TDI Friday Read: Iranian Casualties In The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War

This series of posts was based on the article “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter. Mr Beuttel was a former U.S. Army intelligence officer employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. He also authored several updates to this original article, to be posted at a later date, which refined and updated his analysis.

Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal (1)

Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War (2)

Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (3)

The “Missing” Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (4)

Iranian Killed In Action and Died of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War (5)

Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War (6)

Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (7)

Iranian Civilian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (8)

A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (9)


Dupuy’s Verities: Seek The Flanks!

Battle of Chancellorsville by Kurz and Allison (1888). This painting depicted the wounding of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on 2 May 1863, while leading one of the more famous flank attacks in history.

The fourth of Trevor Dupuy’s Timeless Verities of Combat is:

Flank and rear attack is more likely to succeed than frontal attack.

From Understanding War (1987):

Flank or rear attack is more likely to succeed than frontal attack. Among the many reasons for this are the following: there is greater opportunity for surprise by the attacker; the defender cannot be strong everywhere at once, and the front is the easiest focus for defensive effort; and the morale of the defender tends to be shaken when the danger of encirclement is evident. Again, historical examples are numerous, beginning with Hannibal’s tactical plans and brilliant executions of the Battles of Lake Trasimene and Cannae. Any impression that the concept of envelopment or of a “strategy of indirect approach” has arisen either from the introduction of modern weapons of war, or from the ruminations of recent writers on military affairs, is a grave misperception of history and underestimates earlier military thinkers.

“Seek the flanks” has been a military adage since antiquity, but its significance was enhanced tremendously when the conoidal bullet of the breech-loading, rifled musket revolutionized warfare in the mid-nineteenth century. This led Moltke to his 1867 observation that the increased deadliness of firepower demanded that the strategic offensive be coupled with tactical defensive, an idea that depended upon strategic envelopment for its accomplishment. This was a basic element of Moltke‘s strategy in the 1870 campaign in France. Its tactical manifestations took place at Metz and Sedan; both instances in which the Germans took up defensive positions across the French line of communications to Paris, and the French commanders, forced to attack, were defeated.

The essential emphasis of modern tactics and operational art remains enabling flank or rear attacks on enemy forces in order to obtain decisive results in combat. Will this remain true in the future? The ongoing historical pattern of ground forces dispersing on the battlefield in response to the increasing lethality of weapons seems likely to enhance the steadily increasing non-linear and non-contiguous character of modern battles in both conventional and irregular warfare.

The architects of the U.S. multi-domain battle and operations doctrine seem to anticipate this. Highly dispersed and distributed future battlefields are likely to offer constant, multiple opportunities (and risks) for flank and rear attacks. They are also likely to scramble current efforts to shape and map future battlefield geometry and architecture.

One of the significant selling points of military gadfly Douglas Macgregor’s proposed Reconnaissance Strike Group force structure is the capability for conducting continuous 360-degree combat operations.

Curiously enough however, current U.S. Army operational doctrine has little to say about the non-linear or non-contiguous aspects of battle. On the other hand, the current U.S. joint operations doctrinal manual has an entire section defining and describing linear and nonlinear operations.

The Das Reich Valley of Death?

When doing historical research questions often tend to lead to more questions which lead to more questions. You never seem to get to a final answer, you just move the questions further along. In my attempt to sort out the Staudegger fight of 8 July 1943, I ended up trying to figure out where the Das Reich SS Division’s Tiger tanks were (as one or two may have been involved in the fight against the II Tank Corps). That question led me to look back at the Tiger tank strengths of the Das Reich on the 8th, which led me to review the whole period from 6 to 9 July 1943. There is a hole there in the Das Reich records. This happens a lot (especially with the SS, who were not the best record keepers).

This then led me back to a diagram showing 6 tanks destroyed in a gully about one kilometer SSW of Luchki (south), roughly at grid 246404. They were one Panzer III, two Panzer IVs, 2 German T-34s and one Panzer VI (serial number 250085). See T313, R390, page 839.

