Vietnam War Timeline

"An individual's political beliefs depend on when
he became politically aware."


Outlined below is a political "time line" of the United States involvement in Indochina.  U.S. Congressional Quarterlies were used for most of the Congressional references. 1979 through 2000 entries are from the Associated Press.

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10 Aug 50 - First shipload of U.S. arms aid to pro-French Vietnam arrives

1951 - U.S. military aid amounted to more than $500 million by 1951

7 May 54 - Viet Minh overrun French fortress at Dien Bien Phu

8 Sep 54 - Eight nations sign U.S.-sponsored SEATO treaty

12 Feb 55 - President Eisenhower's administration sends the first U.S. advisers to South Vietnam to train the South Vietnamese Army

5 Sep 56 - President Eisenhower tells a news conference that the French are "involved in a hopelessly losing war in Indochina"

8 July 59 - Two Americans are killed and one wounded during a Viet Minh attack 20 miles north of Saigon

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13 May 61 - President Kennedy orders 100 "special forces" troops to S. Vietnam

11 Dec 61 - U.S. aircraft carrier "Core" arrives in Saigon with 33 helicopters and 400 air and ground crewmen assigned to operate them for S. Vietnam

22 Dec 61 - SP4 James Davis of Livingston, Tennessee killed by Viet Cong (VC) later called by President Johnson "The first American to fall in defense of our freedom in Vietnam"

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15 May 62 - President Kennedy orders an immediate build-up of US troops in Thailand to a total of 5,000 due to Communist attacks in Laos and movement toward the Thailand border

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1 Nov 63 - S. Vietnamese President Diem and his brother are assassinated outside of Saigon. One coup follows another and weakens the war effort

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Jun 64 - Henry Cabot Lodge resigned as US ambassador to Saigon

July 64 - Announcement states that US military contingent in Vietnam would increase 5,000 more to 21,000

2 Aug 64 - US Navy destroyers "Maddox" and "C. Turner Joy" are reported attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin (attacks 2 Aug + 4 Aug)

4 Aug 64 - US retaliatory strike destroyed 25 N. Vietnamese boats at their bases

4 Aug 64 - Later revealed in the "Pentagon Papers": A cable from the US commander of the destroyer task force stated, "No actual visual sighting. . . . .suggest complete evaluation before any further action."

7 Aug 64 - US Congress approves Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming "All necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States. . .to prevent further aggression. . . (and) assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asian Collective Defense Treaty (SEATO) requesting assistance. . ." US Senate voted (88-2) passed - Senator Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) and Senator Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) voted against the resolution.  US House voted (414-0) passed

Fall 1964 - U.S. turns down an offer of secret peace talks with North Vietnam

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7 Feb 65 - "In the early hours of February 7th, 1965, the VC upped the ante when they launched a guerilla assault against the military barracks at Pleiku where US military advisors were housed. The attack left 8 Americans dead, and President Johnson reacted as though the VC had delivered a personal insult." Johnson ordered a retaliatory air-strike against North Vietnam the next day.   Operation "Rolling Thunder" began in mid-February and lasted 3 years

8 Mar 65 - "Two US Marine battalions arrived on the beach at DaNang in full battle gear. . . They were met not by enemy fire, but by curious onlookers. . . One soldier said, "The war was nowhere in sight."

16 Mar 65 - Alice Herz, an 82-year-old survivor of Nazi terror, set herself on fire in Detroit shortly after President Johnson announced major troop increases and the bombing of North Vietnam.

20 May 65 - Hanoi restates its peace proposal which "Washington" has already rejected

2 Nov 65 - Quaker Norman Morrison set himself on fire and died outside Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s Pentagon office, a scene McNamara witnessed

9 Nov 65 - Catholic Worker Roger LaPorte immolated himself opposite the United Nations building as an anti-war protest

1965 - The US Congress provided $2.4 Billion for the Vietnam war effort, with little dissent in the US House or Senate

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Jan 66 thru Oct 68 - US bombs dropped on N. Vietnam total over 600,000 tons

1 Mar 66 - An attempt to repeal Gulf of Tonkin resolution was defeated in the US Senate

29 Jan 66 - US begins bombing around Haiphong and Hanoi, N. Vietnam. This is considered a major escalation of the air war

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March 67 - Later revealed in the "Pentagon Papers" that "Operation Pop Eye", a rain-making project, was designed to reduce traffic along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos

