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12 Stupidest Wars in History Ever

20 min read

Facts 1 to 4

The stupidest wars ever in history will leave you literally scratching your head. If you have already popped over and had a read of the dumbest battle ever, these wars, although not as bad as that one battle, really are quite ridiculous.  From the weird through to the wacky, we managed to find the most utterly stupid reason to kill en-masse.

If there are a few things we people are good at, doing stupid things and waging war on each other surely trump just about anything else. As Einstein himself said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” So what do you think you get when you mix war and stupidity? Let’s just say a terrible mix of circumstances that give us the stupidest wars in history ever. If the human toll weren’t so high, they would make for a great comedy.

Now it’s time to read about the stupidest wars ever

1 The War Of Jenkins’ Ear (1739–48)

War of Jenkins EarOk, so we will begin our journey around the stupidest wars in history ever with the War of Jenkins’ Ear. As you can tell, the name of these wars kind of give away just how crazy these affairs are.

Back in the good old days when Britain was the imperial power of the world, and all bowed before it, foreign relations in Western Europe weren’t exactly as cordial as they are today. To be a little more accurate, Spain was less than happy that Britain was top of the roost, and Britain for their part were not that friendly to anyone who wanted a slice of the action, or their Empire. Let’s just say that relations between the pair were frosty, and it wouldn’t take much to ignite the keg of war.

It all started one day in 1731. Robert Jenkins was the captain of a merchant ship that was boarded by the Spanish Coast Guard o his return home from the West Indies. The Spanish suspected him and his ship of smuggling, and wanted to investigate. But it seems that they went a little too far. They bound captain Jenkins to a mast and sliced off his ear. Ouch right? But apart from a diplomatic complaint, it really should have ended there. But it wasn’t going to.

On his return home, Jenkins took his complaint directly to the king, and seven years later to parliament. He even kept his ear in a pickle jar!

So here we are. It’s now 1738 and relations between the two European powers are really not that good. War was looming, but there was no good reason to pick a fight. But perhaps there was. Although the incident of Jenkins ear gained very little attention when it happened, in 1738 the British were looking for just cause. This was their trigger.

The colonies in the Caribbean were petitioning for support from their king, and good old Jenkins wanted reprisal for his ear attack. The following summer, King George II, on the advice and request of his parliament, ordered the admiralty to begin reprisals against Spain. The war was under way.

Now, this wasn’t exactly a full out war. It was really half hearted, with neither side really putting their heart and soul into it. It slowly bludgeoned on for nearly a decade, with no real ground or political advantage going either way. The war itself didn’t really end with a truce, either. It just kind of faded away into the War of Austrian Succession.

The Spanish claimed a victory, although no boundaries ever changed. But the numbers were on their side. The Spanish suffered 4,500 dead and 5,000 wounded along with the loss of 186 ships. The British lost 20,000 dead, wounded or missing, and lost 407 ships. And it was all over one ear.

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2 The War Of The Oaken Bucket (1325)

The War Of The Oaken BucketLet stupidity reign. It seems as though the big guys of the political world, AKA the colonial super powers, are not the only ones capable of mass killing for dumb reasons. This particular conflict takes us back to 1325 in northern Italy.

Look, I agree. It was called the Dark Ages for a reason. People weren’t that bright, and this particular war proves the point very well. But how could two neighbors go and thrash each others brains out over a oak bucket? That’s right, a bloody oak bucket!

Alright, just as with Jenkins ear, this war was really just the culmination of years, in fact, centuries of events. Tempers were boiling, and a bloody bucket proved to be the final straw.

Two city states in northern Italy, Bologna and Modena. had been long time rivals. Being in the geographical position that they were in placed them in the precarious position of having to support the main political factions, and they were big ones. One was the Holy Roman Empire, the other was the Papacy. Obviously politics is an all too common reason for going to war.

In 1325 a few soldiers from Modena entered Bologna and stole an oak bucket from the well. Bologna was a little pissed at this brazen theft, and decided to go to war. Now, I’m not calling it an over reaction or anything, but how much would an oak bucket cost to buy or make? Surely not as much as raising an army and going to war.

