The 10 Greatest Wars of All Time - World History Edu (2023)

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The greatest wars of all time

A war is a large-scale armed conflict fought between two or more factions with different motives. Wars have always been with us. But theoretically it is possible that the whole world can live in peace without war.

However, if you weigh the level of selfishness in the world in terms of politics, religion, territories and socio-economic dimensions, it is evident that our civilization is far from seeing eternal peace. Wars are generally bad, but some wars are bigger than others. Here are the 10 greatest and deadliest wars in history.

Second World War

World leaders in the 1930s failed to learn the lessons of World War I. This provided a favorable atmosphere for the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The war was fought by two opposing military alliances: the Axis (Nazi Germany, Italy, Japan) and the Allies (mainly France, Britain, USA, Soviet Union).

When the United States of America introduced a new weapon called the atomic bomb in 1945, it changed the entire dynamic of warfare. Immediately, people realized that humanity had grown up. Destructive war machines such as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs demonstrated that humans have the ability to destroy themselves. When Japan surrendered in 1945 to end World War II,more than 85 million liveshad perished in the war. This incredible (actually shocking) death toll makes World War II the greatest war in human history.

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Mongol Conquests (Invasions)

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The 10 greatest wars of all time Mongol conquests

During the 13th century AD, the rapid expansion of the Mongol Empire brought great bloodshed. As early as 1300, the Mongols conquered almost 20% of the world's land area and expanded their empire across Eastern Europe and Asia. Undoubtedly it was such a dangerous time to live in Asia.

Historical legends recall that around 100,000 Chinese citizens committed suicide when the powerful Mongol army approached China to conquer it. They knew that death was inevitable - suicide was considered a better way to die than being captured and killed by the Mongols. With an estimated 50 to 70 million casualties, historians rank the Mongol conquests as one of the deadliest wars. And the man who started all the carnage was none other thanDschinghis Khan– the greatest leader of the Mongol Empire.

First World War

1914 was the only event that triggered itFirst World Warwas the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Serbia sponsored thugs to assassinate Ferdinand for political reasons. The existence of military alliances at the time led to a far-reaching escalation of the war, leading to declarations of war on a global scale.

In the war, the Allied Powers (Britain, France, Russia, United States of America, Japan) fought against the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Ottoman Empire). World War I (the Great War), which ended in Allied victory in 1918, claimed the precious lives of over 16 million people.

For more information, see:

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  • Main causes of the First World War
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Second Sino-Japanese War

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The 10 greatest wars of all time Second Sino-Japanese War

The Second Sino-Japanese War lasted from July 1937 to September 1945 and was a bloody confrontation between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China. Considering how brutal the Second Sino-Japanese War was, many historians consider it the greatest war of the 20th century in mainland Asia. The imperialist Japanese faced the eighth Chinese War of Resistance in their attempt to dominate the Republic of China.

The Japanese lost the war and surrendered in 1945. After the war, the number of Chinese casualties fluctuated20-35 Mio. About 1.77 million Japanese soldiers were killed.

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The transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty

In ancient China, the transition from Ming to Qing was not without bloodshed. From 1618 a rebellion was brewing in northeastern China, which later brought the country into bloody conflicts. After more than 60 years of war between the Qing dynasty, the Ming dynasty and other rebels, 25 million deaths have been recorded in China. When rebel leader Li Zicheng increased pressure on Emperor Chongzhen of the Ming Dynasty, the emperor committed suicide. The death of Emperor Chongzhen marked the end of the Ming Dynasty.


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In the 19th century AD, China was again shaken by political and religious events. Which lasted more than a decade (1850-1864).Taiping-Rebellionchanged the fortunes of the Qing Dynasty and cost an estimated 20 million lives. The war began when the Praying Mantis Society (also known as Bai Shangdi Hui) rebelled against the Qing Dynasty.

A Russian civil war

Between 1917 and 1922 Russia's Red Army and White Armycontroversialeach other in a political conflict pursued with socialist, capitalist and other agendas. The war immediately followed the Russian Revolutions of 1917. Overall, war-related deaths were estimated at 7 to 12 million people. After the end of the Russian Revolution, three important Russian leaders emerged: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. The latter would rain hell and terror over the Soviet Union for nearly three decades.

For more information, see:

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A Lushan rebellionN

In history, China is still considered one of the politically unstable countries in the early centuries. OA Lushan rebellionit was a revolutionary action against the Tang Dynasty; the war began in 755 and ended in 763. The bloody conflict arose when the general An Lushan attempted to establish a new empire to be ruled by him.

The Thirty-Year War

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The 10 greatest wars of all time Thirty Years' War

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In Central Europe, between 1618 and 1648, Protestant states fought against Catholics. Over time, the war drew other major European powers into its center, causing hostile conflict that lasted up to an estimated 8 million military and civilian personnel.

