The Vietnam war was the longest war in the history of the United States. It ran from about 1954 to 1973 (although many people disagree when it comes to these dates), and combat occurred in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. However, not as many know the exact statistics, the larger-than-life stories, or the quirky details. Take a look at these Vietnam war facts that you may have not have heard before.
War Facts & Vietnam War Timeline
1. 1954-Vietnam became an independent country. Up to this point, it had been a French colony.
2. Early 1960s-The CIA recruited half of the Hmong population to fight with American forces against the Vietcong. It was called the “Secret War.”
3. 1961-1971-The U.S. used millions of gallons of Agent Orange to destroy foliage in Vietnam so that they could see through the trees and determine where Vietnamese soldiers were hiding. Using this chemical killed or maimed 400,000 people and inflicted birth defects on 500,000 more.
4. 1965-James Stockdale became a prisoner of war after the aircraft he was in was gunned down by enemy fire. He escaped by parachuting down into a Vietnamese village where he was captured and tortured. James Stockdale’s experience as a POW in Vietnam came to be known as the Stockdale Paradox. Stockdale believed that having faith that he would eventually make it out of prison helped him survive it. The key however, was to remain a realist as well, and to not have hopes set on being rescued by a certain date. Those POW’s who believed they would be saved in a certain time period often died of heartache when the window of time passed and they had not been released from prison.
5. 1965-The U.S Military Ground war in Vietnam started, and 3000+ marines were deployed. By December of that same year the number had risen to 200,000+.
6. 1965-a U.S. long-range patrol unit called the Tiger Force was established, and during the Vietnam war, they were known for cutting the ears off of their victims and making necklaces out of them.
7. 1965-1968-Operation Rolling Thunder dropped a million tons of missiles and bombs all over Vietnam.
8. 1966-The standard issue weapon used by the U.S. troops was the M-16, but the gun kept jamming and would fail to fire. U.S. Troops got so tired of working with faulty guns that they ultimately abandoned their own weapons and took up AK-47’s, the weapons being used by the Vietnam troops.
9. 1966-Jeremiah Denton, an American POW in North Vietnam, was forced to attend a televised press conference to assure the United States government and citizens that the prisoners there were being treated well. Using Morse code, he blinked out the word “TORTURE,” informing the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence for the first time of what POWs were enduring.
10. 1967-By this time, there were more than half a million ground troops in Vietnam.
11. 1967-Vietnam War protesters wanted to levitate the pentagon 300 feet to exorcise the evil there and requested a permit to do so in 1967. However, authorities allowed only 3 feet of levitation. No movement was ever seen or recorded.
12. 1968- Hugh Thompson landed his helicopter in the middle of live-fire during the My Lai Massacre in an attempt to stop American troops who were killing unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Congress charged Thompson as being a traitor and told him never to speak about his intervention ever again.
13. 1970- Peter Lemon fought off two units of Vietnam troops single-handedly and saved a wounded soldier. He was high on marijuana the whole time, but received a Medal of Honor for his bravery.
14. 1973- In an attempt to get all American troops out of Vietnam, a Cessna full of rescued soldiers needed to land, and the USS Midway was the only place to land before the plane would run out of gas. However, the deck was covered with helicopters, meaning there wasn’t space for the Cessna to land. To remedy this, the helicopters were pushed into the sea, ruining $10 million worth of military aircrafts so that the Cessna could land.
15. 1977-During the Vietnam war, 125,000 Americans left the States and went to live in Canada so that they wouldn’t be drafted. On Jimmy Carter’s first day in office, he granted those who fled amnesty, and half of them came back to the U.S.
16. 2004-A census was taken and it was reported that over 1,800 Americans who served in the Vietnam War were still unaccounted for.
17. 2005-The NSA declassified documents that proved that the second Gulf of Tonkin incident never actually happened. The second Gulf of Tonkin shooting was only said to have happened in order to justified the first incident and America’s increased participation in the war.
18. The Vietnam War was the longest war in U.S. history up to that point, having lasted almost 20 years. To give a little perspective, the Civil War lasted about 4 years, WWI lasted just over 4 years, and WWII lasted about 6 years.
19. Many people believe that a majority of the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War were drafted. However, of the 8.7 million U.S. soldiers who served, only 1.8 million of those were drafted. Most of the troops volunteered to serve their country in the Vietnam War.
20. Soldiers used superglue to close up and slow bleeding on their injuries until they could reach a hospital. This actually worked quite well, but doing so had some negative side effects, such as causing further tissue damage from the heat that was produced from the glue’s exothermic reaction.
21. Duct tape was sometimes used to repair, balance, and align helicopter blades.
22. Soldiers serving in the Vietnam War sometimes used slinkies to extend their radio range, essentially transforming the slinkies into long antennas.
23. The Vietnam War is known as the American War in Vietnam.
24. People think that the war unfairly drafted more minorities and poor people than whites and rich people. Statistics show that of the men who served in Vietnam, 88.4 percent were Caucasian, 10.6 percent were Black, and 1 percent were of other races. As far as socioeconomic status is concerned, of those sent to Vietnam, 76 percent were from the lower middle/working class, and 75 percent had families whose incomes were above the poverty line.
25. Almost 60,000 soldiers were killed serving their country and over 150,000 were wounded in action.
To Those Who Served
Learning more about the Vietnam War helps us understand what our Vietnam veterans endured and just how much they sacrificed. However, no statistic can truly convey their experiences. We at Low VA Rates take the time to remember those who have served every day and try to give back in whatever way we can. Take a look at more articles on our blog to read further information about the Vietnam War.