The world is often preoccupied with the memories of past world wars as well as impending wars with other countries and it can be easy to forget the many different civil wars that have occurred around the world. There is often speculation on what will incite the start of World War III and documentaries on the many lessons societies can learn from World War I and World War II. Yet, there have been far more civil wars that have occurred around the world and there are still many countries that are currently in a state of turmoil.
From different factions that create conflict within the country to countries at odds that was once considered a united state, civil wars are often considered far more devastating since it is fought on the homeland of its people. It’s not just soldiers that are involved in a civil war and it’s not just government buildings that are affected by the devastation a civil war creates. From massive civilian deaths to devastated homelands, a war torn country can suffer the effects of a civil war for generations and there isn’t always an official conclusion. From continued hostility to a powder keg of turmoil just waiting to erupt again, many think of civil wars as far worse than wars with other countries. Check out our list of the 15 most disturbing images of civil wars around the world and see how groups within the same country have torn apart their own lands and society through conflict.
15. Napalm Attack In Vietnam
The Vietnam War was the longest war in American history. Yet, sometimes the extreme financial strain and huge numbers of deaths of American soldiers overshadows the fact that at its heart, it was a civil war within Vietnam. The United States first sent official American fighting troops in 1965 but in actuality, President Truman sent military personnel to Vietnam in 1950 in order to support the French in their fighting against the Viet Minh. With the country split into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, the civil war fighting is a huge element of why many have condemned the U.S. involvement.
14. Civilians Dig Their Own Graves In Korea
After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was divided into two separate countries with the south being backed by the United States. There was a constant tension between the south and the north and there was ultimately an invasion by North Korea. Allied Forces were brought in, with the official start of the Korean War beginning in 1950. In September 1950, 400 Korean civilians were gathering in Taejon’s prison yard and were forced to dig their own graves before all of them were bound and ultimately killed by Communist forces. The 24th U.S. Division troops recaptured the city and discovered the Taejon prison yard abandoned, with only the corpses left. The photo was taken by U.S. forces and famed war correspondent, Gordon Gammack, can be seen on the left side of the scene.
13. Korean Civilians Bludgeoned To Death
During the Korean War, there were a number of civilians and political professionals that were imprisoned by both the south and the north. In fact, South Korea famously imprisoned a great number of civilians and political figures that were suspected of being sympathizers to communist ideology. This particular photo was taken in a mine shaft at Kum Bong San on October 19, 1950. The individuals came from a prison from Chinnappa and were bludgeoned to death by Communist forces from North Korea. United Nations troops discovered the bodies of these South Korean civilians who were bound and slaughtered. The mine shaft turned into a mass grave for these individuals killed during the Korean War in 1950. More than 60 dead bodies were found by the U.N. in this particular site but this wasn’t the only location found throughout Korea with mass slaughters.
12. 8-Year-Old Boy Fighting In Syrian Civil War
The conflict in the Aleppo’s Salaheddin district captivated the nation through the numerous photos and videos that have circulated the Internet. One video that had people shocked at the dehumanization of war involved an 8-year-old boy named Ahmed. The video showed Ahmed smoking a cigarette and holding an AK-47 rifle, which he could barely handle properly. In the video, Ahmed gives a sad tale of how he went from being a normal 8-year-old to a fighting soldier in the civil war. Both his mother and father were killed in a mortar strike and he was left under the supervision of his uncle, who fights with the rebel forces and is the person Ahmed emulates in life. Since his parents are gone and there are no more schools for him to attend, becoming a fighter is his new way of life.
11. Revolutionary United Front In Sierra Leone
In the 1990s, Sierra Leone was undergoing a brutal civil war that was being aided by the then-President, Charles Taylor. Taylor was accused of aiding the Revolutionary United Front and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council rebels in exchange for political influence and diamonds mined by slave laborers. It took over a decade for Taylor to ultimately make his way to court and sentenced by an international court, which is the first time a former head of state had been sentenced after a number of failed appeals since the Nuremberg trials. Taylor was ultimately convicted on 11 counts of war crimes, which included using child soldiers in the civil war. This particular 1997 photo shows a group of soldiers on the outskirts of Freetown in Sierra Leone.
10. 1861 Civil War Powder Monkey
The American Civil War in 1861 to 1865 had a number of unspeakable acts but one of the most horrifying elements during this time was the way young boys were used during ship battles. In order to maximize the battle efforts, young boys were tasked with loading the cannons, carrying bags and casks of gunpowder and helping the gunners. They called these boys, “powder monkeys” and some of the stories of these children were heartbreaking. In fact, not all of them joined the civil war on their own accord. Some were kidnapped and were forced against their will without any pay or an end date to when they could return home. While this isn’t the first or last time child soldiers were used, this is photographic proof that it wasn’t just foreign countries that used children during time of war.
9. Civil War Drummer Boys
The days of war during the 1800s were nothing like how it is today. The American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 still enlisted the help of drummer boys to convey the orders from officers to the troops. Their role in the civil war was often glamorized, especially for young boys during that time. However, the life of a drummer boy was anything but glamorous. While there were age limits set forth on how old a boy could be to enlist, they were often ignored. This photo shows a band of drummer boys, with many looking not yet 10-years-old. Previous wars had also enlisted the help of young drummer boys, with some of them becoming infamous through paintings and historical accounts. One of the most famous accounts was of 7-year-old, Nathan Futrell, who fought in the American War of Independence between 1773 and 1829.
