History of the widespread mutiny of US troops in Vietnam that brought the world's most powerful military machine to its knees.
The GI anti-war movement within the army was one of the decisive factors in ending the war.
An American soldier in a hospital explained how he was wounded: He said
“I was told that the way to tell a hostile Vietnamese from a friendly Vietnamese was to shout ‘To hell with Ho Chi Minh!’ If he shoots, he’s unfriendly. So I saw this dude and yelled ‘To hell with Ho Chi Minh!’ and he yelled back, ‘To hell with President Johnson!’ We were shaking hands when a truck hit us.”
- from 1,001 Ways to Beat the Draft, by Tuli Kupferburg.
The U.S. government would be happy to see the history of the Vietnam War buried and forgotten. Not least because it saw the world’s greatest superpower defeated by a peasant army, but mainly because of what defeated the war effort – the collective resistance of the enlisted men and women in the U.S. armed forces, who mutinied, sabotaged, shirked, fragged and smoked their way to a full withdrawal and an end to the conflict.
Before the war
Military morale was considered high before the war began. In fact, the pre-Vietnam Army was considered the best the United States had ever put into the field. Consequently, the military high command was taken quite by surprise by the rapid disintegration of the very foundations of their power.
As American presence reached major proportions in 1964 and 1965, people joining the military were predominantly poor working class whites or from ethnic minorities. University attendance and draft resistance saved many better-off young white people from the draft, and many other less privileged workers signed up in order to avoid a prison term, or simply due to the promises of a secure job and specialist training.
The image these young people had of life in the military was shattered quite rapidly by the harsh reality they faced.
Those who had enlisted found that the promises made by recruiters vanished into thin air once they were in boot camp. Guarantees of special training and choice assignments were simply swept away. This is a fairly standard procedure used to snare enlistees. In fact, the military regulations state that only the enlistee, not the military, is bound by the specifics of the recruiting contract. In addition, both enlistees and draftees faced the daily harassment, the brutal de-personalisation, and ultimately the dangers and meaninglessness of the endless ground war in Vietnam. These pressures were particularly intense for non-white GIs, most of whom were affected by the rising black consciousness and a heightened awareness of their oppression.
These forces combined to produce the disintegration of the Vietnam era military. This disintegration developed slowly, but once it reached a general level it became epidemic in its proportions. In its midst developed a conscious and organised resistance, which both furthered the disintegration and attempted to channel it in a political direction.