Why do we always kill more enemy than they kill of us?

No, not a debate. A technical question.

I was raised in the days of the Body Count method of keeping score in a war, where the number of Americans killed was always lower than the number of enemy combatants killed. Far, far lower, in the range of a dozen enemies for each American. The difference has grown even bigger in recent years to the point it seems like a ratio of gazillions to one.

To what can we attribute this?


a. overwhelming force and organization


b. we lie

I don’t think that’s right, Silenus. Small platoons of American soldiers can often decimate larger groups of opponents. The keys are technology and training. Or if one wishes to be cynical, cash. These provide American forces, and to a certain extent our NATO allies, with huge advantages.

It may have something to do with our spending more on our military than the entire rest of the world combined.

That buys better training and equipment. It also buys vastly better equipment and procedures for gathering intelligence about the enemy. When you go into a situation knowing everything about the enemy, and he doesn’t even know he’s going to get attacked, let alone by what, it puts the advantage securely on your side.

Yep. If you take a thousand well-trained, well-equipped and well-fed American soldiers and put them up against a thousand poorly-trained, poorly-equipped, hungry Iraqi conscripts, chances are the Americans will win body-count wise. Add into that the ability to call in air support, mechanized divisions and highly accurate artillery, all of which are technologically superior and manned by better trained, equipped, and fed soldiers than the enemy counterparts, and you end up killing more of them than they kill of us.

I don’t think that the cash statement is too cynical. After all, doesn’t the US spend more on military than the rest of the world combined?

A lot of our enemies seem to be taught that it is ok to die for their cause.

In some cases, the enemy body count may be inflated, but in others it may be too conservative. Doesn’t really matter though.

America has the advantages of more money, better training, better equipment, larger support organizations as mentioned above.

American forces also enjoy air sovereignty. Damn few militaries in the world can challenge our air forces, and they are our allies. Being able to rain death and destruction from above and out of range of the enemy’s response helps tilt the numbers in our favor.

We also have better counter-measures to enemy weapons and equipment. We can coordinate efforts by radio, for example, while jamming their signals. Our units act in concert, their units are limited to reacting to what they can see.

But it really comes down to a few things: we are very good, very rich and, for all our kvetching on the homefront, very willing.

We aren’t invincible, though, and it’s going to bite us one of these days.

U.S. wars since WWII have been largely against enemies with vastly inferior armies, materially, technologically, and organizationally. The body count is in the U.S. favour because they’re a heavyweight beating the snot out of an eighth-grader.

The same phenomenon can be seen in other wars pitting military superpowers against weak nations. The British conquered entire nations with a division or less. Many colonial powers fought “battles” against enemies in which the body count was a thousand to one. Even in Afghanistan, a war the USSR LOST, the Soviets killed a dozen or more Afghans for every Soviet man lost.

On the other hand, examine how U.S. forces fared against Germany and Japan in WWII. Early in the war, fighting German and Japanese forces of equal strength and technology and often vastly superior skill, the Americans suffered some heavy losses. Later in the war, however, the U.S. enjoyed a monstrous material and technological advantage, fighting with an absurdly huge number of superior weapons, fighting with an insurmountable advantage in military intelligence, and pitting now-experienced troops against an enemy that was scraping the bottom of the replacement pool. The body count then swung hugely in the favour of the USA.

The technological advantage the U.S. enjoys over countries like Iraq is just absurd; it’s way more lopsided than the WWII situation in 1944 and 1945. They have an enormous, entirely professional army - no draftees - equipped with ludicrously awesome equipment and all the logistical support you’d ever need, a massive intelligence gathering service, and the ability to offer or decline combat at their will, due to tremendous mobility. How could they NOT amass huge body counts?

If you could identify a war that we lost, it might be reasonable to expect us to have a greater loss of life. Also, we’ve fought all our wars (except the Revolutionary and Civil Wars) on foreign soil. Wouldn’t it be odd if we had more casualties than the enemy in a war fought in anther country that we won?

Also 1812.

Well, Vietnam of course, but even there, as with the Soviets in Afganistan, the body count was enormously in the favor of the U.S. (even discounting large-scale inflation of enemy kills.)