If six tanks were destroyed there, then how many were damaged (could be 30+)? This would be a significant fight. Das Reich took Luchki on 6 July. There is no detailed records of any significant armor action there that I have found. Did six tanks just happen to get destroyed there because of a series of accidents and odd shots, or is this the ditch where they just happened to storing all their seriously damaged tanks, or as the map only has two “X’s” marked on it are the other four loss locations not marked, or is this an indication of a much larger undocumented fight that occurred on 6 July (or perhaps it was later). Right now, my Kursk book has several statements about the fighting at Luchki that does not indicate much armor action. They include:

It brought Luchki under attack at 1030 [6 July] but by 1045, the division was complaining that its attacks on height 243.2 was not making progress. Das Reich put its Der Fuehrer SS Regiment foremost and after overcoming stiff resistance, in particular from antitank guns and artillery, concentrated the fire of all heavy weapons onto hill 246.3, which the regiment then seized at 1130 [this height is located a little over 2 kilometers south of the tank “graveyard” in question]. On the other hand, the Adolf Hitler SS Division claims it seized hill 246.3 at 1115. (page 468-469)

But in the Corps log book (T313, R368) there is further detail for 6 July.

1115: message to commanding general: Das Reich attacking with panzers against Hill 246.3. Enemy strength unclear. Intention: Advance, go around Luchki on both sides.

1125: From Das Reich: Position west of Hill 246.3 in our hands, very fluid battle moving eastward.

1130: Message to commanding general: Hill 246.3 in our hands.

1340: Message to commanding general: 2nd Pz Regt [Das Reich] at Hill 232.0; Regiment Der Fuehrer apparently in Luchki. Ordering a change of position for the command post.

1405: From Das Reich: Regiment Der Fuehrer in combat in Luchki. Panzers moving against Hill 232.0.

1515: Orders to Das Reich: Continue attacking, objective Prokhorovka.

Back to my book:

By 1340, the panzer regiment had taken [probably should say were at] height 232.0 and Der Fuehrer SS Regiment had taken Luchki (1320 Berlin time). Nechayevka also fell to the Germans.

This is from page 469, I cannot locate height 232.0, but do not think it is near Luchki. It is stated for 6 July that end of the day the division succeeded in capturing Luchki (grid 2840), Sobachevskii (295440) and Kalinin (305460, as well as hill 232.0 (????), Oserovskii (2946) and the wooded section just NW of there. As this locations tend to be listed from left to right, this would indicate that height 232.0 is around 5 kilometers north of Luchki.

Our battalion had fought its way through the enemy entrenchments by the early hours of the afternoon and we occupied a place called Luckhi [the one on the Lipovyii Donets]. We reached the perimeter of this village that laid toward the enemy together with the first Grenadiers, but were completely out of ammunition. There was nothing left to do except wait for ammunition resupply under cover of this village.

While we waited for supply vehicles, cleaned out guns and prepared everything for loading ammunition, we were unexpectedly attacked by our own planes. A squadron of Hs-123s [German ground attack planes] dropped their bombs in a diving attack on Luchki. The bombs kept impacting closer until were hurriedly laid flat on the ground next to the vehicle tracks. Lots of bad language greeted the departing planes’ farewell. After this incident we removed the flag stretches across the hood for identification by air and instead the aerial observer on duty had to wave it forcefully whenever friendly planes were approaching. This apparently did the trick, as friendly planes no longer bothered us.

…In a great rush we filled up the magazines, transferred an extra few cases of ammunition over to our vehicle, refueled and quenched our thirst with the water from the containers brought along. We then closed up to the Grenadiers on the southern perimeter of Luchki at high speed. Another gun from our platoon was already engaged in an exchange of fire there. It took several more hours until the village had been taken.

There was an elevation behind Luchki that the enemy had to traverse in his retreat. We caught the enemy infantry columns with our 20mm guns on the bare include that provided almost no cover and caused great losses among them. The immediate follow up of our battalion was prevent by this bare terrain, through, mainly because of heavy fire from the flank to which we were exposed without protection. There was no way to move forward from there. Sharpshooters fired from extremely well camouflaged positions on every man who made a move and forced us to exercise greatest care. We repeatedly attempted to force enemy sharpshooters from their assumed positions by firing single, targeted shots. But the drama only ceased at nightfall. We remained ready for action throughout the night in position. There was no way to catch sleep as the exchange of fire never ceased completely at night.

The last four paragraphs are from page 470, from the interview with Private Kurt A. Kaufmann, loader with 14th company of the antiaircraft battery, Der Fuehrer SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment.

During the fighting near Luchki, the Tiger company claimed 12 T-34s. Also they report that a Russian armored train entered battle, causing some losses and was then set ablaze by the Tigers! (page 470, passage taken from Wolfgang Schneider, Tigers in Combat, Volume II, page 143)

The railroad track is four kilometers were of Luchki.