The city state of Bologna didn’t mess around. They got an army of 32,000 men to begin a march on Modena to reclaim their stolen bucket. The Modenan’s on the other hand were less enthusiastic , and mustered 7,000 men for war. The two warring factions met at Zappolino, still in Bologna territory. They fought it out, before the Bologna army were routed and ran for the safety of their town walls.

So what did each side get out of this brainless conflict? Well, over a bucket made of wood, 2,000 men on each side lost their life, and the city of Bologna didn’t get their bucket back. In fact, they never did, and it is still on  display in the city of Modena as a taunting reminder of their stolen piece of property.

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3 The War Of The Stray Dog (1925)

stupidest warsProving that medieval stupidity could reach the twentieth century, we now bring you the story of the War of the Stray Dog, surely among the stupidest wars in history ever. As you can probably already tell, this war started and was fought over a stray dog.

Most of us love dogs. As a pet and a part of our family they can be great companions. Many people often say that they would kill anyone who hurt their dog. But what about the strays? The ones that are never under effective control and just seem to roam around. They can cause havoc, especially to farmers who in many circumstances will not hesitate to kill a stray dog. But is that what happened here?

In 1925 Greece and Bulgaria were like a couple of jilted lovers. If they were to be seen in the same street together either a fight would break out or one would cross to the other side of the walk. So once again, tensions were high, especially along a border region called Petrich, and all that was needed to start a full blown war was a reason, no matter how stupid.

On October 22, 1925, a Greek soldier was chasing his stray dog, but it crossed the border into Bulgaria (I guess he should have had a Border Collie). Now, the Bulgarian sentry saw this and took aim, but not at the dog. He shot and killed the Greek soldier who was only chasing his dog. Greece’s response? Well lets just say that they weren’t very happy, and threatened revenge.

Good to their word, Greece invaded Petrich the very next day, proving once again that the Great War was not the war to end all wars. The Bulgarian army offered only token resistance, and the Greeks were only stopped by the League of Nations, the forerunner to the UN, who demanded a halt to the hostilities.

The outcome of this War of the Stray Dog was that Greece was forced out of Bulgaria ten days later and had to pay them 45,000 pounds in compensation. The loss of life this time was relatively small compared to the other two, being 52 on both sides, mainly civilians. No one knows the fate of the dog that started it all.

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4 The Soccer War (1969)

The Soccer War I hope I don’t start a soccer war by referring to football as soccer. The purist will call it by football, but where I am it’s more commonly known as soccer. Well, believe it or not, but the Soccer War was a real thing, started over a game of soccer. Not to be completely surprised, but hooligans at these sporting events are part and parcel, especially in jolly old England. One can hardly expect a season to pass by without some form of soccer riot. But the Soccer War went just a little too far.

The Soccer War was a brief conflict between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. The two South American countries held an international soccer match that El Salvador lost. Not to be called poor sportsman, tensions rose between the two countries following this match, with El Salvador immediately ending all diplomatic relations. The tension would eventually culminate with conflict of a military nature.

But once again, underlying tensions played a huge part in the affairs of the day. Principle among them was the economic inequality between the two countries. Obviously keeping up with the Jonse’s was a little difficult to contend with.

18 days later El Salvador began military action against Honduras. Using passenger jets as bombers, they took Honduras by surprise and made significant ground. But the ridiculous war wasn’t going to last long. The Organization of American States quickly arranged a ceasefire, and hostilities ended only 100 hours after the war began.

The Soccer War, among the stupidest wars in history, lasted only four days and took the life of over 3,000 people.

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Facts 5 to 8

5 The War Of The Fleeing Wife (1879)

zulu warsHow could it possibly be that one of the most intelligent people who has ever lived, Albert Einstein, was born in the same year as one of the stupidest wars ever? I know, it’s pure coincidence, but it does show the amazing contrast of the year. One amazing man of remarkable intelligence entering the world in the same year that us humans found yet another dumb ass reason to throw hatchets at one another.

The War of the Fleeing Wife has echoes of the Iliad. But where the tragedy of the Greek Iliad was a deceitful wife, this war appears to have come down to a spousal dispute, which really aren’t that uncommon.