Interestingly, in the Civil War the Union forces suffered almost twice as many battle deaths (and five times more total casualties) as the Confederates, despite the fact that they (1) were much better equipped and supplied, (2) were fighting in “another country,” (3) won.

This story about military budget reporting among UN members suggests otherwise—but not by much. The U.S. spent 327.5 billion, while the rest of the world spent 522.5 billion, giving the U.S. a 38.5% share of the 850 billion total spent.

where the number of Americans killed was always lower than the number of enemy combatants killed. Far, far lower, in the range of a dozen enemies for each American.
<end snip>

All of these thread answers are true and may be the spirit of the OP, basically I hope this isn’t a highjack of an answered thread but:

While Overall U.S. forces in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq always do tip mightily toward the U.S. there have been skirmishes and instances throughout all three Wars where the U.S. combat casualties were higher than the enemy. These were always the result of hit and run tactics by the enemy.

Some cites from each of the two recent ones:


Iraq – the two Black Hawk’s brought down by hostile fire come to mind
But very few overall in the spirit of the OP:

Again I hope this is within the spirit – these are small actions in which the larger picture can easily be lost & should not be – but the quote in the OP is not 100% correct

After racking my brain a bit, I might have come up with a war where U.S. forces suffered heavier battlefield casualties than their opponents - The Miami War of 1790-1795.

While ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne was ultimately decisively victorious at Fallen Timbers ( 33 dead and ~100 wounded U.S. dead vs. up to 200 allied Amerindian dead and maybe 400 wounded - but possibly rather less ), the very lopsided casualty figures from the previous victories over generals Harmar ( 183 U.S. dead and missing in two engagements, unknown wounded vs. ~30 dead ) and St.Clair ( maybe 623 U.S. soldiers and militia dead, 258 wounded , plus possibly up to another 200 civilian camp followers killed vs 21 dead, 40 wounded on the Amerindian side), the latter the single worst American battle defeat at the hand of Amerindian forces, probably more than tips the scale in the other direction. Of course this was during a transition period when the U.S. army was understaffed, trained, and equipped and heavily supplemented by unreliable militia. The ugly defeats of Harmar and St. Clair led to widespread reforms, which helped the army rebound under Wayne.

  • Tamerlane

Oh, here’s another, itsy one - The Modoc War of 1872-1873:

83 dead, 45 wounded on the U.S. side vs. 17 dead Modoc ( 4 more were hanged in the aftermath ) out of 500-600 U.S. troops engaged vs. ~50-odd Modoc. Casualties resulted from fighting essentially a guerilla conflict in difficult, broken terrain ( lava beds ).

  • Tamerlane

Try Victor Hanson’s “Carnage and Culture.”

The U.S. military has maintained high casualty ratios even when they had inferior equipment and were outnumbered. For instance, the U.S. Fighter force in the Pacific maintained something like a 20-1 kill ratio against the Japanese, despite the fact that the Zero was considered a better fighter than the U.S. could put in the sky until something like 1942. In fact, I believe Chennault’s Flying Tigers maintained a high kill ratio despite flying markedly worse aircraft.

Throughout WWII, the U.S. only suffered 243,000 casualties. In comparison, Japan suffered 1.5 million military casualties. In fact, 11 other countries suffered more military casualties than the U.S.

Moving back to the OP. It has two parts:

  1. We kill a lot of their people.

  2. They do not kill many of ours. Lets take them individually.

  3. War is a team event. The Americans have had much better teamwork than any opponent since 1950. In fact we can call most of the American experience since then to be colonial-style warfare of smacking down untrained natives. Add to that the weaponry, techniques and tactics.

  4. The Americans have added body armor to their troops in the last twenty or so years. They have a really remarkable medical service to boot. A wounded Iraqi, Afghani or Vietnamese usually dies. A wounded American usually survives.

I propose that everything we employ and know about our highly effective American brand of warfare was refined from German WWII war making technology and tactic. We have honed the “Blut und Ehre” bolo to a sharp dagger…
Our playbook resembles Hitler’s.