The 10 Shortest Wars in History Were Almost Over Before They Started

Featured image for the 10 Shortest Wars article. Group of World War II heavy bombers on a mission

The 10 Shortest Wars in History Were Almost Over Before They Started

War is always heartbreaking and awful, with people needlessly losing their lives over petty land disputes and other reasons.

Most wars throughout history last for many years, with the most extreme being the Reconquista (Spanish Reconquest), which lasted for 781 years. Conversely, some wars only last for a few days — or even a few minutes!

Let’s talk about the 10 shortest wars throughout history.

#10: Falklands War

Duration42 days
FactionsArgentina vs. the United Kingdom
OutcomeUnited Kingdom victory

On April 2nd, 1982, Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, two of the territories that make up the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs). Argentina argues (to this day) that those islands are Argentine territory. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, saw it as an invasion.

Three days after the invasion, the British government sent a large naval task force commanded by Admiral Sir J.D.E. Fieldhouse to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force. The conflict would last 74 days until Argentina surrendered on June 14th. The cost of the conflict was 649 dead Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three citizen Falkland Islanders.

Despite the results of the 1982 war, the ownership of these islands is still up for debate. Argentina still claims that the islands are their territory. In 2013, however, citizens of the Islands overwhelmingly voted in favor of remaining part of the United Kingdom.

Flag of Falkland Islands on a flagpole against a colorful sky
While the war only lasted 42 days, the overall dispute over the territory continues to this day.


#9: Polish-Lithuanian War

Duration37 days
FactionsPoland vs. Lithuania
OutcomeShort-term Poland victory

Following the independence of both countries, Poland and Lithuania would start a short-lived conflict in the Vilnius and Suwalki regions.

The specific dates of the Polish-Lithuanian War are not agreed upon by the two factions at play. Lithuanian historians believe that the war was part of the Lithuanian Wars of Independence and that it lasted from May 1919 to November 1920. Conversely, Polish historians believe that the war only lasted from September 1920 to October 1920.

The reason that the conflict began was due to the region of Vilnius. The newly independent Lithuanian Council declared Vilnius to be the capital of Lithuania. However, a year earlier, Vilnius had been given to Poland by Germany. Despite the conflict between Poland and Lithuania regarding ownership of Vilnius, Soviet Bolshevik forces were also actively trying to claim the region through warfare. Throughout the time of conflict, Vilnius would exchange ownership between the Polish, Lithuanians, and Soviet Bolsheviks as many as 7 times.

Despite direct war only happening for 37 days, the ownership of the area would be under debate for a long time to come. In 1922, the region held elections, and the country was officially annexed to Poland, though Lithuania did not recognize this. Over 20 years later, Vilnius was once again regained by Lithuania following the Soviet-Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty. However, Lithuania would quickly lose its independence via Soviet occupation.

It wasn’t until 1991 that Lithuania would win independence from the Soviet Union, and finally be free of territorial conflicts over the Vilnius region.

Tower Of Gediminas (Gedimino) In Vilnius, Lithuania. Historic Symbol Of The City Of Vilnius And Of Lithuania Itself. Upper Vilnius Castle Complex. Summer. Tourist Destination
Vilnius is currently the capital and largest city of Lithuania, with an estimated population of over 750,000 people.

©Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock.com

#8: Second Balkan War

Duration32 days
FactionsBulgaria vs. Greece, Serbia, Romania, and the Ottoman Empire
OutcomeBulgaria defeat

From 1912 to 1913, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro went to war with the Ottoman Empire. This conflict was known as the First Balkan War. The four allied countries won this conflict, but Bulgaria was not happy with its share of the spoils.

In June of 1913, Bulgaria attacked its former allies, Serbia and Greece. Romania and the Ottoman Empire saw this second conflict as a means to achieve easy victory over Bulgaria, leading them to enter the war.

Due to this war essentially becoming four versus one, Bulgaria never actually stood a chance. The war was over approximately a month later, resulting in the Treaty of Bucharest. The result of this treaty was that Bulgaria would have to give up most of the shares that it was already dissatisfied with. Bulgaria had to cede East Thrace to the Ottoman Empire, Southern Dobruja to Romania, parts of Western Thrace to Greece, and most of Vardar Macedonia to Serbia.

Aerial drone photo of famous Balkan war memorial in main town of Tinos island, Cyclades, Greece
Despite only lasting for 32 days, this war had a total combined 76,000 casualties shared between the involved nations.


#7: Greco-Turkish War

Duration30 days
FactionsGreece vs. Ottoman Empire
OutcomeForeign intervention (Ottoman Empire victory)

The Greco-Turkish War is so infamous for only lasting 30 days that it is referred to as the “Thirty Days’ War.” The conflict began over ownership of the province of Crete, a region with a Greek-majority population. The Ottoman Empire claimed Crete as their own, but the people of the region desired to join the Kingdom of Greece.

