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A Short History of the Major World Wars

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In the last 3000 years there has only been around 250 recorded years of peace, with no
international wars.  War can have a devastating impact on a countries society, children,
and economy.  Photographs help people understand how serious war is.  This list
includes a brief history and facts surrounding influential World Wars, including many
revealing war photos. 

 

Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was a conflict that formed out of the rival
imperialist ambitions of the Russian and Japanese Empires. 
The Russians were in
constant pursuit of a warm water port on the Pacific Ocean, in order to maintain naval
dominance and enhance maritime trade routes.  They set their sites on Port Arthur,
which had good access and could be operational year round.  During the offensive
campaigns the Japanese consistently obtained victory over a larger Russian military,
surprising world observers.
 
The embarrassing string of defeats during the Russo-Japanese War helped lead to the
Russian Revolution of 1905. 
The Russo-Japanese War established the Japanese on
mainland Asia and expanded their empire.  The
major centers for operations during the
war were Southern Manchuria, specifically the area around the Liaodong Peninsula and
Mukden, and the seas around Korea, Japan, and the Yellow Sea.  The Russo-Japanese
War
marked a pivotal turning point in history and helped set the stage for both World
Wars.
  

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A woman soldier at Port Arthur firing from a Russian redoubt during the
Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.  The photo was taken two hours before
her death.

Inside the Photo:
“The town and harbor of Port Arthur is over a mile away behind us. We are upon a rock
ridge between two of the powerful Russian batteries strengthened to hold off the
approaching Japanese. All along this ridge earth works have been thrown up, planks and
sand bags being used as we see to shelter the sharp shooters."

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Bombardment during the Siege of Port Arthur.

David C Foster

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945)

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed about 250.000 people
and became the most dreadful slaughter of civilians in modern history.  For
many years, the photographic evidence and records of the horrendous aftermath
of the nuclear attacks were suppressed and not made available to the public.  In
recent years, historians have gained much insight and important information
about nuclear explosions and their affects on human populations from these
pictures.  Interestingly, all watches found on ground zero were stopped at 8:15
AM, the time of the explosion.  Much photographic evidence came from
Yosuke Yamahata, who took pictures in Nagasaki the day after the bombings.
Sadly, twenty years later Yamahata would die of cancer, which was related to
events surrounding the nuclear radiation.
        

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A sign identifying the center of the nuclear explosion in
Hiroshima, Japan, 1945.

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Within a certain distance from the site of the nuclear explosion in
Hiroshima, the heat was so intense that practically everything was
vaporized.  A few miles away from the hypocenter, this is all that is left of
some humans sitting on a stone bench
.

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The shadows of the parapets were imprinted on the road surface of the
Yorozuyo Bridge, 1/2 of a mile south-southwest of the hypocenter.
   

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This photograph shows an eyeball of an A-bomb victim who got an atomic
bomb cataract. There is opacity near the center of the eyeball.

The American Civil War (1861-1865)

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Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant standing by a tree in front of
a tent, Cold Harbor, Va., June 1864.

Ulysses S. Grant was general-in-chief of the Union Army from 1864 to 1865
during the American Civil War and the 18th President of the United States from
1869 to 1877.  Appointed to brigadier general of volunteers in 1861 by
President Abraham Lincoln, Grant claimed the first major Union victories of the
war in 1862, capturing Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee.  He quickly
established the reputation as Lincoln's most aggressive and successful general.
Once appointed to general-in-chief of the Army in 1864, Grant implemented a
coordinated strategy of simultaneous attacks aimed at destroying the South's
armies and its economic stability.  His successful war of attrition against the
Confederates ended in 1865 when Robert E. Lee accepted defeat.  Grant was
elected President of the United States in 1868 and served two full terms.

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Gen. Robert E. Lee, full-length, standing photo, April 1865.
Photographed by Mathew B. Brady.

