Did US Soldiers that Died in Vietnam "Die in Vain?"

This question came up last night in the US Democratic Presidential debate…

What do you think?

The video here.

I dont think so, they hold the comunist forces, not for many time but I dont think it could be called “in vain” , is very disrispectful with the heroes of that war.

The big issue would be to define the deaths of the todays conflict.

My belief is that the US could never have won in Vietnam, and it was folly to have become involved. However, the poltics of the time dictated the course and pace of events.

Strategically, one could argue that US troops died in vain (as did the Vietnamese of both sides), but the same could be said of troops fighting in many a lost cause. Tactically, many US soldiers gave their lives to support their comrades, and, in my opinion, they can only be judged by those that served with them.

I agree here. This is a tough question. Personally I dont think they died in vain…more like a really bad misunderstanding that got alot of people killed. The people from both sides died in an important part of history. You have to remember is was not the job of the soldiers to question the validity of the conflict. They were sent there to fight. Even if they didnt believe in the cause they were at least fighting to save their friends.

First we need to define what we mean by ‘in vain’

Some idiot candidate on the video, trying to be all things to all men and thus to himself was not true (the natural state of all politicians), said that they didn’t die in vain because they followed the orders of their Commander in Chief (blah blah blah try to keep Middle America on side without upsetting anyone a bit further left blah blah blah because I want everyone to vote for me because in the end, like all politicians, I stand for nothing but me).

Following the commander in chief’s orders wasn’t a great defence at Nuremberg. All the Germans who did so, like the Japanese, died in vain. On my definition.

adj. vain·er, vain·est

  1. Not yielding the desired outcome; fruitless: a vain attempt.


in vain

  1. To no avail; without success: Our labor was in vain.


The American deaths in Vietnam were, on that definition, in vain.

Doesn’t matter what view you take, the least the American involvement in Vietnam was ever intended to do was ensure the survival of an anti-communist SVN government for various reasons.

It didn’t.

Every one of the poor bastards who died and was wounded, on both sides and from various countries, was some mother’s son.

The only side whose casualties, on the definition I’ve put up, weren’t in vain were on the side opposed to the Americans.

They didn’t die in vain from the point of view that they were fighting, and succeeded in, their cause. However, having already demonstrated their ability to win, against the French, it was an unnecessary waste of lives which they had no option but to offer in order to further succeed against the US.

If anything was vain and futile, it was the anti-communist cause.

Would you say all those in that died in the cold war died in vain? The losing side in this case being the soviets. All those soviets died in vain? I dont think so and im sure the people that served with them didnt think so either. In both cases they died doing their duty.

My comments were focussed entirely on French Indo-China/Vietnam. Could you please elaborate?

Actually that was directed at RS…didnt see that you responded 1st.

I think that’s the same point that I derided when made by the candidate in the video.

If dying while doing one’s duty means that one’s life is not lost in vain, then it’s about time that the Japanese stopped moaning about being nuked. It was their duty, military and civilians, to die for the Emperor. The people who were vaporised and who died of wounds and radiation sickness should be bloody proud that they didn’t die in vain, as should their current descendants, to bring to an end to a war they lost.

I may be out of step with you and others, because at heart I’m a pacifist.

I can’t think of any war that made it worth the death of anyone in the long run.

Sure, we can argue that WWII was the good war to fight against Nazism and fascism and the brutal Japanese etc, and I’m not saying it wasn’t at the time, but what was the result?

All sorts of corrupt geo-political and international trade shit that desecrates the memory of even one soldier who died in that war.

By 1960 Japan, run by a war criminal Prime Minister conveniently let off by the Allies, was exporting transistor radios and stereos and cars and a range of other goods to America which was secretly funding the war criminal’s election campaigns to prevent communists gaining control in Japan in democratic elections forced upon Japan by Macarthur / America / Allies after the war.

Was that worth John Doe from Wisconsin or Dakota or wherever dying for, so that his fatherless son could have a cheap Japanese transistor?

