HISTORY & MEMORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR

Method 2: Commenting on 2 documents

Stage 1: introduction - Presenting the documents
Similarities: These documents both about US in Vietnam 1965-1973 (1975) a US Cold War (dates) quagmire.
Differences: Photo by a journalist, a live witness focuses on South Vietnam at the time of the Vietnam war whereas later and more general reflection by a historian on US regional strategy at the time of the Cold War.
Announce structure: In a first part, I will show thanks to the photograph that but in a second part I’ll focus on with the text.

Stage 2: Analysing the documents

DESCRIBE THE DOCS - What you see
Structured and detailed description
INTERPRET THE DOCS - What you know
Add & structure definitions of key notions
1. An orthodox view (photo)

Foreground
On the left, a South Vietnamese soldier fully armed and uniformed is looking at the 2 main characters:
in the centre, the chef of police, seen from the side, with extended arm holding a gun and shooting point blank at the man he is looking at on the right: a Vietcong prisoner hands tied behind his back (probably attached) in a chequered shirt (so without any uniform)
Background
Large & deserted street, no civilians (afraid?)
Note: the shooting took place in the open and what's more in front of 2 US media representatives: Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams and a cameraman from NBC News TV = no shame at all, no feeling of wrong doing

South Vietnam: wrong ally
Because summary execution, arbitrary justice: not democratic, no rule of law (def), contrary to US model (def)
=> orthodox view (def)

Vietcong deressed like a civilian so impossible to identify as a soldier: communist South Vietnamese guerrilla => asymmetric warfare

 

 


2. A revisionist point of view (text)
P1 Vietnam in the CW
Indochina -> Vietnam, a pawn between USA and USSR + between the USSR & China at the time of the CW
P2 US Cold War policy in Asia
- started by Truman
- consisted in global containment to prevent countries from turning communist through limited wars
=> Vietnam & Korea wars expected
Taiwan war didn’t happen: unexpected

Cold War (def): 1 com bloc in a bipolar world led by 2 superpowers (def)

Truman Doctrine (def) + domino theory (def) & proxy war (def) in:
- Korea (1950-53): what happened briefly
- Vietnam (1965-1973/75): the facts briefly
+ nationalist Taiwan versus communist China
+ book title
=> revisionist view(def)

Stage 3: Concluding
Assess docs (reliable/biased justified): Both docs are reliable (full references) but biased (US points of view), globally balanced.
Sum-up ideas: To recap, both docs show how the Vietnam War divided US public opinion during and after the events. + Nuance/opening Indeed the Vietnam syndrome influenced US domestic and foreign policy until the Trump presidency.