Vietnam War Veterans
Honoring Those Who Served - Memorial Day 2021
The Vietnam War was the nation’s longest and costliest conflict of the Cold War. Over 8.7 million Americans served in the Armed Forces during the Vietnam era from 1964 to 1973 (1). More than 3.4 million were deployed to Southeast Asia (1) and approximately 2.7 million of those served in the Republic of Vietnam (2). On this Memorial Day 2021 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) honors their service and recommits itself to supporting all Veterans of the Vietnam era, their families, and their caregivers.
They made great sacrifices...
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC is inscribed with the names of 58,279 Servicemembers who died in theater from 1957 to 1975 (3). Over 47,000 lost their lives as a result of combat and nearly 11,000 perished from other causes (1).
More than 300,000 were also wounded during the war. Over 153,000 of the wounded required hospitalization and another 150,000 suffered other injuries (1).
...and they served with valor
A total of 262 Servicemembers from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force received the nation’s highest military decoration for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor (4). Many thousands more were recipients of other military awards in recognition of their heroism in battle.
Pictured: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris, Master Sgt. Jose Rodela, and Sgt. Santiago J. Erevia, in the East Room of the White House on March 18, 2014, after receiving the Medal of Honor for their heroic deeds during the Vietnam War.
The missing are not forgotten
More than 700 Americans were taken prisoner during the war. A total of 37 escaped from captivity and another 684 returned alive (5), including 591 who were freed in 1973 as a result of the Paris Peace Accords (6). According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 2,646 Americans went missing in action. Since the end of the war, the remains of 1,062 have been repatriated, but 1,584 are still unaccounted for (7). Although these servicemembers remain missing, they are not forgotten.
Pictured: Honor guardsmen invert drinking glasses during a POW/MIA ceremony to recognize comrades who are unable to toast with their families and friends.
A significant period for diversity
President Harry S. Truman ordered the U.S. Armed Forces to end the practice of segregation in 1948. However, Vietnam was the first major conflict in which military units were fully integrated. An estimated 340,000 African Americans, 42,000 Native Americans, and 35,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders served in Vietnam (8). The data for Hispanic participation is uncertain because the Department of Defense categorized Hispanics as Caucasians, but the number is believed to be around 80,000 (9). Finally, 7,500 women were also stationed in Vietnam during the war (10).
A U.S Marine drags a wounded buddy from the ruins of the Phu Xuan Citadel's outer wall in Hue during the Tet Offensive, February 16, 1968.
VA continues to serve Vietnam Veterans
VA's Veteran Population Projection Model estimates the number of living Vietnam War Veterans to be 6.1 million (11). In 2019, approximately 3.4 million Vietnam War Veterans were enrolled for Veterans Health Administration services (12). As of November 2020 nearly 1.6 million were also being served by the various programs of the Veterans Benefits Administration (1). An additional 320,000 surviving spouses, nearly 5,000 children, and 542 parents of Vietnam War Veterans were also receiving benefits from VBA (1).
Invitation to Apply for Benefits
VA encourages the millions Vietnam era Veterans as well as all Veterans to learn about VA programs and to apply for the benefits and services they have earned. Programs are administered through three VA administrations. Follow these links for detailed information, eligibility criteria and application instructions.
- Veterans Benefits Administration - https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/
- Veterans Health Administration - https://www.va.gov/health-care/
- National Cemetery Administration - https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials/
Prepared by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Enterprise Integration, Office of Data Governance and Analytics, National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, in conjunction with the VA History Office. For questions, please email us at VANCVAS@va.gov
1. America's Wars Fact Sheet, November 2020. Department of Veterans Affairs. [Accessed May 19, 2021]
2. Vietnam Veterans. Veterans Benefits Administration. [Accessed May 20, 2021]
3. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. [Accessed May 20, 2021]
4. Statistics and FAQs. Congressional Medal of Honor Society. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
5. Vietnam War. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
6. Operation Homecoming. U.S. Air Force. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
7. Progress in Vietnam Factsheet. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
8. Minority Veterans Report, 2017. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
9. Hispanics in the U.S. Army United States Army. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
10. Women Veterans Report. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
11. Veteran Population Projection Model, 2018. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. Value cited is the 2021 projection. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
12. The United States Veterans Eligibility Trends and Statistics (USVETS). 2019 version. [Accessed May 19, 2021].
Title photo: "The Three Soldiers", Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC by Mark Guagliardo.
Sailor at Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC by PingNews licensed under Creative Commons CC PDM 1.0.
Medal of Honor recipients by The U.S. Army licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.
Inverted drinking glasses by The U.S. Army licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.
Phu Xuan Citadel battle photo by Tommy Japan 79 licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.
Veteran receiving health care by The U.S. Army licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.
Veteran greeting Servicemembers by The U.S. Army licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.