Forty years on – 10 facts about the US war on Vietnam

May 3, 2015
Civilians massacred by US forces. My Lai, Vietnam, 1968.
Civilians massacred by US forces. My Lai, Vietnam, 1968.

The 40th anniversary of the end of Vietnam War, which claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese as a result of the United States aggression against the country, was marked on April 30.

The war lasted from 1955 to 1975. Ending in Vietnamese victory with the forced US withdrawal. It is known in Vietnam as the “War Against the Americans to Save the Nation”.

The US, having at its disposal the most advanced technological and chemical weapons at the time, committed horrific atrocities that continue to affect Vietnam and its people to the present day. Below are 10 facts about the US war and its destructive impact, reprinted from TeleSUR English (archived by Internet Archive).

* * *

  1. More than 2 million Vietnamese civilians were killed, as well as an estimated 1 million Vietnamese soldiers. (Nick Turse in Kill Anything That Moves)
  2. More than 2.6 million US military personnel served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, with 58,000 killed as a result of the war. (United States Department of Defense)
  3. US military aircraft dropped between 5 million and 7.8 million tons of ordnance on Vietnam during the war. (Congressional Research Service in 2014).
  4. The amount of ammunition fired per soldier was 26 times greater in Vietnam than during World War II. By the end of the conflict, the US had unleashed the equivalent of 640 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs on Vietnam. (Kill Anything That Moves)
  5. An estimated 800,000 tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) remain from the Vietnam War, including bombs and land mines that contaminate 20% of the country’s area and affect 5% of its arable land. Vietnamese casualties from UXO since the end of the Vietnam War include about 35,000 deaths. (Congressional Research Service in 2014)
  6. The Vietnam War cost the US US$173 billion, equivalent to $730 billion in 2013 dollars. (United States Department of Defense)
  7. The US military sprayed about 11-12 million gallons of Agent Orange over nearly 10% of the South Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. One scientific study estimated that between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange, which has been linked to respiratory cancer and birth. (Congressional Research Service, 2014)
  8. To motivate troops to aim for a high body count, competitions were held between units to see who could kill the most. Rewards for the highest tally, displayed on “killboards”, included days off or an extra case of beer. Their commanders meanwhile stood to win rapid promotion. (Nick Turse writing for the BBC)
  9. After its military defeat in Vietnam, the US didn’t invade another country until the 1983 military attack on the small Caribbean island of Grenada.
  10. Che Guevara, inspired by the national resistance in Vietnam, famously called for the creation of “two, three… many Vietnams,” across the world as a way of weakening US military power.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.