Cost of the Vietnam War
- THE HUMAN COST OF WAR
- THE MAGNITUDE OF THE WAR AND IMPACT ON THE LAND
- FINANCIAL COSTS OF THE WAR TO THE UNITED STATES
- COST TO THE UNITED STATES OF AIDING VIETNAM SINCE THE WAR ENDED
From Indochina Newsletter, Asia Resource Center, Special Issue 93-97—The ABC’s of the Vietnam War, © 1996 by Paul Shannon. With some updates. April 2000.
Ngo Vinh Long, in “Vietnamese Perspectives,” in Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, ed. by Stanley Kutler (New York: Scribner’s, 1996) writes:
“The war in Vietnam primarily—and most heavily— affected the Vietnamese people, north and south. The number of casualties—civilian and military—was enormous. According to conservative estimates, about 4 million Vietnamese on all sides were killed, wounded, or missing during the 1965-1975 period alone. The Pentagon’s final estimate of civilian casualties for the South, a nation of about 18 million in 1972, was as high as 1,225,000 for the period between 1965 and 1972. A U.S. Senate subcommittee report estimated 1,350,000 civilian casualties, including 415,000 killed, for the same period. “Enemy soldiers” killed were at least 850,000, according to both estimates. A substantial number of these “enemy soldiers,” however, were civilians whom the U.S. military defined as “enemy” because they were within free-fire zones, areas controlled by the National Liberation Front (NLF). Estimates of casualties suffered by the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces ran from 300,000 to 500,000. During the “post-war” of 1973-1975, another half a million Vietnamese were killed and wounded—340,000 of them were civilians—according to the U.S. and South Vietnamese estimates.”
Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh of 2 million Agent Orange victims to whom the Vietnamese government pays compensation for combatants 1961-1975 and their children (March 2000). The figure today is greater than 3 million Agent Orange victims in Vietnam, including children of the second and third generations.
A. THE HUMAN COST OF WAR
1,921,000 Vietnamese dead (* see Notes below) includes:
- 450,000 South Vietnamese civilians killed from 1961-1975;
- 40,000 South Vietnamese civilians executed under Project Phoenix;
- 176,000 soldiers of the Saigon regime (ARVN) killed 1961-1972;
- 900,000 “enemy” soldiers killed (NLF and North Vietnamese forces) 1961-1972;
- 155,000 soldiers on both sides killed 1973-1975; and
- 200,000 North Vietnamese civilians killed 1961-1975.
200,000 Cambodians dead (civilian and military), 1969-1975;
100,000 Laotian dead (civilian and military) 1964-1973.
2,221,000 Total Indochinese Dead (does not include thousands of South Vietnamese civilians killed by Saigon regime from 1954-1961)
58,000 Americans dead (actual 58,151)
5,000 U.S. allies from 3rd countries killed
2,284,000 Total War Dead.
- 3,200,000 wounded Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians
- 14,305,000 refugees by the time the war ended
- 10,472,000 in South Vietnam;
- 3,083,000 in Cambodia; and
- 750,000 in Laos.
—In South Vietnam
800,000 children who lost one or both parents
40,000 blind or deaf
131,000 war widows
100,000 political prisoners
480,000 civilians killed and wounded
260,000 orphans and half orphans
350,000 civilians killed and wounded
—In North Vietnam
Hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and wounded
Between 1965 and 1973 approximately one out of 30 Indochinese was killed, one in 12 wounded, and one in 5 made a refugee.
For the United States
Out of 2,500,000 who served in Indochina:
58,151 dead from the war
303,616 wounded in Indochina
13,167 100% disabled
55,000 have died since returning home (suicide, accidents, addictions, etc.)
500,000 have attempted suicide since returning home.
B. THE MAGNITUDE OF THE WAR AND IMPACT ON THE LAND
Tonnage of Weapons
- 7,800,000 tons of bombs dropped by the U.S. on Indochina
- 7,500,000 tons of ground munitions used by U.S. forces
- 200,000 tons of munitions fired by U.S. naval forces from ships at Indochina
15,500,000 tons of firepower used by U.S. forces. Total.
This firepower is the equivalent in destructive force of about 600 Hiroshima type atomic bombs.
- Of this total, 12,000,000 tons were used by the U.S. in South Vietnam alone.
- In comparison, the U.S. used 6,000,000 tons of air and ground
munitions in all of World War II.
The total firepower expended by the U.S. and its allies in Indochina probably exceeds the total firepower expended by humanity in all wars, before and after the Indochina War, combined.
- 26,000,000 bomb craters pockmark Indochina
- 21,000,000 bomb craters are in South Vietnam alone.
- 18,000,000 gallons of poisonous chemical herbicides were sprayed over 6 million acres of forest and croplands in South Vietnam alone (an area the size of Massachusetts)
- 1,200 square miles of South Vietnam leveled by U.S. bulldozers
- 1,000 square miles of South Vietnam was leveled by incendiary and high explosive bombs.
- 150,000 to 300,000 tons of unexploded ordnance is strewn about Indochina, still killing many hundreds of farmers.
- 700,000 fewer water buffalo, oxen and cows in South Vietnam in 1973 than in 1964.
C. FINANCIAL COSTS OF THE WAR TO THE UNITED STATES
- $132.7 billion Budgeted War Costs (1965-1972)
- $28.5 billion Military and economic aid to Saigon regime (1953-1975)
- $2.4 billion Military and economic aid to Laotian regime (1953-1975)
- $2.2 billion Military and economic aid to Cambodian regime (1953-1975)
- $0.3 billion Aid to French war effort 1949-1952
- $2.0 billion Approximate cost of the war FY 1975
$168.1 billion Total direct cost of the war.
At this rate, it cost the U.S. approximately $168,000 to kill each “enemy” soldier.
$350 billion to $900 billion estimated final cost of the war to the U.S. (includes veteran benefits, interest, etc.)
These figures mean that every American alive in 1969 will have to work full time for 5 to 12 months just to pay for the Indochina war.
$664 billion Total final cost to the U.S. of World War II (based on 1945 dollars).
13.7 billion gallons of fuel were used the U.S. forces between 1966 and 1972.
This total is enough to heat 10,800,000 American homes for an entire year, and it does not include the billions of gallons used in transporting troops and equipment from the U.S. and U.S. bases to the War.
D. COST TO THE UNITED STATES OF AIDING VIETNAM SINCE THE WAR ENDED
$0 Total U.S. recovery aid provided Vietnam since the end of the war.
Notes: South Korea sent 320,000 troops, 4,960 killed, 11,000 injured between 1965-1973.