Deadlier than Vietnam?

Desert Storm fatalities could surpass those from Vietnam, if present trends continue

Army In Vietnam, between 1964 and 1975, 47,410 Americans died in combat, while another 10,788 died from other causes, a total of 58,198.1 During Operation Desert Storm, the reported combat deaths were 148, with another 235 dying from other causes.2

Veterans’ advocates say statistics from Desert Storm should be much higher, however, reflecting the impact of Gulf War Illness.

Former U.S. Air Force Captain Joyce Riley, for example, expects that in the next 10 years — or 22 years after the conflict — deaths among the veterans deployed to the Persian Gulf will rise to between 80,000 and 100,000.

49,783 - 69,783 Deaths* Gulf War (1990-1991)

47,410 Battle Deaths Vietnam War (1964-1975)

385 Battle Deaths Spanish-American War (1898-1902)

1,733 Battle Deaths Mexican War (1846-1848)

2,260 Battle Deaths War of 1812 (1812-1815)

4,435 Battle Deaths American Revolution (1775-1783)

* Projected range of Gulf War veterans’ deaths attributable to Gulf War Illness by 2013, if present trends continue.

Source for battle deaths: “America’s Wars Fact Sheet,” Department of Veterans Affairs, May 2001.

Those deployed included 696,778 in the conflict itself and another 430,680 in the theater, a total of 1,127,458.

An analysis of mortality rates among Americans of the same age as those who served in the Gulf War reveals that in that 22-year span, roughly 30,217 of 1.13 million “normal” Americans — not deployed to the Gulf — will have died of sickness.

Subtracting that 30,217 from the lowest figure supplied by Riley (80,000) would place the death toll from Desert Storm at 49,783 if present trends continue.

Accepting the higher figure of 100,000 would mean the deaths of 69,783 Gulf War veterans — making Desert Storm more costly, in terms of American lives, than Vietnam.

Gulf War fatalities, indeed, would exceed combat deaths from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War and the Spanish-American War combined. This brief conflict would be the deadliest in our history other than the Civil War and World Wars I and II.

1 “America’s Wars Fact Sheet,” Department of Veterans Affairs, May 2001. 2 Ibid.