What we know, and what we don’t
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”
Apparently said version tends to change from time to time. I was talking with a friend about how I’d noticed that the school textbooks that Jessie’s had over the past few years were vastly different from those I remembered. In fact, I was helping her study last week for a big social studies exam and thought the textbook seemed a bit “dumbed down” in some topics, and noticed how it entirely skipped others. And then I wondered, were mine vastly different than those of the generation before me?
Looking back, Social Studies was my absolute least favorite subject in school. I couldn’t ever keep up with the details of dates, people, and events; it was sheer straight memorization … and boring as hell. It wasn’t really until I was in my last couple years of high school that history held any kind of fascination with me. I’m lucky, my high school had really great teachers.
I can name several that were my favorites, but one in particular comes to mind today because he not only taught from the textbook, he taught from experience. His name was Joe Parker, and he was a Vietnam veteran. I thought he was the most fascinating man I’d ever met. He didn’t just teach, he told stories. I began to see that people weren’t just names in a textbook anymore. Dates weren’t just numbers to be memorized then completely forgotten. I began to understand why things were done a certain way during certain times.
Mr. Parker often told tales of his time in Vietnam. I loved hearing his stories — I had never seen anything like what he described in any textbook on the subject. Looking back, I don’t think I ever really knew anything about Vietnam. I knew that I had an uncle who had served and died overseas. My father really didn’t like to talk about it. I knew that the war ended not long after I was born, and that when those who served returned home, they were not treated kindly … even looked down upon by people I knew. I never understood until it was explained to me by Mr. Parker. It was he who taught me not to blindly accept what’s given to me in print, but to seek other sources, research, and draw my own conclusions.
I wonder today, how many people are still hanging onto what they’d gathered from misguided sources rather than seeking the truth for themselves?
What brought up this thought and the associated memories was an email I received from Uncle Monster last weekend containing a link to a blog with a most IMPRESSIVE list of statistics and facts about the Vietnam War and its veterans that I have never before seen. And I’d like to share them with y’all …
Interesting Facts about the Make-up of US Troops in the Vietnam War
In case you haven’t been paying attention these past few decades after you returned from Vietnam, the clock has been ticking. The following are some statistics that are at once depressing yet in a larger sense should give you a huge sense of pride.
“Of the 2,709,918 Americans who served in Vietnam, Less than 850,000 are estimated to be alive today, with the youngest American Vietnam veteran’s age approximated to be 54 years old.” How does it feel to be among the last third of all the Vietnam Veterans who served in Vietnam to be alive? I don’t know about you guys, but it kind of gives me the chills.
Considering the kind of information available about the death rate of WWII and Korean War Veterans, publicized information indicates that in the last 14 years Vietnam veterans are dying at the rate of 390 deaths each day. At this rate there will be only a few of us alive in 2015.
These statistics were taken from a variety of sources to include: The VFW Magazine, the Public Information Office, and the HQ CP Forward Observer – 1st Recon April 12, 1997.
STATISTICS FOR INDIVIDUALS IN UNIFORM AND IN COUNTRY VIETNAM VETERANS
1. 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era (Aug 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975).
2. 8,744,000 GIs were on active duty during the war (Aug 5, 1964 – March 28, 1973).
3. 2,709,918 Americans served in Vietnam, this number represents 9.7% of their generation.
4. 3,403,100 (Including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the broader Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand and sailors in adjacent South China Sea waters).
5. 2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam (Jan. 1, 1965 – March 28, 1973). Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964.
6. Of the 2.6 million, between 1-1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in combat, provided close support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack.
7. 7,484 women (6,250 or 83.5% were nurses) served in Vietnam.
8. Peak troop strength in Vietnam: 543,482 (April 30, 1968).
1. The first man to die in Vietnam was James Davis, in 1958. He was with the 509th Radio Research Station. Davis Station in Saigon was named for him.
2. Non-hostile deaths: 10,800
3. Total: 58,202 (Includes men formerly classified as MIA and Mayaguez casualties). Men who have subsequently died of wounds account for the changing total.
4. 8 nurses died – 1 was KIA.
5. 61% of the men killed were 21 or younger.
6. 11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old.
7. Of those killed, 17,539 were married.
8. Average age of men killed: 23.1 years
9. Enlisted: 50,274 – 22.37 years
10. Officers: 6,598 – 28.43 years
11. Warrants: 1,276 – 24.73 years
12. E1: 525 – 20.34 years
13. 11B MOS: 18,465 – 22.55 years
14. Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.
15. The oldest man killed was 62 years old.
16. 2,709,918 Americans served in Vietnam, 58,202 were KIA for a percentage of .0214%.
17. 303,704 were wounded. 153,329 were hospitalized.
18. 150,375 were injured requiring no hospital care.
19. 75,000 were severely disabled. 23,214 were 100% disabled. 5,283 lost limbs. 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
20. Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremities were 300% higher than in WWII and 70% higher than Korea.