By 1960 the Germans were exporting Volkswagens around the world. They were the vehicle of choice for the anti-war, anti-Vietnam crew in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Meanwhile there were Jews, a few of whom I knew at the time, who would never have anything made in Germany. Many, perhaps most, well-off Jews here now drive Mercedes, BMW and Audis. It means they’ve arrived. Their parents and grandparents must be spinning in their graves.

As for Vietnam, what is it now?

A cheap holiday destination with interesting trips for the brave through the tunnels that housed soldiers who shot and mined and knifed the Americans who didn’t die in vain?

A country like China trying to combine the astonishing wealth of 19th century laissez faire capitalism with preservation of the ruling communist elite?

I would never deride the actions of individual soldiers, but one has to go beyond that to look at whether their actions were in a worthwhile cause.

So far as the individual soldiers, American or otherwise, in Vietnam were concerned, I don’t think their actions were in a worthwhile cause, primarily because SVN wasn’t worth the trouble to anyone except the corrupt crew who ran it and steadily destroyed it for years while sucking in external support to bolster their corrupt and doomed regime.

Cut through all the crap and Vietnam was just WWII China all over again with a different set of crooks to Chiang and his motley crew, as is Iraq now.

Same shit, different arseholes.

None of it worth one American, or any other external, soldier dying for.

Not a lot of soldier deaths in the cold war and, leaving aside some accidents like Gary Powers, very few related to uniformed or acknowledged national enterprises.

Granada was probably hotter, although not as hot as Clint Eastwood tried to make it in the embarrassing “Heartbreak Ridge”, which, although it seems impossible, was even more embarrassing that John Wayne pretenting to be a soldier on celluloid. :smiley:

This is where it gets awkward.

After flogging the French, were they aggressors or defenders?

This gets into the whole border and election things that drift into SVN, not to mention Buddhist / Catholic and various other issues, including American support (or interference, depending upon one’s view) for internal groups.

Sort of Ulster on the Mekong, but without the Apprentice Boys March.

It does, but to the Vietnamese, it’s all a part of the same campaign.

After the defeat of the French, it could be foreseen that conventional forces and tactics would not succeed against them.

The short answer is NO they didnt, their cause may have been in vain, but I dont think they thought they were giving their lives for a vain cause. Not in the beginning anyway.

It would take much too long and too much detail to cover the ins and outs of this conflict in anything other than the volumes of books that have been written about it.

The perception was that the Vietnamese were fighting a communist war, to spread the good word. In effect they were fighting an anti-colonialist war. The US ought to have empathised with them, but were tied up in the doctrine of the domino.

We can all apreciate that the majority of the US troops were doing their duty, and one can argue, therefore, that they did not die in vain.

As far as the mission is concerned, and whether that was in any way successful, and not a forlorn hope, one could ask: what would have happened if the US had not become involved after the departure of the French?

For example: the politics of China were somewhat different in 1954 as compared with 1974.

I think if someone is going to make the assertion that people died in vain that this must imply that those that didnt die fought in vain. I only know a couple of Vietnam vets and I know they dont think that. On the otherhand…let say the US and her allies won. Do you think the Vietnamese would say all their ppl died in vain. I dont think so. They died a rather honorable death in their eyes.

When it comes to perspective, the Vietnam War is like looking through a kaleidoscope.

'In the midnineties Vo Nguyen Giap participated in discussions held in Hanoi between an American delegation led by wartime U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara and a group of Vietnamese historians, retired generals, and former diplomats. McNamara hoped to examine wartime “misunderstandings” between the two countries and identify possible “missed oportunites” for negotiating an earlier end to the war. An initial exchange between McNamara and Giap revealed a fundamental difference in their historical views of the war:

MacNamara: "We need to draw lessons which will allow us to avoid such tragedies in the future."

Giap: " Lessons are important. I agree. However, you are wrong to call the war a ‘tragedy’. Maybe it was a tragedy for you, but for us the war was a noble sacrifice. We did not want to fight the United States, but you gave is no choice."

I don’t think they died in vain, however the Vietnam war was a disaster.
They lost the war and many Americans died that’s the only thing that counts.

I was watching ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. I found the scene were he is among truckloads of GI’s who are going to the war, particularly moving.