Vietnam Warriors: A Statistical Profile

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Vietnam Warriors: A Statistical Profile

In Uniform and In Country

Vietnam Vets: 9.7% of their generation.

9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era (Aug. 5, 1964-May 7, 1975).
  • 8,744,000 GIs were on active duty during the war (Aug. 5, 1964-March 28, 1973).
  • 3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand, and sailors in adjacent South China Sea waters).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 7,484 women (6,250 or 83.5% were nurses) served in Vietnam.
  • Peak troop strength in Vietnam: 543,482 (April 30, 1969).


  • Hostile deaths: 47,378.
  • Non-hostile deaths: 10,800.
  • Total: 58,202 (includes men formerly classified as MIA and recovery operation for the USS Mayaquez casualties). Men who have subsequently died of wounds account for the changing total.
  • 8 nurses died---1 was KIA.
  • Married men killed: 17,539
  • 61% of the men killed were 21 or younger.
  • Highest state death rate: West Virginia---84.1 (national average 58.9 for every 100,000 males in 1970).
  • Wounded: 303,704---153,329 hospitalized + 150,375 injured requiring no hospital care.
  • Severely disabled: 75,000---23,214 100% disabled; 5,283 lost limbs; 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
  • Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremities were 300% higher than in WWII and 70% higher than in Korea. Multiple amputations occurred at the rate of 18.4% compared to 5.7% in WWII.
  • Missing in Action: 2,338.
  • POWs: 766 (114 died in captivity).

Draftees VS. Volunteers

  • 25% (648,500) of total forces in country were draftees.
  • Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.
  • Reservists killed: 5,977.
  • National Guard: 6,140 served; 101 died.
  • Total draftees (1965-73): 1,728,344.
  • Actually served in Vietnam: 38%.
  • Marine Corps draft: 42,633.
  • Last man drafted: June 30, 1973.

Race And Ethnic Background

  • 88.4% of the men who actually served in Vietnam were Caucasian; 10.6% (275,000) were black; 1% belonged to other races.
  • 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.
  • 170,000 Hispanics served in Vietnam; 3,070 (5.2% of total) died there.
  • 70% of enlisted men killed were of Northwest European descent.
  • 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.
  • 14.6% (1,530) of non-combat deaths were among blacks.
  • 34% of blacks who enlisted volunteered for the combat arms.
  • 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.
  • Religion of Dead: Protestant (64.4%); Catholic (28.9%); Other/None (6.7%).

Socio-Economic Status

  • 76% of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower middle/working class backgrounds.
  • Three-fourths had family incomes above the poverty level; 50% were from middle income backgrounds.
  • Some 23% of Vietnam vets had fathers with professional, managerial or technical occupations.
  • 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).
  • Deaths by region per 100,000 of population: South---31; West---29.9; Midwest---28.4; Northeast---23.5.

Winning And Losing

  • 82% of veterans who saw heavy combat strongly believe the war was lost because of lack of political will.
  • Nearly 75% of the public agrees it was a failure of political will, not of arms.

Honorable Service

  • 97% of Vietnam-era veterans were honorably discharged.
  • 91% of actual Vietnam War veterans and 90% of those who saw heavy combat are proud to have served their country.
  • 66% of Vietnam vets say they would serve again if called upon.
  • 87% of the public now holds Vietnam veterans in high esteem.
VFW Magazine January 1998

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