I've read reports saying more Vietnam War soldiers have died from suicide than from fighting in the war. American death from the war was about 58,000. Death estimates on veteran suicides range from 20,000 to 200,000. Very sad, to say the least. I believe many of those suicides could have been avoided if the world stopped telling the great lie.
The great lie is America lost the Vietnam War. For 40 years, the lie has been propagated by books, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, web pages, speeches, sermons, pictures, movies, war documentaries, classroom instruction...you name it. The current of this lie is so overwhelming, many soldiers have sunk into depression because of lost meaning from their sacrifices.
The reason the lie continues is because the world, by inertia, can't get out of the assumption that the Vietnam War was nothing but a civil war, and that the US had no business in that domestic fight. The Anti-War movement in America made sure this was deeply etched in the mind of the nation. Outside of America, the communist movement, led by Russia and China, made sure the world believed it, too.
But the Vietnam War was anything but local. It was a proxy war between two world ideologies competing for world domination. One was powered by the communist axis, the other by the democratic axis. On the communist axis was China, Soviet Union (Russia), and North Vietnam. On the democratic axis was the US, South Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The first indication it was a global proxy war was the massive presence of advanced weapons. The United States lost more than 2,200 aircraft. When the anti-war protesters are asked how such huge loses were inflicted by Vietnamese peasants, they have no explanation. In fact, it happened because they were destroyed by MIG fighter planes and SAMs (Surface-to-Air Missiles). Made by North Vietnam? No, they were provided by the Soviet Union (Russia).
The second indication was the presence of the Soviet forces in Vietnam after the war. Cam Ranh Bay became the largest Soviet naval base outside the Soviet Union.
The war actually ended with a peace treaty, called Paris Peace Accords, in January 27, 1973. It was signed by representatives from North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and United States. All combat forces of United States, Australia, and other allies left Vietnam after it was signed. It resulted to peace in the years 1973 and 1974.
And then North Vietnam violated the peace treaty. It started a new war in 1975 by suddenly crossing into South Vietnam with a massive force. South Vietnam, already getting accustomed to peace, was surprised.
Despite requests by South Vietnam for help, the US refused to get entangled in the new war. Although North Vietnam violated the peace treaty, the US decided not to make things worse by bombing North Vietnam. Instead, to limit the slaughter, the US focused on rescuing over a million Vietnamese refugees.
Did America lose the Vietnam War? If you rate it as a global proxy war, the answer is No, she did not. Here are the reasons:
1. The ultimate war objective was not to destroy North Vietnam, but to give many countries in Southeast Asia, which were young democracies, the needed time to establish new democratic regimes. This was successfully accomplished, with the help of the Vietnam War. By the time the 1973 peace treaty was signed, most of these countries were strong enough to fight their local communist movements; and, in fact, the democratic regimes did win.
2. It aborted Vietnam's rise to dominant power in the Indochina region. After the war, the Vietnamese tried to form an alliance with the communists in Thailand, but the communists in Thailand were so impacted by the war, their movement was too weak to do anything. Cambodia, Laos, and Burma (Myanmar) gave up on the plan to create a regional communist sphere of influence led by Vietnam.
3. The US strategy to focus on the peace treaty, and then later to help Vietnamese refugees, rather than return to punish the peace treaty violators, have resulted to a lot of good for Vietnam. There are over a million highly motivated Vietnamese in America, vigorously adding to the US economy. Because of their education and wealth, they also have greatly influenced the rise of democratic economy and politics in Vietnam.
4. The shameful loss of over 2,200 US aircraft in Vietnam in the 1960s, to Soviet weaponry, awakened the political and military planners of America to new realities of modern warfare. In 1973, the US reputation was avenged in the Arab-Israeli War. The Israeli forces, using American jet fighters and intelligence, destroyed over 400 Soviet made fighter planes in one week. Not a single US-made F-15 or F-16 was lost in any aerial combat.
The veterans of Vietnam War do not deserve the scorn that were heaped on them. They were not misplaced soldiers, they actually fought for a good cause. They have suffered too long. It is time they are honored with the truth.
If you want to know more about what really happened in Vietnam, I recommend the book, Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land - The Vietnam War Revisited, by Andrew Wiest. It was written by historians, not by activists and populist politicians. It includes chapters written by North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese generals who ran the war from both sides.
Ray Madriaga Colorado
Originally published on Facebook April 5, 2015