Do You Know These Facts and Figures About the Vietnam War?

By: John Miller
Image: [USMC Photo A184402] via Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Even today, America grapples with the ghosts of the Vietnam War. After World War II, the United States Armed Forces appeared nearly invincible, and its hard-fought gains in the Korean conflict seemed to confirm that fact. So when violence in Vietnam became unavoidable, most people were sure the nation would find itself victorious once again. In the quicksand of this booby-trapped quiz, how much do you remember about the facts and figures of the Vietnam War?

Vietnam was no straightforward fight. It was a complicated political standoff that involved major countries – like the USSR, China and U.S. – engaging in what amounted to a proxy war. All sides dumped immense amounts of firearms, supplies and cash into the region, all in the hopes of swaying the outcome. The U.S., of course, eventually committed troops, too. Do you remember how these strange events all unfolded?

Once America joined the fray, the violence became evermore explosive. Civilians on both sides ran for their lives. Hundreds of thousands of troops lost their lives. And places like Saigon, Hanoi and Hamburger Hill became icons of the age.

Grab your M16 and see if you can survive this Vietnam War quiz now!

What was the goal of North Vietnam during the war?

The North hoped to unify the fractured country under communism. Leaders wanted a system similar to China and the USSR.

In 1954, the North Vietnamese defeated which foreign army?

In 1954, North Vietnam finally expelled French colonial forces. But the U.S., fearing too many Soviet and Chinese influences in the area, stepped into gird South Vietnam's forces.

At the beginning of the war, what sort of government controlled South Vietnam?

As communism took hold in the North, the South was driven by a (mostly) democratic-style government. It was a situation that could not stand, and America wanted to be sure that the democratic side won.

Before committing troops to Vietnam, what did the U.S. do?

The U.S. didn't immediately want to jump into the war with troops. Instead, it started by sending thousands of advisers, who showed the South's troops how to use high-powered American weapons.

To what did the "domino effect" refer?

U.S. leaders feared that if South Vietnam became communist, the result would be a "domino effect" in which other parts of Southeast Asia also fell to communism. Officials committed that stopping that from happening.

How many U.S. service members were in uniform during the Vietnam War?

Fought a generation after WWII, Vietnam's troop activation rates may have seemed rather trivial. But the reality is that 8.7 million personnel contributed the the war effort.

Of the 8.7 million Americans who served in uniform, how many were deployed to Southeast Asia?

Of the 8.7 million Americans in uniform, it was a coin flip as to whether you'd be sent to Southeast Asia. And many of those were shipped overseas didn't come back.

What happened in the Gulf of Tonkin incident?

In August 1964, two North Vietnamese torpedo boats fired at U.S. Navy ships in what's called the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The event -- which may have been fabricated -- gave the U.S. cause to escalate its presence in the war.

In what year did America send active combat troops to Vietnam?

After years of waffling on the matter, in 1965, U.S. leaders finally committed to full-scale troop deployments in Vietnam. They didn't know then how slippery that slope would become.

Which country dumped major amounts of supplies and weapons in North Vietnam in hopes of helping them win the war?

China and the USSR, both bastions of communism, heaped supplies and weapons on the North Vietnamese to help them win the war. It's no wonder, then, that America felt so threatened by the events unfolding there.

How many combat deaths did America suffer in Vietnam?

Compared to WWII, casualties were significantly lower in Vietnam. But during this long slog, more than 47,000 troops were killed by the enemy.

How many combat deaths did South Vietnam endure?

The Americans lost roughly 50,000 men in combat. The South Vietnamese, on the other hand lost perhaps 225,000 … and perhaps far more.

What was the capital of North Vietnam?

Hanoi was the capital of North Vietnam. The South's capital was Saigon. In both cities, leaders relentlessly plotted to try and end the war as quickly as possible.

Compared to WWII, how many bombs did the U.S. drop during Vietnam?

It seems impossible, but it's true. The U.S. dropped more bombs on North Vietnam that it did on all of its enemies in WWII … combined. It's no wonder the country was so devastated after the war.

What was the purpose of Agent Orange during the war?

American planes sprayed tons of a chemical called Agent Orange on North Vietnam in order to defoliate the country's thick jungles (and to damage crops). It worked to some degree, but it also left many people on both sides with terrible side effects.

How many American troops were wounded in Vietnam?

About 155,000 American troops were wounded. Some by bullets and bombs, others by terrifying booby traps that have become so closely associated with this brutal fight.

Who was Ho Chi Minh?

Ho Chi Minh was a clever commander and politican in North Vietnam. He controlled the Vietnamese Communist Party and found ways to make life much, much harder for the South's army.

Who called South Vietnam, "“the cornerstone of the free world in Southeast Asia"?

John Kennedy called South Vietnam "the cornerstone of the free world in Southeast Asia." There was little doubt that America would invest heavily in the fight … but how much was too much?

What was the purpose of the South's Strategic Hamlet Program?

The South's Strategic Hamlet Program uprooted many rural people and corralled them into protected hamlets, with the idea being that this would shield them from the bullets (and influence) of Northern invaders. But the program was a massive failure thanks to resentment caused by relocation and the fact few people could tell which people needed protection and which people were infiltrators.

How many total civilians died in the war?

When you combine fatalities from the North and South, the cost to civilians was high. About 4 million innocents were killed in the war.

How did North Vietnamese troops counter the South's American helicopters?

In the early war, many North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops were terrified by the power of American helicopters. But they soon realized that concentrated small arms fire could blast the gunships out of the skies.

What was one major weakness of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam?

The South's Army of the Republic of Vietnam relied on American weapons (many from WWII) for the war. But many of those weapons and vehicles were way too heavy for the mobile style of fighting of Vietnam.

In 1964, which president asked Congress for authorization to go to war in Vietnam?

Kennedy knew Vietnam was going to be messy, but he was murdered in 1963. President Johnson took the reins, and a year later, got approval from Congress to escalate the war.

In 1968, what happened at a village called My Lai?

In 1968, a U.S. unit went crazy, killing 400 women, children and elderly people in what's called the My Lai Massacre. Only one U.S. soldier was ever punished for the atrocities, and he was freed from prison early.

In 1970, President Nixon authorized troops to invade which area?

In 1970, troops blasted into Cambodia to destroy North Vietnam's supply stockpiles. The attacks drew sharp public criticism in the U.S.

As of early 2018, how many U.S. troops are still unaccounted for?

Since the war ended, American officials have slowly accounted for many missing soldiers. But there are 1,600 troops listed as missing … and their families still wonder what became of them.

How did the Tet Offensive change the war?

In 1968, the North launched the Tet Offensive. The offensive failed tactically, but it caused a dramatic shift in America's attitudes toward the war -- now it seemed unwinnable, and people wanted the troops brought home.

When did the U.S. withdraw combat troops from Vietnam?

In 1973, the combined forces of the North Vietnamese -- backed by China and the USSR -- proved to be far too much of a challenge for the U.S. That year, it withdrew its combat troops, essentially throwing in the towel on the war.

The Vietnam War finally ended in what year?

The war, which essentially started in 1954 with the French and then transitioned into American hands, lasted until 1975. It's no wonder Vietnam was such a mess by the time it was all over.

What were "boat people"?

In 1975, the world witnessed the first round of "boat people," South Vietnamese refugees who boarded rickety boats and headed out to sea. They were afraid to live under the new communist regime.

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