“Alexa, Play ‘Eve of Destruction'”

            In the excerpt from Christian Appy’s “A Working Class War,” he argues that in comparison to previous wars, the Vietnam War was fought disproportionately by young men from working class families. Appy cites that “roughly 80 percent came from working-class and poor backgrounds” (251). Geography is a large indicator of the large amount of lower-class draftees and volunteers. In the post-WWII era with the birth of suburbia, working class families migrated from urban areas to the more financially reasonable suburbs such as Levittown. In Appy’s study of the origins and deaths of Vietnam soldiers, he discovered that those who participated in the war were more likely to come from suburbs, and the rural small towns of America (254). Appy states that in some cases, young men from working class suburbs were “four times more likely to die in Vietnam” than those living in higher class neighborhoods (254). While there are other factors such as race and education, Appy argues that class is the most important factor in “determining the overall social composition of American forces” (257). At large, the men who fought in Vietnam were on average nineteen-year-old high school graduates who came from white, working class sectors of America who were the sons of blue-collar parents (260).

            In Gerard DeGroot’s “A Grunt’s Life,” he discusses the many factors that worked against the men who fought in Vietnam. The demoralization of soldiers in Vietnam was at an all-time high as the non-traditional method of fighting led the men to feeling as if they had no cause or purpose. DeGroot quotes O’Brien in saying that the men “did not know even the simple things: a sense of victory, or satisfaction, or necessary sacrifice…They did not have a cause. They did not know if it was a war of ideology or economics or hegemony or spite” (246). On top of the confusion on the reason behind their deployment, the men also suffered greatly from venereal and tropical diseases, insect and snake bites, and infections fostered by poor hygiene and the humid climate of Vietnam (264). DeGroot cites that “one in five deaths were ‘non-hostile’” (265). Another cause of demoralization was the lack of support they felt from their fellow Americans at home. As the anti-war movement raged on, the men who found themselves in the weeds of the war felt even less of a sense of purpose as their actions were being disavowed at home (266).

            The low morale caused by all these factors impacted the relations between Americans soldiers. DeGroot touches on how “fragging” was used to intimate and kill authority figures such as officers. Racial tensions grew as Black soldiers were discriminated against by their fellow soldiers. If they survived this war that they didn’t want to fight in, they would still have to return home to a country that did not see them as equal (268). Despite strain between Americans fighting in Vietnam, DeGroot states that strong bonds formed between soldiers in combat that instead of fighting for what was at home, they fought for each other (269).

            I would guess that there still is quite a large class divide in those who serve in the U.S. military today. I think that the financial benefits that come with service persuade a lot of lower-class/middle-class individuals into signing up. For those who could not ordinarily afford higher education, the GI promises to lessen the financial burden of college and in turn, I think this probably persuades a lot of working-class young adults into signing a contract.

2 thoughts on ““Alexa, Play ‘Eve of Destruction'”

  1. Great post! I agree with everything you said. I think it is super interesting how my feelings in the beginning of the reading were shocked and sad, because I like to think that we are not corrupt, and towards the end of the reading I was mad. I just feel terrible for the soldiers who had no choice, no support, and were in terrible conditions (that sounds like hell). I agree, I think there is still a class divide and that the financial benefits attract more of middle/lower class. Very interesting time in history, that is for sure.


  2. After reading this article, I was truly surprised by all the terrible things that were going on during the Vietnam war. The thing that shocked me the most was how low morale there was that was going on among the soldiers. I liked that you put in your post talking about the racial tension among people serving because I never really knew that was a thing that was going on. Why would you want to discriminate against someone who is supposed to protect you and have your back? That makes absolutely no sense to me. I agree with you that there are still class divisions that are going on in the military. In your post, you mention how the military helps with paying for college for the soldiers, because I have friends that specifically joined to get help paying for college. This was a great post, good job.


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