Military Invasions That Changed the Global Map in the 20th Century

Cartography aside, the world's seen some pretty drastic changes to the overall international landscape, thanks to a myriad of brutal, often unnecessary military invasions.

The Bay of Pigs invasion is one of the best examples of an unsuccessful military operation, but it also pointed out how the scale of international diplomacy could be altered simply by way of invasion. As we all know, the Bay of Pigs led to the Cold War and a brittle relationship still somewhat present among Russia, Cuba, and the United States. While maps themselves didn't necessarily alter in this instance, the true nature of diplomatic and political incentive took root. The 20th Century experienced a plentitude of these exchanges, effectively redrawing the world, and creating alterations forever engrained in history, some of which are disputed still to this day. 

The point: like the greatest military bluffs in history, these invasions changed how we look at militaristic campaigns and the places they had involved. Specifically, while WWI and WWII engineered a variety of aspectual changes to the 20th century, less familiar campaigns all across the globe have experienced the slicing of borders, innocents murdered, cessation of homelands, and continued disaster as the future waned. They might not be the most important wars in human history, but they often incorporate some of the most complex military invasions to reengineer the maps of the 20th century. 

Invasion of Finland (1939)

As a precaution to inevitable German military invasions, Soviet Russia contacted the Finnish government and opined the necessity for ceding several fortified borderlands to insure their protection. Finland refused. Russia reworked the offer, asking for several islands, one of which to lease for 30 years, and a 30 kilometer alteration to the Finnish borderline, all in exchange for two expansive USSR municipalities. Finland, after debate, refused. 

By late 1939, a force of 450,000 USSR ground troops invaded Finland, but not a mere month into the fighting, the Soviets had experienced so many losses that it had somewhat embarrassed them. Pushing back against the Russians was no simple task, but with Sweden and Norway refusing troops to cross their borders and thus receiving support from the League of Nations an impasse, Finland eventual declared defeat in March of 1940. All demands made by the USSR would be met in their surrender, requiring 12 percent of the Finnish population to migrate from their homes, while not one Soviet territory had to be ceded. 

Invasion of Cyprus (1974)

Once granted independence by Britain and deemed the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, the newly minted constitution named the presidency and vice presidency to the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, respectively, while sharing veto power. Shortly after the 1963 constitutional amendments were put forth, which had nullified Turkish power in the government, a civil unrest unfolded and rendered the constitution of 1960 obsolete.

Tensions escalated once the Turks had seized the main road across the island, commonly known as Nicosia to Kyrenia, thereby requiring the Greeks to utilize UN convoys for unscathed travels. By July 1974, in seven years of limited movements by Greeks and rising freedom fights led by the Turks, Greece's government had been overthrown by it’s own army. Turks followed close behind, using various military invasions to successfully occupy 40 percent of the island, but Greek democracy was restored within three days. Eventually, due to UN intervention, a ceasefire was signed and a boundary line was drawn to separate the two Cypriots of the island. 

Algiers (1957)

Under French occupation and desperate for independence, the National Liberation Front (NLA) engineered a multitude of hit and run tactics in order to drive French militia out of the country. General Jacques Massu, commanding officer of the French military, was sent to the capital of Algeria, Algiers, with the order of carte-blanche in suspending the rebel offense. 

Carte-blanche effectively allowed the occupying French forces to carry out unrestricted mission parameters. In this case, while he wasn't as effective as he thought, General Massu had turned to torture and execution to scare the NLA out of the country. With most of their strongholds destroyed and the imprisonment of NLA leader Saadi Yacef in September, the Battle of Algiers had ended. Algeria didn't regain independence until mid-1961, after consistent use of guerrilla warfare and mixed small military invasions had finally led France into submission. 

Invasion of East Timor (1975)

In the finality of WWII, an independent Dutch East Indies had birthed the Republic of Indonesia, while Japanese occupied East Timor reverted back into a Portuguese colony. Following the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, all colonial possessions were ceded by the government, hence East Timor became home to a violent swirl of political parties, one of which had even taken control of the military.

