Throughout the ages, there have been many epic wars involving millions of soldiers fighting for freedoms and beliefs. This list includes the top 5 largest wars of the 20th century (based on casualties). Obviously the list of casualties is estimated, but still reveals the deadliness and scale of the various wars.
1. World War II: (65 million) 1939 – 1945
The name of the war says it all. It truly was a “World War.” Casualties are estimated around 60 to 80 million. World War II directly affected over 100 countries and produced thousands of casualties in 27 countries. Hitler’s Germany final surrendered on April 29, 1945, thus ending the bloodiest war of all-time.
2. World War I: (25 million) 1914 – 1918
With over 70 million military personnel involved, World War I was one of the largest wars in the history of the world. After four long bloody years, the war ended when the Germans, Russians, Ottoman Empire and Hungarians were defeated. The outcome would ultimately lead to the European unsettle and spawn World War II.
3. The Great Purge: (13 million) 1937 – 1938
Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, headed a mass execution of those opposing the Communist party. Most of Stalin’s enemies and opposers were imprisoned or executed in a two-year span. The Soviet Union landscape and political makeup was established as Communism ruled for the next 50-60 years.
4. Cultural Revolution: (11 million) 1966 – 1976
Mao Zedong, chairman of the “Communist Party of China”, wanted to ensure communism continued but felt other members of his party were gaining more power than him. Consequently, he indoctrinated Chinese youth (called the Red Guards) to his cause and attempted to kill anyone that weakened his position. This started one of the largest civil wars in Chinese history with millions of casualties.
5. Belgian-Congo Free State: (8 million) 1876 – 1908
Leopold II was the leader of the war/genocide known as the Congo Free State. Leopold (King of the Belgians) exploited many industries in Congo and used his power to completely control the economic state of Congo. Leopold’s reign on the nation led to millions of deaths and eventually was stopped by European and U.S. media applying pressure to Belgian’s death grip.
Current society and leaders of nations can and should learn from the mistakes and atrocities of the wars of the 20th century. Thousands of U.S. troops deploy every year and sacrifice their lives to preserve our freedoms. Hopefully, future generations are willing to sacrifice their lives to prevent these atrocities from plaguing our history.