Special Report

Most Expensive Wars in US History

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4. Vietnam War
> U.S. war spending (2019 dollars): $843.63 billion
> Duration: 17 years, 9 months
> U.S. military deaths: 58,220

The war in Vietnam cost the United States $843.63 billion in 2019 dollars, or 2.3% of GDP in 1968. By the end of the conflict, the names of more than 58,000 dead soldiers were recorded on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. After the Vietnamese defeated the French in 1954, ending a brutal era of colonialism, the Geneva Accords stipulated that elections in the South be scheduled for the following year. Determined not to let communism spread, the U.S. lent its support to Ngo Dinh Diem, a French-educated, Catholic politician in South Vietnam. By the time the U.S. committed troops in 1965, Diem had been assassinated and Vietnamese support for the new military-led South Vietnamese government had faded. With supplies from China and the Soviet Union, North Vietnam primarily used guerrilla tactics to attack U.S. troops and bases. By the late 1960s, public support for the war in the U.S. was waning. American troops withdrew in 1973 and South Vietnam fell to communist North Vietnam in 1975.

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3. War in Afghanistan
> U.S. war spending (2019 dollars): $910.47 billion
> Duration: Since 2001
> U.S. military deaths: 2,285

The United States has been embroiled in an ongoing battle in Afghanistan since 2001. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States invaded the central Asian nation in order to drive out the ruling Taliban, which provided al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 terror attack, with safe haven. Yet in the over 17 years since the war began, the U.S. military has so far been unable to establish Afghanistan as a stable, safe place. The War in Afghanistan is now the only war in U.S. military history to have three commanders in chief preside over the conflict. From President George W. Bush to Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, none could find a way to bring the extended conflict to an end. As the war drags on, military spending on this war will continue to accumulate.

Source: Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael B. W. Watkins / Getty Images

2. Iraq War
> U.S. war spending (2019 dollars): $1.01 trillion
> Duration: 7 years, 5 months
> U.S. military deaths: 4,410

The conflict in Iraq has cost the United States about $1 trillion. Believing he had weapons of mass destruction, U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew Saddam Hussein. The U.S. government considers elections in Iraq, as well as training military personnel to help stabilize the region, as successes. Even so, the country continues to be marred by conflict and terror.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. World War II
> U.S. war spending (2019 dollars): $4.69 trillion
> Duration: 3 years, 9 months
> U.S. military deaths: 405,399

The United States spent more than $4 trillion, or 36% of its GDP, fighting World War II. More than 400,000 U.S. troops were killed in the conflict to defeat Nazi Germany, Italy, and the Japanese Empire. U.S. involvement officially began on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. America officially declared war against Germany and Italy three days later, after Germany and Italy had declared war on the United States. After conquering most of Europe, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union bore most of the ground conflict with Germany before the United States and its allies opened the Western front in 1944. The European war ended in May 1945, and Japan surrendered after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that year. The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from World War II as the world’s biggest superpowers and became rivals in the Cold War.