Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
Over the decades since the conflict ended, the Vietnam War has become an integral part of American culture as well as military history, featuring in numerous movies, books, songs, and television documentaries.
Although the war was a resounding military defeat for the U.S. and caused a great deal of political turmoil and personal trauma in America, some historians argue that it succeeded in helping to prevent the spread of communism in the Indochina Peninsula.
The Vietnam War: 15 Interesting Facts
Here are 15 facts about the conflict in Vietnam.
- The Vietnam War Began on 1 November 1955
- Large Scale U.S. Military Involvement in the Conflict Began in 1961
- The Fighting Wasn't Just Confined to Vietnam
- The Conflict Was a Manifestation of the Cold War
- Each Side in the Conflict Consisted of an Alliance of Different Supporters
- The Leader of the North Vietnamese Forces Was Called Ho Chi Minh
- The North Vietnamese Had Fewer Troops Than the South for Much Of the War
- More Than 3 Million People Died in Total
- The Morale and Mental Health of US Soldiers Deteriorated in the Final Years of the Conflict
- The Conflict Was Nicknamed “The Helicopter War”
- The US Used Powerful Herbicide to Eliminate Forest Areas
- The Conflict Was Expensive
- The War Split American Public Opinion
- A Failed Attempt Was Made in 1973 to End the War
- The War Finally Ended in 1975
I will go into each fact in more detail below.
1. The Vietnam War Began on 1 November 1955
Although the conflict began in the 1950s, its roots lay in the French colonial period of the 1800s. In 1954 the country was partitioned into South Vietnam and communist North Vietnam. South Vietnam was supported by the United States, who provided it with funding, armaments, and military training. Tensions escalated into armed conflict between the North and South.
2. Large Scale US Military Involvement in the Conflict Began in 1961
It was President Kennedy that really began major American involvement in the conflict. Up until 1961, there had only been a relatively small number of military advisors operating in Vietnam. By 1965 the U.S. had active combat units fighting, and by 1969 500,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam.
3. The Fighting Wasn't Just Confined to Vietnam
While the conflict was generally confined to Vietnam early on, the fighting would later spill over into neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The U.S. started secretly bombing Laos in 1964. In 1969, Cambodia was also secretly bombed in an effort to disrupt and destroy suspected communist base camps and supply zones, and in 1970 the U.S. sent in ground troops, despite Cambodia being officially neutral.
4. The Conflict Was a Manifestation of the Cold War
The Cold War was a global struggle for supremacy between two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, as well as an ideological competition between communist and anti-communist ideas and 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 U.S. was about preventing this from happening.
5. Each Side in the Conflict Consisted of an Alliance of Different Supporters
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 the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the USA, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Laos.
6. The Leader of the North Vietnamese Forces Was Called Ho Chi Minh
He led the independence movement from 1941 onwards, established Communist rule in 1945, and although he officially stepped down from power in 1965, he remained a figurehead throughout the war.
7. The North Vietnamese Had Fewer Troops Than the South for Much Of 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. In total, approximately 2,700,000 American men and women served in Vietnam over the course of the conflict.
8. More Than 3 Million People Died in Total
The human costs of the extended conflict were huge. North Vietnam plus the Viet Cong had 1,100,000 soldiers and up to 2,000,000 civilians killed. The U.S suffered over 58,220 deaths in action. 4,000 South Koreans died, as did approximately 350 Thais, over 500 Australians, and three dozen New Zealanders.
9. The Morale and Mental Health of U.S. Soldiers Deteriorated in the Final Years of the Conflict
Fighting in the Vietnam War was an extremely stressful experience for many soldiers and over time it caused many of them to experience physical and psychological problems. Towards the end of the conflict, there were increasing cases of PTSD, drug abuse, mutinies, and assaults by soldiers on officers and NCOs.
10. The Conflict Was Nicknamed “The Helicopter War”
12,000 American helicopters saw action in the conflict. There were 11 different types of rotary-winged craft used to back up troops, extract them from the battlefield, or rush them to hospital, but the one most often associated with the Vietnam conflict was known as the "Huey".
11. The U.S. Used Powerful Herbicide to Eliminate Forest Areas
Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. 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.
12. The Conflict Was Expensive
The Vietnam War was one of the most expensive military campaigns in U.S. history. It cost the country $843.63 billion in 2019 dollars, or 2.3% of GDP in 1968. Compensation benefits for Vietnam veterans and families still cost the U.S. $22 billion a year.
13. The War Split American Public Opinion
President Nixon started reducing troop numbers in 1969, as massive antiwar demonstrations and protests took place in the U.S., with the public bitterly divided over the conflict. In 1970 National Guard killed four student antiwar protesters at Kent State University.
14. A Failed Attempt Was Made in 1973 to End the War
In January 1973 President Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords, which ended the direct involvement of the US in the conflict. The North Vietnamese accepted a cease-fire, but even as U.S. troops were departing Vietnam, the North Vietnamese military officials were plotting to capture South Vietnam.
15. The War Finally Ended in 1975
The South Vietnam capital city of Saigon fell on 30 April 1975 to the People's Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong. The Vietnam War lasted 19 years and 9 months. North Vietnam's victory meant that the war had ended for good.
Sources and Further Reading
- "Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics: HOSTILE OR NON-HOSTILE DEATH INDICATOR." U.S. National Archives.
- "The History Place – Vietnam War 1945–1960".
