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Waiting to Lift Off by James Pollock, Vietnam Combat Artists Program, CAT IV, 1967. Courtesy of National Museum of the U.S. Army

The Vietnam War began in 1955 and ended in 1975 when North Vietnamese forces captured Saigon. During this period, the war escalated from an stupid in South Vietnam sponsored by the North Vietnamese government to direct military intervention in the south by North Vietnam, as well as the active participation of military forces of the United States and other countries. The car also spilled over into the neighbouring countries of Cambodia and Laos. An exhaustive reckoning of the total casualties must include statistical information available for each theater of the war. The Republic of Vietnam was where most of the fighting took place, and it accordingly suffered most from the war.

Deaths in the Vietnam War

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Major incidents

  • 1968 Tet Offensive - Hanoi failed in its most ambitious goal of producing a general uprising in the South, it suffered more than 45,267 (mainly Viet Cong) deaths but gained a propaganda, political and strategic victory.[1][2]
  • 1972 Easter Offensive - This saw 50,000 to 75,000 North Vietnamese combatants killed plus their loss of over 250-700 tanks and APCs. The attack was broken up mainly by US air power.[3] It was still a North Vietnamese tactical victory.[4]

Civilian deaths in Vietnam war

195,000-430,000 South Vietnamese civilians died in the war.[5][6] 50,000-65,000 North Vietnamese civilians died in the war.[5][7] It was difficult to distinguish between civilians and military personnel on the Viet Cong side since many dressed as civilians.[8][9][10]

Deaths caused by North Vietnam/VC forces

Viet Cong massacred hundreds of Montagnard civilians at the village of Dak Son, 1967

R.J. Rummel estimated that NVA/VC forces killed around 164,000 civilians in democide between 1954 and 1975 in South Vietnam, from a range of between 106,000 and 227,000.[11] Rummel's summary has a mid-level estimate of 17,000 South Vietnamese civil servants (ARVN's local millitia) killed by North Vietnamese forces (including the Viet Cong). In addition, at least 36,000 Southern civilians were executed for various reasons in the period 1967–1972.[12] About 130 American and 16,000 South Vietnamese POWs died in captivity.[13] During the peak war years, almost a third of civilian deaths were the result of Viet Cong atrocities.[14]

Deaths caused by South Vietnam

From 1964 to 1975, an estimated 1,500 persons died during the forced relocations of 1,200,000 civilians, another 5,000 prisoners died from ill-treatment and about 30,000 suspected communists and fighters were executed. 6,000 civilians died in the more extensive shellings. In Quang Nam province 4,700 civilians were killed in 1969. This totals 50,000 deaths caused by South Vietnam, excluding North Vietnamese forces killed by the ARVN in combat.[15]

Deaths caused by the American military

Rummel estimated that American forces committed around 5,500 democidal killings between 1960 and 1972, from a range of between 4,000 and 10,000.[16] The Phoenix Program, a counterinsurgency program executed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States special operations forces, and the Republic of Vietnam's security apparatus, killed 26,369 suspected NLF operatives and informants.[17][18] Estimates for the number of North Vietnamese civilian deaths resulting from US bombing range from 50,000-65,000. American bombing in Cambodia killed at least 40,000 combatants and civilians.[19]

Burial of 300 unidentified victims from the Huế Massacre, killed by communist forces and found after the ARVN and U.S. Marines retook the area in March, 1968. U.S. Military photo[20][21]

18.2 million gallons of Agent Orange (Dioxin) was sprayed by the U.S. military over more than 10% of Southern Vietnam,[22] as part of the U.S. herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. Vietnam's government claimed that 400,000 people were killed or maimed as a result of after effects, and that 500,000 children were born with birth defects.[23]

