The Invasion of Cambodia and Laos

Although Nixon promised an honorable peace to the war in Vietnam during the 1968 presidential campaign, the drawdown of American troops proved to be more difficult than he anticipated. As the Nixon administration pursued peace talks, the weakened Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces were still able to launch attacks on U.S. forces throughout the region. This was in part because the North Vietnamese could launch attacks and regroup from the jungles of neighboring nations. As a result, the president ordered the invasion of both Cambodia and Laos.


The Invasion of Cambodia and Laos

Essential Question

Was the invasion of Laos and Cambodia legal and justified?


  • 5.E.1.c. Objective: Evaluate the effectiveness of the media on shaping public opinion about the Vietnam War and the invasions of Cambodia and Laos.
  • 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.11-12.2 : Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas. (Grades 11/12)
  • 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 postwar 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 communist 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 record notes on:

  • What were the challenges in winding down the war in Vietnam?
  • How did the delayed peace impact American soldiers?

Interview transcripts: Mike Cronin, Chip Seymour, Jim Warner

Close Reading Primary Source Analysis

Conduct a close read of President Nixon’s news conference from April 30, 1970 . Ask students:
  • What reasons does the author give to justify American intervention in Cambodia? Cite at least THREE pieces of textual evidence.
  • Why is the point of view of the author important to consider in this source?
  • What may be the author’s purpose in having this news conference?
Examine the article, “Students Strike Against war in Cambodia ,” published in The Harvard Crimson on May 4, 1970.
  • What was occurring on Harvard’s campus and other campuses nationwide?
  • How is the campus unrest related to the Cambodian invasion?
Examine the New York Times article from May 4, 1970 .
  • What happened at Kent State University on that day?
  • How do the events at Kent State relate to the invasion of Cambodian?