It is important to note that wars are intricate and complicated endeavors, and that these summaries are meant to provide a quick overview, and do not delve into the many complexities involved in each individual war.
WWII → 1941-1945
Prior to America’s involvement, Europe had been at war with Hitler and his allies since the Nazi’s invaded Poland in 1939. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base, killing over 2,000 American soldiers. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, which they did with only one opposing vote. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which the US reciprocated. During the war, the US fought on the Western front, the Pacific front, and also carried out campaigns in Northern Africa.
The Battle of Stalingrad is often marked as the point in which the war turned in favor of the US and its allies. Italy surrendered to the US and its allies on September 8, 1943. On June 6, 1944, the US launched their most famous campaign of the war, the Invasion of Normandy. Germany would formally surrender less than a year later on May 8, 1945. Three months later the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, one on Hiroshima, and another on Nagasaki. Japan officially surrendered on August 15, 1945.
US military casualties: 416,800
Surviving Minnesota veterans: 18,523
Korean War → 1950-1953 (Cold War)
The action that effectively divided Korea into two nations happened in 1945 at the end of WWII. With the surrender of Japan, the US suggested that the Soviet Union should accept the surrender of Japanese troops in Korea north of the 38th parallel, while the US would take those from the south. This division was meant to be temporary, and it was believed that the two nations would be reunited through a democratic election.
The war officially began on June 24, 1950, when North Korea crossed the demarcation line and began the invasion of South Korea. The North Koreans viewed this as their chance to reunify the countries, but on their terms. Within three months, the North Koreans had captured almost the entire peninsula, forcing the South Koreans into a small section of Pusan. What was initially a civil war between North and South Korea soon became an international conflict when the US and the UN put their support behind South Korea, and the People’s Republic of China backed North Korea. The US viewed the actions of the North Koreans as proof that communism was an active threat to world peace. General Douglas MacArthur led forces, pushing the North Koreans back toward the 38th parallel. By October 1950, the US and its allies had almost reached the border between North Korea and China. The Chinese viewed this as a direct threat, and deployed troops into North Korea. US forces were almost immediately pushed back to the 38th parallel. Throughout early 1951 both sides, due to advancing and retreating, held possession of land in central Korea. By July 1951 a stalemate had been reached. The US and China had achieved their goal of keeping the 38th parallel as the demarcation line, but North and South Korea were not able to reunite their countries. Small skirmishes continued to breakout over the next two years, until an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. It is important to note that a formal peace treaty was never signed between the two nations.
US military casualties: 54,246
Surviving Minnesota veterans: 34,270
Vietnam War → 1962-1973 (Cold War)
From 1945-1954 Vietnam was involved in the First Indochina War with France, and received $2.6 billion in support from the US. The French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, leading to the Geneva Conference, which resulted in splitting the former French colony into the countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Vietnam was split along the 17th parallel between the Communist North and anti-Communist South until an election could be held to unify the country. In 1956, with US support, South Vietnam refused to hold unification elections. In 1958 the Viet Cong, Communist led guerrilla fighters, had begun to fight the South Vietnamese government.
President John F. Kennedy initially sent 2,000 military advisors to South Vietnam, but the number rose to 16,300 by 1963. By 1963 the South Vietnamese had lost the Mekong Delta to the Viet Cong. After an alleged attack on two US Navy vessels, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed in 1964, permitting President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military forces in the region. US involvement in the war in increased 1965, beginning with an air campaign against the North Vietnamese and pledging ground troops, which numbered 536,000 in 1968. The 1968 Tet Offensive is considered by many to be the turning point of the war. Coordinated attacks by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, caused massive casualties for both the North Vietnamese and the US, and reduced American support for the war.
When Richard Nixon was elected president, he proposed “Vietnamization”, urging the withdrawal of American forces and shifting most of the responsibility for the war to the South Vietnamese. In an attempt to disrupt the flow of North Vietnamese gaining weapons, in 1970 US troops were sent to destroy Communist supply bases in Laos and Cambodia. This attack deliberately violated Cambodian neutrality, and sparked antiwar protests across America.
In January 1973 the Paris Peace Accord was signed, enacting a ceasefire and allowing prisoners of war to be released and US forces were removed from Vietnam. The Fall of Saigon marked the official end of the war, with South Vietnam surrendering to the North, and in April 1975 the country was reunified.
US military casualties: 58,219
Surviving Minnesota veterans: 129,641
Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm)→ 1990-1991
On August 2, 1990 Saddam Hussein, began an invasion of Kuwait with roughly 100,000 Iraqi troops. His reasoning behind the occupation was that Kuwait had historically been part of Iraq, and that they were depressing oil prices. In just three days, the troops took the emirate’s capital, Kuwait City, forcing the royal family into exile. They were also successful in gaining control of Kuwait’s oil fields.
