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Mexican American dies in greater numbers during Vietnam conflict

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Title:
Mexican American dies in greater numbers during Vietnam conflict
Series Title:
This week in history
Creator:
Castro, Richard T.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
Richard T. Castron
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Copyright [name of copyright holder or Creator or Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
Mexican Americans Died In Greater
Numbers During Vietnam Conflict
by
Richard T. Castro
Twenty-one years ago this week. Dr. Ralph Guzman of the University of California at Santa Cruz examined the casualty rate among Mexican American soldiers for the first eight years of the Vietnam war. His findings were included in the Congressional Record of the 91st Congress on October 8, 1969. This weeks lesson in history examines Dr. Guzman's findings and attempts to explain the high casualty rate among Mexican Americans during this period.
The war in Vietnam took a high toll among soldiers from low-income backgrounds. The causes, according to Dr. Guzman, were usually traced to the exemptions built into the Selective Service System, exemptions that usually favored the sons of middle and upper-income families. Even when, in April, 1970, the President announced that most deferments would be ended, there was conjecture at that time that this would have the effect of increasing the number of enlistments particularly among those who wanted to take advantage of educational opportunities in the service, as well as of the prerogative of having more to say about where


they would spend their service time and what they would do.
Dr. Guzman found that Mexican American military personnel had a higher death rate in Vietnam than all other servicemen. Analysis of casualty reports during January, 1961, and February, 1967, and during the period of December 1967, and March, 1969, revealed that a disproportionate number of young men with distinctive Spanish names did not return from the Southeast Asia theatre of war. The investigation also revealed that a substantial number of them were involved in high-risk branches of the service such as the U.S. Marine Corps.
The report pointed out that, "In the Southwest where the majority of the people of Mexican American descent reside, Spanish named casualties remain consistently high in both periods. During the first period (January, 1961 to February, 1967) casualties with home addresses in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, totalled 1,631 deaths from all causes. Of these, 19.4 percent had distinctive Spanish names. In the second period ((December, 1967, to March, 1969) there were 6,385 deaths. Casualties with distinctive Spanish names represented 19.0 percent of the total." Mexican Americans were only 11.8 percent of the total population in the Southwest, but the death rate in Vietnam was almost double this figure.
The Guzman study found that war deaths by branch of service indicated that a great number of Mexican Americans
2


chose high-risk duty. For example, during the first period, 23.4 percent of all Southwest Marine Corps casualties had distinctive Spanish surnames. The Army also supplied an important number of ground troops, 19.4 percent of the casualties reported between January, 1961 and February, 1967, had Spanish surnames and were presumably of Mexican parentage. In the latter period, between December, 1967 and March 1969, Spanish surnames represented 17.5 percent of all Southwestern Army casualties.
Historically, Mexican Americans have been a suspect, "foreign," minority. Like the Japanese Americans during World War II, they have been under great pressure to prove loyalty to the United States. Today, people like former Governor Dick Lamm warn that Mexican Americans are part of a "deadly disunity" in this country and pose the threat of forming a "Hispanic Quebec." Despite an exemplary record of military support, Lamm and the English Only crowd continue to paint a misleading image of our community.
During Vietnam young Mexican Americans demonstrated their loyalty and proved their courage. The blood of conguistadors and Aztec warriors flowed in their veins and they died in disproportionate numbers. Yet, Guzman pointed out that while Mexican Americans represented 19.4 percent of the casualties in the Southwest during Vietnam, they only represented 1 percent of the total student population at the
3


University of California during that period.
This last week the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution giving President Bush broad authority to wage war. On a vote of 96-3 only Senators Edward Kennedy, Bob Kerrey and Mark Hatfield had the courage to vote against this measure. Our government is clearly contemplating war in the Persian Gulf. The Washington Post and other major U.S. dailies are publishing speculations by senior military officers on how war with Iraq could be fought and won.
During Vietnam we had the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" that pulled us into that conflict unnecessarily. The Senate this past week, in its "March to Folly" is driving us in the same direction with its passage of the "Persian Gulf Resolution." As gas prices continue to climb in the weeks ahead, our young men will be called upon to shed their blood. I suspect that Mexican American youth will again provide the cannon fodder so that we can enjoy our weekend drives at reasonable prices.
Yet, looking at the University of Colorado campus of today. Dr. Guzman's study of twenty years ago reads like yesterdays paper. While our youth are good enough to fight and die in disproportionate numbers on foreign soil, we are still not good enough to study and walk the halls of our tax supported institutions of higher education. If they can "Be All They Can Be" in the Army, they can at Colorado University too.
# # #
CtT


