In U.S. political debate, the advantage of escalation to those who wanted to be engaged in the war was that
no individual instance of escalation dramatically increased the level of U.S. involvement. The U.S. populace was led to believe
that the most recent escalation would be sufficient to "win the war" and therefore would be the last. This theory, combined
with ready availability of conscripted troops, reduced grassroots political opposition to the war until 1968, when the Johnson
Administration proposed increasing the troop levels from approximately 550,000 in-country to about 700,000. This was the "straw"
that broke the back of U.S. support for the war. The troop increase was abandoned and by the end of 1969, under the new administration
of Richard M. Nixon, U.S. troop levels had been reduced by 60,000 from their wartime peak.
Estimating the number killed in the conflict is extremely difficult. Official records from North Vietnam
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.
Of the Americans, 58,226 were killed in action or classified as missing in action. A further 153,303 Americans
were wounded to give total casualties of 211,529. The United States Army took the majority of the casualties with 38,179
killed and 96,802 wounded; the Marine Corps lost 14,836 killed and 51,392 wounded; the Navy 2,556 and 4,178; with the Air
Force suffering the lowest casualties both in numbers and percentage terms with 2,580 killed and 931 wounded.
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. The Vietnamese list over 200,000 of
their own soldiers missing in action, and bodies of MIA soldiers from World War I and II continue to be unearthed in Europe.