The number of US troops who died in war zones rose in 2017, the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, for the first time in six years. As of Dec. 28, at least 33 military personnel had been killed in war zones overseas compared to 26 last year, according to an analysis of casualty statements released by the Pentagon. At least 21 of those died in combat, according to the Pentagon — some in places where the US presence was not widely known.
The total is a far cry from the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007, when more than 1,000 US troops were killed. But the variety of places where US troops died in combat may indicate what lies ahead under an administration that has granted the military greater authority than its predecessors had to act without consulting leaders in Washington, DC.
Former military officials and experts say 2017 also showed a worrisome trend toward less transparency about how and where US troops are killed. In June, the US military said it would no longer release immediate information about US combat deaths in Afghanistan.
The Trump administration also has been opaque about troop levels in some countries such as Syria, where US officials finally acknowledged that 2,000, not 500, US forces were operating. High-profile combat deaths in Yemen, Niger, and Somalia this year led to the first realization for many Americans — and some members of Congress — that hundreds of US troops were fighting in those countries.
The trend toward decreased transparency is also fueled by the growing reliance on US special forces, whose operations are shrouded in secrecy from the public and Congress. That is likely to mean that the circumstances of troop deaths in places like Yemen and Somalia will continue to be a mystery.
The reliance on special forces also has meant the elite troops are dying at rates higher than conventional forces. Last year, for the first time, more commandos died than conventional forces, and that trend continued in 2017 — even though special forces make up only 5% of the US armed forces.
In 2017, US special forces have served in 143 countries, or nearly three quarters of the nations in the world. There are currently 8,000 US special forces deployed in more than 80 countries — up from roughly 2,900 special forces in 2001.
The longest conflict in US history, the war in Afghanistan, is in its 17th year, with the battle expanding to include ISIS-linked militants and a resurgent Taliban. Fifteen US service members died there in 2017, with the military categorizing at least 11 of them as hostile deaths. At least five were investigated as possible friendly fire incidents, including three killed by an Afghan soldier in June. In two other episodes in March, a total of 11 American soldiers were wounded by Afghan soldiers in so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in Helmand Province. In addition, 101 US troops were wounded in Afghanistan this year, according to Defense Department data.
In August, Trump approved sending 3,000 more US troops to the country. There are now roughly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.
April 8 — Staff Sgt. Mark Alencar
Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, from Kettering, Ohio, and Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, from Bloomington, Illinois, were killed April 27 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, during a raid targeting an ISIS-affiliated militant leader that turned into an hours-long firefight. The two Army Rangers were on their third deployments. After the incident, the US military said it was investigating whether they were killed by friendly fire.
June 10 — Sgt. Eric M. Houck
Sgt. William M. Bays
Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge
Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, from Baltimore, Maryland, Sgt. William M. Bays, 29, from Barstow, California, and Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, from Youngsville, North Carolina, were killed in Nangahar Province when an Afghan soldier turned his weapon on them and opened fire. Houck was married to his high school sweetheart, with whom he had two children. His funeral was held on June 18, Father’s Day. Bays left behind a wife and three daughters. Baldrige’s father said his son had always wanted to be a soldier. "He'd be up at five in the morning watching the Military Channel on TV,” his father told a local news outlet. “What kind of kid does that?"
July 3 — Pfc. Hansen Kirkpatrick
Pfc. Hansen Kirkpatrick, 19, of Wasilla, Alaska, died after an attack in Helmand Province on July 3. Two other soldiers were wounded in the same attack, which the US military said it would investigate. Kirkpatrick deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas, in January with about 1,500 soldiers on a nine-month rotation in support of the NATO-led mission to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces.
Aug. 2 — Spc. Christopher Michael Harris
Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter
Spc. Christopher Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, and Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana, were killed in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Aug. 2 when a suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which also injured four other US service members. Both were part of the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, N.C. Harris had just recently learned his wife was pregnant. Hunter had spent a year studying music at Indiana State University with dreams of becoming a recording producer before joining the Army, his family said. He was just 32 days into his first deployment when he was killed.
Aug.16 — Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler
Army Spc. Allen Levi Stigler Jr., 22, of Arlington, Texas, and Sgt. Roshain Euvince Brooks, 30, of Brooklyn, New York, were killed on Aug. 13 when an artillery round meant to be fired at an ISIS target exploded prematurely at an undisclosed location in Iraq. Five other soldiers were injured in the incident. Stigler was on his first combat deployment and was expected to go home in a month when he was killed. Almost 100 members of a local Jeep and Truck club showed up to honor Stigler at his funeral.
A citizen of Jamaica, Brooks moved to Brooklyn as a teenager and joined the Army in 2012. His father made headlines later in the year, when Trump claimed that unlike his predecessors he had called all families of fallen soldiers. “I said to my daughter, ‘Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he’s a liar?’” Brooks told the Washington Post. “You know when you hear people lying, and you want to fight? That’s the way I feel last night. He’s a damn liar.”
