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Gerald Ford and the Vietnam War

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
• The lesson can be organized to take from one to four 45-minute class periods depending on how much outside classroom work is required of the students. The discussion of how to do historical analysis can be introduced in this lesson or don
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will evaluate primary sources such as documents and political cartoons related to decisions made by President Ford's administration during the final days of the Vietnam War.
  • This lesson can be integrated into the classroom through any or all of the following strategies: activities by individual students through cross-curricular activities with Language Arts and/or cooperative learning endeavors.
  •  Students will use computer technology to analyze Internet websites containing primary sources that contain a variety of documents related to President Ford and his advisors concerning what actions to take during  the closing days of the Vietnam War
Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • To assist students in developing analytical skills that will enable them to evaluate primary sources such as documents and political cartoons related to decisions made by President Ford’s administration during the final days of the Vietnam War
  • To introduce students to the Stanford History Educational Group’s Reading Like A Historian teaching strategies to help them investigate historical questions by employing the following reading strategies: Sourcing, Contextualizing, corroborating and close reading
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Evaluate historical data through the use of primary source documents and political cartoons
  • Develop a sense of historical understanding of the decisions made by President Ford’s and his advisors during the closing days of the Vietnam War
  • Analyze how written documents helped shape historical perspectives of the closing days of the Vietnam War
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

K-12 History: Students will develop and apply historical knowledge and skills to research, analyze, and understand key concepts of past, current, and potential issues and events at the local, state, national, and international levels.

  • SS 12.4.2.c (US) Analyze and evaluate the appropriate uses of primary and secondary sources
  • SS 12.4.3.a (US) Analyze and evaluate how multiple perspectives facilitate the understanding of the full story of US history
  • SS 12.4.3.b (US) Compare and contrast primary and secondary sources to better understand multiple perspectives of the same event
  • SS 12.4.4.a (US) Compare and evaluate contradictory historical narratives of Twentieth-Century U.S. History through determination of credibility, contextualization, and corroboration
  • SS 12.4.4.d (US) Analyze and evaluate multiple causes and effects of key events in US history (e.g., Vietnam Conflict}
  • SS 12.4.5.b (US) Obtain, analyze, evaluate, and cite appropriate sources for research about Twentieth-Century U.S. History, incorporating primary and secondary sources (e.g., Cite sources using a prescribed format.)
  • SS 12.4.5.c (US) Gather historical information about the United States (e.g., document archives, artifacts, newspapers, interviews)

Common Core


Key Ideas and Details

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Craft and Structure

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


    Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

    Cold War Project in Vietnam. : ’The Vietnam-Era Presidency’. Opper Project.


    Library of Congress.  Analyze A Written Document.

    Library of Congress. Teaching with Primary Sources.


    Mandell, Nikki.  “Thinking Like A Historian : A Framework for Teaching and Learning.”  OAH Magazine of History.  April. 2008.  Pp. 55-61.

    Marlette, Doug . “Gerald Ford. Lessons of the Past in Vietnam” Political Cartoon

    Awesome stories.


    National Archives. Document Analysis Worksheets


    Rubric for Evaluating the Stanford Historical Thinking Chart.

    UMBC Center for History Education, 2013. Adapted from the work of the Stanford History Education Group ® and Bruce VanSledright, Assessing Historical Thinking and Understanding: Innovative Ideas for New Standards, (New York: Routledge, 2014).


    Stanford History Education Group. Beyond the Bubble.


    Stanford History Education Group.  Reading Like A Historian


    SOCC. Visual Image Analysis  (Chart)



    Vietnam Era -Era Presidents: Cartoon Analysis Worksheet.  Opper  Project.

    Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed

    American Experience.  Last Days in Vietnam.


    American Experience. Last Days in Vietnam: The Embassy Evacuation.


    Gerald Ford Presidential Library.


    Gerald Ford Presidential Library. DEPARTMENT OF STATE . Washington, D.C. 20520. September 12, 1974 .MEMORANDUM FOR LIEUTENANT GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT THE WHITE HOUSE. Subject: Ambassador Graham Martin’s Call on the President .



    Library of  Congress.   Teacher Guide and Analysis Tool


    National Archives. DocsTeach. Briefing Paper for President Gerald Ford’s Meeting with Ambassador to South Vietnam Graham Marti


    National Archives. DocsTeach. Several documents related to advice to Ford Concerning Vietnam

    (Go to this Internet site and type in President Ford and Vietnam and it will take you  to various documents related to Ford and the Vietnam War)


    National Archives. DocsTeach. Several documents related to advice to Ford Concerning Vietnam


    National Archives.  DocsTeach.  Documents related  to President Ford and the closing days of  the Vietnam War

    Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

    1. Use the following as a guide for a teacher-led discussion with students of the importance of using primary sources.


    Why Use Primary Sources?

    Primary sources provide a window into the past—unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and ach