Vietnam War Us Involvement Essay Contest

Professional Historian Essay Contest Winners

1st Prize: "Recapturing the Interwar Navy's Strategic Magic," Lieutenant Commander Joel Holwitt, USN

2nd Prize:"Guadalcanal Proved Experimentation Works," Trent Hone

3rd Prize:"Sea Power Goes Celluloid," Ryan Wadle, Ph.D.  

Rising Historian Essay Contest Winners

1st Prize: "There Are No Benign Operations," Lieutenant John Miller, USN

2nd Prize:"The United States Needs Mobile Afloat Basing," Lieutenant Colonel James W. "Wes" Hammond III, USMC (Ret.)

3rd Prize:"Of Suns and Dragons: Imperial Japan's Rise, the United States Navy, and America's Approach to Contemporary China," Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Daniel Stefanus, USN 

Selected Submissions to the 2017 CNO Naval History Essay Contest  

2017 CNO Naval History Essay Contest Guidelines 

Black Americans approached World War II in a decidedly different manner to that of the previous war. The major awareness which had developed in the 40s was of the enormous contradiction which lay in fighting a war for democracy abroad which they did not have in America. Mullen states that,

Evidence that this disillusionment was widespread can be observed in the increased interest in protest organisations. The recognition that wartime was precisely the moment to raise issues concerning racial discrimination was compounded by the success of Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters’ March-On-Washington Committee. The damage which their march would have done, had it gone ahead, to the image of a united America was seen by President Roosevelt who acquiesced to some of the demands. As a result in 1941 he 'issued an Executive Order to abolish all discrimination ... in employment in defense industries and government agencies'. Despite this he managed to defer the issue of desegregating the military.

One Black soldier vocalised the futility of their situation saying "just carve on my tombstone, Here lies a Black man killed fighting a yellow man for the protection of a white man". So disparaged were some Black Americans that they became involved in another form of protest: draft resistance. This peaceful refusal to accede to Jim Crow segregation within the military was punished with imprisonment. The white response was to discriminate more rigidly: Black blood was initially refused by the Red Cross and finally only accepted for Black GI's; air raid shelters were segregated, and similar to World War I; lynchings and race riots grew more prevalent.

Despite this one million Black Americans fought in the war. Those at home continued to experience discrimination regardless of the fact that their 'Brothers’ in the military were fighting for their country. Those who fought abroad realised to a greater degree what some had already learnt from experiences in World War I: that the United States was one of the most racially discriminatory of all the allies. Extracts" from Bill Horton's poem Just A Negro Soldier illustrates feelings of despair concerning race relations, and helps explain how the concept of "Double V" developed:

Underpinning "Double V" was the belief that fighting for victory against racism at home was as important as fighting fascism abroad.

Returning to a life of segregation and discrimination at the end of World War II caused the politicisation of many Black Americans. The resultant civil disobedience campaign, e.g. the draft resistors, was one of the catalysts of the 50s and 60s Civil Rights Movement. As America emerged as a world superpower, the rest of the world focused upon her internal political shortcomings and they found 'the major domestic criticism to be America's handling of its racial minorities'. As a result of this and the recognition that Black soldiers were needed as part of the military in a country which was often at war, in 1948 Truman ordered full integration of the military.

Writing in 1944 Myrad expressed an expectation that radical changes lay ahead for the Black American. After the conformity of the McCarthy era, protest began to increase rapidly. In the late 50s and 60s many Black protest organisations emerged: The Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). For these groups Black rights combined with an anti-war focus were integral. The emerging youth culture created a new lease of life and injection of idealism into these protests; and with the outbreak of the Vietnam War, they were presented with a fresh focus for even more intense opposition, particularly as the reasons for intervention were not wholly understood.

With the integration of the military, Black Americans were more readily accepted. S M. Kohn in Jailed for Peace states that they were in fact 'over represented, ... in the armed services ... drafted in ... at a rate almost twice as high as whites'. Although during previous wars this acceptance and increased recruitment may have been welcomed, in Vietnam it was not as the belief that military involvement and a willingness to fight for one's country would result in full citizenship had disintegrated.

Involvement in the war was also affecting those at home. Eldridge Cleaver suggested that the government were sending so many Black men away "to kill off the cream of Black youth". The Black Panther Party stated in its ten point plan that it wanted them to be exempt from military service, while other organisations, if not so explicit in their aims, were sympathetic to, and supportive of, draft resistance. Martin Luther King and others saw government spending drained away by the war thus usurping funds which could have been used to 'improve housing, education and job opportunities' for an impoverished section of the community.

Opposition to the war also changed the nature of protest. There were increased incidents such as bus boycotts and sit-ins and a change for some from non-violence to increasing militancy. It was on this aspect that Civil Rights protests divided. Malcolm X argued that if the government used violence to achieve its desired aims why should Black Americans not do the same. He also suggested that separatism should be the aim of Black Americans wishing to escape racism, in part rejecting the long-term aims of integration, which had so far been unsuccessful.

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