By the end of the day, the Das Reich SS Division was able to capture Luchki, Sobachevskii, Kalinin, heght 232.0, Ozerovskii, and the wooded section northwest of Ozerovskii. It lost 30 tanks and assault guns this day. (page 472)

This does not really indicate why there were 6 destroyed tanks to the SSW of Luchki (south). The town is hardly mentioned elsewhere in my book and does not appear to have been further fought over, although Luchki (north) was.


P.S. The Henschel 123 painting is from:


A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (9)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing” Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

If we estimate that at least 5,000,000 troops (about 12% of Iran’s then population) served in the war zone, then the military casualty distribution is not less than the following (Bold indicates the author’s choice from ranges):

Killed in Action/Died of Wounds: 188,000 (156,000-196,000) (17%)

Wounded in Action: 945,000 (754,000-1,110,000) (83%)

Severely Wounded/Disabled: 200,000 (18%) (Note: carve out of total wounded)

Missing in Action: 73,000 (6%) (Note: Carve out of total KIA plus several thousand possible defectors/collaborators)

PoW: 39,000-44,000

Total Military Battle Casualties (KIA + WIA): 1,133,000-1,302,000 (28% theater rate)

Possible Non-Battle Military Deaths: 74,000

Non-Battle Military Injuries: No idea.

With Civilian KIA (11,000) and WIA (34,000) and “chemical” (45,000) Total Hostile Action Casualties: 1,223,000

Possible Military Non-Battle Deaths (74,000):1,297,000

Total Deaths Due to the Imposed War: 273,000 (104% of Pentagon estimate of 262,000)

Of 5,000,000 estimated Iranian combatants (1 million regular army, 2 million Pasdaran, 2 million Baseej)

~ 4% were Killed in Action/Missing in Action

~ 4% were Disabled

~ 13% were Wounded

~ 1% were Non-Battle Deaths

~ 1% were PoWs

Total military losses all known causes ~ 27%

The military battle casualty total percentile (27%) is intermediate between that of World War I (50% ~ British Army) and World War II (13% ~ U.S. Army/U.S. Marine Corps, 22% British Army).[118]

The author acknowledges the highly speculative nature of much of the data and argument presented above. It is offered as a preliminary starting point to further study. As such, the author would appreciate hearing from anyone with additional data on this subject. In particular he would invite the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide any information that would corroborate, correct or expand on the information presented in this article.


[118] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 406-407, n. 3

The Origins Of The U.S. Army’s Concept Of Combat Power

The U.S. Army’s concept of combat power can be traced back to the thinking of British theorist J.F.C. Fuller, who collected his lectures and thoughts into the book, The Foundations of the Science of War (1926).

In a previous post, I critiqued the existing U.S. Army doctrinal method for calculating combat power. The ideas associated with the term “combat power” have been a part of U.S Army doctrine since the 1920s. However, the Army did not specifically define what combat power actually meant until the 1982 edition of FM 100-5 Operations, which introduced the AirLand Battle concept. So where did the Army’s notion of the concept originate? This post will trace the way it has been addressed in the capstone Field Manual (FM) 100-5 Operations series.

As then-U.S. Army Major David Boslego explained in a 1995 School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) thesis[1], the Army’s original idea of combat power most likely derived from the work of British military theorist J.F.C. Fuller. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Fuller articulated the first modern definitions of the principles of war, which he developed from his conception of force on the battlefield as something more than just the tangible effects of shock and firepower. Fuller’s principles were adopted in the 1920 edition of the British Army Field Service Regulations (FSR), which was the likely vector of influence on the U.S. Army’s 1923 FSR. While the term “combat power” does not appear in the 1923 FSR, the influence of Fullerian thinking is evident.

The first use of the phrase itself by the Army can be found in the 1939 edition of FM 100-5 Tentative Field Service Regulations, Operations, which replaced and updated the 1923 FSR. It appears just twice and was not explicitly defined in the text. As Boslego noted, however, even then the use of the term

highlighted a holistic view of combat power. This power was the sum of all factors which ultimately affected the ability of the soldiers to accomplish the mission. Interestingly, the authors of the 1939 edition did not focus solely on the physical objective of destroying the enemy. Instead, they sought to break the enemy’s power of resistance which connotes moral as well as physical factors.

This basic, implied definition of combat power as a combination of interconnected tangible physical and intangible moral factors could be found in all successive editions of FM 100-5 through 1968. The type and character of the factors comprising combat power evolved along with the Army’s experience of combat through this period, however. In addition to leadership, mobility, and firepower, the 1941 edition of FM 100-5 included “better armaments and equipment,” which reflected the Army’s initial impressions of the early “blitzkrieg” battles of World War II.

