The Vietnam ConflictAn Academic Information Portal For Education and Research

-- Michael Kelly: African-American Casualties --

 Thanks Connie, and Roger that on not stopping with "Bloods." 

 The 1% difference between Blacks as casualties and Blacks as a part of 
 society is very small by any measure. And, much of it can be attributed to  
 something Wallace Terry and others never seem to acknowledge, and that
 is the fact that many Blacks were very patriotic and voluntarily enlisted in 
 the military specifically for the Infantry. 

 That was particularly true at the start of the war when Army infantry (and  
 particularly airborne) units where comprised of Black enlistees far above their  
 % of the population, though less so toward it's end, I would say. 

 But given the nature of society at the time; that the long term effects of 
 racism and other factors had condemned a very disproportionate number 
 of Blacks to the lower economic rungs of society with the military being 
 one of the few perceived escape routes from that lower shelf, the amazing
 thing to me is that the disparity between those percentages isn't much 

 If in fact at one point Blacks were 23% of the dead, yet in the end were 
 only 12.5% of the dead, then that raises some interesting questions and  

 For one thing, our society and the war should be viewed in the long term,
 I think, and it speaks volumes about a society's health and its compassion
 if it was true a minority was dying disproportionately during part of a war,
 and that society acted to correct the imbalance and succeeded by its end.
 Can we ignore that noble act? 

 On the other hand, how was that imbalance corrected (or should it have 
 been corrected if the playing field was otherwise level)? For a minority's
 casualty rate to have been reduced by more than half over an 8 year period,
 that could only have been accomplished if troops other than Black 
 Americans were pushed to the fore of combat in disproportion to their 
 own numbers! In other words, for at least part of the war, the scales 
 must have been dramatically tilted to ensure Black Americans from 
 combat. It is otherwise a mathematical impossibility, I think. 

 If you look at the war only as a slice of one of those years when Non-Blacks  
 were dying at disproportionate rates, then it would appear that it was the  
 majority that was being discriminated against! Ain't that a bitch? 

 The really surprising thing to me in the data I compiled was that Black  
 Draftees only made up 13.5% of all Draftee deaths. That one blows my
 mind and throws the long accepted myth that Blacks were drafted
 inordinately during our war into some disarray. Not sure how that can
 be explained... 

 I'm puzzled by the stat you cite putting the total participation of Blacks in
 the active duty military at 9.9 percent. I have official DOD stats that put it
 at  15% in 1971, a point in time when Black participation was likely at its

 My experience and other things I've read have told me that Blacks were  
 nearly 20% of the military during the early years of the war. It's also true
 that only a few years ago, Blacks were 33% of the all volunteer Army and
 yet today are near 30% of it! 

 What would would historians be saying today if the Gulf War had been a 
 blood bath for Americans? 30% of the dead would have been Black 
 Americans and imagine how that would be interpreted? On its face, one  
 could conclude that the US was more racist in the 90's that during the 60's,  
 but I think it's fair to say that was not at all the case. 

 Something else was going on in the period of the Gulf war, and that 
 something else, whatever it was, was also at work during the Vietnam War
 to one degree or another; which is my way of saying one has to be very 
 careful about attributing very small statistical variances to racism alone. 

 In any case, the 9.9 % participation figure you cite really seems odd given
 the fact it was apparently much higher in 1971, a time when one would have
 to otherwise surmise that Black participation would be approaching its 
 lowest point. Wallace Terry even says 14% of the military was Black during
 the War years. So, I'd say something is wrong with that figure or my  
 understanding of it.

  Michael Kelley

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