IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR
"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:
Myth: Most Vietnam veterans were drafted.
Myth: Media reports say suicides among Vietnam vets range from 50,000 - 100,000: 6-11 times the non-Vietnam veteran population.
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 Vietnam "and can report definitely that this charge is untrue. Black fatalities amounted to 12 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia - a figure proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population at the time and slightly lower than the proportion of blacks in the Army at the close of the war." [All That We Can Be]
Myth: The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.
Here are statistics from the Combat Area Casualty File (CACF) as of November 1993. The CACF is the basis for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall):
Average age of 58,148 killed in Vietnam 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]
Myth: The average age of an infantryman fighting in Vietnam was 19.
Myth: The domino theory was proved false.
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 republics: Belarus (where elections were first held in November 1995), Armenia (July 1995) and Kyrgyzstan (February 1995). And two are in Africa: Tanzania (October 1995) and Guinea (June 1995). [Parade Magazine]
Myth: The fighting in Vietnam was not as intense as in World War II.
The average infantryman in the South
Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four
years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of
combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.
Myth: The United States lost the war in Vietnam.
The American military was not defeated in Vietnam. The American military did not lose a battle of any consequence. From a military standpoint, it was almost an unprecedented performance. (Westmoreland quoting Douglas Pike, a professor at the University of California, Berkley a renowned expert on the Vietnam War) [Westmoreland]This included Tet 68, which was a major military defeat for the VC and NVA.
Myth: Air America, the airline operated by the CIA in Southeast Asia, and its pilots were involved in drug trafficking.
The 1990 unsuccessful movie "Air America" helped to establish the myth of a connection between Air America, the CIA, and the Laotian drug trade. The movie and a book the movie was based on contend that the CIA condoned a drug trade conducted by a Laotian client; both agree that Air America provided the essential transportation for the trade; and both view the pilots with sympathetic understanding. American-owned airlines never knowingly transported opium in or out of Laos, nor did their American pilots ever profit from its transport. Yet undoubtedly every plane in Laos carried opium at some time, unknown to the pilot and his superiors. For more information see the Air America Home Page.
Myth: The US military was running for their lives during the fall of Saigon in April 1975.
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 Englishman, Mr. Hugh Van Ess.
Facts about the fall of Saigon
It was a "civilian" (Air America) Huey not Army
Myth: Kim Phuc, the little nine year old
Vietnamese girl running naked from the napalm strike near Trang
Bang on 8 June 1972, was burned by Americans bombing Trang
Facts about the end of the war:
The fall of Saigon happened 30 April
1975, two years AFTER the American military left Vietnam. The last
American troops departed in their entirety 29 March 1973. How
could we lose a war we had already stopped fighting? We fought to
an agreed stalemate. The peace settlement was signed in Paris on
27 January 1973. It called for release of all U.S. prisoners,
withdrawal of U.S. forces, limitation of both sides' forces inside
South Vietnam and a commitment to peaceful reunification. [1996
Information Please Almanac]
THE UNITED STATES DID NOT LOSE THE WAR IN VIETNAM!
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.
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. It also can be caused by an automobile accident or other traumatic event. It does not have to be war related. The Vietnam War helped medical progress in this area.
Agent Orange - other wars had similar problems. Atomic radiation in World War II and mustard gas in World War I. Even Desert Storm has a similar problem.
Atrocities - every war has atrocities. War is brutal and not fair. Innocent people get killed.
Restraining the military in Vietnam in hind sight probably prevented a nuclear war with China or Russia. The Vietnam War was shortly after China got involved in the Korean war, the time of the Cuban missile crisis, Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe and the proliferation of nuclear bombs. In all, a very scary time for our country.
[Westmoreland] Speech by General William C. Westmoreland before the Third Annual Reunion of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) at the Washington, DC Hilton Hotel on July 5th, 1986 (reproduced in a Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Historical Reference Directory Volume 2A)
[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] Testamony 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 "Esitmating the Number of Suicides Among Vietnam Veterans" (Am J Psychiatry 147, 6 June 1990 pages 772-776)
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