Time Line Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A time line of important events in the history of weapons and warfare.

c. 13,000 b.c.e.

Spears and spear-throwers appear as weapons.

c. 10,000 b.c.e.

Bows and arrows appear as weapons in Neolithic cave paintings.

c. 9th millen. b.c.e.

The sling makes its first known appearance.

c. 7000 b.c.e.

The inhabitants of Jericho construct massive fortifications around their city.

c. 7th millen. b.c.e.

The stone-headed mace makes its first known appearance.

c. 5000 b.c.e.

The city of Jericho becomes arguably the first town to be fortified with a stone wall.

c. 5000 b.c.e.

Sailing ships make their first appearance in Mesopotamia.

c. 4000 b.c.e.

Horses are first domesticated and ridden by people of the Sredni Stog culture.

c. 4000 b.c.e.

Copper is used to make the first metal knives, in the Middle East and Asia.

c. 3500 b.c.e.

The Sumerians employ wheeled vehicles.

c. 3200 b.c.e.

The Bronze Age is inaugurated in Mesopotamia as new metal technology allows more lethal weapons and more effective armor.

c. 2500 b.c.e.

The Sumerian phalanx is first employed.

c. 2500 b.c.e.

Metal armor is developed in Mesopotamia, making the stone-headed mace obsolete.

2333 b.c.e.

The emergence of King Tangun, who establishes what becomes Korea.

c. 2300 b.c.e.

After the composite bow is introduced by Sargon the Great, the use of the Sumerian phalanx declines.

c. 2250 b.c.e.

The composite bow is depicted in Akkadian Stela of Naram-Sin.

c. 2100 b.c.e.

The Sumerians reassert their supremacy over southern Mesopotamia, precipitating a renaissance of Sumerian culture and control that lasts for approximately two hundred years.

c. 2000 b.c.e.

The first metal swords, made from bronze, appear.

c. 1950-1500 b.c.e.

Assyrians first rise to power during the Old Empire period.

c. 1900 b.c.e.

Primitive battering rams are depicted in Egyptian wall paintings.

c. 1810 b.c.e.

Neo-Babylonian leader Hammurabi unifies the Mesopotamian region under his rule and establishes a capital at the city-state of Babylon.

c. 1800-1000 b.c.e.

Aryan invaders conquer India, mixing with earlier cultures to produce a new Hindu civilization in the area of the Ganges River Valley.

c. 1700 b.c.e.

Assyrians employ integrated siege tactics with rams, towers, ramps, and sapping.

c. 1674 b.c.e.

The Hyksos people introduce the horse-drawn chariot during invasions of Egypt.

c. 1600 b.c.e.

Chariot archers are increasingly used in warfare.

1600-1066 b.c.e.

The Shang Dynasty rules in China.

c. 1500-900 b.c.e.

During their Middle Empire period, the Assyrians drive the Mitanni from Assyria, laying foundations for further expansion.

1469 b.c.e.

At the Battle of Megiddo, the first recorded battle in history, the ancient Egyptians win a resounding victory against their opponents.

1400-1200 b.c.e.

Mycenaean civilization flourishes, with a wealth of political, economic, and religious centers.

c. 1384-1122 b.c.e.

The crossbow is originated during China’s Shang Dynasty.

c. 1300 b.c.e.

Chariot design undergoes major innovations, with an increase in the number of spokes and the relocation of axles.

c. 1300-700 b.c.e.

Semitic desert dwellers infiltrate southern Mesopotamia to establish Chaldean culture during a period of Assyrian domination in the Near East.

c. 13th cent. b.c.e.

The Hebrews conquer Transjordan and Canaan under the leadership of Joshua.

1274 b.c.e.

At the Battle of Kadesh, the Egyptian Pharaoh uses massed chariots against the Hittites, wining a great victory in spite of his opponents’ possession of iron weapons against the Egyptian soldiers, who are armed with bronze ones.

c. 1200 b.c.e.

The use of the chariot in warfare declines and foot soldiers increasingly come into use, as “barbarian” tribes, fighting on foot and armed with javelins and long swords, overrun many ancient Middle Eastern kingdoms.

c. 1200 b.c.e.

The chariot is introduced to China from the northwest and is later adapted for use in siege warfare.

1200-1100 b.c.e.

The Mycenaean order collapses during a period of upheaval.

c. 1200-1100 b.c.e.

The fortified city of Troy is besieged by the Greeks for ten years, with many leaders on both sides involved in single combat. The city falls only after succumbing to the Greek deception tactic of the Trojan horse placed outside the city’s gates.

c. 1122 b.c.e.

Shang Dynasty armies introduce the chariot to northern China in warfare against the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty.

1100-750 b.c.e.

In the period known as the Greek Dark Age, petty chieftains replace the Mycenaean kings.

1066-256 b.c.e.

The Zhou Dynasty rules in China.

c. 1000 b.c.e.

Metal-headed maces become common in Europe.

c. 1000 b.c.e.

Cimmerians first produce bronze battle-axes.

c. 1000 b.c.e.

Iron begins to replace bronze in the making of weapons in Assyria.

1000-990 b.c.e.

David consolidates the reign of Judah and Israel and defeats neighboring kingdoms of Moab, Edom, Ammon, and Aramaea, among others.

c. 1000-600 b.c.e.

The Aryan Hindu civilization comes to dominate most of northern and central India while smaller states wage war for control in the southern region of the subcontinent.

c. 900 b.c.e.

Cavalry begins to compete with chariotry as a method of warfare in the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

c. 900 b.c.e.

Scyths and succeeding steppe warriors master the use of bows while on horseback.

c. 900 b.c.e.

Iron weapons become increasingly popular. Smiths master the use of iron to make stronger, more lethal swords.

900-600 b.c.e.

Assyria undergoes its Late Empire period, its greatest era of military expansion.

850 b.c.e.

The principles of fortress building are evidenced in an Assyrian relief sculpture.

753 b.c.e.

The city of Rome is said to be founded on the banks of the Tiber River by Romulus, one of the twin sons of Mars, the Roman god of war.

c. 750-650 b.c.e.

Hoplite armor and tactics are developed.

745-727 b.c.e.

After years of domestic turmoil, Tiglath-pileser III reestablishes control over Assyrian homeland and institutes military reforms.

721 b.c.e.

Sargon II conquers Israel.

705-701 b.c.e.

Judean king Hezekiah leads a rebellion against Assyrian domination.

c. 700 b.c.e.

Tight-formation hoplite tactics, well suited to the small plains of the ancient Greek city-states, are first introduced in Greece.

c. late 7th cent. b.c.e.

The Greeks develop the trireme, a large ship powered by three rows of oarsmen.

626 b.c.e.

Nabopolassar Nebuchadnezzar leads a revolt against Assyrian rule and establishes the Chaldean (Neo-Babylonian) kingdom.

612 b.c.e.

The Assyrian city of Nineveh is conquered by Medes and Babylonians, marking the final destruction of the Assyrian Empire.

c. 6th cent. b.c.e.

The lance is first used by the Alans and Sarmatians, and the chariot is first used by various tribes in battle.

587 b.c.e.

Jerusalem falls to the Neo-Babylonians.

587-586 b.c.e.

Nebuchadnezzar II uses siege warfare to conquer Jerusalem.

c. 546 b.c.e.

Persian king Cyrus the Great uses chariots to great advantage at the Battle of Thymbra.

539 b.c.e.

The Chaldean Empire is conquered by Persian king Cyrus the Great.

c. 510 b.c.e.

Sunzi writes his classic work Bingfa (The Art of War).

c. 5th cent. b.c.e.

The crossbow is developed in China; it provides more power, speed, and accuracy than the composite bow.

c. 5th cent. b.c.e.

Athens establishes itself as a major naval power in the Mediterranean.

c. 5th cent. b.c.e.

The Republican Revolt in Rome leads Horatius and two others to hold back a large Etruscan army as the bridge over the River Tiber is destroyed.

499-448 b.c.e.

The Persian Wars are fought between Persia and the Greek city-states.

480 b.c.e.

The Persians advance into Greece, but their massive force is held back at Thermopylae and their navy is later defeated at Salamis.

431-404 b.c.e.

The Peloponnesian Wars are fought between Athens and Sparta.

c. 429-427 b.c.e.

A wall of circumvallation is used in the Siege of Plataea by Sparta and Thebes at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War.

c. 401 b.c.e.

Slings are used to great effect against the Persians at the Battle of Cunaxa, outranging Persian bows and arrows, and charioteers are overwhelmed by more flexible cavalry, ending the dominance of chariots in warfare.

c. 400 b.c.e.

The development of the gastraphetes, or belly bow, allows the shooting of more powerful arrows.

c. 4th cent. b.c.e.

The earliest known stirrups, made from leather or wood, are used by the Scyths.

c. 4th cent. b.c.e.

Onboard catapults are added to ships, effectively rendering them as floating siege engines.

c. 4th cent. b.c.e.