From World War II Through Korea

While FM 100-5 (1944) and  FM 100-5 (1949) made no real changes with respect to describing combat power, the 1954 edition introduced significant new ideas in the wake of major combat operations in Korea, albeit still without actually defining the term. As with its predecessors, FM 100-5 (1954) posited combat power as a combination of firepower, maneuver, and leadership. For the first time, it defined the principles of mass, unity of command, maneuver, and surprise in terms of combat power. It linked the principle of the offensive, “only offensive action achieves decisive results,” with the enduring dictum that “offensive action requires the concentration of superior combat power at the decisive point and time.”

Boslego credited the authors of FM 100-5 (1954) with recognizing the non-linear nature of warfare and advising commanders to take a holistic perspective. He observed that they introduced the subtle but important understanding of combat power not as a fixed value, but as something relative and interactive between two forces in battle. Any calculation of combat power would be valid only in relation to the opposing combat force. “Relative combat power is dynamic and can be directly influenced by opposing commanders. It therefore must be analyzed by the commander in its potential relation to all other factors.” One of the fundamental ways a commander could shift the balance of combat power against an enemy was through maneuver: “Maneuver must be used to alter the relative combat power of military forces.”

[As I mentioned in a previous post, Trevor Dupuy considered FM 100-5 (1954)’s list and definitions of the principles of war to be the best version.]

Into the “Pentomic Era”

The 1962 edition of FM 100-5 supplied a general definition of combat power that articulated the way the Army had been thinking about it since 1939.

Combat power is a combination of the physical means available to a commander and the moral strength of his command. It is significant only in relation to the combat power of the opposing forces. In applying the principles of war, the development and application of combat power are essential to decisive results.

It further refined the elements of combat power by redefining the principles of economy of force and security in terms of it as well.

By the early 1960s, however, the Army’s thinking about force on the battlefield was dominated by the prospect of the use of nuclear weapons. As Boslego noted, both FM 100-5 (1962) and FM 100-5 (1968)

dwelt heavily on the importance of dispersing forces to prevent major losses from a single nuclear strike, being highly mobile to mass at decisive points and being flexible in adjusting forces to the current situation. The terms dispersion, flexibility, and mobility were repeated so frequently in speeches, articles, and congressional testimony, that…they became a mantra. As a result, there was a lack of rigor in the Army concerning what they meant in general and how they would be applied on the tactical battlefield in particular.

The only change the 1968 edition made was to expand the elements of combat power to include “firepower, mobility, communications, condition of equipment, and status of supply,” which presaged an increasing focus on the technological aspects of combat and warfare.

The first major modification in the way the Army thought about combat power since before World War II was reflected in FM 100-5 (1976). These changes in turn prompted a significant reevaluation of the concept by then-U.S. Army Major Huba Wass de Czege. I will tackle how this resulted in the way combat power was redefined in the 1982 edition of FM 100-5 in a future post.


[1] David V. Boslego, “The Relationship of Information to the Relative Combat Power Model in Force XXI Engagements,” School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1995.

An Errant Battalion of the 99th Tank Brigade (versus Staudegger?)

Interesting account from Valerii Zamulin’s book, pages 145-146, on the actions of the 99th Tank Brigade on 8 July 1943 (part of the late arriving II Tank Corps):

…the attack went in at 1400 8 July 1943. The 99th Tank Brigade attacked in the second echelon, behind the 169th and 26th Tank Brigades, with a combat formation also in two echelons: in the first–the T-34 tanks, in the second–the T-70 tanks. A motorized rifle battalion and an anti-tank rifle company rode into battle aboard the tanks….the brigade went into battle in the designated direction Hill 258.2–Teterevino–Luchki….

The commander of the 1st Tank Battalion, which was to attack in the brigade’s first echelon behind the 169th Tank Brigade, even as he was deploying the battalion at the jumping-off line for the attack (the railroad hut 500 meters north of Ivanovskii Vyselok), took a wrong turn and wound up 2 kilometers south of Ivanovskii Vyselok….the 1st Tank Battalion was halted, and it was assigned a different direction–to attack the southwest edge of the grove on the Komsomolets State Farm….

In the vicinity of the highway, the 1st Tank Battalion bumped into the 26th Tank Brigade’s column, although the battalon commader knew that the 26th Tank Brigade was supposed to operating on his right. Then the 1st Tank Battalion commander turned his column and began to attack along the shoulder of the highway in the direction of Tetevino. On the appooach to Hill 258.2, the battalion came under fire from two Panzer VI enemy tanks. An exchange of fire erupted, and the 1st Tank Battalion, suffering tank losses, fell back to the western edge of the woods on the Komsomolets State Farm and fired from its positon there.

