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Counting Fallen Heroes: Military Deaths by Administration

Last week I had a chance to see Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen give a lecture as part of the George Shultz lecture series and I have to say, I was impressed with his calm pragmatism in the face of the shifting military challenges from Iraq to Afghanistan and especially along the country's border with Pakistan.

The other thing that caught my attention, was the grasp he had on the cold, hard figures of the truth of military service, numbers they're struggling with. For instance, 150,000 veterans are currently homeless, a number of which Adm. Mullen says, "One is too many." The other number I feel utterly compelled to pay respect to: the number of servicemen and women killed while serving.

All of these figures are available in the CRS Report for Congress (PDF), American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics. The report covers every war from the War of 1812 through Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the more recent conflicts, starting with the Korean War, more demographic details are included too. To see the sobering, yet surprising breakdown of casualties by year,


The following are tough numbers, to be sure, but scroll to the bottom — I was very interested to see that during the Clinton administration (1993-2000) there were 7,500 deaths, and through George W. Bush administration (2001-2006) there have been 9,888 deaths. Given our current global military involvement, and how we receive information on the war, do these totals surprise you?

1980: 2,392 (Carter)
1981: 2,380 (Reagan)
1982: 2,319 (Reagan)
1983: 2,465 (Reagan)
1984: 1,999 (Reagan)
1985: 2,252 (Reagan)
1986: 1,981 (Reagan)
1987: 1,983 (Reagan)
1988: 1,819 (Reagan)
1989: 1,636 (George HW)
1990: 1,508 (George HW)
1991: 1,787 (George HW)
1992: 1,293 (George HW)
1993: 1,213 (Clinton)
1994: 1,075 (Clinton)
1995: 1,040 (Clinton)
1996: 974 (Clinton)
1997: 817 (Clinton)
1998: 827 (Clinton)
1999: 796 (Clinton)
2000: 758 (Clinton)
2001: 891 (George W)
2002: 999 (George W)
2003: 1,410 (George W)
2004: 1,873 (George W)
2005: 1,941 (George W)
2006: 1,875 (George W)
2007: 899 (George W)


Join The Conversation
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that sometimes we need to see a list like this to put things into perspective, but also we may need to consider the times and where our troops were. i think that people are considering the clinton numbers to be high, but we have to think about what was going on etc. it still baffles me that the numbers continue to be so high though - i hope that we can see a change in the way that things are going now since our troops need to be cared for and protected in the same way that they are trying to protect us.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
Sorry that's so difficult to read. Too many numbers jammed into that little box! In short, total deaths are up for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. However, many of them are due to accident, illness, or are "self inflicted". For those four years, the deaths attributed to "Hostile Action" are, respectively: 343, 739, 739, and 761. As percentages of the total, that's 27.93%, 39.43%, 38.05% and 40.96%.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
From Table 5, Cause of Death: Calculated percentages are my work. I added come dates, for context. Year...Total....Accident......Illness........Self-Inflicted Clinton 1993 - Feb. 26 - First World Trade Center Bombing 1993...1,213...623...52.10%...221...18.22%...236...19.46% 1994...1,075...544...50.60%...206...19.16%...232...21.58% 1995 - Nov. 13 - Bombing at U.S. Military Headquarters, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 1995...1,040...538...51.73%...174...16.73%...250...24.04% 1996 - June 25 -Khobar Towers Bombing 1996.....974...527...54.11%...173...17.76%...188...19.30% 1997.....817...433...53.00%...170...20.81%...159...19.46% 1998 - Aug. 7 - Coordinated bombings at two American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania2000 - Oct. 12 - USS Cole bombing 2000.....758...398...52.51%...138...18.21%...151...19.92% Bush II 2001 - Sept. 11 - World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings 2001.....891...434...48.71%...187...20.99%...141...15.82% 2002 - June 14 - Bombing at U.S. Embassy in Karachi, Pakistan 2002.....999...542...54.25%...194...19.42%...162...16.22% 2003 - May 12 - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Bombing at western housing compound 2003...1,228...576...46.91%...234...19.06%...186...15.15% 2004 - May 29 - Riyadh - Saudi oil company offices attacked, foreign workers taken hostage in nearby housing complex 2004 - June 11 - Riyadh - American Paul Johnson kidnapped and executed. Two other Americans and BBC cameraman killed. 2004 - Dec. 6 - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - U.S. Consulate attacked. 2004...1,874...605...32.28%...272...14.51%...201...10.73% 2005 - Nov. 6 - Amman, Jordan - Three American hotels attacked, 57 killed. 2005...1,942...644...33.16%...289...14.88%...175....9.01% 2006 - Sept. 13 - Damascus, Syria - Attack on American Embassy foiled. 2006...1,858...530...28.53%...247...13.29%...192...10.33%
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
oooh lain interesting... I have to say, its absolutely tragic how many servicmembers come home safely from Iraq or Afghanistan only to die in drunk driving or motorcycle related accidents. But unfortunately no one can be with someone all the time.... unless you're deployed.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
Table 5 is also enlightening. It breaks down the figures by cause of death. For instance, of the total deaths in 2006 (1,858): 530 are attributed to "Accident" 247 are listed as "Illness" 192 are described as "Self Inflicted" That last one is very sad, but it is interesting to note that it's lower than the numbers for 1993 (236), 1994 (232) or 1995 (250), when the death rates were lower. ...still analyzing....
talktotisha talktotisha 8 years
Thanks for correcting those numbers. Very sobering and sad information to read.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
I'm just thinking less money = less equipment = less combat effectiveness. Just could be a reason, not saying it 100% is.
stephley stephley 8 years
Which deaths, how?
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Considering the slashing of the military that happened during the Clinton years, I would think that a lot of those deaths could have been connected to a lack of resources.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Well considering the total size of force, Clinton and GWB are the same % wise.
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 8 years
Figures are all updated and cross-checked against page 10 of the PDF. Apologies for the fuzzy math and confusion, all figures should be correct now. Thank you for your vigilance!
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 8 years
The numbers used are on page 10 of the PDF, though there was a snafu in transferring and addition. Updated numbers coming soon.
stephley stephley 8 years
These deal with numbers too, but I thought the Army Times was the best source to go with. So yeah, Citizen I was surprised. Then I checked the information myself. And I wasn't.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
whoops :oops:
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
I think one of the most radical differences is that we are actually in war time now though.
stephley stephley 8 years
"But Bush is the war mongering soldier killer? This can't be right!" Apparently, it's not. But some simple math using the figures listed on page 7 of the CRS report reveals that the figures for several of the years under Clinton are inflated, while figures for some of the years under Bush are downplayed. In reality, according to the CRS report, 7,500 service members died on active duty in the eight years from 1993 through 2000, compared to 8,792 in the six years from 2001 through 2006. The Pentagon has not yet released data on total active-duty deaths for 2007, but 1,014 service members died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that year, and more than 100 have died in the wars so far in 2008, pushing the known total under Bush to more than 9,900. The report does not address the ratio of active-duty deaths to force size; the active-duty force shrank significantly during the drawdown of the 1990s, from more than 1.7 million in 1993 to about 1.3 million by the early years of this decade.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
But Bush is the war mongering soldier killer? This can't be right!
foxie foxie 8 years
Those are interesting stats.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
What page of the pdf are these statistics on?
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
I wonder what the key differences are.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Those numbers are staggering. This was actually posted in Conservative Sugar a few months ago but we weren't completely sure of its validity. Its really incredible that 14,107 servicemembers died during the Clinton years but only 7,932 have died during the GWB years.
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