History is filled with wars that were fought to gain the upper hand, a better land, or to establish a tyrant — each fought with a different purpose and varying durations. Most of the time, however, wars were fought under conflicting situations to conclude. Sometimes the war ended within a matter of minutes, and sometimes it took years to determine the winning side. Let’s have a look at some of the shortest wars in history and why they were fought.
1. Anglo-Zanzibar War: the war that lasted for 38 minutes
Also known as the shortest war in history, the Anglo Zanzibar war was fought in 1896. It all started in 1890 when a treaty was signed between Germany and Britain. The treaty held the agreement that the state of Zanzibar was under British dominance, while the remaining Tanzanian land was under German control. A few years later, in 1893, Hamad bin Thuwaini was the ruler of Zanzibar.
After a peaceful three-year rule, Hamad suddenly died, and his place was taken over by his cousin Khalid bin Bargash. This appointment happened without prior notice to the British. When they got to know about this, they ordered Bargash to give up the position. Bargash being adamant, paid no heed to any warnings put forward by the British. After repeated threats and warnings, the Britishers attacked the Sultan’s palace, which was highly secured with over 3000 men. When the fight started, Bargash escaped the palace via a secret exit, leaving his men to fight against the enemies. After a little over half an hour, the palace’s royal flag was taken down, and the shortest war in history came to an end.
Though it was short, the war caused a lot of deaths — mostly on the losing side. More than five hundred soldiers died, and several hundred were severely injured on both ends. Bargash escaped to the Tanzanian mainland and was under the protection of the German navy. Eventually, he was caught by the British and was exiled. On the other side, the Zanzibar throne was taken over by a British supporter, Sultan Hamud bin Muhammad who ruled for the next half a decade.
2. The Six-Day War: the war that lasted for six days
Though this war was of very short duration, it went down as one of history’s bloodiest conflicts. The conflict occurred in June 1967 between Israel and three Arab countries — Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. This war erupted as a consequence of severe tension between the Arab states and Israel. In 1948, a group of Arab countries led a failed invasion of the Jewish state. The political pressure and military disputes continued for a long time until in April of 1967, Israel and Syria engaged in a severe air battle. Following this battle, Egypt and Jordan backed up their Syrian allies for any further conflicts if they were to occur.
On the 5th of June 1967, Israel set out an aerial attack on Egypt. This attack caught the Egyptians unprepared. Immediately after they wiped out over ninety percent of the Egyptian air force, they headed towards Jordan, Iraq, and Syria and eliminated their air forces too. Despite Israel’s surprise attack and many casualties, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan continued to fight against Israel for the next five days. On the sixth day of the war, the 10th of June 1967, the United Nations initiated a truce between them. During the short 130 hours of fighting, over 800 Israelis died. At the same time, five times more people were killed among the Arabs.
3. Indo-Pakistani War: the war that lasted for 13 days
One of the biggest yet shortest wars that occurred between India and Pakistan was that of 1971. The most significant outcome of this war was the liberation of Bangladesh. The Bangladesh liberation war happened around the same time and as a consequence of continuous conflicts between east and west Pakistanis after the 1970 election in Pakistan. India’s western front got involved in the conflict, soon followed by one of the shortest wars in history.
The Indo-Pakistani war started when Pakistan’s air force struck eleven Indian air stations, which increased the hostility between the two countries. The thirteen-day Indo-Pakistani war stretched between the 3rd and the 16th of December 1971. The war ended with Pakistan on the losing side, and the formation of Bangladesh took place.
4. The Georgian-Armenian War: the war that lasted for 24 days
This was a short war between Georgia and Armenia in 1918 over the Lori, Javerkehti, and Borchalo districts. In 1918, Russia signed a treaty to return these districts, which they occupied during their war against the Ottoman Empire in 1877–78. However, these areas were not under the administrative control of Russia. Instead, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia collectively controlled these areas.
Though these areas were dominated by people of both the Armenians and Georgians, the more significant section in terms of population was the Armenians. After the First World War ended, these territories were taken under the control of the Ottomans. After the empire left, a fight broke out between Georgians and Armenians for control over these areas. This started on the 7th of December in 1918 and continued until the 31st of December. This Georgian-Armenian war was put to an end by the British and French, after which the districts were given the control of a joint Georgian-Armenian administration.
5. Greco-Turkish War: the war that lasted for 30 days
The ‘unfortunate war’ was fought in 1897 between the Greek Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks wanted to take over the island of Crete, which had a Greek majority and was under the Ottomans’ control. Sultan Abdul Hamid was the ruler of the Ottomans at that period.
When the Greeks made efforts to take over the island, the Ottomans responded accordingly. However, military-wise, the Greeks were not ready for a war. When a conflict happened on Crete challenging the Ottomans, the Greek army arrived on the island. Being unprepared as they were, the Greeks were crushed by the Ottomans in a matter of weeks. This war was the only one fought between these two in that century.
6. Falklands War: the war that lasted for 74 days
This was a ten-week-long war fought between Argentina and the United Kingdom in a couple of British territories. One of these was the Falkland Islands, located in the South Atlantic. The war ended with the Britishers coming out victorious.
In 1982, Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Both the areas were under British dominance. Soon the British followed up with their naval and air forces. After 74 days, the Argentinians surrendered, and the islands went back under British authority. A large number of fatalities occurred on both ends. A little less than a thousand people died during this short war.
Though Argentina wanted to acquire the islands, the island people wanted to stay under British rule. Argentina believed that the islands fall under their territory and hence must be under their control. The people of the islands were British and had been its inhabitants since the late eighteenth century. Though there was no official record of war being declared, the islands were under a war zone during those ten weeks.
After Argentina was unsuccessful in the war, people protested against their government in Argentina. On the other side, the British win boosted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s election campaign — one of the significant factors that led to her victory in the 1983 elections. The relationship between the two countries became better during a meeting in Madrid in 1989. Five years later, when a new constitution was written for Argentina, they took the Falkland Islands. Yet, the islands still operate as British Overseas Territory.
What are some of the other short wars you know about in history? Do let us know in the comments section.
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