German historian Bernd Greiner mentions the following war crimes reported, and/or investigated by the Peers Commission and the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, among other sources:[24]
- Seven massacres officially confirmed by the American side. My Lai (4) and My Khe (4) claimed the largest number of victims with 420 and 90 respectively, and in five other places altogether about 100 civilians were executed.
- Two further massacres were reported by soldiers who had taken part in them, one north of Duc Pho in Quang Ngai Province in the summer of 1968 (14 victims), another in Binh Dinh province on 20 July 1969 (25 victims).
- Tiger Force, a special operations force, murdered hundreds, possibly over a thousand, civilians.
- In the course of large-scale operations an unknown number of non-combatants were killed either accidentally or deliberately – with some estimating more than 5,000 allegedly died in the course of Operation Speedy Express. Excluding deaths from artillery and air attacks, the total number of victims may have reached tens of thousands during the entire war.
- According to the 'Information Bureau of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam' (PRG), between April 1968 and the end of 1970 American ground troops killed about 6,500 civilians in the course of twenty-one operations either on their own or alongside their allies. Three of the massacres reported on the American side were not mentioned on the PRG list.

Deaths caused by the South Korean military

United States Marine recovered victim's bodies who were killed by Korean Marines in Phong Nhi and Phong Nhat hamlets on February 12, 1968.[25]

ROK Capital Division massacred Tay Vinh citizens between February and March 1966.[26] ROK Capital Division massacred Binh An citizens on 26 February 1966.[27] In October, 1966, Tinh Son citizens were massacred.[28] 2nd Marine Brigade massacred Binh Tai citizens on 9 October 1966.[29] In December, 1966, Blue Dragon Brigade massacred Binh Hoa citizens.[30] Second Marine Brigade massacred Phong Nhi citizens on 12 February 1968.[31][32] South Korean Marines massacred Ha My citizens on 25 February 1968.[33]

Army of the Republic of Vietnam

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam lost between 171,331 and 220,357 men during the war.[5][34] R.J. Rummel estimated that ARVN lost between 219,000 and 313,000 men during the war.[11]

North Vietnamese and Viet Cong Military deaths

US Vietnam War deaths.png

According to the Vietnamese government, there were 1,100,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong military personnel deaths during the Vietnam War (including the missing).[35] Rummel reviewed the many casualty data sets, and this number is in keeping with his mid-level estimate of 1,011,000 North Vietnamese combatant deaths.[36] The official US Department of Defense figure was 950,765 communist forces killed in Vietnam from 1965 to 1974. Defense Department officials believed that these body count figures need to be deflated by 30 percent. In addition, Guenter Lewy assumes that one-third of the reported "enemy" killed may have been civilians, concluding that the actual number of deaths of communist military forces was probably closer to 444,000.[5]

United States armed forces

Casualties as of 2 June 2013:

  • 58,286 KIA or non-combat deaths (including the missing & deaths in captivity)[37]
  • 153,303 WIA [38]
  • 1,645 MIA (originally 2,646)[39]
  • 725-837 POW (660-721 freed/escaped,[40][41] 65-116 died in captivity)[42][43]

During the Vietnam War, 30% of wounded service members died of their wounds.[44]

Specific incidents

Vietnamese women and children in Mỹ Lai before being killed in the massacre, March 16, 1968.[45] They were killed seconds after the photo was taken.[46] Photo by Ronald L. Haeberle

  • 2,800-6,000 civilians were killed by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in the Hue Massacre throughout Februa., 1968.[47]
  • 1,200 civilians were killed by South Korean forces in Tay Vinh massacre between February 12 – March 17, 1966.[48]
  • 380 civilians were killed by South Korean forces in Go Dai massacre on February 26, 1966.[48]
  • 66 civilians were killed by South Korean forces in Binh Tai massacre on October 9, 1966.[49]
  • 280 civilians were killed by South Korean forces in Dien Nien-Phuoc Binh Massacre on October 9, 1966.[50]
  • 430 civilians were killed by South Korean forces in Binh Hoa massacre between December 3 and December 6, 1966.[30]
  • 79 civilians were killed by South Korean forces in Phong Nhi and Phong Nhat massacre on February 12, 1968.
  • 135 civilians were killed by South Korean forces in Ha My massacre on February 25, 1968.
  • More than 500 civilians were killed by an American Army company in the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968.[45][51]
  • 19 civilians killed by American Forces Feb. 8, 1968 in Quang Nam province.[52]
  • 80-90 civilians killed by American Forces March 16, 1968 at My Khe.[53]
  • A Newsweek journalist claimed an unnamed official told him that an estimated 5,000 civilians died as "collateral damage" from the American military during Operation Speedy Express.[54]
  • Almost 252 Degar civilians were killed by the Viet Cong in the Dak Son Massacre on December 5, 1967.[55]
  • More than 25,000 South Vietnamese civilians were killed and almost a million become temporary refugees, with over 600,000 interned in South Vietnamese Government camps as a result of North Vietnam's 1972 Easter Offensive.[56]
  • At least 81 civilians were killed by American Forces, Tiger Force 101st Airborne Division, during the Song Ve Valley and Operation Wheeler military campaigns.[57]

