Classist War

Appy argues that Vietnam was a “working-class war” because the majority of people who fought in the war were from the working-class. Most were men who were still teenagers or barely 20 years old who came from working-class families and had just gotten out of high school. Enlisting gave them a way to advance their lives because college was not realistically an option. Many came from smaller towns or collective neighborhoods of working-class families where entire high school classes or groups would enlist together. Statistics began to show that those most likely to die or were put to combat heavy situations were the soldiers who came from those lower class families as opposed to those who came from higher class families or had more college education. 

U.S. troops became demoralized by the late 1960s because they felt like they were fighting in a war where there was no true sense of success or victory and most had no sense of what they were actually fighting for. While fighting in Vietnam there often was no real sense of success for troops or signs of actually winning. Compared to World War 2 there were no “front lines” or notable areas where they would take back a city and get to fly a flag in victory, but endless attacks at any time based on when they felt an enemy. This led to knowingly killing civilians and civilian communities because they sensed enemy people living there and with the “killed or be killed” attitude all soldiers knew to do was kill everyone they could. This along with soldiers becoming aware of what was going on back home in the U.S. led to heavily decreased morale while in Vietnam. Soldiers became aware of the dissent towards the Vietnam War back home and often questioned why they were there in the first place. Troops that thought they joined the war to fight communism and protect the American way felt they were not fighting behind that purpose at all and that they were just becoming puppets of the U.S. military. On a mass scale, soldiers began to lose motivation to fight and put their lives on the line without a real cause or purpose. 

I do think a class divide still exists in the U.S. military today. I feel like the military today still targets high school students and gives it as an alternative to college or something to do before one tries to go to college. Those attempts at persuasion towards high school students almost always start by saying there will be big bonuses and that after you serve you can go to college for free. This would most nearly affect those from working-class/ lower-class families where this might be the only way they would be able to afford college. Students who come from families who can afford to send their children to college do not even have to consider military service because they do not need money. When I was in high school just about every other week, we had military recruiters come and set up stations to talk to kids while private schools never had this.

One thought on “Classist War

  1. I like how you mentioned that not only were men from working class families enlisted at higher rates, but they were also more likely to be put in combat heavy and life-threatening situations than their higher class counterparts. I think that this distinction is important because it shows the extent of the privilege that the wealthy had. It’s sad to see that the military continues to operate this way. As you described in your response, the armed forces still recruit young, going to high schools and offering incentives like free college. These techniques are unfortunately much more common at public schools where there are more kids that need this kind of help, so the trend repeats itself.


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