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The Enduring Vision, Fifth Edition
Paul S. Boyer, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Clifford E. Clark, Jr., Carleton College
et al.
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Chapter 29: A Troubled Journey: From Port Huron to WatergateA Time of Upheaval, 1968-1974

The American History Slide Collection has in its Section R, Movements and Protests, a dozen or so slides of interest. It is in feature films, however, that much material is to be found that deals with how the world of the 1960s was changing, particularly for the young. In 1967 Mike Nichols directed The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. It is a hilarious comedy about a recent college graduate in southern California who is pressed by his parents to join the business world and get his life going. The hero and his girl were seen at the time as defying the conventions, and the film was enormously popular with younger audiences especially. In 1970 Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen starred in Getting Straight, a fine comedy about a returned Vietnam vet who teaches at a small college and gets caught up in campus riots. The film's style seems very much a part of the ambiance of the time rather than maintaining an objective distance. For that reason the film now seems a bit dated, and as an instructional device, it is therefore perhaps especially valuable. Still another campus-protest film of some interest is The Strawberry Statement (1970). Another motion picture that had great impact and wide popularity at the time of its showing but that has since taken on an aura of another time and place is Easy Rider (1969). The film stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper and was directed by the latter. The Fonda character, called Mr. America because of the stars and stripes on his motorcycle, and his pal are long-haired hippies. They are traveling slowly to New Orleans, often in a doped-up haze, to see Mardi Gras. They visit a commune and spend a brief time in jail before heading home, only to be murdered by a couple of local types riding in a pickup truck. The combination of self-indulgent romanticism and rejection of standards no longer deemed applicable makes Easy Rider an unusual achievement if not a conventionally satisfying movie. Another aspect of the 1960s was captured in a film made in 1969 by Haskell Wexler, Medium Cool. It is an engaging story about a news cameraman from a Chicago television station whose personal life gets mixed up in the dramatic events surrounding the 1968 Democratic convention in that city. That tense moment in American history is caught well and forcefully.

There is a wealth of material dealing with the Vietnam War. Time-Life Video has an eighty-seven-minute tape of news footage combined with the words of soldiers themselves in Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. Britannica Films presents a thirty-two-minute historical piece, Vietnam Perspective. NBC offers Vietnam: Lessons of a Lost War (fifty minutes), and CBS presents Vietnam: Chronicle of a War (eighty-eight minutes). Films for the Humanities and Sciences offers a twenty-eight-minute summary, The Vietnam War, that traces events beginning in 1941. The Bloods of 'Nam--a one-hour video presentation from PBS based on Wallace Terry, Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (1984)--tells of the African-American soldiers who fought in that conflict. Emphasis on what happened to these soldiers there and afterwards at home is presented in Vietnam--The Dream Shot Down: In the Land of Jim Crow (twenty-three minutes) from Zenger Media, P.O. Box 802, Culver City, Calif. 90232. From the same source comes Choosing Sides (ninety-four minutes). It is offered in two segments, "I Remember Vietnam" and "The War at Home." The recollections of five women who served in Vietnam are presented in Not on the Frontline, a half-hour PBS video. The Anderson Platoon is a sixty-five-minute documentary made from footage taken during six weeks with an actual platoon in Vietnam in 1966. In a giant undertaking, PBS produced Vietnam: A Television History, a thirteen-hour, thirteen-part program. A critical response, Television's Vietnam (116 minutes), made by a group called Accuracy in Media, contends that not only is the PBS production full of error but that the media helped the United States lose the war. It can be ordered through Social Studies School Service. In November 1982 ceremonies dedicating the Vietnam Memorial in Washington were recorded in a PBS documentary, Vietnam Memorial.

