Review: McNamara’s Folly

McNamara’s Folly: The Use Of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War

Involving applicants and draftees who would previously have been rejected, Project 100,000 was one of the least-covered but most horrendous parts of the Vietnam War. Hamilton Gregory, who served along multiple “entrants”, writes one of the most scathing and personally touching history books in McNamara’s Folly. I say “personal” because I have some mental conditions, and growing up, went to school with others with traits very similar to those described in the book. To send these people into battle, whatever one thinks of the Vietnam War as a whole, feels particularly wrong-as did the theory that military service would make them better.

Project 100,000 was done mostly to avoid tapping into a National Guard/reserve force that came from a wealthier and more politically sensitive background (only around a hundred National Guardsmen were killed in action in the whole war). Its recruits were killed in action at a rate three times greater that of serving soldiers as a whole. Officers of all ranks hated the program, and their reactions ranged from trying to steer the “Moron Corps” (or less nice terms) people into the least dangerous areas to having them be the point man on patrols because of perceived expendability. Gregory is clear to point out that he could not find any confirmed cases of Project 100,000 recruits being deliberately executed by their compatriots to prevent their ineptitude from resulting in more deaths, but the constant rumors are telling.

Weaving personal experiences (such as one particularly chilling story of a fellow recruit who didn’t even know that the Vietnam War was happening when he entered boot camp) with scholarly research, this is an excellent recounting of a project that benefited no one, save for maybe the North Vietnamese.

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