- "Counterinsurgency in Vietnam: Lessons for Today". The Foreign Service Journal. April 2015.
- The Vietnam War | BBC Bitesize
- Lind, Michael (1999). "Vietnam, The Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict". The New York Times
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What was the Vietnam war all about?
Answer: 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.
Question: How did the Vietnam War end?
Answer: 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.
Question: How did the Vietnam War change the world?
Answer: Proponents of the Vietnam War argue that it blunted the expansion of Communism in Asia by showing the seriousness and commitment of the USA. Detractors argue that the war showed the limitations of American military power and effectively emboldened its enemies.
© 2014 Paul Goodman
paintitblack on February 20, 2020:
Vietnam Never Forgotten 1955-1975
noahbeast12 on January 24, 2020:
this helped me alot with my research project. Thank you!!!
Sky11th on January 15, 2020:
Vietnam was a crucial war in American history and to all the people who don't realize it those Men that fought for us over there went through total Chaos for the U.S. Be proud that we have people to do that for us and we don't have to die ourselves through war and in balance of political stand point of the Nations.
shithole on August 19, 2019:
damn this cray cray
Ur mom on May 15, 2019:
Y can’t life b eezy?
Madison on April 24, 2019:
Ezra on March 06, 2019:
This website is very useless and has nothing of great importance. I hate it.
big boy chan on February 18, 2019:
this website was interesting but useless
Cooper on November 29, 2018:
Using some of this for my project, Thanks.
Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on October 24, 2018:
Wars will never end, so do not participate. Move instead. Do something constructive.
2334 on October 23, 2018:
wars will never end and thx for the information
freddy on October 22, 2018:
thank you this really helped me on my project
Anonymous on September 17, 2018:
My uncle was in the car and has no injuries he has six adpoted kids. And he was a police officer after the war.
unknown on May 21, 2018:
It was so fun learning all these facts i wish to know more.
polar on May 02, 2018:
thx great advice
coo on March 20, 2018:
This helped so much on Vietnam assignment.
Joseph on March 19, 2018:
How are orangutans related to Vietnam
Joseph on February 01, 2018:
Nice that helped me a lot.
Gabriel Waincroft on January 11, 2018:
jesusaj on January 10, 2018:
this helped on my project thank you
Anon on November 09, 2017:
Nice website :)
Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on October 22, 2017:
Let people resolve not to kill or harm another person.
Thou shalt not kill, harm or torture.
If there is violence, move out of the way.
Do Not run to trouble.
Love one another and help them.
We are all of One Body.
annoymous on October 22, 2017:
this website didn't teach me anything you seem like a nice man so I would make your facts short and easy but apart from that it was ok I would rate it a 5 out of 10
Boomer Music Man on July 19, 2016:
Very interesting facts about the Vietnam war. Superb writing. Kudos.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on December 01, 2014:
Wonderful layout. Visually the facts were really easy to peruse.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 22, 2014:
I am in Hanoi now and staying right beside the Hoa Lo prison. I know of Vietnamese families who have lost loved ones. I asked one of them how it felt then, and she just said they had to do what they had to do. The Americans still look for the missing. I just takes to the ones doing this work. They have had not much success recently. It is sad. Thanks for doing this hub. Well done!
Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on November 22, 2014:
Very good hub. Korea was the same way, then there is Iraq and Afghanistan. It is better for individuals and the nation to refuse to go to combat overseas. The US needs to learn to stay out of trouble, not run to trouble. Teach your children to walk away from a fight.
Hooks and Needles on November 22, 2014:
One of my cousin's died in that war. He was 19 or 20 at the time. What a shame. Many more young men I knew came home with wounds or mental problems or both. What a shame and what a waste.
biblicaliving from U.S.A. on November 22, 2014:
I know several Vietnam Veterans. One of them hated the place and volunteered for permanent guard duty. Another Vet (a Marine) loved it and actually signed up for a second tour. Yet two other Vet's that I know have died from medical complications due to agent orange exposure. Sadly enough, the Vietnam conflict's true cost will never be known, nor appreciated.
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on November 22, 2014:
Congratulations on HOTD! This is a very interesting and informative hub. I remember the war years but the statistics of the war I did not remember. You have done an excellent comprehensive look at this sad time in our history. I just read or heard recently that there are still 1600 soldiers unaccounted for from the war and are still considered MIA's. Amazing. This is still a sore spot in our national history. How sad!
Janice Horner on November 22, 2014:
This was really interesting. I remember the war well. I reside in the UK. I lived near an American air base, RAF Chicksands in Shefford, Bedfordshire. There was a young couple called Suzanne and Art who many of us come acquainted with. I remember Suzanne, mentioning that Art was going to Vietnam, and I wondered if he ever came back. Many like you say lost their lives, it must have been a horrendous time for families whose loved ones were out there.
Brilliant hub, voted up, and congratulations on your article being put has hub of the day.
mySuccess8 on November 22, 2014:
You have picked some of the most interesting facts on one of the top biggest and bloodiest wars in history, the Vietnam War. This is well-supported by a good selection of great videos. Congrats on Hub of the Day!
TheFisherMan531 from Los Angeles County on November 22, 2014:
Congrats on getting Hub of the day!
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on October 11, 2014:
One interesting fact is that while New Zealand sent troops the government of New Zealand told the US in the early sixties that it was a war they believed the US couldn't win