Casualties Total dead: 1,250,000 (South Vietnam), 58,226 (US) Wounded: 153,303 (US) Total dead: Official Vietnamese estimate: 1,100,000 Wounded: 600,000 Civilian Casualties: c. 2-4 million Vietnam War Casualties Estimating the number killed in the conflict is extremely difficult. Official records are hard to find or nonexistent and many of those killed were literally blasted to pieces by bombing. For many years the North Vietnamese suppressed the true number of their casualties for propaganda purposes. It is also difficult to say exactly what counts as a Vietnam war casualty; people are still being killed today by unexploded ordinance, particularly cluster bomblets. Environmental effects from chemical agents and the colossal social problems caused by a devastated country with so many dead surely caused many more lives to be shortened. In addition, the Khmer Rouge would probably not have come into power and committed their slaughters without the destabilization of the war, particularly of the American bombing campaigns to clear out the sanctuaries in Cambodia. The lowest casualty estimates, based on the now-renounced North Vietnamese statements, are around 1.5 million Vietnamese killed. Vietnam released figures on April 3, 1995 that a total of one million Vietnamese combatants and four million civilians were killed in the war. The accuracy of these figures has generally not been challenged. 58,226 American soldiers also died in the war or are missing in action. Australia lost almost 500 of the 47,000 troops they had deployed to Vietnam and New Zealand lost 38 soldiers. In the aftermath of the war many Americans came to believe that some of the 2,300 American soldiers listed as Missing in Action had in fact been taken prisoner by the DRV and held indefinitely. Missing in Action is a term applied to missing soldiers whose status cannot be determined through eyewitness accounts of their death, or a body. While little credible evidence has been shown for this, images of tortured, emaciated prisoners of war (notably in the sequel to Rambo) continue to evoke anger among many Americans. The Vietnamese list over 200,000 of their own soldiers Missing in Action, and MIA soldiers from World War I and II continue to be unearthed in Europe. Both during and after the war, significant human rights violations occurred. Both North and South Vietnamese had large numbers of political prisoners, many of whom were killed or tortured. In 1970, two American congressmen visiting South Vietnam discovered the existence of tiger cages, which were small prison cells used for torturing South Vietnamese political prisoners. After the war, actions taken by the victors in Vietnam, including firing squads, torture, concentration camps and re-education, led to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. Many of these refugees fled by boat and thus gave rise to the phrase boat people. They emigrated to Hong Kong, France, the United States, Canada, and other countries. Many effects of the animosity and ill will generated during the Vietnam War are still felt today among those who lived through this turbulent time in American and Indochinese history. American involvement in the war was a gradual process, as its military involvement increased over the years under successive U.S. presidents, both Democrat and Republican (including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon), despite warnings by the American military leadership against a major ground war in Asia. There was never a formal declaration of war but there were a series of presidential decisions that increased the number of military advisers to the region. One of the first occurred on July 27, 1964 when 5,000 additional American military advisers were ordered sent to South Vietnam which brought the total number of US forces in Vietnam to 21,000. Then on August 4, 1964 American destroyers USS Maddox and USS C. Turner Joy were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. Air support from the carrier USS Ticonderoga sinks two, possibly three North Vietnamese gunboats. The event was labeled the Gulf of Tonkin incident by reporters and the next day Operation Pierce Arrow was launched in retaliation; aircraft from the USS Ticonderoga and USS Constellation bombed North Vietnam.