3 Sep 67 - Nguyen Van Thieu elected president of S. Vietnam

Oct 67 - Congressman Thomas P. ("Tip") O'Neill broke publicly with President Johnson and opposed continuation of the Vietnam war. O'Neill supported Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn) for president in 1968

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30 Jan 68 - Communists start Tet Offensive which escalates into one of the major battles of the war, including attacks on almost all of the capitals of S. Vietnam's 44 provinces

16 Mar 68 - My Lai Massacre - Quang Ngai province - In 1971, LT Calley was convicted and sentenced to "life". His sentence was later changed to 20 years "hard labor". Over 100 civilians were massacred.

31 Mar 68 - President Johnson commits the US to a non-military solution of the war when he announced he would not seek re-election, and ordered a bombing halt over 75% of N. Vietnam (north of the 20th Parallel)

31 Oct 68 - President Johnson announced he would halt all bombing of N. Vietnam on 1 Nov 68. The B-52 bombing halt was maintained until 15 Apr 72. The US bombing "sorties" were shifted to Laos 1 Nov 68 on through 1972 -- over 25,000 sorties were flown, with the most occurring in 1971

End 1968 - "Draftees" accounted for 38% of all American troops in Vietnam. Over 12% of the draftees were college graduates

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18 Jan 69 - Expanded peace talks open in Paris with representatives of the US, S. Vietnam, N. Vietnam, and the National Liberation Front (NLF)

20 Jan 69 - "The greatest honor history can bestow is the tittle of 'peacemaker'. . . after a period of confrontation we are entering an era of negotiation." President Richard Nixon during his Inaugural Address

5 Apr 69 - The only major anti-war demonstration in the early months of the Nixon presidency occurred April 5th and 6th

Spring 69 - During 1973 Senate hearings, it was revealed that secret bombings started a year before the 30 Apr 70 incursion into Cambodia

8 May 69 - "10-point peace plan" offered in Paris by the NLF and endorsed by Hanoi

14 May 69 - President Nixon, during a policy address on Vietnam, proposes an "8-point peace plan" that would include mutual withdrawal of all non-Vietnamese forces to designated bases over a 12-month period, after which remaining troops would be totally withdrawn from S. Vietnam

Mid-69 - President Nixon abandoned the idea of a "purely military victory", started bringing US troops home, and talked of a "Vietnamization" program to prepare the S. Vietnamese to take over the US combat role. Withdrawals announced: 8 Jun - 25,000 and 16 Sep - 35,000

3 Sep 69 - Ho Chi Minh dies

15 Oct 69 - "Vietnam Moratorium" - An estimated 1 million Americans across the US participated in anti-war demonstrations, protest rallies and peace vigils. 50 members of the US Congress also participated

3 Nov 69 - President Nixon says he plans withdrawal of all US troops on a secret timetable

19 Nov 69 - Congress gave the president the authority to institute the "draft lottery" system aimed at inducting 19-year-olds before older men. Nixon signed the bill into law 26 Nov 69. Under the new law the period of prime eligibility was reduced from 7 years to 1 year. Maximum eligibility would begin on a man's 19th birthday and end on his 20th birthday

1 Dec 69 - The first draft lottery in 27 years was held at Selective Service Headquarters in Washington, DC

2 Dec 69 - US House approved (334-55) a resolution endorsing Nixon's efforts to achieve "peace with justice", following a 2 day debate. This was the first major Vietnam policy declaration since the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution

8 Dec 69 - Chief US negotiator Henry Cabot Lodge and his deputy resigned, expressing pessimism concerning the course of the negotiations

15 Dec 69 - President Nixon announced the reduction of another 50,000 troops by mid-April 1970

18 Dec 69 - Senator John Cooper (R-KY), after several attempts, succeeded in limiting US activities in Laos and Thailand when a bill including $23.2 Billion for Vietnam war activities prohibited introduction of US combat troops into Laos and Thailand

End 69 - A year of ever widening divisions in the US. The "silent majority" and "middle America" were pitted against the war protestors. Vice President Agnew called protestors "impudent snobs"

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Jan 70 - "Washington Monthly Magazine" described an intelligence network of "nearly 1,000 plain clothes investigators working out of some 200 offices from coast to coast" who wrote reports on "political protests of all kinds". The domestic intelligence operation stored and disseminated information on both groups and individuals who "might cause trouble of the US Army." Senator Ervin reported in December 1970 that he was informed the surveillance included 800 Illinois citizens including Senator Adlai Stevenson, III (D-ILL), Rep. Abner Mikua (D-ILL) and US Circuit Judge Otto Kerner. Ervin said "apparently anyone who in the Army's definition was 'left of center' was a prospective candidate for political surveillance." During lengthly Senate hearings on the Army's activities, Defense Secretary Laird ordered the spying stopped.

