The Use of Intellectually Challenged Soldiers in Vietnam
The way the draft system was set, college students got deferments. Ending student deferments would have furnished enough bodies to satisfy the military’s needs. However, college students were predominately the kids of the middle and upper classes, whose opinion counted the most with Congress and the media. Without their support, or at least acquiescence, American involvement in Vietnam could not continue. Such support or acquiescence would evaporate if their kids’ student deferments were cancelled, and they were drafted to fight and die in a far off country most Americans could not place on a map.
Mobilizing reservists could also furnish enough bodies, but it posed a similar dilemma. The reserves and National Guard were overwhelmingly filled with the children of the well off and connected. Sending them to Vietnam would produce a fierce backlash. To solve the military’s manpower shortfall without antagonizing middle and upper class Americans by sending their kids to Vietnam, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara came up with a shameful brainchild: Project 100,000. It was touted as a Great Society program that would take impoverished and disadvantaged youth, and break the cycle of poverty by teaching them valuable skills in the military.