The 8 Shortest Wars of the 20th Century

Israeli soldiers are jubilating after Israel's invasion of the Sinai during the six day war of Israel, in the Sinai, Egypt, June 10, 1967. (AP Photo)

There have been times throughout history that have proven that war does not always have to be a long, drawn out battle that mobilizes entire countries. Sometimes a war is just something that happens when people within a country get a little too worked up, but then after a few days cool off and realize things just got a little out of hand.

Other times a war is short because the two sides are so mismatched that it doesn’t take long for one side to dominate the other. The 20th century had a few wars that didn’t even last a week, and several that didn’t even make the one month mark. Below are some of the shortest wars of the 20th century, the reasons why they started, and the reasons why they ended so quickly.

Two U.S. – built Israeli Super Sherman patrol East Jerusalem in June 1967. Aljazeera.com

The Six-Day War – 6 Days

The Six-Day War stemmed largely from the fact that the Arab-Israeli War had not normalized relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Tensions continued over border disputes and border clashes, especially between Israel and Syria. In November 1966, Syria signed a mutual defense agreement with Egypt hoping for protection if the aggression with Israel escalated. The Palestine Liberation Organization carried out guerrilla activity in Israeli territory, and in response the Israelis attacked the Jordanian-occupied West Bank.

Egypt failed to come to the aid of Jordan and faced criticism. In May 1967, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser received false reports from the Soviet Union that claimed the Israelis were massing on the Syrian border. In response, Nasser began massing troops in the Sinai along the Egyptian-Israeli border and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping on May 22-23. This was considered to be an act of war by the Israeli government.

On May 30, Egypt and Jordan also signed a defense pact and Jordan invited the Iraqi army to deploy troops and armored units in Jordan. Egypt also sent their own contingent of troops into Jordan as protection. The build-up of forces around them and the closing of the straits led Israel to decide to go to war on June 4. The following day, Israel launched a surprise air attack against Egypt. Egypt was caught completely off-guard by the attack, and the Egyptian Air Force was completely overwhelmed. A similar assault was performed on the Syrian Air Force.

The following day, the Israelis planned a surprise ground attack, coming at the Egyptian forces from a direction that was unexpected and poorly defended. Jordan was reluctant to enter the war but Nasser convinced King Hussein that the Egyptians were dominating. Israel, despite fighting on two fronts, was able to push both the Egyptians and the Jordanians back. On June 7, the UN called for a cease-fire that was accepted by Israel and Jordan immediately. Egypt accepted the next day. Syria held out until June 10.

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  • mrdob

    the iraqi kuwait war , was much longer because it was finished by the coalition months later. same war basically. with the kuwatis being occupied until being liberated. ie the gulf war.

  • Kris Starring

    What about the U.S.-Grenada War in 1983?

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      That was another war that was relatively short but I believe the dates were 0ct. 25th through December 15th? or thereabouts. For this article I focused on wars less than 30 days.

  • ltc444

    One of the interesting facts about the 6 day war is that the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Egyptian AF in their hardened air craft hangers. The Bombs of the day could not penetrate the hangers, so the problem the Israeli faced was how to destroy the protected planes.

    The solution was brilliantly simple. The Israeli waited until the Egyptians started their strike aircraft in the hangers in preparation for their attack on Israel. The Israeli then fired Sidewinders at the exhaust ducts for the hangers. The IR guided Sidewinders flew up the ducts and detonated the aircraft. The resulting fires detonated the bombs mounted on the Egyptian plains.

    • Ken Johnson

      A friend who was a rep for McDonnell-Douglas was in Israel for the war. He said there were miles and miles of useless Egyptiantanks lining the roads in the desert. The Russians had been supplying tanks that were not designed for desert warfare. The AC units were just totally inadequate. Many units just stopped working. Some units caused heat strokes when crews wouldn’t get out to “cool” off.