Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

<p>Plume of the Wake <br>
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African Americans in the Navy during the Vietnam War and the 1960’s

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African Americans in the Navy during the Vietnam War and the 1960’s

In the 1960’s, the percentages of blacks in the Navy was very low, comprising only 0.2 percent as officers and 5 percent as enlisted forces. During the Vietnam War, men enlisted in the Navy to avoid the draft and being assigned to the Army or Marine Corps who were fighting the land war. This resulted in competition for positions within the Navy. This allowed recruiters to be selective. They enlisted only the top performers, nearly all of whom were white, due to the education they received as superior to those of the black candidates. The African Americans that did make it into the Navy were offered less desirable assignments leading to difficulties getting promotioned. These types of disparities lead to conflicts on board ships and at shore installations. Senior leadership instituted various programs to both discourage discrimination, support minority sailors and enact equal opportunity programs.