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Petent in combat they endangered not only themselves but their comrades as well Their death toll was appallingly high In addition to low I men tens of thousands of other substandard troops were inducted including criminals misfits and men with disabilities This book tells the story of the men caught up in McNamara’s fol Sometimes it is easy to get caught in a bubble of where you work and the people you hang out with Books like these are nice since they provide context and make you understand the world on a holistic level Most surprising were that the new minimum I ualifications for military service didn t seem that low to me whereas before the military reuired a score in the 31st percentile it was lowered as part of Project 100000 down to the 10th percentile Although the author goes into the fact that a large number of recruits were let in through administrative acceptance and actually had scores even lower it was still surprising to me how stark a contrast there was in 31 vs 10I would only give 35 stars however because the second part of the book becomes repetitive very uickly and probably isn t worth a read The author chooses to go into stories of individuals without ever focusing on anyone for than a few paragraphs This makes it hard to connect with those described and results in what feels like a mass of stories haphazardly smashed togetherOverall would recommend reading but only the first half parts 1 3 The author does a good job of defining any military concepts or slang which is nice for readers that don t have previous familiarity

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McNamaras Folly

In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara were desperate to find additional troops for the Vietnam War but they feared that they would alienate middle class voters if they drafted college boys or sent Reservists and National Guardsmen to Vietnam So on October 1 1966 McNamara lowered mental sta Many of us especially Vietnam veterans like myself know well the basic facts that an escalation of troop levels began in the mid 1960 s and peaked at about 550000 by 1968 that all total 27 million Americans served in Vietnam during the war years and that 58000 American s died there mostly in combat situations But how many know that approximately 10% of those casualties were suffered by low I men brought into the service under a plan sponsered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamera that drastically lowered the recruitment standards in order to fill the ranks while ostensibly serving to give these low functioning men a chance to better themselves The program was known as McNamara s 100000 for the number of substandard men to be recruited each year who became commonly called McNamara s Morons While the program did not necessary intend to send those men many of whom were illiterate into combat they often ended up on the front lines dying at a rate three time higher than their cohorts of normal intelligence Haminton Gregory a Vietnam veteran journalist and college professor tells the story with a compelling blend of objectivity and restrained moral force Gregory went through Army boot camp at Fort Benning in 1967 where as a college graduate he was assigned to look out for another recruit who happened to be one of McNamara s 100000 Gregory describes his astonishment at discovering that this young man could not read write tie his shoes and did not understand that the US was at war Such men got through training Gergory describes thanks to leaders under pressure to keep the pipeline full who were willing to look the other way Frustrated officers who tried to resist and send low I recruits home were often rebuffed by the chain of commandThough the haunting story of this program is full of fascinating anecdotes and statistics Gregorgy grounds it in the larger social context of conscription during the Vietnam era The pipeline needed to be pumped full of less than combat capable individuals because so many of the most intelligent young men were managing to avoid this increasingly unpopular war Sons of the upper middle class and upper class had no trouble getting student deferrements and other means of avoidance All it took to get a medical pass was a trip to the right doctor If you had the wherewithal you could flee to Canada or Sweden far from the killing fields of Indochina The argument can even be made that the need to reach lower and lower into the barrel of potential recruits contributed to such tragedies as the My Lai Massacre where the troops were led by a college dropout Aside from a single instance of mild redundancy this book has the ualities of a page turner a well told tale of a compelling situation Though the subject may have special resonance for those of us who came of age during the Vietnam War era its message still speaks just as strongly today Our modern wars in Ira and Afganistan are being fought by an all volunteer military These men and women however in return for making their decision to sacrifice for the nation are being exposed to multiple brutal combat tours and they are paying the price The Vietnam draftee was limited to a single tour Both then and now the upper socio economic strata of our society was and is under represented in combat I believe that McNamara s Folly will become a classic in the literature of how a society approaches making war For its drama and human interest this book deserves to be widely read

