Online photowall to pay homage to fallen U.S. soldiers in Vietnam War

Online photo wall to pay homage to fallen U.S. soldiers in Vietnam War

Photo story (Clockwise from top left): (1) Photos of some of the faces of the fallen U.S. soldiers in Vietnam War- Private first class James Michael Moore, killed in South Vietnam on 3rd August 1967. (2) Captain Jeremiah Costello, won Distinguished Flying Cross & a silver star, killed in Cambodia in May 1975 (3) Marine corporal Francis Xavier, killed on 8th September 1966 in South Vietnam (4) Captain Terry Ketter was 29 when he was killed in May 1970 (5) Staff sergeant Lester Brantley was 33 when he was killed in Binh Duong in August 1969. (6) Air force Colonel Warren Anderson, was 33 when he was killed in action (7) Sergeant Merritt Adams was 19 when he was killed in action in Binh Dinh. (8) Navy lieutenant junior grade David Brostrom was 25 when he was killed in action in 1966 (9) South Vietnam’s chief of national police, Major General Nguyen Ngoc Loan summarily executing Viet Cong member Nguyen Van Lem for Lem’s war crimes and suspected guerrilla activities. U.S. Photojournalist Eddie Adams won Pulitzer Prize for taking this photo. (10) A U.S. paratrooper grimaces in pain in Shau Valley, South Vietnam on 19th May 1969 (11) U.S. helicopters firing to cover the advance of South Vietnamese troops in Tay Ninh in March 1965.

In Vietnam, the Second Indochina War or Vietnam War is known as the American War. The United States went into war in Vietnam to achieve the cold war era objective of preventing communist expansion. The 20 year long bloody warfare started on 1st November 1955 and lasted till 30th April 1975. Anti-communist South Vietnam was supported by United States and 15 other countries. Communist North Vietnam was supported by Soviet Union and 6 other countries.

South Vietnam had the support of total 1,451,100 (it was estimated to be 1,830,000 in 1968) troopers, of which 58.58% or 850,000 were South Vietnam’s, 36.94% or 536,100 were United States’ and 4.48% or 65,000 were Free World Military Forces’ composed of 7 countries. Including large number of irregulars guerrillas, the North Vietnam had the support of estimated total 1,118,000 troopers (PAVN estimated their army to be 690,000 in 1966) of which 99.68% or 1,115,000 were North Vietnam’s, 0.27% or 3,000 were Soviet Union’s and 0.05% or 600 were North Korea’s.

South Vietnamese alliance lost around 284,573 soldiers, of which 77.43% or 220,357 were South Vietnamese soldiers, 20.46% or 58,220 were American soldiers and 2.11% or 5,996 were Free World Military Forces’ soldiers. North Vietnamese alliance lost around 50,016 soldiers, of which 99.97% or 50,000 were North Vietnamese Soldiers, 0.03% or 16 were Russian soldiers. Around 195,000 South Vietnamese civilians and 400,000 North Vietnamese civilians were killed in the war. 303,644 U.S. soldiers were wounded in action.

The surprising attack by the North Vietnamese forces in 1968 known as Tet Offensive stunned the US & South Vietnamese forces but the communists lost the aggression. It was a stalemate situation. After that, U.S. President Johnson halted further bombing orders, declared that he would not run for a re-election and began peace talks with North Vietnam on 10th May 1968 in Paris. The war did not stop though.

Democrat U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s end of tenure in 1969 did not end the Vietnam War. Next president Republican Richard Nixon took the Vietnamization policy to train South Vietnamese forces and end U.S. involvement in the warfare. Nixon administration also dropped containment of communism from the list of fundamental U.S. policies. Nixon’s adviser Henry Kissinger asked military analyst Daniel Ellsberg about the possible policy options for Vietnam. Ellsberg said that he did not believe that there was a win option in Vietnam. He proposed a withdrawal option. Kissinger did not circulate the analysis to prevent it to be perceived as defeat. President Nixon directed a six-step withdrawal plan. The war continued.

Peace agreement was signed by all belligerents of Vietnam War on 27th January 1973. Kissinger was awarded Nobel Peace Prize. But North & South Vietnam resumed offensive acts. The South gained territory and lost those by January 1974. In the mean time, Nixon resigned on 9th August 1974, following the Watergate scandal. Without U.S. aid, South Vietnam was losing the battle. Vietnam War ended on 30th April 1975 with forces of North Vietnam capturing the South. President of South Vietnam, Nguyen Thieu, resigned earlier on 21st April 1975, mentioning that the U.S. had betrayed South Vietnam and accused Kissinger of tricking him to sign Paris Peace treaty 2 years ago. He fled to Taiwan on 25th April 1975, later lived in London and then settled in United States.

Online edition of Britain’s eminent news paper The Daily Mail & Mail On Sunday, Mail Online, reported that ‘Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’ campaign group has been tirelessly preparing a virtual online photo wall to pay homage to fallen U.S. soldiers in Vietnam War. A group of veterans set up the Washington DC based nonprofit organization on 27th April 1979 to create a memorial for the U.S. soldiers who lost lives in the Vietnam War and to educate the Americans about the impact of the war.

Their efforts resulted in the ‘Vietnam Veterans Memorial’ known as ‘The Wall’ in Washington DC. It’s a huge black granite wall with the names of 58,195 fallen U.S. soldiers in Vietnam War. It was completed in 1982. Vietnam Women’s Memorial statue and the Three Soldiers statue are also part of the memorial complex. With 4.5 million annual visitors, the complex is one of the most visited memorials in the United States. The organization is also raising fund to construct an education center at the memorial complex by 2015. The center would contain over 400,000 remembrances which had been left in tribute at The Wall and also visuals and narratives of the Vietnam War.

The organization is also gathering photos of the fallen U.S. soldiers in Vietnam War. These are being uploaded to an online database or virtual wall called ‘Wall of Faces’. These collected photos and stories would be featured in the planned Education Center. Besides the military photos, they are also collecting the everyday photos of the fallen soldiers. Memorial’s director of outreach, Tim Tetz said that the family photo told a different story than the one in uniform and that it was motivating for the family. The organization believed that they have photos of about 32,000 out of 58,286 soldiers of Vietnam War they are looking for. They have aimed to collect all photos by next year before the education center could be opened.

Video story: 27 minutes long documentary showing the buildup of Vietnam War, the intense battle fought by the U.S. soldiers in Vietnam War against the communist Viet Cong-Ho Chi Minh alliance.

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE