Liberal Myths of the Vietnam War, Part 3: Age, race and class

I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first,’round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam

— “Copperhead Road,” Steve Earle

Songs like “Copperhead Road” and CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” not to mention numerous award-winning Hollywood movies, perpetuate stubborn Vietnam War myths about the American soldiers who fought and their age, race and class.

These myths appeal to anti-war leftists who can only bring themselves to admire “victims” rather than heroes. However, the statistics concerning the age, race and class of the average American soldier who fought in Vietnam contradict the Left’s treasured myths.

You’d think self-described peace-lovers would welcome the news that fewer young working class men, and fewer African Americans, had been Vietnam War “victims” than previously thought. You’d be wrong: nothing upsets liberals more than when reality comes in conflict with their cherished propaganda.

As I noted in a previous column, one of the most stubborn myths about the Vietnam War was that African Americans were drafted and wounded far above their numbers in the general U.S. population.

But as black conservative author Larry Elder has revealed, “During the Vietnam War draft era, blacks comprised 13.5 percent of the population. Of those who died in Vietnam, 12.5 percent were black…”

Veteran B.G. Burkett, has devoted himself to telling the truth about Vietnam, in shocking, eye opening books like Stolen Valor : How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History

“Nobody’s ever telling the real story of the black man in Vietnam,” Burkett claimed in one interview. “They are always focusing on ‘The black man; the victim.’ They weren’t victims; they were patriotic Americans. Seventy-five percent of the blacks that served in Vietnam were volunteers — exactly the same rate as whites. Twenty won the Medal of Honor, 100 won the Distinguished Service Cross and dozens upon dozens won the airforce cross and the Navy Cross. Nobody knows that about 300 went on to become admirals or generals in the armed services of America.”

Burkett also challenges the notion that American teenagers were drafted in the tens of thousands to fight in Vietnam.

“I often ask reporters, ‘How many 18 years old draftees do you think died in Vietnam?’ Most of the time they answer between 10,000 and 24,000. The answer was 101,” he said. Only seven of them were black.

Burkett explained that the draft started with men in their mid-20s and works down.

“The average age of Vietnam Veterans was 23 at the mid-point of their time in Vietnam,” said Burkett. “Of the 18 and 19 year olds that died in Vietnam, 97% of them were volunteers.”

Burkett also debunked the popular myth that it was only the poor or middle class who served and died in Vietnam. He claims that high income areas like Beverly Hills actually had higher than average casualty numbers.

This is probably because recruits from those neighborhoods were better educated, and therefore more likely to become pilots and infantry officers. (Note: 79% of American soldiers who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better.)

(Kathy Shaidle blogs at This piece originally appeared at her Conservative Politics site at Her new book, The Tyranny of Nice, features an introduction by Mark Steyn.)

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