So…..going back to our Staudegger discussion on 8 July: on stopping a tank brigade of 60 tanks and killing 22 of them:

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 3

II Tank Corps on 8 July 1943

It could have been:

  1. Staudegger could have ended up engaging both the tanks of the 26th Tank Brigade and the I Battalion/99th Tank Brigade
    1. This would put him against over 60 tanks.
      1. The 26th Tank Brigade had at least 20 T-34s and 20 T-70s.
      2. The I Battalion/99th Tank Brigade may have had around 10-11 T-34s and 10 T-70s.
        1. This assumes one company of T-34s and one company of T-70s.
        2. It could have had three companies.
        3. The 99th Tank Brigade had at least 31 T-34s and 21 T-70s.
    2. This would have explained more of his losses
      1. The 26th Tank Brigade lost at least 6 T-34s tanks this day (and 3 T-70s) .
      2. The 99th Tank Brigade either lost:
        1. At least 12 T-34s and 4 T-70s this day (Fond: 3407, Opis: 1, Delo: 108)
        2. or 21 T-34s and 2 T-70s this day (Zamulin, page 148).
          1. The two T-70s were lost in the II Battalion (Zamulin, page 146)
        3. Don’t know how many losses were in the I Battalion vice the II Battalion (which was also engaged).
        4. It is possible that many T-34s were lost in the I Battalion.
          1. We do not know the composition of the I Battalion, but it may have been 10 T-34s and 10 T-70s.
    3. Staudegger was by himself while the Soviet report states there were two Panzer VIs.
      1. Could be a mistake in the Soviet report.
      2. Or Staudegger had help (there was one other broken down LSSAH Tiger in Teterevino).
      3. Or could be Das Reich Tiger tanks (they had a company with around 6 Tigers ready for action as of 7 July).
        1. They may have lost all six of these tanks on 8 July, including 1 destroyed.
  2. It could be that Staudegger just engaged the I Battalion
    1. It does not appear that he stopped the 26th Gds Tank Bde
  3. The claim of killing 22 T-34s still looks high for this day
    1. 26th Tank Bde lost at least 6 T-34s
    2. 99th Tank Bde lost between 12 and 21 T-34s.
      1. The I Battalion may have only had 10 T-34s.
    3. The German infantry killed at least 2.
    4. Other parts of the Das Reich SS Division were in the area. I assume they did something. They were facing the rest of the 99th Gds Tank Bde.
  4. It is possible that the report of two Tigers engaging the lost I Battalion, 99th Gds Tank Bde is Staudegger.
    1. The Russians may have been seeing double.
    2. Or he may have had help.
    3. Or these two Tigers could have been from Das Reich (we assume that they were to the northwest with the rest of the panzer regiment).

Anyhow, still don’t have an answer, but getting closer.

As it is, I have revised the post “Revised Footnote on Staudegger.”

Revised Footnote on Staudegger

Iranian Civilian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (8)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing” Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq War produced remarkably few civilian casualties compared to World War I or World War II rates. UNICEF data suggests that prior to World War I, civilians accounted for only 5% of all deaths in a given war. This rose to 15% in World War I and an astounding 65% in World War II.[113] Iran claims 11,000 civilian deaths as a result of the war primarily through Iraqi air and missile strikes. The author‘s own study of Iranian civilian deaths places it at about 8,800 known deaths, indicating this number is probably very close to the true figure. If so, civilian deaths accounted for just 5% of total war dead, a turn-of-the-century standard. The number of wounded has not been released, but this author’s figures can account for over 34,000 civilian wounded by air and missile strikes. Further, Iran claims 45,000 civilian “chemical” casualties. If all claims are true then approximately 90,000 civilians became casualties of the war.

This yields a military to civilian casualty ratio of 11:1. This is far better than the ratio claimed in recent wars of 1:9. This suggests that despite the hysteria surrounding “War of the Cities,” the Iranian civilian population was not severely at risk during the war. Compare this to World War II England where the one-year German V-1/V-2 campaign killed 8,588 and wounded 46,838.[114] Then contrast it to total English civilian casualties during World War II at 60,000 dead and 86,800 wounded due to the blitz and buzz bombs. U.K. military killed, wounded and missing (excluding PoW) were 582,900 in World War II giving a military-to-civilian casualty ratio of 4:1.[115] Of course the World War II German bombing and missile campaigns against England were far more severe than that experienced by Iran at the hands of Iraq.

