How will these resources help you?

These resources will help you to teach Vietnamese perspectives on the American War in Vietnam. UK history curricula focus on US perspectives on the war, as do many books and other resources. Opposition to the war in the USA and the West is covered, but few materials explain the war from the North and South Vietnamese viewpoints. 

Note: Before teaching this topic, check in with any students who have been in a war zone and be aware of their sensitivities. 

Introduction to different perspectives

Living through the Vietnam War

by Cath Senker, published by Raintree, (2013), 9781406234978

This concise title, targeted at readers aged 11–16, provides basic facts about the war and will help prepare students to learn about this topic. It introduces a range of perspectives: US opinions for and against the conflict and South and North Vietnamese viewpoints. The book includes a section on Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War, a novel published by a North Vietnamese war veteran. It also covers the aftermath of the war and its impact on Vietnam.  You could ask students to share in small groups what they know about Vietnam, perhaps from the media or popular films, and to compare their ideas with the viewpoints in these resources. Use sections of this book in class with students to identify contrasting viewpoints. 

Vietnamese perspectives

Vietnam War - The Vietnamese Perspective: The Face of the Enemy

by Erik Pauser, published by YouTube, (2009)

This documentary tells the story of the Vietnamese people who fought in the war in their own words. Some veterans and their families are talking for the first time about the experiences that transformed and changed their lives. The film features North and South Vietnamese people, giving equal attention to men’s and women’s experiences. Interviewees talk about the country’s political division, how friends and family died and the aftermath of war. You could choose short excerpts from this hour-long film to introduce Vietnamese perspectives. In the first 10 minutes, for example, there is footage of Vietnam today; a description of stereotypes of the country dating from the war; images showing the shock of a huge helicopter landing; and young men and women saying why they joined the army to fight the USA.

Vietnam war photos - a photo essay

‘Who is the Enemy Here?’ - The Vietnam War pictures that moved them most

by Lily Roth and Alice Gabriner (edited by), published by Time USA, (2023)

Photographers who worked during the war in Vietnam each select their most striking image, either famous or forgotten, and explain why it moved them. The photos show US soldiers and Vietnamese people in battle or other interactions. You could use the images to spark a discussion on the nature of the interactions between US soldiers and Vietnamese people. 

Note: Some of the images are extremely disturbing, so make sure to select only those that will be appropriate for your students to view.  

Photos had a huge impact on how people around the world saw the war in Vietnam. You could also use famous photos as a primary source to discuss how they might have affected viewers and their perceptions of the war. 

Impacts of the war

Lasting impacts of the Vietnam War

by This World, published by BBC Two, (2014)

This video clip (approximately six minutes long) explains the impact of the 1968 Battle of Khe Sang in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese attacked the US air base at Khe Sanh, killing around 500 Americans. In retaliation, the US Army dropped 100,000 tons of bombs on the North Vietnamese position, killing approximately 10,000 Vietnamese people. Today, 83 per cent of the land has unexploded ordnance, but local farmers still work in the fields to eke out a living despite the risks of unexploded bombs. 

Note: This clip contains footage of a person living with the result of a severe injury from a landmine. 

You could use this clip as a basis for discussion of the consequences of conflict for future generations. You could compare the consequences of the war in Vietnam with those of other conflicts studied for GCSE. 

Further materials

Vietnam: A History of the War by Russell Freedman, published by Holiday House, (2019), 9780823442744 Find this book
A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath by Truong Nhu Tang, published by Vintage, (1986), 9780394743097 Find this book
In the Jaws of History by Bui Diem and David Chanoff, published by Indiana University Press, (1999), 9780253213013 Find this book
Cath Senker is a history graduate and non-fiction writer specialising in history titles. She is the author of several books about racism, migration and refugees, including the award-winning Far from home: refugees fleeing war, persecution and poverty (Franklin Watts, 2019). Cath teaches ESOL to vulnerable migrants and refugees on a voluntary basis. She is currently working on new book, which reflects the diversity of the UK’s population, called A Very Peculiar History: Great Britons.

Text © Cath Senker, 2020, 2023