The United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War began shortly after the Second World War ended. Their participation was limited at first and escalated over 20 years. By April 1969, there were 543,000 American troops stationed in Vietnam. But did you know that the US had to ramp up its numbers, but did you know how?
Project 100,000 is a Vietnam-era effort that aims to recruit 100,000 individuals each year to fight America’s war in Southeast Asia. Many of the recruits were illiterate, had IQs below 70, or had other mental or physical disabilities. Thousands of men were killed in action.
Why Did the US Lower Their Standards in Recruiting Troops?
Over 320,000 men were drafted or volunteered for duty as part of this operation, virtually all of whom failed the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which is used to establish basic eligibility for military service.
Project 100,000 entrants scored in the bottom 10th to 30th percentiles on the test, known as Category IV; candidates scoring in Category IV are typically regarded as unsuited for military duty and advised to return to civilian life. Project 100,000, on the other hand, was an experiment to examine if military entry criteria could be reduced.
The project’s stated goals were to alleviate poverty. Lyndon B. Johnson had just launched his War on Poverty initiative. The G.I. Military service, along with the G.I. bill and other veterans’ benefits, can be a terrific way to break out of poverty. But this was a good side effect of the project’s primary goal: the Vietnam War needed more men, and lowering recruitment requirements was one way to obtain them.
Although roughly half were volunteers, the other half were drafted, and neither group had any business in a conflict zone. The Armed Forces Qualification Test assessed several domains, all of which were focused on determining someone’s suitability for duty. As a result, Project 100,000 sent men to the war who were under-equipped in various ways.
Some had physical disabilities, others were overweight or underweight, and many had low mental aptitude—often mentally impaired. Many people were illiterate. Because this was an experiment, a limited group of soldiers was accepted to the program to serve as controls: they were regular soldiers.
Once in the military, Project 100,000 soldiers were treated the same as any other soldier; otherwise, the experiment would be null and invalid. Various human resource personnel compiled anonymous monthly reports on the soldiers, recording their military life and conflict progress. The outcomes were not favorable. (Source: Big Think)
What Happened to the Failed Experiment
Project 100,000 soldiers were around three times more likely to be killed. This is not unexpected given that, in addition to being physically and mentally unprepared for combat, they were unlikely to qualify for technical training that would otherwise keep them away from the front lines. As a result, many of them were used as infantry soldiers.
They were also reallocated 11 times more frequently than their counterparts and were 7 to 9 times more likely to require remedial training. Project 100,000 recruits were also more likely to be arrested.
Those who survived the conflict fared worse than comparable guys who did not enlist in the military. They received $7,000 less per year than their civilian counterparts, which equates to just under $16,000 today. They were more likely to be divorced and had fewer chances of owning a business. (Source: Big Think)
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