When you hear or see the expression ‘causality of war’, what do you think it means? Most people automatically think it refers to those killed in battle but that is not accurate. Just look around you today or watch the commercials on television about all of the men and women coming back from the Middle East missing limbs or eyes. Have you heard of veterans suffering from PTSD or some mysterious condition they contracted while in the desert? Have you ever seen a black flag with MIA on it flying at someone’s home? These and many more, are all casualties of war.
Casualties of war not only includes those killed in action, but all those who are wounded, died from a disease contracted during war, captured and missing in action. For example, according to one source, during the Civil War, around 620,000 were killed in action, 476,000 were wounded and 400,000 were captured or missing. Of the 620,000 killed in action, over 200,000 died from disease. The total casualties were really somewhere around 1.5 million.
The same holds true for the Vietnam War. Some years ago, a co-worker of mine had served in Vietnam. He spent nearly 2 years in combat action and saw things that would haunt the memories and dreams of anyone. Some ten years later, he still had frequent nightmares and night sweats. He reacted to any loud sudden sounds and his entire personality had changed. According to his brother, this man loved to hunt and fish and had no problem cleaning out a deer or seeing blood, but after Vietnam, he could no longer touch a gun nor could he stand the sight of blood or thought of killing anything, including fish. His entire personality had changed and it cost him his marriage and made it difficult for him to hold down a job for any length of time. Steve was one of thousands of uncounted casualties of the Vietnam War and we are seeing the same thing today with many veterans who served in the Middle East.
On this day, October 22, 1957, the US military suffered their first casualties of the Vietnam War. Thirteen members of the Military Assistance Advisory Group and US Information Service Installations in Saigon were wounded during three terrorist attacks.
Like so many war statistics sites, the numbers for Vietnam casualties vary, however, I’ll use these – from 1955 to 1975, there were around 47,400 Americans killed, another 10,700 war related deaths, 153,300 wounded and at least 2,500 missing in action for a casualty total of around 213,900. Yet there were also thousands who suffered the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange and diseases contracted while in the jungles of Vietnam. There are also thousands who came home physically intact, but continue to suffer the mental effects of war – PTSD, so the total casualty figures for Vietnam most likely easily exceeds 250,000 and may even number beyond 300,000.
Sources for the above includes: American Forces Suffer First Casualties in Vietnam; First Americans killed in South Vietnam; Statistical Information About Casualties of the Vietnam War; American Vietnam War Casualties (1955-1975); Vietnam War Casualties; 50th Anniversary of Vietnam War’s First American Combat Casualties; American Civilian and Military Women Who Died in the Vietnam War (1959-1975); Civil War Casualties