If you’re like me, and aware of the old saying, beware the woman scorned, you usually keep your head laying pretty low when the wife isn’t all that happy with you. It’s often best to just agree, admit that you were wrong, YOU WERE WRONG, and when the temperature cools down, try to enter the house again. It’s often the best and safest practice. But sometimes, and really a lot of the time, the male in the relationship is just an abusive prick. In these situations it’s often better for the wife to do the running, and never go back. Well, this was the basis for the War of the Fleeing Wife in 1879.

Two wives of a Zulu chief Sihayo kaXonga, ran from their husband. The women ran and hid in British held territory, believing they may have been safe. The problem was that the brother and sons of kaXonga pursued the women, capturing them and then killing them. The British were less than impressed, mainly because their territory was invaded, and following a few ultimatums that were ignored, went to war.

This was actually part of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. Following some bloody encounters, the Zulu were eventually crushed, with the loss of over 6,000 Zulu’s and 1727 British men.

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6 The Paraguayan War (1864-1870)

Paraguayan WarAs far as positively pointless conflicts go, the Paraguayan War is certainly up there among the best. In short, it was a war that didn’t need to happen, and never should have happened. But, Paraguayan president, Francisco Solano Lopez was hell bent on becoming a great military leader.

There’s a chance that you may have picked up a subtle little hint within the opening paragraph. President Francisco Solano Lopez wanted to be a great military leader, just like his idol Napoleon Bonaparte. But unlike the French leader, he was lacking one essential ingredient for military success. A war of course. But he had no real reason to worry, because being president gives you the privilege to, oh I don’t know, declare war if the need was there.This is what he did, rather foolishly too I must say.

President Lopez had absolutely no reason to go to war other than to fulfill his own mad dreams to copy his idol. But nonetheless this is what he did, and he didn’t do it by halves either. Instead of creating some proxy war or targeting a small isolated nation, he went ahead and declared war on three of his neighbors, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay ensuring his own country was completely outnumbered, outgunned and surrounded. Brilliant military mind at work, right?

Over the course of six years Paraguay was almost completely annihilated by its neighbors. The country became occupied by Brazil, and a third of the population was killed. Thankfully for what was left of the populace, the government was removed. The total human cost of the Paraguayan War stood at 400,000 soldiers and civilians dead. And it could have been completely avoided, had president Lopez not been chasing a fantasy.

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7 The Pig War I (1859)

the pig war 1859

The first Pig War in 1859 took place on the American and Canadian border on the west coast. Way back then there was no real defined border separating the two nations, alright, nation and colony. Sitting in the middle of the confused boundry was the San Juan islands, which both the US and Britain claimed. So just to make a point, the British went ahead and settled the disputed islands, as they often did, and set up a sheep farm. No harm right? No one was there or using the land, what harm could this cause. Well, imagine the shock when 25 Americans arrived on the island in 1859 to occupy land they thought was theirs.

Things seemed to go along alright for a while on the disputed islands, with both the British and Americans living in tense harmony. But no one was prepared for a pig to stir things up.

On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutlar, one of the American settlers, noticed a pig digging in his vegetable garden. Less than impressed with the sight of a pig eating his food, he shot and killed the pig. Obviously the owner of the pig, an Irishman by the name of Charles Griffin who was on the British side of the islands wasn’t very happy that his pig was now dead. Cutlar offered Griffin $10 in compensation for the dead farm animal, but Griffin demanded $100, to which Cutlar defended himself by saying that the pig shouldn’t have been on his land and eating his potatoes. Griffin actually retorted to Cutlars defense with “it’s up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig.”

Now this is where things start to get a little dangerous, and the drums of war begin to beat. The British went to arrest Cutlar, and he requested assistance from the US military who sent 66 soldiers. To counter this military presence on the island the British responded in kind, and upped the ante by sending in two warships. Al this over a dead pig. But if things weren’t bad enough yet, tensions were about to escalate.

By 10 August, there were five British warships with 2140 men, and 461 Americans with 14 cannons. This was shaping up to be a real wild ride. Just when you think that things can’t possibly get any worse, the British were ordered to remove the Americans by force. But thankfully the British commander decided to ignore the orders.

Over the next 12 years tensions subsided, and both the British and American military occupied the islands harmoniously, even paying each other friendly visits from time to time. The final outcome of the war was one dead pig, and an eternity of embarrassment for both sides.