Deaths after U.S. withdrawal

Vietnamese "Boat People" refugees waiting for rescue in the South China Sea, taken from the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) in 1984. 2–3 million Vietnamese refugees fled Vietnam during the late 1970s and 1980s.[58]

Up to 155,000 refugees fleeing the final NVA Spring Offensive were killed or abducted on the road to Tuy Hoa in 1975.[59] Sources have estimated that 165,000 South Vietnamese died in the re-education camps out of 1-2.5 million sent,[60][61] while somewhere between 50,000 and 250,000 were executed.[60][62][63][64] Rummel estimates that slave labor in the "New Economic Zones" caused 50,000 deaths (out of a total 1 million deported).[60][62] The number of Vietnamese boat people who died is estimated between 200,000 and 400,000, out of the 2.5 million that fled.[65] There were also tens of thousands of suicides after the North Vietnamese take-over.[66] Including Vietnam's foreign democide, Rummel estimates that a minimum of 400,000 and a maximum of slightly less than 2.5 million people died of political violence from 1975-87 at the hands of Hanoi.[62] In 1988, Vietnam suffered a famine that afflicted millions.[67]

Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge killed 1-3 million Cambodians in the killing fields, out of a population of around 8 million.[68][69][70] The Pathet Lao killed some 100,000 Hmong people in Laos.[71][72]

Other nations' casualties

Cambodian Civil War

Laotian Civil War


South Korea


  • 426 KIA, 74 died of other causes[80]
  • 3,129 WIA
  • 6 MIA (All have been accounted for and have been repatriated)[citation needed]


