With the introduction of gun powder, combat casualties increased dramatically, but medical treatment in the battlefield also improved. Field hospitals were introduced by Napoleon. During the Civil War and later in World War I and World War II, trained military medics joined combat units to treat casualties in the field as troops were wounded.
By comparing deaths and the number wounded starting with World War I, we gain a better understanding of how those advances in battlefield medical care improved the odds of survival.
- World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918—one year and eight months): 53,402 deaths and 204,002 wounded in action—an average of 32,170 combat deaths annually.
- World War II (Dec. 1941 to Aug. 14, 1945—three years and about nine months): 407,300 deaths and 670,846 wounded in action—an average of 108,613 combat deaths annually.
The introduction of the helicopter in Korea and then Vietnam to quickly medevac wounded troops to field hospitals saved many lives.
- Korea (1950 – 1953—three years): 54,246 deaths and 92,134 wounded in combat—an average of 18,082 combat deaths annually.
- Vietnam (1956 – 1975—nineteen years): 58,193 deaths and 153,303 wounded in combat—an average of 3,063 combat deaths annually.
- Desert Storm (1990 – 1991—seven months): 378 deaths and 1,000 wounded in combat—an average of 54 combat deaths a month.
- Iraq (March 2003 – December 2011—about eight years): 4,403 deaths and 31,827 wounded in combat—an average of 550 combat deaths annually.
- Afghanistan (October 7, 2001 to present—about eleven years) 2,094 and 18,584 wounded in action—an average of 190 combat deaths annually while back home in the United States more than 30,000 die in vehicle accidents on the roads and highways every year. Sources: Timeline of U.S. Wars and Conflicts and Defense.gov
Today, there are more casualties from suicide than combat. In 2012, the number of active-duty casualties from suicide actually outnumbered the combat deaths in all of Afghanistan, 349 -295. But it’s even worse than that if you look at the number of suicides by America’s veterans. As of February 4th, TWENTY-TWO veterans kill themselves EVERY DAY. That’s one EVERY 65 MINUTES. Source: Innocence-Clinic.law
Now the challenge is to discover how to treat the invisible wounds and trauma of the mind.
Return to or start with Combat casualties and battle-field medicine through the ages: Part 1
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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