21 Feb 70 - A presidential commission recommends the institution of an all-volunteer Army and elimination of the draft

Mar/Apr 70 - News of increased US involvement in Laos and Cambodia surfaced when 1969 Senate transcripts were made public

20 Apr 70 - President Nixon announces during a TV address, the withdrawal of another 150,000 troops over the next 12 months. This reduction would lower US troop strength to 284,000

23 Apr 70 - President Nixon calls for far-reaching draft reform. Nixon also issued an Executive Order that ended all occupational deferments and most paternity deferments, with "extreme hardship" as the only exception

30 Apr 70 - President Nixon sent US forces into Cambodia, causing widespread war protest in the streets, and plunging Congress into a session-long debate over Congressional war powers

2 May 70 - Senators McGovern, Hughes, Cranston, Goodell, and Hatfield announced they planned to introduce an "end the war" amendment which would work by suspending funds for military operations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia

4 May 70 - 4 Kent State college students were shot to death by Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti-war protest on the campus. This lead to widening anti-war protests

9 May 70 - A peaceful anti-war rally held at the Ellipse in Washington, DC was attended by about 80,000 people including about 10 members of Congress

31 Aug 70 - During debate over the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment in the US Senate, Senator Eagleton (D-MO) and Javits (R-NY) said that the Nixon policy of gradual de-escalation was leading to a wider war in Indochina. Senator Church said the Congress needed to keep pressure on President Nixon to hasten the withdrawal. Senators Scott (R-PA) and Thurmond (R-SC) expressed concern over the fate of US P.O.W.'s and bargaining pressure if US troops were removed

1 Sep 70 - The McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, providing for the withdrawal of all US troops by 31 Dec 71, was defeated by the Senate now and again later

1970 - War Powers - By the time Congress learned that the naval incident leading to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964) had been misrepresented and moved to repeal the resolution in 1970, President Nixon had already shifted to another legal rationale -- his constitutional powers as "Commander in Chief" -- for his Vietnam policies. In its 1969 "national commitments" resolution, the Senate made a bid to reassert a congressional voice in decisions committing the US to the defense of foreign countries. The House passed war-powers measures in 1970, 1971 and 1972.

17 Sep 70 - The VC presented an 8-point peace plan which was the first substantial initiative since Nixon's May 1969 plan. The Paris Peace Talks remained stalemated throughout 1970

7 Oct 70 - President Nixon announced a new 5-point peace plan

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13 Jan 71 - President Nixon signs a bill repealing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution

10 Feb 71 - Congressman Aiken (R-VT) recommended convening an Indochina conference to negotiate a settlement of the area's disputes

23 Feb 71 - Senate Democrats voted (38-13) to adopt a "resolution of purpose" for the 92nd Congress to end US involvement in Indochina and "bring about the withdrawal of all US forces and the release of prisoners in a time certain."

1 Mar 71 - A powerful bomb exploded at 1:32am in a restroom in the original part of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, with responsibility claimed by the "Weather Underground". Senator McGovern attributed the bombing to "our Vietnam madness"

29 Mar 71 - LT Calley convicted for the My Lai Massacre

30 Mar 71 - It was later found out that on this date; "a confidential Army directive orders personnel to intercept and confiscate personal mail containing anti-war and other dissident material sent to soldiers in Vietnam."

7 Apr 71 - During a speech, President Nixon said that in relation to setting a firm date for troop withdrawal, that it would "serve the enemy's purpose, not our own."

1 Apr 71 - Draft Bill - A 2-year extension of the draft passed the House (239-99) in a roll-call vote. The Senate also passed the bill 24 Jun 71 following a long debate, lasting from 6 May through 24 Jun 71.  48% of manpower for the Army were draftees or "draft motivated".

