During the 20th century, United State forces fought in a number of wars and battles. Most of these conflicts took place on non-US territories which reflected the position of the United States as a global superpower and mediator.
In the two deadliest conflicts of the 20th century, namely World War I and World War II, United States chose to stay neutral initially but was later pulled into combat. It then played a decisive role in both conflicts.
Following are some of the most notable wars and battles of the 20th century involving the American forces.
The Border War was a conflict between Mexican revolutionaries and United States forces. The conflict started in 1910 and continued until 1919. It began with the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Revolutionary forces and groups started violating the border between Mexico and United States.
To prevent this, a large number of U.S. troops were stationed along the border. A number of U.S. towns were also attacked by the Mexican revolutionaries. In response, the U.S. forces crossed the border a few times to take the fighting to the Mexicans. The conflict finally ended around 1919 when circumstances improved back in Mexico.
World War I broke out in 1914. The war began as a conflict between various European powers and the United States initially decided to stay neutral. But then Germany sank a ship with nearly 160 American passengers who died in the incident.
Germany also attempted to rally Mexico to its side as a prelude to attacking United States. These incidents led United States to enter the war. U.S. fought on the side of Britain and France against Germany and its allies. The large number of soldiers and resources provided by United States proved instrumental in securing a victory and defeating Germany.
The Second Battle of Marne was fought in July / August, 1918. It was first major involvement of the U.S. forces in World War I. Germany launched an offensive along the Marne River and was able to make significant headway, reaching within 50 miles of Paris.
It was at this time that the American forces came into action. They reinforced the British and French forces, stalling German advance and even pushing Germany back. Ultimately, the German offensive failed, largely thanks to the American troops.
World War II broke out in 1939. Germany and its allies, Japan and Italy, were on one side while France, Britain and several other European nations fought on the other side. United States initially decided to stay neutral during the war.
In 1941, Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. This forced United States to declare war on Japan as well as on Germany and Italy. Nearly 16 million American soldiers fought in the war. The role of United States was instrumental in forcing the surrender of Germany and Japan, events which brought an end to the war.
Soon after United States entered World War II, Japan dispatched a large naval fleet towards Midway Islands near Hawaii. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan hoped to finally eliminate the U.S. naval might in the Pacific with this attack. The Japanese fleet was countered by 3 American aircraft carriers which had 233 on board planes, as well as several smaller vessels. The ensuing battle saw heavy losses for the Japanese navy. It lost more than 3,000 men and more than 200 aircraft. The defeat sealed the fate of the Japanese navy in the Pacific, turning the tide in the favor of United States.
Operation Avalanche was led by the United States forces during World War II. Its objective was to capture beach areas of Italy and establish beachheads to begin the invasion of Italy. U.S. Fifth Army was heavily involved in this initiative, alongside British X Corps. Both sustained significant casualties as they had to face stiff German resistance. Although the two allied forces were able to advance significantly, they were forced back by a German counterattack. In the end, they could retain only a small beachhead.
In 1941, Japanese naval forces had wrested the control of the island of Guam from United States. During the counter-campaign in the Pacific, United States decided to take back the island in 1944. The planned invasion was first launched through aerial bombardment of the island for several days. U.S. troops then launched a ground invasion, although they faced significant casualties.
After nearly 20 days of fierce fighting, the U.S. troops were finally able to gain control of the island. The battle had begun on July 21, 1944 and ended on August 10, 1944. United States suffered around 10,000 casualties whereas the Japanese suffered above 18,000 casualties.
After the end of World War II, United States and Soviet Union emerged as two major powers. A Cold War began between the two, with each nation trying to expand its territories and spheres of influence. Korea was previously a part of the Japanese Empire. When it became free, both US and USSR tried to influence its future.
This ultimately led to a division of Korea into North Korea and South Korea. North Korea tried to take over South Korea with Soviet military help which led to a breakout of war in 1945. United States played an instrumental role in pushing back the North Korean forces and making sure South Korea remained a democratic state.
The Battle of Pusan took place as a part of the Korean War. The Korean War began in 1950 as North Korea began an assault on South Korea. United States, alongside soldiers from other U.N. countries, provided troops to counter this assault. By August, 1950, the North Korean forces had pushed U.N. forces to a small tip at the Korean Peninsula. This became known as the Pusan Perimeter.
North Korean forces launched repeated attacks on this last foothold of the U.N. forces but couldn’t dislodge them. The United States forces played a vital role in the defense. Ultimately, North Korean attacks were thwarted and this began a retreat which would force North Korean forces back across the border.
The Vietnam War was another conflict of the larger Cold War between United States and Soviet Union. United States began active involvement in the conflict in 1964-65. This involvement would continue for several years. At the height of U.S. involvement in the area, more than 500,000 American troops were fighting in Vietnam.
From 1969, masses in United States began to oppose American involvement in Vietnam. This led to a reduction of the number of troops and ultimately, the withdrawal of United States from the conflict. United States lost nearly 60,000 soldiers in the conflict. It also failed to achieve its objectives.
Before 1959, a pro-American dictator ruled Cuba. Then in 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the President and took over the government. He opposed the business monopoly of United States in Cuba and favored communism, so he took measures to curb it.
In response, United States launched a secret operation to remove Castro and to reinstate a friendly government in Cuba. U.S. trained nearly 1400 Cuban exiles and used them to launch the operation which became known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The operation was a disaster and ended in complete failure.
In 1986, United States forces carried out bombing of Libya. This was done in response to terrorist attacks attributed to the Libyan regime. During the bombing, the U.S. forces destroyed a number of planes and helicopters as well as important infrastructure. The bombing also led to the death of nearly 40 Libyans. On the U.S. side, one F-111 aircraft was shot down.
The Tanker War was a part of the Iran-Iraq War that began in 1980 and ended in 1988. The Tanker War specifically referred to the portion of this war that was fought in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters. Both countries tried to destroy the oil tankers from the other nation’s ports in a bid to cripple each other’s economy. For this reason, it became known as the Tanker War.
United States participated in the Tanker War when Kuwait asked U.S. to intervene and protect its oil tankers from Iranian attacks. The U.S. intervention came to be known as Operation Earnest Will.
In 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait over disputes in oil prices and production. Iraq also threatened to take over Saudi Arabia in a similar manner. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia called upon United States for help. So United States launched Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm to check the Iraqi aggression.
In doing so, U.S. was also helped by forces from other countries, including U.K., Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The bulk of the military forces used in the war were contributed by the United States. U.S. aircrafts were able to destroy Iraqi ground forces, halting their advance and ultimately forcing them to retreat. U.S. suffered minimum losses during this conflict, despite a large-scale involvement.