The Vietnam War was an undeclared war between the US and Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. It caused extreme political unrest and was widely protested.
It was an incredibly tumultuous time in US history and, for that reason, it’s unclear how many people actually served during this struggle. The number of people who are Vietnam veterans in the first place is a number that is widely debated.
According to the American War Library website, it was concluded by the Department of Defense that their best estimate is that between 2,709,918 and 3,173,845 GIs served in Vietnam and its surrounding waters between the years 1954 and 1975.
These numbers do not include the Americans who served in Vietnam during World War II.
Still, other sources like the New York Times claim the number of Vietnam veterans is actually somewhere around 9.2 million.
This makes things a little confusing.
So, here we’ll dive a little bit deeper into how many Vietnam veterans are estimated to still be alive based on various approximations and predictions.
How Many Vietnam War Veterans Are Still Alive?
According to the American War Library, as of February 28, 2019, it is estimated that approximately 610,000 Americans who served in land forces during the Vietnam War or in air missions over Vietnam between 1954 and 1975 are still alive to this day.
Additionally, the American War Library approximated that around 164,000 Americans who served at sea in Vietnam waters during the same time are still alive today.
It should be duly noted that these numbers do not include the 2500 to 3000 US Air Force troops stationed in Guam, Thailand, and other countries that were involved in the Vietnam War effort. These numbers were not included since these service members were far removed from combat experience and did not spend any amount of time in harm’s way.
These numbers have come about due to the extensive research of various mortality indexes and sources by the American War Library which concluded that about one-third of those who served in the Vietnam War are still alive today.
Interestingly, the research concludes that Vietnam veterans seem to be dying at a similar rate to World War II veterans. Still, the American War Library continues to verify their accounts and come to more concrete conclusions.
What other conclusions have been made about the percentage of Vietnam veterans who are still alive?
How Many Vietnam Veterans Are Still Alive Today?
The New York Times reported that claims like those of the American War Library are false and that, instead of only one-third of Vietnam vets remaining, the number points to more like 75 percent of Vietnam veterans still living and breathing today.
In the article, the writer quotes Patrick S. Brady of Vietnam Veterans of America’s magazine. The VVA Veteran boils it down to a totally different conclusion that the American War Library drew.
Apparently, it’s been agreed upon that 800,000 Vietnam veterans had passed away by the year 2000. This is a reasonable number but you get very different notions of the death rate when you compare 800,000 to 2.7 million versus 800,000 out of 9.2 million.
So, where is the discrepancy in these numbers? It seems to be all about syntax.
Around 2.7 million troops were stationed in Vietnam either on land, within its airspace, or in its waters. The remaining 6.5 million were serving either at-home or abroad but not in Vietnam. Could they be considered Vietnam veterans then?
It makes a big difference because stating that only one-third of Vietnam veterans are still alive today is much harsher than stating that three-quarters of Vietnam veterans are still alive and well.
The truth is that until Vietnam veterans can agree amongst themselves what constitutes a “real” Vietnam vet, the debate may continue.
Overall, the death rate of Vietnam veterans seems to be rather consistent if not better than other people their same age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The New York Times estimated that, of the 8.4 million Vietnam veterans who were still alive in 2000, 1.1 million had died. It was also projected that, from here, 138,000 Vietnam veterans are expected to die each year.
Read about this memorial park in Washington where veterans restored a B-52 bomber from Vietnam.