To understand the experience of North Vietnamese soldiers and civilians during the American war, I explore the paths leading Vietnamese men into battle by considering the relationship between socioeconomic status and war mortality. I use data obtained from retrospective information on kin survival and other socioeconomic characteristics given by respondents in the 1995 Vietnam Longitudinal Survey conducted in Vietnam’s Red River Delta. My findings are opposite to those often cited to describe the experience of young Americans who fought in the Vietnam war. In Vietnam, sons of better educated fathers bore the burden of war disproportionately in relation to sons of fathers with less education, both in proportion serving in the military and in diminished survival chances in combat. The Vietnamese experience during the American war testifies to the ability of a nation to reorder society temporarily and to persuade higher-status groups to contribute fully to the war effort. An appreciation of the meaning of this social reshuffling during the American war is critical for understanding the war, Vietnam, and that country’s political outlook.