Lest we forget

World War 2 Death Count

(reposted from Nov. 11, 2005 … because it bears repeating)

Military Civilian Combined
USSR 13,600,000 7,700,000 21,300,000
China 1,324,000 10,000,000 11,324,000
Germany 3,250,000 3,810,000 7,060,000
Poland 850,000 6,000,000 6,850,000
Japan — —  — —  2,000,000
Yugoslavia 300,000 1,400,000 1,700,000
Rumania 520,000 465,000 985,000
France 340,000 470,000 810,000
Hungary — —  — —  750,000
Austria 380,000 145,000 525,000
Greece — —  — —  520,000
USA 500,000 none 500,000
Italy 330,000 80,000 410,000
Czechoslovakia — —  — —  400,000
Great Britain 326,000 62,000 388,000
Netherlands 198,000 12,000 210,000
Belgium 76,000 12,000 88,000
Finland — —  — —  84,000
Canada 39,000 none 39,000
India 36,000 none 36,000
Australia 29,000 none 29,000
Albania — —  — —  28,000
Spain 12,000 10,000 22,000
Bulgaria 19,000 2,000 21,000
New Zealand 12,000 none 12,000
Norway — —  — —  10,262
South Africa 9,000 none 9,000
Luxembourg — —  — —  5,000
Denmark 4,000 none 4,000
Total 56,125,262

World War 2 death toll in perspective

  • First World War (1914-18):  15,000,000
  • Russian Civil War (1917-22):  9,000,000
  • Stalin’s regime (USSR, 1924-53):  20,000,000
  • Mao Zedong’s regime (China, 1949-1975):  40,000,000

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CyberKitten
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 09:05:00

    Far too many people have died in far too many wars.

    War – What is it good for….?


  2. 49erDweet
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 09:38:00

    When applied with discretion it can allow a people to escape attempts by another to control their territories and lives.

    Whether one values that ability, of course, depends on one’s POV.


  3. Mrs.Aginoth
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 11:15:00

    10 million civilian deaths in China? I never knew, & we get WW2 rammed down our throats all the time here in the UK (you’d think we won it all on our own!)


  4. michael
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 20:11:00

    hmmm…I wonder how many more deaths would have happenned under Hitler’s regime not be ousted. Then again, who knows what war is good for?


  5. 49erDweet
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 21:45:00

    Since I was an aware teen-ager during WWII, and eagerly read what commentary existed in 1944 and 1945, I can tell you before the A-bomb came along the plan was to hold off invading for a time and use B-29’s to “dust” every Japanese city – using napalm and incindiaries to burn the industrial and administrative sections to the ground.

    Would that inevitable associated loss of life exceed the toll from Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Maybe.

    But the dreaded operation was an actual invasion. Virtually every adult/teen Japanese citizen was known to have been trained in subversion and guerilla resistance, and the result of such an operation would likely have sustained huge losses of lives on both sides. Not having to do that must have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, at least half of them ours. Does this somehow not have any value?


  6. Stephen
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 20:55:00

    • Cyberkitten / 49er:
    I agree with 49er that war may serve a useful purpose if we are defending our land and our values. But wars of aggression, which are contrary to Western values, suit the lyric of the old Edwin Starr song.

    • Mrs. Aginoth:
    I couldn’t have told you anything about China’s role in the war, either. We certainly don’t think of China as one of the Allies, so I googled it.

    According to WarMuseum.ca, Japan invaded China in 1931, then seized the most fertile, heavily populated parts of China in 1937. Of course Japan had to maintain an occupying presence there:

    China was a Second World War backwater. However, the largest part of the Japanese army was tied down in China, maintaining internal order, and this limited what Japan could do in its war against the Allies.

    So there we have it:— a Remembrance Day history lesson. (We call it Remembrance Day in Canada, not Veterans’ Day. Is it also called Remembrance Day in the UK?)

    • Michael:
    That has always been the rationale for dropping the two A-bombs on Japan. It undoubtedly shortened the war by causing the immediate surrender of Japan. Defenders of the act say that it saved many lives because any attempt to invade Japan would have resulted in heavy casualties.

