United States combat soldiers during the Vietnam War faced many difficult challenges on a day-to-day basis. During the years of massive troop mobilization, 1966-1969, a U.S. soldier’s life was determined by performance, an elusive enemy, overcoming adversity, racism, substance abuse, and at times, luck. Because the war in Vietnam was a fully integrated U.S. conflict, race relations in the military created challenges for soldiers and officers, both black and white. Scholars studying the Vietnam War agree that race relations among soldiers were kept under control in frontline combat situations. This viewpoint claims that both black and white soldiers were more concerned with doing their jobs and surviving the battle than letting the race barrier get between them. In contrast, in the rear and garrisons, the extreme prevalence of racism was comparable to that in the United States.1 James Westheider argues that African American servicemen did not observe an equal representation of black culture on these military bases.2 He emphasizes how the lack of soul music, black entertainers, black magazines, and other products, aided in perpetuating a military experience that catered to the white American soldier and tolerated “personal and institutional racism” against blacks.3 Herman Graham III claims that life in the field was more democratic and life in the rear was more hierarchical; he uses statistics to prove that the military draft was fair towards the African American community and examples of how racism affected both black and white American soldiers.4 Justin McLeod argues that drugs and alcohol were easily obtained, military machismo relied heavily on drug use, and military leaders had a difficult time controlling soldiers with drug problems or addictions.5 These authors concur that drug use escalated as the war in Vietnam continued. They also examine situations where drugs are to blame for violence and disorderly conduct among U.S. soldiers.6 Brush claims that the newspaper media began exposing drug abuse in 1968 which led U.S. Army officials to declare there was a drug problem.7 To summarize: U.S. involvement in Vietnam between 1961-1975 and including the 1966-1969 incursion of American troops, manifested drug use and racism which greatly impacted black and white soldier relations that created tension and violence. The Vietnam War brought many challenges to Americans, one of which was attempting to adapt the U.S. military to suite both black and white soldiers. With troops being recruited into the military from the Johnson Administration’s “Project 100,000” (1966-1969) and the ongoing drug problem among U.S. soldiers that was revealed in 1968; this overlap of drugs and 543,000 troops, ten percent of which were black, must have had a correlation with racial violence in Vietnam.8 Racism in the United States and institutionalized racism in the military during this overlap lead the belief that black soldiers serving during this period would have a different perspective than white soldiers about drug related racism in Vietnam. Therefore, between 1968 and 1971, the highest number of American troops in Vietnam overlapped with the drug epidemic to create an atmosphere of drug induced racism and violence among U.S. soldiers.
An examination of these scenes of violence within the U.S. military during the Vietnam War is effectively analyzed from the perspective of black servicemen between 1968 and 1971. These men served in Vietnam during the peak of Project 100,000 and the escalating years of American drug usage and addiction during the Vietnam War.9 The primary research is based on seventeen randomly selected online oral interviews from military personnel who served between 1968 and 1971. The racial breakdown of men interviewed is twelve white soldiers and five black soldiers. For a larger sample