PBS Video's American Experience series has three hours on Nixon, entitled "The Quest," "The Triumph," and "The Fall." PBS also offers a one-hour selection of The Nixon Interviews, most of them with David Frost. Films for the Humanities and Sciences has a twenty-nine-minute account, Richard M. Nixon, that traces his career from membership in the House Un-American Activities Committee to his departure from the White House. The reasons for that departure are explored in Films for the Humanities' five-part series, Watergate. The segments, "Break-In," "Cover-Up," "Scapegoat," "Massacre," and "Impeachment" are each fifty-eight minutes. The evolution of Richard Nixon into an elder statesman can be seen in a series of 1991 interviews in Powers of the President: Foreign Policy--Nixon and Ford (fifty minutes), from Films for the Humanities and Sciences. Films for the Humanities also offers 1968: A Look for New Meaning (110 minutes), a consideration of many of the momentous events of that important year, and PBS Video has Chicago, 1968 at fifty-seven minutes.

In 1995 Oliver Stone released his feature film, Nixon. Tense and well made, its historical reliability can be noted in the prologue that greets the viewer: "In consideration of length, events and characters have been condensed, and some scenes among protagonists have been conjectured."

Several feature films have captured aspects of the Vietnam War particularly well. The Green Berets (1968), directed by John Wayne and Ray Kellogg and starring John Wayne, provides a guts-and-glory treatment of the war. Critics angry at its point of view lambasted the film, but it is in fact an exciting account in the tradition of support for the fighting man and for patriotism. In 1978 Michael Cimino directed The Deer Hunter, starring Robert DeNiro, an unforgettable story of three friends from a small town in Pennsylvania who are damaged or destroyed by the horrors of the war. The film is so emotionally searing that instructors should consider the sensibilities of students who may be particularly affected. In 1979 Francis Ford Coppola directed Apocalypse Now, starring Marlon Brando, a brilliant, devastating, and ultimately unsatisfying film. It lacks a strong thematic center. Rather, its general message is that war is frightening, exciting, boring, inhuman, pointless, and horrible. In 1978 Hal Ashby directed Coming Home. It starred Jon Voight, Bruce Dern, and Jane Fonda as, respectively, a paraplegic war casualty, a gung-ho military commander later unbalanced by the horrors of war, and the wife left behind. The story concerns the growing relationship between the Voight and Fonda characters, condemnation of the war, and the disintegration and destruction of the Dern character. Although the last scenes seem flat, the overall effect is one of great impact. Other important films dealing with the war include The Quiet American, Born on the Fourth of July, and Platoon. A useful study of the impact in the United States of films, novels, and television programs about the war is Andrew Martin, Receptions of War: Vietnam in American Culture (1993).
Document Set 3129-1

Vietnam and The Young: "Wild in The Streets"
  1. The Port Huron Statement Sets the Social Agenda for SDS, 1962
  2. The Dow Demonstrations Polarize the University Community in Wisconsin, 1967
  3. Images of War in Folk Music: Pete Seeger Stirs Up Controversy, 1967
  4. A Police Riot in the Streets of Chicago, 1968
  5. SDS Militants Endorse Revolution, 1969
  6. Conservative Tom Anderson Arraigns Student Radicals, 1969
  7. Vice-President Spiro Agnew's Perspective on Protest, 1969An important theme in this chapter is the relationship between the rise of student radicalism and the subsequent development of a broader social-protest movement in the 1960s. This chapter focuses on student radicalism and the catalytic effect of the Vietnam War not only on college youth but also on a larger national constituency. Discussion of the movement, its goals, and its consequences should produce a more sophisticated student awareness of the social divisions that marked the troubled sixties.A natural lead-in to discussion would be an examination of the widely discussed "generation gap" of the 1960s, which might begin with student comparison of the mismatch (or match) between their own values and concerns and those of their parents. Moving backward in time, students might analyze both the Port Huron statement and the Weatherman Manifesto as expressions of the value system of an earlier student generation. Not only will this exercise result in a searching inquiry into the social consciousness of the student Left, but it also offers an opportunity to explore the radicalizing effect of 1960s domestic and foreign-policy developments.Although many instructors will recall the clashes of the 1960s vividly, it is important to remember that students are likely to be only dimly aware of these events. Thus text and lectures might be creatively supplemented by the aural and visual images of the period. Particularly useful is the PBS documentary, The War at Home, which focuses on the protest movement in Madison, Wisconsin, and includes dramatic film footage of the Dow demonstrations with "For What It's Worth" as background music. Some instructors may prefer to use Berkeley in the Sixties. Discussion of music would be enriched through the use of recording so that students may connect the words and sounds of the 1960s. Moreover, discussion of Pete Seeger's performance on CBS would enable students to see continuity between the social activism of the Old Left and the radicalism of the New Left, thereby reiterating a text theme. Another side of the 1960s might be explored through a screening of Alice's Restaurant (1969), a feature film that explores the period's counterculture.Equally fruitful would be discussion of the sharp reaction on the Right to the protest movement. Both Tom Anderson's "Dear Brats" letter and Spiro Agnew's provocative remarks drew the generational lines very clearly, a distinction that might be sharpened through analysis of the differences between conservative values and the assumptions expressed in the SDS statements. The vigor of Establishment reaction might be discussed as part of a broader exploration of the movement's decline in the early 1970s.Finally, the documents raise the important question of minorities and majorities and their respective influences on policy. A challenging exercise might be a debate, in which students could engage in role playing based on an adopted (or perhaps their own) class background. Such a discussion might explore the influence of committed minorities in times of historical crisis, returning to the central reality of deep social divisions in 1960s America.

