"The death rate of American troops in Vietnam was 5.6 times that observed in Iraq. Part of the reduction in the death rate is attributable to improvements in military medicine and such things as the use of body armor. These have reduced the ratio of deaths to wounds from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq." Washpost
That is the unofficial insignia of the 1st Cavalry Division’s medical evacuation unit in Vietnam.
This is a very informative article about patterns of mortal losses in Iraq along with an occasional glance backward to compare the patterns to those of Vietnam. There are still a lot of mythological beliefs "floating" around abut the statistical structure of combat losses in Vietnam. Mis-statements were then politically convenient for some because of their disapproval of the war and these falsehoods live on. Therefore, it is a good idea to establish the truth at an early date. This article tries to do that.
– A lot of people wore body armor in Vietnam at least occasionally. Body armor is better today but the multi-ply Kevlar worn then would stop fragments and was warm at night.
– The higher percentage of deaths in the Marine Corps is probably caused by the Army having a lot more logistical and administrative structure (some of which supports the marines as well). This reduces the percentage of deaths since it is the "grunts" who take most of the hits as is always the case.
– Hispanic Lance Corporals (E-3s) in the Marine Corps are the most likely to die in Iraq. Presumably these are infantrymen (grunts) and are the most exposed to fire. Hispanics have a long running "love affair" with the marines. They like the uniform. They like the sense of regimental brotherhood. They like its manliness. As a result there are a lot of them in marine infantry specialties. This carries a price.
– Blacks were killed in Vietnam in numbers roughly equivalent to their numbers in the US population and their numbers in the force in Vietnam. In Iraq Black service people are dying at much smaller percentages than "all others." The explanation is simple. This is a volunteer force. In general, recruits negotiate their way into the specialty of their choice. A lot of Black soldiers have chosen to serve in specialties that do not expose one to fire on a regular basis; medical, supply, and so forth. Navy medical corpsmen serving with the marines and national guardsmen seem to be exceptions.
– Lieutenants in the infantry are exposed to hostile fire exactly as their men are exposed. For that reason their losses are high. The structure of the military is very hierarchical and by its very nature tends to move more senior officers to the rear as managers if they allow the system to push them that way. Ever increasing administrative pressures push officers in that direction. This is not a good idea. If the troops get the idea in their heads that officers are not sharing the risk, then, in the end they lose respect for officers.