Racial prejudice of some sort, blacks contended, was to blame. The Vietnam War heightened racial polarization. While many black leaders, notably Martin Luther King, Jr., denounced the war, the antiwar movement was led mainly by whites.
The. Army, with some 776,000 men and women on active duty, is by far the largest of the armed services. In terms of what blacks have achieved in uniform and the difficulties they still face, the Army is a bellwether for the military as a whole. Population. But the other issues raised by blacks, inside and outside the military, were obviously legitimate. The war years were marked by well-publicized breakdowns of discipline among black servicemen and, more broadly by an atmosphere of racial hostility in the ranks.
In the last year of the draft blacks made up about 17 percent of the enlisted force. By the early 1980s the proportion had nearly doubled. The qualitative improvement in the Army's race relations was thus accompanied by a major demographic shift.
Racial integration in the Army was accomplished with striking speed (the process took only five years) and thoroughness, at least on a formal level. By the mid-1950s a snapshot of a hundred enlisted men on parade would have shown, say, twelve black faces; integration was a fact of life.