JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
This stark issue of LIFE magazine listed the names, photographs and ages of 242 American soldiers killed in Vietnam in one week in June, 1969. There were no statistics; this was a picture story of tragedy, an out-of-the-ordinary event for the popular image magaine. I did go through the numbers to get a sense of the ages of those very young-looking faces: of the 242 killed, 23% were teenagers; 73% were 21 and under, and 81% were 22 and under. As our 9 year old said when she asked me and then got her answer about what I was working with on the calculator, "that's very young to be dead".
I went through the issue and tabulated all of the ages of the dead young men. The average age of the soldiers killed during this week was 21.06.
Age 18: 17 killed. Age 19: 40 Age 20: 79 Age 21: 41. Age 22: 20. Age 23: 11. Age 24: 7. Age 25: 8. Age 26: 6. Age 27: 2. After that, from age 28 onwards, there is one dead per each age (28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 36, 37, 40, 45). These 242 deaths were .004% of all American soldiers killed during the war.
I was 13 in 1969 and wanted the war to end in a hurry.
There was no telling the average age of Vietnamese soldiers North or South, just that there were more of them dead than American soldiers. At one point in time this was the way in which the winning side in Vietnam could be judged by political types in the U.S.--the smaller piles of dead bodies indicated the winning side. 58,800 American soldiers were killed there. According to American sources, between 1 and 2 million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed, North and South; Vietnamese sources say that the figure is closer to 3 million (for a country with a total population of about 38 million, or about 10%).
By August 1969, the Gallup Poll showed that 68% of Americans thought it was a mistake for the U.S. to be fighting in Vietnam (source here, though some other polls show the figure at 58%). In the year 2000, about 70% thought it was a mistake to send in the troops. I don't know about that other 30%.