Special Report

The Largest Armies Ever Assembled on Earth

U.S. Army / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Ever since the first wars on record took place in Mesopotamia close to five centuries ago, the size of armies has grown along with human civilization. Today, nearly 28 million armed forces personnel stand at the ready globally, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. By comparison, about 70 million soldiers fought in World War II, 42 million of them from the United States, the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan – whose armies and related services were four of the largest ever rallied to the battlefield.

To determine the largest armies in history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a list of military superpowers from Business Insider. Armies were ranked based on the total number of troops serving a country or empire at the point when the army was at its largest. (These are the countries with the largest militaries today.)

Six Chinese dynasties assembled some of history’s largest fighting forces, ranging from the 575,000 troops in the ninth-century Tang Dynasty to the 1,300,000 million fielded by the Ming Dynasty in the 1500s. (Troop numbers in the People’s Republic of China peaked in 1980 with nearly 4.9 million soldiers, the eighth-largest fighting force ever assembled.)

Click here to see the largest armies in history

More recently, South Korea formed the seventh largest army in history, estimated at 5.2 million soldiers in 2000, in order to keep its northern adversary in check. Together with North Korea’s 9,495,000 troops, that makes the Korean Peninsula the hottest military zone on the planet based on the number of boots on the ground. (In contrast, these are nations without a military.)

19. Tang Dynasty
> Troops: 575,000
> Circa: 800

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

18. Jin Dynasty
> Troops: 600,000
> Circa: 1200

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

17. Sui Dynasty
> Troops: 650,000
> Circa: 600

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. Song Dynasty
> Troops: 810,000
> Circa: 1000

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. Mongol Empire
> Troops: 900,000
> Circa: 1300

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14. Mughal Empire
> Troops: 900,000
> Circa: 1700

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

13. Qing Dynasty
> Troops: 1,100,000
> Circa: 1850

12. Ming Dynasty
> Troops: 1,300,000
> Circa: 1500

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. Russian Empire
> Troops: 1,500,000
> Circa: 1910

Source: National Archives / Getty Images

10. United States (Union)
> Troops: 2,100,000
> Circa: 1865

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Source: P. L. Sperr / Archive Photos via Getty Images

9. French Empire
> Troops: 2,500,000
> Circa: 1800

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. People’s Republic of China
> Troops: 4,850,000
> Circa: 1980

Source: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

7. South Korea
> Troops: 5,190,000
> Circa: 2000

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Source: Topical Press Agency / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

6. German Empire
> Troops: 5,300,000
> Circa: 1918

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. Japanese Empire
> Troops: 6,983,000
> Circa: Aug. 1945

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Source: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

4. North Korea
> Troops: 9,495,000
> Circa: 2014

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

3. Soviet Union
> Troops: 11,000,000
> Circa: June 1943

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

2. German Reich
> Troops: 12,070,000
> Circa: June 1944

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Source: Fred Ramage / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1. United States
> Troops: 12,209,000
> Circa: Aug. 1945

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