Recommended Readings for Document Set 3129-1

Terry Anderson. The Movement and the Sixties (1995).

Alexander Bloom and Winifred Breines, eds. Takin It to the Streets: A Sixties Reader (1995).

Todd Gitlin. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (1987).

Maurice Isserman. If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left (1989).

Allen J. Matusow. The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s (1984).

Edward Morgan. The 60s Experience (1991).

William Rorabaugh. Berkeley at War (1989).

Kirkpatrick Sale. SDS (1973).

Irwin Unger. The Movement: A History of the American New Left (1975).

Tom Wells. The War Within: America's Battle over Vietnam (1994).
Audiovisual Resources for Document Set 3129-1

Alice's Restaurant (feature film, 1969--110 min.). United Artists 16, 729 Seventh Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10019.

Berkeley in the Sixties (videotape--118 min.). California Newsreel, 149 Ninth Street, No. 420, San Francisco, Calif. 94103.

Homefront, USA, Episode II of Vietnam: A Television History Series (videotape--58 min.). Films, Inc., 5547 N. Ravenswood Avenue, Chicago, Ill. 60640-1199.

Making Sense of the Sixties Series (videotapes--60 min. each). PBS Video, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, Va. 22314-1698.

Vietnam Memorial: Frontline (videotape--58 min.). Zenger Media, 10200 Jefferson Boulevard, P.O. Box 802, Culver City, Calif. 90232-0802.

The War at Home (film, videotape--100 min.). First Run Features, 144 Bleecker Street, New York, N.Y. 10012.
Document Set 3129-2

