World history has been marred by some truly epic conflicts which have killed hundreds of millions often over very petty local matters. Out of the debris of these wars, some great superpowers like the erstwhile the British Empire and later, USSR and USA emerged. In this paper, we quickly summarize the five most important and famous wars in human history which have shaped world history in a definitive fashion. The following list is in no particular chronological fashion.
5. Gulf War
As opposed to the Vietnam War, the Gulf war showed the world the efficiency and strength of the US army. In the early eighties, Iran and Iraq had long been at loggerheads which had resulted in a protracted war which ended in a stalemate. At that time, both Iran and Iraq were militarily strong. Iraq had long considered Kuwait as an irritant due to a number of reasons. It had consistently lowered its oil prices against the OPEC agreement which had forced Iraq to lower oil prices as well. This hit their oil revenues which were the main drivers of their economy and military expansion, already burdened with rising debt. Further, they suspected the Kuwaitis of drilling across the border and taking Iraqi oil. Taken along with the fact that Kuwait had barely any army and would be an easy target allowed Saddam Hussein to summarily annexe Kuwait on 2nd August 1990 after sending in his most elite Republican Guard which reached Kuwait city just 4 and a half hours after crossing the border. Huge troop deployment occurred in Kuwait by Iraqi forces and neighboring Saudi Arabia was highly alarmed and feared an invasion. USA rushed to Saudi Arabia’s help along with a consortium of other nations like France, Britain and other Arab countries. In January 1991, Iraq attacked a small Saudi town on the border but was immediately repulsed. The US forces then launched a swift and decisive aerial assault which killed almost all air fighting capabilities of the Iraqi’s. A few days later, a ground offensive effectively sealed the war over the next few weeks and George Bush withdrew his troops on 28th of February 1991.
4. Vietnam War
The Vietnam was the first war which the United States officially lost. The origins of Vietnam conflict originated in a freedom movement started by Ho Chi Minh before WW2. After WW2 ended, he expected to establish a democratic Vietnam but was disappointed when instead Vietnam was carved up into a communist north later headed by Ho Chi Minh when the French withdrew after a protracted struggle and a US supported autocracy in the south. Though the Geneva accords under which the division had been made called for free elections between the north and south after two years, the US backed government in the south disregarded the same. By the early sixties, a communist group called National Liberation Front started full scale guerrilla warfare against the South Vietnam government. Though it had no links with the Ho Chi Minh government in the North, the US thought it necessary to bomb North Vietnam because of the communist link and to cut off perceived supply lines from the north to the south which were supposedly fuelling and supplying the rebels. What the US failed to understand was that the nationalist undercurrent in the country was strong and that the guerilla war was not just a war simply of North vs. South, but rather of a unification struggle between two different factions. Coupled with a style of warfare the army was not used to and difficult terrain, the result was over 60,000 dead and a shameful exit for the US, the first time in history.
3. American War of Independence
Though not a global war by any standard of measure, the American Revolution was one of the defining moments of world history as it heralded the rise of a great superpower in coming centuries. The roots of the American Revolution lay in the unhappiness of the Americans on not getting adequate representation in the UK parliament and increased taxes imposed on the colony due to the stress put on Britain’s finances after expensive revolts in India. To win independence, a group of rebels started what was called the ‘Continental Army’ to fight the British. They laid siege to Boston, at that time an important trading port which ended in British troops withdrawing from the city. Britain offered to pardon the rebels in exchange for surrender but the offer was summarily rejected by the rebels who declared their independence in the famous declaration on 4th of July 1776. The war didn’t end here however. The British sent troops to fight George Washington and managed to push his army from New York down to New Jersey. George Washington then won two more victories after which the British committed the fatal mistake of dividing their army to concentrate on two fronts at once. The British were decisively defeated at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 which ended the war in the mainland at least. In 1788 had France declared war on Britain as well, and had been covertly supporting the rebels all throughout with resources and training.
2. World War 2
The second major war to involve all the major countries of the world was World War 2 (henceforth called WW2). WW2 bore its origins from WW1 in which tough economic and military sanctions were imposed on Germany for its action in WW1.
These conditions were used by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party to blame the West for the current situation of the Germans and later used by him to declare war on their neighbors. On September 1 1939, Germany invaded Poland from the west and Russian consequently invaded it from the east carving up the country between the two nations. Two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany and a state of emergency was declared in Britain. Germany continued its rapid advances into Belgium and Holland while taking over large parts of France in a unique form of warfare called ‘Blitzkrieg’. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 precipitated the entry of USA in 1945 which till then had maintained military neutrality. In 1941, Germany was held back at Stalingrad in Russia and consequently in 1943 it surrendered there in the first major defeat for the Germans. In 1944, Allied forces invaded France and liberated Paris in August. From here on after, Germany and its main surviving ally (Italy had surrendered) Japan suffered major setbacks which culminated with Hitler’s suicide on 7th May in 1945 after Allied forces reached Berlin and the end of the war with the dropping of the atom bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on 14th August 1945.
1. World War 1
World War 1 (henceforth called WW1) was the first truly global conflict and killed almost 50 million people directly or indirectly. Starting off as a local dispute between Austria and Serbia sparked off by the assassination of Duke Franz Ferdinand, the would-be heir to the Austrian throne by a Serbian national. What ensued was fierce fighting between Austria and Serbia which ultimately led to the taking of sides by neighboring states. One of the main reasons for this conflict increasing in scale was the emergence of Germany as a regional superpower after 1871. In August 1914, Germany declared war on Russia as it pledged support to Serbia and France declared against Austria as it had a treaty with Russia. Germany invaded neutral Belgium to get closer to France and Britain was obligated to enter into the war based on another treaty to help defend France. Soon, Japan and Italy also entered the war based on different treaties with nations already in the war and the war finally became a World War. The war finally turned after USA entered the fray in 1917. In 1918, Germany tried launching a major offensive towards the west in France but was held back by Allied forces of Britain, France and USA. Eventually, the Allied forces were able to regain much of the lost territory in France and an Armistice was signed with Germany on November 11, 1918 which officially ended the war. Over 37 million were directly killed as a result of the war and over 11 million were indirectly killed during the war period due to disease and civilian deaths.