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Why iare USA War Casualties so high?

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    Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 05:56
I've just read a by-line on a web site that announced that there have been no American servicemen killed in Afghanistan last month.
 
That is a blessing for the troops and their families.
 
What interests me is why the US has had such a disproportionately high number of war casualties in, for example, Viet Nam and Afghanistan. And I'm not criticising the front line troops.
 
The American forces in both of those conflicts outnumbered other allied forces, and that would explain, in part, the disproportionately high number.
 
But one could expect that American technology and firepower would even the score, more than it has.
 
We of the older generation can remember seeing TV footage of American troops in Viet Nam smoking Cannabis at Fire Support Bases, troops on patrol with rifles slung over their shoulders, talking loudly and smoking. All indications of poor training and/or non-existant discipline.
 
TV documentaries, such as Ross Kemp in Afghanistan have clearly shown the overwhelming might of the American War Machine, their high tech vehicles and other equipment, but has also shown incidences where, for example, Australian, British and European forces would have done things differently, more cautiously, and perhaps preserved human life.
 
I'm wondering if the training of US troops is the elephant in the room?
 
Could it be, that War Planners over the past few decades have relied far too heavily on technology and firepower, while not paying sufficient attention to soldierly skills?
 
 
 
 


Edited by toyomotor - 02 Apr 2014 at 06:00
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 07:32
Having a large force there is one of the reasons and another often overlooked reason is the the tempo of operations. Having the larger amount of forces in theater to conduct the majority of operations means more risk and subsequently, casualties.
However, when you compare both Iraq and Afghanistan with American casualties in Vietnam, there is a phenomenal difference in casualty rates (A phenomenon noted by the more professional analysts and ignored by MSM press and talking heads on tv the globe over). The US lost around 57-58,000 soldiers to the battlefields of Vietnam and hundreds of thousands in wounded over a 8 to 9 year period. While in Iraq and Afghanistan, the figure is just a fraction of that. Around six thousand dead (Majority from IED's and VBIED's) and around 40 thousand wounded over a a 13 year period.

In general, the intensity of combat was the same as in Vietnam, but the overall discipline and organization of all the multitude of opposition from the hundreds of tribes in both countries  to the US and coalition was always a limiting factor as far as regional impact. If it weren't about economics, we wouldn't even be drawing down our forces right now.
The  major US weakness was always it thinness on the ground and a cultural gap between us and the local population. The latter was used superbly by the groups opposed to the coalition, however... their constructed narrative would fail spectacularly when the terror groups started attacking their own allies. (See: The Sunni Awakening in Iraq)

Of course, something else should be said about the advances in battlefield medicine and practices. Without the advances in this field, there might be a thousand more American dead than without it.

 As for training and soldierly skills, Americans, like their Nato and non-Nato allies, are trained to the same high standard. There is no need for ridicule, shaking of heads and clucking of tongues. Hope my humble input helps?


Edited by Panther - 02 Apr 2014 at 07:47
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 09:34
Compared to what are american casualties "high"?
In wars people are killed and wounded, and I think in "good old"("good" is not seriously meant) sometimes casualtes could be proportionally as high in a few years as all american losses since ww2.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 10:08
Panther:
As I mentioned in the opening post, I intend no disrespect to the actual front line troops, but I wonder if the US War Doctrine is as flexible as it needs to be in the different battle fields.
 
I accept without argument your comments about battle field intensity etc, and of course about medical advances. I certainly am not ridiculing modern US troops in any way, but do question US Training Doctrine.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 10:11
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Compared to what are american casualties "high"?
In wars people are killed and wounded, and I think in "good old"("good" is not seriously meant) sometimes casualtes could be proportionally as high in a few years as all american losses since ww2.
 
 
 
On a per capita basis, I think US forces have a higher percentile of dead/injured in recent conflicts than other armies in the same theatre.
 
Of course I could be wrong, but I don't think so.
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 10:52
Originally posted by toyomotor toyomotor wrote:

Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Compared to what are american casualties "high"?
In wars people are killed and wounded, and I think in "good old"("good" is not seriously meant) sometimes casualtes could be proportionally as high in a few years as all american losses since ww2.
 
 
 
On a per capita basis, I think US forces have a higher percentile of dead/injured in recent conflicts than other armies in the same theatre.
 
Of course I could be wrong, but I don't think so.
 
 
 
The relevant numbers to compare are casualties as proportion of active soldiers I think.
I also question that US casualties in all recent conflicts has been higher pr. capita than other countries, but thAt depends upon how many cyears we look at.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 10:55
Originally posted by toyomotor toyomotor wrote:

Panther:
As I mentioned in the opening post, I intend no disrespect to the actual front line troops, but I wonder if the US War Doctrine is as flexible as it needs to be in the different battle fields.
 
I accept without argument your comments about battle field intensity etc, and of course about medical advances. I certainly am not ridiculing modern US troops in any way, but do question US Training Doctrine.
 
 


No worries. Smile I was just throwing my two cents into the ring.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 13:33
I think this is a difficult question to answer. There is evidence dating back more than a hundred years that American commanders tend to be bullish and risk higher casualties, but then, they don't equal the sort of sacrificial methods we see in WW2 Russia, or WW2 Japan, or the Iran/Iraq war, or for that matter, the Vietnamese enemy.

