Interesting Facts on the Vietnam War
Over the decades since the conflict ended, the Vietnam War has become an integral part of American cultural history, featuring in numerous movies, books, songs, and television documentaries.
Although, the war was a resounding military defeat for the USA and caused a great deal of political turmoil and personal trauma in the US, some historians argue that it succeeded in helping to prevent the spread of communism in the Indochina Peninsula.
Here are some interesting facts on the Vietnam War:
- The Vietnam War began on 1 November 1955 and ended with the fall of Saigon 30 April 1975, lasting 19 and 1/2 years.
- From the end of the 19th Century up until the 1940s Vietnam had been a French colony and formed part of French Indochina.
- Most of the conflict took place in Vietnam, but later the fighting spilled over into neighboring Laos and Cambodia in the early 1970s.
The U.S. military suffered more than
47,000 personnel killed in action
11,000 noncombat deaths
More than 150,000 wounded
- The conflict took place during the Cold War, the global struggle for supremacy between two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union. It was essentially a war between communist and anti-communist forces. The USA was concerned that if the whole of Vietnam became communist, it would spread to other countries in the region - this idea was known as the “Domino Effect” - and the war for the US was about preventing this from happening.
- The Communist North Vietnamese forces were supported by the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, the People's Republic of China, and the Soviet Union. The anti-Communist forces consisted of Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the USA, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Laos.
Quotes About The Vietnam War
"No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now." Richard M. Nixon
"The Vietnam War was like a wound that would never heal." Ed Sanders
"I thought the Vietnam war was an utter, unmitigated disaster, so it was very hard for me to say anything good about it." George McGovern
- The leader of the North Vietnamese was called Ho Chi Minh. He led the independence movement from 1941 onwards, established Communist rule in 1945, and although he offically stepped down from power in 1965, he remained a figurehead throughout the war.
- North Vietnam and its allies had around 500,000 fighters. The forces of South Vietnam and its allies peaked at approximately 1,830,000 in 1968.
- More than 3 million people died in total. The U.S alone suffered 58,220 deaths in action. North Vietnam plus the Viet Cong had 1,100,000 soldiers and up to 2,000,000 civilians killed.
- The average age of Americans that died was just over 23 years. 11,465 of the personnel who were killed were under the age of 20.
Apart from the USA, many other countries suffered casualties in the war:
South Vietnam had 300,000 soldiers killed, and as many as 3,000,000 civilians.
North Vietnam and Viet Cong suffered 1,100,000 soldiers killed, and 2,000,000 civilian deaths.
More than 200,000 Cambodia civilians died.
Laos experience around 30,000 dead.
South Korea - 5,099 dead.
China suffered 1,446 dead.
Thailand lost 1,351 people.
Australia had 521 dead.
New Zealand suffered 37 deaths.
Soviet Union lost 16 people.
- 12,000 American helicopters saw action in the conflict.
- Between 1962 and 1971, the US sprayed a herbicide called Agent Orange over large areas of forest in an attempt to reduce hit and run attacks by pro-communist forces, causing 400,000 people to be killed or injured, and 500,000 children to be born with birth defects.
- The conflict was also financially costly. Between 1965 and 1975, the US spent $111 billion on the war.
- President Nixon started reducing troop numbers in 1969, as massive anti-war demonstrations and protests took place in the US, with the public bitterly divided over the conflict.
More Quotes About The Vietnam War
"The Vietnam War required us to emphasize the national interest rather than abstract principles. What President Nixon and I tried to do was unnatural. And that is why we didn't make it." Henry A. Kissinger
"I got my head bashed in at a demonstration against the Vietnam War. Police were losing control because they were up against a world they really didn't understand." Terry Gilliam
- A cease-fire to end the war was signed in Paris in 1973, but it didn’t hold and hostilities broke out again.
- North Vietnam's victory in 1975 meant that the war had ended for good.
Questions & Answers
What was the Vietnam war all about?
There were competing ideas over what the war was about. In some ways, it was a civil war between North and South Vietnam, which had different political systems. The USA and its allies generally perceived the war as a fight to stop the spread of communism and supported the South Vietnamese. The communist North Vietnamese saw it more as a revolutionary war of liberation against colonialism and interference from Western powers.
How did the Vietnam War end?
The beginning of the end was President Nixon declaring in 1969 that the USA would now be following a new program called “Vietnamization.” This involved the South Vietnamese military being built up so that American forces could gradually withdraw. The fighting continued, however, despite the gradual American withdrawal, and in 1972 the North Vietnamese launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973, and the remaining U.S. forces were all withdrawn. The fighting between the Vietnamese continued until April 1975 when Saigon fell to the communists.
© 2014 Paul Goodman