Civilian chemical casualties match military in magnitude. At first this might seem strange. I have found no World War I data on military-to-civilian casualty ratios as regards chemical agents, so there is no point of comparison or contrast here. The high number of civilian chemical casualties seems to be a function of several factors. First some 2,000 Iranian towns and villages lay in areas where Iraqi forces employed chemical weapons.[116] Secondly, Iraqi chemical strikes were often delivered deep into Iranian rear areas to attack reinforcements and support troops. Casualties were often high as the rear echelon troops were less well equipped and prepared to cope with chemical attacks.[117] In these rear area attacks the civilian population density must have been much higher than on the front line. Further, civilians probably had no means of chemical defense. Witness the chemical attack on Halabja in March 1988 with mustard, nerve and cyanogen chloride which killed some 4,000-5,000 civilians and maimed 7,000 others, This may explain the 1:1 relationship between overall Iranian military and civilian chemical casualties.

Mr. Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[113] Abstracts Obtained from Iran on Medical Research Conducted After the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War,”

[114] Charles E. Heller, Chemical Warfare in World War I: The American Experience 1917-1918, Leavenworth Papers No. 10, Ft. Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1984, p. 67; Denis Winter, Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War,New York, Penguin, Viking, 1978, p. 124.

[115] “Bis(2-chloroethyl)thioether, C4H8SCI2,”

[116] Anthony Coordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War, Boulder, CO; Westview Press, 1990, p. 525, n. 56.

[117] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 145-146.

Chinese “Pirates” Accused Of Plundering WWII-Era Shipwrecks

A crane barge allegedly pulling up scrap metal from a World War II wreck in the Java Sea. [The Daily Mail]

An investigation by the British newspaper The Daily Mail has alleged that 10 British shipwrecks from World War II lying of the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia have been illegally salvaged for scrap by “pirates,” including Chinese, Mongolian, and Cambodian-flagged vessels. The shipwrecks have been designated war graves and are protected from looting by the U.N. International Salvaging Convention and British, Indonesian and Malaysian law.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson has demanded an immediate investigation into allegations that dozens of barges with cranes have been plundering the wrecks for many years.

One Chinese shipping giant, Fujian Jiada, which owns five of eight barges alleged to be recently actively salvaging, has denied any involvement. The Malaysian Navy impounded the Fujian Jiada-owned Hai Wei Gong 889 in 2014 on charges of illegally salvaging Japanese and Dutch shipwrecks, and detained another Vietnamese-crewed barge in 2015 for doing the same.

Both vessels were also accused of looting the wrecks of the battleship H.M.S. Prince of Wales and battlecruiser H.M.S. Repulse, sunk by Japanese aircraft off the coast of Malaysia in 1941. Marine experts estimate half of the remains of the two ships have disappeared and stolen artifacts have been discovered being offered for auction.

In 2016, the British and Dutch Defense Ministries revealed the discovery that the wrecks of three Dutch Navy, three British Navy, and one U.S. Navy ships sunk off the coast of Indonesia during World War II had disappeared from the seabed.

Sonar image of the Java Sea bed location where the wreck of the HMS Exeter used to be. [BBC]

Metals salvaged from the wrecks can be quite lucrative, each vessel yielding up to ₤1 million, and brass propellers and fixtures selling for ₤2,000 per metric ton. Metals fabricated before post-World War II atmospheric nuclear testing are particularly useful for medical devices. The Daily Mail found that the barges drop the cranes on to the wrecks to break off large pieces. These are then taken to scrapyards in Indonesia to be cut into smaller pieces, which are then shipped to China and sold into the global steel markets.

And earlier TDI post on the this subject can be found here:

The Curious Case of the Missing WWII Shipwrecks

Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (7)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing” Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

Historical Chemical Casualties

The War of Sacred Defense was the only conflict of the 20th Century other than World War I fought under conditions of general chemical release. The Iranian ground forces were generally ill-prepared for chemical defense, during the course of the war much NBC defense gear was purchased from the U.K., Germany, and Czechoslovakia, but there was never enough and NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] defense training was insufficient. Many Iranian solders became gas casualties because they did not shave often enough to allow their protective masks to make a tight seal.[88]

