The United States At War


Below is the list of wars and military actions the United States has partaken in that have lasted at least a year or close to a year, and their approximate dates.  In several cases there were wars already going on that the United States didn’t become involved in until well after hostilities began.  The years listed below are only the years that United States was expressly involved in the various conflicts.

Revolutionary War                                          1774—1783
Northwest Indian War                                   1785-1795
Franco American War                                    1798-1800
First Barbary War                                           1801-1805
Tecumseh’s Rebellion                                    1811
War of 1812 –                                                   1812-1815
Second Barbary War                                       1815
First Seminole War                                         1817-1818
West Indies Anti-Piracy Action                     1817-1825
African Anti-Slavery Operations                   1819-1861
Arikara War                                                       1823
Aegean Anti-Piracy Operations                     1825-1828
Winnebago War                                                1827
Black Hawk War                                               1832
United States Exploring Expedition            1838-1842
Second Seminole War                                     1835-1842
Second Sumatran Expedition                        1838-1839
Mexican American War                                   1846-1848
Navajo Wars                                                      1858-1866
Cayuse War                                                        1847-1855
Pitt River Expedition                                       1850
Apache Wars                                                     1851-1900
Yakima War                                                       1855-1858
Puget Sound War                                             1855-1856
Rogue River Wars                                            1855-1866
Third Seminole War                                        1855-1858
Second Opium War                                         1856-1859
Paraguay Expedition                                       1859
Paiute War                                                         1860
American Civil War                                          1861-1865
Colorado War                                                    1863-1865
Shimonoseki                                                      1863-1864
Powder River Expedition                                1865
Snake War                                                          1864-1868
Red Cloud’s War                                               1866-1868
Comanche Campaign                                       1867-1875
Modoc War                                                        1872-1873
Red River War                                                   1874-1875
Black Hills War                                                 1876-1877
Nez Perce War                                                  1877
Bannock War                                                     1878
Cheyenne War                                                   1878-1879
Sheepeater Indian War                                    1879
White River War                                               1879-1880
Samoan Crisis                                                    1887-1889
Pine Ridge Campaign                                      1890-1891
Chilean War                                                       1891
Second Samoan Civil War                              1898-1899
Spanish American War                                   1898      
Philippine Insurrection                                  1899-1902
Moro Rebellion                                                 1899-1913
Boxer Rebellion                                                1899-1900
Occupation of Nicaragua                               1912-1933
Mexican Revolution                                        1914-1919
Occupation of Haiti                                          1915-1934
Occupation of Dominican Republic             1916-1924
WW 1                                                                    1917-1918
Russian Civil War                                              1918-1920
World War 2                                                       1941-1945
Cold War (Includes Vietnam and Korea)     1947-1991
Lebanese Civil War                                           1982-1984
Iran-Iraq War                                                     1987-1988
First Gulf War                                                    1990-1991
Iraq No-Fly Zones                                             1991-2003
Somali Civil War                                                1992-1994
Bosnian War                                                       1993-1995
War On Terror (Iraq/Afghanistan)               2001-Present

11 responses to “The United States At War

  1. Nice cataloging. There was also Shay’s Rebellion in 1786 along with numerous other small uprisings that were largely taken on by state militia. And we were chasing Geronimo and the Apaches all over the southwest in 1885-86–we had five cavalry regiments (some 5,000 troops) chasing about 40 tribesmen. We’re a terribly bellicose bunch. And prospects are lousy.

    • Morning, Dan.

      I only listed military actions that lasted about a year–maybe three quarters of a year at least. Therefore Shay’s Rebellion doesn’t make the lists. I left out a lot of events because of this standard.

      And yes we are a bellicose bunch – by my calculations the U.S. has spent less than 8% of its lifetime at peace. It’s harder to gauge though because unlike for example, the Israelis, who if they are at war, the whole country feels it strongly, we have wars that the public hardly notices because of the combination of a massive population and relatively small percentage of that population that actually enter the military and fight.

