50 incredible facts about the Vietnam War | 17th parallel line map vietnam

How much do you really know about the Vietnam war though? 

50 incredible facts about the Vietnam War | 17th parallel line map vietnam

 50. In the region, the Vietnam War was known as the Second Indochina War, and only one in a series of conflicts between Indochinese Communists and the US, France, China, and others. 

49. The North Vietnamese Army was supported financially and with war materials by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies, while the South Vietnamese Army was supported by the USA, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and other anti-communist allies. 

48. The war lasted 19 years and also caused the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, and despite the US's best efforts would result in all 3 countries becoming communist states in 1975. 

47. Called Viet Cong by English language sources, these guerilla fighters were actually formally known as the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam. 

46. US participation in Vietnam formally began with support for a French effort to reconquer its former colony in Vietnam, after the nation declared independence shortly after World War II. 

45. When the Japanese invaded during World WarII, the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, resisted the invaders and were supported by the US, the Soviet Union, and China. After Japan's surrender, Ho Chi Minh initiated an insurgency against French rule. 

44. In January 1950 China and the Soviet Union recognized the Viet Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam, based in Hanoi, as the legitimate government of Vietnam, while the US and Great Britain recognized the French-backed State of Vietnam based in Saigon. The stage for war between the north and south was set. 

43. Seeing it as an expansion of communism at the direction of the Soviet Union, the United States feared a domino effect after the Korean war that would see nations around the world fall to communism. 

42. The French military effort in Vietnam went very poorly, and by 1954 the US had spent $1 billion in support of the French, shouldering80% of the cost of the war. 

41. Facing mounting defeats, the French requested the US to use three tactical nuclear weapons against North Vietnamese forces, although there is no indication the US took the proposal seriously. 

40. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was reluctant of getting involved in yet another land war in Asia, and made any American participation in the conflict contingent on British support- but the British remained opposed. 

Read more about Vietnam war Timeline, statistics

39. On May 7th, 1954 the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrendered, and France negotiated a ceasefire agreement with the Viet Minh, granting independence to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. 

38. At the 1954 Geneva peace conference, Vietnam was partitioned temporarily at the 17th parallel. Ho Chi Minh wanted to continue his military push into the south, but the Chinese convinced him he could win control by electoral means instead. 

17th parallel line map vietnam
17th parallel line

37. Around 1 million northerners- mostly minority Catholics- fled south during the temporary peace. The CIA enacted a psychological warfare campaign that exaggerated anti-Catholic sentiment among the Viet Minh and even planted false rumors that the US was going to drop atomic bombs on Hanoi. 

36. The US also funded a $93 million relocation program to ferry refugees to the south. The end result was a South Vietnam full of anti-communist Vietnamese. 

35. While 1 million fled communism in the north, only about 52,000 moved from the south to the north. 

34. Soon an insurgency in the south broke out, threatening to tear South Vietnam apart. President John F. Kennedy's advisors suggested that US special forces troops be sent to South Vietnam disguised as flood relief workers. 

33. The South Vietnamese military was largely ineffective due to massive corruption, low morale, and little training. At the battle of Ap Bac on January 2nd, 1963,350 Viet Cong guerillas defeated 1,500 South Vietnamese forces. 

32. Believing the current regime led by Ngô Đình Diệm to be ineffective and making the South's civil war worst by repressing Buddhist minorities, the US backed a coup attempt by senior South Vietnamese military leaders. Though the coup was successful, South Vietnam fell into disarray as one military government after another was enacted and then toppled. 

31. On August 2nd, 1964, the American destroyer USS Maddox was on an intelligence mission inside the Gulf of Tonkin when it fired on several torpedo boats its captain claimed had been stalking it. Two days later a second attack was reported against the USS Turner Joy and the Maddox again in the same area. 

30. The second attack against the USS Maddox and the Turner Joy prompted congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which informally began the US's war against North Vietnam. 

29. In 2005 a declassified NSA publication revealed that there had never been a second attack on August 4th, and it's likely that the USfabricated the entire event to have a reason to declare war against a North Vietnam that was arming and training the guerillas fighting in the South Vietnamese civil war. 

28. Between March 1965 and November 1968, OperationRolling Thunder dropped a million tons of missiles, rockets, and bombs on North Vietnam, with the goal of forcing the North to cease its support for guerillas in the south. Ho Chi Minh, who saw the opportunity to bring the entire country under his rule, refused. 

27. The use of the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos by North Vietnamese forces to avoid US bombs sparked a civil war in Laos, with Laotiangovernment forces backed by the US fighting against the Pathet Lao communist guerillas and their North Vietnamese allies. 

26. Trying to deny the use of the Ho Chi Minh trail to North Vietnam, and to prevent the collapse of the Laotian government, the USA dropped 2 million tons of bombs on Laos- almost equal to the 2.1 million tons dropped by theUS during the entire second world war. 

