would send them to war. Others were horrified that the United States was propping up a corrupt regime in South Vietnam, or disgusted by the number of innocent bystanders included in the casualties. Still others were concerned about the environmental damage caused by industrial defoliants like Agent Orange. African Americans protested the war, claiming that they could not fight for democracy abroad while being treated as second- class citizens at home. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. made headlines when he announced that he did not support the war on those grounds. Young people in particular joined the anti-war movement after the institution of the military draft in 1969. There were a number of ways to avoid the draft, including pretending to be homosexual, expressing suicidal thoughts, acquiring disfigurement, and fleeing the country. Some were able to get deferments due to attending college, but most were unable to afford that option. Even those who chose to enter service after college were eligible for leadership positions that placed them high enough in the chain of command to get away from the battlefield. Eighty percent of the people drafted were
working class and poor. Likewise, African American and Latino soldiers were more likely to become ground combat troops than white soldiers, even when accounting for socioeconomic class. The average age of a U.S. soldier in Vietnam was 19—seven years younger than their World War II counterparts ( Figure 27.8 ). Figure 27.8: This chart shows the demographics of the average Vietnam era soldier. The administration of the draft represented a particularly heated point of contention among anti-war protesters. The draft was administered through a so-called "lottery." Every man between the ages of 18-25 was given a lottery number based on his birthday. The lower the lottery number, the higher chance of being called for duty. Lottery numbers were selected in a televised drawing. Statisticians quickly realized that the lottery was not random, and that, due to the way birth dates were placed in the barrel, some men were more likely to get drafted depending on what month they were born in ( Figure 27.9 ).
Figure 27.9: Graph showing the average lottery number drawn between 1969-1972 based on birth date. By the end of the 1960s, most Americans no longer supported the Vietnam War, regardless of whether they formally joined a movement. A number of atrocities casting U.S. ground forces in a negative way came to light toward the end of the decade. Foremost among these was the tragedy at My Lai , a village in the Quang Ngai province, a Viet Cong stronghold. In March 1968, a group of U.S. troops entered the village and, after finding mostly elderly people, women, and children, proceeded to burn down many of the homes and kill most of the citizens, all while high-ranking officers watched from a helicopter hovering over the village ( Figures 27.10-12 ). When some witnesses complained to their supervisors, the event was covered up until late the following year, when one serviceman, disgusted by the inaction, spoke to an Associated Press reporter.
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