Recently I have started to take a huge interest in WW2. I've been researching new information everyday about it. But one of the things I've been interested in is the number of deaths each country suffered during the war. I'm mostly interested in US deaths in WW2.

The number of military deaths for the US was 417,000 during the war. And I recently estimated that around 1/3 deaths were caused by major battles on the islands of Japan and in Europe. But this still leaves 2/3 of the deaths that weren't caused by major conflicts. How did these deaths outside of the major battles occur? These numbers I got are just estimates. Most sources I found said 417,000. I added up all the major battle deaths for us and got the number 140,000, but that probably not the most accurate number. So I think 1/3 Is more accurate. And the battles I'm talking about are like Iwo jima and like the battle of bulge. Battles that had a lot of death involving the us.

  • 3
    What has your prior research shown? What evidence have you consulted? Without a basis for estimate, for the 140K number, there is no way to answer this question. DId you include injuries that later led to death> MIA? What battles did you include? You might want to spend some time studying how much effort goes into [mortality ](ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26468431) estimates- it is very complex. Studying the people who do this will probably tell you more of what you want to know.
    – MCW
    Nov 2, 2017 at 17:18
  • 6
    Would the OP please post the source he's using? We need to know what 'both fronts' means, as well as what are considered to be 'major battles'. In fact we need to know what the source considers to be the time frame of US involvement. We were involved in ways before declaration (think shipping), and the Pacific 'front' was ginormous. There were losses in places that were not part of the 'fronts' (i.e. India/Burma, etc) and where none of the 'major battles' were fought, yet were attributable to "WWII".
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 2, 2017 at 17:30
  • 5
    Several sites give a breakdown between deaths in battle and death in service from other cause.. This site is typical. It shows 291,557 deaths in battle, and 113,842 other deaths. An alternative source is this pdf file produced by the VA. Nov 2, 2017 at 17:35
  • 1
    Mainly epidemics and disease and starvation. Nov 2, 2017 at 19:00
  • 3
    On the front in WWII, fighting was continuous, not just during "major battles". The line between "battle" and just another day on the front was fuzzy, not at all like the 18th century, with actual set piece battles. Plus attacks on shipping, bombing, etc. means significant numbers died off the front. Nov 3, 2017 at 0:39

2 Answers 2


In almost every war, most deaths occur not in the major battles. In the Pacific war that you refer to most US death occurred from mines, bad weather conditions, accidents and diseases. Also the Japanese lost more ships to mines than in combat. This is a general pattern in all armed conflicts.

  • 6
    Can you provide sources to the amount of losses due to mines?
    – justCal
    Nov 2, 2017 at 19:08
  • 8
    This answer needs a lot more fleshing out with sources, but at its core is probably correct.
    – user13123
    Nov 2, 2017 at 21:24
  • 4
    You have left out a major source of non-combat deaths during World War II and that is accidents. I'd have to find the source again but I remember reading that 15,000 lives were lost in aircraft accidents just within the United States during the war.
    – Barry
    Nov 3, 2017 at 0:08
  • 2
    Yes, you have to remember that the US had to move over ten million men overseas as fast as possible, where speed was more important than safety, through areas where belligerents were trying to stop them. Accidents were inevitable. A list for just aircraft Nov 3, 2017 at 0:48
  • @Barry, thanks, you are right. I edited my answer.
    – Alex
    Nov 3, 2017 at 12:19

Besides accidents and disease mentioned in other answers, there were many combat deaths outside of big battles. "Mines" were a reason. Also, there were many small actions outside of big battles. Armies ran "patrols," and fights would flare up between small groups. There would typically be a lot of artillery fire (more, perhaps in World War I than World War II) between battles that would kill soldiers. Soldiers would be killed by "bombing" (and airmen by anti-aircraft) between battles. Soldiers would get killed "moving," they have been known to collapse and die the ranks, and there were vehicle-related deaths "on the march." (Some would be classified as "accidents" but if they were incurred on the way to battle, or worse, on the retreat, they would be "combat" related.)

Big battles are when "most" (combat) deaths occurred, not when all of them occurred. The fighting and killing doesn't stop just because a battle is over; it just goes from "high" intensity to "low" intensity. Put another way, "war" goes on 365 days a year, while "battles" may occupy a multiple of ten days (for a given unit). Those battle days represent a minority of fighting time, although a disproportionate amount of killing does go on during those days.

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.