Military services with highest and lowest rates of mortality?

What are the military services with the highest and lowest rates of mortality for personnel in the field/ocean/air over the last few wars? ie - What are the safest and least safe services to join if you had to choose?

I’d assume the safest was the Coast Guard.

Most dangerous was probably the Marines.

Depends on the war, of course, but generally Marines are the most dangerous. But you also feel proudest for being one. :slight_smile:

In WW2, safest was probably air force (USAAF, RAF). Only the aircrew were actually expected to be shot at and they were in the minority of total strength. I suspect far more members of the US Coastguard saw action than of the RAF and USAAF.

This site, a site, says that in Vietnam, the breakdown of service members killed as a pecentage of that service in country was

Army 2.7%
Marines 5.0%
Navy 2.0%
Air Force 1.0%

This one covers WWII. Doing the math using “battle deaths” and “deaths from other causes”, I get

Army/USAAF 2.8%
Marines 3.7%
Navy 1.5%
Coast Guard 0.8%

Well… in subsequent wars, this has turned around, but in World War II, the Air Force was NOT the place to be.

According to this page, the USMC only lost about 19000 men in the entirety of World War II.

However, compare that to the US 8th Air Force’s casualties . The 8th AF lost more men killed in action(26000) than did the ENTIRE Marine Corps, and had more wounded as well.

Even if you look at percentage killed, the 8th Air Force comes out worse than the entire USMC.

8th AF- 26000 kia / 350,000 total personnel in WWII = 7%

USMC- 19,733 kia / 669,100 total personnel = 3%.

Getting wounded is another story- the USMC had more WIA than the 8th AF did, but that’s not exactly on topic for this discussion.

Also, keep in mind, that I’m comparing the entire USMC with ONE of the twelve or so of the Army Air Forces active during the war.

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest travesties around- we hear about the USMC in the pacific, but rarely hear about the aircrews who were dying in greater numbers over Europe

And Korea (a PDF) says total battle deaths are

Army 2.4%
Marines 3.3%
Navy 0.2%
Air Force 0.5%

Looking at WWII casualties I’d say it has to be a U-boat crew, around 95% of them were lost

Would somebody please eradicate some ignorance here, assuming it exsists.

I’m seeing people make mention of the USAAF in the WWII time period, it was my understanding that the USAAF was formed after the war, and before that point each service simply had it’s own air corps.

Or are you guys using USAAF as a handy label to include all of the USA’s airborne forces during the war instead of mentioning each services air corps?

What about the Swiss Guard?


The USAAF was the US Army Air Force, and part and parcel of the US Army. Before early 1942, it was known as the US Army Air Corp (USAAC), but I’ve heard from people Back Then that even after the renaming, both names were still in use.

Anyway, in 1947, the USAAF was split from the US Army into its own service, the US Air Force, the USAF.

When you hear “USAAF”, you’re generally referring to the Army personnel flying in WW2. Besides, before WW2, there really weren’t any services other than Army and Navy. Now we’ve got Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marine Commandant who, while part of the Navy, sits on the top row because the Marines have done lots of things and have the pictures to show.

As has been pointed out, what SERVICE you were in was no so important as your ROLE.

Bomber crews had astonishing rates of mortality - Canadian and British crews died at a 30% rate during 1943-1944 and American rates were bad, too, though not that bad.

But if you want REALLY bad, German U-boat crew mortality was about 80%.

Ah… Thanks for the enlightenment XPav.

In addition, the death rate among infantrymen in any combat theatre approaches 100% givien enough time. There is no example of a combat infantryman writign his meories of going from say D-Day to Austria. Nobody made it that far.

On the other extreme servicemen in some assignements actually had lower-than-expeced mortality (no cite) due to good food and health care.

While certianly it took exceptional courage to fly very dangerous air missions (or for example U-boat missions) let us not forget the poor fellows who went out every stinking day to face a small chance of death or injury. Eventually of course the odds caught up with them all.

Members of the 101st Airborne made it from Normandy to Hitlers Eagle’s Nest which I believe was either in Austria or Southern Germany.

Paul – huh? Heck, the loss rate among everyone approaches 100% given enough time.

4th Infantry division – 299 days in combat, landed at Utah beach on D-Day.

4488 killed.

So, at the least, 3 infantry regiments, each containing 3 infantry battalions, with 3 rifle companies and a heavy weapons company in each.

That comes out to 6705 officers and men in the frontline infantry regiments.

So, therefore they didn’t all die. They may not have been present for every single action, and they may have been wounded and returned to combat in a different unit, but they didn’t all die.

Let’s keep the OP in mind, if Joe Baggadonuts wants to leave his honey, Little Susie Rottenkracht to be wooed by Jody, and heads into one of the four services’ boot camps, he doesn’t know if he is going to be with the 8th Air Force, the 101st Airborne Division, or Carlson’s Raiders. It is just Army, Navy Air Force, and Marines, like the song says. On dumb luck when he walks through those gates, based on history, he is more likely to survive combat in the Navy than the Army or the Marines.

Actually, as was mentioned, he’d be safest in the CG. The highest casualty totals the CG ever saw was in WWII, with 1900 casualties of 240,000 serving in some capacity of the war. The last wartime casualties for the CG was Vietnam - 67.

What about the “War on Drugs”? I was under the impression that boarding drug-smuggling boats was pretty dangerous work. Are there any statistics on how many casualties the Coast Guard has sustained in that “war”?