How Many Vietnam War-era Bombs Are Still in Vietnam?

How Many Vietnam War-era Bombs Are Still in Vietnam?

I live a few miles from the downtown of Hanoi, Vietnam; my house is only a few miles from the famous Hanoi prison where many American service members were held prisoner during the Vietnam War. Today Hanoi is a bustling city home to millions of people, yet today, they continue to find unexploded Vietnam War-era bombs throughout Hanoi.

It is estimated that at least 350,000 tonnes of bombs or about 5% of Vietnam War-era bombs remain in Vietnam. At the present clear-up rate of the explosives, it will take at least 300 years to remove the unexploded ordinances from Vietnam’s landscape.

A few days ago, the U.S. Embassy sent a notice to all Americans that an unexploded Vietnam War-era bomb had been found on a construction site not more than 1 mile from my house. This shows that even today, they are still finding unexploded Vietnam War-era bombs in the center of Hanoi.

The U.S. Dropped Millions of Bombs On Vietnam

Between 1965 and 1975, a 10 year period, the United States and its allies dropped more than 7 million tons of bombs on or near North Vietnam. Many of these bombs also ended up in the neighboring country of Laos.

The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Curtis Le May, who served under Pres Lyndon Johnson, famously said this about America and why we dropped so many bombs on Vietnam.

“My solution to the problem would be to tell the North Vietnamese Communists frankly that they’ve got to draw in their horns and stop their aggression or we’re going to bomb them into the stone age.”

General Curtis LeMay

General LeMay wrongly believed that if the U.S. Air Force basically bombed the heck out of North Vietnam then the war would be over. He believed that America should “bomb Vietnam back to the stone age.

Military air bombing campaigns like Operation Rolling Thunder was a 3-year bombing campaign from 1965 to 1968. In this 3 year period of Operation Rolling Thunder, about 643,000 tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam, and 900 U.S. Aircraft were lost. To put this into perspective, here are some facts:

  • During Operation Rolling Thunder, 214,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped each year during the 3 years period, and 300 aircraft and th pilot were killed or captured.
  • During this three-year period, 17,861 tonnes of bombs per month were dropped on North Vietnam, or 25 aircraft with their pilots were killed or captured.
  • Or you can say that 595 tonnes of bombs were dropped each day in North Vietnam for a 3 years period. With almost 1 U.S. aircraft and pilot a day getting shot down, captured, or lost.

Operation Rolling Thunder was not successful and it did not stop the war; the United States continued their massive bombing campaign.

Here are some statistics of the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam during the 10 year period of the Vietnam War (from 1965 to 1975).

What Type of Bombs Were Used On Vietnam During the War?

The U.S. used mainly three kinds of bombs during the Vietnam War. The bombs were called Dumb Bombs, Guided Bombs, and Fuel Air Explosives.

Dumb Bombs are also knowns as Unguided Bombs, free-fall bombs, gravity bombs, or iron bombs. This kind of bomb does not have any guidance system to it, so it would drop and land where it lands. The United States used about 18 different types of Dumb Bombs during the Vietnam War.

Guided bombs are also known as smart bombs or guided bomb units. This kind of bomb was a precision bomb. It is as the name implied and a bomb that was guided. The U.S. used about 20 different types of guided bombs used during the Vietnam War.

The most devastating explosives used during the Vietnam War were chemical weapons or the napalm, also known as Agent Orange. There have been many questions about the lingering effects of both the Vietnamese on the ground and U.S. Soldiers who handled these substances. But there is no doubt that napalm was one of the most devastating substances used in Vietnam.

How Many Bombs Are Still In Vietnam?

It is estimated there are still 350,000 tonnes of bombs in Vietnam. Many of these bombs were dropped on the Vietnamese- Laotian border.

About 5% of all tons of bombs dropped on Vietnam during the Vietnam War remain somewhere in Vietnam. That is a huge amount of bombs, especially when you consider that it has now been about 46 years since the war with Vietnam ended, and the U.S. bombing of Vietnam stopped.

There are still unexploded bombs here in Hanoi. The unexploded bomb that I learned about last week was 1 mile from my house and 1 mile from downtown Hanoi. The unexploded bomb was in the ground and was only found as construction started on the site. This is not the first unexploded bomb found in Hanoi, and I suspect with 350,000 unaccounted bombs still left in Vietnam, there will be many more.

Conclusion

I am not necessarily antiwar, but I can see the lingering effects a war can have on a nation. Today Vietnam is a bustling, vibrant place to live and work; Vietnam does have 350,000 unexploded bombs somewhere on its soil. Even though the Vietnam war has long ended, the unexploded Vietnam War-era bombs’ will continue to linger as a problem for hundreds of years.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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How Many Vietnam War-era Bombs Are Still in  Vietnam?