You’d think that wars involving lumberjacks and sausages would be cool, but you’d be so, so wrong.
"War is hell." It's an expression we've heard time and time again, and anyone who's ever served in the military during wartime would likely agree. Whether you're in the thick of a firefight, or simply sitting around in the hot sun (or bitter cold) and waiting to be attacked, both seem like scenarios most people would rather avoid. But while a war with no action may be better for the wellbeing of all involved, those watching at home expect any real war to achieve a certain level of action and drama. The following are five of the most disappointing conflicts ever to be called a "war," based on length, fairness, combat levels, and duration. Not to lessen the efforts of anyone who was involved in them, but we don't see them getting big-screen adaptations any time soon…
5. The Aroostook War (1838-39)
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This long, drawn-out border dispute between the U.S. (mostly Maine) and Canada (then British North America) took place around the Aroostook River, which today flows through Maine's sparsely populated Aroostook County. It seems that in 1838, the British tried to claim the region as part of British North America – which went against American interpretations of the Treaty of Paris – so they wouldn't have to go around Maine to get to their own coastline. The King of the Netherlands was called in to mediate between the two parties, but he couldn't figure out the poorly explained terms of the treaty that had set the boundary, so he suggested meeting halfway (surprise! That plan was rejected). British and American settlers in the area were arrested for flying the wrong flags, and lumberjacks from the two countries got in fights over the best timber. The lumberjack-heavy Battle of Caribou had the potential for some exciting axe-to-axe combat, but the combatants were dispersed by the arrival of a bear. Ultimately, an agreement was reached, a new border was set, and while 38 people died of other causes, nobody was killed in actual combat in the entire conflict. Well, besides the bear.
4. The Anglo-Zanzibar War (1896)
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Back before the Internet, regime-changing was a lot easier than it is today. In 1896, the British Empire-friendly Sultan of Zanzibar passed away, but when the wrong person (to the Brits, that is) succeeded him to the Sultanate, Britain gave him an ultimatum to step down. The new sultan refused and barricaded himself in the palace, so the British sent a small fleet to the harbor, along with several hundred British and Zanzibarian soldiers. When the time limit hit zero, they attacked: 38 minutes later, the "war" was over, the palace was on fire, and the new (old) sultan was a protected guest of the German embassy. The Sultan lost 500 men while the British sustained one casualty, and the conflict is on record as the shortest war in history. At no point was there any question of the outcome, since it was a by-the-numbers bulldozing of a lesser nation by an Empire's superior firepower - the textbook definition of "might makes right." Calling it a “war” is actually being kind.
3. The Customs War (1906)
Photo: Carlos Sanchez Pereyra/ Getty Images
Also known as the “Pig War,” this was not so much a war as a meat embargo. A de facto satellite of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Serbia wanted to trade with other countries, like France and Germany, but the Hapsburgs in Vienna were bastards, so they stopped importing Serbian pork to keep them in line. But if the Empire was hoping that Serbian arteries would become clogged with large amounts of meat, leading to an economic heart attack and a subsequent return to normalcy, they were wrong - the Serbs just sold their pork to other countries, because hey, who doesn't love Serbian pork? The war only got more boring from there: Bosnia and Herzegovina opened up their ports to Serbia for trading purposes, and France invested in Serbian factories for international shipping. Things almost got exciting when Russia stepped in on the side of Serbia, very nearly triggering the first World War, but then that killjoy Germany issued an ultimatum cooling everybody's jets. No meat delivery trucks were destroyed by rocket fire, and no new bacon dishes were created. Overall, a snoozer.
2. The Turbot War (1994-96)
Photo: Mike Hargreaves/ Getty Images
Believe it or not, wars conducted over fishing rights can be pretty intense. The Cod Wars off the coast of Iceland were brutal, and the Crab Wars between North and South Korea featured actual naval battles. But the Turbot War was as boring as the fish after which it was named. Also known as the "Greenland halibut," the turbot wasn't even a particularly popular fish, but when cod populations dropped drastically due to overfishing, it was the only thing left for Canadian fishing fleets in the North Atlantic. Canada had an exclusive fishing zone that extended 200 miles off their coast, but European vessels were seen fishing in Canadian waters, as well as using nets that were illegal in Canada (but legal in Europe) in international waters nearby. As a warning to others, Canadian Fisheries Patrol vessels ran down a Spanish trawler, firing a single shot across her bow, and impounded her. Her nets were displayed outside the United Nations building and Spain protested, sending a patrol boat to protect its fishermen. Canada responded by cutting the nets of another Spanish ship, and authorized its warships to fire on the patrol boats Spain had dispatched. The two countries were on the brink of something resembling combat when the EU pressured Spain to negotiate, and a settlement was reached. By Canadian standards, the whole affair was pretty exciting, but by everybody else's standards, the fiercest battle was the one they fought to stay awake.
1. The 335 Years' War (1651-1986)
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Suck it, 100 Years' War – here's a war that lasted three times as long, with only a fraction of the action. It started when the Netherlands butted into the Second English Civil War, siding with Oliver Cromwell and his victory-bound Parliamentarians and sending their navy up against the Royalists. Unfortunately, the Royalist Navy kicked their asses just off the coast of Cornwall. Embarrassed, and receiving no reparations from the Royalist forces holed up on the Isles of Scilly, Dutch Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp declared war...on the Isles of Scilly. Three months later, the Royalists surrendered to the Parliamentarians, and the Dutch went home. But then, 334 years later, someone on the Isles of Scilly noticed that there had never been a peace treaty, and invited the Dutch ambassador to come sign one. If the Dutch had immediately renewed hostilities, surprising everybody and capturing the Isles from Great Britain, then this would have been one of the greatest wars ever, but…they didn't. They signed it. Three centuries without a single shot fired? Not only is this the longest war on record, it's also the boringest.
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