American Involvement in Wars From Colonial Times to the Present

Wars From 1675 to the Present Day

Lithograph of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders Charging San Juan Hill
A lithograph showing Theodore Roosevelt riding with the Rough Riders during their charge of San Juan Hill, near Santiago de Cuba, on July 1, 1898. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

America has been involved in wars large and small since before the founding of the nation. The first such war, sometimes called Metacom’s Rebellion or King Philip's War, lasted 14 months and destroyed 14 towns. The war, tiny by today's standards, ended when Metacom (the Pokunoket chief called "King Philip" by the English), was beheaded.

The most recent war, America's engagement in Afghanistan, is the most protracted war in U.S. history. A response to devastating coordinated terrorist attacks on American soil on Sept. 11, 2001, this war began the following month when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in search of Taliban forces and members of al-Qaeda. U.S. troops remain there to this day.

Wars over the years have changed dramatically, and American involvement in them has varied as well. For example, many of the earliest American wars were fought on American soil. Twentieth-century wars such as World Wars I and II, by contrast, were fought overseas; few Americans on the homefront saw any type of direct engagement during these. While the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 resulted in thousands of American deaths, the most recent war fought on American soil was the Civil War, which ended in 1865.

Chart of Wars With American Involvement

In addition to the following named wars and conflicts, members of the American military (and some civilians) have played small but active roles in many other international conflicts over the years.

Dates War in Which American Colonists or United States Citizens Officially Participated Major Combatants
July 4, 1675– August 12, 1676 King Philip's War New England Colonies vs. Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Nipmuck peoples
1689–1697 King William's War The English Colonies vs. France
1702–1713 Queen Anne's War (War of Spanish Succession) The English Colonies vs. France
1744–1748 King George's War (War of Austrian Succession) The French Colonies vs. Great Britain
1756–1763 French and Indian War (Seven Years War) The French Colonies vs. Great Britain
1759–1761 Cherokee War English Colonists vs. Cherokee Nation
1775–1783 American Revolution English Colonists vs. Great Britain
1798–1800 Franco-American Naval War United States vs. France
1801–1805; 1815 Barbary Wars United States vs. Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli
1812–1815 War of 1812 United States vs. Great Britain
1813–1814 Creek War United States vs. Creek Nation
1836 War of Texas Independence Texas vs. Mexico
1846–1848 Mexican-American War United States vs. Mexico
1861–1865 U.S. Civil War Union vs. Confederacy
1898 Spanish-American War United States vs. Spain
1914–1918 World War I Triple Alliance: Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary vs. Triple Entente: Britain, France, and Russia. The United States joined on the side of the Triple Entente in 1917
1939-1945 World War II Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Japan vs. Major Allied Powers: United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia
1950–1953 Korean War United States (as part of the United Nations) and South Korea vs. North Korea and Communist China
1960–1975 Vietnam War United States and South Vietnam vs. North Vietnam
1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion United States vs. Cuba
1983 Grenada United States intervention
1989 U.S. Invasion of Panama United States vs. Panama
1990–1991 Persian Gulf War United States and Coalition Forces vs. Iraq
1995–1996 Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina United States as part of NATO acted as peacekeepers in former Yugoslavia
2001–2021 Invasion of Afghanistan United States and Coalition Forces vs. the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to fight terrorism
2003–2011 Invasion of Iraq United States and Coalition Forces vs. Iraq
2004–present War in Northwest Pakistan United States vs. Pakistan, mainly drone attacks
2007–present Somalia and Northeastern Kenya United States and Coalition forces vs. al-Shabaab militants
2009–2016 Operation Ocean Shield (Indian Ocean) NATO allies vs. Somali pirates
2011 Intervention in Libya U.S. and NATO allies vs. Libya
2011–2017 Lord's Resistance Army U.S. and allies against the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda
2014–2017 U.S.-led Intervention in Iraq U.S. and coalition forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
2014–present U.S.-led intervention in Syria U.S. and coalition forces against al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Syria
2015–present Yemeni Civil War Saudi-led coalition and U.S., France, and Kingdom against the Houthi rebels, Supreme Political Council in Yemen, and allies
2015–present U.S. intervention in Libya U.S. and Libya against ISIS
View Article Sources
  1. Fisher, Linford D. "Why Shall Wee Have Peace to Bee Made Slaves”: Indian Surrenderers During and After King Philip’s War." Ethnohistory, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 91-114., 2017. doi:10.1215/00141801-3688391

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Kelly, Martin. "American Involvement in Wars From Colonial Times to the Present." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). American Involvement in Wars From Colonial Times to the Present. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "American Involvement in Wars From Colonial Times to the Present." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).