More U.S. deaths than World War I and Vietnam: How COVID-19 compares with other deadly events

COVID-19 victims were stored in a mobile refrigerator outside Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles in August
Continental Funeral Home driver Manuel Aguilar checks on the bodies of COVID-19 victims in a mobile refrigerator outside the Los Angeles facility in August.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

If a picture speaks a thousand words, what do numbers say?

More than 200,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 since the coronavirus hit our shores, and the count steadily grows.

The death toll has surpassed the number of Americans killed in World War I and the Vietnam War combined.

Each victim represents a single life. But the sum fails to measure the toll that extends beyond one person. Each of those individuals was connected to someone — as a parent, child, neighbor, co-worker, loved one.


The log of our great catastrophes takes in disasters both natural and man-made. We stack them up, place them side by side, but there is no comparing. Each is unique and uniquely tragic.

Numbers lend perspective. They allow for rankings. But they can’t measure the true extent of loss.

Pictures are insufficient. Words fail.

— Mark Z. Barabak

Pearl Harbor, more than 2,400 dead

Dec. 7, 1941

Ship aflame
A boat rescues sailors from the battleship West Virginia in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
(Getty Images)



Terrorist attacks on 9/11, nearly 3,000 dead

Sept. 11, 2001

The World Trade Center towers burned on Sept. 11, 2001.
The World Trade Center towers burned on Sept. 11, 2001, after being struck by two hijacked planes. The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil also hit the Pentagon, and another hijacked plane went down in a field near Shanksville, Pa., after passengers fought back against the men who planned to use it as a weapon aimed at Washington.
(Robert Clark / Associated Press)


Korean War, nearly 37,000 dead


Army artillery
American troops in the Korean War in 1950.
(Universal History Archive)


Vietnam War, more than 58,000 dead


U.S. Marines in Vietnam in 1965.
(Eddie Adams / Associated Press)


World War I, more than 116,000 dead



COVID-19, more than 200,000 dead

January 2020 - ___________

Workers bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island in the Bronx on April 9.
Workers in April bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island in the Bronx, New York. Hart Island has long served as the city’s potter’s field; now New York is using it to inter unclaimed victims of COVID-19.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)


World War II, more than 400,000 dead


U.S. Marines raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.
(Joe Rosenthal / Associated Press)


1918 flu pandemic, 675,000 dead


Patients crowd an emergency hospital near Ft. Riley, Kan., in 1918.
(Associated Press)