• Todd Strasser

The Kill Ratio, Vietnam


I've been thinking for a while that the War in Vietnam was a huge part of our consciousness in 1969, and yet we barely talk about it here. Part of the reason, I think (and hope) is because we all want this to be a place of positive vibes and memories. Even though I didn't go to Vietnam, the war still haunts me. More than 50,000 young American men were killed, and an estimated 75,000 more were irreparably wounded physically, mentally, sometimes both. While writing my book I did a lot of research about the war and things related to it. Something that I may have once known, but that still came as a shock none the less, was the kill ratio. Incredibly, some high-ranking members of the military thought that a certain number of American soldier deaths were “acceptable.” These military strategists and generals had determined (incorrectly as it turned out) that victory over the Vietcong could be achieved by reaching a tipping point of bloodshed where the insurgency could no longer replenish its troops. For most of the war in Vietnam, that kill ratio was believed to be 10:1. In other words, our leaders decided that it was okay for soldiers to keep dying as long as ten North Vietnamese soldiers died for each American. Somehow I rather doubt that the military strategists and generals who came up with the horrible idea of the kill ratio would have volunteered themselves, or allowed anyone they knew and loved, to be among those soldiers whose lives they were so willing to sacrifice.

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