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Facts of the Vietnam War

Natasha Bantwal
The Vietnam War was the longest war partaken by the US. The war left lasting impressions on the global dynamics of the struggle between communism and democracy, and brought into existence a unified, communist Vietnam.

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The seeds of the Vietnam War lay in the 1954 division of the region into two countries. South Vietnam was ruled by a democratic government, while the communist Viet Cong -- led by Ho Chi Minh -- ruled the North.

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The existing tension between the two factions was further exacerbated by the Cold War between the US and the USSR. The US was an outspoken proponent of democracy, while the USSR was communistic and actively assisted other communistic countries, most notably Cuba.
Viet Cong-backed Insurgency in the South had begun in 1954, but the Viet Cong officially increased their support in the 1960s, following the overthrow and assassination of the democratic leader Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963.
The US intervention in 1965 tilted the scales the South's favor, but the Southern forces alone were never a match for the disciplined, well-funded and excellently coordinated Northern army.

Vietnam War Facts

The Vietnam War is one of the longest military engagements in recent history. The conflict raged on for nearly 20 years, November 1, 1955 to the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
The most important effect of the Vietnam War was the inhibition of the Domino effect. The US had feared that if Vietnam were to be unified as a communistic country (which was the likely outcome if elections had been carried out in both North and South Vietnam), more countries would follow suit.
Although the unified Vietnam was indeed a communist state, US intervention in the war convinced the nearby countries of Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia to not do the same.
  • More than 1 million soldiers of the Viet Cong were killed in the Vietnam War.
  • About 58,200 Americans were killed during the war and roughly 304,000 wounded, out of the more than 2.5 million who served in the war. This translates to about one casualty per ten men!
  • The average age of the Americans that were killed was 23.11 years; 11,465 were less than the age of 20!
  • Civilians on either side were not spared -- close to 5 million civilians were killed, the Southern population suffering more than the North. Civilians from surrounding countries such as Cambodia and Laos were also killed in the thousands.
  • From the year 1957 to the year 1973, the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) assassinated nearly 37,000 South Vietnamese and nearly 58,500 were abducted, many of them minor officials and schoolteachers. This was done so that local leaders could not coordinate the South Vietnamese defense and/or forge a local militia.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans serving in the war were volunteers.
  • April 30 is celebrated as Reunification Day or Victory Day in Vietnam.
  • The exiled overseas Vietnamese community considers April 30 as National Defeat Day, Ngoy Quoc Han. This phrase is illegal in Vietnam and is considered treasonous.
  • Almost 2 million South Vietnamese have relocated to the United States, Canada, France and Australia since the Fall of Saigon.
  • The US spent $111 billion on the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1975.
  • The average American soldier in Vietnam fought for 240 days in a year!
  • Up to 500,000 children were congenitally or otherwise affected by Agent Orange, a herbicide sprayed over the Vietnamese forests by the US to minimize the threat from Vietnamese hit-and-run squads.
  • A survey found that 90% of American war veterans were glad about their involvement in the Vietnam War, and over 70% would participate once again in spite of knowing the result.
The Vietnam War turned out to be an exercise in futility for the USA. The American forces in Vietnam suffered heavy attrition damage. They had grossly underestimated the logistical difficulties of waging war in the tropical geography of Vietnam and were continually plagued by Viet Cong ambush squads, who were familiar with the terrain.
After widespread protests in the US against involvement in the Vietnam War, President Nixon proposed the 'Vietnamization' of the war, wherein South Vietnamese forces would battle the North while being replenished by the US. The North took this opportunity to make vital inroads into Southern territory and, finally, into Saigon.
However, as mentioned above, US involvement inhibited further spread of communism in Southeast Asia, preventing the anticipated Domino Effect. 16 years after the Fall of Saigon, the communist heavyweight USSR was divided, leaving the democratic USA as the sole global powerhouse.