Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemoration Logo

A Grateful Nation Thanks And Honors You

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to honor our Vietnam veterans, our fallen, our wounded, those unaccounted for, our former prisoners of war, their families, and all who served with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

The Conflict ~ 50 Years Later

The Vietnam War also known as 'The Second Indochina War' was a Cold War-era conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.

The First Indochina War took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s when Ho Chi Minh rode a wave of rising nationalism to victory and led the Communist Viet Minh party to power in North Vietnam. By 1954, the war had ground to a virtual stalemate between the French and the Viet Minh forces until the Viet Minh gained significant advances at Dien Bien Phu and were able to force the French out. Later that year, the Geneva Accords were signed, and the French were forced to leave their colonies in Indochina. The accords also split Vietnam in half, North and South, but did not end the fighting. South Vietnam was now in fear of the communist North overtaking them.

President Dwight Eisenhower first sent advisers to South Vietnam in 1955 to aid the South Vietnamese in their fight against the Viet Minh forces. From that point on, the American involvement in the conflict grew until the United States eventually sent a total of 9,087,000 troops to the country.

U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 and the war officially ended in April of 1975 when Saigon was captured by the North Vietnamese Army. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million. Some 200~300 thousand Cambodians, 20~200 thousand Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, with a further 1,626 missing in action. Wikipedia - The Vietnam War

Statistics from one of America's longest conflicts:

  • One-third of the Americans who participated, were drafted to fight. Two-thirds volunteered.
  • Whether they volunteered or were drafted, 1 out of every 10 soldiers were injured or killed during Vietnam.
  • 11,000 of those who served were women.
  • 85 percent of those who served were white.
  • 12.2 percent of those who served were black.
  • The average age of soldiers in Vietnam was 21 - five years younger than the average for the men who served in World War II.
  • In Vietnam, the average infantryman saw 240 days of combat in a year.
  • 79 percent of those who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better.
  • 58,220 Americans were killed in the war, according to the National Archives. In some places, the number is higher by 70 or so.
  • In 1995, the Vietnamese government released estimates of the number of its citizens killed in the war:
    2 million civilians and 1.35 million North and South Vietnamese soldiers.
  • The average age of the American soldier killed in Vietnam is 23.1 years.
  • The average age of the U.S. Marine killed in Vietnam was 20.4 years.
  • The average age for an American officer killed in Vietnam was 28.4 years.
  • The oldest soldier killed in Vietnam was 62; the youngest was 16.
  • Of those killed, 17,539 were married.
  • The state with the highest death rate of Vietnam War casualties was West Virginia.
  • The first man to die in Vietnam was James Davis, in 1961.
  • 257 people were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
  • Operation Ranch Hand sprayed 11,000,000 gallons of "Orange" on the jungles of the country. (The word "agent" was later added to the name.) That number is equivalent to three gallons an acre or .009 on an ounce per square foot.
  • On March 29, 1973, 43 years ago today, the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam.
  • Two years one month and one day later, on April 30, 1975, the last few Americans still in South Vietnam were airlifted out of the country as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army.
  • More than 1,700 Americans who served in Vietnam are listed as missing.

Dept. of Defense Vietnam War Commemoration Website.