Special Report

12 Wars Where The Most Americans Died Outside of Combat

American soldiers face not only guns and bombs when they go into the battlefield, but also disease, harsh weather conditions, toxic fumes, and a whole slew of other dangers. In Korea, U.S. service members fought in frigid temperatures. In the Pacific Theater in World War II and in Vietnam, malaria quickly spread among the troops. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan dealt with the effects of smoke from burn pits (for disposal of military waste), a practice now pretty much disbanded.

In 18th and 19th century wars, like the Revolutionary War and Civil War, disease posed the greatest threat to soldiers outside the battlefield. Poor sanitation led to the spread of dysentery, smallpox, and other communicable diseases. Many more soldiers succumbed to disease than enemy-inflicted wounds. (Even if the soldiers with a disease or injury did not die, they were kept off the battlefield, reducing troop strength. These were the most devastating battles in recent history.)

Today, vaccines, better sanitary practices, advanced medical procedures, and the ability to swiftly remove soldiers from the battlefield have greatly reduced non-combat deaths from diseases and considerably improved the odds of surviving a combat wound. In the recent wars, non-combat wounds were often related to accidents, self-inflicted injuries, or diseases or other injuries.

To determine the wars in which the most Americans died from non-battle causes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. Such non-combat causes can include exposure, disease, infections, and more. 

The majority of the figures in this story come from the VA fact sheet, America’s Wars. The remainder, including deaths outside combat in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, are estimates from military history sites. Iraq War figures represent the combined statistics from operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, and Inherent Resolve, and the War in Afghanistan figures combine the totals from operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel. Data for the number of soldiers who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not available. (See the deadliest battles in U.S. history.)

Click here to see 12 wars where the most Americans died outside of combat.

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