Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Did the U.S. win major battles in losing Vietnam?

As fellow soldiers aid wounded buddies, a paratropper of A Company, 101st Airborne, guides a medical evacuation helicopter through the jungle foliage to pick up casualties during a five-day patrol of Hue, South Vietnam, in April, 1968.
As fellow soldiers aid wounded buddies, a paratropper of A Company, 101st Airborne, guides a medical evacuation helicopter through the jungle foliage to pick up casualties during a five-day patrol of Hue, South Vietnam, in April, 1968.

During a speech before the 93rd annual conference of the American Legion on Aug. 30, 2011, President Barack Obama praised the Vietnam War veterans in the audience for their service and achievements.

"You, our Vietnam veterans, did not always receive the respect that you deserved — which was a national shame," Obama said. "But let it be remembered that you won every major battle of that war. Every single one."

When we noticed Obama’s claim, we were skeptical. Was it really true that the United States, even as it lost the Vietnam War, actually won every major military battle?

We checked with a variety of historians specializing in the period, and 10 of them responded to our inquiries, raising questions about what constitutes "winning" and what constitutes a major battle. 

We found the statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. Although the U.S. may have won most of the major battles, it's important to note that there is wide agreement that the U.S. lost the war. We ruled it was Half True.