Vietnam: A War Lost and Won

The war in Vietnam was the longest war in American history. US ground troops were in Vietnam for eight long years. In all the American commitment in Southeast Asia lasted 15 years. During that time 46,370 US servicemen died in battle, more than 10,000 died from noncombat-related causes, and a further 300,000 were wounded. The Australian and New Zealand troops who fought there lost 496 dead and 2,398 wounded. But these figures pale beside Vietnamese losses. The South Vietnamese, America’s ally, lost 184,000 soldiers; the Communist enemy a further 900,000. It is estimated that over a million civilians lost their lives. However, the psychological damage to America was incalculable. Vietnam was the first war that America lost. It left the country bitterly divided. Many of 2.7 million Americans who served in Vietnam suffered psychologically for decades to come and America discovered that, for all its might and technological superiority, it could not defeat the ill-equipped peasant army of a small and fiercely determined enemy.