Napoleonic Wars

Don't do it definitivelyFrench Revolution, that was around 1793,Napoleon Bonapartehad emerged as the undisputed ruler of France. However, France was plunged into a series of wars across Europe. The Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), as they were known, were fought between France and other European powers. It was actually a series of wars fought by the French Empire against the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th coalitions. Coalition powers included the British, Portuguese, Spanish and others - all opposed to France and its allies (including some aid from the United States). The deadly Napoleonic Wars claimed an estimated 3-6 million lives.

At the end of the day, wars are devastating. And as the world grows more sophisticated with horrifying weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons, fears of yet another outbreak of global war grow ever more acute.

Why do countries spend so much money on their military? The answer is - they are preparing for war. Military superpowers like America and Russia believe in peace through strength. That is, a nation can only be peaceful if its military defenses are strong. Let's hope WW3 doesn't come.

FACT CHECK: At, we strive to be as accurate and objective as possible. But if you come across something that doesn't seem right, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.


What are the top 10 biggest wars in history? ›

Here's a close look at them:
  • The Civil War of America. In terms of casualties, The Civil War of America was the bloodiest as well as deadliest battle ever fought in the history of mankind. ...
  • Chinese Civil War. ...
  • Taiping Rebellion. ...
  • The war of Kalinga. ...
  • The Second Sino-Japanese War. ...
  • World War I. ...
  • World War II. ...
  • The Thirty Years' War.

What is the greatest war in history? ›

World War II was the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries. Sparked by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, the war dragged on for six bloody years until the Allies defeated the Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy in 1945.

What are the 5 major wars? ›

  • American Revolution (1775-1783)
  • War of 1812 (1812-1815)
  • Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)
  • Mexican War (1846-1848)
  • Civil War (1861-1865)
  • Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
  • World War I (1917-1918)
  • World War II (1941 –1945)

What are the most forgotten wars in history? ›

7 of America's Forgotten Wars
  • The Aroostook War (1838–1839) ...
  • The Quasi War (1798–1800) ...
  • The U.S. Occupation of Nicaragua (1912–1933) ...
  • The China Relief Expedition, or Boxer Rebellion (1900) ...
  • U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic (1916–1924) ...
  • The Russian Civil War (1918–1920) ...
  • The Philippine-American War (1899-1902)
Nov 30, 2022

What war killed the most Americans? ›

The American Civil War is the conflict with the largest number of American military fatalities in history. In fact, the Civil War's death toll is comparable to all other major wars combined, the deadliest of which were the World Wars, which have a combined death toll of more than 520,000 American fatalities.

What are the worst wars in US history? ›

The three bloodiest conflicts have been American Civil War (1861–1865), World War I (1917–1918), and World War II (1941–45).

What was America's greatest war? ›

1. Civil War, 1861-1865.

What was the most brutal battle in history? ›

1. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943.

What was the biggest war in American history? ›

The American Civil War

Of all the wars fought by Americans, it was the one that saw the nation literally torn apart that had the most significant casualties. According to a 2012 study, approximately 750,000 soldiers from both sides were killed during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Has the US ever lost a war? ›

However, the US was unable to get any significant victory in its wars abroad. America fought five major wars after 1945 including Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan in addition to some minor wars in Somalia, Yemen, and Libya. Except for the Gulf War in 1991, America lost all other wars.

How many wars have the US lost? ›

The US lost the War of 1812, Powder River Indian War, Red Cloud's War, Formosa Expedition (Paiwan War), Second Samoan War, Russian Civil War, Korean War, Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the Vietnam War.

How many wars has USA been in? ›

The United States has officially declared war 11 times during five separate military conflicts.

What is America's most forgotten war? ›

The Korean War (1950-1953) was the first military action of the Cold War, though it's often overshadowed by the victory of the Allies in World War II, earning it the nickname “the Forgotten War.” It began when soldiers from the communist North Korean People's Army crossed the 38 parallel into the pro-Western Republic ...

What war had no fighting? ›

Invasion of the Gambia: initial invasion was bloodless, first casualties were reported during the occupation and stabilization period.

Has the US ever been at peace? ›

Since 1776, the U.S. has only been at peace for 17 years. American colonists took up arms against Britain to win independence.

Has America ever won any war? ›

The United States has fought five major wars — Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan — and only the Gulf War in 1991 can really be classified as a clear success.

Has the US ever been invaded? ›

The country has been physically invaded on several occasions—once during the War of 1812, once during the Mexican–American War, several times during the Mexican Border War, and three times during World War II, two of which were air attacks on American soil.