On June 16, 1991 the United States and its allies became involved. An international coalition had been organized and 180,000 troops were deployed. Syria and Turkey closed off their oil pipelines to Iraq and the Soviets agreed to an arms embargo. In November, President George H.W. Bush doubled the number of American troops in the region, and received permission to wage war if Hussein and his troops didn’t pull out. An air campaign was waged and destroyed Iraq’s industrial and war making facilities. 100 hours after the ground campaign began the war was over. The US and its allies had managed to liberate Kuwait in 43 days.
US military casualties: 300
Surviving Minnesota veterans: 97, 696
War in Afghanistan → 2001-present (War on Terror)
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the terrorist group al Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, carried out a series of large attacks on the United States. Three years prior to these events, the US had asked the Taliban, the ruling power in Afghanistan and an ally of al Qaeda, to surrender Bin Laden, which they refused. Following 9/11 the Taliban still would not turn him over. The US rejected the Taliban’s request for negotiations, and launched Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, the goal of which was to capture Bin Laden, remove the Taliban from power, and to eliminate the potential for Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven by other terrorist networks.
The city of Kabul fell on October 13, 2001, shortly followed by Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold, on December 7, which effectively marked the end of Taliban rule. In 2004 Hamid Karzai was elected President of Afghanistan. At this time the Taliban increased their use of suicide attacks and roadside bombs in an effort to regain power. According to NATO, it was expected that all international troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014 and the Afghan Army would take over as military power. On the morning of May 2, 2011 Osama Bin Laden, the man arguably responsible for the war, was killed by US Navy SEALs in Abottabad, Pakistan.
US military casualties: 3,500
Surviving Minnesota veterans: Unknown
Iraq War → 2003-2011 (War on Terror)
Following the Gulf War of 1990, Saddam Hussein was instructed to eliminate all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), however it was difficult to know if he actually did. Following the attacks on September 11th, President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair believed that there was enough evidence to prove that Iraq still had WMDs. They also thought that Hussein and his regime might support what was left of al Qaeda, due to their past history of supporting terrorist organizations. Both leaders got approval from their governments to wage war, but didn’t have the support of the UN and NATO, or traditional allies like Canada, France, and Germany. Those opposed to the war believed that there wasn’t strong enough evidence to link Hussein’s regime to al Qaeda.
On March 19, 2003, Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to resign and leave the country, which he did not. On March 20 a three week campaign began that effectively destroyed the Iraqi army and defeated Hussein’s regime. The Iraqi’s never formally surrender and didn’t have a recognized government left. Armed resistance by the Iraqi’s against the occupying forces began quickly. President Bush declared the end of combat on May 1. No WMDs were ever found. Saddam Hussein was captured by US forces on December 13, 2003 and subsequently put on trial for crimes against humanity. He was executed on December 30, 2006.
US military casualties: 4,079
Surviving Minnesota veterans: Unknown – Roughly 2.5 million vets nationwide have served in the War of Terror
Intervention in Lebanon → 1958
The first implementation of the Eisenhower Doctrine, under which the US pledged support to nations resisting Communist interference.
Bay of Pigs Invasion → 1961
The failed attempt by the US to invade Cuba and over throw Fidel Castro and his regime.
Dominican Civil War → 1965-1966
Lyndon B. Johnson ordered Marines to Santo Domingo, hoping to restore peace in the island nation.
Multinational Force in Lebanon → 1982-1984
Peacekeeping forces stationed in Lebanon to oversee the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Invasion of Grenada → 1983
US Forces were deployed to overthrow a Communist government, and did so in two months.
Invasion of Panama → 1989-1990
The US invaded in order to overthrow dictator Manuel Noriega and charge him for drug trafficking.
Iraqi No-Fly Zones → 1991-2003
US troops placed to enforce no-fly zones, in order to protect Kurds and Shiite Muslims from attacks by Saddam Hussein’s government.
Somali Civil War → 1992-1995
International peacekeepers sent to provide humanitarian relief to citizens.
Intervention in Haiti → 1994-1995
The US became involved in order to overthrow the regime of Raoul Cedras and restore the democratic government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Bosnian War → 1994-1995
US supplied food to Muslim enclaves in the region via airdrops, and enacted a no-fly zone over the country.
Kosovo War → 1998-1999
The US intervened to stop the genocide of Albanian Muslims by Slobodan Milosevic.
War in Pakistan → 2004-present
Fought in Pakistan as an ally in the War on Terror.
Operation Ocean Shield → 2009-present
NATO’s mission to stop pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Aden.
Libyan Civil War → 2011
At first involvement was purely diplomatic, but the US eventually began bombing campaigns in order to weaken dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s military capacity.
War on ISIL → 2014-present
International coalition in order to curb worldwide attacks by the terrorist network ISIS.
95,505 Peacetime veterans
273,644 Wartime veterans