The Greco-Turkish War was the first open war that Greece was involved in since the Greek War of Independence over 70 years earlier. Unfortunately for the kingdom, they were unprepared and had a lack of fortifications, weapons, and training. The Ottoman Empire forces made quick work pushing the Greek forces out and were fully intent on using the situation to their advantage and further attacking Greece.

However, unrelated European countries involved themselves in the war, forcing the Ottoman Empire not to advance any further and to agree to a cease-fire.

Green Mosque in Iznik (Nicaea)/Bursa. The mosque was built in 1371-1378. It was damaged in 1922 during the Greco-Turkish War and restored between 1956 and 1969.
The Greco-Turkish War was the first war to ever be filmed on camera. However, the footage has been lost.


#6: Sino-Vietnamese War

Duration27 days
FactionsChina vs. Vietnam
OutcomeIt’s complicated.

In 1978, Vietnam invaded and occupied Cambodia. Cambodia was, at the time, ruled by the Khmer Rouge, which had the backing of China. As a response to this invasion, China launched a surprise invasion of Vietnam and captured several cities close to the countries’ shared border.

The intent of China was to threaten Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Once Vietnam had withdrawn some of its forces in Cambodia to defend Hanoi, China declared victory and withdrew from Vietnam.

Despite the claimed victory, China ultimately failed to make Vietnam withdraw entirely from Cambodia. It did, however, make the point that Vietnam would not be defended by the Soviet Union in the event of a Chinese invasion. China also suffered less losses throughout the 27-day war.

Due to this, both sides of the war claim victory and believe that the other side lost.

big waving national colorful flag of china and national flag of vietnam . macro
Both sides of this war claim victory over the other.


#5: Armeno-Georgian War

Duration24 cays
FactionsArmenia vs. Georgia
OutcomeJoint Georgian-Armenian Administration

At the end of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was in control of many regions. Notable to the current war we’re discussing are the regions of Lori, Javakheti, and Borchalo. These regions were historically inhabited by both Georgians and Armenians, so when the Ottoman Empire abandoned their hold, both Georgia and Armenia claimed the regions.

After a short 24-day conflict between Armenia and Georgia over the conflicted zones, Great Britain intervened and forced a cease-fire. The result was that both sides claimed victory in the war and a neutral zone was created. Captain A. S. G. Douglas would be put in charge of the neutral zone, with authority over both the Armenia and Georgian troops stationed there.

A Magnifying Glass on Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan of the World Map
Both sides of this war believe they would have won if it wasn’t for British intervention.


#4: Serbo-Bulgarian War

Duration14 days
FactionsSerbia vs. Bulgaria
OutcomeBulgaria victory

The background of the Serbo-Bulgarian War can be a bit complicated due to a lot of different factions at play. The conflict was based around the region of Eastern Rumelia, whose native citizens were mostly Bulgarian. As such, Bulgaria and the Eastern Rumelia region unified in September of 1885. The large powers of the world, such as Russia, were opposed to this unification and did not recognize it. Austria-Hungary was particularly opposed to the unification.

During this time, Serbia was particularly worried about Bulgaria becoming more powerful. Serbia requested Greece launch a joint attack against Bulgaria, but Greece declined. Eventually, Serbia would invade on its own, citing a Serbian guardhouse on the now-Bulgarian side of the Timok River being forcefully expelled by Bulgaria as the reason for the invasion. The Bulgarian troops, hoping to avoid conflict, were not positioned near the border with Serbia.

Once Serbia declared war and invaded the region, Bulgaria troops made the trek from the border in the Southeast to the invaded Serbian border in the Northwest. After a defensive win from Bulgaria, it launched a counter-offensive and took the Serbian city of Pirot. However, Austria-Hungary threatened to involve themselves in the war and assist Serbia if Bulgaria did not pull back.

The war did not result in any territorial changes, but it did lead to the major powers officially recognizing the unification between Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia.

Aerial view of Pantheon Mother Bulgaria, dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885, Gurgulyat village, Bulgaria
This 14-day war caused irreparable harm to the relationship between former allies, Serbia and Bulgaria.


#3: Indo-Pakistani War

Duration13 days
FactionsIndia vs. Pakistan
OutcomeIndian victory (Bangladesh Independence)

For 8 months in 1971, Pakistan was involved in a civil war known as the Bangladesh Liberation War. For 13 days of this war, the nation of India was also involved. In November of 1971, India invaded East Pakistan during the aforementioned Bangladesh Liberation War. In response, Pakistan began launching air strikes on Indian air stations and other offensive measures. Officially, India would then declare war on Pakistan in support of the Bengali nationalist forces fighting for independence.

Due to heavy losses and capturing from Indian forces, Pakistan had to quickly surrender a mere 13 days later. This surrender resulted in the secession of East Pakistan into the new nation of Bangladesh. As a whole, the Bangladesh Liberation War was an extremely deadly war with hundreds of thousands of combatant and citizen deaths.

