Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series on National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Vietnam War statistics
• 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era (Aug. 5, 1965 to May 7, 1975)
• 8,744,000 personnel were on active duty during the Vietnam War (Aug. 5, 1964 to March, 28 1973)
• 3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the SE Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand and sailors in adjacent South China Sea waters).
• 2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam (Jan. 1, 1965 to March, 28 1973). Contrary to popular belief, according to census records, 75% of those are still alive.
• Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964
• Of the 2.6 million, between 1 and 1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in combat, provided close combat support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack.
• 7,484 women served in Vietnam, of whom 6,250 or 83.5% were nurses.
• Peak troop strength in Vietnam was 543,482, on April 30, 1969.
• Hostile deaths: 47,359
• Non-hostile deaths: 10,797
• Total: 58,156 (including men formerly classified as MIA and Mayaguez casualties).
• WIA: 303,704-153,329 required hospitalization, 50,375 who did not.
• Severely disabled: 75,000, 23,214 were classified 100% disabled. 5,283 lost limbs, 1,081 sustained multiple amputations. Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremities were 300% higher than in WWII and 70% higher than in Korea. Multiple amputations occurred at the rate of 18.4% compared to 5.7% in WWII.
• MIA: 2,338
• POW: 766, of whom 114 died in captivity.
• Draftees vs. volunteers: 25% (648,500) of total forces in country were draftees. (66% of U.S. armed forces members were drafted during WWII)
• Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.
• Reservists KIA: 5,977
• National Guard: 6,140 served; 101 died.
Census stats and “I Served in Vietnam” wanabees:
• 1,713,823 of those who served in Vietnam were still alive as of August 1995 (Census figures).
• During that same Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served was 9,492,958.
• As of the current Census taken during August 2000, the surviving U.S. Vietnam Veteran population estimate is 1,002,511. This is hard to believe, losing nearly 711,000 between ’95 and ’00. That’s 390 per day. During this Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country is 13,853,027. By this census, four out of five who claim to be Vietnam vets are not. This makes calculations of those alive, even in 2017, difficult to maintain.
The Department of Defense Vietnam War Service Index officially provided by The War Library originally reported with errors that 2,709,918 U.S. military personnel as having served in-country. Corrections and confirmations to this errored index resulted in the addition of 358 U.S. military personnel confirmed to have served in Vietnam but not originally listed by the Department of Defense (All names are currently on file and accessible 24/7/365).
Updated Census information:
• According to the American War Library, as of February 28, 2019, it is estimated that approximately 610,000 Americans who served in land forces during the Vietnam War or in air missions over Vietnam between 1954 and 1975 are still alive to this day.
• Additionally, the American War Library approximated that around 164,000 Americans who served at sea in Vietnam waters during the same time are still alive today.
• It’s been agreed upon that 800,000 Vietnam veterans had passed away by the year 2000. This is a reasonable number but you get very different notions of the death rate when you compare 800,000 to 2.7 million versus 800,000 out of 9.2 million.
• Around 2.7 million troops were stationed in Vietnam either on land, within its airspace, or in its waters. The remaining 6.5 million were serving either at-home or abroad but not in Vietnam.
• The United States did not lose the war in Vietnam, the South Vietnamese did. Read On…
The fall of Saigon happened April 30, 1975, two years after the American military left Vietnam. The last American troops departed in their entirety March 29, 1973.
How could we lose a war we had already stopped fighting? We fought to an agreed stalemate. The peace settlement was signed in Paris on Jan. 27, 1973. It called for release of all U.S. prisoners, withdrawal of U.S. forces, limitation of both sides’ forces inside South Vietnam, and a commitment to peaceful reunification. The 140,000 evacuees in April 1975 during the fall of Saigon consisted almost entirely of civilians and Vietnamese military, not American military running for their lives.
There were almost twice as many casualties in Southeast Asia (primarily Cambodia) the first two years after the fall of Saigon in 1975 than there were during the 10 years the U.S. was involved in Vietnam. Thanks for the perceived loss and the countless assassinations and torture visited upon Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians goes mainly to the American media and their undying support-by-misrepresentation of the anti-war movement in the United States.
As with much of the Vietnam War, the news media misreported and misinterpreted the 1968 Tet Offensive. It was reported as an overwhelming success for the Communist forces and a decided defeat for the U.S. forces. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite initial victories by the Communists forces, the Tet Offensive resulted in a major defeat of those forces. General Vo Nguyen Giap, the designer of the Tet Offensive, is considered by some as ranking with Wellington, Grant, Lee and MacArthur as a great commander. Still, militarily, the Tet Offensive was a total defeat of the Communist forces on all fronts. It resulted in the death of some 45,000 NVA troops and the complete, if not total destruction of the Viet Cong elements in South Vietnam. The Organization of the Viet Cong Units in the South never recovered. The Tet Offensive succeeded on only one front and that was the news front and the political arena. This was another example in the Vietnam War of an inaccuracy becoming the perceived truth. However, inaccurately reported, the news media made the Tet Offensive famous.
The Vietnam War was a divisive and difficult time for the United States, and many veterans didn’t get the recognition for their service they needed to receive, which is why commemorating this holiday is so important.
It is fitting that we honor and thank those that took an oath: “To protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies both foreign and domestic.” To this day, Vietnam veterans are still working to maintain the American way of life, while continuing to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States of America.
Vietnam War Veterans Day is to honor all veterans that served in Vietnam and at any location during the Vietnam War Era. Although, it is good to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice or are listed as MIA; we must remember and honor those that did return and lead good and productive lives. As for being one Vietnam-era veteran who was fortunate enough to not have served in Vietnam, the proper greeting to all veterans from any era is always: Thank you for your service.
For additional information and statistics, contact Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095 via email at DCVVA1095@gmail.com or write us at P.O. Box 283, Delaware, OH 43015.
Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.