By the Numbers: The U.S. Death Toll

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The count of U.S. servicemen and women confirmed dead in Iraq since the war began in March, 2003, has now reached 2,987. That tally, however, doesn't account for the 13 Americans fighters whose deaths have yet to be officially confirmed by the Department of Defense, which most news organizations factor in to their count, bringing the number to a grim 3,000. December has been a particularly cruel month: at least 107 troops have died in Iraq over the past four week — the third largest monthly U.S. death toll since the invasion of Iraq. Here's a quick look behind the numbers:

Defining the dead

They were, as always, mostly young. According to DoD statistics, three-quarters of 2,888 troops who died in Iraq through December 2 this year were 30 years old or younger. Roughly half of them were not yet 26. Nine in ten were of ranks lower than officer. About two-thirds of those who have died there were in the Army; most of the rest were Marines.

As for the demographics: one in five was black or Hispanic; three-quarters were white. Women accounted for 60 of the dead. And nearly a quarter of the total came from California, New York or Texas.

How they died

According to military statistics, enemy fighters killed 2,320 of the troops who lost their lives in Iraq through December 2. The rest are attributed primarily to accidents (374) and illness (56). Homicide accounted for 12 non-combat deaths, while 93 were suicides. The statistics reflect changes in enemy strategy. Improvised explosive devices (or IEDs) — booby-traps and bombs, sometimes detonated by cell phones or garage-openers and often planted along routes frequented by coalition troops — have accounted for about a third of all combat deaths in Iraq since the war began. But over the past year, that proportion has grown to almost half; this month, IEDs have taken 63 U.S. servicemen's lives. Baghdad and the Sunni-dominated region to its west — the heart of the insurgency — have proved particularly treacherous. More than half of all coalition troops killed in Iraq died in these areas.

The severity of the toll

As the U.S. death toll in Iraq inexorably approaches the 3,000 mark, more and more Americans believe that the war has cost more in blood than it is worth. But the number of dead in this war is, at least by historical standards, relatively small. The Korean War — often, and with good reason, called the "forgotten war" — killed 36,574 U.S. troops in just three years, while World War II took the lives of more than 400,000 American fighters over five devastating years (the Battle of the Bulge alone cost 20,000 U.S. servicemen their lives).

For more details on servicemen and women who have died in Iraq, check out the Department of Defense website or the more user-friendly