Body Count & War Casualties

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Body Count and War Casualties

People in rear areas like to count things as their effort to whatever cause is at issue. It usually comes at a cost to the people who are doing the actual work, bt that does not seem to matter. I recall a government requested report being sent through all channels down to the "lowest supervisory level" asking every supervisor to categorize each of his or her subordinates to fit a table of ethnic backgrounds. A stipulation was made that you couldn't ask the subordinate which category would be preferred, you had to use your biased judgement based on surname, skin tone, or whatever to make that call. I'm sure this was some kind of congressional mandate. Very useless and time consuming if you cared at all.

Body count was a mandate like that. Later the HES (Hamlet Evaluation System) got attention. These things gave higher-higher something to do in the war effort, but it was perceived differently by the reporters i.e., the grunts). For every overestimated count or evaluation, there was an underestimated one. The interesting thing is that the North Vietnamese acknowledged that 924,048 of their soldiers were killed in the war, which probably is a greater number than all the annual body count totals offered by MACV.

We will explore that here and we will also try to examine individual battles that the Burns/Novick production uses to raise the issue of "false" body counts and compare the reported numbers to those reported by the North Vietnamese in their own histories.

As a starting point we use these numbers:

Casualties (from World Almanac of the Vietnam War.)

US 47,253 combat plus 10,449 non-hostile.

SVN 185,528

NVN 924,048

VN Civilians 415,000 (SVN only?)

South Korea 4407, ANZAC 475, Thai 350 North Korea

Year to year

Post-war

NVN reports?

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