Robert E. Lee is among the most celebrated generals in American history.  He
was a top graduate of West Point and distinguished himself as an exceptional
soldier in the U.S. Army for thirty-two years.  He is best known for
commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil
War.  In early 1861, President Abraham Lincoln invited Lee to take command
of the entire Union Army.  Lee declined because his home state of Virginia was
seceding from the Union.  His eventual role in the newly formed Confederacy
was to serve as a senior military adviser to President Jefferson Davis.  Robert
E. Lee commanded many victorious battlefields, but ultimately ended up
surrendering to the Union in 1865.
  

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Union soldiers in the trenches before battle, Petersburg, Va., 1865.

The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg,
Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American
Civil War.  The campaign was nine months of trench warfare in which Union
forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Petersburg
unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually extended over
30 miles around the city.  Petersburg was crucial to the supply of Confederate
Gen. Robert E. Lee's army and the Confederate capital of Richmond.  The
main intent was to cut off railroad supply lines.  Lee finally yielded, leading to
the Siege of Petersburg.  The Siege of Petersburg foreshadowed the trench
warfare that would be common in World War I, earning it a prominent position
in military history.
     

The Soviet-Finnish War (1939-1940)

The Winter War or Soviet-Finnish War began when the Soviet Union attacked Finland
on November 30, 1939, three months after the German invasion of Poland.  Because the
attack was judged as illegal, the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations
on December 14.  The Soviet forces had four times as many soldiers as the Finns, 30
times as many aircraft, and 218 times as many tanks.  However, the Red Army had
recently been subjected to a drastic purge in 1937 that crippled it.  Over 50% of the high
ranking army officers were executed during this time, which made for inexperienced
senior Soviet officers during the Winter War.
 
The Finns were able to resist the invasion of their country with great success and for far
longer than the Soviets had expected.  Finland held out until March 1940, when it
signed the Moscow Peace Treaty, ceding about 9% of its pre-war territory and 20% of
its industrial capacity to the Soviet Union.  The fighting ability of the Red Army was
questioned, a factor that may have contributed to Adolf Hitler's decision to launch
Operation Barbarossa.
    

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Finnish machine gun crew during the Winter War.

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Soviet equipment and bodies of Red Army soldiers after the
Battle of Raate road in January 1940.

On December 7, 1939, the Soviet 163rd division had conquered Suomussalmi
but found itself trapped deep inside Finnish territory, and the Soviet 44th
(Ukrainian) Rifle Division was sent to aid the 163rd. In the following battle
colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo's 9th Division completely destroyed the Soviet 44th
Division on the Raate-Suomussalmi road.

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Abandoned Russian Tanks

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Simo Häyhä, Finnish Sniper

Simo Häyhä was a Finnish sniper during the Soviet–Finnish War, using only a
standard iron-sighted, bolt action rifle he recorded more kills then any soldier in
any other major war.  He was credited with 505 confirmed deaths.  The Soviet
government tried desperately to get rid of Häyhä and ordered counter snipers
and artillery strikes in the area.  He lived until he was 97-years-old.
   

Normandy Campaign - Landings on D-Day
(June 6, 1944)

The Normandy Landings were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of
Normandy, on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 (D-Day).  D-Day was the term used for
the day of the actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.  The
assault was conducted in two phases, an air assault landing of American,
British, Canadian and Free French airborne troops and an amphibious landing of
Allied infantry and armored divisions on the coast of France.  Subsidiary attacks
were also mounted to distract the German forces from the real landing areas.
The operation was the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, with
160,000 troops landing in France.  The defeats at Normandy inflicted on the
Germans were one of the largest of the war.  Strategically, the campaign led to
the loss of the German position in most of France and helped the Soviets
advance on the Eastern front.
  

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Troops Land in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.

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Troops Land in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Vietnam War (1959-1975)

The Vietnam War was a military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and
Cambodia from 1959 to April 30, 1975.  The war was fought between the
communist North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the
government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other
member nations of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization.  The Viet Cong, the
lightly armed South Vietnamese communist insurgency, largely fought a guerrilla
war, while the North Vietnamese Army engaged in a more conventional war, at
times committing large-sized units into battle.  The United States entered the
war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider
strategy of containment.  The conflict became one of the most deadly in
modern history.
    