18 Apr 71 - 2,300 Vietnam Veterans came to Washington, DC to participate in Dewey Canyon III, "a military incursion into the country of Congress". Led by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), the vets camped on the mall 1/4 mile from the Capitol, and threw away military medals and ribbons at the foot of the statue of Chief Justice John Marshall.

24 Apr 71 - 10 days of protests by a group calling themselves the "Mayday Tribe" included attempted work stoppages at several federal offices in Washington, DC

3 May 71 - 5,100 policemen backed by 10,000 federal troops resulted in an unprecedented mass arrest of approximately 7,000 persons, with another 2,700 arrested the next day. Protests ended 5 May with the arrest of another 1,200 demonstrators on the Capitol's east steps during a rally attended by some members of Congress

9 Jun 71 - The Senate adopted an amendment authorizing drug control and rehabilitation programs in the military

June 71 - Pentagon Papers published

17 June 71 - Congressman Charles Whalen, Jr (R-Ohio) co-sponsored an "end the war" bill which was rejected by the House (158-255)

24 Jun 71 - Mansfield Amendment was passed along with the draft extension bill. It was a controversial amendment by Senate Majority leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont) setting a national policy of withdrawing troops from Indochina 9 months after the bill's enactment (wording was later softened to the "earliest practical date"). It was the first time in modern US history that Congress had urged an end to a war in which the country was actively involved

1 Jul 71 - During the peace talks, the Viet Cong proposed the return of all American and allied prisoners held in North and South Vietnam by the end of 1971 if all US troops were withdrawn within that same period. US reaction was cautious

28 Sep 71 - The 2-year draft extension was signed into law after lapsing from 30 Jun until 28 Sep.  Deferments were abolished for 1971 college freshmen, although upperclassmen retained draft deferments. Also in the bill was a non-binding provision putting Congress on record as backing an early end to the Vietnam War

3 Oct 71 - South Vietnam election - President Thieu ran unopposed and was re-elected with more than 90% of the popular vote. Vice President Ky and General Duong Van Minh earlier dropped out of the race amid charges that Thieu had rigged the election

2 Nov 71 - A Senate subcommittee released a 300-page report documenting "corruption, criminality, and moral compromise" in a PX scandal in Vietnam and other overseas areas

12 Nov 71 - President Nixon announced a troop withdrawal of 45,000 more troops by 1 Feb 72, but said it was particularly important to continue air strikes on enemy infiltration routes

26-30 Dec 71 - The US carries out the heaviest air strikes on North Vietnam since 1968 in Operation Proud Deep, consisting of 1,025 sorties

Jan 72 - President Nixon announces the 7th withdrawal: 70,000 troops by 1 May 72 reducing the troop level in Vietnam to 69,000

17-28 Feb 72 - President Nixon visits the People's Republic of China

30 Mar 72 - The North Vietnamese launch a major offensive across the DMZ, the biggest since Tet 1968. In retaliation, Nixon orders the bombing of the  Hanoi and Haiphong area

15 Apr 72 - Renewed US bombing of North Vietnam above the 20th parallel

26 Apr 72 - President Nixon announced the withdrawal of 20,000 more troops

27 Apr 72 - Paris Peace talks resume

8 May 72 - Nixon orders the mining of North Vietnamese harbors without first consulting Congress

Jun 72 - Nixon announced the withdrawal of 10,000 more troops by September

17 Jun 72 - Watergate break-in and attempted bugging of the Democratic Party Headquarters

Aug 72 - Nixon announced the withdrawal of 12,000 more troops

27 Oct 72 - Nixon "pocket vetoed" the Veteran's Health Care Expansion Act of 1972. The health care act would have authorized expenditure of $85 million in FY 1973 for expanding health care services for veterans and their dependents

Oct 72 - The Supreme Court was steadfast in refusing to rule on the constitutionality of American involvement in Vietnam. As late as Oct 72, the court voted 7-2 to decline to hear a case in which taxpayers challenged the use of foreign aid funds to finance American operations in Vietnam (Sarnoff vs. Schultz)   Justices Douglas and Brennan disagreed with the courts' hands-off attitude since the Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to declare war, they said, and thus "impliedly bars its exercise by the executive branch."

