I made a post on Friday that unsurprisingly got some pushback on twitter. It is here: The Ukrainian casualty claims are inflated – part 1 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org).
One of the twitter complaints is that I used a wounded-to-killed ratio of 4-to-1 for my challenge of the Ukrainian kill claims. This was based upon the only set of aggregate wounded-to-killed statistics offered in the conflict, the reports from the Donets Peoples Republic (DPR) who are reporting as of 26 May that they had 1,912 soldiers killed and 7,919 wounded (a 4.14-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio).
This also generated another twitter criticism because I was using DPR data. Yet, this last week Zelensky has stated that they are losing between 60 – 100 Ukrainian soldiers a week. An additional 500 are wounded. This is at least 5-to-1 wounded to killed ratio (or 8.33-to-1).
Apparently, some other people have been using a 3-to-1 wounded to killed ratio (not that this lower figure changes my argument one iota). What is the basis for people using 3-to-1? WWII data? Lack of artillery?
It almost certainly is a traditional figure drawn from Trevor Dupuy or WWII data or convention. Now, wounded-to-kill figures vary by 1) definition, 2) posture, 3) medical care, 4) how Died-of-Wounds (DOW) are counted, 5) mix of wounding agents, 6) number MIA or captured, 7) use of body armor and 8) the nature of the targets (airplanes or tanks compared to infantry). This is discussed in depth in Chapter 15 of my book War by Numbers.
Let my post a table from my book:
U.S. Army UK Army Army
Ardennes from 16 – 23 December 4.85-to-1 1.67-to-1 3.25-to-1
Ardennes from 24 December – 1 January 5.65-to-1 2.89-to-1 3.08-to-1
Ardennes from 2 – 16 January 5.12-to-1 4.59-to-1 2.99-to-1
Kursk from 4 – 11 July 5.11-to-1 2.29-to-1
Kursk from 12 – 18 July 4.54-to-1 2.68-to-1
So, 3-to-1 or greater for WWII data. The Soviet Army at Kursk, when on the defensive and having divisions being overrun with large numbers of MIA and captured had lower than 3-to-1. But, when the Soviet missing was less than 10% of the casualties, the wounded to killed ratio rose to 3-to-1. This is discussed in more depth in my book along with supporting data. Anyhow, 3-to-1 is kind of the minimal figure to be used for most ground combat in WWII and as you can see from the table above, it is sometimes higher.
The wounded-to-killed ratios since WWII have been higher. In some cases much higher (like 13-to-1 for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan). All this is discussed in depth in my book.
From a practical point of view, I do not know what the wounded-to-killed ratio will be for the fighting in Ukraine. I expect it to be more than 3-to-1. This is the old WWII figure and medical care has improved since then and many people are now wearing body armor. Body armor certainly increases survivability from blast and fragmentation wounding, which is the majority of wounding on most battlefields.
Therefore, the DPR wounded-to-killed figures of 4-to-1 looked reasonable to me. They may be low, depending on how they are counting wounded (not all lightly wounded are counted as wounded). Zelensky’s off-the-cuff figure of 5-to-1 (or higher) also seems reasonable.
On other hand, for those using a 3-to-1 figure, then I have to ask what is their basis for using this figure (WWII data or tradition?) and what is their basis for not revising it to reflect better medical treatment improvements over the last 75 years and the rather extensive use of body armor now?
Now, as this war continues, I expect the wounded-to-killed ratio to actually increase. This is because both sides are making more use of artillery and more of the engagements are using dismounted infantry. This changes the mix of causative agents and targets in a manner that should result in more people wounded per person killed (or to express it another way, less mortality per casualty).
P.S. Final note: in the fall of 2020 I was hoping to obtain contracts based upon two proposals submitted to CCCRP (Combat Casualty Care Research Program) to further examine wounded-to-killed ratios and the analysis of combat casualties, including a combat casualty modeling effort. This effort died because some reviewers did not feel a strong need to further examine this subject. I still feel this subject needs to be fully explored. Tempted to do a further blog post on this. To date, my book is the most complete discussion on the subject that I am aware of.