The Arthaśāstra (Treatise on the Political Good), an influential treatise on Indian politics, administration, and military science, is reputedly written by the prime minister Kauṭilya.

c. 4th-3d cent. b.c.e.

Mediterranean city-states undertake the building of massive walls during a period of warfare.

c. 4th-3d cent. b.c.e.

Protective bone breastplates are used regularly.

c. 399 b.c.e.

The catapult is invented at Syracuse under Dionysius I, significantly advancing the art of siege warfare.

c. 390 b.c.e.

Gallic warriors overwhelm the Republic’s forces, capturing and plundering the city of Rome.

371 b.c.e.

Thebes defeats Sparta at Leuctra, ending Spartan supremacy in hoplite warfare.

c. 350 b.c.e.

Philip II of Macedon develops the Macedonian phalanx and adopts the use of the sarissa, a pike nearly 15 feet long and wielded with two hands.

338 b.c.e.

Philip II of Macedon defeats a united Greek army at Chaeronea.

334 b.c.e.

Alexander the Great uses stone-throwing torsion catapults at the Siege of Halicarnassus.

333 b.c.e.

Alexander uses combined infantry and cavalry forces to rout the Persian cavalry under Darius III at the Battle of Issus.

332 b.c.e.

Alexander begins the Siege of Tyre.

331 b.c.e.

Alexander defeats main army of Darius III at Gaugamela, which sees Alexander charge the center of a much larger army, forcing Darius to flee prematurely.

326 b.c.e.

The Indian king Porus employs war elephants against Alexander’s forces at the Battle of the Hydaspes, seriously disrupting the Macedonian phalanx.

323 b.c.e.

The death (or murder) of Alexander the Great leads to the start of the Diadochi Wars, which will see fighting throughout the Near East and Middle East over much of the next century.

c. 321 b.c.e.

Chandragupta Maurya expels Alexander’s forces from India and establishes the Mauryan Dynasty.

307 b.c.e.

King Wu Ling of Zhao (Chao), inspired by steppe nomad tribes to the north, introduces the use of cavalry in China.

305-304 b.c.e.

Macedonians employ a huge siege tower known as a helepolis during the Siege of Rhodes.

c. 3d cent. b.c.e.

The Parthians, a steppe nomad people, perfect the Parthian shot, fired backward from the saddle while in retreat.

c. 3d cent. b.c.e.

Romans utilize the corvus, a nautical grappling hook that allows sailors to board and capture opposing vessels.

280 b.c.e.

Pyrrhus from Macedonia defeats the Romans at the Battle of Heraclea, but his losses are so great that similar battles become known as a Pyrrhic victories.

275 b.c.e.

The guards in Rome associated with the Scipio family become known as the Praetorian Guards, later the guards for the Roman emperors.

c. 274 b.c.e.

Aśoka the Great, grandson of Chandragupta Maurya and a military genius in his own right, solidifies the strength of the Mauryan Empire.

264 b.c.e.

Outbreak of the First Punic War, the first major war in the central Mediterranean.

247 b.c.e.

Hamilcar Barca is appointed Carthaginian military commander, marking the emergence of Carthage as a major military threat.

241 b.c.e.

In the final naval victory of the First Punic War, Rome expels the Carthaginians from Sicily.

237 b.c.e.

Hamilcar begins a Spanish military campaign in preparation for ultimate war with Rome.

221 b.c.e.

Hamilcar’s son Hannibal takes command of the Carthaginian military.

221-206 b.c.e.

The Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty rules in China, vastly expanding the area under imperial control.

218 b.c.e.

Hannibal leads a force of war elephants, cavalry, and foot soldiers across the Alps to trap and defeat the Romans at Trebia. The Second Punic War begins.

216 b.c.e.

Hannibal issues Rome its greatest defeat in battle at Cannae.

214 b.c.e.

Chinese emperor Qin Shihuangdi (Ch’in Shih huang-ti) orders that the many portions of the Great Wall be joined to form a unified boundary.

c. 206 b.c.e.-220 c.e.

Crossbows come into regular usage in China.

206 b.c.e.-220 c.e.

The Han Dynasty rules in China.

202 b.c.e.

The Romans succeed in driving back Carthaginian war elephants, gaining a surprise victory and leading to the end of the Second Punic War.

197 b.c.e.

The Romans defeat the main army of Macedonian king Philip V at Cynoscephalae.

168 b.c.e.

The Romans defeat Philip V’s son, Perseus, at Pydna, eventually organizing Macedonia as a Roman province.

167-161 b.c.e.

Judas Maccabeus leads campaigns against Greek rule in Judea.

146 b.c.e.

Rome defeats Carthage in the Third Punic War, destroying its greatest enemy and assuring its long-term dominion.

c. 1st cent. c.e.

Aksumite Ethiopians emerge as dominant players in the control of Red Sea trade.

87 b.c.e.

The rise of Sulla as dictator of Rome leads to a power struggle that lasts for the next sixty years.

73 b.c.e.

Hsiung-nu (Huns) invade and attack Turkestan, heading westward from China.

73-71 b.c.e.

The Third Servile War sees slaves revolt and fight under the command of Spartacus. Crassus, a wealthy Roman politician, pays for the furnishing of soldiers.

62 b.c.e.

Defeat of Roman populist leader Catiline, who stages a revolt to bring down the Roman Republic. His supporters essentially form the basis for those who will support Julius Caesar in the Roman Civil War.

58-45 b.c.e.

Julius Caesar employs independently operating cohorts in the Gallic Wars and the Roman Civil Wars against Pompey.

55 b.c.e.

Caesar’s soldiers build a bridge over the River Rhine to help with the invasion of Germany.

53 b.c.e.

Parthian mounted archers defeat heavily armed Roman infantry at the Battle of Carrhae, destroying the army of Marcus Licinus Crassus.

c. 50 b.c.e.-50 c.e.

The earliest horseshoes are made in Gaul.

39-37 b.c.e.

Herod is named king of Judea by the Roman senate and leads campaigns to establish his kingdom.

c. 31 b.c.e.

Specialist corps of slingers largely disappear from ancient armies.

20 b.c.e.

Augustus manages to reach a treaty with Parthians.

66-70 c.e.

The Jews wage war against the Romans.

70 c.e.

The Romans besiege Jerusalem, taking the city’s population captive and leveling its buildings.

70-73 c.e.

The Romans employ ramps and siege towers in their successful three-year Siege of Masada.

c. 2d cent. c.e.

The use of armor spreads from the Ukraine to Manchuria.

c. 100

With the increasing use of cavalry in Roman warfare, the spatha, a long slashing sword, becomes popular.

c. 122-136

Hadrian’s Wall is constructed in northern England, marking the northernmost border of the Roman Empire.

c. 3d-4th cent.

Despite the increasing role of cavalry due to barbarian influence, infantry remains the dominant component of the Roman legions.


The Wei (220-265), Shu-Han (221-263), and Wu (222-280) Dynasties rule in China during Three Kingdoms period.


Establishment of the Sāsānian Empire in Persia.

c. 250

The decline of the Kushān Empire leads to instability in Central Asia.


The Western Jin (Chin) Dynasty rules in China.


Zenobia, the female ruler of Palmyra, defeats the Romans.


The Romans start fighting the Goths again.


Roman emperor Diocletian reduces the power of the Praetorian Guard.

c. 4th cent.

The use of stirrups is introduced in China, allowing cavalry armor to become heavier and more formidable.


During the miasma-contagion phase of biological warfare, environments are deliberately polluted with diseased carcasses and corpses.


At the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, the Roman commander Constantine sees a cross in the sky and promises to become a Christian if he wins the battle. The cross inspires his soldiers, who defeat Maxentius, leader of the Gauls. After the battle Constantine disbands the Praetorian Guard.


The Eastern Jin (Chin) Dynasty rules in China.


Chandragupta II establishes the Gupta Dynasty, recalling the glory days of the Mauryan Empire and employing a feudal system of decentralized authority.


Roman emperor Constantine builds a new eastern capital at Constantinople, which will become the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.


Rome rebuilds its walls as protection against barbarian invasions.


The Second Battle of Adrianople sees Goths advancing into Thrace and threatening Constantinople.


The Southern and Northern Dynasties rule concurrently in China.

c. 400

The bow and arrow is introduced in eastern North America.

c. 400

Cavalry replaces infantry as the most important element in Roman armies.

c. 400

Horseshoes come into general use throughout Europe.

c. 400

The Chinese first make steel by forging cast and wrought iron together.

c. 400

Japanese clans start fighting for control of Kyushu.


Romans withdraw their soldiers from Britain.


Attila the Hun invades Roman Gaul.


The Sack of Rome by barbarians brings about an “age of cavalry,” during which foot soldiers play a diminished role in warfare.


Central Asian invaders appear in India, bringing superior fighting techniques and concentrated use of cavalry.


Clovis defeats the Visigoths at Vouille and unifies Gaul.


