Vietnam War Documentary Project: The Soldiers’ Experience

  • Learning
Ron Widelec, Upper Division History Teacher

The Vietnam War holds a distinct position in American history. By the end of the war, the United States had to come to terms to losing a conflict for the first time. The public’s confidence in the government was shattered when the Pentagon Papers were released, showing the that the government had been misleading voters for decades. The conditions and controversial circumstances of the war, as well as the use of a draft to compel millions of young men to join the arm, led to the largest anti-war movement in American history. Due to the nature of war, soldiers that served in Vietnam had unique experiences that set them apart from other veterans.  

This year, high school seniors were offered an elective on the topic. Part of the course involved spending an entire term creating a documentary about the war based on the experiences of Vietnam veterans. After reading a soldier’s memoir of the war, If I Die in a Combat Zone, by Tim O’Brien, students used his story to craft a series of questions to use when interviewing five veterans. Beginning in early December, we began our interviews, having three veterans visit the school and two others that we interviewed via teleconference.

The students edit their documentary footage

The students edit their footage.

After obtaining nearly five hours of footage, we began the long process of organizing the documentary, writing a script, editing the video, and providing the necessary historical context for viewers to understand the film. A few weeks later, we finished our documentary. And in January we planned a public screening of the film to educate others and inspire them to learn more about the Vietnam War.

Screening the documentary

The website we created contains the assignment task, the final version of the documentary – embedded below – and the raw footage from the interviews for those who want to learn more about these amazing veterans and their experiences in Vietnam.




  • History
  • Project-based Learning
  • Upper Division
  • Upper Grades Program