Dec 72 - Peace talks stopped due to a change in the Communist's position. The heaviest US bombing of North Vietnam of the war followed 18-30 Dec during Operation Linebacker II which included 129 B-52 bombers striking Hanoi

8 Jan 73 - Final stage of peace talks began that would lead to the signing of a Vietnam cease fire on 27 Jan

23 Jan 73 - President Nixon announced an agreement "to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and S.E. Asia."

27 Jan 73 - Official end of the Vietnam War.   Between 27 Jan and 29 Mar 73, a total of 587 military and civilian prisoners were released by the North Vietnamese, and during that same period, 23,500 US troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam

29 Mar 73 - 67 more US P.O.W.'s were freed in Hanoi. The same day, the US withdrew its remaining 2,500 troops from South Vietnam. This date also marked the actual end of military involvement in Vietnam.

10 May 73 - Due to continued bombing of Laos and Cambodia, the House voted (219-188) for the first time to cut-off Indochina funds

31 May 73 - The Senate took strong action prohibiting the use of any funds appropriated by Congress to be used for combat activities in Laos or Cambodia

7 Nov 73 - War Powers Act - Congress dealt President Nixon a stunning setback when it voted to override his veto of legislation limiting presidential powers to commit US forces abroad without congressional approval.   Congress, with the Vietnam War and the showdown over continued bombing in Cambodia behind it, was anxious to reassert its role in the conduct of the country's foreign affairs

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Aug 74 - President Nixon resigns

16 Sep 74 - President Ford unveiled a conditional clemency program for Vietnam-era military deserters and draft evaders

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9 Mar 75 - A major offensive begins against South Vietnam with an attack on Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands.  South Vietnam fell in 55 days.

17 Apr 75 - Cambodian government surrenders to Khmer Rouge forces

29 Apr 75 - Last American soldier killed in Vietnam (the first was 8 Jul 59) The official American presence in Saigon ends when the last Americans are evacuated by helicopter from the US Embassy roof. Within hours the Saigon government surrenders to the VC

1979 - Western European countries and non-Communist Asian nations support US-led embargo in protest against Vietnam's 1978 invasion of Cambodia

Feb 82 - Vietnam agrees to talks regarding American servicemen

Sep 88 - Vietnam-US cooperation begins regarding American MIA's with first joint field investigation

Sep 89 - Vietnam completes Cambodia withdrawal

Apr 91 - US office is established in Hanoi to investigate American MIA's

Oct 91 - Washington takes steps to normalize relations with Hanoi after Vietnam supports UN peace plan for Cambodia

Dec 91 - Washington lifts ban on organized US travel to Vietnam

29 Apr 92 - Trade embargo is eased to allow commercial sales to Vietnam and establishment of a telecommunications link

14 Dec 92 - President George Bush grants permission for US companies to open offices, sign contracts and do feasibility studies in Vietnam

2 July 93 - US opposition to settlement of Vietnam's $140 million arrears to the International Monetary Fund ends

13 Sep 93 - Economic sanctions are eased to allow US firms to bid on development projects financed by international banks

3 Feb 94 - President Bill Clinton lifts trade embargo

27 Jan 95 - US and Vietnam settle old property claims and establish liaison offices in Washington and Hanoi

15 May 95 - Hanoi give US presidential delegation documents on MIA's

Jul 95 - The US restores diplomatic relations with Vietnam

Aug 95 - The US Embassy in Hanoi reopens

16 Apr 97 - A copyright protection agreement is reached, said to be a step toward Most Favored Nation status

9 May 97 - Ambassador Douglas "Pete" Peterson starts new post in Hanoi

Jun 97 - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright makes an official visit

1998 - President Clinton issues his first waiver of a law that bars trade relations with Communist nations that deny citizens the right to emigrate

Jun 00 - An agreement is reached to open up Vietnam's markets to US products, dropping US tariffs to less than 3 percent

Jul 00 - The House backs a bill granting Vietnam continued access to export-related financing, clearing the way for Clinton's historic visit

16 Nov 00 - President Clinton is the first US president to visit Vietnam since President Nixon in July 1969.

17 Nov 00 - The US still searches for missing servicemen and pursues rumors of Americans left behind. The US lists 1,992 Americans unaccounted for from the war. The Pentagon has stopped pursuing 646 of the cases, and the rest remain open.

