America's Wars
Rick Janssen
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Please understand I do not want this list to get political. However, some of my coworkers and I recently were discussing major wars that the United States has been involved in starting with the Revolutionary War and moving up through WWII. It was amazing to see the exponential increase in casualties with each new engagement.

At the time I was looking at The American Revolution, War of 1812, American Civil War, WWI, and WWII. For this list I thought I'd put in all of the major conflicts of the U.S. I thought about including only those wars approved by Congress, but that left out some major conflicts. No disrespect was intended for omissions of conflicts or in the summaries provided.

The summaries were obtained from a combination of internet information as well as good old fashioned encyclopedia entries. The estimates of the dead are also taken from the internet. The U.S. involvement dates can be tricky; for example the U.S. was involved in the Vietnam war back in 1955, but didn't commit troops (by an act of Congress) until 1964.

Please also note that some wars (WWI and WWII) are extremely involved and generally well known by the world. I didn't devote much space to their details as it would be exhaustive and not of much benefit. And the America Civil War I have an interest in and I know I would get long winded if I went into details.
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1. Board Game: 1775: Rebellion [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:247]
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Revolutionary War

Also known as: War of American Independence

Years: 1775 - 1783
U.S. Deaths (est.): 25,000

Overview: This conflict was the struggle of the Thirteen Colonies of America for independence from British rule.

Causes: The war was caused by British attempts to tax the colonies for revenue without representation in Parliament and to make them pay for a standing army.

Summary: The colonies' dependence on Britain was lessened when the Treaty of Paris (1763) removed the French and Indian threat. The colonies revolted (1775) under Washington and declared their independence (1776). Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga (1777) encouraged the French to declare war on Britain (1778), followed by Spain (1779) and the Netherlands (1780). Britain lost command of the sea and her army was finally defeated in Yorktown (1781). Britain regained naval supremacy (1781-82) and the war ended with the Treaty of Paris (1783), in which the independence of the U.S.A. was recognized.

Aftermath: The war discredited George III's government, weakened France financially, and served as an inspiration for the French Revolution and for revolutions in Spanish colonies in America.
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2. Board Game: 1812: The Invasion of Canada [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:626]
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War of 1812

Years: 1812 - 1815
U.S. Deaths (est.): 15,000
President: James Madison (4th)
Age of America: 36

Overview: A war between Britain and the U.S.A.

Causes: The war arose from American resentment at the trade embargo imposed by France in the Continental System and by Britain in the orders-in-council of 1807 and 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars. Other causes were the British claim to search American ships for British deserters, and Anglo-American rivalry in the American northwest.

Summary: During the war an American invasion of Canada failed (1812), a British force sacked Washington (1814), and several sea battles failed to produce a decisive result. New England remained hostile to the war. The war was settle by an agreement that both sides should give up territory captured, and appoint a commission to settle the Canadian boundary. After the signing of the treaty (Dec. 24, 1814) the British were defeated at New Orleans (Jan. 8, 1815).

Aftermath: The war strengthened American nationalism and encouraged the growth of American industry.
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3. Board Game: Gringo! [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:4034]
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Mexican-American War

Also known as: Mexican War, Invasion of Mexico

Years: 1846 - 1848
U.S. Deaths (est.): 13,283
President: James Polk (11th)
Age of America: 70

Overview: A war between the U.S.A. and Mexico

Causes: The war was caused mainly by the annexation of Texas (1845), which Mexico considered part of its territory despite the Texas Revolution (1836).

Summary: U.S.A. forces quickly occupied California and New Mexico. Mexico was invaded on the northeast and northwest while a naval force blockaded Mexican ports. Eventually Mexico City fell. The war was ended by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848).

Aftermath: Mexico ceded the territory that would become California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona to the U.S.A. in exchange for $15 million.
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4. Board Game: Battle Cry [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:615]
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American Civil War

Also known as: War Between the States, War of Southern Independence, War of Northern Aggression

Years: 1861 - 1865
U.S. Deaths (est.): 750,000 (including Confederates)
President: Abraham Lincoln (16th)
Age of America: 85

Overview: A struggle between the Union of 23 Northern states (together with Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington) and the Confederate States of the South.

