World War I began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and lasted until 1918. During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers). Thanks to new military technologies and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction. By the time the war was over and the Allied Powers claimed victory, more than 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead.
World War II, also called Second World War, conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during the years 1939–45. The principal belligerents were the Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan—and the Allies—France, Great Britain (British Commonwealth), the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China. The war was in many respects a continuation, after an uneasy 20-year hiatus, of the disputes left unsettled by World War I. The 40,000,000–50,000,000 deaths incurred in World War II make it the bloodiest conflict, as well as the largest war, in history.
Peace support operations are often divided into “peacekeeping” (lightly armed) and “peace enforcement” (heavily armed), and sometimes into other categories as well. In this section, “peacekeeping” and “peacekeeping operation” are used as blanket terms to cover all impartial, multinational, military-based interventions into areas of conflict.
Australia has had peacekeepers in the field with the United Nations since 1947. In Indonesia in 1947, Australians were part of the very first group of UN military observers anywhere in the world, and were, in fact, the first into the field.
On the morning of 16 June 1948 three European estate managers were murdered in two separate incidents in the Malaysian state of Perak by members of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). That evening, the British declared a state of emergency in several districts of Perak and Johore which were extended the following day to the whole of the two states. On the 18th of June a state of emergency was declared for all of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency had begun.
The origins of the Korean War can be traced back to the end of the Second World War, when the Allies were entrusted with control of the Korean peninsula following 35 years of Japanese occupation. The United States and the Soviet Union accepted mutual responsibility for the country, with the Soviets taking control of the country to the north of the 38th Parallel and the Americans taking the south. Over the next few years, the Soviet Union fostered a communist government under Kim Il-Sung and the US supported the provisional government in the south, headed by Syngman Rhee. By 1950 tensions between the two zones had risen to the point that two increasingly hostile armies had built up along the 38th Parallel.
The Vietnam War was a long, costly and divisive conflict that pitted the communist government of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. The conflict was intensified by the ongoing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. More than 3 million people were killed in the Vietnam War, and more than half of the dead were Vietnamese civilians. Opposition to the war bitterly divided Americans and Australians. Communist forces ended the war by seizing control of South Vietnam in 1975, and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year.
The Indonesian Confrontation, or ‘Konfrontasi’, was a three-year conflict on the island of Borneo and the Malay Peninsula, with Australian troops involved as part of a Commonwealth force under British command.
The conflict centred on whether the former British colonies of Sabah and Sarawak, which bordered Indonesia’s provinces on Borneo, would become part of Indonesia or of recently federated Malaysia.
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion and occupation of neighboring Kuwait in early August 1990. Alarmed by these actions, fellow Arab powers such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt called on the United States and other Western nations to intervene. Hussein defied United Nations Security Council demands to withdraw from Kuwait by mid-January 1991, and the Persian Gulf War began with a massive U.S.-led air offensive known as Operation Desert Storm. After 42 days of relentless attacks by the allied coalition in the air and on the ground, U.S. President George H.W. Bush declared a cease-fire on February 28; by that time, most Iraqi forces in Kuwait had either surrendered or fled. Though the Persian Gulf War was initially considered an unqualified success for the international coalition, simmering conflict in the troubled region led to a second Gulf War–known as the Iraq War–that began in 2003.
In November 2001, Australia joined the United States-led coalition to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, to remove the Taliban from power and to defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan. There was no indication at the time that this would be Australia’s longest war.
Iraq War, also called Second Persian Gulf War, was conflict that consisted of two phases. The first of these was a brief, conventionally fought war in March–April 2003, in which a combined force of troops from the United States and Great Britain (with smaller contingents from several other countries) invaded Iraq and rapidly defeated Iraqi military and paramilitary forces. It was followed by a longer second phase in which a U.S.-led occupation of Iraq was opposed by an insurgency. After violence began to decline in 2007, the United States gradually reduced its military presence in Iraq, formally completing its withdrawal in December 2011.