25. Relative to its population, Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world. 24. Between 1961 and 1964 the Viet Cong grew from around 5,000 to 100,000, the North Vietnamese army went from 850,000 to nearly 1 million, but US forces only grew from 2,000 to 16,500. 

23. The American ground war began on the 8th ofMarch, 1965, with the deployment of 3,500 US Marines to South Vietnam, increasing to200,000 by December. 

22. US troops were initially dispatched on a defensive mission, but the US military had for decades been trained to act as an offensive force and observers believe that US commanders were institutionally and psychologically unsuited to a defensive mission. 

21. In 1965 US General William Westmoreland engineered, and pushed for, a plan to shift the US from its defensive operations to a full-fledged offensive against the Vietcong and its North Vietnamese supporters. He predicted victory by 1967 and the plan was approved by President Johnson. 

20. Seeking international aid, the US's South East Asia allies to include Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines all agreed to send military troops. Most NATO nations however did not. 

19. The US's first major battle against the NorthVietnamese army came in November of 1965 during the Battle of Ia Drang. It would be the first large-scale helicopter assault in history. 

18. The battle involved two separate engagements at two helicopter landing zones, LZ X-Ray and LZ Albany. US forces totaled around 1,000 and NorthVietnamese were nearly three times as many at 2,500. 

17. The battle at LZ X-ray saw far outnumbered troops still achieve a 10:1 kill ratio thanks to intense fire support, and resulted in an overwhelming American victory. 

16. The battle at LZ Albany however saw US forces ambushed at close quarters, and thus denied their fire support. The fighting took place without any air or artillery support from either side and resulted in a US defeat with US forces suffering another 50% casualty rate. 

15. The US suffered between 499 and 1,700 casualties and North Vietnam suffered between 1070 and 1,753 casualties. Because of the two separate engagements, both sides claimed victory. 

14. The battle of the Ia Drang valley would later become the Mel Gibson-led film, We Were Soldiers Once. 

13. Throughout the war the Vietcong and NVA forces would initiate 90% of large firefights, with 80% of them being clear and well-planned operations. Despite overwhelming US force and firepower, the NVA and Vietcong retained strategic initiative throughout the war. 

12. Trying to avoid US airpower, the NVA and Viet Cong both dug hundreds of miles of underground tunnels, which had to be cleared by combat engineers nicknamed 'tunnel rats'. 

11. Tunnel rats were made up of volunteer soldiers from the Australian, New Zealand, and US armies, and their motto Non-Gratus Anus Rodentum translates from Latin to English as “not worth a rat's ass”. 

10. Viet Cong tunnel complexes were so massive they included hospitals, training areas, storage facilities, headquarters, and barracks. 9. Tunnel rats often had to clear tunnels of enemy soldiers armed only with a flashlight, bayonet, and a pistol. 

8. The intense muzzle blast of the standard issue. 45 caliber pistol would leave tunnel rats temporarily deaf when fired in a tunnel, tunnel rats took to using their own personal weapons ranging from .25 caliber automatic rifles to sawed-off shotguns- with the most in-demand weapon being a .22 automatic pistol made in World War II! 

7. Tunnels were dangerous environments and were often poorly constructed, leading to frequent cave-ins for tunnel rats. These brave soldiers also had to deal with bobby traps such as hand grenades, anti-personnel mines, punji sticks, and even venomous snakes left behind as living booby traps. Tunnels were also constructed with sharp U-bends that could be flooded easily to drown tunnel rats, and poison gases were sometimes used to asphyxiate them. 

6. Planned US attacks against Viet Cong and NVAforces made up only 14.3% of all engagements, a shocking statistic that proves how poorly commanders performed during the war and how the Viet Cong and NVA routinely outmaneuvered them. 

5. 9,087,000 total military personnel served on active duty in the US armed forces during the Vietnam era, with 2,709,918 serving in Vietnam. 

4. 240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, the highest honor a US serviceman can achieve and given only in extreme cases of heroism, gallantry, and self-sacrifice. 

240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War

3. The first US soldier to die in Vietnam was James Davis in 1961, serving with the 509thRadio Research Station, a US cryptologist leading team of South Vietnamese soldiers who were ambushed. 

2. Four US soldiers killed in Vietnam were only16 years old, the oldest US soldier killed in Vietnam was 62 years old. 

1. 58,141 US soldiers were killed in Vietnam, and 75,000 were severely disabled. Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21. The war in Vietnam was a disastrous affair for the United States and marked a rare low point in the performance of its armed forces. Conscription and a war waged with poorly defined objectives, along with great national resistance against the conflict led to a US military crippled for years after Vietnam by incompetent leadership and poor morale, and despite its best efforts the war would see the North triumph and communism reign- yet the dreaded domino effect theory would never come to be. 

In the end, the war is mostly remembered as a pointless, costly affair. What other facts about Vietnam do you know of? Should the US ever have intervened in the South's civil war? 

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