In Vietnam

In the eyes and the essays of Christian Appy, the Vietnam War was a “working class war” because of the demographics of those who fought in it. Unlike most of the wars that the United States had fought in, most of those who fought in the war were much younger in age.  During the previous wars, the age of soldiers averaged about twenty-six, sometimes older but during the Vietnam War, a majority of soldiers were about nineteen years old. A large majority of the boys that fought were the sons of the working class, those who worked as waitresses, factory workers, truck drivers, secretaries, firefighters, carpenters, custodians, police officers, salespeople, clerks, mechanics, miners, farm workers, the jobs specifically categorized as dangerous jobs. Others that enlisted were those who were in poverty. Over 80% of the soldiers that served in Vietnam were poor and a part of the working class, while the other 20% were members of the middle class. 

In Gerard DeGroot’s essay and many of the other essays you read that are written by Vietnam Veterans, a large portion of the Vietnam war was to explore and kill with no human regard. “I fought to stay alive and I killed to keep from being killed” (267). This war wasn’t about fighting for land but rather fighting to kill, it didn’t matter if it was Vietnamese soldiers or civilians in their homes, anyone they encountered would die. This idea is most prevalent during the attack on My Lai. Sergeants ordered that anyone that the soldiers encountered should be shot at, this included infants, young children, the elderly, and literally anyone they saw. The residents at My Lai were not dangerous, yet they were shot for just greeting the soldiers. One of the soldiers compared killing Vietnamese soldiers in the jungle to hunting “I get all excited when I see a VC, just like when I see a deer” (263). Soldiers would brag about how many people they had killed that day, and once a week they would even tally them all up to see which unit killed the most. 

After weeks of constant fighting, the morality of the soldiers soon diminished. They become defiant to those in higher positions for them and even killed commanding officers. There were also racial injustices while in Vietnam. Many of the officers that were in charge were originally from the south. The African Americans were enlisting in a war but in reality, they were still fighting the Civil War. 

In regards to the class divide being relevant today in the US military, I have to say I honestly do not know. There might be a divide in your social class, but I have not personally seen anything that can back up a claim.

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