The Vietnam War began in 1965 and did not end until 1975, two years after all US and allied personnel had withdrawn, when North Vietnamese forces finally conquered Saigon. During this period the war escalated from an insurgency in South Vietnam sponsored by the North Vietnamese government to direct military intervention in the south by North Vietnam, as well as the active participation of military forces of the United States and other countries. The war also spilled over into the surrounding countries of Cambodia and Laos. An exhaustive reckoning of the casualties incurred must include statistical information available for each theater of the conflict. The casualty figures below focus on Vietnam and exclude those in Cambodia and Laos. The Republic of Vietnam (commonly called South Vietnam) was where most of the fighting took place, and it accordingly suffered most from the war.

Deaths in South Vietnam

ARVN Deaths

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam ARVN suffered 266,000 killed from 1959 through 1975. R.J. Rummel's range was 216,000 at the low end and 316,000 at the high end. A PBS estimate was a quarter of a million men killed in action.

South Vietnamese military deaths
Year Regular RF/PF Para Total
1966 4,418 7,535 - 11,953
1967 6,110 6,606 - 12,716
1968 12,930 11,393 3,592 27,915
1969 8,652 10,286 2,895 21,833
1970 9,647 11,738 1,961 23,346
1971 8,864 13,118 756 22,738
1972 38,697 890 39,587

RF/PF=Regional Force/Popular Force militia, Para=paramilitary forces

North Vietnamese Deaths

According to the government in Hanoi, 1,100,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong military personnel were killed in the Vietnam War Rummel reviewed the many casualty data sets, and this number is in keeping with his mid-level estimate of 1,011,000 North Vietnamese combat deaths. He further calculated a mid-level estimate of 251,000 Viet Cong military deaths. Thus, Viet Cong forces accounted for about 22% of the total communist military deaths. What percentage of the 849,000 North Vietnamese Regulars died in South Vietnam is unknown, but a reasonable assumption is that the vast majority occurred in South Vietnam. If 80% of the North Vietnamese casualties died in South Vietnam, this equals 680,000 men, plus 251,000 Viet Cong for a total 931,000 combat deaths.

Specific Incidents

  • 1968 Tet Offensive Hanoi failed in its most ambitious goal of producing a general uprising and instead suffered more than 45,267 communist (mainly Viet Cong deaths)
  • 1972 Easter Offensive sees 50,000 to 75,000 North Vietnamese Forces killed and losses of over 700 tanks. It was broken up by US air power.

Non-Uniformed/Civilian Deaths in South Vietnam

The Viet Cong and upon occasion the North Vietnamese Regulars would often wear civilian clothes. Civilians could thus be mistaken for a being a supporter of one side or the other and be shot. They were also sometimes killed simply for being caught up in a battle. South Vietnam suffered the majority of an estimated 2,000,000 civilians killed this way Rummel's review of the various data led to a mid-level estimate of 843,000 civilian deaths in both North and South Vietnam. The detailed Figures are not complete, but the mid-level R.J. Rummel estimates are that around 391,000 South Vietnamese civilians died. Another 643,000 died as the Communist North Vietnamese consolidated power. Rummel's low-level estimate was 361,000 South Vietnamese civilians and his high-estimate was 720,000. Below is a loose outline of which forces caused these non-uniformed and civilian deaths. The Communist Vietnamese government in 1995 estimated that 2,000,000 Vietnamese civilians on both sides died in the conflict, but does not allocate these deaths between North and South Vietnam. Rummel estimated (apart from the post 1975 communist power consolidation) that a low-level of 486,000 civilians died; the mid-level was 843,000, with a high level at 1,200,000.

Deaths Caused by North Vietnamese Forces

North Vietnamese forces killed about 130,000 civilian and prisoners of war between 1957 and 1975. Rummel's summary has a mid-level estimate of 17,000 South Vietnamese civil servants killed by North Vietnamese forces (including the Viet Cong). In addition another 49,000 civilians were executed for various reasons. An additional 50,000 refuges were killed, as well as 1,260 civilians during the shelling of Saigon, plus another 2,800-6,000 civilians killed in the Massacre at Huế during the Tet Offensive. About 130 US POWs and 16,000 South Vietnamese POWs were executed by their communist captors.

Deaths Caused by South Vietnamese Forces

The estimated total number of civilian and suspected communist deaths caused by South Vietnamese forces from 1955 to 1975 was 145,500.

During the Diem Regime (1955–1963; during the first stages of US involvement)an estimated 80,000 persons died during forced relocations of 900,000 civilians. 275,000 civilian were taken prisoners, 4,000 prisoners were killed through ill-treatment, another 10,000 suspected communists were executed, 1,500 civilians died in shelling. Diem's total is around 95,500 civilian deaths, apart from the Viet Cong and other North Vietnamese forces his regime killed.

