As we prepare to observe Veteran's Day on Thursday to honor all the men and women who courageously served this country, stretching back to the American Revolutionary War right up through Operation Enduring Freedom, I compiled some facts, figures, notable footnotes, and historic details about our nation's military history.
• In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
• An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day.’’
• Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, Congress amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
• September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans’ service organizations and the American people.
• Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls.
• Beginning in 1912, the federal government extended burial rights to Confederate veterans in Arlington National Cemetery.
• It wasn’t until the Civil War that the U.S. military began procedures for identifying and burying the dead; first with Union soldiers and later with Confederate soldiers.
• Only 59 percent of those who died during the Civil War were positively identified.
• Army regulations of 1913 mandated identification tags; and during World War I, all combat soldiers were required to wear circular aluminum discs on chains around their necks.
• In 1921, the Veterans Bureau, the predecessor to the Veterans Administration was created.
• On March 4, 1923, through an act of Congress, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), an independent agency, was established and charged with the oversight of permanent U.S. military cemeteries and memorials in foreign countries; so that by 1934, the ABMC assumed direct control of eight permanent American burial grounds established by the War Department in northern France, Belgium and England. By 1947, ABMC created 14 additional cemeteries in Europe, North Africa and Asia, which eventually received the remains of 93, 242 American dead, relocated from hundreds or temporary battlefield burial sites.
• In 1930, the Veterans Administration was organized and operated 48 hospitals and 54 regional offices. By 1948, the VA operated 125 hospitals with 102, 200 beds.
• World War II was the first war in which there were more battle deaths than deaths from other causes such as accidents, disease, and infections
• Only in Rhode Island is V-J Day (marking the United States W.W. II victory over Japan) a state holiday.
• Two weeks after D-Day (the decisive Allied military victory in Normandy, France), President Roosevelt signed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill, which in addition to providing health benefits to returning veterans; provided education for a generation of blue collar workers.
• The Korean Conflict G.I. Bill provided only 36 months of education benefits compared to 48 months for World War II veterans
• Approximately 2.4 million Korean War veterans received education and training under the Korean Conflict G.I. Bill
• The Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA) prohibits discrimination against and requires affirmative action for disabled veterans, as well as other categories of veterans.
• Beginning in 1973, the Veterans Administration took control of most national cemeteries except for Arlington.
• In 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed approximately 16 to 18 million military personnel files, including 80 percent of records of Army personnel who were discharged between November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960, and 75 percent of records of Air Force personnel discharged between September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964 with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.
• On March 26, 1982, less than three years after the project was launched, groundbreaking for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial took place between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The first panel of The Wall, was unveiled July 22, 1982
• Of the 58,253 names on The Wall, eight are women and 16 are members of the clergy. Names are added to the Memorial each year in May just prior to Memorial Day. The Wall is the most visited memorial on the National Mall, with more than 4.4 million visitors annually.
• In 1989, the VA became the Department of Veterans Affairs.
• Between 1991 and 2009, the Department of Defense prohibited photographs of the dead. As of February, 2009, a revised policy was issued which allowed each family member to decide if the casket could be photographed.
• Almost 5.5 million people received care in VA health care facilities in 2008.
• The rate of death on the battlefield has fallen significantly over the last 150 years. In the Mexican War (1846-48), 14.9 percent of all battle casualties died from their wounds. The rate dropped slightly to 14.1 percent during the Civil War; and then fell considerably to 6.7 percent during the Spanish-American War. Mortality rose to 8.1 percent in World War I, due to greater destructiveness of modern weapons. The rate of deaths from wounds after receiving medical treatment was 4.5 percent in W.W. II and 2.4 percent in Korea. During the Vietnam War, 97.5 percent of the wounded survived and 80 percent later returned to active duty.
• 142, 246 Americans were captured and interned during World War I, W.W. II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Somalia, the Kosovo conflicts and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
• Number of Veterans Receiving VA Disability Compensation (as of 06/30/10): 3.16 million
• Projected U.S. Veterans Population: 23,067,000
• Number of VA National Cemeteries: 131, as of FY09
• Number of VA Hospitals: 153
• Number of WW II Veterans Pass Away Per Day: 850
• Oldest national cemeteries: 14 established in 1862 (12 maintained by VA).
