World War 2 civilian and military deaths estimates vary significantly from source to source. Only the United States and the British Commonwealth nations had accurate records of military and civilian deaths, per data from the online Encyclopedia Britannica. There are several reasons for imprecise record keeping: records destroyed, boundary changes making ownership and responsibility problematic, and records not kept in the first place.
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Additionally, is the question of what deaths are attributable to World War 2. Civilians in Eastern Europe and China died of starvation and disease at breathtaking numbers. But which of these starvation and disease deaths are assignable to the war and which are not has been debated between historians.
In all twenty-eight countries with a civilian and military death total approaching thirty-eight million. Twenty-one Allied countries sustained over 30 million civilian and military deaths. The seven Axis nations recorded almost 7.7 million deaths. Military deaths were 19.8 million and civilian deaths were 18.3 million or a 1.1 to 1 military to civilian death rate ratio.
Nations with high civilian death rates happened due to the following, where:
- Battles were directly fought such as China, the various Soviet republics, most of Eastern Europe, etc.
- Ethnic groups were targeted for expulsion, forced labor, or extermination, such as in Poland, the Soviet republics, Hungary, etc.
- Nations targeted by extensive strategic bombing, Japan and Germany.
Civilian deaths in the battleground cities of Nanjing, Stalingrad, Leningrad, Manilla, and Warsaw were immense. Kharkov was a battleground four separate times as Germany first conquered it, the Soviets took it back, the Germans reconquered it, and the Soviets took it back for a final time.
In Mein Kampf Hitler outlined his vision for Jews and Slavs. With the Holocaust Nazi Germany killed an estimated six million Jews through massed shootings, forced labor, concentration camps, starvation, and disease.
Seven German cities with populations greater than 500,000 suffered more than 50 percent destruction. On July 24, 1943, the British bombed Hamburg beginning a ten day operation . British aircraft dropped 2,300 tons of incendiary bombs on Hamburg on that night. However, this was the opening salvo in Operation Gomorrah and when it ended ten days later after 17,000 bomber sorties dropped more than 9,000 tons of explosives resulting in a final death toll of greater than 37,000.
Twenty-eight Japanese cities suffered more than 50 percent damage due to conventional bombing. Due to construction technique many Japanese cities were very susceptible to fire bombings which were used later in the war. Firestorms frequently resulted from these bombings causing many thousands of deaths. Tokyo underwent a series of bombings, however on the night of March 9-10, 1945, 325 planes set out in what would be the most destructive bombing raid of the war. Operation Meetinghouse resulted in sixteen square miles of central Tokyo being obliterated with an estimated 100,000 civilian deaths.
German and Japanese death tolls in the later stages of the war perplex many. Why did these two nations continue to fight even when there was no realistic chance of settlement let alone victory. The Battle of Berlin resulted in an additional 92,000 to 100,000 German military and civilian deaths. Japan suffered two atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulting in additional 129,000 to 226,000 deaths.
World War 2 Civilian and Military Deaths Data
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Other World War 2 Civilian and Military Death Data
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