Vietnam Troops: A Profile
This article is being reprinted from the Janusary 2023 issue of VFW magazine. The article is an excerpt from Richard K. Kolb's book, Brutal Battles: Americas Deadliest Days, 1965-1972. Kolb, a Vietnam Vet, compiled the below statistics in 1984, and updated the information in 2017.
In Uniform and In Country
- Vietnam vets: 9.7 percent of males in their generation.
- 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam era (August 5, 1864 - May 7, 1975).
- 8,744,000 personnel were von active duty during the U.S. war years (August 5, 1964 - March 28, 1974).
- 3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia Thailand and sailors in adjacent South China Sea waters).
- 2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam (January 1, 1965 - March 28, 1973).
- 50,000 U.S. troops served in Vietnam between 1960-1964.
- 7,484 women (83.5 percent were nurses) served in-country.
- Peak troop strength in Vietnam: 543,482 (April 30, 1969).
- Total deaths: 58,275*
- Hostile: 47, 528. Non-Hostile: 10, 747(18 percent).
- 8 nurses died - 1 was KIA.
- Married men killed: 17,215.
- Highest state death rate: West Virginia - 84.1 percent per 100,000 males(National averge in 1970 was 58.9.
- Army Combat Arms Hostile Deaths: 70 percent; Aviation/Heliucopter, 6 percent; Field Artillery, 4 percent; Medical Services, 3 percent; Armour, 2 percent; and Combat Engineers, 2 percent. These branches accounted for 87 percent of Hostile deaths.
- Wounded 303,704 - 153,329 hospitalized + 150,375 wounded who required no hospital care.
- Severly disabled 75,000 - 23,214 100 percent disabled; 5,283 lost limbs; 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
- Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremeties were 300 percent higher than WWII and 70 percent higher than Korea. Multiple amputations occurredat a rate of 18.4 percent compared to 5.7 percent in WWII.
- Prisoners of War: Captured: 778. Died in captivity 117.
Draftees vs. Volunteers
- 25 percent (648,500) of total forces in-country were draftees. (66 percent of U.S. troops in WWII were drafted).
- Draftee deaths 17,692. Hostile: 15,485 (32.5 percent of all Hostile deaths); Non-hostile 2,207. (Included are a total of 683 Marine deaths).
- Reservist deaths: 5,771. Hostile: 4,350. Non-hostile: 1,421.
- National Guard deaths: 97. Hostile: 80. Non-hostile: 17.
Race and Ethnic Background
- 88.4 percent of the men who actually served in Vietnam were Caucasion (includes Hispanics); 10.6 percent (275,000) were ; 1 percent belonged to other races.
- 86.1 percent of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasion; 12.4 percent (7,265) were black; 1.5 percent other races/not reported.
- 170,000 Hispanics served in Vietnam; 3,070 (5.2 percent of the total) died there.
- 86.8 percent of the men killed as a result of hostile action were Caucasion; 12.1 percent (5,741) were black; 1.1 percent belonged to other races or bnot reported.
- 14.1 percent (1,524) of non-combat deaths were among blacks.
- 34 percent of blacks who enlisted volunteered for Combat Arms.
- Overall, blacks suffered 12.4 percent of the deaths in Vietnam at a time when the percentage of black males of military age was 13.5 percent of the population.
- Religion of KIA's: Protestant - 64.4 percent; Catholic - 28.9 percent; Other/none - 6.7 percent.
- 76 percent of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower middle/working class backgrounds.
- Three-fourths had family incomes above the poverty level; 50 percent were from middle-income backgrounds.
- Some 23 percent of Vietnam Vets had fathers with professional, managerial or technical occupations.
- 79 percent of the men who served in Vietnam had a high school education when they entered the military service; 63 percent of Korean War Vets; and only 45 percent of WWII Vets had completed high school upon seperation.
Age and Honorable Service
- Average age of Vietnam War GI's: 22.
- 97 percent of Vietnam-era Veterans were honorably discharged.
Pride in Service
- 91 percent of Vietnam War Veterans and 90 percent of those who saw heavy combat are proud to have served.
- 66 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they would serve again if called.
* - As of August 2022: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation reported 58,281 names on The Wall.