In Malaya during the fifties, my father was on patrol and for some reason on one occaision they had american serviceman along with them. The British soldiers were not best pleased with their US colleagues, who constantly bantered and joked among themselves, and since sound is a very important sensory warning in a jungle enviroment where you can't see a few feet in front of you, the risks of alerting an enemy so casually were not appreciated as you might imgaine. Now that's an isolated incident and in all good faith I cannot necessarily claim that the same behaviour is true of all American soldiers, but to many the Americans are more careless as soldiers than they believe themselves to be. They also happen to be a rather determined bunch - they were after all at the forefront in WW2 in all theatres, and I note that some european contingents in Afghanistan were unwilling to expose themselves to danger.

If casualty rates are higher for Americans (I have no proof of that) then its a result of exposure, scale, committment, and cultural hatreds.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 15:32
Fantasus wrote:
"The relevant numbers to compare are casualties as proportion of active soldiers I think.
I also question that US casualties in all recent conflicts has been higher pr. capita than other countries, but thAt depends upon how many years we look at."
 
The years are not relevant, the conflicts are.
 
The Viet Nam War took place in an era of government mistrust by the young generation, and in a time when the younger generation were on the cusp of a new culture-the Flower Power, LSD, Make Love not War era. A lot of that attitude found it's way into the ranks of the US forces, which, imo, was poorly equipped to nullify it.
 
During the Viet Nam War, every Australian soldier, cook, clerk, or driver had to successfully complete a Jungle War Training course at Canungra in Queensland. It's a well known fact, that of all of the US troops were sent on the same course, somewhere in the region of 70% to 80% either failed to complete the course or failed it. Surely this ranks as a condemnation of their training at that time.
 
Desert Storm was the Shock and Awe blitz of all time, the Iraqis had no idea what had hit them, or how to combat the might of the USA. US casualties were almost non existent. The same for Desert Shield, although there were some casualties on the US side.
 
In Afghanistan, the longest conflict Australian troops have been involved in, and probably the same for the US, the death toll has been murderous. The number of severely wounded troops (amputees, blindness etc) has been played down, but they exist in the thousands.
 
Why? The percentile of KIA in other Allied Forces, per capita, is much smaller, and that's why I query the War Doctrine and Training methodology of US troops, not the bravery of the line troops.


Edited by toyomotor - 02 Apr 2014 at 15:48
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 15:46
Originally posted by caldrail caldrail wrote:

I think this is a difficult question to answer. There is evidence dating back more than a hundred years that American commanders tend to be bullish and risk higher casualties, but then, they don't equal the sort of sacrificial methods we see in WW2 Russia, or WW2 Japan, or the Iran/Iraq war, or for that matter, the Vietnamese enemy.
 
No, I don't see deliberate sacrifice of US troops happening at all in recent conflicts, however the term "bullish" may still be appropriate when referring to Field Grade Officers and above.
 
The NVA/Viet Cong loss of life was largely due to air strikes. On the ground, it was often very difficult to provide "body counts" because the VC/NVA took their dead with them when they withdrew.
 
In Malaya during the fifties, my father was on patrol and for some reason on one occaision they had american serviceman along with them. The British soldiers were not best pleased with their US colleagues, who constantly bantered and joked among themselves, and since sound is a very important sensory warning in a jungle enviroment where you can't see a few feet in front of you, the risks of alerting an enemy so casually were not appreciated as you might imgaine. Now that's an isolated incident
 
But in the Viet Nam War, for example, it was not isolated, it was an every day occurrence.
 
and in all good faith I cannot necessarily claim that the same behaviour is true of all American soldiers, but to many the Americans are more careless as soldiers than they believe themselves to be.
 
Yes, that's true, along with their over reliance on firepower (including air) and technology.
 
They also happen to be a rather determined bunch - they were after all at the forefront in WW2 in all theatres.
Not quite-North Africa v Rommel:
The Solomon Islands, New Guinea etc v The Japanese Army.
 
and I note that some European contingents in Afghanistan were unwilling to expose themselves to danger.
 
That's unfortunately true also.

If casualty rates are higher for Americans (I have no proof of that) then its a result of exposure, scale, committment, and cultural hatreds.
 
No, I haven't compiled any stats either. But I maintain my thoughts on training etc.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 16:10
Perhaps we are not discussing entirely the same. From my point of view it is more about total war casualties, and if we look over time, let us say 100 years, I am sure the risk of being killed or wounded in war for an "average" us-american overall was substantially lower than for a lot of other nationalities (though I will admit for danes it was likely even lower). I will even guess North americans were less likely to die in wars than people from any other continent during that period (a smaller percentage per capita).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jul 2014 at 04:09
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Perhaps we are not discussing entirely the same. From my point of view it is more about total war casualties, and if we look over time, let us say 100 years, I am sure the risk of being killed or wounded in war for an "average" us-american overall was substantially lower than for a lot of other nationalities (though I will admit for danes it was likely even lower). I will even guess North americans were less likely to die in wars than people from any other continent during that period (a smaller percentage per capita).
 
Sorry for taking so long to get back to you.
 
Yes, we're talking about different things.
 
I'm talking about the combat soldiers of allied forces, not about the overall casualties.
 
Reiterating my previous posts, using Viet Nam as an example, there was obviously a major breakdown in discipline among American troops. This has been seen ad nauseum on TV footage-long haired troops on patrol with transistor radios blaring, drug use in the field, lack of patrol discipline and so on.
 
Under these circumstances, it's no wonder that, per capita, more American troops were kiled than Australian.
 
In more modern conflicts, it's been seen that US forces rely heavily on their firepower and technology than other allied forces. US troops just don't seem to have the same battlecraft as their UK and other European counterparts.
 
As I said previously, I don't question the bravery of the US soldier at all, but I do question the type of training that they're provided.
 
 
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