Dying With Their Boots Off: Non-Traumatic Deaths Among American Troops in Vietnam, 1960-1975

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The medical literature, ranging from ancient to modern sources, describes a staggering number of causes of combat-related mortality & morbidity. Moreover, the extent of such casualties broadened with the development of new modes of military technology. Traumatic injuries due to lead shot, rifle bullets, and high explosives undoubtedly lead the list among the aetiology of these events. Such categorization of causes of wartime deaths, however, has expanded even more significantly in the post-WWII era. The Southeast Asia Combat Area Casualty File, for example, contains a rich array of mortality data concerning American troops who died between 1960 and 1975 in Vietnam. The purpose of this study is to analyze cases in this dataset that died as a result of non-traumatic injuries (e.g., heart attack, suicide, etc.), aetiologies more often associated with civilian rather than military life. Among the twenty-one official death categories listed in the Southeastern Asian Combat Casualty File about half of them relate directly to traditional military operations, e.g., gunshot wound, grenade shrapnel, etc. The remainder, however, include deaths from suicide, heart attack, “misadventure” etc, the epidemiology of which will comprise the focus of this study.


American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting (ASTMH)


Philadelphia, PA