Why are there a disproportionate number of southerners in the US military?

Michael Lee Russell, former Military Psychologist at U.S. Army (1986-2010). Updated July 2019 by Steven Selman, Lieutenant Colonel at U.S. Army (1991-present) and Donald McKeon, Marine Corps Veteran and a member of the Marine Corps League.


Yes, I agree about the localized cultural aspects, but another reason for the disproportionate numbers of southern-origin military is the general lack of paying jobs in the south, just as in inner cities, whereupon the military becomes a viable option in contrast to the rest of the country. In some contrast to an allegation in this article concerning “it’s not just poverty,” military recruiting therefore has historically targeted the South and inner cities. Likewise, military chaplains are largely from southern evangelical schools, which also fits the profile as presented in this article… roughly 80% the last I saw… which creates more problems when they attempt to “convert” military members of other faiths or ‘independents.’ So, we also have DoD recruiting taking advantage of social and economic conditions to “target” the South for recruits, in addition to and supported by, the factors highlighted in this article. ~ Don Chapin

Many people think we live in a single country, but we really do not… there are 11 countries and cultures in the United States:

This map shows the US really has 11 separate ‘nations’ with entirely different cultures

Why are there a disproportionate number of Southerners in the military - This map shows the 'nations of Aermica' - 11 distinct subcultures

I am not as negative about the culture of the Deep South as the author of this book, but I think he is on to something when he talks about culture. The Deep South is the least democratic of any of the nations, it is a caste system, it is militaristic. “The Colonel” runs the town. (Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.) The military fits the psyche of the Deep South, which is why virtually all the Senior Military Colleges are to be found there:

Like The Citadel:Why are there a disproportionate number of Southerners in the military - The Citadel

VMIWhy are there a disproportionate number of Southerners in the military - VMI

Virginia Tech:Why are there a disproportionate number of Southerners in the military - Virginia Tech

North Georgia:Why are there a disproportionate number of Southerners in the military - North Georgia

The Corps of Cadets:Why are there a disproportionate number of Southerners in the military - The Corps of Cadets - image of cadets marching

It is a caste system. The Military is a caste system. The military is a means of upward mobility in the caste, as an officer is a gentleman, is a nobleman, carries a sword, marries well.

The military is respected in the South. It’s a different culture. The other cultures put it down, but it is a powerful ally to have on your side, and it certainly fights above its weight class.

I illustrate the Senior Military Colleges to point out this isn’t just about escaping poverty or getting out of a dying town—plenty of poverty and dying towns in Yankeedom and The Midlands—that is, the rust belt. It is deeper and in their souls of this, the descendants of medieval culture. The book that produced the map above wants to trace plantation culture to the West Indies, which seems patently wrong. The plantations were established by land grants of Kings to the second sons of nobles—dukes and barons and princes established medieval serfdoms and kept them going for centuries. The Deep South is still more “Game of Thrones” than the other nations in America.

I feel the need to expand this answer based on the extensive comments made below. People ask “well what about the service academies established by the federal government, they aren’t in the South”. Well no kidding, they were established or expanded as an antidote to Southern militancy, and the leadership deficit the north had at the outset of the civil war, and the point remains there is no “Citadel” in California or VMI in Oregon, not because they couldn’t build one, but it wouldn’t occur to them to do so. A lot of time and effort has gone into making sure the south couldn’t mount a credible force for a civil war 2, mainly in the structure of the guards and reserves and keeping essential components in the north.

Clearly the South of today includes most of the confederacy, which is an alliance of the Deep South and Greater Appalachia, formed before the civil war and existing to this day:

this mapo of American shows all the states and territories as of 1861

The green and the red on this map can properly be called southern influenced. The book portrays a battle of hearts and minds for the soul of greater Appalachia between their historic ties to the South and other regions. The “confederacy” was largely the brainchild of South Carolina, that was the epicenter of the rebellion.

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