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A US helicopter landing in the Vietnamese jungle

6 things you didn't know about the Vietnam War


The Vietnam War is one of the most memorable and devastating conflicts in recent history. For anyone interested in history, and especially the history of war, it's also a very interesting conflict to study. There are plenty of things you may already know about it, whether from educational materials or facts you've picked up from popular culture. But there are most likely also many facts about the Vietnam War that you're less familiar with.

This bloody conflict, which was never officially declared as a war in the US, is known as the American War in Vietnam. But what else can we learn about the events?

1. The US had several allies

Many people mistakenly think that the United States acted alone in the Vietnam War. In fact, they had several allies who helped them in various ways. Troops came from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Laos, and Cambodia.

The US also originally sent aid to the French when they were fighting in Vietnam in the 1940s. After the French defeated Ho Chi Minh in 1954, the US became more involved in trying to defeat communism in Vietnam. Additionally, they provided help to Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of South Vietnam, and other leaders in the region.

2. Many young Americans fled to Canada to escape the draft

A draft was enacted to ensure young men from the US would fight in the conflict. However, many were against the war and didn't want to join. This led to a lot of people choosing to flee the country and go to Canada. More than 125,000 in total fled to Canada to avoid the draft, and they were all granted amnesty by President Carter after the war. In the end, the majority of troops from the US were actually volunteers who were keen to fight off communism.

3. Vietnamese women had a strong presence in combat zones

Vietnamese women were promised greater levels of equality and higher involvement in society if they participated in the conflict. Women were present in combat zones from both North Vietnam and South Vietnam and took up a range of roles. There were women who worked for the People’s Army of Vietnam and Viet Cong intelligence services, and one of the deputy military commanders of the Viet Cong was a woman.

All-female units were also in operation throughout the war and there were female combat squads in the Cu Chi theatre too. Women also had roles in other ways, such as medical positions.

4. US troops attempted to sniff people out

Finding enemy troops didn't always prove easy for the Americans, especially when it came to flushing out Northern troops on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. One thing the US soldiers attempted to do is literally sniff them out using ‘people sniffers’.

Operation Snoopy was an attempt to use sensors to pick up on things like sweat and urine that would help to identify hiding troops. However, this often led to false positives, which prompted attacks on innocent civilians or sometimes cattle. Nevertheless, it wasn't a complete failure, although the North Vietnamese Army eventually learned how to throw off the sensors.

5. Americans played on Vietnamese customs to strike fear…

Getting into the mind of those you're fighting is often an important part of any conflict, so US troops used methods to try and play on the local customs of the Vietnamese. For example, they picked up on the belief that if someone doesn't receive a proper burial, they will haunt the living as a ghost. Americans took advantage of this fear by playing ghost noises through speakers hidden in the jungle.

6. …But they didn't always get it right

Another way US troops tried to mess with the minds of their enemy was by planting an ace of spades card on dead bodies. They thought that the card represented death in Vietnam, although they were actually misinformed. However, due to their actions, the card had come to signify death towards the end of the conflict. The symbol was also used elsewhere, such as on American helicopters and other military transport.