The Shortest Wars in History

  • Soldiers in Six Day War
Soldiers in Six Day War
Hulton Archive/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

The Irish writer and socialist Robert Wilson Lynd once wrote, “The belief in the possibility of a short, decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.” It’s true — many wars drag on far beyond initial expectations, in some cases for centuries. For example, the conflict known as the Reconquista, in which Christian kingdoms fought the Moors to reconquer the Iberian territories, lasted a staggering 781 years. Many other conflicts have also spanned a century or more, perhaps most famously the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, which actually lasted for 116 years. 

In the last two centuries, however, most wars have lasted an average of three to four months (though there are many exceptions, including World War I and World War II). But even these months-long conflicts seem lengthy in comparison to history’s shortest wars, which lasted just days, hours, or even minutes. 

Photo credit: Antoine Gyori - Corbis/ Sygma via Getty Images

Slovenian War of Independence (10 Days)

Slovenia declared its independence on June 25, 1991, becoming the first of the six republics to formally leave Yugoslavia (along with Croatia, which declared the same day). Two days later, the Yugoslav People’s Army intervened, sending in an armored battalion. The ensuing conflict was of low intensity, casualties were not high, and it ended after 10 days with the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces and a victory for the newly independent Slovenia. The reason for the relatively short length of the war was the simultaneous Croatian War of Independence (Croatia declared its independence on the same day as Slovenia). The Yugoslav People’s Army didn’t want to get stuck in a lengthy conflict with Slovenia because Croatia, with its sizable ethnic Serb minority, was a priority. The war with Croatia was a far bloodier and more brutal affair that lasted four years and seven months. 

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