There was a second Pig War in Europe between Austria and Serbia from 1906 to 1908. In this instance it pertained to an Austrian trade embargo on Serbian pork, which was their greatest export. Though the two sides never came to blows, each side openly criticized the other, and the relationship was less than cordial. This proved the second time in less than 50 years that a pig can be a reason for going to war

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8 The Emu War (1932)

emu warAlright, once again an animal is the cause of bloody conflict. But at least this time they were also one of the belligerents. The Emu War as it would become known was less of a war and more of a mass culling exercise.

In 1932 Australia was literally being overrun with Emu’s. The emu is of course the second largest bird in the world. They were in plague numbers in some regions, and were decimating crops. In response to the pleas from farmers, the Australian military jokingly declared war on the birds and sent in the military to conduct genocide.

A task force of the Australian army was sent out to cull the birds, even fit out with machine guns. But the emus proved a worthy foe, exhibiting bullet evasion techniques that any action hero would be proud of. But if they were hit, even several times, they made Rambo look like a pussy, continuing to run, and outrun their adversary.

If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world…They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop – Major Meredith, commander of Australian forces

 

After a week of conflict the Australian army pulled the pin on the exhibition admitting a partial defeat. They just couldn’t kill as many as they wanted or hoped to.

For their trouble, the emus suffered 2,500 dead, while the Aussies suffered humiliation. But following this failed attempt, the government instigated a bounty system which proved successful. In a six month period in 1934, 57,034 bounties had been claimed.

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Facts 9 to 12

9 The Flagstaff War (1845-1846)

flagstaff warMaking this the fifth retarded war in the southern hemisphere, the Flagstaff War, if nothing else, exhibits the human spirit of tenacity. Yes, tenacity, and stupidity. You guessed it, this war was over a flagstaff.

Well, what can we say? People just love their flags, and there is an entire protocol for the correct handling of flags. It’s one symbol that you just don’t mess with. But the thing is, you might love your flag, but people also love their own land, and might not take too kindly to you placing a flag on their property.

Just imagine yourself in this situation. You own a plot of beautiful land that you call your own. One day some strange looking people come along and say that this place looks alright, so decide to move in. OK, kind of awkward isn’t it? So all of a sudden now you have some unwanted neighbors who have made themselves right at home, and to make matters worse they raise a flag of their own, right on your own land. That’s a little rude isn’t it? So what do you do? These people just don’t want to listen to you, and continue to ignore your pleas to stop. It would be frustrating wouldn’t it?

This was the situation in New Zealand in 1840. The British, once again, had decided to take what they liked, and the local indigenous population didn’t like what they saw.

Hone Heke, a Maori chief didn’t really like the Union Jack flying high on the mast, so he decided to do something about it. He went to the center of the British town and cut down the flag pole. Mission accomplished, no more flag, no more colonial rule, or so he thought.

Not to be outdone by a savage, the British erected another flag pole. which itself was once again cut down by Heke. So the Brits once again erected another pole to take its place, but Heke was as determined as ever to remove it, and cut it down for a third time. Showing true British grit and determination, they once again erected another flagstaff, but this time decided to make it permanent. To make sure it was going to stay put, the Brits reinforced it with iron, and an armed sentry. It was beginning to play out like a Benny Hill episode.

Back in London, the parliament decided that it was uncouth for flag poles to be cut down, and sent missionaries in to calm the situation. Heke didn’t really like what the missionaries had to say about accepting British rule, and on March 11, 1845, he and his tribe invaded the British settlement. What was to come was pure savagery.

Heke annihilated the British in Kororareka. It was a savage battle, and Heke topped off the victory by cutting down that blasted pole. But things weren’t going to end so well in the long run.

Over 10 months, the British flexed their muscle and dished out retribution as only the British can. By the end of the rebellion, the Brits had lost 82 men killed, relatively low in reality, and the Maoris lost between 60 and 94 killed. But the British did learn one lesson, not to plant a darn flag pole where it wasn’t welcome.

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10 The Moldovan-Transdniestrian War (1992)

Benderskii_memorial_slavy_13Unlike many of the preceding wars on this list, this one actually started for relatively normal reasons. But what made this conflict so odd was the way in which it was fought.

It all started shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed. Moldova was a former Soviet bloc country, and suffered a crisis. Two thirds of the nation wanted close ties with Romania, while the remainder one third wanted to be closer to Russia. It was a very similar situation to Ukraine. As is often the case in these Balkan states, war erupted.