New Zealand



Soviet Union

See also


  1. Tran Van Tra, Tet, pp. 49, 50
  2. Gabriel Kolko, Anatomy of a War (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1985), pp. 327–37.
  3. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>web site (1997). "North Vietnamese Army's 1972 Eastertide Offensive". web site. Retrieved 2010-02-01.
  4. David Fulghum & Terrance Maitland, et al, South Vietnam on Trial. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1984, tr.183
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Lewy, Guenter (1978). America in Vietnam. New York: Oxford University Press. Appendix 1, pp.450-453
  6. Thayer, Thomas C (1985). War Without Fronts: The American Experience in Vietnam. Boulder: Westview Press. Ch. 12.
  7. Wiesner, Louis A. (1988). Victims and Survivors Displaced Persons and Other War Victims in Viet-Nam. New York: Greenwood Press. p.310
  8. Willbanks, James H. (2008). The Tet Offensive: A Concise History. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 32. ISBN 0-231-12841-X. 
  10. James J. F. Forest Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century 2007 ISBN 978-0275990343
  11. 11.0 11.1 Rummel 1997
  12. Michael Lee Lanning and Dan Cragg, Inside the VC and the NVA, (Ballantine Books, 1993), pp. 186-188
  13. Rummel 1997, Lines 457 & 459.
  14. Lewy, Guetner (1978), America in Vietnam New York: Oxford University Press., pp.272-3, 448-9.
  15. Rummel 1997 Lines 540, 556, 563, 566, 569, 575
  16. Rummel 1997 Lines 613]
  17. McCoy, Alfred W. (2006). A question of torture: CIA interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Macmillan. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8050-8041-4. 
  18. Harbury, Jennifer (2005). Truth, torture, and the American way: the history and consequences of U.S. involvement in torture. Beacon Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8070-0307-7. 
  19. Marek Sliwinski, Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique (L’Harmattan, 1995).
  20. New York Times Hue Massacre of 1968 Goes Beyond Hearsay September 22, 1987
  21. Time magazine THE MASSACRE OF HUE Oct. 31, 1969
  22. Agent orange victims day, Tuoitre news 2013/08/11
  23. Operation Ranch Hand and Agent Orange Retrieved 25/09/12
  24. Greiner, Bernd (2010). War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300168047. 
  25. Kim Chang-seok (2000-11-15). "편견인가, 꿰뚫어 본 것인가 미군 정치고문 제임스 맥의 보고서 "쿠앙남성 주둔 한국군은 무능·부패·잔혹"". Retrieved 2012-10-14. (Korean)
  26. "Words of Condemnation and Drinks of Reconciliation Massacre in Vin Dinh Province All 380 People Turned into Dead Bodies Within an Hour.". 1999-09-02. Retrieved 2012-10-14. 
  27. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Ku Su Jeong. "Words of Condemnation and Drinks of Reconciliation Massacre in Vin Dinh Province All 380 People Turned into Dead Bodies Within an Hour". Hankyoreh. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  28. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Dien Nien-Phuoc Binh Massacre". Quang Ngai government. Retrieved 2010-01-20.
  29. Armstrong, Charles (2001). Critical asian studies, Volume 33, Issue 4 :America's Korea, Korea's Vietnam. Routledge. pp. 530. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 "On War extra - Vietnam's massacre survivors". 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2012-10-14.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "alJazeera20090104" defined multiple times with different content
  31. Go Gyeong-tae (2001-04-24). "특집 "그날의 주검을 어찌 잊으랴" 베트남전 종전 26돌, 퐁니·퐁넛촌의 참화를 전하는 사진을 들고 현장에 가다". Retrieved 2012-10-14. (Korean)
  32. "여기 한 충격적인 보고서가 있다 미국이 기록한 한국군의 베트남 학살 보고서 발견". 2000-11-14. Retrieved 2012-10-14. (Korean)
  33. Kwon, Heonik. After the massacre: commemoration and consolation in Ha My and My Lai. University of California Press. pp. 2. ISBN 978-0-520-24797-0. 
  34. Thayer, Thomas C (1985). War Without Fronts: The American Experience in Vietnam. Boulder: Westview Press. p.106.
  35. Associated Press, 3 April 1995.
  36. Rummel 1997, Line 102.
  37. Ladysmith Marine's name being added to Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  38. US Military Operations: Casualty Breakdown
  39. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Vietnam-era unaccounted for statistical report" (PDF). 20 June 2013.
  40. Three's In *** - the Vietnam POW Home Page
  41. [1][2]
  43. American Vietnam War Casualty Statistics
  44. Scott McGaugh (16 September 2012). "Learning from America's Wars, Past and Present U.S. Battlefield Medicine Has Come a Long Way, from Antietam to Iraq". Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  45. 45.0 45.1 "Report of the Department of Army review of the preliminary investigations into the Mỹ Lai incident. Volume III, Exhibits, Book 6—Photographs, 14 March 1970". From the Library of Congress, Military Legal Resources.[3]
  46. "My Lai", Original broadcast PBS American Experience, 9 pm, April 26, 2010 Time Index 00:35' into the first hour (no commercials)