Roman emperor Justinian reigns, definitively codifying Roman law, waging war against the Germans and Persians, and changing the empire from a constitutional to an absolute monarchy.


Goths capture and sack Rome.


The T’u-chüeh Empire is founded in Mongolia.


Lombards start invading Italy.

c. 580

Maurice from Byzantium (Flavius Tiberius Mauricius) writes Strategikon, outlining military tactics.


The rise of the Sui Dynasty reestablishes a central government in China.

c. 7th cent.

The Aksumite kingdom in eastern Africa is weakened by the spread of Islam throughout Arabia and North Africa.


Heraclius reigns over the Byzantine Empire, Hellenizing the culture and introducing the theme system of Byzantine provinces ruled by military governors.


In a journey known as the Hegira, the Islamic prophet Muḥammad (c. 570-632) flees from Mecca to Medina to avoid persecution.


Muḥammad is succeeded after his death in 632 by the four legitimate successors of the rashidun (from Arabic rāshidūn, “rightly guided”) caliphate.


Greek fire, an inflammable liquid, is used by the Byzantines against Arab ships during the Siege of Constantinople.


Arabs invade Anatolia.


The forces of Muḥammad’s grandson Ḥusayn are ambushed and massacred at the Battle of Karbalā, marking the beginning of Shia as a branch of Islam.


Pépin of Herstal wins the Battle of Tertry, solidifying rule over all Franks, and unifies the office of Mayor of the Palace.

c. mid-8th cent.

Islam becomes the dominant religio-political power structure of the Middle East, from the Atlantic to the Indian frontier, including the Mediterranean coast and Spain.

c. 700-1000

Ghana emerges as the dominant kingdom and military power of the western Sudan in Africa.


Pépin’s illegitimate son, Charles Martel, seizes control over Frankish kingdom in a palace coup.


Rise of the Carolingians in France.


The Berber Revolt in northern Africa expands into Spain.


Uighurs destroy the T’u-chüeh Empire and dominate Mongolia.

c. 750

Carbon-steel swords first appear in Japan.

c. 757-796

Offa’s Dyke is built in the kingdom of Mercia to protect the kingdom’s Welsh border.


Vikings sack Lindisfarne Abbey in northern England.


Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III, establishing a new military system that is compared to that of the Romans but that lacks the coherence of the Roman or Byzantine system.


Byzantine emperor Theophilus starts hiring foreign mercenaries, who later become the Varangian Guard.


The Kirghiz invade Mongolia and drive out the Uighurs, thereafter dominating the region.


Vikings sack Dorestadt and Utrecht.


Charles the Bald, king of the Franks, pays Vikings money to retreat.


King Alfred the Great begins constructing a series of burhs, or garrisons, to defend Wessex from Vikings. He later founds the (British) Royal Navy to prevent raids on England.


The Vikings mount their last siege of Paris.


Vikings suffer a rare defeat at Louvain.


Leo IV the Wise writes Tactica, outlining Byzantine military strategy.


The Byzantine warrior emperor Nicephorus Phocas inspires a third Byzantine military manual.

c. 10th cent.

Ghaznavid Turks invade India from Afghanistan, introducing an Islamic influence that will continue almost uninterrupted until the early sixteenth century.


The Viking Rollo receives the county of Normandy from the French king.


The Khitans drive out the Kirghiz and establish an empire in Mongolia and China.

c. 930

Vikings settle in Iceland.


The English expel the last Viking king from York.


The first stone keeps appear in northwestern Europe.

c. 10th-11th cent.

The crossbow makes its first European appearance, in Italy.


Danish king Sweyn I Forkbeard defeats English king Æthelred I and forces him into exile.


Sweyn’s son Canute I (the Great) rules both England and Denmark.


The first precise recipe for gunpowder is given, in a Chinese work.

Aug. 15, 1057

The death of Macbeth, usurper of the Scottish throne.


The defeat and death of Harold Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge ends Viking invasions of Britain. William of Normandy defeats the English at the Battle of Hastings, using cavalry armed with lances against a shield wall, and a rapid proliferation of motte-and-bailey castles follows.


At the battle of Durazzo (or Dyrrachium), Norman cavalry tactics from the Battle of Hastings are used against Byzantines to great effect.


El Cid (Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar) captures Valencia, leading a mixed Christian-Moorish army.


During the First Crusade, initiated by Pope Urban II, European Crusaders, fighting to protect the Holy Land for Christianity, capture Jerusalem.


European knights adopt the use of the couched lance, which provides more force than previous hand-thrust weapons.


Jürcheds conquer northern China, driving out Khitans, and Mongolia descends into tribal warfare.


The use of the crossbow in Christian Europe is prohibited by Pope Innocent II at the Lateran Council.


The Second Crusade, unsuccessfully led by the kings of France and Germany, is prompted by Muslim conquest of the principality of Edessa in 1144.


The Third Crusade succeeds, especially through the efforts of English king Richard I, in restoring some Christian possessions.


The samurai Minamoto Yoritomo establishes the first shogunate at Kamakura, bringing order to Japan after four centuries of feudal chaos and political vacuum.


King Richard I of England builds Château Gaillard with three baileys, which had to be captured before the castle could be taken and hence served as multiple lines of defense.


The Fourth Crusade, initiated by Pope Innocent III, captures Constantinople and seriously damages the Byzantine Empire.

c. 1200

In North America, the southwestern Anasazi culture is destroyed, possibly by raiding Ute, Apache, Navajo, and Comanche tribes.

c. 1200

As forged steel processes are refined, several European cities, including Sheffield, Brussels, and Toledo, emerge as sword-making centers.


Genghis Khan is named ruler of the Mongols.


The Mongols invade China.


The Magna Carta is signed by King John of England, granting rights to the people of England, especially the barons; King John outlaws the use of the crossbow and the deployment of mercenaries in England.


The Fifth Crusade, organized to attack the Islamic power base in Egypt, succeeds in capturing the Egyptian port city of Damietta but ends in defeat when the crusading army attempts to capture Cairo.


In what is sometimes referred to as the Sixth Crusade, the excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II sails to the Holy Land and negotiates a reoccupation of Jerusalem.

c. mid-13th cent.

The cog, with high sides that offer protection against other vessels, is developed in northern Europe.


The kingdom of Mali is founded by a Mandinka prince after the defeat of the Susu kingdom.


The Mongols achieve conquests in Russia, Eastern Europe, Iran, and Transcaucasia.


The Seventh (or Sixth) Crusade is led by Louis IX of France and follows a course similar to that of the Fifth Crusade.


Mongols capture Baghdad and end the ՙAbbāsid Caliphate.


Mongols invade Syria and capture Damascus but are defeated at the Battle of Ain Jalut by Mamlūk slave cavalry, trained by the Egyptians to steppe nomad levels.


A war between the Il-Khanate of Persia and the Golden Horde of Russia begins.


The Eighth (or Seventh) Crusade is organized by the now elderly Louis IX, whose death upon landing in Tunisia leads to the breakup of his army.


Edward I, the son of Henry III of England, decides to press on alone to Palestine after the French abandon the Eighth Crusade and achieves some modest success with a truce before the ultimate fall of Acre, the last bastion of the Crusader states, in 1291.

1274, 1281

The Mongol fleet is destroyed in an attempt to invade Japan.


King Edward I of England builds a series of ten Welsh castles, with an implicitly offensive function as continuances of the king’s campaigns.


Kublai Khan establishes the Yuan Dynasty.


The English army, employing large numbers of Welsh archers, uses the longbow to great effect against the Scots at Falkirk.

c. 14th cent.

An “infantry revolution,” spurred by the greater use of the pike and bow, takes place in Europe.

c. 1300

An increase in separate tribal identities among North American indigenous peoples develops in response to the increasing importance of agriculture and a clearer definition of gender roles.

c. 1300

The Chinese first use black powder to propel projectiles through bamboo tubes, revolutionizing warfare.


Japanese craftsmen perfect the art of sword making, creating the katana, a curved sword used by samurai warriors.


Flemish pikemen defeat French knights with an advantageous choice of terrain at Courtrai.


Emperor Amda Tseyon comes to power in Ethiopia, expanding and solidifying the Solomonid Dynasty.


Swiss pikemen begin a string of victories against mounted knights by defeating the Austrians at Morgarten, leading to their dominance of infantry warfare in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.


The first recorded European use of gunpowder weaponry occurs at the Siege of Friuli in Italy.


The Il-Khanate of Persia ends.


Definitive use of gunpowder weapons is made at the Siege of Tournai.


English longbowmen defeat French knights at the Battle of Crécy, which also marks the first definitive use of gunpowder artillery on a battlefield.


Cannons are deployed by the English at the Siege of Calais.

c. mid-14th cent.

The carrack, an efficient sailing ship with multiple masts, becomes popular in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters.


Sir John Hawkwood forms his White Company, English mercenaries operating in Italy.


