Reporting the War

Wallace Terry

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Terry, Wallace. (1970). "Bringing the War Home." Black Scholar, 2(3), p. 6-18.

Wallace Terry, author of Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans visited Vietnam in 1967 as a correspondent for Time magazine. While there he observed that the majority of African-Americans in Vietnam were of the school of thought that it was better to fight for civil rights at home by proving their patriotism in Vietnam, rather than engaging in violence.

Three years later in 1970, Wallace Terry returned to Vietnam to conduct a survey among 392 African-American and white soldiers from all branches of the military and from both enlisted and officer ranks. The results of his survey dramatically show a change in African-American attitudes only after three years. In 1967 Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and Stokely Carmichael were not very popular with African-American soldiers because of their stance against the Vietnam War. But in 1970 they were regarded as heroes for the same reason.

Some of the other results of Terry's 1970 survey:

  • 50% of African-Americans said that they would use their weapons in the struggle for civil rights in the United States.
  • 30% said they would join black power organizations.
  • 83% believed that additional American race riots were inevitable and 45% of those said that they would participate in such riots.
  • 45% would refuse orders to put down riots involving African-Americans.
  • 65% believed that race relations in Vietnam would deteriorate.
  • 76% rejected the term "Negro" for "Black" or "Afro-American."
  • 72% approved of Eldridge Cleaver.
  • 70% approved of Malcolm X.
  • 69% approved of Muhammad Ali.
  • 53% approved of Roy Wilkins of the NAACP.
  • 51% approved of Whitney Young of the National Urban League.
It is not surprising that the attitudes of veterans changed so dramatically when one considers some of the racial incidents described by Terry in his article. For instance, in April of 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, crosses were burned at Cam Ranh Bay and Confederate flags were flown in Danang.

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