The Working Class's Loss of Faith in the American Government During the Vietnam War

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Cesar Molina
The Working Class’s Loss of Faith of the American Government during the Vietnam War
Young men fight and die for their country in every single war, and Vietnam was no different. However, U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, on average, were the youngest in American history. In previous wars many men in their twenties were drafted for military service, and men of that age and older would often volunteer. During the Vietnam War most of the volunteers and draftees were teenagers; the average age was nineteen. In World War II, the average American soldier was twenty-six years old. At the age of eighteen young men could join or be drafted into the army. At seventeen, with the consent of a guardian, boys could enlist in the Marine Corps. At the beginning of the war, hundreds of seventeen year old marines served in Vietnam. However, in November 1965, the Pentagon ordered that all American troops must be eighteen before being deployed in the war zone. The soldiers sent off to Vietnam can be divided into three categories: one-third draftees, one-third draft-motivated volunteers, and one-third true volunteers. As the war continued, the number of volunteers steadily declined. Almost half of the army troops were draftees, and in the combat units the portion was commonly as high as two-thirds; late in the war it was even higher. These were the majority of the people dying in the war, from 1966 to 1969, the percentage of draftees who died in the war doubled from 21 to 40. Those who could avoid the draft legally through deferments were the upper class, while those in the middle and lower class who didn’t want to fight in the war had to figure out ways to avoid the draft. Because the draft threatened middle and lower class males between the ages of 18 to 35, they united together through protests to oppose the draft by burning draft cards.

Draft-card burning was a symbol of protest performed by thousands of young American men as part of the opposition to the...
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