What is the deadliest event in human history? ›

Table ranking "History's Most Deadly Events": Influenza pandemic (1918-19) 20-40 million deaths; black death/plague (1348-50), 20-25 million deaths, AIDS pandemic (through 2000) 21.8 million deaths, World War II (1937-45), 15.9 million deaths, and World War I (1914-18) 9.2 million deaths.

What is the baddest war in the world? ›

World War II

The war pitted the Allies and the Axis power in the deadliest war in history, and was responsible for the deaths of over 70 million people. Known for its genocidal campaign against the Jewish people, the war was also responsible for the deaths of more than 50 million civilians.

Who is America's greatest war hero? ›

Audie Murphy
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army United States Army National Guard United States Army Reserve
Years of service1942–45 (U.S. Army) 1950–66 (Texas Army National Guard) 1966–69 (U.S. Army Reserves)
RankFirst lieutenant (U.S.) Major (Texas Army National Guard)
11 more rows

What is the oldest US war? ›

American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

Has the US ever surrendered a war? ›

Troops surrender in Bataan, Philippines, in largest-ever U.S. surrender. On April 9, 1942, Major General Edward P. King Jr.

Which was the bravest battle ever fought? ›

Battle of Saragarhi
Date12 September 1897
LocationTirah, North-West Frontier Province, British India 33°33′15″N 70°53′15″E
ResultAfghan victory

Who won the most battles in human history? ›

Among all generals, Napoleon had the highest WAR (16.679) by a large margin. In fact, the next highest performer, Julius Caesar (7.445 WAR), had less than half the WAR accumulated by Napoleon across his battles.

What was the bloodiest battle in a day? ›

On this morning 150 years ago, Union and Confederate troops clashed at the crossroads town of Sharpsburg, Md. The Battle of Antietam remains the bloodiest single day in American history. The battle left 23,000 men killed or wounded in the fields, woods and dirt roads, and it changed the course of the Civil War.

Has America ever had a war on land? ›

+ Add to calendar. The Battle of Attu was the only land battle to be fought on North American soil during World War II. And while it remains one of the lesser known campaigns of the war, it was one of the most costly with regard to the number of troops involved on each side.

Has America ever started a war? ›

The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions, including its first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812. Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II.

What was the shortest war in history? ›

The little known Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 is generally considered to be the shortest war in history, lasting for a grand total of 38 minutes. The story begins with the signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty between Britain and Germany in 1890.

Who has America gone to war with? ›

Chart of Wars With American Involvement
DatesWar in Which American Colonists or United States Citizens Officially Participated
1914–1918World War I
1939-1945World War II
1950–1953Korean War
1960–1975Vietnam War
31 more rows
Nov 4, 2020

Could the US have won the Vietnam War? ›

In an utterly banal sense, the United States could have won the Vietnam War by invading the North, seizing its urban centers, putting the whole of the country under the control of the Saigon government and waging a destructive counterinsurgency campaign for an unspecified number of years.

When was America's last big war? ›

World War II (1939-1945)

Can the president declare war? ›

The Constitution divides war powers between Congress and the president. Only Congress can declare war and appropriate military funding, yet the president is commander in chief of the armed forces.

How big is the US military? ›

As of 2022, the majority of U.S. active-duty military personnel around the world were stationed in the United States and its territories, with a total of 1.18 million. There were significantly less personnel deployed in other parts of the world, with 84,093 in East Asia and 67,393 in Europe.

Which country has no war in the world? ›

The Swiss and the Swedes each have a long history of neutrality: they have not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and 1814, respectively.

Has there ever been no war in the world? ›

29 March 2022

Historians might quibble over the exact details, but by most accounts, there are no periods in history that have been free from war. Much of recorded history has also been filled with imperial or colonial occupations, where a powerful nation uses force to rule over other nations.

Who fought ww2 without a gun? ›

[1]Desmond Doss is credited with saving 75 soldiers during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the Pacific — and he did it without ever carrying a weapon. The battle at Hacksaw Ridge, on the island of Okinawa, was a close combat fight with heavy weaponry.

What is the longest the US has been at peace? ›

that, over the whole of American history, peace periods have lasted an average of about 20 years, the longest being 31 and the shortest being 5 years. Table 2 outlines the data for periods of major American war.

What is the longest period without war? ›

The Pax Romana, from 28 B.C. when Augustus formed the Principate until the death of Septimius Severus in 211 A.D. That's 239 years of external and internal peace and security in all western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, except for two brief civil wars (69 and 192–195 A.D.).

Why are humans always at war? ›

A major motivation of warfare is the desire of one group of human beings—usually governments, but often the general population of a country, tribe or ethnic group—to increase their power and wealth. The group tries to do this by conquering and subjugating other groups, and by seizing their territory and resources.


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