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The Vietnam War

Explore the losses and legacies of the war in Vietnam.
The Vietnam War is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 53.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding lectures I am a Vietnam veteran having spent 15 months in country. I thought I knew a lot about the history of Vietnam but what I knew only scratched the surface. This course taught me much more. I have listened to well over 100 courses and I have to say this was the best one of all.
Date published: 2024-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extraordinary and Unforgettable Wow - just wow. This is a fascinating, penetrating, and unforgettable account of the Vietnam War (as we in America call it). Lecturer McManus delivers a genuinely masterful review of historical details and a moving and engaging analysis of events. He always sees the “big picture” while offering illuminating details about individual actors, including the “everyman” (and “everywoman”). He apparently is reading prepared text, but does so in an engaging and captivating manner. There is not a single “um” or “ah” (which don’t bother me anyway, but seem to trouble some listeners.) The visuals were quite helpful, but not critical to having a truly remarkable experience if you choose to listen. I came to this course with a decent understanding of the Vietnam War - but this course was nothing less than mind expanding and transformative. Notwithstanding the inescapably heartbreaking dimension to this chapter iof World History, I can affirm I absolutely loved this course.
Date published: 2024-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Worth It What more could be said about the Vietnam War? I had no intention of buying this course until I listened to the free lecture on the air war. It was so impressive I quickly bought the entire course. Careful selection of detail, a continuous and cohesive narrative updated with information that has become available since the war's end, and above all balanced and thorough analyses of deeply divisive and disputed issues results in a remarkable product. Professor McManus' calm and deliberate speaking style illustrates the many tragedies of the war in a way that a more emotional style would miss. I've been a Great Courses customer for almost 25 years, and this is one its best and most satisfying courses.
Date published: 2024-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling Course I found Professor McManus's content and presentation to be thorough, informative, and most importantly, objective. The Vietnam War is a contentious topic. Professor McManus addressed it with grace, objectivity, and sensitivity. I am a Vietnam Era Veteran, having served in the United States Army 1971-1974. I did not serve in Vietnam. I was in college 1967-1971 when many of the contentious issues discussed in the lecture occurred. It was a moving experience to revisit those times through this compelling course.
Date published: 2024-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Objective, Insightful, & Revealing I was in my 20s in the '60s and, in fact, was drafted in 1966. Fortunately for me, my poor eyesight earned me a "4F" and thus I was not called into service. Many of my buddies, however, were. As a seminal force in my young life this war -- its memories, consequences, and apparent "meanings" -- has remained with me for the rest of my years. I am now 80, and I record -- with gratitude -- that this course CHANGED some of what I thought were "settled facts"! For instance, since that war I have thought that the US badly misread what I believed to be a purely nationalist drive for self-determination, albeit one with Communist garb. This course revealed to me how what had originally been a nationalist cause had been captured by some rather ruthless Communists determined to bring all of Vietnam under Communist control whatever the cost. It also laid out how vicious were the tactics embraced by the North in its several decades fight to dominate all of Vietnam, in large measure now known because of the backbreaking historical work performed by countless scholars in the 50 years since the war finally ended. Another irony of which I was not aware until this course: It was precisely in the late '60s -- when anti-war sentiment in the US was reaching its greatest impact and demands on the White House to end the war loudest -- that the combined efforts of the US and the much-improved South Vietnamese army actually had a chance to succeed! I did not know this at