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Timeline of American Wars and American Military Enemies


Since the first organized military conflict in the history of an independent United States (against the British, of course), the U.S. has fought many foreign enemies, with most of these wars taking place overseas. This timeline of American wars is divided by each American war foe. The first American enemy nation listed is Great Britain, with each major conflict between the United States and that enemy nation listed. The timeline lists American war enemy nations in rough chronological order from the first instance of major combat.


This timeline of American wars is limited to foreign foes. This war timeline does not include “internal” American conflicts, such as the Civil War, the Indian Wars, or Slave Rebellions, or other internal conflicts. Also, this timeline includes only major wars and conflicts, and does not include many smaller wars and interventions that have occurred over American military history.




Great Britain/British Empire/Canada:

1775-1783-American Revolutionary War

1812-1815-War of 1812




1798-1800-The Quasi Naval War with France. This was a naval war that was an offshoot of the French Revolutionary Wars.

1942-Allied Invasion of French North Africa: During World War Two, most of France was occupied by the invading Germans. Part of France was allowed by the Germans to continue as an allegedly independent state, led by French Marshal Petain, based in the city of Vichy. His regime was commonly referred to as Vichy France, and while Petain was in reality a German puppet, his regime did control most of France’s overseas colonies, including the North African territories of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. In 1942, the United States needed to invade French North Africa in order to get to the German and Italian forces in Libya (and then to invade Italy from Tunisia).

Despite attempts to negotiate peaceful landings, Vichy French forces in Morocco and Algeria resisted American amphibious landings, resulting in French-American combat that led the deaths of over 500 American troops and over 1,300 French dead.



1801-1805-Tripolitanian War

1986-U.S. Bombing of Libya-This was in response to a terrorist attack that killed American troops that Libya was involved in.

2011-First Libyan Civil War-The U.S., along with NATO and other nations, intervened in the Libyan Civil War to topple dictator Muammar Khaddafy.

2015-Present-U.S. Intervention in Libya against ISIS and in support of the government in Tripoli.




1818-1819-General Andrew Jackson invades Spanish Florida. Spain quickly turns Florida over to the U.S.

1898-Spanish-American War. Fought largely in Spanish colonies of Cuba and the Philippines



1846-1848-Mexican-American War

1910-1920-Mexican-American Border War: During the Mexican civil war now known as the Mexican Revolution, multiple incidents and invasions occurred along the U.S.-Mexican border. Below are the major incidents of Mexican-American combat during this conflict:

1914-U.S. invades and occupies the Mexican port city of Vera Cruz

1916-1917-Pancho Villa’s attack on Columbus, New Mexico prompted a U.S. invasion of northern Mexico

1918-Battle of Ambos Nogales, a cross-border battle between U.S. troops and Mexican troops and their German advisors.

1919-Battle of Ciudad Juarez, in which U.S. troops battled Pancho Villa’s forces in the border town of Ciudad Juarez in response to a Villista attack on El Paso.



1900-1901-Boxer Rebellion

1950-1953-Korean War

1965-1973-Vietnam War: China sent hundreds of thousands of troops into North Vietnam (anti-aircraft artillery units, primarily) to help North Vietnam defend against American bombing runs. This military intervention allowed North Vietnam to send thousands more troops to fight in Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam. Chinese casualties amounted to 1,100 dead and 4,200 wounded






1917-1918-World War One

1940-1941-Undeclared Naval War Against Germany

1941-1945-World War Two


Russia/Soviet Union:

1918-1920-American Intervention in the Russian Civil War

1946-1991-The Cold War was a conflict that pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union in many incidents and crisis points. This list shows the major points where the U.S. and Soviets nearly went to war:

1948-1946-Berlin Blockade and Airlift Crisis

1950-1953-Korean War (Soviet forces fought alongside the Chinese and North Koreans. This Soviet involvement was not publicly known at the time)

1960-U2 Incident-An American spyplane, a U2 flown by Gary Francis Powers, is shot down over the Soviet Union.

