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 deployed to Southeast Asia (1) and approximately 2.7 million of those served in the Republic of Vietnam (2). On this Memorial Day 2021, VA recommits itself to supporting all Veterans of the Vietnam era, including the survivors, families and caregivers.
They made great sacrifices…
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is inscribed with the names of 58,279 service members 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 service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force received the nation’s highest military decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor (4). Many thousands more were recipients of other military awards in recognition of their heroism in battle.
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 service members remain missing, they are not forgotten.
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).
VA continues to serve Vietnam Veterans
VA’s Veteran Population Projection Model estimates the number of living Vietnam War-era 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 the VBA (1).
Invitation to Apply for Benefits
VA encourages the millions of 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.
Prepared by the VA 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.
- America’s Wars Fact Sheet, November 2020. Department of Veterans Affairs. [Accessed May 19, 2021]
- Vietnam Veterans. Veterans Benefits Administration. [Accessed May 20, 2021]
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. [Accessed May 20, 2021]
- Statistics and FAQs. Congressional Medal of Honor Society. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- Vietnam War. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- Operation Homecoming. U.S. Air Force. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- Progress in Vietnam Factsheet. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- Minority Veterans Report, 2017. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- Hispanics in the U.S. Army United States Army. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- Women Veterans Report. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- Veteran Population Projection Model, 2018. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. Value cited is the 2021 projection. [Accessed May 21, 2021]
- The United States Veterans Eligibility Trends and Statistics (USVETS). 2019 version. [Accessed May 19, 2021].