Vietnam War Summary and Facts

Summary

The Vietnam War was a war fought between 1964 and 1975 on the ground in South Vietnam and bordering areas of Cambodia and Laos, and in bombing runs over North Vietnam.

Fighting on one side was a coalition of forces including the United States, the Republic of Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea.

Fighting on the other side was a coalition of forces including the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the National Liberation Front, a communist-led South Vietnamese guerrilla movement.

The USSR provided military aid to the North Vietnamese and to the NLF, but was not one of the military combatants.

The war was part of a larger regional conflict involving the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos, known as the Second Indochina War. In Vietnam, this conflict is known as the American War (Vietnamese Chiến Tranh Chống Mỹ Cứu Nước, which translates into English as "War Against the Americans and to Save the Nation").

In many ways the Vietnam War was a direct successor to the French Indochina War, which is sometimes referred to as the First Indochina War, when the French fought to maintain control of their colony in Indochina against an independence movement led by Communist Party leader Ho Chi Minh.

Citing progress in peace negotiations, On January 15, 1973 President Nixon ordered a suspension of offensive action in North Vietnam which was later followed by the unilateral withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords were later signed on January 27, 1973 which officially ended US involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

The peace agreements signed at the Paris Peace Accords did not last for very long. In early 1975 the North invaded the South and quickly consolidated the country under its control. Saigon fell on April 30, 1975. North Vietnam united North and South Vietnam on July 2, 1976 to form the "Socialist Republic of Vietnam". Hundreds of supporters of the South Vietnamese government were executed, thousands more were imprisioned. Saigon was immediately re-named to "Ho Chi Minh City", in honor of the former president of North Vietnam. Communist rule continues in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the present day.

Facts

While many aspects about the Vietnam War are debatable, the facts and figures of the war have a voice of their own and are indisputable.

On these pages we list some of the commonly accepted facts about the Vietnam War.

  • 58,148 Americans were killed and 304,000 wounded out of 2.59 million who served.
  • The average age of those killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years.
  • 50,274 were enlisted, average age 22.37.
  • The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year, thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.
  • After Vietnam the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand managed to stay free of communism. The Indonesians expelled the Soviets in 1966.
  • During the Vietnam War the national debt increased by $146 billion (1967-1973). Adjusted for inflation, the debt in 1992 dollars was $500 billion.
  • 74 percent said they would serve again even knowing the outcome.
  • 1,276 were warrant officers (NCOs), average age 24.73 years.
  • From 1957 to 1973 the National Liberation Front assassinated 36,725 South Vietnamese and abducted 58,499. Death squads focused on leaders that included schoolteachers and minor officials.
  • The number of North Vietnamese killed was approximately 500,000 to 600,000. Casualties: 15 million.
  • One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. Although the percentage who died is similar to other wars, amputations or crippling wounds were 300 percent higher than in World War II. 75,000 Vietnam veterans are severely disabled.
  • The Tet '68 offensive was a major defeat for the VC and the NVA.
  • Two-thirds of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers, two-thirds who served in World War II were draftees.
  • 8 nurses died-1 was killed in action.
  • Vietnam Veterans represented 9.7% of their generation.
  • The suicide rate of Vietnam veterans has always been well within the 1.7% norm of the general population.
  • Non-hostile deaths: 10,800
  • Missing in action: 2,338
  • Men under the age of 21 killed: 61%
  • 3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand, and sailors in adjacent South China sea waters).
  • 240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam era.
  • POWs: 766 (114 died in captivity).
  • Wounded in action: 303,704
  • 7,484 American women served in Vietnam. 6,250 were nurses.
  • 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era (Aug.5, 1964-May 7, 1975).
  • Hostile deaths: 47,378
  • Severely disabled: 75,000--23,214 100% disabled; 5,283 lost limbs; 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
  • Married men killed: 17,539
  • Average age of men killed: 22.8 years.
  • Highest political office attained by a Vietnam veteran to date: Vice President Al Gore.
  • Most successful Vietnam veteran/businessman to date: Frederick Smith of Federal Express.
  • 79% of the men who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better when they entered the military service.
  • Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.
  • The oldest man killed was 62 years old.
  • 11,465 KIAs were less than 20 years old.
  • Vietnam Veterans represent 9.7% of their generation
  • 8,744,000 GIs were on active duty during the war (Aug. 5, 1964 - March 28, 1973)
  • 2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam (Jan. 1, 1965 - March 28, 1973)
  • Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964
  • Of the 2.6 million, between 1 - 1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in combat, provided close support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack.
  • Peak troop strength in Vietnam: 543,482 (April 30, 1969)
  • Total draftees (1965-1973): 1,728,344
  • Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam
  • National Guard: 6,140 served; 101 died
  • Last man drafted: June 30, 1973
  • 97% of Vietnam veterans were honorably discharged
  • 91% of actual Vietnam War era veterans and 90% of those who saw heavy combat are proud to have served their country
  • 66% of Vietnam veterans say they would serve again if called upon

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