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THe Vietnam War, A Working Class War

Page history last edited by Justin Boyd 8 years, 10 months ago



In the Vietnam War, it was fought by the working class. "Where were the sons of all the big shots who supported the war? Not in my platoon. Our guys' people were workers. . . . If the war was so important, why didn't our leaders put everyone's son in there, why only us?"1 The men following orders, fighting, and suffering casualties were from the working class. A good example of this is how 80% of all enlisted were poor youth and the working class.1 It doesn't make sense how they had only the low class workers there instead of everybody like in World War II.


A Working Class War

In World War II, the draft rules were different from Vietnam's. In World War II, all backgrounds, weather black, white, Asian or Native American, were mobilized because of its massive size. That also includes all social backgrounds including the upper, middle, and lower classes. When it came to the Vietnam War, the draft was more limited to and people controlling the draft were determined to keep the middle and upper classes at home while sending the lower class to fight a war that was like a mini World War II.  "You'd be lucky to find three Vietnam veterans in one of those rich neighborhoods, never mind three who got wounded"1 Another great example is from Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, where Pifas and Rene go off to fight in the Vietnam War. This just goes to show how even the lowest and poorest were sent off to Vietnam. This brings up the word Cannon Fodder which are soldiers, especially infantry men, who run the greatest risk of being wounded or killed.7 This really explains why they used lower class people rather than upper class, they just wanted to get rid of the lower classes and keep the highly educated in America.


How they avoided war

When it came to avoiding the draft, there were many ways. Most people avoided the draft by going to a foreign country, like Canada or Mexico, but that was the conventional method. Some of the draft people got students away from the draft by deferments, both student and technical, payoffs to doctors to not pass possible draftees, draft biases, and by connections to get into national guard instead of the Navy, Army, Marines, or Air Force.2 "I have described a social map of American war casualties to suggest not simply the geographic origins of U.S. soldiers but their class origins-not simply where they came from but the kinds of places as well. Class, not geography was crucial factor in determining which Americans fought in Vietnam."1 Even though it kept many home, still almost 3.5 million got deployed into Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam and over 8.5 million were in the service worldwide. 



Their feelings of the war

"We didn't really feel that we were fighting for our country; half the brothers felt it wasn't even our war and were sypathetic with Ho Chi Minh."2  Why were our soldiers siding with the Viet Cong? Maybe it was how almost 47,000 died in Vietnam from 1957 to 1975.4 It also could of been how it was the first and last fully tevevised war. Most experts will agree how they were desgusted by what the soldiers did in Vietnam and by what they saw on television. "I believe that Vietnam was a waste of 13 years of my life but an experience that few people were allowed. Maybe if Americans who stayed in the USA could have been there, they would of taken the war more seriously."3


How this relates to Sammy and Juliana

The book Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood was influenced greatly by the Vietnam War. One example is how Pifas went off to fight in the war, and came home with no hands. "Sammy! Sammy! Our Pifas. Our Pifas is gone."6 "They couldn't find his hands. Blown clean off. His hands, colnel, they stayed in Nam"6 Another great example is how Rene went off to Vietnam to fight as well; hopefully without the same fate as Pifas. "Look, I just didn't know how to say it. Uncle Sam owns me now."6 Another example is how Sammy and his dad always watched the footage and talked about it. Who knows, if there were no protests at schools across the country, there may have not been a change in the dress code. "We're going to burn these, just like they burn draft cards."6 These was refering to the dress code




This novel changed my perspective greatly. Before I read the novel, I thought it was the greatest time in history; Porsches winning at Le Mans and muscle cars ruling the drag strip, but after reading it, it changed what I thought about the time period and what I thought of the world all together. How did it change? Reading this novel brought to view what really happened behind the scenes of Porsche 917K’s winning Le Mans, muscle cars roaring on the roadways, and even all the political corruption that goes on during the period. The project helped shed light on the characters reactions. When Rene, Gigi, and Sammy rose up against the dress code, it just shows how turbulent the schools were when the Vietnam protests.


This novel did not change my perspective significantly. I have known people who lived in conditions like this and have experienced some of it first hand so I have already been exposed to how corrupt the world is. My family has always been on the short stick of society so living life I’ve had to go through lots of loss. I also have recently lost someone who I loved very dearly so I know how hard it is to handle and bear the loss.  In Sammy and Juliana, Sammy goes through a great deal of loss with Juliana, Pifas, René, and Gigi when some of them die and Gigi moves away. It is very hard to deal with the loss of someone you care about and it’s even harder to know that you’ll never see them again.


1. Appy, Christian G. Working-class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1993. Print.


2. "Vietnam: the 'Working-Class War'" League for the Revolutionary Party - Communist Organization for the Fourth International. Fall 1993. Web. 18 May 2011. http://lrp-cofi.org/PR/VietnamPR45.html


3. "The Feelings of a Soldier: Vietnam War." The Feelings of a Soldier: Vietnam War. Web. 19 May 2011.<http://www.glynn.k12.ga.us/BHS/academics/junior/hunt/haleym9390/home.html>.


4 . "America's Wars."Department of Veterans Affairs. Web. 21 May 2011. <http://www1.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf>.


5. Kueter, Dale. "Vietnam Sons: For Some, the War ..." Google Books. AuthorHouse. Web. 21 May 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=wAXvYWx5QxUC>.


6 . Sáenz, Benjamin Alire. Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood. 1st ed. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos, 2004. Print.


7"Cannon fodder." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 22 May. 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cannon+fodder>.



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