Colorful India map on the globe close up shot
Indian intervention in the civil war played a vital role in the independence of Bangladesh.

©SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock.com

#2: The Six-Day War

Duration6 days
FactionsIsrael vs. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan
OutcomeIsraeli victory

Known throughout much of the world as the Six-Day War, this conflict in the Middle East is the second shortest war of all time. Other notable names for this war include the War of 1967, the June War, and the Third Arab-Israeli War. While the war itself was short, it is considered part of the still ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Six-Day War began after Egypt announced the Straits of Tiran would be closed to Israeli vessels in May of 1967. Aware that there would be an offensive response from Israel, the Egyptian military had already mobilized into defensive lines along the Egyptian-Israeli border.

As expected, on June 5th, 1967, Israel responded with airstrikes against Egyptian airfields and other facilities. These airstrikes destroyed most of the Egyptian military’s aerial assets, giving Israel an upper edge in the conflict. The airstrikes were followed by a full offensive by Israeli forces into the Sinai Peninsula and the then-Egypt-occupied Gaza Strip. Due to a defensive pact with Egypt, Jordan launched attacks meant to slow down the advancement of Israeli troops. On the 5th day of the war, Syria joined by attacking the Israeli-held positions.

On June 8th, Egypt and Jordan agreed to a ceasefire. Syria also agreed to a ceasefire a day later. Despite only lasting a mere six days, the results of this war would be felt for a long time. Over 280,000 Palestinian and 100,000 Syrian civilians were displaced and expelled from the West Bank and Golan Heights.

Egypt closed the Suez Canal following the war, which directly led to the energy crisis of the 1970s and the 1973 oil crisis.

Remnants of the Six Day War can still be seen today in the Golan Heights. These old mine fields formed the Israeli-Syrian border before Israeli forces took the Golan Heights in the 1967 War.
Remnants of the Six-Day War can still be seen in locations such as Golan Heights


©Jed Jones/Shutterstock.com

#1: Anglo-Zanzibar War

Duration45 minutes
FactionsBritish Empire vs. Zanzibar
OutcomeBritish Empire victory

The shortest war in world history was the Anglo-Zanzibar War in 1896. Lasting a mere 45 minutes long, this war involved the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate. Some estimates even suggest the war lasted only a mere 38 minutes.

On August 25th, 1896, pro-British Zanzibar Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini passed away. It is believed that the Sultan was poisoned by his cousin and successor, Sultan Khalid bin Barghash, who immediately proclaimed himself the new Sultan. As per a previously signed agreement with the British protectorate, any future leader candidates were meant to obtain the permission of the British, which Sultan Khalid bin Barghash had not.

As a result of the unapproved change in leadership, the British Empire demanded that Khalid step down and leave the palace. The Sultan instead barricaded himself in his palace along with his palace guard. After the provided time frame to leave the palace had passed, the British Navy bombarded the palace and sank the Zanzibari HHS Glasgow.

Sultan Khalid bin Barghash did manage to survive the bombardment that destroyed his palace, though he fled to German East Africa after receiving asylum from the German consulate. Sultan Khalid bin Barghash was replaced by Sultan Hamoud by the British Empire, effectively making Zanzibar a puppet state.

Stone town, Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Despite a large history of British influence, Zanzibar remains a place full of historical and artistic East African importance.

©Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock.com

Summary Table

#10Falklands War198242 days
#9Polish-Lithuanian War192037 days
#8Second Balkan War191332 days
#7Greco-Turkish War189730 days
#6Sino-Vietnamese War197927 days
#5Armeno-Georgian War191824 days
#4Serbo-Bulgarian War188514 days
#3Indo-Pakistani War197113 days
#2The Six-Day War19676 days
#1Anglo-Zanzibar War189645 minutes

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the shortest war in history?

The shortest war in history was the Anglo-Zanzibar War, a conflict between the Zanzibar Sultanate and the British Empire. The war only lasted 45 minutes and was ended by a naval bombardment by the British Empire.

What was the longest war in history?

The longest war in history was the Reconquista (Spanish Reconquest), which lasted approximately 770 years.

What was the historical significance of the Six-Day War?

The Six-Day War resulted in the tragic displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Syrian citizens. Actions taken by Egypt at the conclusion of the war also directly resulted in the 1970s energy crisis and the 1973 oil crisis.

What was the historical significance of the Indo-Pakistani War?

The Indo-Pakistani War, despite only lasting for a mere 13 days, resulted in the nation of Bangladesh earning its independence.

Who was victorious in the Sino-Vietnamese War and the Armeno-Georgian War?

The Sino-Vietnamese War between China and Vietnam is interesting because both sides claimed victory and firmly believed that they won. A similar result happened in the Armeno-Georgian War, with both sides once again claiming to be the victorious side.

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