• The nation’s most famous national cemetery – Arlington National Cemetery – is administered by the Army, rather than VA, and the National Park Service maintains 14 historical cemeteries.
• Largest national cemetery: Calverton, N.Y., 1,045 acres, while the smallest national cemetery is located in Hampton (Va.) at the VA medical center, .03 acres.
• Newest national cemetery: Sarasota National Cemetery in Florida, opened January 9, 2009
• More than 7.7 million people visited VA national cemeteries in 2008.
• Pvt. William Henry Christman, 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, was the first military service man interred in Arlington National Cemetery, May 13, 1864.
• Veterans from all the nation's wars are buried at Arlington, from the American Revolution through the Iraq and Afghanistan. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.
• VA estimates the number of living World War II U.S. veterans at 1,981,000 as of 9/30/10.
American Revolution (1775-1783)
Total U.S. Service Members: 217,000
Battle Deaths: 4, 435
Non-mortal wounding: 6,188
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Total U.S. Service Members: 286, 730
Battle Deaths: 2,260
Non-mortal Wounding: 4, 505
Indians Wars (approximately, 1817-1898)
Total U.S. Service Members (VA estimate) 106,000
Battle Deaths (VA estimate): 1,000
Mexican War (1846-1848)
Total U.S. Service Members: 78, 718
Battle Deaths: 1, 733
Other Deaths (In Theater) 11, 550
Non-mortal Woundings: 4, 152
Total U.S. Service Members (Union) 2, 213, 363
Battle Deaths (Union): 140,000
Other Deaths (In Theater) (Union) 224,097
Non-Mortal Woundings (Union): 281, 881
Total Service Members (Confederate): 1,050,000
Battle Deaths (Confederate) 74,524
Other Deaths (In Theater) (Confederate) 59,297
Non-mortal Woundings (Confederate) Unknown
Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 306,760
Battle Deaths 385
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 2,061
Non-mortal Woundings 1,662
World War I (1917-1918)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 4,734,991
Battle Deaths 53,402
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 63,114
Non-mortal Woundings 204,002
Living Veterans 1
World War II (1941 –1945)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 16,112,566
Battle Deaths 291,557
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 113,842
Non-mortal Woundings 670,846
Living Veterans 2,079,000
Korean War (1950-1953)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 5,720,000
Total Serving (In Theater) 1,789,000
Battle Deaths 33,739
Other Deaths (In Theater) 2,835
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 17,672
Non-mortal Woundings 103,284
Living Veterans 2,507,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide): 8,744,000
Deployed to Southeast Asia: 3,403,000
Battle Deaths: 47,434
Other Deaths (In Theater) 10,786
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 32,000
Non-mortal Woundings 153,303
Living Veterans: 7,569,000
Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)
Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide) 2,322,000
Deployed to Gulf 694,550
Battle Deaths 148
Other Deaths (In Theater) 235
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 1,565
Non-mortal Woundings 467
Living Veterans 5, 10 2,254,000
America’s Wars Total (1775 -1991)
U.S. Military Service during Wartime 41,892,128
Battle Deaths 651,031
Other Deaths (In Theater) 308,800
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 230,254
Non-mortal Woundings 1,430,290
Living War Veterans 16,962,000
Living Veterans (Periods of War & Peace) 22,795,000
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) U.S. Casualty Status
Total Deaths-4,408, with 13 civilian casualties-total: 4,421
Operation Enduring Freedom
Afghanistan only: 1,255, worldwide total: 1,369
Source: ``Companion to American Military History’’ by James C. Bradford; ``The Oxford Companion to American Military History’’ by John Whiteclay Chambers, Fred Anderson; ``For Service to Your Country: The Insider's Guide to Veterans' Benefits’’ by Peter S. Gaytan, Marian Edelman Borden, Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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