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Longest war in US history (11 years)

"War" was never officially declared by the United States

A Cornell University study placed the over-all total U.S. cost
of the Vietnam war at $200 Billion

Total U.S. bomb tonnage dropped during:
     World War II =   2,057,244 tons
     Vietnam War =  7,078,032 tons  (3-1/2 times WWII

Bomb tonnage dropped during the Vietnam War amounted to
1,000 lbs. for every man, woman and child in Vietnam.

An estimated 70,000 draft evaders and "dodgers" were living
in Canada by 1972.

An estimated 3 million people were killed by the war,
and over 1 million were wounded.

Vietnam War - Participants and Casualties
By: Richard Kolb with Tom Campbell and Dick Ecker
Credit: VFW Magazine - June/July 2003

U.S. hostile deaths by military service

ARMY   30,950   65%

MARINES    13,091    28%

AIR FORCE         1,744       4%

NAVY      1,628*         3%

Total      47,413


*The 5 Coast Guardsmen are included in the Navy total.


     April 1969 - Peak US troop strength - 543,400     


U.S. Army hostile deaths by combat arms branch

Branch     Number     % of total

Infantry(includes armor recon personnel)21,578    70%

Aviation (helicopter)    1,772     6%

Field Artillery    1,124    4%

Medical Service(essentially combat medics) 1,098   3%

Armor(includes armor crewmen, etc)  727   2%

Combat Engineers   609     2%

Note: These branches account for 87% of all 30,950 Army hostile deaths


     February 10 - 17, 1968     
   Deadliest US week (KIA)   


10 deadliest Vietnam War battles

Battle                     Combat fatalities             Dates

Ia Drang Valley       300                         10/23/65 - 11/26/65

Khe Sanh                 205                       1/20/68 - 4/14/68

Dak To                     192                        11/1/67 - 12/1/67

Cu Nghi                     121                        1/28/66 - 1/31/66

Hue                             119                      2/2/68 - 3/2/68

Kim Son Valley           107                      2/16/66 - 2/28/66

Con Thien   (ambush near)  84                      7/2/67

"Nine Days in May"         79                   5/18/67 - 2/28/67

Dak To                           76                      6/22/67

Vinh Huy                       73                      5/30/67 - 6/2/67

Note: Lengthy operations are excluded. Only actions that could be categorized as single or directly related engagements are tabulated.


Statistics and Myths about the Vietnam War
Submitted by: Gary Harrington

"No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic." [Nixon]

The Vietnam War has been the subject of thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, hundreds of books, and scores of movies and television documentaries. The great majority of these efforts have erroneously portrayed many myths about the Vietnam War as being facts. (Nixon Library)

Myth: Most American soldiers were addicted to drugs, guilt-ridden about their role in the war, and deliberately used cruel and inhumane tactics.

The facts are:

  • 91% of Vietnam Veterans say they are glad they served (Westmoreland papers)

  • 74% said they would serve again even knowing the outcome (Westmoreland papers)

  • There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non veterans of the same age group (from a Veterans Administration study) (Westmoreland papers)

  • Isolated atrocities committed by American soldiers produced torrents of outrage from antiwar critics and the news media while Communist atrocities were so common that they received hardly any attention at all. The United States sought to minimize and prevent attacks on civilians while North Vietnam made attacks on civilians a centerpiece of its strategy. Americans who deliberately killed civilians received prison sentences while Communists who did so received commendations. From 1957 to 1973, the National Liberation Front assassinated 36,725 South Vietnamese and abducted another 58,499. The death squads focused on leaders at the village level and on anyone who improved the lives of the peasants such as medical personnel, social workers, and schoolteachers. (Nixon Library) Atrocities - every war has atrocities. War is brutal and not fair. Innocent people get killed.

  • Vietnam Veterans are less likely to be in prison - only 1/2 of one percent of Vietnam Veterans have been jailed for crimes. (Westmoreland papers)

  • 97% were discharged under honorable conditions; the same percentage of honorable discharges as ten years prior to Vietnam (Westmoreland papers)

  • 85% of Vietnam Veterans made a successful transition to civilian life. (McCaffrey Papers)

  • Vietnam veterans' personal income exceeds that of our non-veteran age group by more than 18 percent. (McCaffrey Papers)

Myth: Most Vietnam veterans were drafted.
2/3 of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers. 2/3 of the men who served in World War II were drafted. (Westmoreland papers) Approximately 70% of those killed were volunteers. (McCaffrey Papers)

