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A Story of Four Countries

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Posted by Jack Heslin on 17:44:44 08/03/17

In the early to mid 1950's four countries existed: North Korea, South Korea, North Vietnam and South Vietnam. We now know the story of all four countries and the history of the wars fought. We know America spent lives and treasure trying to defeat Communist assaults on free countries.

In one case, the Korean War, America succeeded and after losing 36,574 soldiers, spending more than $67 billion and leaving 7,747 American Soldiers still unaccounted for. The truce talks lasted 2 years and 17 days. There is still no peace treaty agreement in place just a cease fire. Technically, the Korean War has never ended. There was only one narrative at the time: defeat the Communists, first the North Koreans and then the Chinese in Korea.

On June 25th 1950 135,000 soldiers from the communist North Korean People's Army (NKPA) crossed the 38th parallel and invaded the Republic of Korea (ROK).

On July 27th 1953 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (north), Chinese People's Volunteers and the UN signed an armistice agreement. The Republic of Korea refused to sign it. However, hostilities ceased within 12 hours. Terms of the armistice included creation of the demilitarized zone, the DMZ. Each side is 2,200 yards from a center point. The DMZ is patrolled by both sides at all times.

Today, there are 28,500 American Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in South Korea.

In the war, the South Koreans lost 217,000 military and 1,000,000 civilians. The North Koreans lost 406,000 military and 600,000 civilians. The Chinese lost 600,000 military.

In the approximately ten year period of the Vietnam War, America tried to preserve the independence of the Republic of South Vietnam from an assault by the Communist forces of North Vietnam.

In the Vietnam War there were two narratives. One was America was trying to hold back the advance of Communism in South East Asia and to help South Vietnam in a noble effort to preserve their independence in the face of the Communist efforts to defeat them and unite the two Vietnams as one country under Communist rule. That narrative is not unlike the Korea narrative.

The second narrative is that we were wrong to interfere in a civil war and that we wasted thousands of lives and large amounts of money in an unjust war. These two competing narratives remain as the quintessential divide in our country today.

America suffered the loss of 58,318 dead and 303,644 wounded. South Vietnam suffered 200,000 - 300,000 military dead with 1,170,000 wounded in the course of the war. It is estimated that there were 200,000 - 400,000 civilian casualties. It is estimated that the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong suffered 1,100,000 military dead or missing and 600,000 wounded. The civilian losses were 65,000 dead.

The total cost of the Vietnam War for America is impossible to determine. The Defense Department reported that the U.S. military share of the Southeast Asian conflict would total $138.0 billion for the period 1965 - 1975.

The question is, was it worth it. In the end, America s efforts and investment of lives and treasure in South Vietnam were all lost with regards to keeping South Vietnam a free and independent country. There are some indications that the investment may have paid off in the larger picture by holding back an aggressive communist expansion in South East Asia.

When comparing the final outcome for South Korea holding back the expansion of the Communist North Korea and the defeat of South Vietnam by the Communist North Vietnam we can look at the relative economic status of the two nations today, a free and independent South Korea versus a Communist controlled Vietnam.

Comparison of South Korea and Vietnam (Wikipedia)
 South KoreaVietnam
Area38,600 Square miles128,500 Square miles
GDP (Nominal)$1,498 trillion 11th$215,829 billion 47th
Per Capita Income$29,114 27th$2,305 129th

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