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Story published: 07-02-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

A look at the military history of the US since WWI

By: David Walter

Independence Day is the National Day of the United States commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence and independence from Great Britain. On two other national holidays, we honor those who have served on Veteran’s Day and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day. These are the people who give us the ability to continually celebrate the birth of this nation. Since the American Revolution the United States has been involved in hundreds of conflicts both large and small. In honor of those who serve and to celebrate Independence Day, The Tomahawk would like to provide, however brief, an outline of the past hundred years of military operations involving the United States.

Next July 28th will be the hundred-year anniversary of World War One, known at the time as the Great War or the War to End All Wars. By November of 1918, there were over 37 million combined civilian and military casualties. Devastatingly brutal military technological advancements such as the machine gun and chemical weapons contributed to the high death toll. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is often attributed as the catalyst for the war; however, the real powder keg was the rise of imperialism and a multifaceted web of alliances in Europe which created an incredibly volatile situation that only required a spark to set it off.

World War Two is quite often the war which many vividly remember. If not, they certainly have close relatives who served or personally experienced the home front. The war was also one of the last conflicts where there was nearly unanimous public support. We had clearly defined lines of who the good and bad guys were. The Japanese had attacked the United States on its own soil and by the end of the European Campaign Hitler had roughly six-million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The overall death toll across the globe has been estimated at nearly 60 million. World War Two officially ceased with the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, but relations with Russia immediately following the war would lead us into one of the longest military conflicts in history, the Cold War.

The Cold War essentially lasted from 1947 until 1991; just two years after the Berlin Wall fell. The conflict did indeed earn its name, as a great deal of those years was without conflict. What at times made the Cold War “hot” was a series of military operations and continual nuclear tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Never actually going to war in the traditional sense, the Cold War was fought retroactively through other conflicts that mainly involved Asian countries as the third party.

The United States bolstered the concept of containment, or arresting the spread of communism and Soviet influence throughout various regions but primarily Asia. This ultimately led to engagement in two major wars that included the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and to a lesser degree the Soviet war in Afghanistan. These wars were fought on the soil of their respective names, but both the Korean War and Vietnam War were fueled by Chinese soldiers who vastly outnumbered United Nation and American forces. Those soldiers were financed and armed directly by the Soviet Union. In the Soviet war in Afghanistan roles were reversed as the United States was the primary financer of the Afghanistan forces and the Mujahideen. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Eastern European and the Soviet Republic began breaking away from the Soviet Union. In 1991, the Cold War ended with the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Vietnam War was the largest conflict in terms of casualties for the United States since World War Two. 49,000 members of the military were killed or missing in action and over 153,000 were wounded. Since Vietnam and the end of the Cold War, the United States has been involved in multiple conflicts. There were operations in the Gulf War, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, respectively. None of these deserve any more or less attention than the others as all affected the lives of Americans. The largest conflict since the Vietnam War warrants additional attention. This is the War on Terror.

For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.