The 12 Wars With the Most American Deaths

March  19 marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a war that lasted eight years and involved the deaths of some 4,600 U.S. service members. The war was justified by the Bush administration, which stated its belief that Saddam Hussein had been secretly developing weapons of mass destruction, an assertion which turned out to be based on faulty evidence. The inaccurate justification for the war, as well as the fact that it, along with the war in Afghanistan, ended up lasting years longer than expected and seriously destabilizing the area, caused the war to eventually become unfavorable to a majority of Americans. (This is the death toll in each state from America’s post 9/11 wars.) But while it remains one of the country’s most controversial, it is far from the bloodiest. 

The wars the U.S. fought over the years not only shaped the country’s future, but often the world’s. The Civil War and its aftermath still reverberate in our society today, while WWI and WWII reshaped the maps of Europe, Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world, or at least changed who controls certain countries and territories.

To find the wars in which the most American military personnel died, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ fact sheet, America’s Wars, and the Department of Defense. The conflicts are ordered by total deaths, which include American military personnel killed in action and non-combat-related deaths such as exposure, disease, and infection. 

Estimates for non-combat deaths during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 are from military history sites. Iraq War figures combine statistics from operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, and Inherent Resolve, while the War in Afghanistan figures combine statistics from operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel. The number of service members who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not available.

U.S. combat losses range from 148 in Desert Storm and Desert Shield in 1990-91 to more than 291,000 in World War II. Nearly 215,000 soldiers died in the Civil War of the 1860s. Fought on U.S. soil, casualties also mounted beyond the battlefield. Non-combat deaths during the Civil War totaled a staggering 283,395. (Here are 25 horrifying images of the Civil War.)

After withdrawing troops from Afghanistan last year, the U.S. is no longer at war with any foreign adversary. The U.S. has paid a heavy toll for its victories, sometimes losing a battle before winning the war. Here are the most disastrous battles in U.S. history.

Click here to see the wars that killed the most Americans.

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