No one wants war, especially when it lasts long enough to be dubbed The Hundred Years’ War. (That was the conflict between France and England that started in the 14th century and ended in the 15th and actually lasted 116 years.) But if combat is inevitable, it’s best to finish it as quickly as possible. Take a look at six battles that wound down in record time.
1. The Anglo-Zanzibar War // 38 to 45 Minutes
In 1896, Zanzibar came under attack from the British Empire, which wanted to see the archipelago fall completely under British rule. Hastening action was the fact that the relatively agreeable Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini had just died (some suspected he had been poisoned) and the more malevolent Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid had declared himself ruler—even though the British were to have been consulted on any such decision.
When Sultan Khalid refused to bend the proverbial knee, the British went on the offensive. It was easy: Zanzibar sat near the water, so British forces merely needed to dispatch boats to fire on their helpless adversaries. The entire “conflict”—which resulted in roughly 500 casualties on the Zanzibar side—took between 38 and 45 minutes to resolve, making it the shortest war on record. (An exact time may never be known: One of the first things the British shot down was a clock tower.)
2. The Invasion of Anjouan // 1 Day
In 2008, troops from Comoros, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, took over the island of Anjouan in less than one day—an event described by one observer as “picking on” a weak adversary. With assistance from forces from the African Union (a 55-member assembly of states on the African continent), Comoros forced illegally elected Mohamed Bacar to flee the island, which is home to roughly 300,000 people. Critics said the African Union was looking to bolster its international profile with the conflict, which was so one-sided that there were no casualties reported.
3. The 100 Hour War // 100 Hours
This 1969 conflict between El Salvador and Honduras exploded in the wake of a football (soccer) rivalry—hence its nickname, “the football war.” Teams from both Central American countries were engaged in a sports series that saw El Salvador eke out a 3-2 victory. At the same time, the two countries were also feuding over citizens of El Salvador moving to Honduras to utilize the greater amount of farmland, an act that saw the latter force migrants back to El Salvador. That escalated to El Salvador attempting to invade Honduras; there were around 3000 casualties before international diplomacy eased tensions, and reluctantly, El Salvador withdrew its troops. The war lasted about four days and is still thought to be the result of a sports rivalry. While that may have inflamed the tension, it didn’t prompt it.
4. The Russo-Georgian War // 5 Days
Long before their invasion of Ukraine, Russia went on the offensive against the country of Georgia, focusing on the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which had voiced their desire for independence from Georgia around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. After years of increasing tension, in April 2008, Georgia blamed Russia for an attack on an unmanned drone over Abkhazia. (The United Nations later confirmed it was a Russian plane that shot down the drone.) Russia sent numerous troops, some under the pretense of repairing a railway; tensions and fighting rose to the point that in August, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili responded by dispatching troops to South Ossetia, home to Russian-backed military power. This escalated to airstrikes by Russia. On the ground, their troops came within 30 miles of Georgia's capital of Tbilisi.
In roughly a week, the two came to a cease-fire agreement, though not without casualties: Georgia suffered nearly 400 deaths, with South Ossetia tallying 365 and Russian soldiers a mere 67; hundreds more were wounded on all sides. Georgia would claim Russia was still occupying territory in defiance of the ceasefire, while Russia recognized the provinces as independent. Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia are now considered breakaway regions by most countries, separated from the rest of Georgia by checkpoints and barbed wire.
5. The 6-Day War // 6 Days
While wars of short duration usually limit bloodshed, the conflict that erupted between Israel and the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in 1967 was an exception. Israel and the Arab states had clashed before, making border disputes in the 1960s more politically volatile; the tension grew to include air battles between Israel and Syrian forces. When it was (erroneously) reported that Israel was preparing for an invasion into Syria, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser positioned troops to enter Israel at his command. The aggression was met by Israel Defense Forces, which bombarded grounded Egyptian aircraft before doing the same to Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. Egypt continued a foot soldier battle, but it was of little use. By the time the United Nations brokered a cease fire inside of a week, over 20,000 Arab soldiers and citizens had been killed. Israel, meanwhile, had tripled the regions considered part of its territory.
6. The Turkish-Cypriot War // 1 Month, 1 Day
The Mediterranean island of Cyprus had long struggled under the dual wings of Greece and Turkey. Following a revolt against British rule—which had been in place since the 19th century—one faction wanted Turkish rule, while another believed the area could be divided between Turkey and Greece. In 1960, the country declared its sovereignty, but that didn’t quell the tension; each side felt one was undermining the other.
Cyprus experienced the most galvanizing month in its history in 1974: A Greek military junta kicked out Archbishop Makarios, which Turkish sympathizers inferred to mean a pending union with Greece. Turkey invaded the island, forcing the relocation of Greek residents. Though the conflict ended relatively quickly, it led to a bifurcated government that continues to this day.