The Wars the Most Americans Died In Battle, Ranked

Although it has officially declared war less than a dozen times, the the United States has involved in a great many conflicts for such a relatively young sovereign nation.

The death toll of each war has been deeply felt, but none was greater than World War II, the war in which most Americans died in battle.

The Revolutionary War (1777-1783) made the U.S. an independent country. The War of 1812 (1812-1815) was a second conflict with the British. The Civil War (1862-1865) was the only major war fought within the nation’s boundaries. 

World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) were the wars in which the U.S. had its largest roles outside its borders (though the U.S. involvement did not start a few years into the start of these conflicts). And there have been several armed conflicts, like Vietnam (U.S. participation from 1964-1973) in which the U.S. never made an official war declaration. (These are the 18 biggest battles of World War II.)

Most of the wars in which America has been engaged involved the deaths of both military personnel and civilians from other countries. This was particularly true of WWI and WWII, in which millions of people from other nations perished. The sole exception to this is the American Civil War, in which almost everyone who died was an American.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed sites such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to determine the conflicts in U.S. military history where the most Americans killed in action. (Some totals are estimates and are noted as such.) 

Seven of the 13 wars were considered to be fought in the 20th and 21st centuries. At the start of the 20th century, and fresh off its victory over Spain in the Spanish-American War, the United States began to project power around the world. In an expression of emerging American might, President Theodore Roosevelt sent the so-called “The Great White Fleet” – 16 new battleships – around the world, from December 1907 to February 1909, to display U.S. naval power. (This is the world’s largest warship.)

After each conflict, the United States grew ever larger as a world power, and accompanying that expansion was a perception of additional responsibilities and obligations to be borne. That has led to long and costly land wars in Asia (including the Middle East) in recent decades, despite warnings by military and political leaders against fighting land wars on that continent.

The war in which the most Americans died was World War II, with 291,557 battle deaths and 670,846 non-mortal wounds. The U.S. had a total of 16,112,566 service members during its involvement in the war from 1941-1945. It should be emphasized that the battle death total doesn’t include other deaths in the theater, such as disease and weather conditions, which can be just as deadly as battle. 

Click here to see the wars in which the most Americans died

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