Causes: Its causes were political and economic, aggravated by the issue of slavery and expansion to the west. Despite the Missouri Compromise (1820)and the Compromise of 1850, America was split between and agricultural, slave-owning South and an industrialized North favoring free soil and protectionism. Hostility was increased by the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the Dred Scott Decision (1857) and brought to a head by the election (1860) of Lincoln as president. This provoked seven Southern states to secede from the Union (1860-61), setting themselves up as the Confederate States under Jefferson Davis (Feb. 8, 1861). Lincoln declared that secession was illegal and that he would hold federal forts in the South.

Summary: The attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate forces (Apr. 12, 1861) started the war. Most thought the war would be over within 90 days and young men were eager to sign up to fight for their cause, be they Yankees from the North or Rebels from the South. After bitter fighting, including the battles of Bull Run (Manassas), Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), Antietam (Sharpsburg), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Cold Harbor, the Southern states surrendered (Apr. 9, 1865) at Appomattox. The war, which cost over 600,000 lives, had been fiercely contested from Pennsylvania to Georgia and west to Missouri.

Aftermath: It increased the political and economic dominance of the North over the South. Many issues were left unsettled, but the Union had been preserved, and slavery had been abolished (1863) in the Emancipation Proclamation and by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1865).
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5. Board Game: Great War at Sea: 1898, The Spanish American War [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:6336]
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Spanish American War

Years: 1898
U.S. Deaths (est.): 2,446
President: William McKinley (25th)
Age of America: 122

Overview: The Spanish-American War (1898) was a conflict between the United States and Spain that ended Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and resulted in U.S. acquisition of territories in the western Pacific and Latin America.

Causes: The war originated in the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain (1895). The USS Maine sent to protect U.S. citizens from anti-Spanish rioting was sunk in Havana harbor (Feb. 15, 1898). Spain announced an armistice (April 9), but the U.S. issued resolutions that declared Cuba’s right to independence.

Summary: Spain declared war on the United States (Apr 24, 1898), the U.S. declared war (Apr 25). The ensuing war was pathetically one-sided, since Spain had readied neither its army nor its navy for a distant war with the formidable power of the United States. The U.S. navy destroyed the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay in the Philippines and captured Manila (Aug 1898). The Spanish Caribbean fleet was defeated at Santiago harbor in Cuba (July 17), thus effectively ending the war.

Aftermath: By the Treaty of Paris (Dec. 10, 1898), Spain renounced all claim to Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States, and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the United States for $20,000,000. Spain’s defeat decisively turned the nation’s attention away from its overseas colonial adventures and inward upon its domestic needs. The victorious United States, on the other hand, emerged from the war a world power with far-flung overseas possessions and a new stake in international politics that would soon lead it to play a determining role in the affairs of Europe.
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6. Board Game: Axis & Allies: WWI 1914 [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:2163]
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World War I

Also Known As: The Great War
Years: 1914-1918
U.S. Involvement: 1917-1918
U.S. Deaths (est.): 116,516
President: Woodrow Wilson (28th)
Age of America: 141

Causes: Its basic causes lay in the political, economic and colonial rivalries of the great powers, stretching back into the late 19th century. The rise of Pan-Slavism, with Russian encouragement, presented a grave threat to the stability of Austria-Hungary. The Franco-Prussian War had left France aggrieved by the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. The imperialism of the late 19th century, backed by an armaments race based on the rapid growth of heavy industry, especially in Germany, added to international tension. Finally, the spread of secret diplomacy and the formation of the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente made it inevitable that when war began it would rapidly involve many countries. The Moroccan crises (1905 and 1911) brought France and Germany to the brink of war, and Austria's annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (1908) created another international crisis. The Balkan Wars (1912-1913) were a further manifestation of the unrest in South East Europe. The assassination (June 28, 1914) of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo precipitated the 1st world war.

