Date of Award

12-2005

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

G. Kurt Piehler

Abstract

At the end of World War II, the federal government bestowed one of the richest rewards ever given a mass mobilized army in the form of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the OJ. Bill of Rights. The OJ. Bill offered veterans generous loans, education benefits, and unemployment insurance to help them readjust to civilian life. The bill is widely lauded as one of the most important federal acts of the twentieth century. Further 0.1. Bills followed for veterans of the Cold War including those who served in Korea and Vietnam. Despite their continued impact on the lives of veterans and on society, the later bills have received very little public or academic attention. No major study examines the later OJ. Bills beyond the World War II generation. This dissertation helps fill that void by examining the political origins of the Vietnam era OJ. Bills of 1966, 1972, and 1974. Specifically, this dissertation explores the debates over veterans' education benefits at the federal level during the Vietnam era.

After the passage of the 1966 OJ. bill, many Vietnam era veterans complained that their benefits fell short of those offered the World War II generation. As a result, the Vietnam era 0.1. Bills often get dismissed as a part of a wider pattern of government neglect of the Vietnam veteran. This study provides a context for understanding why the benefits did not, at first, reach the same generous heights as the previous OJ. Bills and challenges the standard narrative that the government abandoned the Vietnam veteran. The government, particularly the Senate, did make considerable efforts to improve the Vietnam veteran's benefits. Although a succession of presidents and congressmen limited the government's generosity because of their ideological or economic convictions, numerous increases in the level of funding followed the 1966 bill, making veterans' benefits far more comparable to those offered World War II veterans. Following the increases, Vietnam era veterans claimed their education benefits in far greater numbers than their World War II predecessors. Because so many Vietnam veterans decided to return to school, this study shows that the G.I. Bill needs to be a central part of their homecoming story.

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