"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]
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]
74% said they would serve again even knowing the outcome [Westmoreland]
There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non veterans of the same age group (from a Veterans Administration study) [Westmoreland]
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
Vietnam Veterans are less likely to be in prison - only 1/2 of one percent of Vietnam Veterans have been jailed for crimes. [Westmoreland]
97% were discharged under honorable conditions; the same percentage of
honorable discharges as ten years prior to
85% of Vietnam Veterans made a successful transition to civilian life. [McCaffrey]
87% of the American people hold Vietnam Vets in high esteem. [McCaffrey]
Myth: The media have reported that suicides among
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
Myth: A disproportionate number of blacks were killed in the Vietnam War.
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
Myth: The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.
Servicemen who went to
Vietnam Veterans were the best educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better. [McCaffrey]
Here are statistics from the Combat Area Casualty File (CACF) as of November 1993. The CACF is the basis for the
Veterans Memorial (The Wall): Vietnam
Average age of 58,148 killed in
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] Vietnam
Deaths 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 22.55 years
Five men killed in
were only 16 years old. [CACF] Vietnam
The oldest man killed was 62 years old. [CACF]
11,465 KIAs were less than 20 years old. [CACF]
Myth: The average age of an infantryman fighting in
was 19. Vietnam
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]
Myth: The domino theory was proved false.
The domino theory was accurate. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian
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
Myth: The fighting in
The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about
40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in
One out of every 10 Americans who served in
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 1993]
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]
More helicopter facts:
Approximately 12,000 helicopters saw action in
Army UH-1's totaled 7,531,955 flight hours in
Army AH-1G's totaled 1,038,969 flight hours in
The 1990 unsuccessful movie "Air
Myth: The American military was running for their lives during the fall
The picture of a Huey helicopter evacuating people from the top of what was billed as being the U.S. Embassy in Saigon during the last week of April 1975 during the fall of Saigon helped to establish this myth.
This famous picture is the property of Corbus-Bettman Archives. It was originally a UPI photograph that was taken by an Dutchman, Mr. Hugh Van Es.
Here are some facts to clear up that poor job of reporting by the news media.
Facts about the fall of Saigon
It was a "civilian" (Air
It was NOT the U.S. Embassy. The building is the Pittman Apartments. The U.S. Embassy and its helipad were much larger.
The evacuees were Vietnamese not American military.
The person that can be seen aiding the refugees is Mr. O.B. Harnage. He was
a CIA case officer and now retired in
Another famous picture.
Myth: Kim Phuc, the little nine year old Vietnamese girl running naked
from the napalm strike near Trang Bang on
No American had involvement in this incident near Trang Bang that burned
Phan Thi Kim Phuc. The planes doing the bombing near the village were VNAF
(Vietnam Air Force) and were being flown by Vietnamese pilots in support of
South Vietnamese troops on the ground. The Vietnamese pilot who dropped the
napalm in error is currently living in the
The American military was not defeated in
THE UNITED STATES DID NOT LOSE THE WAR IN
Facts about the end of the war:
The fall of
The 140,000 evacuees in April 1975 during the fall of
There were almost twice as many casualties in
POW-MIA Issue (unaccounted-for versus missing in action)
Politics & People, On Vietnam, Clinton Should Follow a Hero's
Advice, Sen. John Kerrey is quoted as saying about Vietnam, there has been
"the most extensive accounting in the history of human warfare" of
those missing in action. While there are still officially more than 2,200
cases, there now are only 55 incidents of American servicemen who were last
seen alive but aren't accounted for. By contrast, there still are 78,000
unaccounted-for Americans from World War II and 8,100 from the Korean conflict.
"The problem is that those who think the Vietnamese haven't cooperated sufficiently think there is some central repository with answers to all the lingering questions," notes Gen. John Vessey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Reagan and Bush administration's designated representative in MIA negotiations. "In all the years we've been working on this we have found that's not the case." [The Wall Street Journal]
More realities about war: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - it was not invented or unique to Vietnam Veterans. It was called "shell shock" and other names in previous wars. An automobile accident or other traumatic event also can cause it. It does not have to be war related. The Vietnam War helped medical progress in this area.
Myth: Agent Orange poisoned millions of
Over the ten years of the war, Operation Ranch Hand sprayed about eleven
million gallons of Agent Orange on the South Vietnamese landscape. (the
herbicide was called "orange" in
Restraining the military in
[Westmoreland] Speech by General William C.
Westmoreland before the Third Annual Reunion of the Vietnam Helicopter
Pilots Association (VHPA) at the
[McCaffrey] Speech by Lt. Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, (reproduced in the Pentagram, June 4, 1993) assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Vietnam veterans and visitors gathered at "The Wall", Memorial Day 1993.
[Houk] Testimony by Dr. Houk, Oversight on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 14 July 1988 page 17, Hearing before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs United States Senate one hundredth Congress second session. Also "Estimating the Number of Suicides Among Vietnam Veterans" (Am J Psychiatry 147, 6 June 1990 pages 772-776)
[Burkett] Stolen Valor: How the
242 ASHC Muleskinners