World War III
Date 27 October 1962 (1962-10-27) – 22 December 1970 (1970-12-22)
Location Worldwide
Result Decisive NATO/Alliance Victory
  • Dissolution of the Soviet Union.
  • Dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.
  • Communist governments removed from power in East Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Albania, Yugoslavia, North Korea, North Vietnam, Mongolia and Burma; democratic elections held in all and democratic governments created.
  • Communist insurgencies in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia defeated.
  • Reunification of Germany, Vietnam and Korea under democratic governments.
  • Communist governments removed from power in former Soviet Republics; democratic elections held.
  • Creation of the Confederation of Independent States comprising former Soviet Republics.
  • Emergence of US and China as superpowers.
  • Beginning of the Sino-American Cold War
Flag of NATO NATO:
  • Flag of the United States United States
  • Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
  • Flag of France France
  • Canadian Red Ensign (1957-1965) Canada
  • Flag of Germany West Germany
  • Flag of the Netherlands Netherlands
  • Flag of Belgium Belgium
  • Flag of Luxembourg Luxembourg
  • Flag of Portugal Portugal
  • Flag of Italy Italy
  • Flag of Denmark Denmark
  • Flag of Norway Norway
  • Flag of Iceland Iceland
  • Flag of Greece (1822-1978) Greece
  • Flag of Turkey Turkey

Flag of the People's Republic of China China

Allies and Partners
Flag of Iran before 1979 Revolution Iran
Flag of Pakistan Pakistan
Flag of Australia Australia
Flag of New Zealand New Zealand
Flag of Cyprus Cyprus
Flag of Spain (1945 - 1977) Spain
Flag of Finland Finland
Flag of Austria Austria
Flag of Mexico Mexico
Flag of Brazil Brazil
Flag of Chile Chile
Flag of Argentina Argentina
Flag of Colombia Colombia
Flag of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
Flag of South Africa 1928-1994 South Africa
Flag of Israel Israel
Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974) Ethiopia
Flag of Kenya Kenya
Flag of Tunisia Tunisia
Flag of Morocco Morocco
Flag of Japan Japan
Flag of South Korea South Korea
Flag of South Vietnam South Vietnam
Flag of Thailand Thailand
Flag of Laos (1952-1975) Kingdom of Laos
Flag of Cambodia Kingdom of Cambodia
Flag of Malaysia Malaysia
Flag of the Philippines Philippines
Flag of Indonesia Indonesia
Flag of the Republic of China Taiwan
Flag of the Hungarian Revolution (1956) Free Hungarian Army
Flag of Poland Polish government-in-exile
Flag of Slovakia Czechoslovak Resistance
Proposed German National Flag 1948 East German Resistance

Warsaw Pact Logo Warsaw Pact:
  • Flag of the Soviet Union Soviet Union
  • Flag of East Germany East Germany
  • Flag of Romania (1965-1989) Romania
  • Flag of Hungary Hungary
  • Flag of Bulgaria (1948-1967) Bulgaria
  • Flag of Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
  • Flag of Poland Poland

Flag of Mongolia Mongolia

Allies and Partners
Flag of North Korea North Korea
Flag of Vietnam North Vietnam
FNL Flag Viet Cong
Flag of Burma (1948-1974) Burma
Flag of Cuba Cuba
Flag of Laos Pathet Lao
Flag of Democratic Kampuchea Khmer Rouge
Flag of United Arab Republic Egypt
Flag of Iraq (1963-1991); Flag of Syria (1963-1972) Syria
Flag of Algeria Algeria

Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United States John F. Kennedy

Flag of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson
Flag of the United Kingdom Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Flag of the People's Republic of China Mao Zedong
Flag of France Charles de Gaulle
Flag of Germany Konrad Adenauer
Flag of Spain (1945 - 1977) Francisco Franco
Flag of Australia Robert Menzies
Flag of Iran before 1979 Revolution Mohammad Reza Shah Pahavi
Flag of South Vietnam Dương Văn Minh
Flag of South Korea Park Chung-hee
Flag of Thailand Thanom Kittikachorn
...and others

Flag of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev

Flag of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev
Flag of East Germany Walter Ulbricht
Flag of Romania (1965-1989) Nicolae Ceaușescu
Flag of Hungary János Kádár
Flag of Bulgaria (1948-1967) Todor Zhivkov
Flag of North Korea Kim Il-Sung
Flag of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh
Flag of Democratic Kampuchea Pol Pot
...and others

Casualties and losses
Military dead:
Over 28 million
Civilian dead:
Over nine million
Total dead:
Over 37 million
Military dead:
Over 40 million
Civilian dead:
Over 15 million
Total dead:
Over 55 million

World War III (also known as the Third World War or WWIII / WW3) was a global war lasting from 1962 to 1970 and involving the vast majority of the world's nations. It pitted the United States of America, its NATO allies, and their partners against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, as well as other Communist countries and insurgent groups worldwide. It was the most widespread conflict in human history; fighting took place in nearly every region of the globe including the Arctic and Antarctic and on every continent except Antarctica, and the war directly involved an estimated 500 million people from more than 50 countries and numerous insurgent groups. It surpassed World War II as the deadliest war in human history, with an estimated 92 million to 115 million people dead as a result of it.