Summary: Austria, under the guidance of Berchtold, issued an unacceptable ultimatum to Serbia and declared war (July 28, 1914). Russia mobilized in support of Serbia (July 29). Germany declared war on Russia (August 1) and on France (August 3). Germany, applying the Schlieffen plan, immediately invaded Belgium. This violation of Belgian neutrality led Britain to declare war on Germany (August 4). Austria declared war on Russia (August 6). Germany and Austria were joined by Turkey (October 30, 1914) and Bulgaria (October 5, 1915). The Allies were joined, among others, by Japan (August 23, 1914), Italy (May 23, 1915) and the U.S.A. (April 6, 1917).

Aftermath: The war was ended by a series of treaties, including the Treaty of Versailles (June 28, 1919), the Treaty of St. Germain (Sept. 10, 1919) and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). The war had cost about 8,700,000 lives, including about 3,350,000 on the side of the Central Powers and 1,390,000 French, 1,700,000 Russians, 780,000 British and 120,000 Americans. The 1st world war saw the development of trench warfare and submarine warfare, increased mechanization (especially the use of tanks), and the use of aircraft, first for observation and later also for bombing. Out of the war settlement came the establishment of the League of Nations. But tensions were also created which were to give rise to the 2nd world war 20 years later.
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7. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1185]
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World War II

Also Known As: The Good War
Years: 1939-1945
U.S. Involvement: 1941-1945
U.S. Deaths (est.): 405,399
President: Franklin Roosevelt (32nd), Harry Truman (33rd)
Age of America: 165

Causes: Its origins lay in German resentment at the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the economic crisis of 1929-30 which favored the rise to power of Fascist dictators, the failure of the League of Nations to gain international acceptance for disarmament, and the policy of colonial conquest adopted by Germany, Italy and Japan as a means of acquiring raw materials and markets. Germany prepared for military conquest by Hiltler, remilitarized the Rhineland (1936) in violation of the Locarno Pact. The League of Nations failed to react firmly either to this or to the conquest (1935-36) of Ethiopia by Italy under Mussolini. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39), in which German and Italian intervention assured the victory of Franco, served as a proving ground for new techniques of warfare. Britain and France, unprepared for war remained passive when Germany annexed Austria (March 1938), and they continued their policy of appeasement in the Munich agreement (Sept. 1938) sacrificing the Sudetenland to Germany. The German seizure of the whole of Czechoslovakia (March 1939) and the Italian seizure of Albania (April 1939) put an end to appeasement. Germany signed a nonaggression pact with the U.S.S.R. (August 1939). After manufacturing incidents over the status of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, Germany invaded Poland (Sept. 1, 1939). Britain and France declared war on Germany (Sept. 3, 1939).

Summary: The war, which cost more than 36 million lives, was the most destructive and widespread in history. Germany lost about 6 million lives, the U.S.S.R. about 17 million, Poland about 5,800,000, Yugoslavia about 1,600,000, Japan about 2 million, Italy about 450,000, Rumania about 460,000, France about 570,000, The U.S.A. 400,000, Britain 400,000, Hungary about 430,000 and the Netherlands about 210,000. Millions were left homeless. Nazi Germany had attempted racial extermination, especially of the Jews (of whom 6 million died), and had practiced atrocities on is concentration camps on a vast scale. Both the Allies and the Axis had increased their destructive power, culminating in the atomic bomb.

Aftermath: After the war there emerged a new balance of power between the U.S.S.R., whose influence now spread throughout Eastern Europe, and the U.S.A. Germany was divided into zones of occupation, leading to the deeper division between East and West Germany and preventing the signing of a full peace treaty with Germany. Europe as a whole slowly recovered from economic exhaustion. The United Nations organization was set up (1945).

Peace treaties were signed between the Allies and Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland in Paris (Feb. 1947), between the Allies (except for the U.S.S.R.) and Japan in San Francisco (Sept. 1951) and between the U.S.S.R. and Japan (1956), and between the Allies and Austria (May 1955), establishing Austrian independence.
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8. Board Game: Korea: The Forgotten War [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:2219]
Rick Janssen
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Lake Zurich
Illinois
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Korean War

Years: 1950-1953
U.S. Deaths (est.): 36,516
President: Harry Truman (33rd)
Age of America: 174

Overview: The war between North Korea, supported by Chinese Communist forces, and South Korea, supported by the U.N., whose forces came very largely from the U.S.A.

