The majority of soldiers and Marines killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were young, white, enlisted personnel from active-duty units, according to a study released Friday by the federal Government Accountability Office.
The demographic study involved 1,841 service personnel who were killed and 12,658 who were wounded, as of May 28.
Whites, who constitute 67% of the active-duty and reserve forces, accounted for 71% of the fatalities. African Americans are 17% of the overall force and were 9% of the fatalities. Hispanics are 9% of the force and were 10% of the fatalities.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are 3% of the force and were 3% of the fatalities. American Indian/Alaskan Natives are 1% in each category. The race of the remaining fatalities was listed as “multiple or unknown.”
For whites, the percentage of deaths was the lowest since the Defense Department began keeping such statistics. In Korea, 80% of fatalities were white, in Vietnam, 86%, and in the Persian Gulf War, 76%.
The statistical report was requested by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.). The majority of the report deals with a racial breakdown of U.S. forces by job category and rank for each of the services.
Skelton and Rangel wanted the report to further discussion of the nation’s all-volunteer approach to military service.
Rangel has suggested the nation may need to return to a draft so that the burden of military service in wartime is equally shared.
The report appears to support the contention that service in the military reserves is most attractive to young men living in low- or medium-income families in rural communities.
Of the 482 reservists who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan as of May 28), most were from low- or medium-income communities.
About 80% were from rural and urban communities, whereas 18% were from the suburbs. The report warns that issues of ethnicity and socioeconomic status can be difficult to determine without strict definitions and a process to ensure that definitions are uniformly applied.
The report recommends that the Defense Department increase its efforts to gather information about the socioeconomic background of recruits so that it can provide annual reports on the active and reserve components. The department has agreed to the recommendation, the report says.