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Article, "Was Puerto Rican GI Jailed For Friendship With Blacks?" Amsterdam News, May 8, 1971

Was Puerto Rican GI Jailed for Friendship with Blacks?

Was Puerto Rican GI Jailed for Friendship with Blacks?

Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5206-S_B31F5_175
Document Description
Article, “Was Puerto Rican GI Jailed For Friendship With Blacks?” regarding Private Luis Lopez, Jr., Amsterdam News, May 8, 1971. [2 pages]
What newspaper published this article? When?
What was the charge against Lopez?
What does Mrs. Lopez say about the treatment her son received from the military?
How does Luis Lopez say that his case was treated differently from the case of Lt. Calley, a white officer?
In Lopez’s letters to his mother, what specific examples does he give of how the military treated minority soldiers unfairly?
Historical Challenges
Research the case of Lt. William Calley, and contrast and compare the differences in how the trials and sentences of Calley and Lopez were carried out. Examine such things as opportunities for bail and the assignment of defense attorneys.
Research the history of the Amsterdam News. Would you expect the editorial board of this newspaper to be for or against Private Lopez? Try to find an editorial on the subject from this newspaper and determine if you were correct.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Research statistics (see Resources below) regarding the number of white and black soldiers serving in Vietnam and the differences in deaths and casualties by race. Compare these numbers to the population statistics by race for 1970, as well as to the percentage of white and black soldiers serving in the entire U.S. military during the Vietnam era.
English Language Arts: Interview a veteran of the War in Iraq. Develop a list of questions you would like to have answered. Write a report of your interview.
Belknap, Michal R. 2002. The Vietnam War on Trial: The My Lai Massacre and the Court-Martial of Lieutenant Calley. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002.
Gershen, Martin. 1971. Destroy or Die: The True Story of My Lai. New York: Arlington House, 1971. Lopez, David. “Saving Private Atzlan: Preserving the History of Latino Service in Wartime”
New York State Library. "Selected Hispanic and Latino Websites." Rochin, Refugio I., and Lionel Fernandez. “U.S. Latino Patriots: From the American Revolution to Afghanistan, an Overview.”
United States Department of Defense. Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity and Safety Policy. Hispanics in America's Defense. Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 1982. “Veterans History Project.” Library of Congress.
Ybarra, Lea. 2004. Vietnam Veteranos: Chicanos Recall the War. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.


Historical Context
The Vietnamese Conflict occurred from 1959 to 1975, when the communist North Vietnamese government tried to take over the South Vietnamese Republic of Vietnam. The U.S. sent military advisors to South Vietnam beginning as early as 1950, but large numbers of American combat troops did not begin to arrive until 1965.

The U.S. military did not classify Hispanic or Latino servicemen as a race until after Vietnam. Previous to that time, Latino or Chicano service personnel were classified as either Caucasian or Black, according to their skin color. It is therefore difficult to obtain exact statistics of the number of Hispanic soldiers in Vietnam, but some sources estimate that there were approximately 80,000 Hispanics serving in Vietnam.    

The Vietnam conflict occurred at a time in history when minorities struggled to overcome discrimination and racism in the United States. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s worked towards ending segregation and protecting the civil rights of African Americans. The movement also inspired Hispanics and other minorities to fight for their equal rights.

The case of Luis Lopez, Jr., illustrates one instance in which discrimination and racist attitudes may have affected Hispanic military personnel who were serving in Vietnam.
Essential Question
How does war impact civil rights?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of this letter and explain how this case pertains to civil rights.