American Battle Deaths
A total of 576,161 Americans have been killed in battle in all the wars we have ever fought since the US Constitution was ratified, of which 41 were women and 576,120 were men. Men who died defending this country outnumber women who died by a ratio of 14,051 to 1. In other words, men constitute 99.993% of America's war casualties, just as they constitute 95% of workplace fatalities, 82.4% of suicides, 79% of murder victims, and 60% of traffic fatalities.
|Source: US Dept. of Defense||Men||Women||Ratio Men:Women|
|War of 1812||2,260||0||Infinity|
|Spanish American War||385||0||Infinity|
|World War I||53,513||0||Infinity|
|World War II||292,115||16||18,257|
Cole blast a grim mark for equality
|Equal respect paid to attacks men and women victims|
|The casket of U.S. Navy seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer during her funeral service Friday at the Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego.|
|Oct. 23 In the tense hours after the bombing of the USS Cole on Oct. 12, Chris Ferretti was among the spouses who waited anxiously at Norfolk Naval Station for news about their loved ones aboard the crippled ship in faraway Yemen.|
|I think the American public has gotten used to women being killed in the line of duty, not only in the military, but as police officers. |
Univ. of Maryland sociologist
| BUT UNLIKE most of the others, Chris Ferretti is a man. When his wife, Petty Officer 2nd Class Loretta Lynn Taylor Ferretti, finally was able to call, she told him that she had been very lucky. Shortly before the blast, she decided to skip lunch in favor of a nap. She was asleep when the explosion hit the ships mess.|
The attack on the Cole, which appears to have been the first major terrorist attack on a U.S. warship, also marked another milestone: It was the first time that women permanently assigned to a Navy combatant ship have died in an attack on that ship, according to Lt. Jane Alexander, a Navy spokeswoman. She chose those words carefully because the Navy is not sure whether a female nurse ever was killed while serving temporarily on a warship.
Two of the 17 sailors who died aboard the Cole were women - Lakeina M. Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C., and Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego - a fact the country appears to have taken pretty much in stride. Whether theyre male or female doesnt matter, said Rear Adm. John Foley, commander of naval surface forces for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The focus has been on all Cole sailors.
The story is that there is no story, said another senior Navy officer. The media didnt say, Holy mackerel.
Academic experts on the military also have noted the lack of controversy. I have to admit to being surprised that there was no media coverage related to the fact that women died aboard the Cole, said Juanita Firestone, a military sociologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
| || But there is sharp disagreement among the experts about what this means.|
One school says the large, and growing, role of women in the military is now widely accepted. I think the American public has gotten used to women being killed in the line of duty, not only in the military, but as police officers, said Mady Wechsler Segal, a sociologist at the University of Maryland.
Adds retired Navy Capt. Georgia Sadler, The public understands that people who serve in the military can be killed, regardless of their gender. Thus, the public is taking the deaths of women in stride, and, rightfully, mourning for all the casualties of the Cole as sailors and heroes.
The other, more conservative view is that the American peoples tolerance for the deaths of female soldiers and sailors has not been put to a full test.
I suspect this is not yet the crossroads, said Cap Parlier, a retired Marine Corps test pilot.
In the Cole bombing, he noted, the public never saw bodies, just a big hole in the side of the ship, a number of flag-draped caskets, some names and portrait photographs. He said he believes that the public will react vigorously when it someday sees photographs of the semi-nude body of a female pilot being dragged through the streets of some Third World country.
Both schools agree that the 1991 Persian Gulf War was a watershed. Before that, most women in combat theaters were nurses.
HISTORY OF VALOR
During World War I, according to the Defense Department, no military women died in action, but 102 were felled by influenza and injury. During World War II, 16 nurses were killed in action, 14 died in aircraft crashes and other accidents, and 312 were killed by disease. Fifteen nurses died in Korea, and 10 in Vietnam.
But the Gulf War was the first time that American women went to war in large numbers as combatants. Some 37,000 were sent to the Gulf region, making up 7 percent of total U.S. forces there. Five Army women were killed in action, and nine others died in accidents, according to the Pentagon.
|The public understands that people who serve in the military can be killed, regardless of their gender. Thus, the public is taking the deaths of women in stride, and, rightfully, mourning for all the casualties of the Cole as sailors and heroes. |
NAVY CAPT. GEORGIA SADLER (RET.)
| After that conflict, the Pentagon dropped a variety of restrictions, and today 92 percent of military career fields are open to women, including virtually all combat jobs in the Navy and Air Force, except in Special Operations and aboard submarines. In the Army, women fly attack helicopters but are still barred from most ground combat roles in the infantry, artillery, armor and combat engineer branches.|
There is general agreement among the experts that, given the large number of women in combat billets, the next time the United States fights a large-scale ground war, women may die in large numbers. Also, analysts say, the nature of warfare is changing, making rear areas almost as vulnerable as the front lines, so that even if more combat slots arent opened to women, they still are likely to be exposed to hostile fire.
It remains to be seen what the public reaction will be then, said John Sibley Butler, a military sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin who served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War. He noted that on certain bad days in Vietnam, he sometimes put more dead soldiers in body bags than were killed aboard the Cole.
But former Navy secretary James Webb says an opposite, colder reaction may occur. He worries that 25 years of an all-volunteer force have left most Americans feeling distant from their armed services, and so perhaps less concerned by casualties.
They respect the military, said Webb. But with the volunteer system, fewer and fewer Americans have any personal stakes when our people go into harms way.
© 2000 The Washington Post Company