Short History of the Major World Wars
In the last 3000 years there has only been around 250 recorded years of peace, with no
wars. War can have a devastating impact on a countries society, children,
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)
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
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
Asia and expanded their empire. The major centers for operations during the
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
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
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."
Bombardment during the Siege of Port Arthur.
David C Foster
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945)
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
pictures. Interestingly, all watches found on ground zero were stopped at 8:15
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.
A sign identifying
the center of the nuclear explosion in
Hiroshima, Japan, 1945.
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.
of the parapets were imprinted on the road surface of the
Yorozuyo Bridge, 1/2 of a mile south-southwest of the hypocenter.
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)
Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant standing by a tree in front of
Cold Harbor, Va., June 1864.
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
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.
elected President of the United States in 1868 and served two full terms.
Gen. Robert E. Lee, full-length, standing photo, April 1865.
by Mathew B. Brady.
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
commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil
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
was to serve as a senior military adviser to President Jefferson Davis. Robert
Lee commanded many victorious battlefields, but ultimately ended up
surrendering to the Union in 1865.
Union soldiers in the trenches before battle, Petersburg, Va.,
Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg,
Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during
Civil War. The campaign was nine months of trench warfare in which Union
commanded by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Petersburg
unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually
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)
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
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
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
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
Finnish machine gun crew during the Winter War.
Soviet equipment and bodies of Red Army soldiers after the
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
Siilasvuo's 9th Division completely destroyed the Soviet 44th
Division on the Raate-Suomussalmi road.
Abandoned Russian Tanks
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.
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)
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.
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.
were also mounted to distract the German forces from the real landing areas.
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
Troops Land in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.
Troops Land in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Vietnam War (1959-1975)
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
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
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
of containment. The conflict became one of the most deadly in
Vietnam War, 173d Airborne Brigade Soldiers Under Fire
at Hill 823.
A South Vietnamese air force UH-1 "Huey" helicopter over
the Mekong Delta in 1970.
American Soldier, Vietnam War
Soldier celebrates the end of the Vietnam War.
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
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)
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
dictatorship led by General Francisco Franco.
The three years of brutal fighting included the first ever mass
bombardment of cities and many new tank warfare tactics. The Spanish Civil
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
The war ended in 1939, but Republicans were persecuted by the
victorious Nationalists for many years.
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
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
volunteers traveled to Spain to battle against fascism, including
1,000 New Yorkers who joined the 2,600 member Abraham
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.
General Francisco Franco
Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death became
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
wars end. From 1915 to 1919, the main combatants descended into a state of
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
By the war's end, four major imperial
powers, the German, Russian, Austro-
Hungarian and Ottoman Empires had been militarily and politically defeated,
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.
World War I Battle Photo
A French assault on German
positions. Champagne, France, 1917.
Austrian troops executing captured Serbians in 1917.
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
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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