OK, so far this seems all very normal for a war. The outbreak of war is in line with many similar situations in the past, and it was in the Balkans, which seems to be in perpetual unrest. But what set this conflict apart from many others was the fashion in which it was fought.

While the soldiers would battle during the day with the single minded goal of killing the enemy, at night they would go into no mans land and mingle. During the night, the front line soldiers got alog so well that they would make pacts not to shoot one another during the day. This wasn’t a one off event either like the famous WWI Christmas day football match. It happened every night for the duration of the war. One serving solder wrote of it as a “grotesque party.”

The war is like a grotesque party, during the day we kill our enemy, during the night we drink with them. What a bizarre thing war is.

When the odd war ended four months later there were between 316 and 637 dead on both sides.

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11 War of the Golden Stool (1900)

stoolThe British kind of have a theme going here. They seem to have a prominent hand in many of the stupidest wars in history, and this is just one more to add to the illustrious list. This dispute, the War of the Golden Stool started over an actual golden stool, and British arrogance stupidity.

The Ashanti Empire was a an empire in modern day Ghana. This African empire had a sacred stool, constructed out of gold, like real gold. It was said to hold not only the power and authority of the chief, but also of the Ashanti nation, its dead and living. So it was a very special piece of furniture. Not something that just anyone could sit on. But leave it to the Brits to show total disregard for local customs.

In 1896 the Ashanti king was living his life in exile. The rest of the nation was left leaderless, but the British were all too accommodating, and offered to fill the void. So in March of 1900, the British Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Hodgson entered the nations capital as the new overlord. Expecting the locals to welcome him with open arms, he ordered the sacred stool bought to him so he could sit on it. This was a surefire way to piss off the local populace, and that’s exactly what it did.

Could you just imagine if the roles were reversed and this happened in London with the throne of Great Britain? The locals would be outraged and would surely express their opinion very loudly. Well, this is exactly what happened.

When the Governer sent out some troops to find the stool, the local population was waiting and ready. Led by Yaa Asantewaa (the mother of the exiled king, they confronted the small number of Brits, and almost killed all of them. The few who escaped the initial contact ran back to Kumasi and barricaded themselves into a fort.

The siege of the fort lasted three and a half months, and by the time reinforcements arrived the defenders had run out of food and ammunition. Major James Willcocks, who headed the reinforcements, decided to take the war back to the Ashanti. Major Willcocks annihilated the countryside, slaughtering the Ashanti and razing towns. When the fighting ended the British had won the war, in their books, and the casualties were 1,007 for the British and 2000 for the Ashanti. But the Ahanti claimed victory because they never let the governor sit on their golden stool.

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12 Lijar – French War (1883-1981)

Lijar-vs.-France-10-Weird-Battles-in-Mankind-HistoryThe Lijar – French war is the longest conflict on this list, and not a single shot was fired in anger. So in reality, it’s also the most peaceful.

For those who might be looking for Lijar on a map, it’s not a country. Lijar is a small town in southern Spain. So what could have possible sparked a war between one of the world’s super powers of the time and a small town in Spain, and why would France want to go to war with such a small neighbor?

In 1883, the Spanish king Spanish king, Alfonso XII was in Paris on an official state visit. Apparently some of the local Parisians didn’t take too kindly to his royal visit, and insulted and even attacked him in the street (that’s so out of character for the French to do something like that to royalty, I wonder what came over them?). Anyway, the mayor of Lijar heard of this outrage and the town declared a state of war on France, all 300 of them. The mayor was declared “The Terror Of The Sierras,” for his war mongering.

After 93 years of peaceful war, King Juan-Carlos of Spain dared to visit France. This time nothing at all happened, and the visit proceeded peacefully. Four years later the people of Lijar decided that their king had been treated well and dignified, and they would immediately declare a ceasefire and end hostilities with France.

After 98 years of peaceful war there were no casualties and no shots were fired. A few insects and pets may have died, but it’s most likely that they were not war related.

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We hope you enjoyed reading this list of stupidest wars in history. If you have an idea for another list, or a single interesting fact, drop us a line via the submit a fact menu button, or if you want, you can write it yourself and gain the credit.

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