The Vietnam War as Seen Through Primary Sources
In 2012 the United States began observing the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Special events and projects will bring public awareness to the sacrifices made by veterans and their families, and to the contributions made by those on the home front.
Vashon-Maury Island, like many small, rural communities in Washington, sent its young men and women off to fight in Vietnam. According to the 1970 Census, the population of Vashon-Maury Island was just over 6,000. Twelve young men from the area lost their lives as a result of their participation in the Vietnam War -- an exceptionally high ratio for any community. The names of these men were inscribed on two obelisks in Ober Park on Vashon, but rarely spoken aloud or remembered. Christopher Gaynor, a Vietnam War veteran who has lived on Vashon Island since 1991, took informal custodial responsibility for the monument, as well as for observing special Veterans Day and Memorial Day traditions at the gravesites of six of the men interred at the Vashon Cemetery, members of the group he calls the "Vashon 12."
Gaynor and Patricia Filer, the education director at HistoryLink.org, worked together to develop a curriculum for secondary students. This classroom resource was designed to provide students with opportunities to analyze and interpret different viewpoints concerning historical events, opportunities available through the examination of both primary and secondary sources. Looking back at the lives of the Vashon 12 and the Vashon community during the Vietnam War era also provides an avenue to introduce basic research techniques and stimulate discussions about personal rights versus civic rights and responsibilities. This curriculum offers activities, discussion topics, and resources that complement learning expectations for grades 7-12 in Washington State History, U.S. History and Civics Classroom-Based Assessments, and the C3 Framework.
A series of remembrances called People's Histories were collected to use in this curriculum. Young people will have the opportunity to learn about the Vietnam War through the voices of those who lived during its time and had firsthand experience with the Vietnam War and the Vashon 12. Other activities focus on interpreting the unique primary sources that are Christopher Gaynor's photos and letters from the Vietnam War. Each unit's activities and discussion topics can stand alone -- there is no need to commit to the entire curriculum set for students to gain insight and knowledge into the Vietnam War.
"These letters are presented as I wrote them more than 45 years ago. My mother saved those I wrote to my family. Anne Blackwell's daughter, Erin Blackwell, recently returned the letters I wrote to her mother, my friend and mentor for nearly 50 years. At the heart of this archive are my photographs. I took my camera with me everywhere, carefully composing the shot whenever possible. After so many decades, the young man who took these pictures is something of a stranger to me, and I marvel at how so many good images were captured under such harsh conditions.
"Those who are looking for dramatic battle scenes or epic heroics will be disappointed. Instead, these photographs and letters present portraits of a group of young men, kids, really, who bond deeply through the crucible of war. In our day-to-day lives we laughed, we did a lot of posing to look tough, and we counted the days until we would return to The World. We listened to Jimi Hendrix, drank stale beer, and smoked the occasional joint. Not so different from our civilian peers. But, we pulled the triggers in this war, and now must live with our share of responsibility for that. I invite you to look, read and perhaps feel a little of what we felt and experience a little of what we experienced. This is history; it happened. Perhaps someday we will understand why."
Christopher Gaynor, 2014
This curriculum was developed in partnership with Christopher Gaynor.
Unit 1: Interpreting Primary Sources (Dig Deep)
Unit 2: Research and Interview Techniques (History/Dig Deep)
Unit 3: The Constitution and the Draft (Civics/Constitutional Issues)
CAPTIONS Christopher Gaynor Captions for Photographs the Vietnamese People.zip
PHOTOS Christopher Gaynor - Republic of Vietnam 1967 1968, Vietnamese.zip
CAPTIONS Christopher Gaynor Captions for Photographs Portraits of Soldiers.zip
PHOTOS Christopher Gaynor, Republic of Vietnam 1967 1968, Portraits of Soldiers.zip
PHOTOS Christopher Gaynor's Photos from Vietnam.zip
DOCUMENTS Christopher Gaynor Army Documents.zip
LETTERS Christopher Gaynor letters from Boot Camp and AIT to deployment 1966.zip
LETTERS Christopher Gaynor Letters from Vietnam War.zip
LETTERS Christopher Gaynor's.letters from Vietnam to Anne Blackwell.doc
LETTER Christopher Gaynor's final letter to Anne Blackwell.zip