  47. Anderson, David L. The Columbia Guide to the Vietnam War. 2004, page 98-9
  48. 48.0 48.1 Words of Condemnation and Drinks of Reconciliation 2/09/99 Retrieved 25/09/12
  49. Armstrong, Charles (2001). Critical asian studies, Volume 33, Issue 4 Page 530 :America's Korea, Korea's Vietnam.
  50. Gerassi, John (1968). North Vietnam: a documentary.p.148 Bobbs-Merrill.
  51. BBC News Murder in the name of war - My Lai 20 July 1998 Retrieved 25/09/12
  52. LA Times Civilian Killings Went Unpunished August 6, 2006 Retrieved 26/09/12
  53. LA Times Verified Civilian Slayings August 6, 2006 Retrieved 26/09/12
  54. Kevin Buckley, "Pacification's Deadly Price," Newsweek 1972.
  55. Time Đắk Sơn Massacre Dec. 15, 1967
  56. Andrade, p. 529.
  57. Toledo Blade Rogue GIs unleashed wave of terror in Central Highlands 10/19/2003, Retrieved 23/09/12
  58. Nghia M. Vo The Vietnamese Boat People, 1954 and 1975-1992,ISBN 978-0-7864-2345-3, 2006
  59. Wiesner, Louis, Victims and Survivors: Displaced Persons and Other War Victims in Viet-Nam, 1954-1975 (Greenwood Press, 1988), pp. 318-9.
  60. 60.0 60.1 60.2 Desbarats, Jacqueline. "Repression in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Executions and Population Relocation", from The Vietnam Debate (1990) by John Morton Moore. "We know now from a 1985 statement by Nguyen Co Tach that two and a half million, rather than one million, people went through fact, possibly more than 100,000 Vietnamese people were victims of extrajudicial executions in the last ten is likely that, overall, at least one million Vietnamese were the victims of forced population transfers."
  61. Anh Do and Hieu Tran Phan, Camp Z30-D: The Survivors, Orange County Register, April 29, 2001.
  62. 62.0 62.1 62.2 Rummel, Rudolph, Statistics of Vietnamese Democide, in his Statistics of Democide.
  63. Al Santoli, ed., To Bear Any Burden (Indiana University Press, 1999), pp272, 292-3.
  64. Morris, Stephen J. Glastnost and the Gulag: The Numbers Game, Vietnam Commentary, May–June 1988.
  65. Associated Press, June 23, 1979, San Diego Union, July 20, 1986. See generally Nghia M. Vo, The Vietnamese Boat People (2006), 1954 and 1975-1992, McFarland.
  66. Le Thi Anh, "The New Vietnam", National Review, April 29, 1977, estimated some 20,000 post-war mass suicides.
  67. Crossette, Barbara, Hanoi, Citing Famine Fears, Seeks Emergency Aid, The New York Times, May 15, 1988.
  68. 68.0 68.1 Heuveline, Patrick (2001). "The Demographic Analysis of Mortality in Cambodia." In Forced Migration and Mortality, eds. Holly E. Reed and Charles B. Keely. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Heuveline suggests that a range of 1.17-3.42 million people were killed. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Heuveline, Patrick 2001" defined multiple times with different content
  69. 69.0 69.1 Marek Sliwinski, Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique (L'Harmattan, 1995).
  70. 70.0 70.1 Banister, Judith, and Paige Johnson (1993). "After the Nightmare: The Population of Cambodia." In Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia: The Khmer Rouge, the United Nations and the International Community, ed. Ben Kiernan. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies.
  71. Statistics of Democide Rudolph Rummel
  72. Forced Back and Forgotten (Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, 1989), p8., gives the same estimate.
  73. Warner, Roger, Shooting at the Moon, (1996), pp366, estimates 30,000 Hmong.
  74. Obermeyer, "Fifty years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia", British Medical Journal, 2008, estimates 60,000 total.
  75. T. Lomperis, From People's War to People's Rule, (1996), estimates 35,000 total.
  76. Small, Melvin & Joel David Singer, Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars 1816–1980, (1982), estimates 20,000 total.
  77. Taylor, Charles Lewis, The World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators, estimates 20,000 total.
  78. Stuart-Fox, Martin, A History of Laos, estimates 200,000 by 1973.
  79. 79.0 79.1 KOREA military army official statistics, AUG 28, 2005
  80. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Vietnam War, 1962-72 - Statistics". Australian War Memorial. 2003. Retrieved 2008-02-04.
  81. The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History By Spencer C. Tucker ""
  82. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"New Zealand Rolls Of Honour - By Conflict". Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  83. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Overview of the war in Vietnam |, New Zealand and the Vietnam War". 1965-07-16. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  84. [4]
  85. James F. Dunnigan; Albert A. Nofi (2000). Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War: Military Information You're Not Supposed to Know. Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-25282-X. 

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