    I don’t claim to have an informed opinion on the subject. But I think we would have to take into account that dropping the bombs saved the lives of American soldiers at the cost of killing Japanese civilians.


  7. 49erDweet
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 21:47:00

    Stephen: Your comment re: defensive over aggressive war is spot on.

    Call me conflicted!


  8. CyberKitten
    Nov 12, 2005 @ 02:58:00

    Personally I think the Americans would NEVER have invaded Japan if casualties would be as high as they expected. They would’ve just bombed them into the stong age and blockaded them until they surrendered. Very few American lives would have been lost. Invasion would have been insane.

    The Nukes where basically dropped on Japan for two reasons:

    To see if they would work & what effect they would have

    The tell the Russians to ‘back-off’ from any involvement in Pacific Operations.

    ‘Shortening’ the war might have been a consideration but saving American lives (in any Invasion) is a smoke screen I think.


  9. Stephen
    Nov 11, 2005 @ 22:17:00

    49er, I think the argument may have some merit. It seems certain that there was no way to bring about a Japanese surrender without significant loss of life.

    Would an invasion have resulted in more or fewer casualties? — we can only speculate. History isn’t like science; you can’t try it both ways and then compare.

    It’s good to be conflicted about war. Anyone who embraces it enthusiastically is suspect in my books, no matter what the provocation.


  10. CyberKitten
    Nov 12, 2005 @ 03:29:00

    Stephen said: war may serve a useful purpose if we are defending our land and our values.

    Indeed (though I’m not quite sure what you mean by the vaues comment).

    Countries, like individuals, have a right to defend themselves so defensive wars can be moral wars. However, its not just the reason for a war that needs to be taken into account but the way it is fought. Wars should be between trained combatents – not between armies and enemy civilians. Attacks on cities as seen in WW2 should be avoided.


  11. Stephen
    Nov 12, 2005 @ 06:36:00

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by the values comment.

    The paradigm I’m working from is not the current “war on terror” but the Allies’ opposition to Hitler’s evil totalitarian regime.

    Hitler scorned core liberal values like individual freedom and racial equality. It was perfectly legitimate for the Allies to use military force to defend those values.

    On the other hand, President Bush mouths words like freedom and democracy to justify questionable acts of aggression. I’m not persuaded.

    its not just the reason for a war that needs to be taken into account but the way it is fought. … Attacks on cities as seen in WW2 should be avoided.

    Agreed on both points.


  12. CyberKitten
    Nov 12, 2005 @ 13:07:00

    I agree with your points too…


  13. Bill
    Nov 15, 2005 @ 12:17:00

    There has been a great deal of debate amongst historians recently in regards to dropping the bomb, I guess it is because we are currently at war in so many places.

    Unfortunately I don’t have much time to look up the articles and sources so most of this is from memory (of what I have read recently) and since there is a likelihood that I won’t accurately quote sources I have left them out. Maybe when I have more time I will blog them on The Art of The Rant.

    The key to understanding the rational for the Bomb is that from all indications the determination of the Japanese not to be defeated was paramount. Although the Japanese position was extremely weak and defeat was considered inevitable, the length of time it would take to accomplish was defiantly not known. It is hard to beat a surrender out of a people that believe their cause is devine.

    Although negotiations for peace were underway according to the Japanese there was to be no occupation or formal surrender as the US had requested. Peace was to be based on the fact that Japan could not continue the war. The Japanese were not concerned with ending the conflict they were concerned with preventing an invasion.

    There is an argument that the kamikaze had a major impact on the minds of US military leaders.
    kamikaze or “devine wind” refers to suicide attacks carried out by Japanese aircrews against Allied shipping towards the end of the Pacific campaign of World War II.
    A people that believed that death was preferable to defeat or dishonour, would be impossible to defeat, at least not at a great loss of life. I don’t think there is enough evidence to support the theory that Hiroshima and Nagasaki where some sort of display to show American power to the USSR, Though it may have been in the back of mind of some of those that proposed the bomb to end the war.

    That said, I do not believe that dropping the bomb was morally right.
    I do not believe in war or any form of legitimized murder.

