Learning from the Source: Cartoonist Commentary-Vietnam War

But how to let go -- gracefully

U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War lasted more than a decade. Have students analyze political cartoons from the primary source sets below to consider different issues related to this war and how cartoonists’ perspectives of U.S. involvement evolved over time. If students are not practiced at analyzing political cartoons, use the accompanying resources to help prepare and guide students in this type of primary source analysis. You may choose to have students analyze the cartoons twice, first without reviewing the curator notes/bibliographic information and again after. Look to the Common Core State Standards alignments below to inform activity tasks. After, have students create their own political cartoons to demonstrate understandings they gained of the Vietnam War (CCSS Writing standards 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10).

Enduring Understandings time, place, and culture influence our perspectives on people and issues; different perspectives affect the interpretation of history

Focus Question What perspectives did U.S. cartoonists provide of the Vietnam War during the course of U.S. involvement?

Vietnam War Political Cartoons 1965

Click the cartoons to view larger images; click the cartoon title to view curator notes/bibliographic information.

Kindly move over a little, gentlemenKindly move over a little, gentlemen


But How to Let Go—GracefullyBut How to Let Go—Gracefully

Don't forget your commitmentDon’t forget your commitment

Let us reason together!Let us reason together!

Up escalatorsUp escalators

Our position hasn't changed at allOur position hasn’t changed at all The other ascent into the unknownThe other ascent into the unknown

From this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safetyFrom this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety

Vietnam War Political Cartoons 1961-1972

What to do till the Peace Corps comes1961 – What to do till the Peace Corps comes

After All, It Doesn’t Have to Be a One-Way Street

1962 – After All, It Doesn’t Have to Be a One-Way Street

Why Don't We Have the Thirty Budgets of Ben Franklin's Day?

1963 – Why Don’t We Have the Thirty Budgets of Ben Franklin’s Day?

Midnight reading1964 – Midnight reading They won't get us to the conference table . . . will they?1966 – They won’t get us to the conference table . . . will they? LBJ and Vietnam spectres

1967 – LBJ and Vietnam spectres

Uncle Sam carrying an M-16 rifle]1968 – Uncle Sam carrying an M-16 rifle The Mini-and-Maxi Era1969 – The Mini-and-Maxi Era How do I let go!1970 – How do I let go!
 My last employment? Vietnam.1971 – My last employment? Vietnam. Now, as I was saying four years ago–1972 – Now, as I was saying four years ago–  Can't you grow up in 12 years??1973 –  Can’t you grow up in 12 years??

Understanding & Analyzing Political Cartoons

The Cartoonists

The Ungentlemanly Art: Political Illustrations Cartoon America online exhibition

Clifford H. (Baldy) Baldowski

Herb Block

Bill Mauldin

Pat Oliphant

Vaughn Shoemaker

Paul Szep

Edmund Valtman

Historical Resources

Common Core State Standards Alignment

English Language Arts Standards » History/Social Studies » Grades 6-8

  • RH.6-8.1, RH.9-10.1, RH.11-12.1
  • RH.6-8.2, RH.9-10.2, RH.11-12.2
  • RH.6-8.6, RH.9-10.6, RH.11-12.6
  • RH.6-8.8, RH.9-10.8, RH.11-12.8
  • RH.6-8.9, RH.9-10.9, RH.11-12.9