What Are We Fighting For? Part 2 (Larry Metzger)

Note: This class is open to high school students only.

What Are We Fighting For? Part 2


This class is open only to those students who took my winter term class, “What Are We Fighting For: The Vietnam War.”


During the winter term we saw how, over a period of twenty years, the United States became increasingly involved in Vietnam, until 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson sent combat troops to that country in an effort to defeat the Vietcong and their North Vietnamese allies. This term we will study that war (called American War by the Vietnamese) and its aftermath. How did the United States, its allies, and its enemies fight that war? Why did Americans inflict so much violence against Vietnamese civilians? To what extent did that violence constitute war crimes? How does the violence and brutality of such wars affect the soldiers who fight in them? Why did the United States lose? What were the legacies and lessons of the Vietnam War?


There will be two required books for the course, The Lessons of the Vietnam War, edited by Jerold Starr (which you already have) and If I Die in a Combat Zone, a memoir of Tim O’Brien’s time in Vietnam. Both new and used editions of If I Die in a Combat Zone can be purchased online from Powell’s Books in Portland, Amazon.com, and Elliott Bay Book Company. Assume that it will take about 5 days for the book to be delivered after you have ordered it. I’ve listed a price range (rather than a single price) for If I Die in A Combat Zone, because the prices of used copies can vary significantly.

About the instructor: I am a retired history teacher who has been volunteering at PSCS for four years. I keep coming back because the wonderful students and staff make being at PSCS so much fun. When I am not at PSCS I can be found spending time with my beloved wife and my delightfully crazy dog; reading; hiking; snowshoeing; and attending theater, ballet, concerts, and opera.

Required texts/materials:

  1. The Lessons of the Vietnam War, edited by Jerold Starr (which students already have)
  2. If I Die in A Combat Zone, by Tim O'Brien (which students will have to purchase)
Students will be responsible for obtaining their own texts/materials. Materials should be procured by: April 15

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