Most people tend to forget that the Vietnam War was primarily a Civil War, which the United States also happened to be involved in. This means there was a great deal of suffering on both the northern and southern sides in this war, much as it was for the US in its Civil War.
North Vietnamese not only had to deal with shortages, privations, the loss of hundreds of thousands of its citizens, family members, husbands, brothers, sons, but it also had to deal with a long term bombing campaign that obliterated cities, ports, transportation and the economy.
In the South, citizens lived under an often brutal and dictatorial government, backed by the United States. They faced cities overcrowded with refugees, and many times found themselves caught in between opposing sides in the war, often punished by both.
Civilians suffered horribly in this war.
The Vietnam War had a devastating effect on the people of Vietnam. It has been estimated that during the war more than 4 million Vietnamese were killed or wounded. The United States dropped more bombs on the Vietnamese countryside than they dropped in all of World War II, about 14 million tons of explosives. The herbicide agent orange was used extensively to defoliate the Vietnamese countryside. The health effects of this herbicide have been shown to be quite devastating. The bombing and the spraying of agent orange destroyed much of the crops grown in Vietnam, creating hunger and starvation in rural areas. The war also created a terrible refugee problem.
I would think that the Vietnamese people probably endured the most amount of pain, loss, and hardship during the Vietnam conflict. On one hand, any time a nation is challenged by domestic strife that morphs into a civil war, difficulty is immense. After achieving their freedom from the French, the country was demarcated into Communist and non- Communist halves, pitting one side against the other. Adding to this was the foreign investment into the conflict. Armed with the fears of the domino theory, the American intervention in Vietnam caused even more challenge to a difficult situation. In a scenario where American troops were discharged with the duty of finding and killing the enemy, this became difficult when the enemy was so difficult to perceive. Due to this, all Vietnamese were seen as enemies and were treated with incredible amounts of scorn, brutality, and contempt. The raids through villages, the massacre of innocents, and the horrific conditions caused by chemical warfare left the nation of Vietnam as a crater of a nation and its people its inhabitants.