Indonesia, worried that the uprising left-wing coup in East Timor might be formulated into a communist state, devised military invasions that quickly overpowered East Timor's under-resourced and poorly trained militia. A six hour long paratroop invasion, which consisted of 641 soldiers, initiated the war on December 7. The occupying force had grown rapidly from 10-15,000 on Christmas Day, to 35,000 by April the following year. Despite this, Indonesia would not win the war until 1978, after employing brutal militaristic tactics to ensure their victory. 

Invasion of Ethiopia (1935)

Since losing numerous military invasions in the 1890s, Italy longed for the control over Abyssinia, the common European name for Ethiopia. By 1934, despite large portions of the African continent either being controlled or colonized by European nations, Ethiopia had stayed independence until the breakout of the Walwal Incident in December. What had actually occurred remains a mystery; Italians claim the Ethiopians attacked first, while the Ethiopians blame the Italian forces, in addition to their aircraft and tank measures. 

Following a second incident at Walwal, wherein Ethiopian forces killed five Italian askaris, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini dispatched military personnel to the Ethiopian neighbors of Djibouti, acquired in the "Franco-Italian Agreement," and Eritrea. After invading in early October, Italy later bombed Jijiga and Harar in March, toppled 5,000 Ethiopian soldiers in the Battle of the Ogaden on April 24. Italy was in control of the capital by May, just as the Ethiopian Emperor, Hailie Selassie, had fled into exile. Ethiopia would not receive sovereignty until the culmination of WWII. 

Invasion of Tibet (1950)

After the initiation of the People's Republic of China, Tibet feared for their sovereignty and amassed a delegation to be held between Britain, India and China. Once dialogues were finally being held, mere months after the delegation had been dispatched, China issued a three-point proposal for Tibet, gaining its control, serving as its protector, acting in its foreign policy, and taking over its foreign trade. The Tibetan delegation did not want Chinese forces in Tibet, but they still wanted the nation as a force of protection and influence, so the dialogue continued. 

As the Tibetan government was preoccupied with the negotiations of the proposal, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) entered Tibet on October 7 and captured Chamdo on the 19th. It was among the most intelligent military strategies, for it not only disheartened the Tibetan government, but also paralyzed their army in one fell swoop. A ceasefire was enacted and a secondary delegation was dispatched from Chinese occupied Tibet, but they still would not accept the second and third points of the proposal. Only the first would be met, and rested on if China could ensured the Dalai Lama's safety. Thus, the Seventeen Point Agreement was writ, fusing Tibet under China as an autonomous region and ruled by the Dalai Lama. 

Invasion of Portugal (1961)

Once their independence from Britain had been declared in 1947, India was still pockmarked by a number of Portuguese colonies. Meeting in 1950, both governments discussed the nature of these colonized regions and when their independence could be enacted, but the Portuguese pointed out that they weren't even colonies, they had already been imbued into Portugal, making their transference impossible. Military invasions, whether being led by Portuguese or Indian forces, seemed an inevitability moving into the mid-1900s. 

Over the next decade, many of the so-called colonies, like Goa, were bubbling in contempt and disunity. The two nations would fall into a standoff in 1954, when the Indian government disallowed Portuguese troops to enter into the pro-Indian and landlocked states of Dadra and Nagar Havelli. The strife escalated when Portuguese military and police killed 22 and wounded 225 peaceful Indian marchers during the Goa Freedom Movement, a peaceful march on the Portuguese controlled state involving 3,000 peacefully marching activists. Military action didn't begin until 1961, after the Portuguese fired upon an Indian passenger boat and killed a passenger, calling for immediate retaliation. In December 1961, Indian forces entered Goa, now evacuated of civilians and fortified by the Portuguese militia, where both nations eventually led land, sea and air campaigns. By December 19, two days following a Soviet veto of the campaign's UN debate, Portugal finally surrendered and ceded Damon, Diu, and Goa to India. 

Vinh Yen (1951)

Not entirely unsuccessful, though still relatively considered a disaster, the French military invasions of Indochina were gruesome displays of both Viet Minh guerrilla warfare and the French dominance in open battle. One such example, involving the largest napalm attack in the entire war, pitted Generals Jean de Lattre de Tassigny and Giap in a brutal standoff for Vinh Yen, about 65 kilometers northwest of Hanoi. Leading his garrison of French troops into innumerable counter offenses, Tassigny was among the best generals of all time for the French military.

