Mental Floss

3 Really Short Wars

Caroline Donnelly
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Many leaders resort to war only as a last resort, and vow to achieve their results quickly. Here are a few wars that did just that, including one that was over in less time than it would take to watch a History Channel special about it.

1. Sino-Vietnamese War (27 Days)

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The Chinese attacked Vietnam along their shared border and took several small villages in heavy combat. On March 5, the Chinese announced the campaign was over, stating that they had made their point and adequately chastised Vietnam for its actions. This war would be only 16 days long; however, the Chinese continued to cause extensive damage to villages, roads and railroads during their retreat. The conflict was officially resolved on March 16, 1979, just 27 days after it began.

Both sides claimed victory and heavy but unconfirmed casualties. The Vietnamese government continuously requested an official apology from the Chinese government for its seemingly pointless invasion of Vietnam, but never got one. Relations were normalized in 1990 after several small border skirmishes, and Vietnam officially dropped its demand for an apology. Vietnam continued to occupy Cambodia until 1989, though the Khmer Rouge had been seriously weakened by the Vietnamese occupation.

2. The India-Pakistan War (13 Days)

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Pakistan was accused of many atrocities against humanity in East Pakistan (which it ruled), causing as many as 10 million refugees to flee to India. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used diplomacy with the UN and the Soviet Union to strengthen India's position and provided weapons to the East Pakistanis. Though both sides had prepared for war, Pakistan launched an air strike on December 3, 1971, and India immediately declared war.

Indian forces used blitzkreig techniques to quickly overpower the Pakistanis. Pakistan forces in Bangladesh surrendered on December 16; the rest of Pakistan surrendered the next day.

3. The Anglo-Zanzibar War (40 Minutes)

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Back in the day of British imperialism, the British administered the island of Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) as a sovereign protectorate with a puppet government. When favored Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini died on August 25, 1896, he was immediately replaced by his nephew Khalid bin Barghash, who wasn't exactly the guy the British had in mind—and on top of that, he was suspected of killing his uncle. The British used a succession treaty signed earlier in the year to leverage an ultimatum: abdicate or face war. Instead, Sultan Khalid raised his flag outside his palace and barricaded himself inside along with his guards and about 2800 Zanzibaris.

By the time the deadline expired two days later, the British had amassed a powerful naval fleet just outside the palace. The Zanzibaris, believing that the British wouldn't open fire, sent a page telling them just that. The British promptly unleashed a powerful bombardment of shells, machine gun fire and cannonballs. The attack lasted about 40 minutes but caused extensive damage. The wooden palace had caught fire, the Sultan's flag had been removed, and 500 natives had been killed. The British took over the demolished palace and installed their Sultan of choice, while Sultan Khalid escaped to German East Africa, where he was captured in 1916 during World War I. There were no further altercations between the Zanzibaris and the British for the remainder of their reign, which lasted until December of 1963.

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