Causes: Japan annexed the Korean peninsula in the early 1910s. When World War II ended, American and British forces set up a pro-Western country in the southern part of the peninsula and the Soviet Union set up a communist government in the north. The war, then, was an attempt to use force to unify the entire peninsula under Communist rule.

Summary: The North Koreans invaded South Korea, and rapidly drone U.N. forces under MacArthur back to a small area around Pusan (Aug. 1950). MacArthur launched (Sept. 1950) a counteroffensive with a surprise landing at Inchon, a hundred miles behind the fighting front. U.N. forces recaptured (Sept. 1950) Seoul, drove the invaders back north of the 38th parallel, and advanced through North Korea, capturing Pyongyang, until they reached (Nov. 1950) the Manchurian frontier. But on Nov. 26, 1951, a quarter of a million Chinese troops crossed the frontier and threw back the U.N. forces with heavy losses. In this second phase of ht war, the Chinese recovered all North Korea, recaptured Seoul, and carried the war even farther southward. When MacArthur complained openly against the restrictions under which President Truman required him to make war, and even issued a personal demand to the Chinese to surrender, Truman replaced him with General Matthew Ridgway. U.N. forces again recaptured Seoul and by spring of 1951 the contending armies were facing each other along a line close to the 38th parallel. Negotiations for a truce began (July 1951) and an agreement was reached (1953).

Aftermath: Korea was divided on the basis of approximately the final battle line, which actually gave South Korea more territory than it had held before hostilities. Total U.N. casualties numbered 118,515 dead and 264,581 wounded.
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9. Board Game: Ambush Valley: Vietnam 1965-1975 [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked]
Rick Janssen
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Vietnam War

Also Known As: Second Indochina War, Resistance War Against America
Years: 1955-1975
U.S. Involvement: 1964-1973
U.S. Deaths (est.): 58,209
President: Lyndon Johnson (36th), Richard Nixon (37th)
Age of America: 188

Causes: The area was conquered by the French (18th c.) and became part of French Indochina. After Japanese occupation (1940-1945), Vietnamese nationalists declared the country an independent republic (1945). Despite war (1946-54) the French were unable to retain control and ended with French defeat at Dien Bien Phu (1954). A Geneva conference (1954) divided the country at the 17th parallel into North and South Vietnam. Under the presidency of Ho Chi Minh, guerrilla troops from North Vietnam began in 1958 to invade South Vietnam and fierce fighting developed, gradually involving the U.S.A.

Summary: The U.S.A. steadily increased its military commitment in South Vietnam to a high (July 1969) of 550,000. Yet North Vietnam's Tet offensive (Feb. 1968), though costly to the North, disabused the American people of the hope of a military solution to the conflict. Discouraged by the growing anti-war movement at home, Johnson decided (Apr. 1968) not to seek reelection. Richard Nixon's electoral promise to end the war was based on three premises: success in the peace negotiations in Paris initiated by Johnson, success in the 'Vietnamization' program of steadily turning the military operations over to the South Vietnamese themselves, and a deescalation of North Vietmamese and Viet Cong operations in South Vietnam. On Apr. 30, 1970, President Nixon announced an attack on the North's sanctuaries and arms stockpiles in Cambodia, by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. The invasion was limited to 21.7 miles and U.S. forces were withdrawn by July 1, 1970. South Vietnamese forces remained in Cambodia and retained the support of U.S. air power. A new North Vietnamese offensive was launched (1972) in South Vietnam. U.S. troops were finally withdrawn in 1973 and two years later the South Vietnam government, under Nguyen Van Thieu, collapsed.

