COVID-19 Has Killed More Americans than WWI

Yet another grim milestone.

The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, formally entering World War I. Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918. In between, 116,516 Americans died.

Yesterday, as Steven Taylor pointed out to me, we passed that total from the novel coronavirus. Here’s where we stand as of this writing:

It’s worth noting that, as had been typical in our wars to that point we lost more personnel to disease (63,114) than to combat (53,402). In this case, it was mostly the influenza epidemic of 1918.

That pandemic took 675,000 Americans out of a much smaller population (103 million vs the current 328 million).

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tony W says:

    The kids of those doughboys are the ones dying first this time. Some generations get all the luck.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    For future reference WIKI lists total US deaths in WWII at 419,400.

  3. Barry says:

    @gVOR08: We could be there by the time Biden takes over.

  4. Mikey says:

    20 months of war to get to that number, but less than six months of COVID-19.

    We’ve lost 100,000 to COVID-19 in just nine weeks (that we know of, this is probably a significant undercount).

    It didn’t have to be this way.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    We just exceeded the number who died of the H2N2 flu in 1957-1958.

  6. Tyrell says:

    @Mikey: “Driver passed out from wearing mask too long, police say” (Daily News)
    “Law enforcement warns of potential dangers wearing masks while driving” (4 News)
    “Joggers lings collapsed after running with facemask. Here is why you should not work out with a mask on” (Times of Indiana)
    If a person is killed while driving after passing out from wearing a mask or dies of asphyxiation while wearing a mask while exercising: are those counted as coronavirus deaths?
    Is there a breakdown showing deaths by:
    age, sex, height, weight, blood type, income, education level, health history, race, ethnicity? How about those who had no other health problems? A breakdown of the numbers could be useful in making predictions and coming up with some antibiotics and other treatments.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    Plus it’s nothing compared to the Black Plague, amiright?

    June 1957 to January 1958. Eight months – probably quite a bit longer since detection was less sophisticated. We are arguably five, maybe six months in, and it is far from over.

    Some of us don’t believe we should have to endure levels of death from communicable diseases on a level with the 14th century or even the 1950’s. Some of us wonder how in hell the country that could put a man on the moon still can’t produce enough hand sanitizer, let alone PPE. Some of us wonder why, with 4% of world population, we manage to account for 25% of all deaths. We suspect the answer may have something to do with a federal government response that was – and remains – as limp as Trump’s dick. A governmental failure of catastrophic proportions.

  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Sorry, but your examples are more in the “can’t fix stupid” category than in any other. Nice try, though. Thanks for playing. 🙁