The Different Faces of War

We are at war every day, and I’m not talking about Afghanistan. As an author, I know that there are many different types of conflict—there is man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. himself.

When we think of war, we often think of World War I, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and we ignore the other battles fought daily all over the world.

For example, the tornado in Oklahoma. That was a battle against nature and it was just as devastating as combat in Afghanistan. In Oklahoma—in sixteen minutes—more than fifty died and twenty were children.

Natural disasters are battles in man’s unending war against nature. For a few examples:

  • the tropical cyclone that hit Galveston in 1900 caused 6,000 – 12,000 fatalities.
  • In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake killed 3,000 – 6,000.
  • In 2004, an Indian Ocean earthquake caused a tidal wave that killed 230,000 people.
  • In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed 1,836 people.

Then there is the war with viruses—man vs. nature—such as the flu. For example, the CDC estimates that from the 1976-77 to the 2006-07 flu season, flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people (annually).

On January 18, 2013 Bloomberg reported, the flu season, which has now been at epidemic levels for two straight weeks, may result in 36,000 deaths, said William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

Top FIVE Deadliest Diseases – this video is an entertaining way to scare yourself to death

For another example, there is the war raging on America’s roads every minute of every day. The US Census says that in 2009 alone, there were 35.9 thousand deaths from motor vehicle accidents and that was a low year. In fact, from 1990 to 2009, about 740,000 people lost their lives in vehicle accidents (about 39,000 annually).

In 2012, The Washington Post reported that “The U.S. has far more gun-related killings than any other developed country.” In fact, The U.S. gun murder rate is about 20 times the average for all other developed countries.

How many gun deaths are there in the US every year?

In 2011 alone, the figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 31,940 people died in the United States from gun injuries.

  • In 2010 that number was 31,328
  • In 2009 it was 31,177
  • In 2007 it was 31,224
  • In 2004 it was 29,569.

Breaking down deaths from firearms in 2011:

  • Accidental discharge = 851
  • Suicide = 19,766 (man vs. himself) Note: the CDC says that the total number of suicides from all methods was 38,364 for just 2011.
  • Homicide = 11,101
  • Undetermined Intent = 222

By comparison, in World War I, the United States had 53,401 combat deaths (1917-1918) or 26,700 annually.

  • In World War II there were 291,557 combat deaths (1941-1945) or 58,311 annually.
  • In the Korean War there were 33,686 combat deaths (1951 – 1953) or 11,229 annually.
  • In Vietnam there were 47,424 (1955-1975) or 2,371 annually.
  • In Afghanistan there have been 2,012 combat deaths (2001-present) or 168 annually.
  • In Iraq there were 3,542 combat deaths (2003-2011) or 443 annually.

Why do we hear so much about combat deaths and very little about highway deaths, suicide deaths, deaths by virus, natural-disaster deaths, and firearm deaths?

The fatal casualty numbers for Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq show us that the odds of dying a violent death in the United States are much higher than in a combat zone. It seems to me that we’d be safer joining the Army or the Marines and going off to fight in one of America’s wars.

Ignoring the numbers, why is death in combat considered more dramatic and devastating than someone going out to buy a quart of milk and dying in an accident on an American road or accidentally shooting himself cleaning a Smith and Wesson revolver while watching Dancing with the Stars?

Discover how a U.S. Marine Deals with his PTSD through Ballet


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

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