In this module, students will examine the impacts of the escalation of the Vietnam War through the lens of the men and women who served in the military between 1965 and 1968. They will analyze accounts from Maryland veterans, cartoonist Herblock, and the award-winning author and veteran Tim O’Brien.


Escalation: 1965-1968

Essential Question

How did escalation impact the men and women who served in the Vietnam conflict between 1965 and 1968?


  • 5.D.1.e. Objective: Examine the causes and escalation of United States involvement in the Vietnam War, including the domino theory and the Tonkin Gulf resolution.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1 : Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information. (Grades 9/10)
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7 : Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem. (Grades 11/12)
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8 : Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information. (Grades 11/12)
  • D2.His.1.9-12: Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by the unique circumstances of the time and place, as well as by broader historical contexts.
  • D2.His.4.9-12: Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspective of people during different historical eras.
  • 8.1 The United States responded to an uncertain and unstable post-war world by asserting and working to maintain a position of global leadership, with far-reaching domestic and international consequences.
    1. United States policymakers engaged in the Cold War with the authoritarian Soviet Union, seeking to limit the growth of communist military power and ideological influence, create a free-market global economy, and build an international security system.
      1. Post-war decolonization and the emergence of a powerful nationalist movement in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East led both sides in the cold war to seek allies among new nations, many of which remained nonaligned.
    2. Cold War policies led to public debates over the power of the federal government and acceptable means of pursuing international and domestic goals while protecting civil liberties.
      1. Americans debated policies and methods designed to expose suspected communists within the United States even as both parties supported the broader strategy of containing communism.

Tips for using this module in your classroom


Documentary Clip

As students watch the film clip, have them respond to the following prompt:

  • List the various challenges that soldiers faced as the United States escalated involvement in the Vietnam conflict. Consider the following challenges:
    • physical
    • psychological
    • cultural
    • geographic

Interview transcripts: Warner Sumpter, Xuan Pham, Dan Mitchell, Nate Howard Sr., Mike Yaggy

Close Reading Primary Source Analysis

Examine the following Herblock cartoon, “The other ascent into the unknown .”
  • What textual clues help us understand the message?
  • What is the message of the political cartoon?
  • What challenges does the author believe the United States will face in the Vietnam conflict?
Select one or more appropriate text passages from the award-winning book, The Things They Carried , by Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien.
  • Instruct students to annotate the various physical, emotional, cultural, and geographic challenges that soldiers faced as the United States escalated involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
  • When debriefing with students, ask: “Do the contentions made by Tim O’Brien support, refute, or extend the contentions made by the veterans in the documentary?”
  • The passages should be an appropriate length for the grade level. Using more text passages will allow for a greater range of experiences and challenges faced by soldiers.