Out of the major powers of WWII (Germany/Japan/Italy, USSR/US/UK/China, perhaps others), what were their officers' casualty rates? Were any unusually low or high?

Officers are important parts of armies; the loss of a unit's officers in battle greatly diminishes their effectiveness, they are also hard to replace, as it usually takes years to train one. Between different armies, officer casualty rates might differ for many reasons, like how effectively their tactics protect their officers, or how much their doctrine places them at risk, like leading from the front, or emphasising personal heroism.

I tried looking online, but usually the statistics are specific to one country, or a comparison between branches and eras. I would like to see a comparison across the different powers of WWII.

  • I'm not sure, if you implied this, but it looks like you are suggesting, that an army with lower officers losses is more effective. Didn't it occur to you, that if some army had 1 killed officer per 100 soldiers, that would demoralize the troops, actually? Afaik, in Israel in 1967 officer losses were very high, some 1 officer per 3 soldiers, and they are sort of proud of this, because it means that their officers weren't hiding behind soldiers backs, when those were mostly civilians without combat experience?
    – d.k
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 0:59
  • 2
    @user907860 Roman centurions led from the front and suffered high casualty rates. Yet no one will accuse the Roman army of being ineffective. Of course there's a balance. Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 1:39
  • @user907860 They were probably leading from the front, according to the German "Auftragstaktik". It's also basically possible that the Israeli army had a very high percentage of officers in their army, but I doubt it.
    – jjack
    Commented Dec 23, 2017 at 10:56
  • I don't know if too many officers are important for an army. There should be a sound proportion.
    – jjack
    Commented Dec 23, 2017 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


This discussion gives some sources that could be a good start. According to it, officer losses were ~10.5% from total for the US (source). For the British, it gives ~9% based on the data for the Libyan campaign (the source seems to be "I.S.O. Playfair, The Mediterranean and the Middle East, vol III; NA WO 201/2834 Middle East Command: Battle Casualties, Libya Campaign, AG Stats", it is referred to in several other publications, but I couldn't find it online). Not really conclusive, but it's something.

And according to the Russian Military Archive data (taken from an article @ p. 122, in Russian)) Soviet losses had ~7% dead officers (970k out of 14241k). Again, it's not a final number, since it does not account for MIA and wounded, but getting more accurate numbers for USSR (or Germany and Japan, for that matter) is unlikely due to the many instances of destroying documents so that they not fall into enemy hands.

Note that, for example, air forces would have disproportionally high officer losses due to the fact that in most armies pilots were lieutenants or higher rank, and rank and file would mostly be airfield/carrier staff, thus I would expect US and Britain to have higher officer losses due to them using more air forces relatively to Germany and USSR.

P.S. Since this is only a partial answer, I wanted to make it a comment, but it turned out much longer than a comment can be.

  • 1
    Comments are not for partial answers. It's much better that this is an answer. A basic answer with citations is still a good start.
    – user17846
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 13:05
  • 1
    Speaking purely from knowledge of the Canadian Pilot Training program in World War Two, graduates were (by quota) always promoted 50% to 2nd Lieutenants and 50% to Pilot Sergeant. Top half of each class, however determined, received a commission rather than a warrant. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 2:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.