An Iowan's Experience with Discrimination on the Battlefront and at Home During the Vietnam War

African Americans volunteered in large numbers for the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. For some, the color line among troops blurred quickly in battle, but many still faced discrimination when they returned home.


African-Americans continued to join the Armed Forces in large numbers during Vietnam. Many served in high risk combat units and 20 black soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. And even though a simultaneous war was being fought in America over Civil Rights, the color line blurred quickly in battle. 

"When you are depending on someone else to save your life and you know that person, you know how they smell, you know how they walk, you know how they cough, you know how they sneeze, and you are depending on them to be at your back and them also you, it makes absolutely zero difference what ethnic group they are from."

Despite President Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, discrimination was still prevalent. Upon his return from Vietnam, Vincent Lewis made plans to take a young woman to dinner at a restaurant in Des Moines. 

"And found that I was turned away at the door. And that was, again, in your face regarding who you are and what you can and cannot do. But I was very, very angry, very bothered and very embarrassed too, taking this young lady. So we found a second alternative and I don't even remember what that was now because I'm still too angry to remember."

Excerpt from "Iowans Remember Vietnam," Iowa PBS, 2015


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