    However, the global threat that came from developing the bomb was worse than the loss of life envisioned to end the war with conventional weapons. We have created a monster capable of devouring us all in a flash of light fire and wind. There is really no way to put the genie back in the bottle. Although people will praise the benefits of the nuclear age having eaten from this tree of knowledge of Good and Evil we still may have doomed mankind to a rather horrific end.


  14. Isaac
    Nov 16, 2008 @ 10:10:15

    That’s an interesting list. I think I agree that war is at least tolerable if it’s for defending your country against an attack. I never will think it right, but for defense, I can deal with it.


  15. honestpoet
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 08:42:26

    My husband was a pacifist while in college, until two blockheads from his dorm decided to change his mind. They flicked him in the head until he finally defended himself. He got the point.

    I admire warriors if they’re really fighting to defend others and not as some sadistic distraction, and there are both types. Obviously it’s the duty of the military to ensure that the latter don’t get their hands on guns. I’m afraid in this our American military has been horribly remiss in their responsibilities to humanity.

    I, too, believe that the habit of bombing cities needs to be weaned from the current practice of warfare. It’s criminal, however strategically defensible.

    I’m looking forward to having leadership that understands the art of diplomacy; perhaps dialog will put an end to the immature premature use of violence to attempt to solve problems (except for putting down aggressors, it really serves no other purpose, almost always causing more problems than it solves). This is the problem with our having an arsenal with no statesmen: when all you’ve got is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.


  16. Bill
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 15:01:32

    honestpoet, – concession is not entirely admition of acceptance but just inability to put up with annoying college room mates.

    I am a pacifist from a liberal Christian perspective , which means my role model is a guy that let people hammar nails into his hands and feet, without defending himself. I got his point tough and scary as it may be.


  17. honestpoet
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 14:34:24

    Bill, I’m afraid I consider Christ a poor role model…sorry. I’m not a Christian. I think Christ was a fool in that respect. Non-violence is great up to a point, but the world is what it is. Pacifism is fabulous for an ideal world, but we don’t live in one of those. And it’s fine for people who imagine that the real world is not this one, but I think those people are most likely deluded. I’ll not let someone take my life in hopes that I’m going to a better one.

    And my husband really did have his mind changed by that experience. The fact is that some people won’t play by the rules of non-violence, and they have to be dealt with forcefully if we don’t want them running amok.


  18. Stephen
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 15:22:28


    OK: arguably Christ is a poor role model for life in the real, harsh world. Nonetheless, Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., put Christ’s example into practice and achieved remarkable results. The meek stand a significant chance of being crucified, and they had better calculate the odds up front and brace themselves for suffering. But there may be times and circumstances in which non-violent non-cooperation is a very effective strategy.

    It’s certainly worth considering if you have less military might than your opponent, and can’t hope to win a conventional war. Then your options become guerilla tactics, terrorism, absolute compliance with the oppressor, or non-violent non-cooperation — risky as the last strategy is.

    I am not a complete pacifist myself. I understand the force of your argument about your husband’s experience. Within societies, we need laws and enforcement officers and jails. Likewise, in dealing with other nations, we will sometimes have to resort to violence, or be conquered.

    My problem with non-pacifists is that the use of violence is habit-forming. For too many Americans, the use of military might is the default mechanism by which to advance American interests.

    I understand that you’re not a Christian, but let me say something about the role of the Church in this matter. I believe that the Church should maintain a pacifist position in every case. The Church could then be relied upon to supply a dissenting voice when there is a general call to war: to critique Presidents, generals and journalists who make a coordinated effort to drum up public support for war — as they did in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq.

    There must be a public institution which sets out to make a case for peace. The Church in the USA has too often abdicated its duties, effectively betraying her allegiance to the Prince of Peace.


  19. honestpoet
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 08:32:24

    I totally agree, which is why I closed my initial comment with the proverb about the whole world looking like a nail. I’m keen on non-violence myself, but I’m not a purist, I’m a pragmatist. We need to have force available, but it should be our final option, not our first. And for the underdog, non-violent non-compliance is infinitely more ethical an option than terrorism (and arguably more effective, as well).

    And yes, clerics (Catholic and protestant) using the pulpits to help drum up support for our warmongering has been one of the ugliest aspects of this conflict.


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