Wars of the Century Major Wars of Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Wars of the Century

Major Wars of the 20th Century: the Causes

The twentieth century has certainly seen its shares of horrors of killings. Internationally, an astonishing number of major and minor wars have broken down during this specific time period. All of these major and minor conflicts have certainly changed the face of our society and affected millions of people worldwide; to understand the changes undergone by our international culture and society as well as the major causes of war, it is of the utmost importance to gain a better understanding of those conflicts. The similarities in many of those worldly conflicts traceable to the twentieth century are astonishing and deeper analysis of the causes and outcomes of those conflicts certainly is necessary from a historic point-of-view. By establishing a list of the major conflicts of the twentieth century and learning more about the deep-rooted causes of those wars, we will certainly have more knowledge to establish a strong conclusion of the major causes of war during that specific period. The twentieth century's major wars form an impressive list: World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

World War I

The twentieth century unfortunately started with one of the biggest conflicts of the century; World War I. It all began in European territory, in 1914. The conflict lasted up until 1918. These years now represent a bloody war, involving all of the world's powers divided in two mercenary alliances: the Allies and the Central Powers. Considered to western history's second deadliest war to have ever taken place, World War I saw the death of more than 9 million soldiers and combatants. This war has seen great advancement in the field of firearms and power, which would explain the killing spree that resulted from that war.

The war was initially sparked by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Austria's Archduke. Austria-Hungary then prepared to attack Serbia, from where the assassin was a native, backed by Germany. The plotting from Austria-Hungary left enough time for the Serbians to gain support from Russia. This conflict later on involved many other alliances formed by these starting countries. The war started with the Allies, including France, United Kingdom and Russia and the Central Powers, including Austria-Hungary and Germany.

World War I, who gave everybody the impression that it would end quickly and that soldiers would be back home in no time, degenerated quickly. The United States got involved as the Russians started to back out and the rest is history. In 1918, the Treaty of Versailles was finally agreed upon and a resemblance of peace was established amongst the concerned nations and powers. One of the most important repercussions of this conflict is certainly the weakening of the European continent (Kaarbo and Ray, 2010). The World War I outcomes and scars are also believed to have indirectly led to the declaration of World War II (Best, 2008).

World War II

It was unfortunately not long after the horrors of World War I that the second major conflict of the century, World War II broke down. From 1939 to 1945, the world was stuck in this massive conflict involving again, all major powers of the world. This war is certainly one of the most studied and talked about in history books and classes, considering the Holocaust, the entire Hitler situation, the advancement regarding nuclear weapons and because of its qualification of deadliest conflict in the history of humanity. The studies of that war are also often combined with the studies of ethnic groups, as this conflict was characterized by interethnic conflicts as well (Ignatieff, 1988).

World War II is often referred to as being the battle of the good over the evil. With Hitler ordering a complete genocide on the Jewish population, Germany was then and forever seen as the 'evil' society while other forces, including France, United Kingdom, United States and Russia were battling the evil to re-establish peace and assure the safety of the Jewish population. Several other small alliances had been created at the time to fight the war efficiently, but these major powers were definitely at stake in this conflict.

One of the main horrors coming out of World War II is obviously the 'concentration camps' (Kidd and Rees, 2001). The Nazis had ordered the killing of more than six million Jews all assembled in those deadly camps to face the destiny prepared by Hitler; a programmed extermination of what was referred to as a lower race.

Cold War

As an aftermath of the conclusion of World War II, the Communist world was under an extensive state of conflict. While the Cold War does not represent a specific series of events similar to the chronology of the two previous major conflicts, it still managed to span from 1947 to 1991. The Cold War is defined as being the continual state of political conflict and tensions arising in the Communist world, primarly between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The term Cold War, popularized by author and journalist George Orwell, defines a conflict that is, in other terms, not a conflict in itself. The 'opposants' of the Cold War never actually fought each other but simply expressed differences of ideas through propaganda, espionage, proxy wars and competitions (the Space Race, for example). It was after World War II that tensions arose between the Soviets and the Americans and, through other conflicts as well, this cold war had been contained and carried. The Cold War was brought to an end in 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Korean War

The Korean War is the conflict that resulted, as we know now, in the physical separation of North and South Korea in two different communities. The conflict originated in 1950 and was officially signed off three years later, in 1953. The Korean War is known to be an extension of the Cold War as, North and South Korea both being sponsored by external forces, involved the Soviet Union as well as the United States.

After North Korea established a Communist society, tension began to rise between the two parts of the country. In June 1950, North Korea forced an invasion in South Korea, which basically brought the conflict to what it is known as today. The United States quickly came to the rescue of the Southern Korea regions and fought off the attacks until 'resolution' of the conflicts.

To this day, this proxy war is still not considered to be entirely resolved. Many outbreaks have happened between North and South Korea and the tension between the two 'nations' is still at a premium in the twenty-first century. This proxy war also lead to what is referred to as 'G.I. Babies'. Those babies were born from American father and Korean mother and not much accepted into society; Korea does not easily accept fatherless children, which lead to a mass adoption movement from the United States of many of those G.I. Babies.

Vietnam War

Another result from the Soviet-United States Cold War aforementioned, the Vietnam War mostly occurred in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; the conflict span goes from 1955 to 1975. Similarly to the Korean War, the Vietnam War divided North and South Vietnam in two parties at war, North Vietnam being supported by communists allies while the south was mostly supported by the United States.

South Vietnam and the United States were very fond of 'air power' during this conflict. While the northern regions were more conventional in their war tactics, the South, supported by the American army, enjoyed superiority with air attacks (Cowley and Parker, 1996) and also had an overwhelming firepower to their disposition. Regardless of this superiority, the war is known to have been won by the Communists, as President Ford declared the end of the war in 1975, after the fall of Saigon. This war is known for having a higher toll of civilians as opposed to military victims (Selden and So, 2004)

The Vietnam War was perhaps one of the most televised war conflicts in the twentieth century. It was also an important conflict as the fall of the United States forced their leaders to rethink and recalculate much of their attack techniques (Vayrynen, 2006). The 1960's and 1970's generations were highly involved in the conflict, starting peace movements all over the United States and rebelling against armies and military power. Those antiwar movements, going back until the 1950's, started as a general manifestation of peace which, as demonstrated by Chatfield and DeBenedetti (1990) slowly transformed itself into a movement of opposition against the Vietnam War on the part of the United States.

Major Causes of War in the 20th Century

It would be an obvious statement to say that because of the size and involvement of these international conflicts, societies and culture has changed enormously following each and every Major War of the twentieth century. From the rise of nuclear power to the development of firearms and…

Sources Used in Document:


Best, Anthony et al. (2008) International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond. Oxon, Routledge.

Booth, Ken and Dunne, Tim (eds) (2002) Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of the Global Order. Hampshire, Palgrave.

Chatfield, Charles and DeBenedetti, Charles (1990) An American Ordeal: the antiwar movement of the Vietnam Era. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press.

Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey (1996) The Reader's Companion to Military History. New York, Houghton Mifflin.

Cite This Essay:

"Wars Of The Century Major Wars Of" (2011, March 21) Retrieved May 28, 2020, from

"Wars Of The Century Major Wars Of" 21 March 2011. Web.28 May. 2020. <

"Wars Of The Century Major Wars Of", 21 March 2011, Accessed.28 May. 2020,