Top 10 Biggest War-Related Disasters In the 20th Century

Tags: #KoreanWar ,   #Auschwitz ,   #War ,   #Military ,   #History

Alex O'Brien

Alex O'Brien

Last updated:  2023-12-19 13:18:32

Disasters as such are tragic, but the most horrifying are those war-related. Because this was no accident or human error, or even force of nature, these catastrophes are intentional and, therefore, the most frightening of all. War is an awful thing that happens globally, and the number of victims is usually disturbingly large. Everyone is aware of the military conflict horrors, but unfortunately, they still occur. We can only hope that the future brings more peace to all people on Earth. However, these are the top ten horrifying war-related disasters we should never forget.

10. Gulf War Oil Spill 

Gulf War spill remains one of the largest ecological disasters

The Gulf War oil spill from 1991 remains one of the largest ecological disasters in history. However, the intention was deliberate, and the primary purpose was to stop U.S. forces from landing on Kuwait's beaches. The Iraqi army's strategic plan was to spill the oil from several tankers, two oil terminals, a refinery, and a tank field.

In total, over 240 million gallons have been pumped into the Persian Gulf. To bring you closer to how big the spill was, let's say that we could travel 193 times around the world with a jet using this fuel. This was the most significant act of ecological terrorism in history.

9. Chinese Civil War

Watch how the Chinese Civil War spread all over the country

The Chinese Civil war was battled between the National Party of China or Kuomintang, who led the government, and the Chinese Communist Party. The conflict is specific because it had two phases. It all started in 1927 and officially ended in 1949, with the Second Sino-Japanese War happening in between.

The first phase lasted from 1927 till 1936 is also known as the "Ten-Year Civil War." In the second phase, from 1946 till 1949, the communist party took control over the government. The war ended by forming the People's Republic of China led by Mao Zedong.

8. Korean War

Officially, the Korean War never ended

The Korean war started back in 1950. Interestingly, the conflict is still officially on because neither side signed the peace treaty. The conflict was initiated by the North Korean People's Army with a communist president Kim Il-Sung in charge. On the other side was the South Korean Republic of Korea Army, who joined forces with United Nations troops. 

After World War II, the war has begun because of the Korean Peninsula territories and the unsuccessful re-establishing of Korea's independent nation from the ex-Japanese colony. This war took more than 2.5 million civilian lives and caused massive economic losses.

7. Russian Civil War

Russian Civil War had many casualties

After World War I, it seemed that the Russians couldn't stop the battles, as they had two Revolutions followed by the Russian Civil War. The conflict started in 1917 and lasted for five years. This was a fight against the monarchy and for the political regime. 

The Red Army fought for the cause of Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, against the White army. In the end, the Reds won, but all the Russian Imperial Family Romanov members and around eight million civilians and 1.5 million soldiers died.

6. World War I

Every major superpower was involved in World War I

A lot of tension was in the air before the beginning of World War I. However, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary's assassination in Sarajevo (former Yugoslavia) triggered the war's beginning. The battles themselves were intense, with many coalitions and allies involved, all with a political background. 

Nevertheless, the war was brutal, as it started on July 28, 1914, and lasted till November 11, 1918. As a war between the East and West, it took 20 million lives and left around 21 million wounded. As it's also known, the Great War officially ended by signing the Treaty of Versailles in Paris in June 1919. 

5. World War II

World War II took too many lives and changed the world

WW II deserved four places on our list because it had some actions that were beyond cruel (see first three on our list). The war was initiated on September 1, 1939, with Germany invading Poland, and ended on September 2, 1945, with Japan surrendering and accepting the Potsdam Declaration's terms. 

However, the hostilities in Europe ended with Germany capitulating on May 8, 1945 (suicide of notorious Adolf Hitler on April 30, 1945, led to this). World War II took 75 million lives by massacre, genocide, bombings, and etc.

4. Rwandan Genocide

Rwanda genocide is one of the cruelest war acts

Back in 1994, the slaughtering in Rwanda began. Since the country's founding, people living there were divided into Tutsi (people owning the most cattle) and Hutu (everyone else). When the Germans colonized Rwanda, they gave Tutsis all the responsibilities and power because they had a bit lighter skin, leaving Hutu people angry. Afterward, the Belgiums colonized Rwanda, and after their regime was threatened, they put Hutus people in charge of the new government.

Everything was going fine for Rwanda until 1993 when the president allowed Tutsi to participate in the government. Yet, this has upset Hutu extremists, leading to shooting down the president's airplane, leaving everyone on board dead. After this, Hutu extremists took over and started slaughtering all Tutsi people for the next 100 days, killing around 800.000. The massacres were horrifying as the bullets were saved, so most killings were made with machetes and knives. The people were tortured, the women raped before the killing, and even the children weren't spared.  

3. Auschwitz

Every day spent in Auschwitz was too much

Auschwitz was a Nazi concentration and extermination camp during World War II. Moreover, this was a complex of more than 40 campsites. Yet, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II –Birkenau were the most horrifying ones. Although it existed only for five years (from May 1940 till January 1945), it took more than 1.1 million lives.

Auschwitz is known for the cruelty, not to mention the notorious doctor Mengele (known as Angel of Death) and his experiments. The infamous doctor has carried out cruel tests, and he particularly loved the twins as test subjects. The prisoners were killed in gas chambers, starved, or beaten to death. Either way, this was a dreadful, harsh place. Therefore, today Auschwitz is converted into a museum as a reminder of its shameful past.

2. Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombing 

Nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remains the worst military action ever

At the end of World War II, the U.S. Army dropped the nuclear bombs on Japan. On August 6, 1945, the one named Little Boy was dropped on the Japanese city Hiroshima, instantly killing approximately 70.000 people. The bomb was uranium-based, so radiation caused many deaths after the bombing.

Three days after Hiroshima, the second A-bomb was released on Nagasaki. This one was called Fat Boy and was plutonium-based. The bomb took the lives of 60.000 people and destroyed about 60% of the city. Today Hiroshima and Nagasaki fully recovered but never forgot the bombing. These were the only uses of nuclear weapons in the war so far. Let's hope it will stay that way!

1. Ecocide in Vietnam

Watch the horrifying effects of Agent Orange

During the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the U.S. Army sprayed over 80 million liters of a mixture of herbicides and dioxin poison. A compound was called Agent Orange due to the barrels' color it was stored in. The initial intention was to destroy the forests and natural hiding places as well as food sources. However, the dioxin is so poisonous that it can stay in the ground for 100 years. 

The toxin had a devastating impact on human health, as on U.S. soldiers as on Vietnamese people. Moreover, 4.8 million souls were exposed to it, and 400,000 died. In 1971 Agent Orange was banned and destroyed.

As you can see on our top ten list, the war is cruel but somehow people tend to start one. Battles always have massive civilian casualties and leave permanent damage if nothing more than on the survivors' mental health.

What was the cruelest war or war-related disaster, in your opinion? Please write to us in the comment section, as we would like to hear your thoughts.

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