I’m not sure why this has become such an issue here but I think I have been able to deduce what has happened. I had decided that I would address this in a comment rather than a new post so not to annoy those of you who couldn’t care less and to avoid another long and drawn out but rather pointless fight over the statistics but there is too much information here. So it becomes a regular post.
|The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D. C. Photo copyright by Kevin Randle.|
First, a note about sources. Although it was said that no reputable site had posted the extreme figures on phonies claiming service in Vietnam (in-country in the parlance of those of us who were there), I found a number of them. These are a few:
These figures could also be found at:
They wrote, “During that same Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country was: 9,492,958,” and “During this Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country is: 13,853,027. By this census, FOUR OUT OF FIVE WHO CLAIM TO BE Vietnam vets are not.” (Yes, this is somewhat confusing and contradictory, but I think they were referring first to the 1995 census and then to the 2000 census but did not explain this problem. They said, “All credit and research to: Capt. Marshal Hanson, USNR (Ret.) and Capt. Scott Beaton, Statistical Source.” This doesn’t tell us the source of the data, only who had supposedly collected it or found it which, I think, adds some legitimacy to the figures and does suggest a connection to a census though the connection is not identified.
The wording about the four out of five who claim to be Vietnam vets but are not is the same that has been used at many of the sites that I visited. But the Veterans Today site also wrote, in big letters, “ALL STATISTICS HAVE NOT BEEN VERIFIED OR FACT CHECKED. They are NOT to be used for official government findings and reports. The authors of the above article are lobbyists for the Reserve Officers Association. There is an active controversy involving statistics used. Other reputable resources offer statistics that differ significantly from those given. Statistics above have been used to support underfunding of VA services or to support denial of veterans programs in areas of homelessness, suicide prevention and others.” (I will note that this is also a politically driven statement. That same web site published an article, “Who Are the Real Viet Vets,” which claimed that 90% never saw combat and most were anti-war. This is the giveaway as to their agenda because, as a Vietnam Vet I know that most of what was claimed in that article is false but there was no warning about the facts being unverified. Their overall agenda makes their warning suspicious and shows that much of what they print is politically driven.)
It seems, however, that the information is not drawn from the 1990 census and might be related to one that was conducted in 1995 which is not to say that the statistics about the fake Vietnam veterans is in that census either. This is described as “The , published from 1878 to 2012, is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.
“It is designed to serve as a convenient volume for statistical reference, and as a guide to other statistical publications and sources both in print and on the Web.
“These sources of data include the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and many other Federal agencies and private organizations.”
I think the wording is where everything slides off the rails. Some of the statistics being used seem to have been gleaned from this 1995 census and it seems that everyone is in agreement that there were only “1,713,823 of those who served in Vietnam were still alive as of August, 1995 (census figures).”
Although this seems to be correct, I can’t find anything in the census figures to support it. I wondered if some of this didn’t come from the Department of Defense, but haven’t verified it there either. I can’t find “good” numbers on much of this other than there were 2.7 million service members who were actually in Vietnam and that about 8.5 million served during the Vietnam era. The census figures do confirm the 8.5 million number.
Here’s what I do know. There have been hundreds of fakers exposed in the press in the last few years. There are many sites devoted to Stolen Valor which had exposed thousands of other fakers. They range from the one time publisher of a Phoenix newspaper to an Illinois judge who claimed he had been awarded the Medal of Honor though he was not saying it was for service in Vietnam. Don Shipley at his SEALs website has said that for every real SEAL he identifies, there are a thousand who were not SEALs.
|Randle (in Greens) and Senator Tom|
Harkin in suit. Photo copyright by Randle
Retired U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa was caught up in this. He had claimed he flew combat air patrols over Vietnam but all he had done was fly repaired or new aircraft into Vietnam. (I wondered about this because it made no sense to me… but then remembered that if you set foot in a combat zone even for an hour or two, then you didn’t have to pay federal income tax for the month… so, ferrying aircraft into Vietnam had a financial incentive.) He also had claimed recon flights over Cuba but that wasn’t true either. He eventually amended his senate bio to reflect his service in the Vietnam era… and before anyone says much about my motives for writing this, I will note that Senator Harkin presented me with the Bronze Star Medal for actions during my tour in Iraq and I have the pictures to prove it.
I have been able to find reliable statistics on the number of men and women who served in-country, on those who served in areas surrounding Vietnam such as Thailand, Guam and in the deep water Navy, and some statistics on those claiming Vietnam service and have been exposed as frauds. What I haven’t found in the census documents is a number for those falsely claiming Vietnam service. I have found references that suggest the number came from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) magazine and from the Reserve Officers Association magazine which I would think of as reliable sources except I do not have copies of either magazine so that I have nothing on their sources.
Here’s what I think happened. The figures for those who served in the Vietnam era were recorded by the census in 1990 and 2000. The census count in 1995 apparently identified about 1.7 million Vietnam Veterans still alive at the time of the count, though I have not found any record of this in the census figures I looked at. I did not look at those sites that required registration, a fee or an email address so they might have been there and I therefore did not find the whole record for the breakdown of the numbers.
Someone might have found, in those census figures somewhere, a report that suggested 12 to 14 million had claimed to be Vietnam Veterans and subtracted the true number from it to arrive at the 9.4 million. The trouble is I don’t know where that 12 to 14 million number originated, how it was collected, or if it was part of some study that ran parallel to the census. I don’t even know if it is bogus or authentic though I suspect the number is close to accurate. I did find a claim that in the 2000 census the number had jumped to 14 million, but again, this does not seem to be accurate and my review of the census doesn’t bear this out.
Without copies of the VFW magazine or the ROA magazine so that we can see if they provide a source, I don’t know where to take this. I know that there are many claiming Vietnam service who were not there and that there are many claiming awards and decorations they did not earn. But tracking this back to the US Census is not something that I was able to do. David Rudiak was right about that. The only number coming out of the census was 8.5 million Vietnam era veterans of which according to other sources, about 2.7 actually served in Vietnam.