Oct. 1 — Spc. Alexander Missildine
Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, a Navy SEAL, was killed in Yemen in the first military action undertaken by the Trump administration. He died when what the US military says was an intelligence-gathering operation turned into a lengthy firefight. Three other US service members were injured when an MV-22 Osprey, sent to evacuate the wounded, lost power and crash-landed. Owens had enlisted in the Navy in 1998 and had three children. His father, Bill Owens, refused to meet with President Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son’s body was returned. In his first address to Congress, Trump lauded Ryan Owens, and the chamber gave his widow, Carryn, an emotional standing ovation.
May 5 — Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, a Navy SEAL from Falmouth, Maine, was killed during an operation against al-Shabaab in a remote area of Somalia, about 40 miles west of the capital Mogadishu. He was killed a month after President Trump had approved the use of aggressive military operations and expanded airstrikes to target the group. He was the first US service member to be killed in action in Somalia since the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, which led to the deaths of 18 troops and inspired Black Hawk Down. A 15-year veteran who joined the Navy in 2002, he’d also deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, where in 2007 alone, he conducted 48 combat missions. He left behind a wife and two children.
Oct. 4 — Sgt. La David Johnson
Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright
Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson
Staff Sgt. Bryan Black
Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia; Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; and Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, died when they were ambushed by ISIS-linked militants in the village of Tongo Tongo, near the Niger–Mali border, on Oct. 4. Their deaths shone a spotlight on the little-known operations of the US military in Niger and are still under investigation.
Jeremiah Johnson owned his own business before he joined the Army in October 2007. He left behind his wife of 15 years, Crystal Johnson, and two teenage daughters. Wright, the third of four brothers in a military family, was on his second deployment in Africa and was making plans to move to Philadelphia afterward to be closer to his girlfriend. Black, a Special Forces medic, had learned the local dialect Hausa during a previous deployment to Niger and was in great demand because of it. “I’m not going to lie, but I was a little jealous of Bryan’s celebrity status,” one of his fellow Green Berets said. La David Johnson became the face of the attack when it took 48 hours for his body to be recovered from the site of the ambush. He left behind a pregnant wife and two children. ●
ARLINGTON, Virginia ― No one was shot following the Aug. 26, 2021, bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 Afghan civilians, according to the U.S. military's investigation into the attack released on Friday.How many people died in Operation Enduring Freedom? ›
Numbers of fatalities
The United States Department of Defense lists 2,462 servicemembers as having died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Of these, 1,926 were due to hostile action and 536 non-hostile.
- March 4, 2002: Seven American soldiers are killed when two helicopters come under fire.
- January 9, 2002: A US military refuelling plane that was resupplying troops in Afghanistan crashes in Pakistan, killing all seven Marines on board.
As of July 19, 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,431 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,994 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of the Iraq War.Who killed the 13 service members in Afghanistan? ›
Taliban kills ISIS leader behind deadly 2021 Kabul airport bombing. The mastermind of the deadly August 2021 attack at Kabul International Airport, which claimed the lives of 13 U.S. service members and more than 150 Afghans seeking to flee the country, has been killed, according to three U.S. officials.Who were the first soldiers killed in Afghanistan? ›
The Most Deadly Battle In History: Stalingrad
The figures for the Battle of Stalingrad battle are shocking even by the standards of the other campaigns on this list. Running from August 23, 1942 to February 2, 1943, Stalingrad led to 633,000 battle deaths.
The deadliest single-day battle in American history, if all engaged armies are considered, is the Battle of Antietam with 3,675 killed, including both United States and Confederate soldiers (total casualties for both sides was 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing Union and Confederate soldiers September 17, 1862).Which nation suffered the greatest number of soldiers killed how many? ›
|Country (and successor state)||Soviet Union|
The Battle of Antietam is viewed as the bloodiest day in American military history, with over 3,600 combined fatalities and almost 23,000 total casualties on September 17, 1862.
