Yesterday it was announced that 4000 American Soldiers had been killed, in total, in Iraq. I am not sure if this counts contract soldiers (such as Blackwater; Added: See notes below. It does not.), and I do not know if it includes American deaths since the very beginning of Iraq involvement or since the current invasion (though I think the latter). It does not matter too much, as the number 4000 is a fairly arbitrary thing … if we used a numbering system other than base-10, some other number would feel like a milestone. But this does give us an order of magnitude of the sense of the size of the conflict.
This number also means less in isolation than it would in the broader context of “casualties” estimates. We Americans have all had the experience of seeing an increasingly large number of (mostly) men on the street, in restaurants, wherever, in wheelchairs missing lower limbs, or otherwise maimed, and we have to assume that this is part of the conflict as well.
It happens that over the last few days I’ve also been reading about other wars and conflicts, and I have been thinking about these numbers in a broader conflict. I have nothing wise or though provoking to say to you about this at this time, but I do think a look at numbers can be interesting. One could say that numbers mean nothing, and that it is the individual losses … to families and loved ones that matter. But the numbers to mean something, in fact, they mean a lot of things. So I’ve put some numbers together in one place for you to look at, be horrified by, to think about.
The pattern here is Conflict (duration):
American Military Dead; Total Military Dead; Total Military Casualties (dead and wounded); Total Civilian Dead.
World War I (July 1914-November 1918; 42 months):
126,000; 8,500,000; 37,000,000; 8,800,000
World War II (mid-1937 – August, 1945; 98 months)
416,800; 25,160,000; No sensible estimate; 47,000,000
Korean War (June 1950 – July 1953; 37 months)
36,516; 490,000; 1,500,000; unknown
Viet Nam War (1959-1975; ca 190 months)
60,000; 1,415,000; 2,000,000; 2,750,000
Iraq (March 2003-Present; 73 months)
5,016; 51,000; unknown; unknown (about 1,000,000)
World War I:
57% of all mobilized military suffered casualty. Estimates vary. These numbers are rounded off.
World War II:
The beginning is set at the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The number of civilian dead is probably an underestimate as it is not clear if it includes Chinese and if it does, that estimate ranges wildly. Perhaps add five or ten million to this number.
In putting together the stats, I discovered that just over 1,000 American contractors have also died in the war, so I added that to the US military death count.
Sources: Mainly wikipedia.