|Forty three years after the war, it
still is difficult to get a reliable accounting of overall casualties—due to both the insufficiency of recorded
data and a plethora of political obstacles. But we have to keep digging. The following information has been
selected from a number of different sources. Due to variances in the reporting, however, I cannot vouch for the
accuracy of any of the numbers.
It has been estimated that some four million men,
women and children were killed, wounded, or otherwise incapacitated on the Korean peninsula during the
three-year plus struggle; two million of whom were civilians. One source put the toll of Communist combatants
killed, wounded or missing at about 1.5 million; the total for North Korea was 214,899 killed, 303,685 wounded
and 101,680 missing.
Patrick Brogan in "The Fighting Never Stopped,"
1989, cited early UNC estimates which put North Korean "KIA" at 316,579. Another source puts Chinese losses at
401,401 killed, 486,995 wounded and 21,211 missing; after the war, the UNC put Chinese casualties for KIA at
Marine Colonel W.S. Brown, Commanding, 1st
Marines, had this to say in a June 14, 1951 regimental memo: "You have counted many hundreds of dead in the
various positions taken in spite of the enemy’s propensity for burying his own dead, so that is most probably
only a small part of his casualties. His wounded will probably die, ours won’t."
Whatever the true numbers, the PRC refused to
release casualty numbers and they remain a state secret. In his "Korean War Almanac," Col. Harry G. Summers, Jr.
Said that from 1950 to 1953: "Using the Korean War as an excuse to eliminate all those who might challenge his
newly won power, Mao unleashed his "Resist America and Aid Korea" campaign. During the three years in which it
was waged, estimates are that as many as 10 to 15 million victims perished. Even sympathetic observers report
that at least two million people were slaughtered in cold blood by the Chinese Communist Party—four times as
many as died on the Korean battlefield."
On the United Nations side, the Republic of
Korea, by far, provided the largest number of troops throughout the war and suffered the largest number of
casualties. Brogan cited South Korean losses at 103,248 KIA and 159,727 WIA, according to the UNC; but, the
government of the REPUBLIC OF KOREA itself reported that 113,248 South Korean soldiers died in the war and
159,727 were wounded; it has been estimated by the ROK that altogether 1,312,836 South Korean soldiers and
civilians died during the three-year conflict. By war’s end in 1953, South Korea had 590,911 personnel under
UNITED STATES forces in the war zone suffered the
second highest number of casualties among the UN forces. According to updated statistics provided by the
Department of Defense (DoD) in October 1995, approximately 5,720,000 Americans served worldwide during the
Korean War era (1950-55); of whom some 1,500,000 served in the Korean War theater of operations.
During the Korean War era (1950-55), there were
54,268 American deaths worldwide. Deaths attributed solely to the Korean Operation (Korea and surrounding
waters), as reported by the service branches, were significant:
(a) According to the DoD, between June 25, 1950
and January 31, 1955, 33,651 U.S. personnel died from "hostile" causes; 23,835 were killed in action, 2,535
died of wounds, 4,845 died while missing, and 2,436 died as prisoners of war. [Of the 33,651 personnel who
died in the Korean War, 8,135 remains officially have not been identified or recovered though 1996.]
(b) In addition, 3,262 U.S. personnel died of
"Non-battle" causes, including a high incidence of hemorrhagic fever in 1951-52.
(c) Elsewhere in the world, 17,355 personnel
died in "Other" operations [Korea-related and "Cold War"] from a variety of causes, including combat and
Of 105,785 personnel who were wounded in-theater
in Korea and who were hospitalized for wounds, 103,284 survived. No record was maintained of non-hospitalized
wounded in Korea which may have quadrupled the number of WIA; a high percentage of the wounds were caused by
fragmentary weapons mortars, grenades, etc.
The United States, the major supporting
participant in the war, committed seven army divisions; 1 marine division; army and corps headquarters; almost
all logistical and support forces; one tactical air force and supporting elements. In addition, 1 combat cargo
air command; two medium bombardment wings; 1 complete naval fleet, including a fast carrier task group, blockade
and escort forces, reconnaisance and antisubmarine units; supply and repair units; and military sea
Other UN Losses
Personnel totals are shown at peak strength and
unit contributions do not include augmentations:
- AUSTRALIA - two infantry battalions; 1 fighter
squadron; one air transport squadron; one carrier; two destroyers; one frigate – 2,282 personnel; 291 dead,
- BELGIUM - one infantry battalion, including
Luxembourg unit of 44 men—944 personnel; 97 dead, 350 wounded.
- CANADA - one army brigade of three infantry
battalions, one artillery regiment, one armored regiment, three destroyers and one air squadron—6,146
personnel; 291 dead, 1,072 wounded.
- COLOMBIA - one infantry battalion and one
frigate—1,068 personnel; 140 dead, 452 wounded.
- ETHIOPIA - one infantry battalion—1,271
personnel; 120 dead, 536 wounded.
- FRANCE - one infantry battalion and one
gunboat—1,185 personnel; 288 dead, 818 wounded.
- GREECE - one infantry battalion and one
gunboat—1,263 personnel; 169 dead, 543 wounded.
- LUXEMBOURG - one infantry unit of 44
personnel, combined with Belgian battalion.
- NETHERLANDS - one infantry battalion and one
destroyer—819 personnel; 111 dead, 589 wounded.
- NEW ZEALAND - one artillery regiment and two
forgets—1,389 personnel; 34 dead, 80 wounded.
- PHILIPPINES - one regimental combat team—1,496
personnel; 92 dead, 299 wounded.
- SOUTH AFRICA - one fighter squadron; 20 dead.
- THAILAND - one regimental combat team; two
corvettes, and one air transport squadron—2,174 personnel; 114 dead, 794 wounded.
- TURKEY - one army brigade—5,455 personnel; 717
dead, 2,246 wounded.
- UNITED KINGDOM - two army brigades of five
infantry battalions with support armor and artillery; 1 carrier, 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, and 3 frigates with
accompanying marine and support units—14,198 personnel; 710 dead, 2,278 wounded.
- DENMARK, INDIA, ITALY, NORWAY and SWEDEN each
sent a medical contingent; none reported casualties.
Sources for Other than US Losses
The source for the above peak strength is the
"Korean War Almanac," 1990. The sources for the above casualty data are "World Almanac" and the "Korean Overseas
Information Service." See "Korean War," 1990, by Stephen Badsey as an additional source for Turkish losses. A
number of sources, including "Korean War Almanac," were used for the unit contributions data.