Struggling against the French as best as possible, the small number of troops remanning to the Viet Minh had to face the likelihood of defeat when Tassigny ordered the largest napalm attack in the war. His military force eventually pushed the Viet Minh into their mountain strongholds, revealing the obviousness and inevitably of Giap's military loss and their unacquainted tactics to open combat. General Giap admitted defeat on January 17, but the French would eventually lose the war by 1954 with the culmination of a disastrous campaign in Dien Bien Phu. 

Invasion of Bolivia (1903)

Largely thanks to the rising prices of rubber in the early 1900s, a relatively peaceful, inaccessible and rugged region of Bolivia, going by the name of Acre, attracted the attention of 18,000 explorers and adventurers willing to  venture into the untouched land. Most of them Brazilian, the consistent foot traffic of rubber tappers caused Bolivia to erect a customs in Acre two days into 1899. For the thousands of Brazilian newcomers and settlers, this was an affront that must be mended, and to do that they would push the Bolivians out of Acre. 

A small military force was dispatched to Acre by the Bolivian government, yet the Brazilians held their ground and kept them from entering even the wilds of their newfound land. The number of Brazilian rubber tappers only increased in the next few years, as did their resistance. The nation of Brazil itself wouldn't directly involve itself until January 1903, when they had sent a military force into Acre and defeated the Bolivians long before the month had even ended. Though two large forces of the Bolivian and Brazilian militia had staged a front on opposite riverbanks of the newly declared Republic of Acre, not a drop of blood would be shed. A diplomatic peace, under the guise of the Treaty of Petropolis, was signed and enacted. It gave Brazil control over Acre in exchange for 2 million pounds and a connecting railroad intended to increase trade between both nations. 

Invasion of Jammu and Kashmir (1947)

When granted independence in 1947, India and Pakistan found themselves in a heated military action on ownership of Kashmir and Jammu. Britain based the decision of territorial control on demographics and geographical locations, upon which most of the varied citizenry had already determined themselves through obvious linkage and traits with that of either Pakistani or Indian culture. Kashmir, on the other hand, was an invariably different scenario. 

Despite many leaning toward pro-Pakistani control, the mostly Muslim citizenry of Kashmir no sooner broke out into tribal conflict as the debate worsened into late 1947. In assistance of the rebellion, military personnel from the Pakistani Army entered Kashmir, and even Jammu. The military invasions proved too much for Kashmir to handle alone, and resulted in the Maharaja calling for Indian support. They agreed only if the territory was acceded to India, thus leading to the Instrument of Accession and the first Indo-Pakastani War as Indian ground troops had entered Kashmir. Not until the first day of 1949 did the war end, giving both Kashmir and Jammu to India, and leaving only a small portion of the territorial states, such as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, to Pakistan. Since then, the region has been involved in innumerable military actions and the natural ruling body still remains in valiant dispute. 

Alsace Lorraine

Since the Franco-Prussian War, and due to it resting smack at the center of France and Germany, Alsace Lorraine has long been in the crosshairs of both the French and Germans. As of 2016, it was pitted among the French administrative region, but during both World Wars (and even in their aftermaths), the territory more or less rested in a grey fog of uncertainty after countless military invasions. 

Beginning within the First World War, France saw the advantages and necessity of regaining their lost territory from the Germans and made it their utmost goal to retrieve it. Alsatian and Lorraine citizens, caught in the literal center of the war, were used as a form of propaganda on both sides of the theater. Nearly 15,000 were drafted into the German Navy, in order to spare them any possibility of fighting relatives in France and to limit their desertion into the French army. After annexation to the French Republic in 1918, Alsace Lorraine would again find conflict in World War II. Hitler used the area as an annexation measure, since France was under German occupation circa 1940. Two years later, by decree of the Nazi government, all Alsace Lorraine citizens were made German citizens, and both Alsatian and French languages were effectively outlawed. Since the culmination of both wars, the territory has mostly been considered a part of France, despite a large amount of its citizenry being German. 

Donald Gray
Donald Gray

Politics may be a disgusting battlefield, but it is a necessary vice in our country, and a particular fancy of mine, like productivity and success. These are important facets in the modern world, and must be expounded upon.

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Military Invasions That Changed the Global Map in the 20th Century