Victoryless Vietnam

Appy argues that the Vietnam war was a working-class war due to the demographics. In the opening paragraph of Appy’s essay, they state, “Roughly 80 percent came from working-class or poor backgrounds”. As seen by the previous state, the working class comprised the soldiers in the war. Appy explains why the working class made up all the soldiers. This reasoning goes as “the institutions most responsible for channeling men into the military-the draft, the schools, and the job market- directed working-class children to the armed forces and their wealthier peers toward college.” The wealthier class of children avoided the war by going to college. Of the 20 percent of wealthy children going to war, most of them were put in non-combat positions facing little casualties, unlike their peers. Because of certain towns’ rich demographics, they faced far fewer casualties than other poor communities. African Americans were drafted at a higher rate than white people. Appy argues the reason behind this disparity isn’t due to racial attitudes but due to socioeconomic class.
The United States became demoralized by the late 1960s because of the circumstances of the war. Soldiers were being sent to fight in what was initially a gorilla-style war turned into a war of attrition. The soldiers were going to fight against communism, but the country already had reports of uprisings against the falling communist leadership.
DeGroot writes multiple stories of men staying soldiers simply trying to survive. They killed in hopes of not being killed themselves. The conditions these men faced in this jungle, with danger around every corner, caused serious phycological effects on them. The war was not popular at home. Riots are protests spread all across America, hoping to end this horrifying war. When soldiers found out about these protests, they were happy about it. Veterans even started writing “UUUU” on their helmets, meaning “the unwilling, led by the unqualified doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful.” Soldiers were committing horrible war crimes. DeGroot states, “between 1965 and 1973, around 250 cases of alleged war crimes by Americans came before military authorities.” These were just the cases reported, as many went unreported. Soldiers spoke about their peers killing women and children or entire cities like that of Mi Lai.
I think there might still be a class divide in the U.S. military today, but I don’t think it’s nearly as distinct as during Vietnam. The military offers lots of financial benefits for joining. I know veterans get free college and have better loan rates. These benefits would draw people from a lower socioeconomic class, but I don’t know how much of a difference it would make today.
I thought both essays were intriguing to read. In my junior year English class, we read The Things They Carried. I remember reading about the atrocities of the war and feeling awful about what had happened. I learned more about Vietnam from the book in an English class than I had in a high school history class. I think one of the reasons for that is history state standards shy away from atrocities committed by the United States and fill curriculum with borderline propaganda.

One thought on “Victoryless Vietnam

  1. I like how you mentioned how African Americans were drafted at a higher rate than white people and how Appy argued it was motivated more by socioeconomic class and not racially. I am surprised more people do not talk about this and discuss racism in the drafting process. I also liked how you talked about how the men in Vietnam felt under-appreciated and how you brought up how they wrote “UUUU” and what that meant for the men fighting at the time.


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