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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 34.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Encompassing History Of Vietnam War Excellent complete coverage of all aspects of US / Vietnam interaction over decades. Well delivered and I had to constrain myself to 1 lecture per day, just to draw out the experience.
Date published: 2023-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Objective: Facts without the agenda I am 70 years old. My Dad was an F-105 pilot flying out of Takhli, Thailand from 1965 until July 1966 when he was killed. In all these years I have rarely if ever heard conversations or even comments about Vietnam that did not come with an “agenda” attached. It was with great pleasure and relief that after the first couple of lectures I understood I was getting a factual history of the Vietnam War and not a “reeducation.” This course was a breath of fresh air. Dr McManus did a wonderful job of being objective. He told me things I wanted to hear and also things I didn’t. His last lecture and his comment about the US “losing the war but winning the peace” was especially poignant. I want to thank Dr McManus for giving me a historical context and a broader understanding of a topic which has always been somewhat of an open wound for me. The word closure has become overused and diluted but I can’t really think of a better one in this case. Now for my agenda. Dr McManus makes the point that ultimately wars are won by the political will of the people. My own point is that wars are “made” by a civilian government, and fought by the soldiers. I believe it is a crime when wars are started by the government (of the people) which later pulls the rug out from beneath the soldiers who are dying for that cause.
Date published: 2023-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course filled in the blanks for me. I graduated college in 1971 and this war was a big factor in my life at the time. I knew so little of what was going on and why we were involved. This event was a life-changer for me. I’ll never forget that era. A well presented course, in my view. So sad that we were involved in this whole mess.
Date published: 2023-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fair and balanced course First off, I would like to thank those who served in Nam for their comments. Their positive reviews supported my own. Having had friends killed during the war I have always had a hard time with the subject. I "avoided" the draft by drawing a high number. Looking back on it, I have been torn as to whether I should have volunteered. This course answered that question for me. I am very grateful for those who served and especially those who gave their lives during the war. But to fully understand for the first time the incredible duplicity behind, among other things, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, I am even more saddened that so many lives (American and Vietnamese) were lost in a war that didn't need to happen. The final lecture was wonderful: We lost the war but won the peace. I fully recommend this course.
Date published: 2023-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough and Balanced - Outstanding Course! Prof. McManus does a fantastic job of presenting a complicated, divisive period of our country's history through 24 thorough, balanced, fact-based lectures. He presents these lectures in a staccato, Joe Friday, just the facts ma'am fashion, accompanied by extensive photographs, videos, and maps, all of which combine to elevate this course to the top tier of the nearly 180 TGC courses I have taken. A truly outstanding presentation. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2023-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Rare Balanced Look at Vietnam War First let me say that I own about 80 Great Courses DVD, mostly history. Most of those courses have been very good but, this one is the single best course I have taken. I am a Vietnam veteran and a college graduate with a major in history. This is the first time I have seen the Vietnam War dealt with by an academic in a fair and balanced fashion. Most academics want to deal with modern history by repeating the talking points of the main stream media. Professor McManus delves into the actual events, history, and evidence of what happened in Vietnam, good and bad. He presents the war in the context of the Cold War and the Free World's concern with the spread of communism following WWII. He presents this in juxtaposition to the still prevalent notion of American imperialism. The listener is allowed to form his own opinion. He talks about the origins and prosecution of the war and President Kennedy is not given a pass. (Nor are Johnson or Nixon). He acknowledges that the various governments of South Vietnam were not perfect but he also shines a revealing light on the brutality of the government of the North. He points out that their were differences between the people of the north and south, that most people in the south had no desire to be communist, that the ARVN fought well for the most part, that most American soldiers served honorably in Vietnam, and much more. Very importantly he does not gloss over the desperate attempts of tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of Vietnamese to escape Vietnam after the communism take over. I have two younger friends who teach history on the college level. I know what they teach. I hope I can convince them to watch this course. If I could give this course 10 stars I would, why not **********.
Date published: 2023-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vietnam Vet 67-68 Enjoyed the macro view of a part of history that I lived firsthand. Overall approach was balanced, fair to all viewpoints, and an excellent primer for that era of our history. I was a combat medic with the 101st Div., in the field during the Tet Offensive of 1968. Thank you for the details on every day life as a grunt, as it was very bit as tough as you portrayed. A minor, but important omission regarding field medical treatment: we invariably administered IVs to the wounded, often while under direct enemy fire, before their evacuation. You are correct that bleeding out was our primary concern. Also we routinely treated the troops for common ailments to keep them healthy in the field. Yes, they protected us as best they could. No: our pack loads were as heavy as the average grunt: medical supplies and ammo. I carried a weapon.
Date published: 2023-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important for me I have been waiting for this course from the Great courses. It is personal for me; my brother was a Navy Medical Corpsman with the Marines in Viet Nam in 1968. He told me of his experiences, but I never understood the history or the scope of the Viet Nam war until I watched this course.
Date published: 2022-12-31
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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