Hamilton Gregory Å 8 review

Ndards and inducted thousands of low I men Altogether 354000 of these men were taken into the Armed Forces and a large number of them were sent into combat Many military men including William Westland the commanding general in Vietnam viewed McNamara’s program as a disaster Because many of the substandard men were incom Hamilton Gregory a Vietnam veteran who worked with intelligence has written a much needed book on McNamara s so called Project 100000 utilized beginning in 1966 and continued throughout the rest of the war to boost total inductions by relaxing the intellectual medical and physical standards for the armed forcesThe road to Hell is paved with good intentions the old aphorism reads It seems an apt description of what happened with Project 100000 During Lyndon Johnson s laudable War on Poverty Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara proposed that Johnson consider using the armed forces as a way to rehabilitate the poor and jobless from deep rural country in the South and Midwest and from the inner cities of America In McNamara s estimation the program could admit previously disualified candidates usually disualified for various medical conditions low scores on the Armed Forces ualification Test AFT or criminal misconduct most at risk for continuing a generational cycle of poverty and not only instruct them in some practical trade eg auto mechanic but provide some form of classroom instruction that could help candidates secure GEDs learn basic arithmetic and learn to read and write In theory these men would not serve in Vietnam nor in the combat arms but fulfill their commitments in supply and service where they would learn valuable skills or at worst perform physical labor and thus free up other personnel for the combat arms In theory therefore Project 100000 was not such a bad idea of social engineering because as Gregory admits some of McNamara s men hailed from the poorest and most remote areas of America thus three suare meals 95month health care housing allowances and clean clothes were welcomed by these men as unthinkable largess As Gregory argues convincingly though Project 100000 hardly lived up to McNamara s lofty ideals The military brass and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee successfully rebuffed LBJ s attempts to relax armed forces standards between 1964 and 1966 by rightly stating that as warfare became increasingly complex and technologically dependent so too did the intelligence and physical standards need to rise in such a way that the military could induct the best and the brightest America had to offer to borrow a popular phrase from Halberstam The military reluctantly accepted Project 100000 in 1966 because of severe manpower shortages in Vietnam These shortages were caused by in on particular order of importance LBJ s refusal to call up the reserves or deploy the national guard the one year rotation system for personnel in Vietnam and the mass deferments provided to mostly middle class Americans in college raising families or fortunate enough to secure shoddy medical or psychological exemptions Add to all this the constant stream of casualties in Vietnam and the armed forces particularly the army found itself in the midst of struggling to maintain its NCO and junior enlisted rank and file Project 100000 recruits and inductees were brought into the services precisely at a time when those branches had little incentive or budgetary discretion to create wholesale education programs and rehabilitation cadres to provide these young uneducated and impoverished men with the skills and knowledge McNamara and LBJ promised Instead Hamilton explains how systemic corruption from military recruiters to induction center physicians to boot camp instructors allowed men totally unfit for service to steadily progress through the procedural reuirements to eventually deploy to Vietnam as primarily you guessed it infantrymen Gregory has both a personal and an academic interest in Project 100000 Personally he now works as a journalist and an activist for the causes of former Project 100000 men He also remembered being assigned to watch over a McNamara man during his time at basic training and seeing the profits of Project 100000 when he was assigned to a Special Training detachment where men who washed out of their basic company were given extensive physical training or medical rehabilitation In Gregory s recollections these men were borderline mentally handicap or worse and often suffered from obesity malnutrition and in one rare case dwarfism They should have never been allowed in is a constant refrain throughout the work Gregory cites a litany of anecdotes of men being unable to fire a rifle having physical handicaps that impaired the most basic physical fitness routines suffering psychological distress and being unable to comprehend instructions But if these men could not comprehend and execute orders from drill sergeants navigate obstacle courses or properly assembledisassemble and fire a M 14 they surely did not ever see the shores of Vietnam right Wrong Gregory claims that drill sergeants and company commanders in basic often fudged reports for McNamara s men to pass them through to advanced individual training AIT and that similar circumstances them pushed these men from AIT to regular service Once in Vietnam these men became not only a danger to themselves but to their comrades some refused orders others could not understand the complex and varied practices for survival in combat Many were wounded and others were killed in Vietnam Those who were fortunate enough to secure an MOS in the rear often puzzled NCOs and officers with their ineptness Gregory fingers induction centers and military recruiters as primarily responsible for exacerbating the problems inherent in McNamara s plan by deliberately falsifying paperwork to classify men in Category V I 71 as Category IV I 72 91 ignoring various medical conditions and paying individuals to take the AFT for potential Cat 5 individuals Of course these arbitrary mental categories were invidious and relied mainly on suspect I testing eg What s precisely the ualitative difference between a Cat 5 with an I of 71 and a Cat 4 with an I of 72 In any sense Gregory argues that the military accepted the bottom of the barrel and sent men to Vietnam who had little chance of survival Gregory does acknowledge that many of McNamara s Men were successful in the military and afterward In no way does Gregory stereotype those inducted under the auspices of this program as mentally handicap physically inept misfits and criminals However he would argue that successful P100K inductees and volunteers were the exception rather than the rule In my own research I studied the correspondence of an African American from rural North Carolina who rejected twice in the early 1960s for medical conditions was subseuently drafted during the P100K years He was not given a moral waiver eg making exceptions for past criminal misdeeds or administrative acceptance eg re categorizing a Cat 5 as a Cat 4 His letters home were poetic and insightful and after his two years in uniform he went on to a successful career at Branch Banking Trust BBT What s most interesting is how anecdotes about McNamara s men seem pervasive in both Gregory s interviews and among Vietnam veterans generally The reviews of this book on Goodreads speak to the seeming ubiuity of men with mental and physical handicaps existing in the rank and file of the army during Vietnam My one reservation about this book is that Gregory primarily relies on anecdotal and personal experience to formulate some of his most provocative arguments As one retired general once remarked about my own work A thousand anecdotes is not a statistic I think the same applies here Gregory collects an assorted and at times convincing array of anecdotes from veterans that attest to the problems of P100K but did not do any systematic statistical research to investigate precisely how widespread the problem of Low I Troops Unfit Men Criminals and Misfits became in Vietnam or in the army general For example I am not persuaded by a uote from William Westland that inducting the dregs of society had contributed materially to the disintegration of morale in the US Army and an American defeat in Vietnam Westland was apt to blame any and all things for his failed strategy in Nam This is a provocative book and purposefully so Gregory wants to start a conservation among veterans and academics about this thorny issue and he does not shy away from the colorful language used to describe McNamara s Men during the 1960s idiots morons retards etc in his attempt to convey that the Pentagon and the White House perpetrated a grave injustice upon perhaps the weakest and most defenseless members of our society during the Sixties As Gregory puts it for every intellectually or physically handicapped young man sent to Vietnam to be killed there was a corresponding middle class college bound usually white male looking forward to deferments and prosperity I hope that there will be investigation of this often misunderstood and ignored issue during the American war in Vietnam 45 I say claim here because some of these arguments rested on Gregory s personal experiences and remembrances and are not the most reliable nor empirical source

