McNamara’s morons

Image source: Full Metal Jacket

Review of McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War by Hamilton Gregory, 2015

It is an eternal fallacy to imagine that we live in uniquely corrupted times. Reading any good history book reminds us that we’ve always been this bad, but then we put the book down, check social media and go back to thinking we are in the End Times.

In America, the 1960-70s hosted an evil that I’m unaware of in any other time or place: forcibly recruiting mentally disabled men to fight in the Vietnam War.

Men who could not learn how to independently load or maintain a rifle. Men whose disability affected their physical coordination, meaning they could not pass the required tests.

The demand for warm bodies was so great that they deployed them anyway.

A few were lucky enough to be sheltered by wise commanders, while most were thrown into the front lines, suffering enormous loss of life, disability and frequently getting their comrades killed, too.

This at a time when middle-class hippies and blue-bloods escaped the draft by enrolling in college, joining the National Guard or finding other exceptions, considering those dumb enough to be enlisted to be good-for-nothing rednecks.

This ease of legal draft avoidance was intentional:

[McNamara and Johnson] realized that they would anger the vote-powerful middle class if they drafted college boys and if they sent National Guardsmen to Vietnam. So instead they decided to induct low-scoring men . . .

You’d think the National Guard would be a logical reserve of fit and trained men ready to be sent overseas as required but no, those were boys like George W. Bush who were far too important to be exposed to combat. For this reason, new, inferior recruits were preferred. My emphasis:

On October 1, 1966, McNamara launched a program called Project 100,000, which lowered mental standards . . . By the end of the war, McNamara’s program had taken 354,000 substandard men into the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy. Among the troops, these men were often known “McNamara’s Morons” . . .

A total of 5,478 low-IQ men died while in the service, most of them in combat. Their fatality rate was three times as high as that of other GIs.

Middle-class voters cared not a jot.

We must love our neighbours, but sometimes our neighbours make it hard:

One of my friends – who believed passionately that American forces should have continued the war until North Vietnam was crushed even if it meant that thousands more American soldiers would die – had no misgivings about sitting out the war. “My family spent thousands of dollars to put me through college and law school,” he told me. “If I had joined the military and been killed in Vietnam, it would have been a waste of time and money.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spent the war in college and graduate school, sought and received five deferments from his draft board (four student deferments and one hardship deferment), even though he was pro-war. Years later, when he was one of the prime architects of the war in Iraq and was accused of being a hypocrite for sending thousands of men into combat, he justified his Vietnam-era behavior in this way: “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service. I don’t regret the decisions I made.”

And here we are in the 2020s, fuming at chardonnay-sipping Laptop People who prosper and do as they please while demanding their servant class wear masks or see their businesses torched. [Edit: since the time of writing, the Laptop People have moved on to demanding their beloved Hill People go and die in Ukraine for homosexual rights.]

It’s bad but it’s been worse.

The chapter on the draft prompted me to look up Joe Biden’s past.

First, is it not bizarre that the US in 2022 has a president old enough to be a Vietnam War vet? Back in 1973, who would have guessed it? It’s like a Russian soldier in Ukraine this year becoming Russian president in 2071!

Anyway, here’s what I found out about the big guy:

Biden not only received deferments for his undergraduate days at the University of Delaware, but for three years of law school at Syracuse University. When his education deferments expired in 1968, Biden requested a deferment based on the fact he had asthma as a teenager. He did this in spite of the fact that, according to his own book, he was a star athlete in high school and in college played intramural sports and was a lifeguard in the summer.

“Hey Corn Pop, *cough*, don’t you come around my pool no more, you hear me? *wheeze*. I’ve a mind to call your draft board.”

Returning to the book, this class difference was stark – much more so than in the World Wars:

Men from lower economic levels (poor and working class) comprised 80 percent of combat forces, while the remaining 20 percent came from the middle class, half of them serving as officers.

One of the ugliest aspects of the Vietnam era was the disdain that some smart and wealthy Americans felt towards the unfortunates who were sent into combat in Vietnam. In 1967, one student who was privileged to sit out the war in college told an interviewer that Vietnam was “for the dummies, the losers.” A 1971 Harris survey found that most Americans believed that those who went to Vietnam were “suckers.”

The two issues – class and disability – are related as low-income families didn’t understand how to work the system to get their sons off. In addition to retards, men blind in one eye or missing a kidney were sent.

A person with an intellectual disability is obviously incapable of dealing with the demands war. A marine lieutenant tells of one soldier who:

” . . . was profoundly dense . . . he kept falling asleep at the worst times ( . . . ) On one ambush he dozed off, rolled over in his sleep, and fell into the river. On another ambush he was gently awakened by the sound of his comrades firing at three NVA [North Vietnamese] soldiers who had been standing above him with their AK-47s pointed at his head. Such behavior put the whole platoon in jeopardy; in combat everyone is totally dependent on everyone else. [He] was in imminent danger of being conveniently shot during our next contact with the enemy, so I sent him back to the rear to do some punishment work.”

Full Metal Jacket and Forrest Gump are based on these true stories. Many of the real soldiers sent to Vietnam were far less functional than those characters. Some were illiterate, had to be reminded to shower and did not know left from right. Some of them went crazy from bullying or stress in much the same way as the fictional Private Leonard Lawrence. The Project 100,000 men were referred to psychiatric help ten times more that average.

