12 February 2015

History & Statistics of the Vietnam War: Part II of VI

It has not gone without notice that in the movies, and on television, the Vietnam veteran is not portrayed as a brave soldier - rather, he is a violent psychopath who continuously experiences flashbacks of the war. Many Vietnam veterans feel that uncensored and overly negative television coverage helped turn the American public against the war and against the veterans themselves.

Myth: A disproportionate number of blacks were killed in the Vietnam War.

86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians, 12.5% were black, 1.2% were other races. (CACF and Westmoreland)

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.” 

Myth: The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.

Service men who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or infantry officers.

Vietnam Veterans were the best-educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better. [McCaffrey]

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]

Vietnam Death Stats Vietnam War History and Statistics

The youngest man killed in Vietnam was 16 years old (RABER, PAUL J.)  [CACF]
The oldest man killed was 62 years old (TAYLOR, KENNA CLYDE). [CACF]
11,465 KIA’s were less than 20 years old. [CACF]

Myth: The average age of an infantryman fighting in Vietnam was 19.  

Assuming KIA’s accurately represented age groups serving in Vietnam, the average age of an infantryman (MOS 11B) serving in Vietnam being 19 years old is a myth, it is actually 22. None of the enlisted grades have an average age of less than 20. [CACF] The average man who fought in World War II was 26 years of age. [Westmoreland]

In Part III - We’ll look at how the media covered the war, and how it affected the image of the Vietnam veteran.

What was your understanding of the average age of the Vietnam Warrior?
1. 17-18
2. 19-20
3. 21-22
4. 23-24
5. Above 25

Take a look at Part I of the series.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

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