History final

Professor’s note: When you read this assignment, you may feel this is the most difficult exam you have ever seen. It isn’t. Do not panic. It’s a way of taking you step by step through things we have mainly covered in class. Once you break it down this will be much simpler than it looks.




Draft Final Essay:


History 103




Spring 2014




Due: no later than 2PM Friday May 16




Bring to my office in Rm. 304 New Academic Building or put in the mailbox




*Be sure to keep an extra hard copy in your possession


Length: 10-15 pages








Connecting the dots:


Most historians would agree that the Johnson Administration’s successive decisions to escalate the Vietnam War during the period 1964-1965 were of critical importance.  Our challenge this semester has been to understand the nature of that escalation and to explain it.


Do all parts:


*In Robert McNamara’s memoir In Retrospect, he acknowledges that the Johnson Administration, in which he was a leading actor, made several serious mistakes in its handling of the Vietnam War. What does he see as the major mistakes? And how does he explain them?


*In the Appendix of the paperback edition McNamara has included many articles both pro and con, which address the content of his book. Pick two and briefly summarize them, including your initial reaction to these commentaries.


*Drawing upon any three of the following documents, indicate whether you think they support or undermine McNamara’s analysis:


McGeorge Bundy Recommends Sustained Reprisals, February 7, 1965.


Robert McNamara Recommends Escalation, 1965


George Ball Dissents, 1965


Johnson Recalls His decision to Commit Troops in 1965


Meeting on Westmoreland’s Request for Additional Troops, June 1965






*Drawing upon any three of the following transcripts, indicate whether you think they support or undermine McNamara’s presentation:


Johnson/Dirksen, February 17, 1965


Johnson/Bundy February 18, 1965


Johnson/Russell, March 6, 1965.


Johnson/ NcNamara, April 20, 1965


Johnson/Mansfield, June 8, 1965


Johnson/ McNamara, June 10, 1965


Johnson/Eisenhower, July 2, 1965.


*Drawing upon Caputo’s Rumor of War and the Introduction, plus Chapter 1 in Bilton and Sim’s book on My Lai, briefly discuss some of the disturbing features of the Vietnam War on the ground. From what you have read of McNamara’s memoir, do you think that he and/or his colleagues were aware of these things? And if not, do you see this as a problem?


*Historian Fred Logevoll has written one of the most important available books on the subject of the Johnson Administration’s escalation of the war in 1964-65.  He undoubtedly wrote it  -as a partial rebuttal to McNamara. His concluding chapter, “Choosing War” will be distributed.  Try to summarize what Logevoll is saying. And indicate whether you find his point of view more persuasive than McNamara’s. If you find neither explanation convincing, explain why.


Optional question, do McNamara’s discussions with the Vietnamese contained in chapters 2 and 5 of Argument Without End enhance your understanding of the US decision to escalate the war?


I need by 1:00pm thursday, Northeastern time

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