African Americans and the Vietnam War

TitleAfrican Americans and the Vietnam War
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsWestheider, James
EditorYoung, Marilyn B., and Robert Buzzanco
Book TitleA Companion to the Vietnam War
CityMalden, MA

Prior to the Vietnam War, African Americans had served with pride and distinction in all of America’s wars in the twentieth century. Blacks compiled an impressive record of military service despite the fact this almost always meant serving under unequal conditions in segregated units with substandard equipment. Vietnam, it was hoped, would be different. It was the first war in which the armed forces were totally integrated from the beginning, and the first in which African Americans ostensibly had the same opportunities as whites. But as the war progressed, many blacks became disenchanted with the personal and institutional racism still endemic in the services. This dissatisfaction would prove to be a major catalyst in the rise of black solidarity within the armed forces, but would also be a contributing factor to an epidemic of racial violence in the services beginning in 1968. Ultimately, it would force the chain of command to address seriously the problems of racism and discrimination in the American military establishment.

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