Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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George C. Marshall, "Price of Victory": American Casualties in World War II: Extract from Final Biennial Report to the Secretary of War, 1 September 1945

American leaders were well aware of the human cost the war exacted. In his final report to the secretary of war, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall gave detailed figures on American military casualties. These did not include the numbers of those killed or invalided out as the result of disease, exposure, or accident rather than in combat.

Even with our overwhelming concentration of air power and fire power, this war has been the most costly of any in which the Nation has been engaged. The victory in Europe alone cost us 772,626 battle casualties of which 160,045 are dead. The price of victory in the Pacific was 170,596 including 41,322 dead. Army battle deaths since 7 December 1941 were greater than the combined losses, Union and Confederate, of the Civil War. . . .

Army casualties in all theaters from 7 December 1941 until the end of the period of this report [30 June 1945] total 943,222, including 201,367 killed, 570,732 wounded, 114,205 prisoners, 56,867 missing; of the total wounded, prisoners, or missing more than 633,200 have returned to duty, or have been evacuated to the United States.

The great strategic bombardment strikes on Germany and the inauguration of the Mediterranean campaign pushed our total casualty rate above 5,000 a month in 1943. In the first five months of 1944 the increasing tempo of the air attack and the fighting in Italy drove our losses, killed, wounded, missing, and prisoners, to 13,700 men a month. Once ashore in Western Europe, the casualty rate leaped to 48,000 a month and increased to 81,000 by December. The average for the last seven months of the year was 59,000.

Out in the Pacific the advance on Japan cost 3,200 men a month throughout 1944. In the first seven months of this year the rate increased to 12,750 as we closed on the Japanese Islands.

The heaviest losses have been on the ground where the fighting never ceases night or day. Disregarding their heavy losses to disease and exposure, the combat divisions have taken more than 81 percent of all our casualties. However, though the percentage of the total is small, the casualties among the combat air crews have been very severe. By the end of July the Army Air Forces had taken nearly 120,000 casualties. Of this total 36,698 had died. The air raids over enemy territory gave Air Force casualties the heaviest weighting of permanency. The wounded of the Ground Forces drove their total casualties high, but with the exceptional medical care the Army has had in this war, the wounded had good chances to recover. . . .

In the Army at large, the infantry comprises only 20.5 percent of total strength overseas, yet it has taken 70 percent of the total casualties. Enemy fire is no respecter of rank in this war; 10.2 percent of the casualties have been officers, a rate slightly higher than that for enlisted men.

The improvement of battle surgery and medical care, on the other hand, reduced the rate of death from wounds to less than one-half the rate in World War I, and permitted more than 58.8 percent of men wounded in this war to return to duty in the theaters of operations.

As staggering as our casualties have been, the enemy forces opposing us suffered many time more heavily; 1,592,600 Germans, Italians, and Japanese troops were killed for the 201,367 American soldiers who died. It is estimated that permanently disabled enemy total 303,700. We captured and disarmed 8,150,447 enemy troops.


Further Reading
George C. Marshall, General Marshall's Report: The Winning of the War in Europe and the Pacific: Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1945, to the Secretary of War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945), 101–107. .
 

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