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Created April 6, 2012

Dates & Names of Conflicts

The U.S. has been involved in different types of military conflicts. The U.S. has formally declared war against foreign nations five separate times. Other types of military engagements have included military combat authorized by Congress (without a formal declaration of war) or authorized by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions and funded by Congress.

In the military, different names are given for operations and operational phases of a war or military engagement. For example, in the Gulf War operational names included Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Desert Sabre. In addition, various phases of each operation may have a unique operational name.

Below are lists and brief descriptions of current conflicts, selected past conflicts, and formally declared wars.

Current Conflicts

War in Iraq

Operation New Dawn (OND; September 2010 - December 2011)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF; 2003 - 2011)

The Obama administration announced a new operational name for the war in Iraq - "Operation New Dawn" - to reflect the reduced role U.S. troops will play in securing the country as troop levels fell.

War in Afghanistan

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF; 2001 - current)

OEF is the official name used for the War in Afghanistan, together with three smaller military actions, under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror. However, the phrase is typically used to refer just to the war in Afghanistan. The operation was originally called "Operation Infinite Justice."

The current conflicts (OEF/OIF/OND) have an all volunteer force, which results in multiple deployments for military personnel. OIF/OEF/OND have been the largest and longest lasting mobilization of the Reserve and National Guard since the Korean War.

Selected Past Conflicts (Dates indicate U.S. involvement)

Persian Gulf War (1991)

The Gulf War was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations, led by Britain and the U.S., against Iraq. Gulf War operational names included Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Desert Sabre.

Vietnam War (1962 - 1973)

The Vietnam War was a conflict in Southeast Asia between South Vietnam and North Vietnam in which North Vietnam wanted to reunite the two countries under its Communist government. The U.S. supported the government of South Vietnam. There was great opposition to the war in the U.S., and the U.S. ultimately withdrew its forces in 1973. In 1975, North Vietnam defeated South Vietnam and took control of the country.

Korean War (1950 - 1953)

The Korean War was a conflict between North Korea and South Korea. Principal allies of South Korea included the U.S. and its United Nations allies. Allies of North Korea included the communist powers of the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union.

World War II (1941 - 1945)

World War II (also known as the Second World War), was a global military conflict that involved most of the world's nations, eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilized. Marked by significant events involving the mass death of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it was the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in an estimated 50 million to over 70 million fatalities.

World War I (1917 - 1918)

World War I (called at the time the Great War, also known as the First World War) was a major war centered in Europe. This conflict involved all of the world's great powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies and the Central Powers. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history. More than 9 million combatants were killed, due largely to great technological advances in firepower without corresponding advances in mobility. It was the second deadliest conflict in Western history.

Formally Declared Wars

  • War of 1812
  • Mexican War of 1846
  • Spanish American War of 1898
  • World War I declared in 1917
  • World War II declared in 1941

For a comprehensive list of U.S. military operations, see*