The Chinese Yuan Dynasty ends, and the Mongols are driven back to Mongolia, where a period of civil war ensues.


Tamerlane (Timur) becomes ruler of Central Asia.


Cannons are first used successfully to breach a wall at the Siege of Odruik in the Netherlands.


Mongol invasions by Tamerlane devastate North India.


English archers and infantry inflict a major defeat upon mounted French knights at the Battle of Agincourt, initiating the decline of the heavily armored cavalry knight.


Hussite leader Jan Žiṭka stymies German knights during the Hussite Wars with his Wagenburg, a defensive line of wagons and cannons.

c. 1425

The corning, or granulating, process is developed to grind gunpowder into smaller grains, leading to corned powder and matches.

June 18, 1429

French cavalry succeed in defeating English longbowmen for the first time in the Hundred Years’ War.


The sacking of Angkor ends the domination by the Khmer kingdom of mainland Southeast Asia.


In West Africa, Songhai incorporates the former kingdom of Mali and comes to control one of the largest empires of the time.

c. 14th-15th cent.

The increasing predominance of firearms in Europe results in the diminishing use of archers in warfare.


Sword blades become lighter, narrower, and longer, gradually evolving into the familiar rapier design.


With use of large cannons, the Muslim Turks besiege and capture Constantinople from the Byzantines and establish the Ottoman Empire, a watershed event often used to mark the transition from the medieval to the early modern world.


Songhai armies invade Timbuktu, execute Arab merchants and traitors, and sack and burn the city, thereby heralding a period of anti-Islamic sentiment in West Africa.


The Battle of Barnet, north of the English capital, London, involves cannons for the first time on an English battlefield, but bad weather prevents their use.


Perpetual civil war is waged throughout the Sengoku (Warring States) period.

c. 1480

Fortifications begin to undergo design changes, such as lower, wider walls to accommodate the use of cannons.

Aug. 22, 1485

The Battle of Bosworth Field, which results in the death of King Richard III and victory for King Henry VII, effectively ends the Wars of the Roses in England.


Spanish troops capture Granada, ending the Reconquista; later the same year, Christopher Columbus sails to the New World.


Charles VIII introduces the modern siege train in his invasion of Italy, confirming the obsolescence of high medieval defenses.


The Treaty of Tordesillas leads to a “division” of the world by Pope Alexander VI between the Spanish and the Portuguese.

c. 1500

The Iroquois Confederacy, an alliance of separate tribes formed to fight hostile western and southern neighbors, is established in the American Northeast.

c. 1500

The development of gunpowder muskets, pistols, and cannons forces tactical and strategic changes in the use of spears, bows and arrows, swords, cavalry, and armor.

c. 1500

As European plate armor becomes more prevalent, the sharper, narrower rapier is developed to combat it.

c. 1500

Leonardo da Vinci draws what could arguably be the first design for a helicopter.

c. 1500

A Chinese scientist is killed by the explosion of gunpowder rockets he had tied to a chair in an effort to develop a flying machine.


The development of gunports allows a ship’s heaviest guns to be mounted on its lowest decks, stabilizing its center of gravity.


The first effective use of the combination of firearms and pikes, a formation called the Spanish Square, is made at the Battle of Cerignola.

Jan. 21, 1506

The Swiss Guards are formed to protect the pope.


Hernán Cortés and a small force of Spanish conquistadors destroy the Aztec Empire.


Spanish harquebusiers slaughter Swiss pikemen in the service of the French at the Battle of Bicocca.


The Spanish Square formation of pikemen and harquebusiers is used to defeat French cavalry at the Battle of Pavia.

Apr. 20, 1526

Bābur makes effective use of artillery to defeat Sultan Ibrāhīm Lodī at the famous Battle of Pānīpat, establishing the Mughal Empire.


The Mughals defeat the Rajputs at the Battle of Kanwa.


Muslim leader Aḥmad Grāñ defeats forces of Lebna Dengel at the Battle of Shimbra-Kure, opening southern Ethiopia to Islamic rule.


The Mughals defeat the Afghans at the Battle of Ghāghara.

c. 1530

King Henry VIII of England builds a series of forts on England’s southern coastline to guard against European invasion.


The Spanish under Francisco Pizarro start the sacking of the Inca Empire.

c. mid-1500’s

European cavalries begin to appear armed with short muskets that can be fired from both mounted and dismounted positions.


Portuguese musketeers arrive to help defend Ethiopia, ending the Islamic threat two years later, under the emperor Galawdewos.


The English start making iron cannons in Ashdown Forest.


Firearms are first used in Japan.


At Cerisolles, French knights fighting in the traditional style play a major role in gaining victory over the Swiss, the last battle in which they are to do so.


Formation of the Streltsy in Moscow by Ivan the Terrible, as guards of the Russian czars.


Bābur’s grandson Akbar is victorious at the second Battle of Pānīpat, against the Sur descendants of Shīr Shāh, and eventually conquers most of northern and eastern India, Afghanistan, and Baluchistan.


The caracole maneuver is first executed by Huguenot pistolers against Catholic forces at the Battle of Dreux.


The Siege of Malta ends the Turkish advance across the Mediterranean.


The Battle of Lepanto II, fought between the Ottoman Turks and the Christian forces of Don Juan de Austria, is the last major naval battle to be waged with galleys.


Three thousand musketeers help General Oda Nobunaga win control of central Japan.

Aug. 4, 1578

In the Battle of the Three Kings in Morocco, a Portuguese army is destroyed by Moroccans, precipitating a crisis in the Portuguese royal family leading to King Philip II of Spain becoming king of Portugal.


The English employ galleons to attack the larger ships of the formidable Spanish Armada individually, thereby defeating the Spanish and revolutionizing naval tactics.


Songhai is conquered by a Moroccan army consisting primarily of European mercenaries armed with muskets, the first to be used in West African warfare.

c. late 16th cent.

Japanese sword-making techniques reach a peak of sophistication, with a variation of the hammer-welding process.

c. 17th cent.

The howitzer is developed by the English and Dutch for use against distant targets.

c. 1600

The military reforms of Maurice of Nassau reduce the size and depth of pike formations to facilitate maneuverability and increase the number of muskets in units.


The Battle of Nieuwpoort in the Netherlands is the first battlefield test of Maurice of Nassau’s linear infantry tactics.


Tokugawa Ieyasu establishes the Tokugawa shogunate, with its capital at Edo, marking the beginning of early modern Japanese history.


Miguel de Cervantes writes El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (Don Quixote de La Mancha), ridiculing the role of the armored knight in Spain.


The Netherlands forces Spain to grant a truce tacitly recognizing Dutch independence after more than thirty years of revolution of Dutch Protestant provinces against Spanish occupation.


The Kalmyk people on the Caspian Sea become a part of the Russian Empire, and their horsemen start serving in the Russian cavalry.


The Thirty Years’ War leads to mass destruction of Central Europe, with major atrocities and killing of civilians. It is estimated that some eight million people in Germany alone die in the war.


Gustavus II Adolphus’s military reforms prove their value at the Battle of Breitenfeld, as Gustavus’s disciplined cavalrymen combine firepower and shock tactics.


The fifth Mughal emperor, Shāh Jahān, builds the Taj Mahal as a monument to his love for his wife.


During the English Civil Wars, the Royalist Army is the first to use horse artillery in the form of a small brass cannon mounted onto a horse-drawn cart.


Oliver Cromwell establishes the New Model Army.


The line of battle is developed as a naval tactic, allowing for more effective use of broadside firepower.


ՙĀlamgīr becomes the sixth Mughal emperor and ultimately expands the Mughal Empire to its greatest extent.

c. 1660

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban emerges as a genius of military engineering, designing bastioned fortifications.

Jan. 1, 1660

The Coldstream Guards (from a unit raised by Colonel George Monck from 1650) become the first part of a standing army in Britain.


The first transportable mortar, invented by Baron Menno van Coehoorn, is used at the Siege of Grave.


The use of saps and parallels is introduced by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban at the Siege of Maastricht.


Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens develops a motor driven by the explosion of gunpowder.

Sept. 11-12, 1683

Polish King John III Sobieski leads 3,000 Polish landers and hussars and 17,000 other cavalry against the Ottoman army, in the largest cavalry charge in history at the Battle of Vienna.


Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban introduces the socket bayonet, which fits over a musket’s muzzle and allows the musket to be loaded and fired with the bayonet attached. As the socket bayonet replaces the pike, specialized pike troops disappear from use. At the Siege of Philippsburg that year, he introduces ricochet fire.


Russian czar Peter II “the Great” disbands the Streltsy Corps, which has protected the czars since the 1550’s (but became involved in many court intrigues).


The Brown Bess flintlock musket is developed, and its variations remain in use by all European nations until the mid-nineteenth century.

c. 1700

The introduction of rifling and patched-ball loading increases the accuracy of firearms.

c. mid-1700’s

Advances in cannon technology allow smaller guns to shoot farther with less powder.


