Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Inside the Pentagon’s shameful effort to draft mentally disabled men to fight in Vietnam

Some soldiers referred to them as “McNamara’s Morons.”

In 1967, a young man named Johnny Gupton was drafted into the Army to fight in Vietnam. Gupton didn’t know how to read or write; he didn’t even know what state he was from. He had never heard of Vietnam. When a fellow soldier questioned a noncommissioned officer (NCO) about how someone with such an obvious mental disability could join the Army, the NCO responded, “Ehh, he’s one of McNamara’s Morons.”

As Iraq reels from recent violence, it’s worth remembering that 2,500 US troops are still there

This is what soldiers like Gupton were known as throughout the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War era. In 1967, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara lowered military recruiting standards as part of a program called Project 100,000. Its goal, as the name suggests, was to recruit 100,000 men each year who were otherwise mentally, physically or psychologically underqualified for service. These men all had IQs below 91, and nearly half had IQs below 71. From the Project’s launch in 1966, through its termination in 1971, it allowed 354,000 previously ineligible men into the military. Of these, 5,478 died in combat and 20,270 were wounded.


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