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Will Elsbury, Reference Librarian, Researcher and Reference Services Division
Created: September 12, 2022
Last Updated: September 12, 2022
African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans all took part in the Vietnam War. These men and women served honorably and with distinction. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society External lists 23 African Americans, External five Asian/Pacific Islander Americans , External 21 Hispanic Americans, External and three Native Americans External as holders of the Medal of Honor.
Approximately 300,000 African Americans served in the Vietnam War. In 1965, African Americans filled 31% of the ground combat battalions in Vietnam, while the percentage of African Americans as a minority in the general population was 12%. In 1965, African Americans suffered 24% of the U.S. Army's fatal casualties. African Americans saw combat at a higher percentage and suffered casualties at a higher rate. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the Vietnam War as a white man’s war, a black man’s fight. See: Vietnam in Military Statistics: A History of the Indochina Wars, 1772-1991, M. Clodfelter (pp. 243, 255) and Vietnam War: The Essential Reference Guide, J. Willbanks (pp. 4-5).
According to the Library of Congress online presentation Belonging on and off the Battlefield: Asian Americans in the U.S. Military, roughly 35,000 Asian Americans served in the Vietnam War.
Hispanic Americans also served in Vietnam in great numbers. The U.S. Army web site Hispanics in the U.S. Army states that over 80,000 Hispanic Americans served in the war. A U.S. Senate resolution from the 115th Congress recognizing the 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month stated Hispanic Americans suffered 5.5% of Vietnam War deaths and made up 4.5% of the general U.S. population.
Approximately 42,000 Native Americans served in the Vietnam War, continuing a long tradition of serving in the U.S. military. The National Museum of the American Indian presentation Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces External states Native Americans cited family and tribal traditions as reasons for serving in the war.
This guide comprises Library of Congress digital resources and print materials related to the topic American minorities serving in the Vietnam War.