For those who made it home, about half did not received an honorable discharge which meant it was hard for them to gain employment or access veterans’ benefits. Most were accused of minor offences or were refused a proper reference because of ‘unsuitability’ for service – which was of course true.

There was a cruel irony in the less-than-honorable discharges. Millions of men who beat the draft legally (going to college, etc.) suffered nothing. In fact, they held an advantage over men who served: they got first crack at jobs and compiled seniority and experience. Even draft-dodgers who fled to Canada and Sweden got an amnesty . . .

But wait, there’s more:

When review boards were asked to change a discharge from undesirable to general, the uniformed officers (who were compassionate toward Project 100,000 men) would vote to approve the change, but they would be overruled by civilian superiors who regarded men who had gone AWOL as slackers who deserved no mercy. In an absurd turn of events, some of these civilians – who viewed themselves as “upholding military tradition” – had been draft avoiders during the Vietnam War. It was infuriating to see these officials kick the very men who had served in their stead.

The book only talks about American soldiers. I don’t know whether Australia had a similar policy. University exemptions existed for the middle class but perhaps there was enough able, working-class cannon fodder to fulfill our alliance duties without recruiting retards.

Or maybe standards were lowered. Some of the first Australian soldiers killed in Vietnam were victims of friendly fire after they snuck off base and were mistaken for the enemy when the tried to sneak back in. I heard this from an army medic who treated them.

This is why the war was lost. The West lacked the will to win. Such ‘will’ entails a willingness to send a nation’s best and brightest to fight, as in World War II. Had governments tried to do this, bourgeois voters would have immediately caused the war to end.

There was no such lack of will in Vietnamese society.

The issue reemerged during the Stupid Wars:

In 2007, nine Marine Corp recruiters who worked in the Houston area were punished for using stand-ins to take the mental tests at the Houston induction center for 15 ‘marginal’ prospects who might not have passed on their own.

I recently published a post discouraging men from entering the service as Western society no longer represents our interests. Now I wonder when it last did. Perhaps the years 1980-2000 were a reprieve.

The old Western society – God, King and Country – fell apart after WWI as the people lost faith in aristocracy and colonial empires. Europe’s rulers totally failed. The following war was partly a battle over successor ideologies.

It’s time for us to relinquish our faith in the present system. Our leaders have no idea what they’re doing and even when their plans come to fruition, it is an evil, destructive project that we are better off without.

People in this sphere carry on about preserving the West. What ‘West’? The one described in McNamara’s Folly? The one that justly disintegrated in 1918?

There are things that must be preserved, but the generality is corruption and pestilence. Let it burn. Let it honk. Focus on building something new and better, even if only at the scale of your own family or your own self.

Our world is a circus but you don’t have to be a clown.



  1. Kentucky Gent · March 22, 2022

    “First, is it not bizarre that the US in 2022 has a president old enough to be a Vietnam War vet?”

    Even if Trump had not been cheated by massive voter fraud, this still would be true because he was born in ’46 (a true Baby Boomer). Fortunately, Boomerism didn’t infect The Donald the way it did most Boomers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TechieDude · March 22, 2022

    I missed the fun of Vietnam, and the draft. Although the draft was still a thing as I entered high school (I remember being told I’d have to register. I had a plan though. I had really high ASVAB scores (I took the test to get out of class). I’d have enlisted in the Navy or Air Force. I nearly enlisted in the Marines. They said they’d send me to school to fix aircraft. Two things happened in rapid succession, The told each of us the others had already signed (we called and found out otherwise) and my Korean war vet neighbor pulled me into his basement and read me the riot act after the recruiters left. Said it was all bullshit and they lied to him to. Said he’d be a mechanic. He wound up in Korea, driving a truck.

    You know where some of my schoolmates that signed up went – to Beirut, driving trucks. One, the football captain in high school, was on the second floor of the embassy when it collapsed. Yeah.

    I remember talking with my old man about the war (and the ‘domino’ theory at the time). A Korean war vet, his response was epic, and it makes more sense now – “Do you really care that your bananas are communist?”

    Vietnam was when they installed a supercharger on the grift machine.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Pickle Rick · March 23, 2022

    And how many of McNamara’s morons were Negroes? Remember that Vietnam was after the integration of the Armed Forces, which meant that heretofore unacceptable manpower was foisted on the infantry.


    • Nikolai Vladivostok · March 23, 2022

      The author avoids the issue of race completely. If he’d included one chapter on it, most people would never hear about the other chapters amid the din and would totally miss the point of the book, as happened with The Bell Curve.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. lemmiwinks · March 23, 2022

    “It’s time for us to relinquish our faith in the present system.”

    Waaaay ahead of you.

    “There are things that must be preserved, but the generality is corruption and pestilence. Let it burn. Let it honk. Focus on building something new and better, even if only at the scale of your own family or your own self.”

    Hear, hear.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Klaus · March 23, 2022

    i wanted to buy the book ages ago but then it was much more expensive than now. I settled for the YouTubes, which are deeply depressing.

    In his book, “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts”, Col. David Hackworth mentions Project 100,000. His solution was to give each Company in his Battalion a specific type of operation to conduct.

    Keep up the good work!


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