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A friend of mine quoted this statistic today and I was a little skeptical. Wikipedia tells me that about 536,000 soldiers from the U.S. went to Vietnam and about 58,000 of them died, but I'm not sure how to extract an average life expectancy from this without building a statistical model of how soldiers die and it would be easier just to find out where this number came from or whether someone else has better data.

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closed as too localized by Sklivvz Jun 9 '12 at 0:37

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Hyperbole, pure and simple. –  user3344 Jun 8 '12 at 23:04
Let's assume the numbers are all true and assume the extreme that all 58.000 deaths occurred after 0 seconds, i.e. 15min before the average. To balance this out to the average all remaining (536-58)*1000 soldiers must only stay 15+x minutes in Vietnam, where 58*15=(536-58)*x, i.e. x=1.82, which means 16.82min. That's hardly realistic, therefore I say it's wrong and one of these made up, provoking "statistics". –  Martin Scharrer Jun 8 '12 at 23:06
@MartinScharrer Shouldn't it be posted as an answer? –  Piotr Migdal Jun 8 '12 at 23:26
A few minutes of reflection should show that as stated this is pure nonsense. It is much less trivial to show that the combat life expectancy (i.e. the average time when people were actively trying to kill them) wasn't very short. Was that perhaps what your friend said. In any case "my friend said" doesn't really meet the notability requirements. Try finding a written source and you may also find a more precise statement of the claim. –  dmckee Jun 8 '12 at 23:44
I have heard that the life expectancy of a Viet Nam helicopter door gunman was 13 minutes (presumably in combat situations). (Can't cite a source, it was long ago.) Perhaps your friend heard a meaningful statistic, but forgot some of the more important details of it. –  Flimzy Jun 9 '12 at 0:58