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The Most Neglected Fact About WW2

One fact that must be brought to mind is the mortality rate that veterans died at compared to those who died in the Second World War. We obviously don’t know the daily death rates of all nations, since some countries have not been as forthcoming about their statistics as other countries. Nonetheless, we have samples from some countries, with the United States and Canada being the most detailed.

For instance, there are an estimated 389,292 American veterans of the Second World War who were alive in 2019, according to The American National War Museum website.

That is less than one in every forty that had fought in the war.

An estimated 294 American veterans were dying daily last year. Less than a decade earlier, the daily death rate was much higher at well over 1,000.

WWII Veteran Statistics | The National WWII Museum | New Orleans

This may seem surprising, but veterans of all nationalities are in fact more likely to die of old age today than at any time when they fought the war.

Above: Lawrence Brooks At 110 Is Considered The Oldest Living World War Two Veteran

For instance, the United States was losing 150 soldiers to fighting on an average day during the Second World War at a time when there were over sixteen million veterans.

With barely 2% of surviving veterans of the war being alive today, roughly twice as many of these dwindling veterans are dying of natural causes on a typical day. In 2000, when roughly half of all veterans were still alive, the average daily death rate for American veterans was over 1,000, or more than twelve times the rate that an average soldier had of being killed in action during the war.

In my country of Canada, there are an estimated 40,000 veterans alive out of over a million who fought in the war, and as many as 100 Canadian veterans of the war are estimated to be dying on an average day.

Above: Canadian Veterans Celebrating VE Day In 2015

The average Canadian veteran is slightly older than the average American veteran, due to Canada having been involved in the war since the outset in 1939, with veterans before 1939 being reportedly still alive as of 2020.

Nonetheless, the 80–100 daily deaths that roughly 4% of Canadian veterans are subjected to is dozens of times the daily rate a soldier had of dying in action.

The killed in action is barely outdone by the disease rates, which saw one soldier dying of disease or other non-combat causes for every soldier actually killed.

Above: Luxembourg Cemetery

The First World War, fought a generation early, had been the first major war where more soldiers died from fighting than from disease, though this depended largely on whose army you fought in.

Having joined the war largely during its closing stages, the Americans suffered an average of 3 deaths (72,000) from disease, for every 2 death (48,000) from fighting.

So, as one can see, the biggest killer in history — even for veterans who died or survived — has never been shells or bullets fired from humans.


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David Frigault
For the most part, my focus of interest is writing on topics related to history, though I enjoy being versatile, so you might see me on other topics all the same.