Congress. House Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties and the
Administration of Justice. Amnesty. Washington, D.C. GPO, 1974.
SuDoc No.: Y4.J89/1:93-35
Date(s) of Hearings: March 8, 11, 13, 1974
Congress and Session: 93rd - 2nd
Not only did African-Americans suffer a disproportionate share of the burdens during the
Vietnam War, (higher casualty rates, lack of promotions, discrimination on and off military
bases, more dangerous and menial duties) but they also continued to suffer after the war through
other-than-honorable discharges. About 24% of the other-than-honorable discharges dispensed in
Vietnam were given to non-whites.
Many discharges could be given without due process, and were used by many military commanders
to get rid of "trouble makers" at a time when the U.S. military force in Vietnam
was being reduced. In fact many of these commanders offered these discharges as a way for
the soldier to avoid a court martial (and for the military to avoid the cost of conducting
one). However, few of these soldiers knew that these labels would stick with them for life.
Even fewer knew that employers could have access to their Separation Program Numbers (SPN's),
which included such categories as "41E Obesity," and "461 Inadequate
Personality." Depending on the exact type of discharge, anywhere from 15% to 43%
of employers and colleges would reject these applicants automatically.
These hearings, held in March of 1974, present testimony from Trudi Young, National Coordinator
of the Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam (formerly headed by Martin Luther King, Jr.),
Ronald H. Brown, Director of the Washington Bureau of the National Urban League, U.S.
Representative Ronald V. Dellums of California, and various African-American veterans who were
affected by other-than-dishonorable discharges.