y and m online spacerissuesactivismresourcesFor the MediaMagazine
Q - question


How many US servicewomen have died under combat conditions in US wars?

This is a tough, but interesting, question!

Although women have participated in military service in the United States since the Revolutionary War, it is difficult to determine the number who have died in "combat conditions." Until recently, women were barred from participating in most combat positions and are still subject to some restrictions. What constitutes "combat conditions" is open to debate and redefinition. Increasingly the "front line" is harder to draw. Clearly many more women have died as a result of military service during wartime than are reflected in combat figures.

The Gulf War provides a good illustration of the difficulty of classifying the deaths of service members (women and men). We do know that nearly 41,000 women (7% of the troops) were deployed in this war. We also know that over a dozen US service women were killed in the line of duty (out of approximately 370 US deaths).

Not all deaths took place during combat. While some deaths occurred as a result of enemy fire, others were due to "friendly fire," accidents, landmines, etc. For instance, several women were killed in an Iraqi attack on a barracks in Saudi Arabia, far from the front lines and what might be considered combat in the traditional sense. One source estimates that 45% of the deaths in the Gulf War were due to non-combat accidents. PBS/Frontline reports that 24% of those killed were killed by friendly fire.

Other Gulf War casualties occurred later, due to exposure service members received while on active duty. Gulf War Syndrome affects tens of thousands of veterans, many of them women. Their medical future is very uncertain.

Here are some of the mortality figures we've been able to put together based on the limited information that is available.
War US Combat Casualties
Civil War:
60 women wounded or killed
Spanish-American War:
22 women died, mostly Army nurses, from Typhoid fever
World War I:
292 women killed (Army and Navy)
World War II:
400-432 women killed; 88 POWs
Korean War:
18 women killed
Vietnam War:
7-13 women killed
Persian Gulf War:
13-16 women killed; 2 POWs

Have a question for us?

Please send it in. We'll answer a question each month - and if it's yours, we'll send you something cool.

e-mail Address (required):


Your Question:
A - answer

Resource of the Month

ask us archives

spacerabout ussite mapFAQscontact uswhat's newhomeAFSC home

issues | activism | resources | media | news
ask us! | resource of the month | american women and vietnam | women in U.S. military | recruiting drive
about us | site map | FAQs | contact us | what's new | Y&M home | AFSC home

© American Friends Service Committee · National Youth & Militarism Program 1998, 1999