1961-Berlin Wall Crisis

1962-Cuban Missile Crisis



1941-1945-World War Two in the Pacific and Asia

NOTE: 1n 1853 and 1854, American Naval Commodore Matthew Perry led a fleet of American warships to Japan to force the Japanese to establish diplomatic and trade relations with the U.S. While this show of American military force did not result in a war, it was a blatant threat by the U.S. for Japan to either open up to American influence or face war.



1941-1945-World War Two in North Africa, the Meditteranean and in Italy.



North Korea:

1950-1953-Korean War

1966-1969- DMZ War, which was a border conflict in which North Korea launched a series of guerilla-type attacks across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which was the truce line of the Korean War.

NOTE: The Korean War never really ended, and, while major hostilities did end with an armistice in 1953, there have been many combat incidents between North Korea and South Korea and U.S. forces over the decades.




1961-Bay of Pigs Invasion-American CIA-organized invasion of Cuba by exile forces attempting to overthrow Fidel Castro, who was allied with the Soviet Union.

1962-Cuban Missile Crisis

1983-Invasion of Grenada: U.S. forces invaded the island of Grenada and engaged in combat with Cuban forces stationed there.




1964-1975-Vietnam War (U.S. advisors were in South Vietnam since 1956, but major U.S. combat operations began in 1964)

NOTE: America provided major military assistance to French forces in the First Indochina War (1946-1954), primarily as a result of the Communist takeover of China in 1949 and the subsequent asisstance by Communist China to the Viet Minh forces.

 American Hostages in Iran

American Hostages in Iran


1979-1981-U.S.-Iran Hostage Crisis

1987-1988-Tanker War, referred to by the U.S. as Operation Earnest Will, was a part of the Iran-Iraq War in which the U.S. Navy protected shipping in the Persian Gulf from Iranian attacks. This led to several military clashes between U.S. and Iranian forces in the Gulf.

2019-2020-U.S.-Iran military clashes in Iraq



1982-1984-Lebanon Intervention: U.S. forces engaged in combat with Syrian forces as both intervened in Lebanon’s Civil War

2017-2020-American intervention in the Syrian Civil War (along with operations against ISIS in the Islamic State War partially fought on Syrian soil), results in multiple American air strikes on Syrian government and military targets.





1990-1991-Gulf War

1991-2003-The No-Fly Zone War in which U.S. and UK forces enforced no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq

2003-2011-Iraq War

2014-Present-Islamic State War in Iraq and Syria


Islamic Jihadist Militant Groups:

1998-Present: Al-Qaeda was the group that the “War on Terror” was first launched against in 2001, but the group founded and led by Osama bin Laden began attacking American targets long before the 9/11 attacks on the United States:

1998-Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Al-Qaeda blew up two American embassies in Africa, prompting the U.S. to retaliate against al-Qaida facilities in Sudan and Afghanistan

2000-Attack on the USS Cole: Al-Qaeda attempted to sink an American naval ship near Yemen.

2001: The 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

2001-Present: In the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. took the war to al-Qaeda’s home base.

2011: Death of bin Laden: U.S. special forces locate and kill Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani compound

NOTE: Al-Qaeda forces and Islamic Jihadist groups that ally with them are found in many nations, and U.S. and allied forces have fought them in multiple locations, including, but not limited to, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines.

2001-Present: The Taliban is a Jihadist force in Afghanistan and Pakistan that allied itself with al-Qaeda and became an American enemy in 2001 as America saw them as accomplices to the 9/11 attacks.

2014-Present: The Islamic State AKA ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh, began as an offshoot of al-Qaeda, but split from them and became a major player among Sunni Jihadist groups when it seized large amounts of territory in Syria and Iraq in an attempt to form a new Islamic Caliphate. The U.S. and allied nations joined the war against the Islamic State in 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Islamic State affiliates and allies also operate in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and the Sahara region of northwest Africa. American forces have battled these Islamic State affiliates in multiple nations.



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