Lancaster Intelligencer Journal – July 7, 1863
A TERRIBLE BATTLE – The Rebel Army Defeated and Driven Back
At the Battle of Gettysburg the infantry soldier was armed with the Model 1863 Springfield Rifle-musket. A well trained solder could fire 3 rounds a minute. During the three days of the battle there were 46,286 casualties, 7,863 killed. That works out to 15,429 casualties and 2,621 killed per day. The only local memorial to the Union Soldiers is a plaque on the Indian Bowl Stone in the Cemetery at Salem Evangelical and Reformed Church in Reamstown.
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal – Sept. 30, 1918
Americans Smash the Fifth German Army
During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in World War One the United States established itself as a military power. The US Doughboys were armed with the M1903 Springfield. This bolt-action rifle had a five round clip and could fire 15 rounds a minute. During the 15 days of this final action of the war there were 187,000 casualties, 41,677 killed. The daily butcher bill was 12,467 casualties, 2,778 killed. The most unique World War I memorial is the four lamp light post where Park Ave. meets Main St. in Ephrata. It once stood in the Square with the town’s only traffic light atop.
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal – June 6, 1944
ALLIES INVADE FRANCE
Operation Overlord, the invasion of occupied France, started on D-Day, June 6, and lasted until the liberation of Paris on August 25. My paternal uncle and the majority of his comrades carried the M1carbine. This semi-automatic rifle used a fifteen round clip and could fire 65 rounds per minute. Operation Overlord lasted for 80 days and there were 226,386 casualties, 36,976 killed. The daily toll was 2,830 casualties, 462 killed. For the first time I found statistics for civilian casualties. The most prominent tribute to those who served in World War II is the War Memorial Field in Ephrata.
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal – November 18,1965
Viet Cong ambush exacts heavy American toll in Ia Drang area
At the Battle of Ia Drang the soldiers of the 5th and 7th Cavalry Regiments were mostly armed with the M14 rifle. This selective fire automatic rifle uses a 20 round magazine and can fire 700 rounds a minute. During the four day battle the US Army suffered 495 casualties, 237 killed. The daily casualty rate was 124 with 59 killed per day. The Borough of Denver added a brass plaque to its impressive monument in the park to honor the Vietnam Veterans.
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal – April 16, 2004
Rumsfeld: Iraq toll more than expected
The first Battle of Fallujah, Iraq was fought between April 4 and May 1, 2004. The Marines and Solders in this central Iraqi city were armed with the M16 semi or full automatic rifle which can carry up to a 100 round drum. On automatic it can fire up to 950 rounds a minute. 48 US Marines, 2 US soldiers, and one Navy corpsman were killed. 412 US Marines, 43 US soldiers and 21 US sailors were wounded. That figures to daily casualties of 18, with 1.75 deaths. 616 civilians were killed.
Do you see a pattern? In 241 years, the lethal capacity of the infantry weapon has increased from three rounds a minute to 950 rounds a minute. At the same time, casualties per day in the major battles fell from 15,429 to 18. Yes, I do understand that there were 165,620 combatants at Gettysburg and 5,800 at the First Battle of Fallujah. But that is exactly the point; the technology of warfare has made an action like Picket’s Charge obsolete. No longer do huge armies slaughter each other on battle fields which span nations. The technology of war has scaled the whole thing back. Coupled with better military medicine, body armor, and robots to do the most dangerous jobs, the modern trooper is much more likely to come home.
And there are other factors. Since World War II, the “Hearts and Minds” of the civilian population has become a factor. No longer is the foot soldier the medieval yeoman looting and raping as he sweeps through enemy territory. The 21st Century warrior must be as much diplomat as defender. No longer are decisions regarding war the province of generals, political bosses or the nobility. Since the Vietnam War, the citizen has taken interest in what their political leaders are doing with their sons and daughters in uniform. Twenty-first Century political leaders are less likely to commit “boots on the ground” without sticking a finger into the popular wind. Finally, a new fiscal frugality has made war an expense many think we cannot afford.
Just maybe we are approaching a point where our respect for human life is greater than our need to feel internationally dominant.
Just maybe the men in the front lines of our military will start to see themselves more like the neighborhood cop walking the beat than the Roman legionnaire subduing the polis.
Just maybe “We the People” will see that war is not the answer and support leaders who try every alternative first.
Just maybe we will understand that although it takes much longer, subduing with arms is much more expensive than supporting with understanding and kindness.
Just maybe we will realize that the best way to honor those who have gone to war for us is to assure their sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters will not have to experience their horrors.