King Frederick the Great of Prussia is the first to use Jaegers, or “huntsmen,” expert mounted marksmen.


Large muskets are first used successfully by Americans in the French and Indian War.


Frederick the Great wins renown and respect with his masterful use of the oblique attack at Leuthen.


Frederick the Great introduces the first true horse artillery units, which, because of their unprecedented mobility and firepower, are quickly adopted by other European nations to become a staple of most eighteenth and nineteenth century armies.

Sept. 13, 1759

British troops under General James Wolfe land secretly and attack Montreal, suprising the French commander, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Both Wolfe and Montcalm are killed in the battle.


During the fomites phase of biological warfare, specific disease agents and contaminated utensils are introduced as weapons, with smallpox, cholera, and the bubonic plague as popular agents.


French military engineer Joseph Cugnot develops a steam-driven carriage, arguably the first true automobile. It is essentially designed for the transportation of field artillery for sieges.


David Bushnell invents a one-man submarine, the Turtle, which is used in the American Revolutionary War.

Dec. 19, 1777

George Washington starts training his soldiers at Valley Forge, continuing until June 19, 1778.


Frederick the Great begins deploying semi-independent detachments during the War of Bavarian Succession, foreshadowing use of independent army divisions.


The Siege of Yorktown effectively ends the American War of Independence.


British artillerist Henry Shrapnel invents the “shrapnel shell,” packed with gunpowder and several musket balls and designed to explode in flight.


Modern French military techniques and arms are introduced into Turkey.


War rockets are used by the sultan of Mysore to terrorize British soldiers.


The Springfield Armory is founded in Massachusetts.


British admiral Horatio Nelson abandons traditional line tactics, achieving victory over the French at Abū Qīr Bay.


The Royal Military College is established at Woolwich to train British army officers.


The Royal Military College at Sandhurst is founded to train British army officers.


The Tay Son Rebellion ends, leading to the emergence of the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam.

Mar. 16, 1802

The United States Military Academy at West Point is founded.


The École Speciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, the French military academy, is established.


French emperor Napoleon I (Bonaparte) develops his cavalry to the height of its quantity and quality, making it as significant as infantry in the outcomes of battles and campaigns.


British artillerist William Congreve develops the first warfare rockets and launching tubes.


American inventor Robert Fulton invents the first steamship, which by the time of the Crimean War (1853-1856) has largely replaced the sail-powered ships in British, French, and American navies.

Feb. 8, 1807

Joachim Murat leads 11,000 French cavalry in an attack on the Russians at the Battle of Eylau, allowing Napoleon Bonaparte to win the battle.

July-Dec., 1809

The Walcheren Expedition sees British forces in the Netherlands destroyed by disease, probably malaria caused when Napoleon opened the dikes and much low-lying land was flooded.


In the opening part of the War of 1812, the British capture Washington, D.C.

Dec. 12, 1812

Napoleon’s Grande Armée, consisting of French and allied soldiers, retreats from Moscow and is destroyed by Cossacks and by disease, especially typhus, in their retreat.


The Russian cavalry enter Paris as Napoleon flees and later abdicates. He is sent into exile on the island of Elba.


The Conference of Vienna is followed by the inauguration of the Congress System to help promote collective security in Europe.

June 18, 1815

The defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo signals the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the end of French military dominance in Europe. Napoleon is sent into exile at St. Helena.


The rise of Shaka and the establishment of the Zulu Kingdom in southern Africa.


Gurkhas start serving in the Pindaree War, alongside the British, under a contract between them and the East India Company.

July 26, 1822

José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar meet at Guayaquil, Ecuador, drawing up plans for an independent South America.


The janissary corps are destroyed and the Turkish army is modernized.


The duke of Wellington establishes the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Mar. 9, 1831

The French Foreign Legion is founded.


The last of the classical sieges occurs at Antwerp.


Turkey creates its first military academy.


The Colt revolver is first manufactured in the United States by Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, later renamed Colt’s Manufacturing Company. It was patented by its inventor, Samuel Colt, and quickly emerged as a popular handgun in the United States.

Feb., 1836

Mexicans capture the Alamo but are defeated soon afterward at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Dec. 16, 1838

Voortrekkers in South Africa win the Battle of Blood River against the Zulus by forming a laager with their wagons.


The First Anglo-Afghan War leads to defeat for the British.


The telegraph becomes widely used and links governments with field commanders.


The Paraguayan government embarks on modernization, including the establishment of its own arms industry.


Asphyxiating gas weapons are developed for chemical warfare, using chlorine and phosgene.

Oct. 10, 1845

The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis is established.


Although military swords have entered a period of decline, cavalry sabers prove decisive during the Mexican War.


Anesthesia is first used during a battlefield operation.


The Sharps carbine, a single-shot, dropping-block breechloader firing paper and metallic cartridges, is developed.


Revolutions throughout much of the Habsburg Empire lead to a political restructuring of Europe.

Aug. 22, 1849

The Austrian army uses balloons loaded with explosives to attack the Italian city of Venice.


The Crimean War sees major improvements in military medical hygiene, spearheaded by Florence Nightingale, as well as the “first” full-time war correspondent, William Howard Russell of the London newspaper The Times.

Oct. 25, 1854

The Charge of the Light Brigade, during the Crimean War.


The Bessemer process of economical steel production is invented.


The Victoria Cross, the highest British medal for bravery in battle, is awarded for the first time.


A mutiny of Indian soldiers serving in British India leads to a widespread revolt against the British and the massacre of many Britons at Cawnpore (Kanpur).


England launches HMS Warrior, its first ironclad warship.


The first machine gun, the Gatling gun, is designed by Richard Gatling.

Apr. 12, 1861

Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter, South Carolina, starting the American Civil War.

Mar. 9, 1862

The Battle of Hampton Roads, between the ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, revolutionizes naval warfare.

May 5, 1862

Confederate General Gabriel J. Rains uses the first land mines to cover his retreat from Williamsburg, Virginia.

May 31-June 1, 1862

At the Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Virginia, a machine gun is used for the first time in war.

Sept. 17, 1862

At the Battle of Antietam, Union General Ambrose Burnside blunders his way into a defeat, becoming one of the least successful commanders in the war.


Establishment of the Red Cross by Henri Dunant, inspired by the treatment of casualties at the Battle of Solferino in the previous year.

July 1-3, 1863

The Confederate general Robert E. Lee is defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg, during a Confederate attempt to “take” the war into the North.


Paraguayan president Francisco Solano López intervenes in the Uruguayan Civil War and soon ends up at war with Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

Feb. 17, 1864

The Confederate submarine CSS H. L. Hunley becomes the first underwater vessel to sink an enemy ship, the USS Housatonic, near Charleston, South Carolina.

May, 1864

General William T. Sherman starts his Atlanta Campaign, which will see the destruction of a large part of Georgia.


British engineer Robert Whitehead develops the first practical torpedo.


The last Tokugawa shogun surrenders power to imperial forces, paving the way for the Meiji Restoration and Japan’s reentry into world politics and culture.

June 19, 1867

The execution of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico ends the establishment of a pro-French Mexican Empire.

Feb., 1868

The Brazilian navy destroys Paraguayan fortifications at Humaita, allowing Brazil to attack the Paraguayan capital, Asunción.


The Russians order Smith and Wesson pistols, the first military order for these.


The Franco-Prussian War sees the French quickly defeated and the Prussians take Paris.


German arms manufacturer Alfred Krupp invents one of the first practical recoil systems for field artillery pieces.


The Bofors iron and arms company is established in Sweden; it is later owned by Alfred Nobel.


The Nordenfelt gun, designed by Swedish engineer Helge Palmcrantz, is patented and named after the steel producer Thorsten Nordenfelt.

Sept., 1878-Nov., 1880

The Second Anglo-Afghan War.

Jan. 22, 1879

The Battle of Isandhlwana sees the defeat of a British expeditionary force by the Zulus at the start of the Anglo-Zulu War; on the following day, at Rorke’s Drift, the British are victorious.


The French develop high-explosive artillery, rendering all existing forts obsolete.

Aug., 1880

The Enfield rifle is tested and approved for use by the British Army.


Hiram Stevens Maxim invents the first practical machine gun.

Jan. 26, 1885

The Siege of Khartoum, Sudan, ends in the capture of Khartoum and the death of Charles Gordon.


John M. Browning begins developing his guns in the United States.


The Model 1892 “Lebel” revolver is developed by the French.

Mar. 1, 1896

The Italian army is defeated at the Battle of Adowa, the first major defeat of a European army in Africa.


The French develop the first antiaircraft gun for use against balloons.


The Mauser Model 1898 is produced; it is the culmination of military bolt action design.


The Germans invent the Luger revolver.

Sept. 2, 1898

Some 400 British lancers charge and rout 2,500 Sudanese at the Battle of Omdurman.


