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The Vietnam War, Tim O’Brien, and The Art of Story Telling. You Will Take Notes or You Will End up Like Curt Lemon…. Brief Summary of Vietnam. Before WWII started, the area known as Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) was a property of the French. During WWI the Japanese took it over as

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The Vietnam War, Tim O’Brien, and The Art of Story Telling

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The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling

The Vietnam War, Tim O’Brien, and The Art of Story Telling

You Will Take Notes or You Will End up Like Curt Lemon…

Brief summary of vietnam

Brief Summary of Vietnam

  • Before WWII started, the area known as Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) was a property of the French.

  • During WWI the

    Japanese took it over as

    a strategic move against

    The allies.

Great Beaches!

The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling

  • After the war, Ho Chi Minh, a damned Commie, started a guerrilla warfare group called the Viet Minh aimed at overthrowing the Japanese occupiers

  • Ho Chi Minh was supported by the

    United States which shipped in

    weapons and supplies.

  • Eventually, Japan began the process of granting those countries independence.

The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling

  • After the war the Fench returned to reclaim their territory

  • The newly established government allowed French forces into the country after France promised it would allow Vietnam into the French Union.

  • In 1946 talks between the two nations collapsed. What followed was an all out military invasion, starting with the bombing of Haiphong and an incursion into Hanoi

The bombing of haiphong

The Bombing of Haiphong

The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling

  • This conflict would come to be called The First Indochina War

  • In 1954, the Viet Minh repelled the final French invasion force at the battle of Dien Bien Phu.

  • Even though French forces over took the city early on, Viet Minh forces used artillery strikes from nearby wooded hills to lower the morale of the French troops. That and assorted guerilla hit and runs eventually forced the French out of the city

The geneva accords

The Geneva Accords

  • In 1954 Vietnam was split into 2 countries at the 17th parallel.

  • The Communist controlled North Vietnam while South Vietnam

    became a democratic


American involvement in vietnam

American Involvement in Vietnam

  • At first, Americans were content to let the fate of Vietnam be determined by its people.

  • Unfortunately, the world became an increasingly conflicted place, the Cold War was beginning-The values of Western Democracy vs. The Communism of the USSR

  • Since North Vietnam was Communist, and allied with the Russians, the US needed to do something…

  • The resulting theory was called “containment” and the goal was to keep whatever countries practiced Communism from spreading it.

The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling

  • At first the US merely lent money, weapons, and support to the French in their initial conflict with the “Red” Vietnam

  • By 1956, after the recognition of North and South Vietnam, the US began training officers in South Vietnam’s ARSV (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam

  • Owing to several factors, the ARSV was never truly effective in containment

Tensions mount

Tensions Mount

  • In the summer of 1955, South Vietnamese Prime Minister Diem ordered the incarceration of hundreds of accused Communist sympathizers in his country.

  • Unfortunately, in his attempts to silence opposition, he jailed and killed anyone he even suspected of treason. This included Buddhist Monks and other innocent people.

  • In secret, Ho Chi Minh (now leader of the Communist North Vietnam) was supplying weapons to hidden forces in the South via the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Setting the table

Setting the table

  • The Communists in the south used their militaristic and political support in the South to start a movement called the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, or Viet Cong. This was basically a heavily armed political party intent on overthrowing democratic leadership in South Vietnam

  • On November 2, 1963, the US CIA helped assassinate the incompetent Diem in order to install a political figure that would be more favorable to US involvement. Also, the US sent upped the US “advisors” in South Vietnam to 16,000

Oh no you di in t

Oh no you di’in’t!!!

  • On August 2, 1964, USS Maddox, an American destroyer, was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats while conducting an intelligence mission.

  • Congress passed the Southeast Asia (Gulf of Tonkin) Resolution which permitted the president to commit to military operations without a formal declaration by Congress (we still use it today!!!)

  • Beginning on March 2, 1965, and known as Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign would last over three years and would drop an average of 800 tons of bombs a day on the north. To protect US airbases in South Vietnam, 3,500 Marines were deployed that same month, becoming the first ground forces committed to the conflict.

Shifting tides

Shifting Tides…

  • By April 1965, Johnson had sent the first 60,000 American troops to Vietnam. The number would escalate to 536,100 by the end of 1968. In the summer of 1965, under the command of General William Westmoreland, US forces executed their first major offensive operations against the Viet Cong and scored victories around Chu Lai.

  • In skirmishes in such places as the La Drang Valley, Americans exemplified helicopter attacks. Unfortunately, the Viet Cong learned quickly not to engage the vastly superior army head on. This is wear the Vietnam War took a turn for the worst.

