The Vietnam War

"We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops...We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men." (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Five famous photographs from the Vietnam War include:
1.) A Buddhist monk sitting at a Saigon intersection immolating himself to protest the South Vietnamese government.
2.) The little girl running naked down Highway I, fleeing a napalm attack
3.) The national police chief executing a terrified man, a member of the Vietcong, with a pistol shot to the side of his head
4.) The bodies in the ditch after the My Lai massacre
5.) Americans evacuating from a Saigon rooftop by helicopter while desperate Vietnamese try to climb aboard.

These famous photographs illustrate the destructiveness of the war. All of which have not been published in student textbooks.
Many students have never been exposed to these photographs which illustrate the atrocities of the Vietnam War.
Have you seen all five famous photographs? Do you think these photographs are too graphic for students to see?


American involvement in the war took place from 1965 to 1973. To recall the above photographs, Americans must be well over forty years. "Young people have little chance to see or recall these images unless their history books provide them.” And YET, student textbooks have silenced the Vietnam War, offering little to no information for students concerning this historical war. The little information that has been given to students in their history textbooks fails to show any damage done by our [American] side. For example, atrocities committed by the U.S. such as the My Lai massacre, which was the mass murder of unarmed civilians in South Vietnam by the U.S. army, are touched upon briefly and justified in student textbooks:

“Because some of the enemy lived amidst the civilian population, it was difficult for U.S. troops to discern friend from foe. A woman selling soft drinks to U.S. soldiers might be a Vietcong spy. A boy standing on the corner might be ready to throw a grenade” --The Americans

Questions to consider:
Why do history textbooks dodge the realities of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War?
Why are students placed at a historical disadvantage in the classroom?
As teachers, how should we approach the silencing of historically significant issues in textbooks?

These are questions to consider when instruction in the classroom cheats students out of knowledge and exposure to historical events. Despite the atrocities that history has spun in its path, students have a right to know, even if certain events illustrate an unpleasant picture of the past. Why should today’s future be left out of our nation’s past?