the time, and I wonder how this information -- had it been known then -- might have influenced the homefront. I cannot praise the lecturer Professor McManus enough for his balanced, sensitive, and very deep history of this war and its suffering people! This represents the finest in the history profession, and I thank him and the Teaching Company for it. Especially in the final lectures of the course I found myself returning to the oldest of questions regarding this war: Should the US have become involved, or not? Did the South Vietnamese -- and the many North Vietnamese who fled south after the conclusion of the French-Vietnamese phase of the war had ended -- not deserve their growing determination to resist communist control? How does one begin to weigh any feelings of "needing to help" against the tremendous human cost of that war? And now, 50 years later, when Vietnam and the US are on friendly terms, how the heck do we assess that conflict, including our role, all these years later? Could the outcome we know today have been achieved without the hundreds of thousands killed? I finished the course wiser, but hurting still. And missing the 58,000 plus Americans who lost their lives in that conflict for a cause that many of them believed was just. I have stood silent before the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. and as I contemplate this cause and its many lessons it looms large before me in my mind yet again. I used to ask "When will we ever learn?" And this course has made it clear that an accompanying question should also be, "And what is it that we must learn?" Highly recommended!!!!
Date published: 2024-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Vietnam War I was drafted in 1967 and served in the 25th Division in Vietnam from July 67 to July 68. Initially I was a rifleman in the infantry based in Dau Tieng Vietnam. I was focused on my immediate responsibilities and getting home in one piece with little knowledge of the political issues or actual history that led us there or why it took so long to realize the futility of the effort. So now almost 55 years later I feel I have a much more complete understanding of the whole picture. Thank you for such a complete and well presented course. Shane Gorman
Date published: 2024-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well done As a Vietnam Veteran serving 2 terms in Vietnam I discovered much that I did not know. The Professor tells a great story and history of the war w/o really judging anyone. Good Photos also. Well done.
Date published: 2024-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learned a lot This was a very well done series. Having graduated high school in 1970, I went immediately to college for the deferment. I later marched against the war, multiple times. With that history and having several friends that served over there, I was very interested in this subject. I learned many things I did not know. For example, I really knew little about the internal politics of either North or South Vietnam. I knew a large number of Americans had died in the conflict, but the number of Vietnamese - on both sides - that died was mind boggling. And some of machinations that went on with internal US policy regarding this war was in the long run so wrong headed. My only gripe with the series is the first episode. He talked about several different individuals, I believe in an attempt to personalize the war. I just found it tedious. With the 20 20 hindsight of looking back, it is amazing how we just backed into this conflict and refused to recognize the futility of it all. The professor did seem a little awed (maybe too strong a word) with the North Vietnamese and their ingenuity in waging a war against a country such as the USA. Man's inhumanity to man, is so depressing at times. If you are interested in the history of this conflict, this is superlative source to learn about it.
Date published: 2023-12-03
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Dive into one of the 20th century’s most consequential wars in The Vietnam War, with expert John C. McManus. In just 24 lectures, reconstruct the battle for Vietnam from the fall of French Indochina to reunification in the 1970s. Analyze a broad range of military operations and strategies utilized throughout the conflict. Survey the scope of American involvement in Vietnam alongside the politics of war back home. Explore the American anti-war movement. And dive into the human dimensions of war and its impact of the individuals involved in or touched by the fighting.