8. 5-Year-Old Covered In Rubble
In August 2016, there were a number of photos and videos coming out of Syria. The most shocking image from the Aleppo area was of 5-year-old, Omran Daqneesh, sitting in an ambulance and covered with dust and blood. This singular image showed the desperation surrounding the Syrian civil war and the fight to control the city was affecting all who lived there. The photo was mostly haunting because of how still the child was, even with an open wound on his head that continued to stream blood. It was obvious that the boy was in a shocked condition and the media later reported that he was transported to the M10 hospital and later discharged. The fight to control Aleppo made international news since the rebel groups made huge strides against Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the military forces.
7. Anti-Communist Militia Posing With Victims During Greek Civil War
The Greek Civil War began in 1943 when Communist forces began meeting resistance in the Greek mountains, which was only a few months prior to Nazi forces occupying Greece from 1943 to 1944. The Truman Doctrine had established that the United States was able to fight Communist expansion into Greece, which was hugely influential in keeping communism out of Greece to this day. Although many people aren’t too familiar with the Greek Civil War, it was actually a horrific time in Greece’s past. The worst of the destruction occurred between 1946 and 1949. This particular photo shows a group of anti-communist militiamen, which are positioned by their victims. This is a grim photo that tells the greater story of how bloody and horrific the Greek Civil War was, from the victims to the militia forces.
6. Feeding Center In Somalia
In the 1980s, there was turmoil in Somalia due to a growing resistance to the Siad Barre regime. A number of different factions were fighting, including the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, the Somali National Movement, the Somali Armed Forces and the United Somali Congress. This ongoing civil war caused incredible devastation to the Somali people, with famine being a huge element to the plight amongst its civilians. This particular photo was taken outside of a feeding center for the civilians that were displaced by the civil war in July of 1992. The child in the photo is incredibly emaciated. While his frail body is mostly covered, the legs can be seen and are in a shocking state. This is just another example of how children are hugely affected in a war torn country.
5. Mentally Ill Kept In Chains
The civil unrest in Somalia first began gaining steam in the 1980s but the lack of stability amongst the many different fighting factions has caused huge devastation, in more ways than one. From decades of fighting, starvation amongst its civilians and horrifying atrocities throughout the country, there weren’t any civilians that were left unaffected. The war torn country destroyed any real semblance of a health care infrastructure and the decades of civil war caused an increase in the numbers of those suffering from mental health issues. This particular photo shows a group of mentally ill patients that can be seen shackled and left in deplorable conditions. In one case, 25-year-old Hassan Qasim seemed to suffer a mental breakdown after witnessing the death of his brother and sister. He was abducted and tortured and was left wandering the streets naked. He ultimately became one of the men kept in chains, as this is the only way mental illness is treated in this civil war ridden country of Somalia.
4. Hospital Shelling In Sri Lanka
For around 40 years, Sri Lanka underwent a brutal civil war that claimed the lives of 100,000 people, with many estimating much higher. The Tamil Tiger rebel group were ultimately defeated by government forces but the final months of the civil war were filled with horrific acts of brutality that some felt were close to being considered war crimes. Multi-barreled launchers were used indiscriminately and there were 35 attacks directly on hospitals. Some have speculated that the hospitals were actually targeted and the horror stories that stemmed from these attacks often involved small children. This particular photo was taken at one of the many makeshift hospitals that were created in order to treat the many victims of the repeated shelling in the area. These tented areas housed patients, doctors, the dead and grieving families.
3. Orphaned Refugees
In 1994, the plane carrying the Rwandan president was shot down and the country went into a period of civil unrest between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The president had recently activated an initiative to allow Tutsis to participate in government and Hutu extremists weren’t happy with that decision. There was a huge conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis, with the extremist groups blaming the Tusis for many of the country’s societal and economic issues. When the Hutu extremists gained control, they initiated a mass genocide of Tutsis throughout Rwanda. This particular photo shows orphaned children in a huge encampment, living in deplorable conditions. Between 500,000 and 1 million people were killed during this short time of only around 100 days and thousands of children were left without any families.
2. Rwandan Genocide
For approximately 100 days, the entire country of Rwanda underwent a period of genocide against the Tutsi people between April and July of 1994. The assassination of the Rwandan president brought on an extremist Hutu control over the country where people were called upon to kill Tutsis. People were murdered in their homes, in businesses and on the street with practically no intervention from anyone. The dead bodies began piling up all over the country and this particular photo shows the aftermath of the killing. Ugandan fishermen began pulling decomposed bodies out of Lake Victoria. The bodies had traveled hundreds of miles from Rwanda and the time and water had caused the bodies to become completely disfigured postmortem. Dozens of bodies were dragged from the lake, with many left difficult to identify.
1. Bloody Lane At The Battle Of Antietam
During the American Civil War, the Battle of Antietam has the distinction of being the bloodiest day of battle in American history on American soil. The battle was fought in September of 1862 as part of the Maryland Campaign. General Robert E. Lee was highly criticized for his tactics during this battle because the Confederate forces were outnumbered two-to-one but he still put his entire force into the fray. The casualties were astounding, even though Lee was able to withdraw his forces to return to Virginia. The battle took place around the Antietam Creek but the fighting strategies of all the forces caused flank maneuvering and intersections of forces throughout the area. The Sunken Road area was later nicknamed, “Bloody Lane,” due to the astounding number of deaths and that is what this photo depicts.