Vietnam War

The Call for Blacks

Just as changes had been seen in the armed forces at the end of the Korean war for blacks, the same was happening in America. In 1964, the Civil Rights Bill was passed which banned discrimination of blacks in all sectors. By the end of that year, the U.S. had sent over 180,000 soldiers to fight the Viet Cong in Vietnam. The military deemed it necessary to step up recruiting and heavily targeted men and women, black and white. Many chose to serve as a way to gain respect from whites in showing that they too would defend the country. Though blacks only constituted 11% of the population they would make up almost 13% of the fighting force in Vietnam. Just prior to the outbreak of war, President John F. Kennedy realized that though blacks made up a significant percent of the population they were not well represented throughout the armed forces. The President called for studies to be done on how to change recruiting and aim it towards attracting to blacks when tensions began to rise out of Vietnam and the issue was set aside. The draft did not discriminate against black or white, and now blacks were being drafted by the hundreds. Blacks at a disadvantage with the draft because men could defer if attending college and if they held certain civilian occupations, which mostly were held by white males. Fifteen blacks would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in the fighting. While blacks fought in Vietnam, the rest back home were fighting for their civil rights and those once granted then the acceptance by the country.


  • Blacks were among the first to receive Medals of Honor
  • CPT Elizabeth Allan, a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps, volunteered to go to Vietnam
  • Racial integration in the military was met with better success than in other institutions in the United States (Civil Rights Movement)
  • 1962-only 1.6% of officers were black