The Siege of the Foreign Legations in Beijing, China, results in the dispatch of a large, multinational European force to China to rescue diplomats and others in the Legations.


The zeppelin, also known as a rigid airship or dirigible, a steerable lighter-than-air aircraft, is invented in 1900 by German count Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin.

May 17, 1900

The Relief of Mafeking in South Africa (modern-day Botswana) follows a siege that captured the imagination of the press around the world.


The Wright brothers, William and Orville, launch the first successful airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.


Japan attacks the Russian-controlled port of Lüshun, traditionally known as Port Arthur, beginning the Russo-Japanese War, a conflict between Russia and Japan for control over Korea and Manchuria.


Trinitrotoluene (TNT) is first used as a military explosive during the Russo-Japanese War.


The effective use of indirect fire during the Russo-Japanese War spurs American and European leaders to adopt it for their own armies in order to defend their guns against counterbattery and infantry weapon fire.


The Japanese navy wins a stunning victory at Battle of Tsushima, devastating the Russian fleets and forcing Russia to surrender Korea and other territory to Japan.


The paramilitary Legion of Frontiersmen is formed.


The French build the first airplane factory, near Paris.


HMS Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun battleship, is launched at Portsmouth, England, transforming the nature of ship architecture.


The Luger P.08 is adopted as the official German service pistol.


A plane takes off for the first time from the deck of a ship, presaging the modern aircraft carrier.

Oct. 11, 1911

After an Italian pilot flies the first combat mission, using his plane for reconnaissance, during the Italo-Turkish War, Italy begins using airplanes and dirigibles for bombing attacks.


“Bangalore torpedoes” are produced for the first time by Captain McClintock.


Manufactured by Krupp for the Germans, Big Bertha was a howitzer capable of firing artillery long distances, used extensively in World War I.


World War I armies form large cavalry components, which are converted into infantry as the war evolves into stagnant trench warfare, and high casualty rates occur.


Rolls-Royce manufactures an armored car for the British Royal Naval Air Service, designed to protect the Belgian airfields from attack by the Germans. These were used in Palestine in 1917-1918.

Aug., 1914

German planes bomb Paris.

Aug. 28, 1914

The Battle of the Heligoland Bight is the first naval battle of World War I.

Sept., 1914

German U-9 submarines torpedo Allied ships.

Nov. 1, 1914

In the Battle of Coronel, the German East Asiatic Fleet destroys a smaller British force and then is itself destroyed at the Battle of the Falklands.


The Beretta pistol is developed in Italy; the Beretta machine gun follows in 1918.

Jan. 24, 1915

During the Battle of the Dogger Bank, the British fleet is warned by radio intercepts.

Feb. 4, 1915

A major German submarine campaign against British shipping begins.

Apr., 1915

The first aerial “dogfight” takes place after German aircraft are fitted with machine guns that are coordinated to fire between the blades of a moving propeller.

Apr., 1915

The ultimately unsuccessful Allied attack on Turkey at Gallipoli begins.

Apr. 22, 1915

The Second Battle of Ypres sees the first use of poison gas in battle on the western front.

May, 1915

German zeppelins bomb London.

May 7, 1915

The sinking of the Lusitania leads to a major public outcry in the United States.


“Young Turk” Ottomans massacre between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians in Anatolia and historic western Armenia.


Unmanned aerial vehicles (drone aircraft) are developed for attacking zeppelins; they are later used for reconnaissance and for bombing of enemy targets.

Apr. 20, 1916

Defeat of British forces after the Siege of Kut, which started on December 7, 1915.

Apr. 24-30, 1916

Easter Uprising in Ireland.

May 30-31, 1916

In the Battle of Jutland, the German fleet destroys the British fleet.

June 10, 1916

The Turks surrender their garrison in Mecca.

July 1, 1916

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 19,000 British soldiers are killed, the highest loss by the British army on any single day.

Feb., 1917

Czar Nicholas II abdicates during the First Russian Revolution.

May, 1917

The World War I Allies establish the Atlantic convoy system.

May 21, 1917

The Imperial War Graves Commission (later the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) is formed by Fabian Ware to look after the war dead from Britain and its empire.

July, 1917

T. E. Lawrence leads the Arabs in their capture of Aqaba from the Turks.

Oct. 31, 1917

In the Battle of Beersheba, the Australian Light Horse charge at Turkish positions in Beersheba, capturing the city.

Nov. 7, 1917

The second Russian Revolution sees communists seize power in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), leading to the start of the Russian Civil War. (The date was October 25 in Russia, then still using the Gregorian calendar.)

Nov. 20, 1917

The British make a successful tank attack at the Battle of Cambrai.

Apr. 21, 1918

The “Red Baron,” Manfred Richthofen, the most famous air ace of World War I, is shot down.

Nov. 11, 1918

A cease-fire ends World War I.


The restrictions imposed on the German military by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I meet almost universal disapproval across the political spectrum in Germany.


The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are established in Britain to listen in to radio transmissions in Europe, initially operating as a government code and cipher school.


American John Taliaferro Thompson invents the most famous submachine gun, known as the “tommy gun,” fully automatic and small and light enough to be fired by a single individual without support.


Nerve gases, such as tabun and sarin, are developed for chemical warfare to inhibit nerve function, leading to respiratory paralysis, or asphyxia.

Jan. 16, 1920

The League of Nations holds its first meeting to mediate in disputes between nations.

Aug. 31, 1920

At the Battle of Komarow, the Poles are involved in the last great cavalry charge in history.

Sept., 1920

Mohandas K. Gandhi, the “Mahatma,” starts a campaign of nonviolent resistance against British rule in India.

Oct., 1920

The Spanish Foreign Legion is founded.

Oct., 1920

The Arab Legion is founded.


British spy and later naval analyst Hector Bywater publishes Sea-Power in the Pacific, describing how the Japanese could win a Pacific war. The book prompts great interest in Japan.


Turks capture Smyrna, signaling the defeat of the Greeks in the Greco-Turkish War.


The Treaty of Lausanne creates the Republic of Turkey, bringing the Ottoman Empire to its official end.


HMS Hermes, the first purpose-built aircraft carrier, is commissioned by the British government.


The building of the Singapore Naval Base to protect British interests in East Asia and Southeast Asia is announced.


During the cell-culture phase of biological warfare, biological weapons are mass-produced and stockpiled; Japan’s research program includes direct experimentation on humans.


The Schutzstaffel (SS) is formed to protect members of the Nazi Party, later becoming a government “agency” in Germany. Its members perpetrate major crimes during World war II.


Robert Goddard achieves the first free flight of a liquid-fueled rocket.


Chiang Kai-shek captures Beijing and, as leader of the Nationalist Party, heads China’s first modern government.

Nov., 1928

Am westen nichts neues (All Quiet on the Western Front), an antiwar novel by German World War I veteran and writer Erich Maria Remarque, is published in Germany.

Dec. 19-22, 1929

Britons and other Europeans are airlifted from Kabul, Afghanistan, in the first major airlift in war.

Sept. 18, 1929

German President Paul von Hindenburg repudiates German responsibility for World War I.


As the building of extensive fortified lines begins, the French start work on the Maginot line along the eastern border of France, naming the fortifications for André Maginot, French minister of defense.


German scientist Wernher von Braun develops the first liquid-fueled rockets.


The Japanese bomb Mukden in the first major aerial bombing of any city in history.


The nationalist Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek starts “extermination campaigns” against the Chinese communists.


Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party, is appointed chancellor of Germany and calls for the abolition of the Treaty of Versailles and the rearmament of Germany.


Mao Zedong leads his Chinese communist forces on a 6,000-mile strategic retreat known as the Long March.


The Italian invasion of Abyssinia leads to the collapse of collective security arrangements formulated by the League of Nations.


British scientists develop the first radar.


The Germans first develop the Stuka dive-bombers; the Stuka is used in combat for the first time in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

Mar. 28, 1935

The Catalina flying boat is first used for reconnaissance by the (British) Royal Navy.

Mar., 1936

The German government remilitarizes the Rhineland, leading to increased tensions in Europe.

July, 1936

The Spanish Civil War begins; during this conflict, much of Spain’s infrastructure will be destroyed and new weapons will be tested.

July, 1936

German air force volunteers fighting on the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War form the Condor Legion.


The M-1 Garand rifle is the first standard-issue semiautomatic military rifle.


The first practical helicopter is developed by German engineer Heinrich Focke.


The International Brigades are established in Spain.

Oct., 1936

The first tank-versus-cavalry and tank-versus-tank engagements of the Spanish Civil War take place near Esquivias, south of Madrid.

Apr., 1937

German air forces supporting the Nationalist cause in the Spanish Civil War bomb the Spanish town of Guernica, killing approximately 2,100 of the town’s 8,000 inhabitants in arguably the first premeditated use of terror bombing.

May 6, 1937

The crashing of the Hindenburg airship results in the decline of interest in airships.

July, 1937

Japan invades China, initiating the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).


The British use the Bren gun after its original design in Czechoslovakia.

