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The Brutal Realities of World War I (Abridged)

Gain insight into the death and destruction of World War I with firsthand accounts from former soldiers.  
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English — US

Subject

  • History
  • Human & Civil Rights
  • The Holocaust

When World War I began in August 1914, both sides expected a quick victory. Neither leaders nor civilians from warring nations were prepared for the length and brutality of the war, which took the lives of millions by its end in 1918. The loss of life was greater than in any previous war in history. The carnage from World War I was incomprehensible to everyone, as millions of soldiers and civilians alike died.  

The chart below provides estimates of the number of soldiers killed, wounded, and reported missing during World War I. Exact numbers are often disputed and are nearly impossible to determine for a variety of reasons. Different countries used different methods to count their dead and injured, and some methods were more reliable than others. Records of some countries were destroyed during the war and its aftermath. Also, some countries may have changed the number of casualties in their official records for political reasons. The numbers of civilians from each country killed during the war are even more difficult to determine, though historians estimate civilian deaths at about 5 million 1 . The numbers in the chart reflect the estimates made by most historians today.

 

Country

Total
Mobilized Forces

Killed or Died*

Wounded

Prisoners
or Missing

Total Casualties

Allied Powers

Russia

12,000,000

1,700,000

4,950,000

2,500,000

9,150,000

British Empire 8,904,467 908,371 2,090,212 191,652 3,190,235

France**

8,410,000

1,357,800

4,266,000

537,000

6,160,800

Italy

5,615,000

650,000

947,000

600,000

2,197,000

United States

4,734,991

116,516

204,002

320,518

Japan

800,000

300

907

3

1,210

Romania

750,000

335,706

120,000

80,000

535,706

Serbia

707,343

45,000

133,148

152,958

331,106

Canada[footnote-link=5]

424,000

59,694

172,000

3,800[footnote-link=6]

61,082

Belgium

267,000

13,716

44,686

34,659

93,061

Greece

230,000

5,000

21,000

1,000

27,000

Portugal

100,000

7,222

13,751

12,318

33,291

Montenegro

50,000

3,000

10,000

7,000

20,000

TOTALS

42,612,810

5,211,809

13,003,004

4,124,890

22,165,291

Central Powers

Germany

11,000,000

1,773,700

4,216,058

1,152,800

7,142,558

Austria-Hungary

7,800,000

1,200,000

3,620,000

2,200,000

7,020,000

Turkey

2,850,000

325,000

400,000

250,000

975,000

Bulgaria

1,200,000

87,500

152,390

27,029

266,919

TOTALS

22,850,000

3,386,200

8,388,448

3,629,829

15,404,477

GRAND TOTALS

65,462,810

8,598,009

21,391,452

7,754,719

37,569,768

 

Source: "WWI Casualty and Death Tables," originally published on PBS website. Statistics also available on Encyclopedia Britannica's website.

* Includes deaths from all causes.

** Official figures.

 

  • 1Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1994), xv.
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