“World War II (1939-1945) killed more people, destroyed more property, disrupted more lives, and probably had more far reaching effects than any other war in history.”
-World Book Encyclopedia
December 7, 1941 - December 31, 1946
Total who served in all Armed Forces: 16,112,566
Battle Deaths: 291,557
Medals of Honor: 433
WWII Veterans today are all over 70 years old and subject to all the diseases of aging: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, dementias of the Alzheimer's type, etc. However, in the early 1940's, they were among the nation's fittest and participated in modern warfare that coincided with major advances in modern medicine.
The U.S. entered the war in December 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before it was over, Americans had fought on the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa and in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. At various times, their service was carried out under severe winter conditions, in the harshest of deserts, and in the hottest, most humid tropical climes. Those who joined up or were drafted were in the military for the duration, however long that might be. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, when the Germans surrendered at Reims in France. The war continued in the Pacific for three more months. However, following the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6 and a larger bomb on Nagasaki two days later, the Japanese surrendered aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor on September 2, 1945.
World War II Veterans were also the first to serve in the nuclear age and American POWs were employed in the clean-up of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus becoming the first "atomic vets." Over 350,000 women served with a peak strength of 271,000 representing 2% of the personnel in uniform, compared to the approximately 15% now in the military.
Following the war, the alliance against Hitler swiftly collapsed after the allies failed to agree on peace terms, thus initiating the partition of Germany that started the Cold War, which was to last until 1991.
WWII Related Resources
- Unique Health Risks for WWII
- WWII Health History Pocket Card
- Hazardous Exposure
- Veterans Health Initiative