John C. McManus

Yesterday's lessons are tomorrow's courses of action.


Missouri University of Science and Technology

John C. McManus is the Curators’ Distinguished Professor of US Military History at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. He earned a PhD in History from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is a specialist in modern American military history, focusing on World War II through the present and emphasizing ground combat soldiers. He is the author of 14 books on military history, including Fire and Fortitude, which won the Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History. He also hosts Someone Talked!, a podcast on military affairs.

By This Professor

The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War


A Half-Century Cataclysm

01: A Half-Century Cataclysm

The war in Vietnam was a human tragedy that wreaked havoc on its participants and witnesses. In the course’s inaugural lecture, examine the conflict from the bottom-up by exploring a constellation of people intimately connected to the fighting, and zero in on what war could reveal about the human condition.

29 min
French Indochina and the Viet Minh

02: French Indochina and the Viet Minh

Survey the economic exploitation and repression that came to define Vietnam in the 19th and early 20th centuries. See how the Vietnamese, including the famed communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, resisted their occupiers with help from the United States. And learn about the tense political situation that emerged in Vietnam following World War II.

30 min
Dien Bien Phu and Vietnam Divided, 1953–1959

03: Dien Bien Phu and Vietnam Divided, 1953–1959

Examine mid-century Vietnam from the First Indochina War to the October 1955 referendum. Reconstruct the Battle of Dien Bien Phu from both French and Vietnamese perspectives. Study how the international community reckoned with a newly divided Vietnam. And survey the emergent political landscape in North and South Vietnam.

28 min
Five Leaders Who Defined the Vietnam War

04: Five Leaders Who Defined the Vietnam War

Explore the makings of war in Vietnam through five major players, starting with Vietnamese leaders Ho Chi Minh and Le Duan in the north and Ngo Dinh Diem in the south. Then, travel across the world to see how two successive US presidents viewed and experienced the escalating conflict.

29 min
The Rise of the Viet Cong, 1959–1962

05: The Rise of the Viet Cong, 1959–1962

Why did the northern Vietnamese government decide to wage guerilla war in the south, and how did its adversaries respond? What was the Viet Cong and what role did it play in the conflict? And how did the United States contend with escalating tensions in Vietnam?

27 min
South Vietnam in Crisis, 1963

06: South Vietnam in Crisis, 1963

In 1963, South Vietnam careened toward crisis. Dig into the ARVN’s deficiencies from lackluster military commanders to political legitimacy. Investigate the religious tensions that plagued South Vietnam and its leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. And explore the contentious relationship between US leadership and Diem’s government.

28 min
The Gulf of Tonkin and a Crossroads, 1964

07: The Gulf of Tonkin and a Crossroads, 1964

From the Gulf of Tonkin incident to Rolling Thunder, explore the ways in which escalating tensions on the ground in Vietnam and domestic political considerations in the United States led to more costly confrontations on the Indochinese Peninsula. Examine how the specter of communism in neighboring Indonesia shaped calculations made by the United States.

28 min
The Vietnam War in the Skies

08: The Vietnam War in the Skies

While the United States boasted an impressive air force, its air campaign struggled when confronted by VC forces. Here, investigate the specifics of America’s air campaign throughout the Johnson administration, as well as the roles played by China and the USSR in helping North Vietnam circumvent American aggression in the skies.

28 min
America Goes All In, 1965

09: America Goes All In, 1965

America, terrified by the prospect of losing South Vietnam in the global struggle against communism, dove headfirst into war in 1965. What were the forces at play—politically, militarily, even interpersonally—that led to such a consequential decision? And how did the Unites States plan to fight a conventional war in Vietnam?

30 min
The World of the American Combat Soldier

10: The World of the American Combat Soldier

Spend some time with the Vietnam War’s often overlooked but incredibly important participants: combat soldiers. Construct a thorough portrait of a typical American grunt from his daily routine in wartime to where he stood in the greater military hierarchy and see how ordinary soldiers weathered brutal combat over the course of a typical 12-month tour.

26 min
The World of the Vietnamese Combat Soldier

11: The World of the Vietnamese Combat Soldier

How did Vietnamese combat soldiers in both the North and South think about and experience war? Follow Vietnamese military recruits from initial enlistment to guerilla combat in the tunnels of South Vietnam and see how the VC and ARVN operated at a granular level.

29 min
Guns, Gear, and Food in the Vietnam War

12: Guns, Gear, and Food in the Vietnam War

From garments to guns, what kinds of tools did soldiers in Vietnam have available to them? Did the VC and United States differ in the types of gadgets and technologies they gave their combat soldiers? And how did soldiers on both sides manage to feed themselves in the deep and winding jungles of Vietnam?

27 min
False Optimism, Failing Strategies, 1966–1967

13: False Optimism, Failing Strategies, 1966–1967

Zoom outward to take stock of the overall situation in Vietnam between 1966 and 1967. See where fighting was fiercest from the DMZ to Hill 875. Examine how the United States approached battle through a series of expansive operations. And take stock of how leaders from President Johnson to North Vietnam’s Le Duan felt about the war, at that point.

