives and learn about our classroom resources for educators and students.

Thursday, September 21, 2017
5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
National Archives Museum, Washington, DC

Registration is appreciated.

Join National Archives education specialists for a night of fun and learning about our education resources. Our specialists will be available all night to chat, answer questions, and give suggestions for using primary source documents in your school and classroom. In addition, explore our learning labs and hear more about our distance learning programs and DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

Be sure not to miss a special keynote presentation at 7 p.m. by Anne Harrington from WETA. She will discuss educational material accompanying Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s new documentary, The Vietnam War.

Learn about our many teaching resources, including:

You’ll be welcome to visit our exhibitions, including Records of Rights, the Public Vaults, and the Rotunda, which houses the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be provided. Educators will receive a 10% discount in the Archives Store.

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