From 1964 to 1975 an estimated 1,500 persons died during the forced relocations of some 1,200,000 civilians, another 5,000 prisoners will killed through ill-treatment and another 30,000 suspected communists were executed, and 6,000 civilians died in the more extensive shelling. In Qam Ham provence another 4,700 civilians were killed in 1969. This is another 50,000 deaths caused by the South Vietnamese forces, apart from North Vietnamese forces killed by the government of South Vietnam.

Deaths Caused by North Vietnamese Communist Power Consolidation

An estimated 95,000 civilians died in the communist re-education camps, another 500,000 were involved in forced labor projects, which killed 48,000 civilians. Another 100,000 were executed. Finally, 400,000 boat people died while trying to flee Vietnam. This is 643,000 killed during the consolidation of communist rule. This consolidation ended around 1984, although boat people deaths occurred through 1988. A similar high death toll occurred in North Vietnam during 1950s when the Communists consolidated power in that geographic region.

Specific incidents

  • A Newsweek journalist claimed an unnamed official told him that an estimated 5,000 civilians were killed by the American military in Operation Speedy Express.
  • More than 25,000 South Vietnamese civilians were killed and almost a million become temporary refugees, with over 600,000 interned in South Vietnamese Government camps as a result of North Vietnam's 1972 Easter Offensive.

Deaths in North Vietnam

Combat Deaths

According to the Vietnamese government, 1,100,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong military personnel were killed during the Vietnam War R.J. Rummel reviewed the many casualty data sets, this number is in keeping with his mid-level estimate of 1,011,000 North Vietnamese combat deaths. He further calculated a mid-level estimate of 251,000 Viet Cong military deaths. Thus, Southern Forces (i.e.,Viet Cong) were around 22% of the total military deaths. What percentage of the remaining 849,000 North Vietnamese Regulars died in South Vietnam is unknown. The assumption is the vast majority of these deaths occurred in South Vietnam.

Civilian Deaths

R.J. Rummel's mid-level estimated that 65,000 North Vietnamese Civilians died from 1960-1975. Furthermore, he estimates that in the 1957 to 1975 period the North Vietnamese government executed around 50,000 North Vietnamise civilians (most were executed by the 1960).

The Vietnamese communist government in 1995 estimated that 2,000,000 Vietnamese civilians on both sides died in the conflict. Overall figures for North Vietnamese civilian dead range from 50,000 to "several million."

Specific Incidents

Complete statistics for the American bombings of North Vietnam are unavailable. As noted above estimates of total 1957 to 1975 North Vietnamese civilian deaths caused by American bombing range from Rummel's low estimate of 52,000, his mid-level estimate of 65,000, his high level estimate of 70,000. There is a separate PBS estimate that the 3.5 year Operation Rolling Thunder killed 182,000 civilians, with an additional 20,000 Chinese troops.

United States Armed Forces

Casualties as of 5 August 2010:

  • 58,267 KIA and other dead (including the missing)
  • 303,644 WIA (including 153,303 who required hospitalization and 150,341 who didn't)
  • 1,711 MIA

Vietnam War Casualties By Service Branch

Country Branch of service Number serving Worldwide Number serving Southeast Asia Number serving South Vietnam Killed Wounded Missing
USA Army 4,368,000 2,276,000 1,736,000 38,218 96,802 548 {A}

Marines 794,000 513,000 391,000 14,840 51,392 213 {B}

Navy 1,842,000 229,000 174,000 2,565 4,178 369 {C}

Air Force 1,740,000 385,000 293,000 2,587 1,021 549 {D}

Coast Guard

7 59 0 {E}


32 {F}

Total 8,744,000 3,403,000 2,594,000 58,236 153,452 1,711

Note: Footnote # 1 gives breakdown of Casualty by Branch of service as follows: Army 38,209; Marines 14,838; Navy 2,555; Air Force 2,584; Coast Guard 7. Total: 58,193. As of 12/1998
Note: DPMO website lists 1,711 broken down as of 5 August 2010

