What happened during the Vietnam War that nobody talks about today?There are a number of things that come to mind …First, many people believe we withdrew from Vietnam in 1973. The treaty we signed in late January 1973 gave us until March 29 to withdraw all combat troops from Vietnam. However, this date is false both ways. First, American military and political leaders made the decision in 1968/1969 to start withdrawing from Vietnam. Following the Tet Offensive, American planners had a choice: ramp up the war again, a war that already saw close to 500,000 American troops and a request from Gen. Moreland for another 200,000 troops, in Indochina, or start winding down the war. In the face of often widespread violent protests domestically and internationally and an increasing militant anti-war movement that was spinning off homegrown terrorists, American political and military planners decided to start withdrawing from Vietnam. In July 1969 American troop strength peaked at 543,000 men. By the end of 1969, there were only 475,000 troops in Vietnam. By the end of 1972, before the peace treaty was signed, American troops were down to 24,200 men, fewer than South Koreans, who had close to 37,000 troops in Vietnam at the end of 1972. The only combat forces remaining in Vietnam in 1973 were some air cavalry battalions attached to helicopter forces. These final few troops were withdrawn March 29. However, when Master Sgt. Max Beilke stepped onto the airplane March 29, there were over 7,000 American civilian employees of the Department of Defense left in Vietnam. The last Americans in South Vietnam, a Navy SEAL unit, may not have left until May 1975, two weeks after North Vietnamese Army units conquered Saigon.Next, we were winning the war militarily when we made the decision in 1968/1969 to withdraw. The Tet Offensive was a devastating defeat for North Vietnam. The Viet Cong basically ceased to exist and was still being rebuilt in 1973. The Phoenix Program, a program designed to assassinate mid- and high-level Viet Cong and South Vietnamese Communist officials and leaders, started in July 1968, was extremely effective killing over 25,000 of these key leaders. Our efforts in the Vietnamese highlands with the Hmong, Montagnards, and other Vietnamese minorities were going well. Frequent bombing raids were carrying the price of the war into the North. We were winning, but the war was still years from being over. The question really was how many more graves was the American public willing to see dug for their husbands and sons killed in Vietnam. American political leaders had lost the American public and, with Walter Cronkite announcing at Hue the war was a stalemate, the key American heartland: states like Iowa, Kansas, Alabama, etc. - states that support the war in Vietnam. However, while the U.S. did not technically lose the Vietnam War, the South Vietnamese lost the war as we withdrew two years before the end of the war, we lost the Vietnam War in reality. We lost because our political aims failed. The Vietnam War as not an extended combat training exercise, but we fought to keep South Vietnam "free", or at least not under Communist control. If we had won, there would be a single Vietnam today, probably democratic, with the South beating the North. If the war ended in stalemate, as did the Korean War, there would be two nations today: North Vietnam and South Vietnam, just as there are two nations on the Korean peninsula. However, when North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam in April 1975 our political aims in South Vietnam failed. And, because our political aims failed, we lost the war even if we left an independent South Vietnam.Thirdly, on Sept. 26, 1945, Lt. Col. Peter Dewey, became the first American soldier killed in Vietnam (officially, the first American death in Vietnam is James Davis, who was killed in 1961). This brings up a virtually unknown piece of Vietnam War history: OSS operatives actually helped out Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh starting in 1944. Some context. In 1937, Japan invaded China. An invasion of the Guangxi Province in 1940 cut Chinese supply by the sea. However, Allies could still supply the Chinese via the French port at Haiphong and through the Kunming-Haiphong Railroad, which ran to Kunming in the Chinese province of Yunnan. In May 1940, Germany launched its blitzkrieg against France. As a result, Germany captured half of France and established the Vichy French government. Technically, Indochina remained under Vichy control, but there was significant Free French influence in Indochina. The Japanese immediately pressured their ally Germany to intervene with the Vichy French government to allow them to station troops in Indochina and cut the railway supply line to Kunming. Under pressure by the Germans, the Vichy French government allowed Japan to station troops in Indochina. This would lead to an American/British/Dutch embargo on oil, tin, and other raw materials to Japan (which, in turn, would lead to Japanese attacks throughout the Pacific on Dec. 7-8, 1941) and the formation of the Viet Minh. In 1944, as the Americans advanced through the Pacific, OSS agents landed in North Vietnam to assist Ho Chi Minh. When Ho Chi Minh was ready to declare Indochina independent from French rule, OSS agents provided, at his request, copies of the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution. After World War II ended in 1945, France demanded the U.S. and Britain hand Indochina back to their control or they would ally with the Soviet Union. The OSS argued vociferously that French should not be allowed to reoccupy Indochina and that Ho's government should be recognized. Dewey, an OSS agent, was arrested by British and French forces due to his support of the Viet Minh. The British, in temporary control of Indochina, ordered Dewey deported. He was being carried to the airport when they ran into a Viet Minh roadblock. Dewey made the mistake of shouting at the Viet Minh in French and thinking that he was as French officer, the Viet Minh shot and killed him. After learning who he was, the Viet Minh later apologized for his death. The State Department, on the other hand, argued the U.S. should recognize French control of Indochina. The State Department won. I often wonder how history would have changed if the OSS won the debate and France was not allowed to resume colonial control of Indochina.Fourthly, Americans assume the Vietnam War lasted from 1964, with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to 1973, with the withdrawal of American forces, or 1975, with the loss of Saigon. The war started for the Vietnamese in 1941 against the Japanese and French colonial forces and ended in 1975 with the conquest of Saigon. It was, for Vietnam, a 30-year war against first the Japanese and French, then the French alone, then the South Vietnamese, then the Americans, and finally against the South Vietnamese alone. And, we did not fight the Vietnam War alone. I think sometimes, when we talk about the Vietnam War, we forget the South Vietnamese also fought. We don't talk about the 250,000 to 300,000 ARVN and other South Vietnamese soldiers who died and the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians who were killed. The problem, as it is with most sub-standard militaries, was not the bravery of South Vietnamese soldiers, but the incompetence of their leaders. We don't talk about the significant contributions made by South Korea, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines, and New Zealand also sent major forces. Over 5,000 South Koreans, 500 Australians, and 350 Thai troops were killed in Vietnam. From what I understand, North Vietnamese and VC feared the Australians equally with the Americans. But who they really feared with the South Koreans, who hated the Communists. And, compared to the South Koreans, American and Australian troops were Boy Scouts. I have read stories about South Korean troops that made me wonder if the VC and NVA were Boy Scouts compared to them. And, another myth is that the North Vietnamese waged a battle alone against the mighty American military. This is not true. China supposedly lost over 1,100 soldiers during the Vietnam War. The Soviet Union supposedly flew several planes over North Korea and lost 16 of their military personnel, not many, but does show they put their people in harm's way.The final thing I will note is that many people see Vietnam as a draftees war fought disproportionately by black soldiers. Draftees were not extensively used in Vietnam until the end of the war when the rate of volunteers went down due to Vietnam. But, by then, Pres. Nixon was rapidly drawing down American forces in Vietnam. Until then, most of the American forces used in Vietnam were volunteers. Despite having a conscription army, two-thirds of all American troops serving in Vietnam were volunteers and 70-percent of American deaths were volunteers. As for as deaths, 86 percent of Americans killed in Vietnam were white and only 12.5 percent were black.