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Vietnam War, 173d Airborne Brigade Soldiers Under Fire at Hill 823.

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A South Vietnamese air force UH-1 "Huey" helicopter over
the Mekong Delta in 1970.

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American Soldier, Vietnam War

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Soldier celebrates the end of the Vietnam War. 

On April 30 1975, communist tanks barreled through the gates of the presidential palace, the
heart of the US-backed Saigon government. The fall of Saigon marked the official end to the
Vietnam War, and America's more than decade-long attempt to halt the spread of communism
in the region. North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.  The war claimed
some 58,000 American lives, 3 to 4 million Vietnamese, and 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and
Cambodians were killed.

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)

The Spanish Civil War was a major conflict that devastated Spain from July 17,
1936, to April 1, 1939.  It began after an attempted coup d'état against the
government of the Second Spanish Republic
.  During the wars, the Republicans
were supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico, while the followers of the
rebellion, Nationalists, received the support of Italy and Germany, as well as
neighboring Portugal. 
Eventually, the war ended with the victory of the rebel
forces, the overthrow of the Republican government, and the founding of a
dictatorship led by General Francisco Franco.
  
 

The three years of brutal fighting included the first ever mass aerial
bombardment of cities and many new tank warfare tactics.  The Spanish Civil
 War is largely seen as a proxy war between the Communist Soviet Union, the
Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany.  It increased international tensions in Europe
and helped start World War II
. 
The Spanish Civil War has been dubbed as "the
first media war,” with many writers and journalists joining military outfits to
cover it.  This war became notable for the passion and political division it
inspired, often putting family members, neighbors, and friends against each
other.  The war ended in 1939, but Republicans were persecuted by the
victorious Nationalists for many years.
  
 

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Workers and peasants in Spain united to fight in 1936.

When workers and peasants in Spain united in 1936 to defend a progressive,
democratic government from a rebellion led by General Francisco Franco, the
Spanish Civil War began. It was left vs. right as socialists, communists and
anarchists squared off against fascist forces that received military support from
Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. The Western democracies stood by and
the Soviet Union sent aid and advisors to the Republic.  Thirty-five thousand
international volunteers traveled to Spain to battle against fascism, including
1,000 New Yorkers who joined the 2,600 member Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
 

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Execution of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Communist militiamen at Cerro
de los Ángeles near Madrid, on 7 August 1936, was the most famous of
the widespread desecration of images and Churches.

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General Francisco Franco

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Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death became the
iconic photograph of the Spanish Civil War.

World War I (1914-1918)

The First World War was a global military conflict that included most of the
world’s great powers.  More than 70 million military personnel were mobilized
in one of the largest wars in history, with over 15 million being killed by the
wars end.  From 1915 to 1919, the main combatants descended into a state of
total war, pumping their entire scientific and industrial capabilities into the war
effort.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian
nationalist in 1914 resulted in many demands against the Kingdom of Serbia by
Austria-Hungary, eventually activating a sequence of alliances and causing
major European powers to enter war.  Global alliances soon created an
international war.
  
 

By the war's end, four major imperial powers, the German, Russian, Austro-
Hungarian and Ottoman Empires had been militarily and politically defeated,
with the last two ceasing to exist as autonomous entities.  The revolutionized
Soviet Union emerged from the Russian Empire, while the map of central
Europe was completely redrawn into numerous smaller states.  The League of
Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict.  Although,
European nationalism spawned by the war, the repercussions of Germany's
defeat, and the Treaty of Versailles would eventually lead to the beginning of
World War II in 1939.
        

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World War I Battle Photo

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A French assault on German positions. Champagne, France, 1917.

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Austrian troops executing captured Serbians in 1917.

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British Army Vickers machine gun during WWI.

In the years leading up to World War I, there was a great arms build up,
particularly in Great Britain and Germany. The newly industrialized nations of
Europe had a capacity to create more powerful weapons, in greater quantity,
and less expense than ever before.  The border between France and Germany
became fortified and militarized. The size of the armies of France and Germany
dramatically increased during this time.  War soon became inevitable.
          

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Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted August 12, 2009