Wars are as old as mankind itself. The earliest recorded evidence of a war belongs to the Mesolithic cemetery Site 117, which has been determined to be approximately 14,000 years old. Wars have occurred over much of the globe, causing deaths of hundreds of millions of people.
And though these devastating events are usually meant to be fought between nations’ armies, the violence often spills into the civilian realm resulting in the deaths of countless innocent lives (which is why the total numbers of war casualties are so large and heartbreaking).
Apart from direct battle results, the statistics from the deadliest wars in human history also include war-related deaths caused by side effects such as induced epidemics, diseases, famines, atrocities, genocides etc. In order to bring awareness as to the devastating impacts of wars, we have compiled a list ranking the 25 deadliest wars in human history.
No matter what caused the conflicts, one thing is for sure – these wars cannot be considered anything but absolutely horrifying human tragedies that should have never happened. Let’s hope that by remembering our past, we are not doomed to repeat it.
Biafran War (death toll: 1 million)
Also known as the Nigerian Civil War, the Biafran War (July 1967 – January 1970) was a war fought to counter the secession of Biafra, a secessionist state in Nigeria. The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain’s formal decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963. Most of the people who lost their lives in the war died from starvation and various diseases.
Japanese Invasion of Korea (death toll: 1 million)
Fought between 1592 and 1598, the Japanese invasions of Korea comprised two separate yet linked operations: the initial invasion in 1592, and the second invasion in 1597 that followed after a brief truce. The conflict ended in 1598 with the withdrawal of the Japanese forces, leaving about 1 million casualties on the Korean side (Japanese casualties are unknown).
Iran–Iraq War (death toll: 1 million)
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between Iran and Iraq lasting from 1980 to 1988, making it the 20th century’s longest conventional war. The war began when Iraq invaded Iran via air and land on 22 September 1980 and it ended with a stalemate on 20 August 1988. In terms of the tactics used, the conflict has been compared to World War I as it included large-scale trench warfare, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, human wave attacks across a no-man’s land and extensive use of chemical weapons.
Siege of Jerusalem (death toll: 1.1 million)
The oldest conflict on the list (it took place in 73 AD), the Siege of Jerusalem was the decisive event of the First Jewish–Roman War. The Roman army besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by its Jewish defenders. The siege ended with the sacking of the city and the destruction of its famous Second Temple. According to historian Josephus, 1.1 million civilians died during the siege, mainly as a result of violence and famine.
Korean War (death toll: 1.2 million)
Fought from June 1950 to July 1953, the Korean War was a major armed conflict that started when North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations, with US as the principal force, came to the aid of South Korea while China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea. The fighting ended after an armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate the Koreas, and allowed the return of prisoners. However, no peace treaty has been signed and the two Koreas are technically still at war.