  2. You’re stretching the term “at war” beyond reasonable boundaries here, Phil. While it would be fine to list Vietnam and Korea as cold-war actions, the “cold war” itself was a decades-long period of military build up and brinkmanship, not one, ongoing military conflict. Also, you seem to include conflicts in which the US provided training, funding or support for one (or both, in the case of the Iran / Iraq war) sides, but took no active military role. To list the Russian Civil War, the Mexican Revolution, and the Boxer Rebellion as US wars is absurd. Why not the War on Drugs? The War on Christmas? Anti-piracy actions don’t really qualify, either. I think a more honest way to make this timeline would be to call it “American Involvement in Conflict” and to make clear the level of that involvement. Furthermore, I would divide it into sections like Independence, Unification (civil war), National expansion (Indian wars, 1812, Mexican American, Spanish American, Phillipines, etc.), Empire building (piracy actions, Banana wars), Geo-Political (WWI and II, cold war actions) Humanitarian (debatable), Geo-Strategic (middle east conflicts) and so on. There would be a lot of overlap, obviously, but you get the point. I would also parse out the conflicts where the US was not a direct player, but fought through proxies, as was the case with many cold war actions, and those cases where involvement was minimal, and limited to funding and/or political support. Anyway, a good effort, and a good start, but calling all military actions “wars” isn’t useful if we’re looking to compare American militarism with similarly sized empires throughout history. Every large empire exists in a near constant state of military action. That’s the nature of the beast.

    • You’d have to be the most stupid hispanic on the face of the earth, to even debate those statistics. This republic was founded in rebellion, and we have been the most rebellious nation in our short existence. And I grieve for our future. We’ll all be in sackcloth and ashes bemoaning our fate real soon

  3. Edit: I’m editing my response because I just reread it and I sound kind of cunty. :)

    I strongly disagree, Dan. The cold war was one elongated conflict, fought frequently through proxies where American “advisers” were on the ground and actually fighting themselves, which is why I include El Salvador and Nicaragua in my thinking for example.

    You may have a point about the Iran/Iraq war, although research seems to indicate that while the war lasted over 10 years, between 1987 and 88, the United States did take military action with operations Earnest Will and Prime Chance, both naval actions. Regarding the Russian civil war I believe you are again wrong. The Siberian Intervention and the North Russia Campaign both had Americans (and other allied forces) on the ground fighting against the Bolsheviks. [editing out this douchebag statement of mine] over 8,000 American troops were landed in Northern Russia for this action while nearly 10,000 were on the ground for the Siberian intervention.

    Regarding the Mexican Revolution the United States had boots on the ground twice. First during the Ypiranga Incident and then again with the far more famous chase Pershing had through the Mexican mountain ranges for Poncho Villa. Both actions were failures from the U.S. point of view, but there were American boots on the ground in Mexico nonetheless, and not just dozens, but thousands.

    Regarding the various anti-piracy engagements, particularly that of the Barbary Coast, but many others; when the U.S. Navy is involved in action, American sailors are dying, and specific military objectives are stated, that sounds like military action to me. Not as hot a war as either of the World Wars, but no less a military engagement.

    Finally, regarding the objective of this piece [edited for douchebaggyness again] was to figure out just how many years the United States has been at peace since its inception; a grand total of 24.

  4. I applaud your attention to detail, if not your conclusions. The problem with your methodology is that you define “at war” as any conflict in which US personnel are involved, equating the CIA in central America with Patton at D-Day. Meanwhile, you define “at peace” in the narrowest sense, basically stating that the only way to qualify is to have no involvement whatsoever with any conflict, anywhere. This is a false distinction.

  5. I’m pretty specific in delineating just what I consider to be worthy of the list. The parameters are: A military engagement of some kind that lasted at least 3/4ths of a year. The term “at war” is only by itself in the title-and that only for marketing purposes. In the body of the post itself is the explanation. You may have skimmed over those points in your excitement to peruse the list of conflicts I provided :)

    One other issue made the research slightly more difficult: Namely what a “sate of war” is in the U.S. We both know that Congress is supposed to govern whether or not we go to war, but congress seems to have allowed that power to atrophy since the second world war. As a result I have had to decide on my own which military engagements qualify for the list I provided. You may be right that the parameters I’ve set are too broad. I’ll give it a think.

    What parameters would you use, Dan? I should add that I really didn’t have any intention at the start of the research beyond my own personal curiosity. But as I did the math, adding up the years that the U.S. wasn’t involved in a conflict–well, my jaw hit the ground when I was finished.

    I’d be curious to know which engagements I’ve listed you think I ought to have left out. Besides the Russian/Mexican revolutions, which I think are warranted (we’ll just have to agree to disagree) and actions that are strictly naval, like the pirate actions.

  6. I would limit the list to conflicts in which the US made substantial contributions of men and materiel, and have a separate list for small, short-lived operations like Somalia and Bosnia.

    • Dan: I agree with Phil–the US support of the Mensheviks in the Russian Civil war poisoned the well for generations. Ditto our take-out of Pancho Villas. And the image of then-lieutenant George Patton driving back to command with two of Villas’ dead lieutenants strapped to the hood of his car like deer didn’t endear us to the locals. we also intervened in the Dominican Republic in the 1960′s when the locals elected someone we didn’t like. Just saying.

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