Are Combat Deaths Receding?




Angolan Children Troops (Getty Images)


.I think about the fact that in a single evening, the Germans dropped 1000 tons of ordinance on Stalingrad and killed  an estimated 40,000 Russian men, women and children. In an 8 day and 8 night raid beginning on July 24th, 1943, 42,600 residents of Hamburg died when American and British bombers raided the bedroom villages in and around the town. Another 37,000 were wounded. February 13th through the 15th 1945, Allied bombers hit Dresden, a town already filled with desperate refugees fleeing other bombed out cities, many just families with wagons and children in tow. We killed 25,000 people that night.


When you consider this number against the 4500 Americans who died in Iraq over the last decade the number of coalition troops that died in Iraq, less than 500, it seems like the death rate of modern warfare has dropped significantly.


It has. However Matthew White, author of The Great Big Book Of Horrible Things, makes note of deaths that rarely get reported and almost never added up.


In a chapter of this book, he notes the people who died in proxy wars fought between essentially the Soviet Union and the United States. You might consider this the Communists versus the capitalists. Certainly it has been this, but it is also a war between indigenous people and colonial powers. That said he complied some remarkable numbers in civil wars fought on behalf of one side of the Cold War and the other.


Vietnam, 3,500,000 deaths. Korea, 3,000,000 dead. Afghanistan (1979 – 1992) 1,500,000 dead. Mozambique, 800,000 dead. Cambodia, 600,000 dead. Angola, 500,000 dead. Indonesia, 400,000 dead. Guatemala, 200,000 dead. Greece 160,000 dead. El Salvador, 75,000 dead. Laos, 62,000 dead. South Korea, 60,000 dead. The Philippines, 43,000 dead. Agrgentina, 30,000 dead. Nicaragua, 30,000 dead.


This is 11 million people dead either supporting or opposing a Communist government since the Second World War.


So are combat deaths receding?


Hardly. They are going on and not being reported.





1 thought on “Are Combat Deaths Receding?”

  1. As with most statistics, this is a finicky thing. It might not be the volume that has changed, but the pace of the deaths has changed a lot. All those death were killed over a far longer time period than the ones during the World War. So in a way there are still lots of deaths, but the intensity of most fighting and killing is a lot lower.

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