This past Tuesday was Veterans’ Day.
For the past three days I’ve been thinking a lot about a number of war related information I’ve come across lately.
Back in October I saw a posting on Facebook, which provided a link to some transcripts from Civil War military telegraph messages related to the Battle of Westport.
As I reviewed these messages I was struck by how different war in the 1860’s was.
Not only was communication slow and cumbersome, but also the participants were quite different.
There was discussion of bushwhackers, Indians, volunteers and militia being recruited and joining in the battles.
Earlier in October, while I was in Kansas City we visited the World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial.
I was particularly struck by the casualty statistics.
My dad had spoken many times of the horrific losses at the Battle of Verdun.
While at the museum I read how an entire generation of European men was nearly eliminated.
In my research for this blog entry, once again I found the statistics shocking.
Russia for example mobilized 12 million soldiers of which 76.3% became casualties (killed, wounded, missing, or POW.)
Eighty-four million French soldiers were involved suffering a 73.3% casualty rate.
Great Britain and the British Empire deployed 8.9 million soldiers of which 35.8% became casualties.
The United States, who was a late entry into the war engaged 4.3 million soldiers and suffered an 8% casualty rate.
The high casualty rates have been blamed on the introduction of “modern weaponry” used with our-of-date tactics.
As I’ve been researching my family tree I’ve noticed that nearly all men who were of draft age during either World War I or World War II have military draft and / or enlistment records.
This together with the stories I’ve heard of shortages and rationing has reinforced with me the fact that these two wars affected virtually everyone in the country.
During these wars most soldiers deployed remained deployed for the duration of the war.
It seems that every generation has its own “big war.”
The “big war” for my generation was Vietnam.
One big difference between the Vietnam War and World Wars I and II was the duration of the deployments.
During the Vietnam War most deployments were 13 months in duration.
Unless a soldier re-enlisted, a typical Vietnam Veteran spent 13 months in Vietnam.
When I registered for the draft, I was initially classified as “I-S” as a high school student.
After high school graduation, I retain a deferred status of “II-S” by enrolling as a full time college student.
Due to my personal situation, I enrolled as a part time student knowing that had one year until I was actually eligible for the draft.
My plans were to enroll full time the next year so I could be reclassified as “II-S.”
During my first year of college, President Nixon eliminated the “II-S” deferment.
Subsequently, I was classified “I-A” and was subject to being drafted depending upon my number in the upcoming lottery.
On August 5, 1971, my birthday was selected 225th in the lottery.
As result I was not drafted.
Today we have a 100% volunteer military.
During the Vietnam War (August 5, 1964 – March 28, 1973) 8,744,000 were on active duty.
The highest deployment level was 536,100 during 1968.
A total of 9.7% of my generation are Vietnam Veterans.
It’s estimated that only 40% of eligible men served in the military during the Vietnam era.
Now that “I’ve made a short story long” what is my point of all this?
I’ve thought a lot this week of how war has evolved in the past 150 years.
The general population can fight today’s war with much less participation.
Today drones remotely flown by pilots near Las Vegas, Nevada can fire missiles in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
I just hope we don’t lose sight of the fact the no matter how closely we’re involved in a war; the results are the same, death and destruction.
Civil War Documents
World War I Casualties
Vietnam War Draft Lotteries
Vietnam War Statistics