An In-Depth Glance Into The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War is known as a long and gruesome conflict that has defined much of its generation. Opposition to the war nearly left America in a revolution instantly ripping a part the lasts of Vietnam. This conflict is one that left a lasting impression on the world today. Mixed in with the many lies there still are truths to be told. Read on to find out the truth behind the Vietnam War.


Phantom Pandemonium



Death rituals have a significant role in Vietnamese culture. It is believed that the deceased deserve a proper burial to ensure they are sent into the afterlife. During the war, many of the deceased did not receive such proper burials and so they believed that the ghosts were wandering around haunting the living. The Americans exploited their fear by playing ghost noises in the jungle at night.    



Mind Games



American soldiers used Vietnamese superstitions as a psychological weapon in the war. There was a false rumor that the Vietnamese feared the ace of spades because it was a symbol of death and suffering. American troops placed an ace of spades card on the dead bodies of their enemies to strike fear in their foes.  


Sweat Sniffer



The American troops used a “people sniffer” sensors to smell out their enemy. Known as Operation Snoopy, the device was developed to detect concealed troops even at a great distance away. The device collected samples of air and analyzed it for human sweat. To divert Americans off their trail the North Vietnamese fighters would leave buckets of mud and urine in the jungle.



Complicated Conflict


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Though more than 3 million people were killed in Vietnam, it technically was never a war. It should have been called the Vietnam Conflict. The American government wanted to avoid the complications it would have caused in Congress, so it was never formally declared war. 


Pioneering Pilot


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A pilot in the Vietnam War became the face of the early gay rights movement. Leonard Matlovich was a closeted soldier in the Air Force, and by September 8, 1975, he was on the cover of TIME magazine with the headline, “I Am a Homosexual.” Although he received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his exemplary service in the Air Force, he was nevertheless discharged for being openly gay.



Missing In Action


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The last update on those individuals still missing was on April 14, 2017. 1,611 Americans, 1,258 Vietnamese, 297 Lao, 49 Cambodians, and 7 Chinese. Following the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, 591 American prisoners of war were brought home during Operation Homecoming. 


Digging Up Dirt


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In the late 1940s, communist forces began digging tunnels mostly by hand. The network of tunnels mainly served to avoid the invading armies and connect the villages. In the early 1960s when the United States began increasing its number of troops in Vietnam, they began expanding the tunnel systems. Tunnel length total: 250 kilometers (155 miles) and a depth of 10 meters (6 miles)!



Booby Traps


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The vast network of tunnels was cleverly designed rigged with elaborate booby traps. Most iconically, Viet Cong soldiers would set up Punji sticks made out of wood or bamboo covered in poison. The U.S. troops would send a “tunnel rat” down the tunnels to scout the area. These “rats” would go down into the tunnel armed with just a gun, knife, some string, and a flashlight. The entrances were made very narrow, so soldiers often got trapped in them resulting in high casualty rates. 


War Elephants


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Elephants were a valuable resource in war. Some historians even equate elephants to the use of tanks in modern times. The South Vietnamese would ride on the elephants on patrol, to transport supplies on the Ho Chi Minh trail from North Vietnam, across Laos and Cambodia, and then to South Vietnam.



Beauty In Battle


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Reita Faria, a 23-year-old medical student from Bombay, was the first Asian woman to win the Miss World contest in 1966. After she was crowned, she visited Vietnam. “Many of them had lost their limbs and their injuries made my heart bleed,” Faria said. The Indian government supported North Vietnam’s Communist government and so when photos of Faria entertaining the soldiers circulated it was widely disapproved. 


Crossing Creeks


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This infamous photograph shows paratroopers from the United States 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade holding their weapons above water. They needed to cross the river in the rain to search for Viet Cong troops in the jungle of South Vietnam. The photograph was taken on September 25, 1965.



American Anger


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Opposition to the United States involvement in Vietnam began in 1964. There were widespread social movements and demonstrations. The peace movement was lead by students, mothers, and hippies.


Economic Break Down


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The Department of Defense reports that the U.S. spent about $168 billion in the war (worth $950 billion in 2011 dollars). $111 billion was spent on military operations, and $28.5 billion on economic and military aid to Saigon regime. Photo: “one dollar” Military Payment Certificate, which is a form of currency used to pay U.S. military personnel in Vietnam.



Beating The Heat


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The photo above is an intimate close up photograph that appeared in “Life” magazine. A United States soldier is seen drinking from a canteen, overcome by heat, with others lying around him. The photo was taken by Larry Burrows in the Fishhook area, on the Cambodia/Vietnam frontier.


Beach Base


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The Red Beach Base Area was located north of Danang, a coastal city in central Vietnam. It was the site of the 9th Marine Regiment, the first United States troops deployed to Vietnam in 1965. Photo: marines arriving at Red Beach on March 8, 1965, making them the first troops to arrive. The choppy waters delayed the landing.