During the Revolutionary War, more soldiers died from neglect on British prison ships than died in the battles in which they surrendered. Unlike modern wars, the prisoners were expected to be provided supplies by their own side and American army was on life support. Over 10,000 died from neglect, a large percentage of those soldiers were tossed into the ocean instead of being buried.
In the Civil War, rifles had improved faster than the tactics. During the battles, generals ordered men into the teeth of enemy lines, too ignorant or stubborn to realize the accuracy of the weapons was dramatically improved. There were documented stories of soldiers mowed down and ordered to retreat, but running backwards so their families back home wouldn’t be shamed finding out they were shot in the back. Other stories from that war tell of men dying on the battlefields, crying out at night for water or their wives or mothers, but unable to be retrieved for care. Over 600,000 casualties – 2% of the US population. That would be six million if fought today.
Not all casualties are immediate or overseas – poison gas, burns, IEDs, cancer causing chemicals like Agent Orange and the mental tolls of war have taken lives and destroyed families after the battle is over. Politicians get libraries and speaking engagements while the soldiers in the wake get a plaque or maybe a spot on a trailer at a parade. The estimates of soliders’ suicide rates over the last five years has been shown at 17-23 per day.
In all, it is estimated from the wars we celebrate and the ones we have forgotten, that over 1.1 to 1.3 million US soldiers have died from combat (depending on the source), with over 2.8 million casualties. The number of deaths at Argonne Forest in World War I, 26,000, is the size of my hometown. At Shiloh in the Civil War, there were more casualties than in the entire history of US wars combined up that point. Dan Bullock altered his birth certificate and was killed in Vietnam at the age of 15.
These are some of the numbers of Memorial Day.