The United States is the foremost military force in the world in terms of technology and firepower, and America has the capability of projecting its might anywhere on the planet. Of course, maintaining such military preparedness comes at a price. In addition to the financial cost, there is a much graver human cost. (Here are the wars that killed the most Americans.)
To determine how many military personnel died each year since 1980, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Department of Defense Casualty Analysis System. In addition to total deaths, we broke down the causes of death of both active duty and reserve personnel each year. The six causes of death are accident, hostile action, homicide, illness, self-inflicted, and terrorist attack.
Accidents account for the highest percentage of annual deaths in most years, and up to 2000, accidents accounted for more than half of deaths. In recent years, that percentage has been declining.
In terms of hostile deaths, the deadliest year since 1980 was 2007, when 847 American military personnel were killed in hostile action. That year was within a 10-year span starting in 2003 in which at least 239 American military personnel died in hostile situations. Those years include the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America in 2001. Since 1980, there have been 14 years in which no hostile fatalities were reported.
The worst year for terrorism-related deaths was 1983, when 263 American military personnel were killed. Most of those fatalities were U.S. Marines, who died after a suicide bomber drove a truck with 2,000 pounds of explosives into a U.S. military compound near Beirut airport in Lebanon and detonated it, killing 241 service members. The Marines were there on a peacekeeping mission to Lebanon, which was riven by civil war. (Unfortunately not unfamiliar to Americans, here are the U.S. states with the most Civil War deaths.)
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