Mar., 1938

In what has come to be known as the Anschluss, Germany annexes Austria, forming a country which dominates Central Europe.

Sept., 1938

With the agreement of other European powers, Germany annexes the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, and then the rest of Czechoslovakia in March, 1939.

Apr., 1939

Italy launches a joint naval and air attack on Albania, quickly capturing the country and annexing it.

Sept., 1939

German chancellor Adolf Hitler uses combined arms forces to invade Poland, which is then partitioned between Germany and the Soviet Union.

Sept. 1, 1939

Polish cavalry at Krojanty charge Germans, leading to the myth surrounding cavalry attacking tanks.

May 10, 1940

The German Luftwaffe conducts the first combat parachute and glider troop landings to open Germany’s western-front attack on the Netherlands.

June, 1940

The Stern Gang, or Lehi, an extremist Zionist organization, is formed to fight against the British in the British-mandated territory of Palestine.

June 22, 1940

The French sign an armistice after their defeat by Germany in less than six weeks. British prime minister Winston Churchill announces that the battle of France is over; the battle of Britain is about to begin.

Aug., 1940

Germans begin the Battle of Britain, a series of air raids over Britain aimed at destroying British infrastructure and morale.

Nov. 10, 1940

The British Royal Navy produces a decisive aerial victory at Taranto Harbor, Italy, crippling the anchored Italian fleet with nighttime bomb and torpedo attacks.


During the vaccine development and stockpiling phase of biological warfare, there are open-air tests of biological dispersal in urban environments in the United States.

May 20, 1941

German parachutists land in Crete in the first mainly airborne invasion in history.

June, 1941

The Germans begin Operation Barbarossa, their invasion of Russia, advancing as far as Moscow and Leningrad.


U.S. pilots form the Flying Tigers to assist the Chinese in fighting the Japanese.

July 25, 1941

Spanish volunteers form the Blue Division to fight on the eastern front in World War II.

Nov. 20, 1941

The Australian Army develops the Owen gun.

Dec. 7, 1941

The Japanese navy launches a morning surprise air raid against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sinking or damaging several U.S. battleships and bringing the United States into World War II.

Jan. 20, 1942

During the Wannsee Conference, the Germans inaugurate plans for the Holocaust.

Feb. 15, 1942

Singapore falls to the Japanese.

Apr., 1942

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin discovers information about the U.S. nuclear program.

May, 1942

The Battle of the Coral Sea is the first naval battle fought entirely by carrier-based aircraft.

May, 1942

Navajo Indians are first used to transmit messages that cannot be decoded by the Japanese.

June 13, 1942

The United States forms the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Aug., 1942-Jan., 1943

With the use of aerial resupply, the Russians withstand the German Siege of Stalingrad, marking the ultimate German failure on the Russian front.

Aug. 23, 1942

The Italian cavalry charge the Soviet artillery near the River Don in the last successful cavalry charge.

May 16-17, 1943

During the Dam Buster raids, the British Royal Air Force drops bouncing bombs on dams in Germany.

Apr. 19-May 16, 1943

Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto revolt against the Germans.

July, 1943

The Russians defeat the Germans at the Battle of Kursk, one of the largest tank battles in history.


Germany launches the first long-range ballistic missiles, the V-1 and V-2, against England during World War II.


The Japanese begin kamikaze attacks on Allied ships in the Pacific.


The AK-47, the Kalashnikov rifle, is developed in the Soviet Union.

June 6, 1944

On what is known as D day, the Allies begin an invasion of Normandy, France, the largest amphibious operation in history and the beginning of Allied victory in Europe.

June 13, 1944

The Germans fire the Fieseler Fi 103 (V-1) for the first time at London. It is later followed by the V-2 rocket bombs, used to strike terror in southern Britain.

Feb. 24-25, 1945

The U.S. Air Force firebombs Tokyo, and General Curtis LeMay promotes U.S. airpower.

Apr., 1945

In the last major amphibious offensive of World War II, U.S. forces invade Okinawa and, after meeting fierce resistance, seize the island from Japan.

Apr.-May, 1945

The Russians wage air, artillery, and tank attacks in the Battle for Berlin, which ultimately leads to German surrender.

June 26, 1945

Replacing the ineffective League of Nations, the United Nations is formed to mediate disputes between countries, providing a platform for dialogue.

July 16, 1945

The first atomic bomb is successfully tested at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Aug. 6, 1945

The first atomic bomb to be used in war is dropped by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing more than 70,000 civilians and hastening the end of the war. Four days later, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing 40,000.

Aug. 15, 1945

Emperor Hirohito announces the surrender of Japan.


As World War II concludes, Indochinese Communist Party leader Ho Chi Minh proclaims a Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and France begins reasserting its colonial rule in Indochina.


The International Court of Justice is established in The Hague by United Nations Charter.


An international tribunal to try Germans accused of war crimes is conducted at Nuremberg, establishing the concept of war crimes in international law.


Air America is founded as a U.S. civilian airline. It is later revealed to be covertly owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).


Civil war rages in China between Nationalist and Communist Party forces, resulting in the triumph of Communism and in Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek’s flight to Taiwan.

Feb. 22, 1946

George F. Kennan’s “Long Telegram” articulates the rationale behind Soviet aggression and advocates a firm U.S. response, with force if necessary, beginning the Cold War era.

July 22, 1946

King David’s Hotel in Jerusalem is bombed, the first modern major bombing in the Middle East.


The Kalashnikov AK-47 becomes the first widely deployed modern assault rifle.

Mar. 12, 1947

U.S. president Harry S. Truman introduces the Truman Doctrine, committing the United States to responsibility for defending global democracy–a clear signal that the United States intends to check Soviet expansion and influence.

Sept. 18, 1947

The Central Intelligence Agency is established.

Jan. 4, 1948

The assassination of Burmese independence leader Aung San is followed by an independent Burma.

Aug., 1949

The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb.

June 25, 1950

The Korean War begins, becoming the first conflict to involve the United Nations.

Sept. 15-19, 1950

U.N. soldiers under General Douglas MacArthur land at Inchon, the first major seaborne operation since D day.


The world’s first hydrogen bomb is exploded at Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.


The Soviet Union tests its first hydrogen bomb.


The Geneva Conference, after discussions on the Korean War, calls for a partition of Indochina into four countries–North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–and for an election within two years to unify the two Vietnams.


The USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, is commissioned.


The United States starts actively supporting South Vietnam, taking over from the French.


The first practical hovercraft is developed by Christopher Cockerell.


The Chinook Boeing Vertol is designed as a U.S. Army medium-lift helicopter.


The United States and the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese president, Ngo Dinh Diem, reject the Geneva-mandated reunification elections, knowing that the popular Ho Chi Minh would win.

July 26, 1956

The Suez Crisis leads to Egypt’s capturing and nationalizing the Suez Canal Company.

Oct. 23-Nov. 10, 1956

The Hungarian Uprising resists the influence of the Soviet Union in Hungary.


The Soviet Union successfully tests an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Oct. 4, 1957

The Soviet Union launches the world’s first artificial Earth satellite, inaugurating the space race, sparking a reassessment of U.S. military and technological capabilities, and providing impetus for the development of both a space program and more sophisticated weapons-delivery systems.


Psychoactive chemical weapons are developed to produce hallucinations in exposed individuals.

Jan., 1959

Formation of the Viet Cong launches an armed struggle, backed by North Vietnam, against U.S. soldiers and South Vietnamese loyal to the Diem government.

Jan., 1960

U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower warns about the rise in the military-industrial complex.

July 11, 1960

Katanga tries to break away from the Congo.


Agent Orange is used as a defoliant in the Vietnam War.

Oct. 14-26, 1962

A U.S. pilot takes pictures indicating that Soviets are placing missiles on Cuba. The ensuing Cuban Missile Crisis takes the world to the brink of nuclear war.


The United States deploys Polaris submarine-launched missiles. The British introduce them in 1968.

May, 1963

The British manufacture the Chieftain Tank.

Oct. 7, 1963

The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty.

Nov. 1, 1963

The South Vietnamese government of Ngo Dinh Diem precipitates instability in the country, leading to increased U.S. military involvement in the region. The assassination of John F. Kennedy three weeks later sees Lyndon B. Johnson becoming U.S. president.


The People’s Republic of China conducts its first successful nuclear weapons test.


War in Congo involves the use of mercenaries, including “Mad” Mike Hoare.


The Palestine Liberation Organization is founded.


The United States pursues a policy of escalated military involvement in Vietnam.

Mar. 2, 1965

The U.S. Air Force begins Operation Rolling Thunder, which involves sustained bombing of North Vietnam.


Mao Zedong initiates the decadelong Chinese Cultural Revolution to purge his opponents from the Communist Party and renew the people’s revolutionary spirit.

Jan. 27, 1967

More than sixty (and later many more) countries sign the Outer Space Treaty, banning the use of outer space for warfare.