  • A) Note: DPMO reports 548 to be accounted for {278 KIA/BNR; 22 POWs died/not returned; 258 presumed dead}. PMSA reports 1 AWOL/deserter returned; 13 POWs died/returned; 171 remains returned; 17 escaped; 122 POWs returned.
  • B) Note: DPMO reports 213 are to be accounted for {130 KIA/BNR; 2 POW/NR; 81 presumed dead}. PMSA reports 1 AWOL/deserter returned; 7 POWs died/returned; 82 remains returned; 10 POWs escaped; 28 POWs returned.
  • C) Note: DPMO reports 369 to be accounted for {281 KIA/BNR; 88 presumed dead}. PMSA reports 2 escaped; 10 POWs died/remains returned; 161 remains/returned; 149 POWs returned.
  • D) Note: DPMO reports 549 to be accounted for {193 KIA/BNR; 5 POW/NR; 368 presumed dead}. PMSA also reports that of 784 POWs, 1 escaped; 15 POWs died/remains returned; 436 remains returned/recovered; 332 POWs returned.
  • E) Note: 1 MIA C.G. remains found 2002 and Identified 2005.
  • F) Note: DPMO reports 32 to be accounted for {4 KIA/BNR; 5 POW/NR; 11 MIA; 8 POWs; 6 presumed dead}. PMSA also reports 5 POWs escaped; 4 POWs died/remains returned; 15 remains returned; 54 POWs returned.
  • Vietnam: original missing 1,981 of whom 661 are repatriated/identified and 1,310 missing with 594 classified as no further pursuit
  • Laos: original missing 575 of whom 240 are repatriated/identified and 335 missing with 23 classified as no further pursuit
  • Cambodia: original missing 85 of whom 31 are repatriated/identified and 59 missing with 5 classified as no further pursuit
  • China: original missing 10 of whom 3 are repatriated/identified and 7 are missing with 3 classified as no further pursuit
  • Note: as of May 2009 PMSA includes in each service branch of Vietnam Conflict fatalities "Country not listed": US Army 27; USMC 8; US Navy 17; Civilians 6.
  • As of 5 August 2010 DPMO reports 935 remains returned: 661 from Vietnam, 240 from Laos, 31 from Cambodia and 3 from China

Vietnam War Casualties By Year

Country Year of Death Number Killed

1956–1964 401

1965 1,863

1966 6,143

1967 11,153

1968 16,592

1969 11,616

1970 6,081

1971 2,357

1972 641

1973 168

1974–1998 1178

Vietnam War Casualties By Race and Ethnicity

Race and Ethnicity Number Killed
White 47,041
Black 7,241
Hispanics 3,070
Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians 229
Native Americans 226
More than one Race or Unknown 204
Asians 139

Vietnam War Casualties By Enlistment

Enlistment Number Killed
Volunteer 40,484
Draftees 17,725

First and last US Casualties in Vietnam War

  • {First casualties-1945; 1954; 1956, 1957; 1959}:
    • 26 September 1945 - OSS Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey killed in Vietnam.
    • 6 May 1954 - CIA pilot James 'Earthquake McGoon' McGovern and co-pilot Wallace Buford killed in Laos during the battle of Dien Bien Phu.
    • June 8, 1956 - The first official death in Vietnam is U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. of Stoneham, MA who was killed by another U.S. airman.
    • 21 October 1957 - Captain Harry Cramer killed in Vietnam.
    • 8 July 1959 - Major Dale R. Buis and M/Sgt Charles Ovnand {Chester Melvin Ovnand} killed by sniper; first and second names listed on Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
    • 22 December 1961 - SP4 James Thomas Davis, 3d Radio Research Unit (Army Security Agency), killed in an ambush in Vietnam, The Wall: Panel 01E - Row 004.
  • {Last casualties-1975}:
    • 29 April 1975 - US Marine Embassy Guards McMahon and Judge killed. {Corporal Charles McMahon & Lance Corporal Darwin L. Judge}
    • 12–15 May 1975 — 15 US servicemen killed during the Mayaguez Incident and 3 MIAs killed later by the Khmer Rouge in Democratic Kampuchea.

Prisoners of War

  • First POW seized
    • December 26, 1961 - George F. Fryett was the first seized POW, he was released in June 1962.
  • Last POW seized
    • January 27, 1973 - Phillip A. Kientzler was the last POW to be seized, he was released March 27, 1973.
  • Longest held POW
    • 8 years, 355 days - Floyd James Thompson was captured on March 26, 1964 and released March 16, 1973. Spent 10 days short of 9 years as a POW, he is the longest held POW of the Vietnam war and longest held POW in the United States history.
  • Second longest held POW
    • 8 years, 7 months - Everett Alvarez Jr. was captured on August 5, 1964 and released February 12, 1973.
  • Most famous POW John McCain
    • Later to become Senator and Republican presidential candidate.
  • Last POW recorded
    • Charles E. Shelton-pronounced dead in September 1994.

South Korea Casualties in Vietnam War

  • 5,099 KIA
  • 11,232 WIA
  • 4 MIA

North Korea Casualties in Vietnam War

According to Chinese soldiers stationed in Vietnam manning the anti-aircraft artillery next to that of the North Korean, several dozen North Korean anti-aircraft artillery crews were killed by American bombing.

China Casualties in Vietnam War

1,446 KIA

Soviet Union Casualties in Vietnam War


Philippines Casualties in Vietnam War

  • 7 men KIA
  • 2 men MIA

Thailand Casualties in Vietnam War

  • 351 KIA
  • 1,358 WIA

Australia Casualties in Vietnam War

  • 426 KIA, 74 died of other causes
  • 2,940 WIA
  • 6 MIA (All have been accounted for and have been repatriated)

New Zealand Casualties in Vietnam War

  • 55 KIA + 2 Civilians
  • 212 WIA