The war portal


War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.

While some scholars see war as a universal and ancestral aspect of human nature, others argue it is a result of specific socio-cultural or ecological circumstances.

The deadliest war in history, in terms of the cumulative number of deaths since its start, is World War II, from 1939 to 1945, with 60–85 million deaths, followed by the Mongol conquests at up to 60 million. As concerns a belligerent's losses in proportion to its prewar population, the most destructive war in modern history may have been the Paraguayan War (see Paraguayan War casualties). In 2013 war resulted in 31,000 deaths, down from 72,000 deaths in 1990. In 2003, Richard Smalley identified war as the sixth biggest problem (out of ten) facing humanity for the next fifty years. War usually results in significant deterioration of infrastructure and the ecosystem, a decrease in social spending, famine, large-scale emigration from the war zone, and often the mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilians. For instance, of the nine million people who were on the territory of the Byelorussian SSR in 1941, some 1.6 million were killed by the Germans in actions away from battlefields, including about 700,000 prisoners of war, 500,000 Jews, and 320,000 people counted as partisans (the vast majority of whom were unarmed civilians). Another byproduct of some wars is the prevalence of propaganda by some or all parties in the conflict, and increased revenues by weapons manufacturers.

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American soldiers taking up defensive positions in the Ardennes

The Battle of the Bulge was the last major German offensive on the Western Front in World War II. It was intended that the German army would split the Allied line in half, capture Antwerp, sweep north and encircle and destroy four Allied armies, thus forcing them to negotiate for peace. Although unsuccessful, it nevertheless tied down huge amounts of Allied resources, and a slow response to the resulting gap in their lines erased months from their timetable. An alternative analysis is that the offensive allowed the Allies to severely deplete the cream of German army outside the defenses of the West Wall and in poor supply state, greatly easing the assault on Germany afterward. In numerical terms, it is the largest battle the United States Army has ever fought.

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Fight for the Bagration flèches

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The Soviet flag being flown over the Reichstag building as Berlin falls to the Red Army.
Photo credit: Jewgeni Chaldej

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Eras of warfare

Overview • Prehistoric • Ancient • Medieval • Gunpowder • Industrial • Modern

Types of warfare

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Armies • Battles • Civil wars • Corps • Divisions • Fleets • Invasions • Operations • Orders of battle • Sieges • Tactics • Wars • Weapons • World War II Commanders

Other related topics

Genocide • Peace • United Nations

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