In history classes students study many great battles and wars but don’t learn every story. Here is my list of some of the most interesting wars ever declared, starting with the bloodless ones.
The Emu War
This conflict started when Sir George Pearce, Australia’s minister of defense, ordered the military to hunt down and thin the native emu population for being a massive disturbance to the populace.
So instead of spending money on their people to try to help alleviate the effects of the Great Depression (which started in 1929), the Australian government armed three men with two Lewis guns (large machine guns).
Now you’d think this would be emu slaughter, right? No, emus are literally big slabs of meat that can take quite a few bullets. And once a mob (a group of emus) senses danger, it splits into smaller mobs in every direction. Another problem they had was that Lewis guns are wildly inaccurate, leading the soldiers to need to get close to the emus. These complications led to the Australian army killing 900 emus, when the goal was to kill 20,000.
After this the Australians practically surrendered to the emus by ending military hostilities and raising emu bounties. Weirdly enough, while it took the military two months to kill 900 emus, it took the population only six months to kill over 50,000 emus and turn in the bounties.
Basically, the Australian army declared war on their emu population and lost. The only Australian casualty was their dignity.
The 335 Years War
Now this might sound like one of those incredibly long and dumb European wars, which is only partially correct. While it was incredibly long – 335 years is nothing to scoff at – there wasn’t much fighting.
It started in the Second English Civil War, when British General Oliver Cromwell rose up against the monarchy in 1642. The English Royalist navy escaped to the Isles of Scilly (southwest of England) and took up port.
While there, the Dutch navy came along and demanded the Royalist navy pay for the damages they had caused to Dutch ships, which the Royalists refused to do. After refusing to repay the Dutch for the infringement against Dutch trade, the Loyalist navy had war declared upon them and the Isles of Scilly by the Dutch.
In 1651 the Parliamentarians forced the Royalists to give in to the Dutch, and the war ended. The only thing the Dutch forgot was a peace treaty.
So in 1986, over 300 years later, British historian Roy Duncan contacted the Dutch embassy in London and told them that the war had never officially ended. Soon after, the Isles of Scilly and the Dutch government declared peace.
The Huéscar Denmark War
This war, too, was incredibly long and went unresolved until a historian reminded both sides they were at war.
Huéscar is a medium-sized town in the south of Spain that one would think should not be declaring wars on European nations. Huéscar declared war upon Denmark of all nations because Denmark was the ally of Napoleon during his conquest of Spain in 1809.
Napoleon ruled Spain until his eventual downfall after his invasion of Russia, causing both sides to be at peace again.
Huéscar then made peace with France and promptly forgot the other war Huescar had with Denmark until a historian found out they were still at war. Soon afterwards the mayor of Huéscar and the Danish ambassador to Spain signed a peace treaty, thus ending this century-long conflict.
Then there are the wars that actually had casualties in which the attackers’ casus belli (reason to go to war) was quite absurd.
The War of The Bucket
It all started in the northern Italian region of Emilia when soldiers from the city-state of Modena stole the bucket from the major town well in the center of Bologna.
Bologna then declared war and attacked Modena with a force of 32,000 mercenaries, compared to Modena’s 7,000. But through complete tactical genius, Modena won the battle and even attacked the walls of Bologna.
Now the war was not completely about the bucket. The bucket was just the best reason Bologna had to attack Modena. The ruling families hated each other, which always leads to bad relations. Pope John XXII even got involved and commanded the Bolognan army.
Because the Modenese won the only battle of the war, they kept the bucket and have it displayed to this day in the Cathedral of Modena.
The Football War
At the time, El Salvador had problems with its economy and its government, which led people to immigrate to Honduras for better living conditions. El Salvador did not like this one bit, so tensions escalated between the two countries when Honduras forcefully took Honduran land owned by El Salvadorans and returned it to Hondurans.
The tipping point was when the El Salvadoran soccer team beat the Honduran team in the 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, two games to one. For some reason this gave El Salvador the gall to cut off diplomatic ties with Honduras and launch an invasion soon after.
This occupation lasted only a few days as the United States and other countries threatened to intervene on Honduras’s behalf. El Salvador pulled out on July 18, ending the conflict.
The casualties were about 3,000 soldiers and civilians, mostly Honduran, and El Salvador’s reputation as a gracious winner.
—By Spencer Scott