War is often not discreet, pretty or humane. War tends to ravage countries, level cities and devastate families. War is abusive, destructive, and aggressive; but war looks for solutions. War is the last means to an end, the final attempt to solve a problem that no other solution has been able to solve. That being said, war involves everyone, from soldiers and sailors to mothers and children. The death toll can be high. Here is a list of the 10 largest wars fought on Earth based on the number of people who gave their lives fighting.

  1. The American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. This war was fought between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy) based on issues surrounding slavery and extending the U.S. westward. According to a recent study by the Civil War Trust approximately 850,000 soldiers died due to “combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War.”
  2. The Soviet War in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. The Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan and attempted to support a pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. By means of taking over cities and highways, the Soviets quickly took control but the rebellion was immediate and widespread. During the course of the nine-year occupation an estimated total of nearly 1,125,000 Afghani civilians and troops, Mujahideen fighters and Soviet soldiers were killed.
  3. The Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975. The Vietnam War began as a result of the U.S.’s strategy to contain the spread of communism throughout the world during the Cold War. It is estimated that between the U.S. and its allies 64,000 lives were lost, between North Vietnam and its Communist allies 1.1 million lives were lost. As for civilian casualties, the official estimate is 2 million people. Totaling the death tally at just fewer than 3.2 million lives.
  4. The Napoleonic Wars from 1803 to 1815. Fought during Napoleon Bonaparte’s imperial rule over France as a means to extend his empire, this war resulted in over 6.5 million people dead.
  5. The Thirty Year’s War from 1618 to 1648. Based off of its name, this war raged on uninterrupted for thirty years, making it the longest continuous war in modern history. In total including civilians, the death toll was 8 million.
  6. Taiping Rebellion from 1850-1864. The Taiping Rebellion was a “radical political and religious upheaval that was…the most important event in Chino in the 19th century.” And according to Britannica, it claimed at least 20 million lives.
  7. The Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945. This war fought between China and Japan before and during World War II resulted in nearly 23 million lives.
  8. World War I from 1914 to 1918. After the assassination of Franz Ferdinand set off a chain of events that lead to the “Great War,” the end result in lives lost on both Allied and Central Powers sides was 37 million.
  9. The Mongol Conquests from 1206 to 1368. This war resulted in not only the significant expansion of the Mongol Empire but also the loss of 60 million lives.
  10. World War II from 1938 to 1945. WWII touched every corner of the Earth. That is why it is number one on this list of 10 largest wars. Every continent and ocean were involved in some way or another resulting in the staggering death total of 72,468,900 lives lost.

War can positively bolster the economy and national pride. Larger empires can exploit its gains to solve political issues. However, the notion of war is a dark one and this list of the 10 largest wars demonstrates that even if there is light at its end, the devastation and loss of life are unfortunate consequences to achieve peace.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr