World War One Casualties and COVID-19 Casualties: A Comparison

In 5 months of active combat in World War One, Austria-Hungary, with a population of 51.4 million, had roughly 133,000 soldiers killed in battle. Many more were wounded and taken prisoner, but I’ll focus on that number. 105,000 were on the Russian Front and 28,000 were on the Serbian Front. On both fronts, the Austro-Hungarian armies were frequently ordered to engage in frontal bayonet charges against prepared enemy positions, without preparatory artillery bombardment. Austrian officers often did not speak the languages of their troops and the central command had no coherent plan for war, as it exhausted troops with marches back and forth to different strategic positions on whims and failed to coordinate sufficient ammunition and equipment for front-line troops.

That’s 150 days of combat, roughly, and that works to 887 deaths per day for the army. Adjusted for population to match the USA today, that would mean multiplying by about 6.5: 5766 deaths/day.

True, while the US average of 1200 deaths/day over March-May of 2020 is between a fourth and a fifth of the Austro-Hungarian number, let’s also remember that we’re comparing our numbers to one of the worst-managed armies in the whole of the conflict in this exercise.

The USA spent 200 days in combat in World War One and sustained 53,000 combat and 116,000 total soldier deaths from a population of 92 million. Adjusting for today’s population, that would be equal to 190,684 combat and 417,347 total in those 200 days: 953 per day combat and 2086 per day, total.

Since 1 April, only 7 of the 64 days had less than 953 per day for combat. 16 have been higher than the total deaths per day in World War One for the USA, adjusted for population.

COVID-19 casualties in many other nations are nowhere near wartime numbers, even when adjusted for modern populations. In the USA, they are. That they are speaks to the badly-managed national response to the pandemic. Even if there’s plenty of blame to go around, that all goes back to the person at the top. It all came down to his decisions leading up and during the crisis that set the stage for the needless loss of lives – both buried and permanently wounded from this experience. That we continue to see high daily numbers is testament to the continued failures of the national leadership, of which the president must be the focus of the blame and criticism.

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