28 min
How to Fight an Asymmetric War

14: How to Fight an Asymmetric War

How does one fight and ultimately win an asymmetrical war? And what exactly is an asymmetrical war, anyway? Tactics: Learn about the military strategies deployed by the North Vietnamese army. Examine the ways in which the strategies differed from US approaches and investigate how America and the ARVN responded to them.

28 min
The Tet Offensive, 1968

15: The Tet Offensive, 1968

Perhaps one of the most consequential campaigns in the entire Vietnam War was the so-called Tet Offensive in 1968. Dive into this extraordinary communist attack. What happened? Who was involved? To what extent did it fail militarily? And how did this meticulously planned and highly coordinated siege change the course of the war?

28 min
America in Turmoil, 1968

16: America in Turmoil, 1968

The year 1968 was difficult for ordinary Americans—not just in terms of Vietnam. Survey the tense domestic political landscape in the United States, with special focus on President Johnson. Explore why peace negotiations to end the war in Vietnam ultimately failed. And dive into the 1968 presidential election.

28 min
Race, Culture, and Women in the Vietnam War

17: Race, Culture, and Women in the Vietnam War

The 1960s and 1970s were socially and culturally transformative. Explore the ways in which war in Vietnam exposed racial and gender inequities within the United States, fueling a series of movements for not only equal rights but also peace, and examine how the US presence in Vietnam altered the social and cultural landscape there, as well.

31 min
The Antiwar Movement in America

18: The Antiwar Movement in America

Disapproval of the war in Vietnam coalesced into a powerful, if ultimately diffuse and incohesive, movement. But who were the personalities and groups behind the struggle? What sort of protest tactics did the more militant anti-war groups deploy? And did such profound anti-war sentiment impact the scale and scope of fighting at all?

29 min
Nixon and Vietnamization, 1969

19: Nixon and Vietnamization, 1969

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, America pursued a new strategy in Vietnam, hoping to reform the South from within. Examine the imperfect but steady democratization of South Vietnam. Define and evaluate Richard Nixon’s policy of “Vietnamization.” And explore the events and decisions that led up to the bombing of Cambodia.

29 min
The Race against Time, 1970

20: The Race against Time, 1970

In 1970, the United States found itself in a difficult position. Still, a North Vietnam victory was by no means inevitable. Evaluate the allied position in the war at the start of the 1970s, from the surprising strength of South Vietnam to the invasion of Cambodia, and see how anti-war advocates tempered US involvement.

26 min
America Pulls Back, the North Strikes, 1971–1972

21: America Pulls Back, the North Strikes, 1971–1972

After Cambodia, the burden of combat fell to the AVRN, while morale among US troops hit an all-time low. Reconstruct the Lam Son 719 operation in Laos and the Easter Offensive. Survey the problems that plagued US servicemen in Vietnam. And dive into bombshell investigations like Winter Soldier and the Pentagon Papers.

29 min
The Bitter End, 1972–1975

22: The Bitter End, 1972–1975

Nixon knew by 1972 that US involvement in Vietnam had to end. But how it would end, and exactly when, was up for debate. Evaluate national security advisor Henry Kissinger’s role in procuring a ceasefire in Vietnam. Explore the lead up to the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. And track the fall of South Vietnam to the communists.

29 min
Vietnam’s Casualties, Prisoners, and MIA

23: Vietnam’s Casualties, Prisoners, and MIA

With the dust of war settled, how many ultimately died or went missing in Vietnam? Investigate the human consequences of the conflict from POWs to casualties, evaluating the effectiveness of allied and NVA hospitals in treating wounded soldiers along with the treatment of prisoners in Vietnamese camps.

29 min
Vietnam Becomes a Country, Not Just a War

24: Vietnam Becomes a Country, Not Just a War

Survey the post-war issues while the United States attempted to recover from war, tracking the initial alienation of Vietnam vets in America to their acceptance in mainstream America. Conclude by focusing on post-war Vietnam. What happened to the South and her people? And what did normalized relations between the United States and Vietnam look like?

32 min