Beginning early on the morning of September 17, 1862, Confederate and Union troops in the Civil War clash near Maryland's Antietam Creek in the bloodiest single day in American military history. The Battle of Antietam marked the culmination of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the Northern states.What was the deadliest one day Battle in American military history? ›
Antietam, the deadliest one-day battle in American military history, showed that the Union could stand against the Confederate army in the Eastern theater. It also gave President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation at a moment of strength rather than desperation.What was the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq? ›
Two critical shifts that boosted U.S.-led forces in 2007 — a self-imposed cease-fire by a main Shiite militia and a grassroots Sunni revolt against extremists — could still unravel unless serious unity efforts are made by the Iraqi government.Who was the highest ranking U.S. officer killed in Iraq? ›
|Harold J. Greene|
|Buried||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1980–2014|
The Vietnam Conflict Extract Data File of the Defense Casualty Analysis System (DCAS) Extract Files contains records of 58,220 U.S. military fatal casualties of the Vietnam War. These records were transferred into the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration in 2008.Who was the first CIA agent killed in Afghanistan? ›
Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann (March 1, 1969 – November 25, 2001) was an American paramilitary officer in the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division. Spann was the first American killed in combat during the United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.Who is the mother of the killed soldier in Afghanistan? ›
Representing mothers of Canadian soldiers who died in combat, Candy Greff of Lacombe, Alta. has been named the Silver Cross Mother for 2022. Her son, MCpl. Byron Greff, was the last Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.Who was the mother of the servicemen killed in Afghanistan? ›
Mother of soldier killed in Afghanistan honoured. The mother of Master Cpl. Byron Greff, who was killed in Afghanistan 11 years ago has been named this year's Silver Cross Mother. Bill Fortier has her story.Who was the youngest soldier killed in Afghanistan? ›
Highlander Scott McLaren (31 January 1991 – 4 July 2011) was a British infanteer from the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland who went out on his own from a secure base in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand Province, Afghanistan.Who was the female Marine killed in Afghanistan? ›
California Marine Nicole Gee, 23, who cradled baby at Kabul airport, killed in Afghanistan attack. Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee celebrated the joy of service just days before she was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in Thursday's suicide bombing attack near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The number includes two women who were killed during the chaotic retreat and evacuation of Americans and Afghans from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021. Most Americans, and even members of the media, are not aware that 152 brave servicewomen died in the War on Terrorism.What is the most feared US military unit? ›
United States Navy SEALs are perhaps the finest special operations forces in the world. The competitive standard to even be considered for BUD/S training is to swim 500 yards in 10:30, 79 push-ups, 79 sit-ups, 11 pull-ups, and a 10:20 1.5 mile run. That's just to get in.What is the deadliest military unit in the US? ›
|1st Special Forces Operational Detachment–Delta (Airborne)|
|Branch||United States Army|
|Type||Special mission unit|
|Role||Special Operations Counter Terrorism|
National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN), France
This deadly task team has accomplished everything, including saving schoolchildren in Djibouti and apprehending war criminals in Bosnia. One of the deadliest organisations in the world, the force came into being after the 1972 Munich Olympics hostage massacre.
Charles Benjamin "Chuck" Mawhinney (born 1949) is a former United States Marine who holds the Corps' record for the most confirmed sniper kills, having recorded 103 confirmed kills and 216 probable kills in 16 months during the Vietnam War.What is the number one cause of death in the military? ›
Conclusion: Injuries (unintentional injuries, suicides, and homicides) are the leading cause of death among active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, accounting for about four out of five deaths.What military branch has the most deaths in combat? ›
For every 1,000 Air Force troops, 1.4 have died. The US Army is the most dangerous military branch with the most military casualties.Who killed the most humans in history? ›
But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people—easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.Which country had the best soldiers? ›
1. United States Of America. US Military has the biggest defence budget in the world. They are known for their most powerful Air Force on the planet, named as United States Air Force (USAF).Who saved the most soldiers? ›
Desmond Doss is credited with saving 75 soldiers during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the Pacific — and he did it without ever carrying a weapon.
Tragic Deaths of U.S. Service Members in Afghanistan Won't Stop Evacuation Mission. A dozen American service members were killed, 15 more were injured and a number of Afghan civilians were also killed or injured during attacks this morning in Afghanistan.How many Afghans were killed since 2001? ›
About 243,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan/Pakistan warzone since 2001. More than 70,000 of those killed have been civilians.How many soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008? ›
The United States had 32,500 military personnel (of which 23,550 were with ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2008.How many U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2012? ›
U.S. Military's Suicide Rate Surpassed Combat Deaths In 2012 : The Two-Way The number of deaths by suicide in the U.S. military surged to a record 349 last year — more than the 295 Americans who died fighting in Afghanistan in 2012.How many US soldiers are stuck in Afghanistan? ›
About 650 US troops remained on the ground in Afghanistan in early August 2021, keeping to a schedule made months earlier. They were tasked with protecting the airport and embassy.How many Russian soldiers died in Afghanistan? ›
Over 15,000 Soviet troops were killed in Afghanistan from 1979 until 1989. In the war, the Soviet Army also lost hundreds of aircraft, and billions worth of other military machines. Around two million Afghan men, women and children died in the war.How many children were killed in the Afghanistan war? ›
Over 28,000 children have been killed in conflicts since 2005 in Afghanistan, the United Nations Children's Fun (UNICEF) said on Friday in a press release.What country has the most deaths in World war 2? ›
The Vietnam Conflict Extract Data File of the Defense Casualty Analysis System (DCAS) Extract Files contains records of 58,220 U.S. military fatal casualties of the Vietnam War.