10 thoughts on “McNamaras Folly

  1. says:

    Ebook; 2h See also Gregory's 2016 talk Low Aptitude Men In The Military Who Profits Who Pays Laurence Ramberger

  2. says:

    I received my copy of “McNamara’s Folly” from the author himself He had read the first poem and later others in my book “Love Poems for Cannibals” and also learned that I am a Vietnam Veteran July 1967 – July 1968 The poem that he read was “Dream Frag of Robert Strange McNamara” This poem clearly and cor

  3. says:

    Many of us especially Vietnam veterans like myself know well the basic facts that an escalation of troop levels began in the mid 1960's and peaked at about 550000 by 1968; that all total 27 million Americans served in Vietnam during the war years; and that 58000 American's died there mostly in combat situations But how many know that approximately 10% of those casualties were suffered by low I men brought into the service under

  4. says:

    Hamilton Gregory a Vietnam veteran who worked with intelligence has written a much needed book on McNamara's so called Project 100000 utilized beginning in 1966 and continued throughout the rest of the war to boost total inductions by relaxin

  5. says:

    There's a uote from The Fog of War which I like a whole lot How much evil must we do to do good Know that you will do evil but try and minimize it Well Secretary McNamara you just MAXIMIZED evilThe genesis of Pro

  6. says:

    Hamilton Gregory attempts to straddle three worlds That of a historian documenting a sordid incident if the dea

  7. says:

    The least intelligent among us should never be viewed as expendable units of manpower but as our fellow sojourners on this fragile EarthImagine sending a five year old into combat That's what Project 100000 was all aboutThe author promised to one day tell the story of how the US drafted low I individuals to fight and die in the Vietnam war In writing this book which is mostly a collection of their stories he fulfilled t

  8. says:

    Sometimes it is easy to get caught in a bubble of where you work and the people you hang out with Books like thes

  9. says:

    The first three parts are uite good describing the personal account of the author and his experience with the low I section of the US milliary After that the rest of the book is just short disorganized anecdotes from people he interviewed years later There's a lot of not his real name and he declined to give specifics which combined with the fact that these anecdotes simply rehash the author's experiences don't lend much

  10. says:

    A tragic chapter of the Vietnam WarSad reading and it will make you angry It makes a compelling reason for the reintroduction of the draft However it must be implemented without exemptions enabling the wealthy and