21. Multiple amputations occurred at the rate of 18.4% compared to 5.7% in WWII.
22. Missing in Action: 2,338
23. POWs: 766 (114 died in captivity)
24. As of January 15, 2004, there are 1,875 Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
DRAFTEES VS VOLUNTEERS
1. 25% (648,500) of total forces in country were draftees.
2. 66% of U.S. armed forces members were drafted during WWII).
3. Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.
4. Reservists killed: 5,977
5. National Guard: 6,140 served: 101 died.
6. Total draftees (1965 – 73): 1,728,344.
7. Actually served in Vietnam: 38%
8. Marine Corps Draft: 42,633.
9. Last man drafted: June 30, 1973.
RACE AND ETHNIC BACKGROUND
1. 88.4% of the men who actually served in Vietnam were Caucasian; 10.6% (275,000) were black; 1% belonged to other races.
2. 86.3% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasian (includes Hispanics); 12.5% (7,241) were black; 1.2% belonged to other races.
3. 170,000 Hispanics served in Vietnam; 3,070 (5.2% of total) died there.
4. 70% of enlisted men killed were of North-west European descent.
5. 86.8% of the men who were killed as a result of hostile action were Caucasian; 12.1% (5,711) were black; 1.1% belonged to other races.
6. 14.6% (1,530) of non-combat deaths were among blacks.
7. 34% of blacks who enlisted volunteered for the combat arms.
8. Overall, blacks suffered 12.5% of the deaths in Vietnam at a time when the percentage of blacks of military age was 13.5% of the total population.
9. Religion of Dead: Protestant – 64.4%; Catholic – 28.9%; other/none – 6.7%
1. Vietnam veterans have a lower unemployment rate than the same non-vet age groups.
2. Vietnam veterans’ personal income exceeds that of our non-veteran age group by more than 18 percent.
3. 76% of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower middle/working class backgrounds.
4. Three-fourths had family incomes above the poverty level; 50% were from middle income backgrounds.
5. Some 23% of Vietnam vets had fathers with professional, managerial or technical occupations.
6. 79% of the men who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better when they entered the military service. 63% of Korean War vets and only 45% of WWII vets had completed high school upon separation.
7. Deaths by region per 100,000 of population: South – 31%, West -29.9%; Midwest – 28.4%; Northeast – 23.5%.
DRUG USAGE & CRIME
1. There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non-Vietnam Veterans of the same age group. (Source: Veterans Administration Study)
2. Vietnam Veterans are less likely to be in prison – only one-half of one percent of Vietnam Veterans have been jailed for crimes.
3. 85% of Vietnam Veterans made successful transitions to civilian life.
WINNING & LOSING
1. 82% of veterans who saw heavy combat strongly believe the war was lost because of lack of political will.
2. Nearly 75% of the public agrees it was a failure of political will, not of arms.
1. 97% of Vietnam-era veterans were honorably discharged.
2. 91% of actual Vietnam War veterans and 90% of those who saw heavy combat are proud to have served their country.
3. 74% say they would serve again, even knowing the outcome.
4. 87% of the public now holds Vietnam veterans in high esteem.
1. 1,713,823 of those who served in Vietnam were still alive as of August, 1995 (census figures).
2. During that same census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country was: 9,492,958.
3. As of the current census taken during August, 2000, the surviving U.S. Vietnam Veteran population estimate is: 1,002,511. This is hard to believe, losing nearly 711,000 between ’95 and ’00. That’s 390 per day.
4. During this census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country is: 13,853,027. By this census, FOUR OUT OF FIVE WHO CLAIM TO BE VIETNAM VETS ARE NOT.
5. The Department of Defense Vietnam War Service Index officially provided by The War Library originally reported with errors that 2,709,918 U.S. military personnel as having served in-country.
6. Corrections and confirmations to this erred index resulted in the addition of 358 U.S. military personnel confirmed to have served in Vietnam but not originally listed by the Department of Defense. (All names are currently on file and accessible 24/7/365).
7. Isolated atrocities committed by American Soldiers produced torrents of outrage from anti-war critics and the news media while Communist atrocities were so common that they received hardly any media mention at all.
8. The United States sought to minimize and prevent attacks on civilians while North Vietnam made attacks on civilians a centerpiece of its strategy.
9. Americans who deliberately killed civilians received prison sentences while Communists who did so received commendations.
10. From 1957 to 1973, the National Liberation Front assassinated 36,725 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 school teachers. – Nixon Presidential Papers.
Now, how many of you read the above and see the similarities between Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan? The first thing that stuck out in my mind immediately (besides the media coverage) was that I have seen with my own eyes is that heroes are welcomed home today.
Reach out to a soldier or veteran. Say “Thank you” — because you never know, he or she may have never been told that before!
If you are able and want to do more, here’s where you can find out how.