Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/1524
Date of Award
MA in History
Kathleen Murphy, Ph.D.
The Vietnam War brought many changes to society in that it soon became one of the most controversial wars in United States history. There was a tremendous loss of life as well as a rift in the nation with the rise of anti-war protest. Those drafted for the war primarily came from low-income and ethnic minority communities. While all who served deserve to be recognized, there is one group that has gone largely unrepresented in the history of the war. Mexican American serviceman served and died in large numbers when compared to their population. In addition, they also received high honors for their valor in the battlefield. Yet, the history of the war has been largely focused on the experience of the Anglo and Black soldier. This is due in part to the existing black-white paradigm of race that has existed in United States society, which places all other ethnic minority groups in the margins of major historical events. Biased Selective Service Boards contributed to the already existing race and class discrimination that existed among the elite class in society.
This study utilizes interviews, oral histories, autobiographies and anthologies as its main source of information of Mexican American Vietnam War servicemen. Due to the lack of historical material in this area, most information on participation and casualty rates are estimates conducted by professors such as Ralph Guzman, from the University of Santa Cruz. Guzman took the number of Spanish surnamed casualties in the southwestern states to calculate an approximate number of total casualties. The major aim is to highlight the contribution of the Mexican American serviceman in Vietnam and to emphasize the patriotism that existed in the Mexican American community as much as it did in the Black and Anglo communities. By providing information in the area of American identity, race relations, the draft and volunteerism as well as the sacrifice of Mexican American lives at the time of the Vietnam War, this study hopes to initiate the inclusion of Mexican Americans in the general history of the war.
Keywords: Mexican American, Chicano/a, Selective Service , draft boards, whiteness, New Standards Men, Project 100,000, Lyndon Johnson, League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC), Medal of Honor, sacrifice, patriotism.