Military Medical Casualties

Military Medical Casualties

 

losses during wars of armed forces personnel on account of wounds or other effects received from various kinds of weapons, as well as those who are admitted to aid stations or medical installations for more than 24 hours.

Military medical casualties are one category of battle casualties, which also include what are called irrecoverable losses—those already dead or who die of wounds before reaching an aid station, those missing in action, and those taken prisoner. Military medical casualties usually greatly exceed irrecoverable losses—for example, the ratio was about 4:1 in World War I and about 3:1 in World War II. A distinction is made between combat and noncombat military medical casualties. The former refers to casualties that are the result of wounds, traumata, burns, ionizing radiation contamination, poisoning, and frostbite; the latter refers to casualties that are the result of noncombat injuries and diseases not related to weapons.

The type of casualty depends mainly on the type of weapon used. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, most casualties resulted from wounds caused by a silent weapon and from epidemics of infectious diseases. From the invention of firearms in the 14th century to the mid-20th century, casualties were caused mainly by firearms, especially after armies were equipped with rapid-fire weapons, which increased the incidence of multiple wounds. Explosions of shells and aerial bombs produce a shock wave that causes contusions. (The number of Soviet soldiers who suffered contusions in World War II constituted 2.5–5 percent of all casualties.) Infectious diseases in the Soviet Army have consisted essentially of limited outbreaks.

The use of nuclear weapons may cause massive medical casualties. The shock wave produced by a nuclear blast will cause not only contusions but external and internal injuries. The intense light radiation may cause burns, and penetrating radiation may result in radiation sickness. Toxic chemical agents, ordinarily used in combined form, cause many types of poisoning and injuries to the nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, and other systems of the body. Other kinds of chemical weapons, such as incendiary mixtures, cause burns of different degrees. The bacteriological weapons not only spread highly contagious diseases among individual contingents of soldiers but may also cause major epidemics. The calculation of casualties is particularly important when planning medical and evacuation support for the troops.

I. P. LIDOV

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