Apr., 1967

The Rapier surface-to-air missile is developed and manages to shoot down a Meteor drone.

May, 1967

Biafra’s attempt to break away from Nigeria starts the Nigerian Civil War.

June 5, 1967

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) launches devastating surprise counter-air raids against threatening Arab nations, beginning the Six-Day War.

Oct. 21, 1967

Egypt sinks the Israeli destroyer Eilat with a Soviet Styx cruise missile.


The Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia, establishing the Brezhnev Doctrine of Soviet military domination over Warsaw Pact states.

Jan., 1968

The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launch the Tet Offensive, which, although unsuccessful, contradicts U.S. reports that a decisive end to the war is near at hand.

Jan. 23, 1968

The North Korean navy captures the USS Pueblo, according to U.S. Navy intelligence.

Mar. 18, 1969

The United States starts secret bombings of Cambodia during Operation Menu, in an attempt to destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail.


During the genetic engineering phase of biological warfare, recombinant DNA biotechnology opens new frontiers in the design and production of biological weapons.


During an era of détente, stable relations, relative to the earlier Cold War, prevail between the Soviet Union and the United States and their respective allies.


Binary chemical weapons, stored and shipped in their component parts, are developed to allow chemical weapons to be safely transported to deployment sites.

Mar. 31, 1971

The British deploy Poseidon submarine-launched missiles.


The last American fighting forces withdraw from Vietnam in late March, following a January 27 peace agreement.

Oct. 6, 1973

Egypt launches an air strike against Israel, beginning Arab-Israeli October War, also known as the Yom Kippur War.

May 18, 1974

India tests its first atomic bomb, known as the “Smiling Buddha.”

Jan., 1975

The Cambodian Communists (Khmer Rouge) massacre the entire population of the town of Ang Snuol, after capturing it.

Apr. 17, 1975

The fall of Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, is accompanied by the rising rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Apr. 30, 1975

Saigon finally falls to the North Vietnamese forces, and Vietnam is united under communist rule following a referendum held the following year.


The emergence of Khun Sa and his private army in northern Burma is financed by drug sales.

May, 1976

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (known as the Tamil Tigers) emerge in Sri Lanka.

July 4, 1976

Israeli commandos storm the old terminal building at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda, freeing Israeli hostages in one of the most daring antiterrorist raids of the modern era.


The United States develops the Abrams tank, named after General Creighton Abrams, U.S. Army chief of staff and commander of the U.S. military forces in South Vietnam from 1968 until 1972. The U.S. military begins using it in 1980.


The United States begins production of the first precision-guided artillery munitions.

May 13, 1978

Ex-Congo mercenary Bob Denard takes the Comoros Islands.

Dec., 1978

Vietnam invades Cambodia, capturing the vast majority of the country in two weeks, and establishes the People’s Republic of Kampuchea.


Soviet forces enter Afghanistan ostensibly to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin and install a puppet government loyal to Moscow.


The Iranian Revolution ends Iran’s close military ties with the United States and replaces the shah’s regime with an Islamic theocracy.

Feb. 17-Mar. 16, 1979

Chinese soldiers invade northern Vietnam. The war quickly ends in a stalemate, and subsequently the Chinese government overhauls its army structure.

Oct., 1979

The British replace Poseidon submarine-launched missiles with Trident missiles.

Jan. 23, 1980

After an Iranian mob takes over the U.S. embassy, taking hostages, and the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan, U.S. president Jimmy Carter declares that the United States will consider any threat against the Persian Gulf a threat against its vital interests and will react, if necessary, with military force. The so-called Iranian hostage crisis ensues.


Demonstrations against U.S. cruise missiles start at Greenham Common in England.

Mar., 1981

The Soviets launch their first well-planned offensive in Afghanistan, inaugurating the decadelong Soviet-Afghan War.


Hezbollah, the “Party of God,” forms in Lebanon.

May 4, 1982

The firing of an Exocet missile, manufactured by the French, by the Argentine air force against the British HMS Sheffield leads to major changes in British naval tactics during the Falklands War.

June 13-14, 1982

British soldiers on the Falkland Islands charge Argentines at the Battle of Mount Tumbledown, the last successful bayonet charge until 2004.

Mar. 11, 1985

Mikhail Gorbachev is chosen as the new general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and his reforms initiate a thaw in relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.

July 28, 1986

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announces a limited withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Dec. 8, 1987

The first intifada between Palestinians and Israelis begins.

Dec. 8, 1987

U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet general secretary Gorbachev sign the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which calls for the destruction of U.S. and Soviet missiles and nuclear weapons.

Mar. 16, 1988

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein uses nerve gas against the Kurds in Halabja.

Dec. 21, 1988

After Pan American Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing hundreds, state terrorism mounted by Libya is blamed.


The Afghan Interim Government (AIG) is established, and the Soviet Union completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan.


Gorbachev is elected Soviet president in the first pluralist elections since 1917, and by the end of the year all Warsaw Pact nations have overthrown their communist leadership.


The dismantling of Germany’s Berlin Wall signifies the end of the Cold War, as U.S president George H. W. Bush promises economic aid to the Soviet Union.


Vietnam announces the withdrawal of all its soldiers from Cambodia.

July 17, 1989

The first flight of the Stealth bomber, made by Northrop Corporation and Northrop Grumman, herald’s the aircraft’s role in combat after April, 1997.

Jan. 17, 1991

A U.S.-led U.N. coalition leads a well-orchestrated air attack against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in an effort to oust his forces from Kuwait, which he invaded in the summer of 1990.

Jan. 18, 1991

U.S. Patriot missiles are used in combat against Scud missiles fired by Iraq at Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War.

Feb., 1991

U.N. forces undertake a decisive ground assault on Iraqi positions in Kuwait.

Apr., 1991

No-fly zones are established and enforced in Iraq to prevent repression of Kurds in northern Iraq.


After the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are granted independence and other former soviets join the Commonwealth of Independent States, Gorbachev resigns as president and the Soviet Union is officially dissolved.

Feb. 26, 1993

A bomb attack on New York’s World Trade Center kills 6 people and injures more than 1,000.

May 25, 1993

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is established at The Hague, following passage of Resolution 827 by the United Nations Security Council.


The Australian company Metal Storm forms to develop machine guns and electronically initiated superimposed-load weapons technology.


The April bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, by one or more individuals allegedly affiliated with militia groups kills 168. Within the same week, the Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo mounts a sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway, hospitalizing 400.


Millionaire Islamic extremist Osama Bin Laden issues a declaration of war against the United States.

Jan., 1996

An international force composed largely of troops under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is deployed in Bosnia to ensure the implementation of the Dayton Accords.


Pakistan successfully tests its first fission device.

Aug. 7, 1998

The simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August kill 224, and Osama Bin Laden’s supporters are suspected. Shortly thereafter, the United States conducts a counterattack against Bin Laden’s training base in Afghanistan.


The October 12 Suicide bombingssuicide bombing of the USS Cole in the Persian Gulf kills 17 sailors.

Aug. 12, 2000

During a Russian naval exercise, the Kursk submarine sinks.

Apr., 2001

A U.S. spy plane is brought down over China in the Hainan Island incident.

Sept. 11, 2001

Two hijacked planes are deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, another is crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth crashes in a field in Pennsylvania, in a coordinated series of attacks organized by Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist group al-Qaeda.

Oct. 7, 2001

U.S. president George W. Bush announces the start of the War on Terrorism in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. soil. A U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan starts to bring down the Taliban government of the country that has been harboring Osama bin Laden.

Mar. 20-May 1, 2003

A U.S.-led invasion of Iraq topples Saddam Hussein. Justification for the Bush administration’s preemptive strike, previously presented before the United Nations, includes controversial and, some maintain, poorly substantiated evidence that the Iraqi dictator is refusing to be transparent about programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and suspected use of Iraqi soil to provide terrorist groups with safe harbor.


Fighting in the Darfur region leads to atrocities and severe humanitarian problems for the people of southern Sudan.

Oct. 15, 2003

Yang Liwei becomes the first Chinese taikonaut in space.


An attempt to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea is executed by mercenaries hired in South Africa.

Oct. 9, 2006

The North Korean government issues an announcement that it has successfully conducted its first nuclear test.

Aug., 2008

A brief war erupts between the Russian Federation and Georgia over South Ossetia.

Jan. 22, 2009

On his second day in office, U.S. president Barack Obama issues an executive order to close the terrorist detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Mar. 4, 2009

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issues a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes, in its first action against a head of state since the ICC’s founding in 2002.

May 18, 2009

The Sri Lankan Civil War ends folllowing more than a quarter century of conflict.

May 27, 2009

After conducting nuclear tests, North Korea issues an announcement stating that it is no longer bound by the 1953 armistice it signed at the end of the Korean War. The United Nations issues sanctions in mid-June, in response to which North Korea promises to step up its weaponization of plutonium.

Categories: History