Throughout the war Iraq employed chemical weapons against Iranian forces 195 times. After the chemical attack on Halabja in March 1988 killed some 4,000-5,000 civilians and maimed 7,000 others, the IRGC sent a video crew to document the atrocity. The video was used as a training film for Iranian recruits. Instead of instilling hatred for Saddam’s brutality, the film demoralized its viewers and exaggerated the power of Iraqi chemical weapons.[89] Iranian troops later panicked under gas attack conditions at Fao and Majnoon and abandoned their positions. However, this phenomenon was widespread in the First World War.[90] Further, chemical attacks were usually not significantly lethal. This is again in accord with World War I experience. Gas inflicted 70,552 casualties on the American Expeditionary Force in 1917-18. Of these only 1,221 died (2% lethality). The British Army suffered 185,706 gas casualties of which only 5,899 died (3% lethality), Total British battle casualties for World War I were 677,515 KIA and 1,837,613 WIA. Gas accounted for only 7% of all British casualties and only 1% of all KIA. The Russian Anny suffered an amazing 600,000 gas casualties with a lethality rate at times as much as 12%.[91]

The Use Of Gas In The Iran-Iraq War

Iraq may have first used gas in late 1980 near Salamcheh. Iran reported its first chemical casualty in fighting near Hoveyzeh in early 1981. These early attacks seem to have been limited to the riot control agent CS. On 27 October 1982, near Musain, four Iranian soldiers died from toxic chemical exposure, probably mustard gas. In mid-August 1983 Iran suffered 318 casualties from mustard and arsenic agents. On 7, 9, and 13 November 1983, Iraq used mustard in the Panjwin area. Four seriously wounded Iranian soldiers later died in European hospitals.[92] Between May 1981 and March 1984, Iran claimed Iraq had employed chemical weapons on forty-nine different occasions. This had resulted in 1,200 Iranian dead and 5,000 wounded.[93] Mycotoxins may also have been used.[94] On 17 March 1984 Iraqi forces employed gas which caused 400 Iranian casualties, 40 of which were from nerve agents.[95] In the Badr operation (1-18 March 1985) Iraq used chemical weapons five times, but inflicted only 200 Iranian casualties, none apparently fatal.[96] In one unnamed 1985 attack, Iran claimed 11,000 troops were exposed to Iraqi chemical agents.[97] In Wal Fajir-9 (15 February-11 March 1986) Iran claimed 1,800 chemical casualties from a total of about 30,000.[98] Up to 8,500 Iranian soldier were gas casualties by the end of Wal Fajir-8 and Wal Fajir-9 (15 February-19 May 1986) with about 700 killed or seriously wounded.[99] In attacks on 27 and 30 January, 9, 10, 12, and 13 February 1986, 8,500 Iranian gas casualties were reportedly suffered, of which 35 died and 2,500 had to be hospitalized.[100] In Karbala-4 (24-26 December 1986) only five Iranian troops died from toxic gas out of 10,000 battle casualties.[101] By early 1987, chemical weapons had inflicted at least 10,000 Iranian casualties.[102] In all Iran had suffered 25,600 gas casualties by April 1988, of which 260 (sic 2,600?) died. Iraq’s extensive use of chemical agents in the final months before the August 1988 cease-fire may have raised the casualty count to as much as 45,000.[103] In the Iraqi “In God We Trust” offensive of June 1988 against Majnoon, Iran claimed sixty soldiers killed and 4,000 wounded by Iraqi chemical weapons, which included nerve and blood agents.[104] A small U.K. article on mustard gas from the Internet cites 5,000 Iranian troops killed by gas and 40,000-50,000 injured during the war.[105] The overall cumulative wartime pattern of Iranian military chemical casualties is illustrated in the below figure.

The Lethality Of Gas

Speaking in 1996, Abdollah Mazandarani, Secretary General of the Iranian Foundation for Chemical Warfare Victims, claimed 25,000 Iranian soldiers were “martyred” (killed?) by Iraqi use of chemical weapons in operations Wal Fajir-8, Karbala-8, Badr, Fao, and Majnoon. 45,000 civilians were also affected by chemical weapons.[106] Iran claims at least 100,000 wounded by chemical weapons during the imposed war with Iraq. 1,500 of these casualties require constant medical attention to this day. Since 1991, 118 have died as a result of their toxic chemical exposure according to Hamid Sohralr-Pur, head of the Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled’s Center for Victims of Chemical Warfare.[107] One of these was Reza Alishahi, who died in September 1994 after suffering 70% disability when he was gassed during the Wal Fajir offensives of 1987.[108] Another pathetic story is that of Magid Azam, now a 27-year-old medical student, who was a 16-year-old Baseej fighter gassed with mustard in the Karbala-5 offensive of January 1987 with no apparent permanent effects. In 1995 his health suddenly began to deteriorate so rapidly he required intensive care. His lungs are now so damaged that only a transplant can save his life. He is one of 30,000 Iranian veterans who have received treatment for recurring or delayed reactions to chemical weapons. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Iranian soldiers were exposed to toxic agents during the war.[109]