The war began in October 1962 as a result of a dispute of Soviet nuclear missile bases in Cuba. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev had been shipping nuclear missiles to Cuba's Communist regime in the wake of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and in response to the presence American Jupiter ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey. US intelligence had discovered the missiles and their launch sites, and President Kennedy ordered the Soviets to remove the missiles. On October 27, and American U-2 spy plane was shot down observing Cuba and another was intercepted and shot down over Siberia. President Kennedy then ordered a lightning air-raid on Cuba, followed by a full-on military assault. Premier Khrushchev then ordered his armies to capture West Berlin and to attack NATO aircraft patrolling above Turkey. The two powers exchanged declarations of war, followed by their allies, and the war quickly spread to almost every region of the world.

American forces successfully occupied Cuba by November 5, taking over nuclear bases there. The day after, Warsaw pact forces captured West Berlin and launched their invasion of Europe, initiating one of the most brutal theatres of the war. NATO forces were driven back to the West German capital of Bonn, where they successfully defended the city from Communist forces. Soviet aircraft engaged NATO aircraft over Turkey and attempted to gain air superiority and destroy Allied nuclear bases in the country, but were defeated.

The war also raged in East Asia and Africa, as Soviet-supported Communist forces attempted to defeat Western-supported countries and gain dominance. Fighting raged in Korea, Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands, as well as in Central and Southern Africa against the Soviet-supported Socialist Republic of the Congo. The Soviets also attempted an invasion of Alaska, and the US and Soviet navies fought each other in all the world's oceans throughout the war.

In autumn 1963, the Soviets attempted to break the stalemate on the Western Front by launching another lightning-invasion of the West, but were defeated in the decisive Battle of Meppel. They were also losing ground in Africa and Alaska. Anti-Communist insurgent groups had arisen in many Warsaw Pact states by this point, and the Communist forces were facing a manpower shortage.

In July 1964, the Soviets invaded the West yet again, but were decisively defeated at the Luxembourg in one of the largest-scale battles in the history of war. With this victory, and the growing strength of anti-Communist groups in the Eastern Bloc, the Allies were finally able to break through the stalemate and invade East Germany. They recaptured Berlin in mid-1965, granting the Free German Army authority there as a provisional government. In central Asia, the Soviets became bogged down in a long campaign in Iran and Pakistan, further draining their resources and supplies. In 1967, Communist forces in central and southern Africa surrendered, and South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee scored a major victory over the North Koreans at Wonsan. North Vietnamese forces also suffered a major defeat at Khe Sanh, and Communist insurgents in Southeast Asia were losing ground fast.

From 1964, the Allies began talks with the People's Republic of China for terms of entry into the war, and China began providing aid to the Allies that year. After a deal was reached in which China would make large territorial gains after the war, Chairman Mao Zedong declared war on the Soviets in June 1965. This front would prove to be the most brutal of the war, with millions of troops dying for small initial territorial gains. However, forced into a two-front war, the Soviets began to lose ground quickly, with their economy and society taking incredible strain. Popular resistance in Warsaw Pact countries led to the defection of most of their governments by the end of 1968, and a NATO-Allied invasion of Russia soon after. With their military strength crippled, the Soviets were forced to sue for peace, which was concluded the following year.

World War III altered the political structure of the world. Communist regimes were overthrown worldwide and democratic elections were held. The UN was strengthened to prevent all war, and it led a reconstruction effort to rebuild large parts of the world that were devastated by the war. With the fall of Communism, economic integration and globalization emerged, and the European and Asian Unions were formed in an effort to create common identities.

Prelude to War

US-Soviet tensions

Pre-war events

Cuban Missile Crisis

Course of war

Occupation of Cuba (1962)

First Soviet Offensive (1962-3)

War erupts in Indochina, Korea, and Africa

Stalemate in West

Second Soviet Offensive and Allied counterattack

Central Asia

Victory in Africa (1964-7)

Allied offensive (1965-7)

Victory in Indochina

Allies close in (1967-8)

Warsaw Pact collapse, NATO Victory (1968-70)


Postwar conflicts

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