Subversion of The Political Process: The Watergate Crisis and The Constitutional System
  1. John Dean's Story of a White House Deception, 1972
  2. The House Judiciary Committee's Analysis of the Cover-Up, 1974
  3. The Judiciary Committee's Conclusion on Impeachment Resolution, Article I, 1974
  4. Nixon Recalls Damage Control, 1972
  5. Herblock on the Course of Justice, 1973
  6. A Skeptic's View of the President's Involvement in the Cover-Up, 1973The Watergate crisis offers an excellent opportunity to engage students in thoughtful analysis of power politics, executive authority, and the United States Constitution. The central feature of this chapter is an emphasis on the American constitutional system and the distorting effects of a strong presidency on the historic principles of balance of power and checks and balances. Students may profitably search the documents for clues to the problems besetting the modern political process.Because the Watergate story is so diffuse, its many twists can be initially confusing to students whose memories do not take them back to the fascinating events of the early 1970s. However, the textbook narrative clarifies the main outlines of the crisis, thus providing students with a context for analysis of documentary evidence focusing on the critical period from June to November 1972. In order to bring further order to the analytical exercise, instructors might assign students responsibility for researching thumbnail sketches of some of the major players and translations/descriptions of important acronyms and agencies, such as CRP. These brief summaries could be combined into a glossary, reproduced for all class members prior to discussion of the documents.Once the outlines are clear, instructors might introduce the topic by reviewing the history of high-level scandals, perhaps emphasizing the Grant and Harding administrations. On a simple level, students may be asked to identify common themes in the various illegalities discussed. More challenging will be the effort to grasp the important differences between Watergate and earlier incidents. A natural extension of this analysis would be an inquiry into the similarities and differences between Watergate and the Reagan administration's Iran-contra problems. Equally instructive would be classroom examination of the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton against the background of the Watergate precedent. The end result could be a revealing discussion of problems inherent in the modern presidency as well as reemphasis on past-present linkage.Exploration of these relationships should lead to analysis of the executive-legislative intersection in the American constitutional system. Included in this discussion would be hard evaluation of the oft-heard assertion that under the pressure of the Watergate crisis, the "system worked." Instructors might enrich this discussion with a mini-lecture on the impeachment proceedings against Andrew Johnson in 1868, thus establishing further past-present linkage and providing background for understanding the congressional moves against Nixon. Finally, examination of the Watergate outcome will encourage students to reflect on the complexity of the impeachment process and arrive at a conclusion as to the "system's" resiliency under the pressure of executive encroachment. Discussion of the Clinton case would also enable students to review the implications of the independent counsel law, one of Watergate's legislative products. The final result of this analysis will be student insight into weaknesses in the modern political process, including imbalances traceable to the Watergate confrontation and the Vietnam debacle.

Recommended Readings for Document Set 3129-2

Stephen Ambrose. Nixon: Ruin and Recovery (1991).

Joan Hoff. Nixon Reconsidered (1994).

Jim Houghan. Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA (1984).

Philip B. Kurland. Watergate and the Constitution (1978).

Stanley I. Kutler. The Wars of Watergate (1990).

------. Abuse of Power (1997).

J. Anthony Lukas. Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years (rev. ed., 1988).

Kim McQuaid. The Anxious Years: America in the Vietnam-Watergate Era (1989).

Frederick C. Mosher. Watergate: Implications for Responsible Government (1974).

Herbert Parmet. Richard Nixon and His America (1990).

Ralph K. Winter. Watergate and the Law (1974).

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. All the President's Men (1974).
Audiovisual Resources for Document Set 3129-2

An Essay on Watergate, by Bill Moyers (videotape--59 min.). Indiana University Audiovisual Center, Bloomington, Ind. 47405-5901.

Nixon: The Fall. From The American Experience Series (videotape--60 min.). Reference and Loan Library, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 125 South Webster Street, Madison, Wis. 53702.

A Question of Impeachment (film--39 min.). Arthur Mokin Productions, Inc., 17 W. 60th Street, New York, N.Y. 10023.

Watergate Series (videotapes--58 min. each). Films for the Humanities and Sciences, P.O. Box 2053, Princeton, N.J. 08543-2053.

Watergate: A Cartoon History (photographs). Documentary Photo Aids, Inc., P.O. Box 956, Mt. Dora, Fla. 32757.

