Reflections on Vietnam War statistics

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Sat Nov 1 09:02:27 MST 2003

In the American involvement in the Vietnam war from 1964-1975, it is
generally accepted that of the American military personnel deployed, about
58,200 died, another 153,000 casualties were hospitalized with injuries, and
of those, about 100,000 were permanently disabled or disfigured. The number
of survivors physically disabled was enormously higher than in the second
world war and in the war against Korea.

But American casualties were extremely low compared to Vietnamese
casualties. The Vietnamese government estimated in 1995, ten years after the
cessation of hostilities, that the total civilian casualties (deaths and
wounded) in Vietnam throughout the armed struggle against foreign
imperialism from 1954-1975 had been about 2 million in the North, and about
2 million in the South. As regards military personnel, 1.1 million
Vietnamese soldiers were said to have been killed and 600,000 wounded during
the entire 1954-1975 period (about one out of six in the South, the rest in
the North). If you add that all up, you obtain a total figure of 5.7 million
human casualties (deaths plus wounded). This suggests an overall casualty
rate of about one in every 8 Vietnamese people (dead or injured).

In American presentations of the casualty statistics, however, the
Vietnamese casualties are usually completely ignored, they do not exist, and
this pattern is characteristic of almost any war the USA has ever been
involved in as combatant during its history. The total cost in casualties to
the USA during its involvement in the armed conflict was only about 4
percent of the total cost in casualties to the Vietnamese people during the
entire armed conflict of 1954-1975, in other words, for every American
military casualty there were at least two dozen Vietnamese casualties, of
whom the vast majority were civilians.

In 19th and 20th century history, the loss of American lives in wars in
which the US Government was openly involved has been relatively small,
compared to the loss of lives in the actual theatre of war (the place where
the war was being fought) and the same applies to non-fatal casualties.
Thus, in general, American troops killed or injured an amount of people in
other countries, that was enormously greater than their own losses and

This explains to some extent the hostility and suspicion which a large part
of the world's population continue to feel towards the USA in this respect,
because, while dramatising the loss of American lives and focusing on the
plight of the Jews, they completely overlook the enormously larger number of
deaths inflicted in other countries in armed conflicts, and thus, many
people feel that, as regards deaths resulting from armed conflicts,
Americans simply do not know what they are talking about.

In addition, no war was ever fought by a foreign power on the main territory
of the USA since the genocide of the American Indians, beyond incidents such
as the attack on Pearl Harbour. Therefore, the consciousness of Americans in
this respect is also quite different from the consciousness of people in
many other countries, who suffered wars on their own territory within living
memory, and the psychological/physical effects resulting therefrom.


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