Aftermath: The country was officially reunited on July 2, 1976, and has since developed closer ties with the Soviet Union, joining COMECON in 1978. Also in 1978, Vietnam invaded neighboring Cambodia (Kampuchea), managing the 1979 overthrow of the ruling regime and establishing a pro-Vietnamese government in its place. A guerrilla war continued between the two forces, however. China, allied with Cambodia, briefly invaded Vietnam in Feb. 1979.
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10. Board Game: Gulf War [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Lake Zurich
Illinois
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Persian Gulf War

Also Known As: Operation Desert Storm, First Gulf War, Kuwait War, First Iraq War
Years: 1990-1991
U.S. Deaths (est.): 294
President: George H. W. Bush (41st)
Age of America: 214

Causes: Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion and occupation of neighboring Kuwait in early August 1990. Alarmed by these actions, fellow Arab powers such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt called on the United States and other Western nations to intervene. Hussein defied United Nations Security Council demands to withdraw from Kuwait by mid-January 1991.

Summary: The Persian Gulf War began with a massive U.S.-led air offensive known as Operation Desert Storm. After 42 days of relentless attacks by the allied coalition in the air and on the ground, U.S. President George H.W. Bush declared a cease-fire on February 28; by that time, most Iraqi forces in Kuwait had either surrendered or fled.

Aftermath: Though the Persian Gulf War was initially considered an unqualified success for the international coalition, simmering conflict in the troubled region led to a second Gulf War–known as the Iraq War–that began in 2003.
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11. Board Game: Afghanistan 2010 [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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War in Afghanistan

Also Known As: Operation Enduring Freedom
Years: 2001-present
U.S. Deaths (est.): 2,229
President: George W. Bush (43rd), Barack Obama (44th)
Age of America: 225

Overview: The War in Afghanistan refers to the intervention by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and allied forces in the ongoing Afghan civil war.

Causes: The war followed the September 11 attacks, and its aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda and eliminate its safe haven by removing the Taliban from power.

Summary: Taliban forces fled from Kabul, the capital city (Nov. 2001) and retreated toward the mountainous border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. With U.S. support, a new government was installed, with Hamid Karzai as President.

The Taliban gradually rebuilt its fighting forces and carried out attacks against the new government and American soldiers.

Noting the Taliban’s growing strength and the difficulty of fighting an enemy hidden in remote caves and mountains, many observers said that the war was unwinnable. On December 1, 2009 President Obama announced a new strategy: the rapid deployment of 30,000 additional troops, to break the Taliban’s momentum and turn the war around.

Despite slow progress, serious obstacles remain. President Karzai’s followers have been accused of brazen fraud in his 2009 reelection, further eroding support for his government among the Afghan people, who complain of widespread corruption. The Taliban has proven difficult to uproot. Nevertheless, after the assassination of Osama bin-Laden (May 2011) President Obama announced he would accelerate the withdrawal of American forces—reflecting, in part, America’s war-weariness and lingering economic woes.
 
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12. Board Game: Fallujah: Iraq 2004 [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
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Iraq War

Also Known As: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Years: 2003-2011
U.S. Deaths (est.): 4,488
President: George W. Bush (43rd), Barack Obama (44th)
Age of America: 227

Causes: In 2002 U.S. president, George W. Bush, argued that the vulnerability of the United States following the September 11 attacks of 2001, combined with Iraq’s alleged continued possession and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, made disarming Iraq a renewed priority. UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (Nov. 2002) demanded that Iraq readmit inspectors. In early 2003 President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that Iraq was actually continuing to hinder UN inspections and that it still retained proscribed weapons. On March 17 (2003) the U.S. offered an ultimatum to Ṣaddām, giving him 48 hours to leave Iraq.

Summary: When Ṣaddām refused to leave Iraq, U.S. and allied forces launched an attack (Mar 20, 2003). Many Iraqi troops chose not to resist, however much resistance was encountered from irregular groups of fighters. U.S. forces too control of Bagdad (Apr. 9). The last major stronghold and Saddam's birthplace of Tikrit finally fell (Apr. 13). President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

Aftermath: Iraqi leaders fled into hiding and were the object of an intense search by U.S. forces. Ṣaddām Ḥussein was captured on December 13, 2003, and was turned over to Iraqi authorities in June 2004 to stand trial for various crimes; he was subsequently convicted of crimes against humanity and was executed on December 30, 2006.

[Edit (6/17/2014): Added AKA Operation Iraqi Freedom.]
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