Myth: The media have reported that suicides among Vietnam veterans range from 50,000 to 100,000 - 6 to 11 times the non-Vietnam veteran population.
Mortality studies show that 9,000 is a better estimate. "The CDC Vietnam Experience Study Mortality Assessment showed that during the first 5 years after discharge, deaths from suicide were 1.7 times more likely among Vietnam veterans than non-Vietnam veterans. After that initial post-service period, Vietnam veterans were no more likely to die from suicide than non-Vietnam veterans. In fact, after the 5-year post-service period, the rate of suicides is less in the Vietnam veterans' group."  [Houk]

Myth: A disproportionate number of blacks were killed in the Vietnam War.
86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians, 12.5% were black, 1.2% were other races. (CACF) and (Westmoreland papers)
Sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler, in their recently published book "All That We Can Be," said they analyzed the claim that blacks were used like cannon fodder during Vietnam "and can report definitely that this charge is untrue. Black fatalities amounted to 12 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia - a figure proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population at the time and slightly lower than the proportion of blacks in the Army at the close of the war." [All That We Can Be] 
NOTE: "All That We Can Be" by Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler

Myth: The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.
Servicemen who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or infantry officers.
Vietnam Veterans were the best educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better. (McCaffrey Papers) 

Here are statistics from the Combat Area Casualty File (CACF) as of November 1993. The CACF is the basis for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall):

Average age of 58,148 killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years. (Although 58,169 names are in the Nov. 93 database, only 58,148 have both event date and birth date. Event date is used instead of declared dead date for some of those who were listed as missing in action) [CACF]

Myth: The average age of an infantryman fighting in Vietnam was 19

The oldest man killed was 62 years old. [CACF]

11,465 KIAs were less than 20 years old. [CACF]


Average Age

Total    58,148             23.11 years

Enlisted    50,274        22.37 years

Officers    6,598          28.43 years

Warrants    1,276        24.73 years

E1    525                      20.34 years

11B MOS    18,465 (Army Infantrymen)   22.55 years

Assuming KIAs accurately represented age groups serving in Vietnam, the average age of an infantryman (MOS 11B) serving in Vietnam to be 19 years old is a myth, it is actually 22. None of the enlisted grades have an average age of less than 20.  [CACF] The average man who fought in World War II was 26 years of age. (Westmoreland papers)

Myth: The domino theory was proved false.
The domino theory was accurate. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stayed free of Communism because of the U.S. commitment to Vietnam. The Indonesians threw the Soviets out in 1966 because of America's commitment in Vietnam. Without that commitment, Communism would have swept all the way to the Malacca Straits that is south of Singapore and of great strategic importance to the free world. If you ask people who live in these countries that won the war in Vietnam, they have a different opinion from the American news media. The Vietnam War was the turning point for Communism. (Westmoreland papers)

Democracy Catching On - In the wake of the Cold War, democracies are flourishing, with 179 of the world's 192 sovereign states (93%) now electing their legislators, according to the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. In the last decade, 69 nations have held multi-party elections for the first time in their histories. Three of the five newest democracies are former Soviet republics: Belarus (where elections were first held in November 1995), Armenia (July 1995) and Kyrgyzstan (February 1995). And two are in Africa: Tanzania (October 1995) and Guinea (June 1995). [Parade Magazine]

Myth: The fighting in Vietnam was not as intense as in World War II.
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.
One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. 58,169 were killed and 304,000 wounded out of 2.59 million who served. Although the percent 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. (McCaffrey Papers)

MEDEVAC helicopters flew nearly 500,000 missions. Over 900,000 patients were airlifted (nearly half were American). The average time lapse between wounding to hospitalization was less than one hour. As a result, less than one percent of all Americans wounded who survived the first 24 hours died. (VHPA Databases)

The helicopter provided unprecedented mobility. Without the helicopter it would have taken three times as many troops to secure the 800 mile border with Cambodia and Laos (the politicians thought the Geneva Conventions of 1954 and the Geneva Accords or 1962 would secure the border) (Westmoreland papers)

More helicopter facts:
Approximately 12,000 helicopters saw action in Vietnam (all services).  (VHPA Databases)
Army UH-1's totaled 7,531,955 flight hours in Vietnam between October 1966 and the end of 1975. (VHPA Databases)
Army AH-1G's totaled 1,038,969 flight hours in Vietnam. (VHPA Databases)


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