The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling

Learning from these defeats, the Viet Cong seldom again engaged American forces in conventional, pitched battles preferring instead to resort to hit and run attacks and ambushes. Over the next three years, American forces focused on searching and destroying Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units operating in the south….

Vietcong tactics

Vietcong Tactics

Nah, Tupac aint down there…




Guerilla warfare

Guerilla Warfare…

  • Count the enemies… Wait, you can’t-they are invisible!

The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling


  • Vietcong would steal US uniforms

  • They were masters at moving almost undetected through their homeland

  • Expert snipers

  • They would force local villages to hide guns and ammunition and they would hide among the villagers

    This led to…

Burning villages

Burning Villages…

Killing of innocents

Killing of Innocents…

Paranoia who is a vietcong who isn t

Paranoia… Who is a Vietcong? Who Isn’t???

After effects of the vietnam war

After Effects of The Vietnam War

  • Homelessness

  • PTSD

  • Unwelcomed in the US

  • Media Nightmare

  • Unfavorable news coverage

  • Criticism of Government

  • First US “War” that the US “Lost

Do we see know why tim o brien adopts his specific style

Do we See Know Why Tim O’Brien Adopts his Specific Style?

  • Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction

  • How can you tell a “true” war story

    I wasn’t there…

    Was O’Brien?

    How can war change a man?

    Are you the same person after the war?

    How can a “normal” man accept and fight under the conditions of war?

    How were they treated by the country during and after the war? (“Baby Killers” and Peace Protests)

How does one tell a true war story

How Does One Tell a True War Story…

  • The Things They Carried is…



    -Full of interesting characters



    -Full of factual information

    -Mixed with memory

Meet the characters

Meet the Characters...

  • Tim O’Brien!

  • Tim O’Brien is and isn’t the author. The difference between real and fictional person is intentionally hard to figure out… why?

  • He does tell us that his personal experience in the Vietnam War has led him to write a book about…

Physical vs emotional weight

Physical Vs. Emotional Weight

The character’s “hump” or carry a variety of weapons, ammunition, supplies, and medicine as well as their emotional and spiritual weight. They carry the weight of missing their families as well as the weight of responsibility and expectations.

The protagonist lieutenant jimmy cross

The Protagonist: Lieutenant Jimmy Cross

  • The Platoon Leader of Alpha Company

  • Name Symbology

  • Obsessed with a woman named Martha from back home

  • Carries two pictures of her (one signed “love” even though he tried to make a move on her in a movie theater and was denied) and one picture of her playing volleyball

  • Obsessed with what could have been with Martha

Significance of the objects the men carry

Significance of the Objects the men Carry

  • Henry Dobbins carries extra rations and wears his girlfriend’s pantyhose around his neck

  • Ted Lavender is always nervous, he carries tranquilizers and copious ounces of marijuana

  • Kiowa is a religious American Indian, he carries a copy of the New Testament, which his father gave him, as well as a hatchet.

  • Rat Kileyis the platoon medic, he carries morphine, malaria tablets, and supplies for serious wounds.



  • O’Brien is constantly pointing out that men carry emotional AND physical burdens….

    This is symbolized when he gives the weight of each item and also the emotional attachment.

    FOR EXAMPLE: Kiowa’s bible has a physical weight, yet it also carries with it a special significance as it was a gift from his father. It’s emotional weight is tied to both spirituality and his relationship with his family back home.

The vietnam war tim o brien and the art of story telling

As you carefully work your way through the novel be sure to note the emotional attachment each man attaches to physical items

Also, note how affectionately O’Brien refers to the LAND of Vietnam himself. He is careful to mention that the men carry the soil and bugs and foliage and river water and animals of Vietnam as they wander through the country.

The things they carried

“The Things They Carried”

  • The title of the book comes from the first story

  • Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is busy thinking about Martha outside of a village called Than Ke…

  • (page 5/6) Ted Lavender, as he is coming back from using the latrine, is shot

  • Kiowa describes his body falling under the weight of his pack

  • As they wait for the helicopter to take Lavender away, they smoke his marijuana

Truth and fiction

Truth and Fiction…

  • The next day they burn Than Ke and shoot the animals that run from the fire

  • Kiowa is disturbed by how unceremoniously Lavender’s body fell. He finds it difficult to muster any sadness because the death wasn’t what he expected

  • Later, in the rain, Cross burns the pictures of Martha and resolves himself to lead his men more effectively in the future.

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