Vietnam veteran

From Academic Kids

Vietnam veteran is a phrase used to describe someone who served in the armed forces of participating countries during the Vietnam War. The term is usually associated with veterans who were in the armed forces of South Vietnam, the United States armed forces and countries allied to them, whether or not they were actually stationed in Vietnam during their service. However, those who did not actually serve in Vietnam are sometimes referred to as "Vietnam era veterans".

In the English-speaking world, the term "Vietnam veteran" is not usually used in relation to members of the communist People's Army of Vietnam or the Viet Cong.


South Vietnamese veterans

Although exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, it is safe to say that several million people served in the South Vietnamese armed forces — the vast majority of them in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) — between 1956 and 1975. It is known that during 1969-1971, there were about 22,000 ARVN combat deaths per year and the army reached a peak strength of about one million soldiers during 1972. The official number of anti-communist Vietnamese personnel killed in action was 220,357. A significant proportion of the surviving South Vietnamese veterans left Vietnam for western countries, at various stages following the communist victory in 1975.

United States veterans

According to official sources, 2,594,000 US personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam between January 1, 1965 and March 28, 1973 and 8,744,000 US personnel were on active duty between August 5, 1964-March 28, 1973. More than 57,000 US personnel died while serving in Vietnam.

Veterans from other nations

Nationals of other nations fought in the American-led coalition, sometimes as armed forces of allied nations, such as Australia and South Korea, but sometimes as members of the US armed forces.

Some foreign nationals voluntered for the US military, but many more were US permanent residents, who were subject to the draft, if they were male, of draft age, and not otherwise deferred or exempt from service.

South Korean veterans

South Koreans forces at their peak were approximately one-tenth of US forces; by extrapolation that would indicate 250,000 South Koreans served in-country.

Australian veterans

Australia was directly engaged in the Vietnam as a US ally. Approximately 50,000 Australians served in Vietnam. According to official statistics, 508 personnel died or went missing in action.

Canadian veterans

During the Vietnam era, more than 30,000 Canadians served in the US armed forces. Fred Graffen, military historian with the Canadian War Museum, estimated in Vietnam Magazine (Perspectives) that approximately 12,000 of these personnel actually served in Vietnam.

The numbers of draft US conscientious objectors, "draft dodgers" and deserters that fled to Canada is estimated to be between 30,000 and 70,000 by most authorities.

Negative stereotypes of Vietnam veterans

There are persistent stereotypes about Vietnam veterans as psychologically devastated, bitter, homeless, drug-addicted people who had a hard time readjusting to society, primarily due to the uniquely divisive nature of the Vietnam War in the context of U.S. History.

That social division has expressed itself by the lack both of public and institutional support for the former soldiers expected by returning combatants of most conflicts in most nations. In a material sense also, Veterans Benefits for Vietnam era veterans were dramatically less than those enjoyed after World War II.

However the negative image of the Vietnam veteran has been battled in recent years, primarily by people such as B. G. Burkett. Burkett wrote a book called Stolen Valor in which he gathered statistics attempting to prove that Vietnam Veterans were actually quite prevalent among the government and business leaders of America 30 years after the Vietnam War. Furthermore he discovered a large number of people claiming to be veterans who were not. Using the Freedom of Information Act and military personnel records, he found these 'fake vets' in every walk of life. From the VA hospital, to University professors, to book authors, to interviewees in serious studies of the Vietnam War, to homeless people, to veterans magazines, etc.

There are still, however, many proven cases of individuals who have suffered psychological damage from their time in Vietnam. Many others were physically wounded, some permanently disabled.

See also


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