The Watergate Affair (videotape--29 min.). Journal Films, Inc., 930 Pitner, Evanston, Ill. 60202.
Document Set 3129-3

A Changed Army for A Changed War: Vietnam from The Bottom Up
  1. Philip Caputo's Recollection of Rage and Doubt, 1965-1966
  2. Wallace Terry Recalls the African-American Experience in Vietnam, 1968-1969
  3. Gayle Smith's Private War, 1970-1971
  4. John Kerry Questions a War Gone Wrong, 1971
  5. Truong Nhu Tang Explains the Viet Cong Commitment, 1965, 1969-1970When teaching the Vietnam War, it is essential to recognize that for most students, the events that were part of the instructor's experience may seem remote. Yet because of family ties and personal circumstances, many will bring to the topic a vague consciousness of the war's controversial aspects. The greatest challenge, therefore, may be to help them understand the reasons for continuing debate over what seems ancient history to the modern student.Because of the war's proximity on the historical continuum, you have a unique opportunity to use personal accounts as primary sources that will help students grasp the complexity of the interpretive task. It is important that they be warned about such potential pitfalls as interviewer influence and selective memory. In addition, you might urge students to research the witnesses' backgrounds, so that they will have a context in which to place the oral histories.Document Set 31-3 also offers an excellent opportunity for students to function as oral historians. Each student could be responsible for identifying and interviewing a Vietnam veteran in his or her own community. If such an assignment is made, it is important to prepare the students carefully, providing them with a structure for the questioning activity and a sensitivity to issues that may be painful for veterans to discuss. Following their interview assignment, students could conduct a classroom colloquium and discuss the often conflicting results of their research. Students may also compare their findings with the themes that emerge in the documents as they try to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of the war and the confusion that surrounded it. In their attempt to employ oral histories as primary sources, students will come to understand the difficulty of arriving at historical truth. This exercise may also result in a recognition that, in a sense, there are as many Vietnam Wars as there are veterans.Still another useful line of analysis is to use the documents as a basis for a broader discussion of the way in which Americans remember the war in Vietnam. One or more Hollywood feature films of the 1970s and 1980s may provide a springboard for such a discussion, especially if students are asked to watch for ways in which the films distort historical reality. Useful in this exercise would be clips from one of the searching films of the 1970s (Coming Home or The Deer Hunter), as well as a fantasy film from the 1980s Rambo cycle. Similarly, one of Oliver Stone's films, such as Born on the Fourth of July, would enable students to explore the evolution of Hollywood's portrayal of the Vietnam experience. The students might profitably compare the images projected in these films with the evidence in the documents. The end result could be a sweeping discussion of the relationship among media, myth, memory, and historical reality.

Recommended Readings for Document Set 3129-3

Michael Anderegg, ed. Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television (1991).

Christian Appy. Working Class War: American Combat Soldiers in Vietnam (1993).

Ann P. Haas. Wounds of War: The Psychological Aftermath of Combat in Vietnam (1984).

A. D. Horne. The Wounded Generation: America After Vietnam (1981).

Arnold R. Isaacs. Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia (1984).

Kathryn Marshall. In the Combat Zone: An Oral History of Women in the Vietnam War, 1966-1977 (1987).

Richard Moser. The New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent during the Vietnam Era (1996).

Al Santoli. Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Thirty-Three Veterans Who Fought It (1981).

Wallace Terry. Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (1984).

Marilyn Blatt Young. The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 (1991).
Audiovisual Resources for Document Set 3129-3

The Bloods of 'Nam (videotape--60 min.). PBS Video, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, Va. 22314-1698.

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (videotape--84 min.). University of Illinois Film/Video Center, 1325 S. Oak Street, Champaign, Ill. 61820.

Interviews with My Lai Veterans (film--22 min.). Instructional Media Services, West Allis, Wis. 53214; phone (414) 541-8008.

Not on the Frontline (videotape--30 min.). PBS Video, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, Va. 22314-1698.

Their Own Vietnam (videotape--23 min.). Women Make Movies, Inc., 462 Broadway, 5th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10013.

Vietnam, the Ten Thousand Day War(especially Episode 9, Soldiering On) (videotape--60 min.). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1500 Bronson Avenue, P.O. Box 8478, Ottawa, Canada K1G 3J5.

Vietnamizing the War, 1968-1973, Episode 8 in Vietnam: A Television History Series (videotape--58 min.). Films, Inc., 5547 N. Ravenswood Avenue, Chicago, Ill. 60640-1199.