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Facts About the Vietnam Conflict

The second wave of combat helicopters of the 1st Air Cavalry Division fly over an RTO and his commander on an isolated landing zone during Operation Pershing, a search and destroy mission on the Bong Son Plain and An Lao Valley of South Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. The two American soldiers are waiting for the second wave to come in. (Photo by Patrick Christain/Getty Images)

Key Facts About Vietnam

  • USA involvement began in 1954 with support of the French and South Vietnamese government.
  • The War would span the terms of 3 US presidents, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
  •  President Kennedy did not want open conflict in Vietnam and hoped to have all troops out of the country by 1965.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, August 1964, occurred during President Johnsons tenure, creating sufficient reasoning for Congress to allow open war in Vietnam. This incident was to an extent fabricated, as the second confrontation was false. This was not brought to light until the Pentagon Papers were published, showing that the second incident was fabricated and a lie by the Johnson Administration. 
  • The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) was for the most part a professional army. Supplied and supported by the USSR and Chinese they were a potent force. The Viet Cong (VC) however were not. Though poorly supplied and supported they still were potent and not to be taken lightly.

Once open war was declared by the USA a draft soon began. Though there is a lot of controversy over the number of service members who were drafted and were later killed in conflict, the majority who served volunteered. From 1965-1973, 8.7 Million Americans served in the Armed Forces. Of that, 1.8 Million were draftees.2.7 Million service members would serve in Vietnam, 675,000 of those were draftees. At the peak, over 540,000 American Troops were in country. US tactics , created under General Westmoreland, was a war of attrition. Using superior American equipment and technology, small limited engagements and massive aerial bombings were a preferred tactic. NVA and VC tactic were primarily one of guerrilla warfare. Ambushes and knowledge of the local terrain enabled them to effectively fight superior. 

In total the war would last from November 1955 until April 1975, ending with the Paris Peace Accords.1 Trillion US dollars would be spent on aid, support and war (adjusted for inflation).Over 58,000 American Service members would be killed (17,400 being draftees) and 150,000 more would be wounded. The war on the ground and air was a USA victory. Countering that though was a American public that was disillusioned with war. For that reason many saw the war as a loss and service members and veterans alike soon lost the support of the American public. 

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