In the First World War toxic chemical agents accounted for only 4-5% of total casualties. Of 1,296,853 known chemical casualties in that conflict, 90,080 died (7%), 143,613 were badly wounded (11%) and the remaining 1,053,160 (82%) not seriously affected.[110] 25,000 Iranian military dead out of 45,000 chemical casualties gives an incredible chemical lethality rate of 56%, higher than that for land mines. This claim of 25,000 Iranian troops “martyred” is not an exaggeration, but rather a probable misprint.[111] Elimination of an extraneous zero makes the number 2,500, in line with previously released figures. This would give a chemical lethality rate of 6% per chemical casualty, remarkably close to the World War I general rate, although somewhat higher than individual U.S. or British experience. Further, 45,000-55,000 military chemical casualties out of 1,133,000 total combat casualties yields a 4% casualty total for chemical weapons, again in line with overall World War I experience. 2,500 dead from chemical weapons is only 1% of total Iranian KIA. If 5,000 cited above is correct, about 3%. A representative sample of 400 chemical warfare casualties treated at the Labbati-Nejad Medical Center in Tehran in early 1986 yielded 11 deaths (3%) and 64 (16%) very seriously injured.[112]

Mr. Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[88] Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1990, pp. 516.

[89] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 293-94.

[90] G. M. Hammerman et al., Impact of the Introduction of Lethal Gas on the Combat Performance of Defending Troops, Fairfax VA: Data Memory Systems Inc., 1985, Contract No. DNA 001-84-C-0241.

[91] Charles E. Heller, Chemical Warfare in World War I: The American Experience 1917-1918, Leavenworth Papers No. 10, Ft Leavenwoth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1984, pp. 33, 91-92. This represented some 32% of all hospitalized AEF casualties in World War I. Only about 200 were killed in action outright by gas. U.S. troops were ill prepared, poorly equipped and inadequately trained to fight on the European chemical battlefield. See Denis Winter, Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War, London: Penguin Books, 1978, p.125.

[92] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, pp. 188, n. 23, 513-518.

[93] Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War, London: Brassey’s, 1988, p. 149; Peter Dunn, “The Chemical War: Journey to Iran,” NBC Defense and Technology International, April 1986, pp. 28-37.

[94] U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare Related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and Their Possible Impact on Health Consequences of the Gulf War. (The “Riegle Report”) citing H Kadivar and S.C. Adams, “Treatment of Chemical and Biological Warfare Injuries: Insights Derived from the 1984 Attack on Majnoon Island,” Military Medicine, April 1991, pp. 171-177.

[95] Dunn, “The Chemical War: Journey to Iran,” pp. 28-37.

[96] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 164.

[97] “Iranians Still Suffering from Saddam‘s Use of Mustard Gas in War,” Buffalo News, 23 November 1997.

[98] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 179.

[99] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, pp. 224; Peter Dunn, “The Chemical War: Iran Revisited – 1986,” NBC Defense and Technology International, June 1986, pp. 32-37.

[100] “Iran Keeps Chemical ‘Options’ Open; Claims to Have Upper I-land,” NBC Defense and Technology International, April 1986, pp. 12-13.

[101] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 193.

[102] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, p. 264, n. 39.

[103] ibid, pp. 516-517.

[104] ibid, p. 389.

[105] “Bis(2-chloroethyl)thioether, C4H8SCI2,”

[106] “Official Says Germany, U.S. and Britain were Main Suppliers of Chemicals to Iraq,” IRNA, 1 December 1996.

[107] “I18 Iranian Chemically Wounded War Veterans Martyred Since 1991,” IRNA, 17 April 1997.

[108] “Latest Victim of Iraqi Chemical Warfare Against Iran Dies,” IRNA, 27 September 1994.

[109] “Iranians Still Suffering from Saddam’s Use of Mustard Gas in War,” Buffalo News, 23 November 1997.

[110] Ian V. Hogg, Gas, New York: Ballantine Books, 1975, p.136.

[111] This report was taken from the intemet where sometimes an extraneous number appears in figures. Such was the case when another report stated that 9974 Iraqi PoWs had been released in 1996, when the true figure was 974.

[112] Dunn, “The Chemical War: Iran Revisited – 1986,” pp. 32-39.