.. s having a mental or physical disability. The laws were created with best intentions in mind but they soon became to be abuse by the rich who could afford to pay doctors to write notes saying that they had a physical or mental disability. There were people drafted who were legitimately disabled but could not afford to see a doctor. Another very popular way the rich had for avoiding the draft was to get braces, which made one, ineligible. Even though this was a time of shared beliefs and assumptions, this was not at all true when one looks at the way the different classes of people perceived being drafted.
A more well off member of society who managed to dodge the draft could safely assume that some unknown person would fill their spot. The wealthier members of society really believed that the army didn’t want them that the army just wanted a body to fill a position. On the other hand the working class had to worry that the body that may be filling their spot could be a friend or a family member. This is the reason many working class people became what were known as draft motivated volunteers. With an absence of realistic alternatives, they believed that by volunteering that would be able to have more control over their assignments.
However, this belief was unfortunately untrue because all of the good assignments were either placed out of reach for most members of the working class or given out earlier to more educated, well off members of society. The only decent option the working class had was to enlist in the Navy or Airforce, which required a three or four year commitment, unlike the Army which required two, but could greatly reduce the chances that they would end up on the battle field. It was beginning to become quite obvious that the liberal consensus was not a Big Tent in which most members of society were under. Vietnam was not just a white working-class war, many minorities, mainly blacks, also fought in the war. They viewed their situation considerably different then the whites, who were basically force to be there, the minorities saw the war as a chance for upward mobility in the social ranks. Around 10 percent of the soldiers who served in the Vietnam War were blacks. Even though the Civil Rights movement was strong at the time, the blacks and whites fighting along side one another did little to end discrimination.
While 10 percent of the soldiers were black, only 2 percent were officers. However, race was not even close to class was in determining the overall social composition of the American forces. Surveys done at the time showed that more than 75 percent of the soldiers came from the working class, while only 20 percent of the soldiers came from white-collar families. This fact proves that the war was essentially a class war and that the working class was not winning. In Illinois, for example, men who lived in towns with a median salary above $15,000 were four times less likely to die in the Vietnam war than those men who lived in towns were the salary was $5,000.
Even though the U.S. had all these policies that were supposed to fair and undiscriminitory those who fought and died in Vietnam were overwhelmingly drawn from the bottom half of the American social structure.(Appy 24) According to Appy eighty percent of the men who went to fight, for what they believed to be Vietnamese liberation, had no more than high school education. Now that the war was in full swing, things on the home front were not much better for working class members of society. They began to experience hard times especially when it came to finding employment. Because they were known as draft-bait employers were reluctant to hire these men who could be called off to anytime. This situation further complicated things for members of the working class, at home they couldn’t find employment and they had to worry about when they would be called off to fight what has started to become a meaningless war.
The situation for the soldiers fighting the war was much worse than for those at home though. Some Americans arrived in Vietnam convinced that no Vietnamese were to be trusted, that all were potential enemies, and that all of them were gooks.(Appy 132) The soldiers were fighting against two enemies in the jungles. They were fighting the Viet Cong and Ho Chi Minh’s communist North Vietnamese forces. The Viet Cong consisted of many of the South Vietnamese that the soldiers had once thought they were brought in to protect. The strength of the anti-communism movement created by the liberal consensus began to dwindle and so did the spirits of the men fighting the war. It began to be clear to them that we were fighting a war we could not win.
The main goal for the soldiers simply became survival, while the U.S. policy makers still felt they could not lose Vietnam because they saw it as a crucial aspect in the long-term effort to contain communism. When the U.S. finally decided to withdraw its troops the men came home to a somewhat startling display of affection. Instead of being hailed as heroes, as veterans of the previous wars were, most soldiers made it home only to be harassed by anti-war protesters.
It was now very apparent that the liberal consensus had become unraveled. The class free principles of the liberal consensus had long since been forgotten in the draft. The American working class ultimately shouldered the burden of what was known by the soldiers as the war for nothing. The anti-communism fervor of the liberal consensus was no longer present in the soldiers or back home in the U.S. It has now become evident that the values and promises of the liberal consensus neither motivated nor even applied to the working class soldiers of Vietnam. When one takes a further look into the experiences of the soldiers at home and abroad it becomes very clear that, while the liberal consensus was the shared system of views at the time that, the argument presented by Hodgson did not apply to the combat soldiers of the Vietnam War.