The Vietnam War began as a civil conflict that pitted the North Vietnamese Communist government and the South Vietnamese Communist rebels known as the Viet Cong against the non-Communist South Vietnamese government. The plan was to overthrow the South Vietnamese government and unite Vietnam as a communist state.
The United States first became involved in military combat against the North Vietnamese in 1965, although military advisers from the United States were sent there beginning in 1950. As part of a larger strategy to contain communism, the U.S. objective in Vietnam was to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. The objectives of the U.S. were never achieved, and the American public was disillusioned with what became the longest war in American history, as of 2014.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 8.7 million U.S. troops served worldwide during the Vietnam conflict, with 3,403,000 serving in Southeast Asia and 2,594,000 serving in South Vietnam. The U.S. lost 47,434 men in battle and 10,786 in non-battle situations for a total loss of 58,220 personnel in the conflict. All told, the total military deaths for all countries involved in the Vietnam War totaled 1.3 million, with an additional 1 million civilian deaths. In addition, there are 1,642 U.S. military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action as of 2014. Direct U.S. military involvement in the war ended in August of 1973 with the passage of the Case-Church Amendment.