Full Text

PAGE 1

Mexican Americans Died In Greater Numbers During Vietnam Conflict by Richard T. Castro Twenty-one years ago this week, Dr. Ralph Guzman of the University of California at Santa Cruz examined the casualty • rate among Mexican American soldiers for the first eight. years of the Vietnam war. His findings were included inthe .. Congressional Record of the 91st Congress on Octobe r a , . 1969. This weeks lesson in history examines Dr. Guzman's findings and attempts to explain the high casualty rate among Mexican Americans during this period. The war in Vietnam took a high toll among soldiers from low-income backgrounds. The causes, according to Dr. . Guzman, were usually traced to the exemptions built into the Selective Service System, exemptions that usually favored, . the sons of middle and upper-income amilies. Even when; in April, 1970, the President announced that most deferments would be ended, there was conjecture at that time that this would have the effect of increasing the number of enlistments particularly among those who wanted to take advantage of educational opportunities in the service, as well as of the prerogative of having more to say about where

PAGE 2

they would spend their service time and what they would do. Dr. Guzman found that Mexican American military personnel had a higher death rate in Vietnam than all other servicemen. Analysis of casualty reports during January, 1961, and February, 1967, and during the period of December 1967, and March, 1969, revealed that a disproportionate number of young men with distinctive Spanish names did not return from the Southeast Asia theatre of war. The investigation also revealed that a substantial number of them were involved in high-risk branches of the service such as the U.S. Marine Corps. The report pointed out that, "In the Southwest where the majority of the people of Mexican American descent reside, Spanish named casualties remain consistently high in both periods. During the first period (January, 1961 to February, 1967) casualties with home addresses in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, totalled 1, 631 deaths from all causes. Of these, 19.4 percent had distinctive Spanish names. In the second period ((December, 1967, to March, 1969) there were 6,385 deaths. Casual ties with distinctive Spanish names represented 19. 0 percent of the total." Mexican Americans were only 11. 8 percent of the total population in the Southwest, but the death rate in Vietnam was almost double this figure. The Guzman study found that war deaths by branch of service indicated that a great number of Mexican Americans 2

PAGE 3

chose high-risk duty. For example, during the first period, 23.4 percent of all Southwest Marine Corps casualties had distinctive Spanish surnames. The Army also supplied an important number of ground troops, 19. 4 percent of the casualties reported between January, 1961 and February, 1967, had Spanish surnames and were presumably of Mexican parentage. In the latter period, between December, 1967 and March 1969, Spanish surnames represented 17.5 percent of all Southwestern Army casualties. Historically, Mexican Americans have been a suspect, "foreign," minority. Like the Japanese Americans during World War II, they have been under great pressure to prove loyalty to the United States. Today, people like former Governor Dick Lamm warn that Mexican Americans are part of a "deadly disunity" in this country and pose the threat of forming a "Hispanic Quebec." Despite an exemplary record of military support, Lamm and the English Only crowd continue to paint a misleading image of our community. During Vietnam young Mexican Americans demonstrated their loyalty and proved their courage. The blood of conquistadors and Aztec warriors flowed in their veins and they died in disproportionate numbers. Yet, Guzman pointed out that while Mexican Americans represented 19.4 percent of the casualties in the Southwest during Vietnam, they only represented 1 percent of the total student population at the 3

PAGE 4

...... " /_'\ ,.., 4 University of California during that period. This last week the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution giving President Bush broad authority to wage war. On a vote of 96-3 only Senators Edward Kennedy, Bob Kerrey and Mark Hatfield had the courage to vote against this measure. OUr government is clearly contemplating war in the Persian Gulf. The Washington Post and other major U.S. dailies are publishing speculations by senior military officers on how war with Iraq could be fought and won. During Vietnam we had the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" that pulled us into that conflict unnecessarily. The Senate this past week, in its "March to Folly" is driving us in the same direction with its passage of the "Persian Gulf Resolution." As gas prices continue to climb in the weeks ahead, our young men will be called upon to shed their blood. I suspect that Mexican American youth will again provide the cannon fodder so that we can enjoy our weekend drives at reasonable prices. Yet, looking at the University of Colorado campus of today, Dr. Guzman' s study of twenty years ago reads like yesterdays paper. While our youth are good enough to fight and die in disproportionate numbers on foreign soil, we are still not good enough to study and walk the halls of our tax supported institutions of higher education. All They Can Be" in the Army, they University too. # # # If they can "Be can at Colorado