Stuff You Should Know: A Super Abridged History of War In the 20th Century

war main

War is hell. Just ask anyone who’s ever served. It’s also one of the defining characteristics of the 20th century. From World War 1 and 2 through to the Falklands and Granada, the past 100 years have been the messiest in world history. But why have we spent so much time and money lobbing bombs, tanks and soldiers at “problem” countries?

Good question. Here’s the super abridged (and not 100% accurate) guide to 20th century war.

Russo Japanese War (1904-1905)


Death Toll: 100,000-ish

It’s the Russians vs. the Japanese. No one really cares much about this war. It happened a million years ago and didn’t involve any Anglo-Saxons (i.e. white people) so it doesn’t count. Japan won, apparently.

World War I (1914-1918)


Death toll: 15 million +

The major Europe powers were all jonesing for a war at the start of the 20th century. Conveniently, someone went and assassinated the heir to the Austria-Hungry Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This gave a bunch of aristocratic toffs the perfect excuse to declare war and try to steal each other’s colonies / slaves / women and gave some Scottish hipsters a pretty rocking band name, albeit many years later.

Back in Europe, everyone decided that digging holes (trenches) in the ground and sitting in them was the best thing ever. Eventually this got boring and retarded military generals made the soldiers get out and charge at machine guns. Everyone took turns doing this until Germany declared the contest a draw and went home.

World War II (1939-1945)


Death toll: 70 million +

The sequel to the hugely popular World War I, World War II updated the formula with Nazis, nukes and Japanese people. Long story short: A guy called Hitler came to power in Germany – he killed all the Jews and invaded a bunch of countries. Great Britain eventually went “fuck this” and there was a war. Germany would have won except a Russian magician (Rasputin) cast a “winter + 1″ spell and everyone froze to death trying to capture Moscow. Also, the US nuked Japan because it was quicker and easier.

Korean War (1950-1953)

korean war

Death Toll: 2 Million

A wisecracking doctor named Hawkeye Pierce went to Korea and opened a medical centre. He filmed his exploits there to create the world’s first reality TV show, M.A.S.H. This outraged the Communists so much they launched a war against Hawkeye and “the lulz.” The US didn’t want to lose its favourite TV show to filthy communists so they sent General Douglas “Crazy” MacArthur to help. Anyway, Korea ended up being divided in two halves: the lulz friendly south and the north – where they eat babies and rape goats.

Arabs vs. Israel (1948-present)

arab israeli

Death Toll: several mini wars worth

The state of Israel was formed in 1948 when Winston Churchill got drunk, drew some lines on a map of the Middle East and gave Jewish people their own country to make up for the Holocaust. The surrounding Muslim countries called “Bullshit” on this and swore to wipe Israel off the map. Fifty years later both sides are still sending rockets into each other’s backyards and arguing about patches of land the size of your local football field.

Vietnam War (1959-1975)


Death Toll: approximately 1.4 million

The French gave up on Vietnam (which they owned) after World War II. This saw two equally shonky governments formed – filthy Communist in the north (backed by China) and corrupt Capitalist in the south (backed by the US). Ten years of foreplay and finger-fucking later, both sides still couldn’t get off so they decided to have a war. The US freaked out about this because if the Communists won South Vietnam they would take over the WHOLE WORLD.

Or so the theory went. The US then spent several trillion dollars and lost 60,000 soldiers dropping bombs on rice fields. Richard Nixon declared the whole thing “a draw” in 1975 and everyone went home to do heroin.

Indo-Pakistani War (1971)


Death Toll: Who knows?

Pakistan is a Muslim country. India isn’t. They are neighbours. In 1971 they had a dick measuring contest. Forty years later they still have nukes pointed at each other.

Iran–Iraq War (1980–88)

iran iraq

Death Toll: 500,000 +

Some Muslims built World War I style trenches and spent eight years going nowhere as a bunch of people died. The rest of the world sat back and laughed its ass off.

Falklands (April 1982)


Death Toll: Less than 1000

Sicking of seeing the US get all the action, Britain got all antsy and decided it had to invade a country to prove it was still relevant in the new geo-political environment. Argentina gave them an easy target when they tried to reclaim the Falkland Island (just off the South American coast). Britain sent a navy that murdered everyone and reclaimed the useless lump of rock in 12 days.

Grenada (October – December 1983)


Death Toll: Couple of hundred

The US government got a hard-on from watching Schwarzenegger movies and decided to invade a small Caribbean nation so it could drink Four Loko, shoot some bros and swing its dick around.

Gulf War I (1990-1991)

gulf war

Death Toll: 20,000 + (most were Iraqi)

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait with weapons provided by the US government and his friend Donald Rumsfeld. George Bush Sr. realized this would affect the price of his oil stocks and sent the US army out there to “liberate” Kuwait and his stock portfolio. Saddam Hussein was all “WTF guy? We were friends last week.” CNN filmed the invasion and proved that dropping bombs on people is hugely entertaining.

Balkan Wars (1991-1999)


Death Toll: 100,000 +

When the Soviet Union failed and the Balkan states regained their independence they decided the best thing to do was revert back to the murder and genocide that had plagued the region for the last 1000 years. Eventually the rest of the world noticed that a bunch of Slavs were knee deep in blood, but since everyone was already dead we just shrugged our shoulders and went, “You guys are dicks.”