Since its creation, the United States has made eleven formal declarations of war, yet from 1798 to the present day, this country has used its armed forces abroad hundreds of times.
The Congressional Research Service has compiled a list of America’s use of military force abroad. The report is in a PDF which for the convenience of readers I have converted into five sections: 1798-1899, 1900-1985, 1986-1998, 1999-2004, and 2005-2012.
When viewed in its totality, this record makes clear that military force has in varying degrees always been the prism through which the U.S. government views the world. And keep in mind: this is just a list of the use of armed forces — it does not include the use of the CIA to topple governments, the support of proxy wars, the arming of insurgencies or the supply of the global weapons market which fuels conflict around the world.
- 1900 China.
May 24 to September 28. American troops participated in operations to protect foreign lives during the Boxer rising, particularly at Peking. For many years after this experience a permanent legation guard was maintained in Peking, and was strengthened at times as trouble threatened.
- 1901 Colombia (State of Panama).
November 20 to December 4. U.S. forces protected American property on the Isthmus and kept transit lines open during serious revolutionary disturbances.
- 1902 Colombia.
April 16 to 23. U.S. forces protected American lives and property at Bocas del Toro during a civil war.
- 1902 Colombia (State of Panama).
September 17 to November 18. The United States placed
armed guards on all trains crossing the Isthmus to keep the railroad line open, and
stationed ships on both sides of Panama to prevent the landing of Colombian troops.
- 1903 Honduras.
March 23 to 30 or 31. U.S. forces protected the American consulate and the steamship wharf at Puerto Cortez during a period of revolutionary activity.
- 1903 Dominican Republic.
March 30 to April 21. A detachment of marines was landed to protect American interests in the city of Santo Domingo during a revolutionary outbreak.
- 1903 Syria.
September 7 to 12. U.S. forces protected the American consulate in Beirut when a local Muslim uprising was feared.
- 1903-04 Abyssinia.
Twenty-five marines were sent to Abyssinia to protect the U.S. Consul General while he negotiated a treaty.
- 1903-14 Panama.
U.S. forces sought to protect American interests and lives during and following the revolution for independence from Colombia over construction of the Isthmian Canal. With brief intermissions, United States Marines were stationed on the Isthmus from November 4, 1903, to January 21, 1914, to guard American interests.
- 1904 Dominican Republic.
January 2 to February 11. American and British naval forces established an area in which no fighting would be allowed and protected American interests in Puerto Plata and Sosua and Santo Domingo City during revolutionary fighting.
- 1904 Tangier, Morocco.
“We want either Perdicaris alive or Raisula dead.” A squadron demonstrated to force release of a kidnapped American. Marines were landed to protect the consul general.
- 1904 Panama.
November 17 to 24. U.S. forces protected American lives and property at Ancon at the time of a threatened insurrection.
- 1904-05 Korea.
January 5, 1904, to November 11, 1905. A guard of Marines was sent to protect the American legation in Seoul during the Russo-Japanese War.
- 1906-09 Cuba.
September 1906 to January 23, 1909. U.S. forces sought to restore order, protect foreigners, and establish a stable government after serious revolutionary activity.
- 1907 Honduras.
March 18 to June 8. To protect American interests during a war between Honduras and Nicaragua, troops were stationed in Trujillo, Ceiba, Puerto Cortez, San Pedro, Laguna and Choloma.
- 1910 Nicaragua.
May 19 to September 4. U.S. forces protected American interests at Bluefields.
- 1911 Honduras.
January 26. American naval detachments were landed to protect American lives and interests during a civil war in Honduras.
- 1911 China.
As the nationalist revolution approached, in October an ensign and 10 men tried to enter Wuchang to rescue missionaries but retired on being warned away, and a small landing force guarded American private property and consulate at Hankow. Marines were deployed in November to guard the cable stations at Shanghai; landing forces were sent for protection in Nanking, Chinkiang, Taku and elsewhere.
- 1912 Honduras.
A small force landed to prevent seizure by the government of an American owned railroad at Puerto Cortez. The forces were withdrawn after the United States disapproved the action.
- 1912 Panama.
Troops, on request of both political parties, supervised elections outside the Canal Zone.
- 1912 Cuba.
June 5 to August 5. U.S. forces protected American interests on the Province of Oriente, and in Havana.
- 1912 China.
August 24 to 26, on Kentucky Island, and August 26 to 30 at Camp Nicholson. U.S. forces protected Americans and American interests during revolutionary activity. 1912 Turkey. November 18 to December 3. U.S. forces guarded the American legation at Constantinople during a Balkan War.
- 1912-25 Nicaragua.
August to November 1912. U.S. forces protected American interests
during an attempted revolution. A small force, serving as a legation guard and seeking
to promote peace and stability, remained until August 5, 1925.
- 1912-41 China.
The disorders which began with the overthrow of the dynasty during Kuomintang rebellion in 1912, which were redirected by the invasion of China by Japan, led to demonstrations and landing parties for the protection of U.S. interests in China continuously and at many points from 1912 on to 1941. The guard at Peking and along the route to the sea was maintained until 1941. In 1927, the United States had 5,670 troops ashore in China and 44 naval vessels in its waters. In 1933 the United States had 3,027 armed men ashore. The protective action was generally based on treaties with China concluded from 1858 to 1901.
- 1913 Mexico.
September 5 to 7. A few marines landed at Ciaris Estero to aid in evacuating American citizens and others from the Yaqui Valley, made dangerous for foreigners by civil strife.
- 1914 Haiti.
January 29 to February 9, February 20 to 21, October 19. Intermittently U.S. naval forces protected American nationals in a time of rioting and revolution.
- 1914 Dominican Republic.
June and July. During a revolutionary movement, United States naval forces by gunfire stopped the bombardment of Puerto Plata, and by threat of force maintained Santo Domingo City as a neutral zone.
- 1914-17 Mexico.
Undeclared Mexican-American hostilities followed the Dolphin affair and Villa’s raids and included capture of Vera Cruz and later Pershing’s expedition into northern Mexico.
- 1915-34 Haiti.
July 28, 1915, to August 15, 1934. U.S. forces maintained order during a period of chronic political instability.
- 1916 China.
American forces landed to quell a riot taking place on American property in Nanking.
- 1916-24 Dominican Republic.
May 1916 to September 1924. American naval forces maintained order during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection.
- 1917 China.
American troops were landed at Chungking to protect American lives during a political crisis.
- 1917-18 World War I.
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war with Germany and on December 7, 1917, with Austria-Hungary. Entrance of the United States into the war was precipitated by Germany’s submarine warfare against
- 1917-22 Cuba.
U.S. forces protected American interests during an insurrection and subsequent unsettled conditions. Most of the United States armed forces left Cuba by August 1919, but two companies remained at Camaguey until February 1922.
- 1918-19 Mexico.
After withdrawal of the Pershing expedition, U.S. troops entered Mexico in pursuit of bandits at least three times in 1918 and six times in 1919. In August 1918 American and Mexican troops fought at Nogales.
- 1918-20 Panama.
U.S. forces were used for police duty according to treaty stipulations, at Chiriqui, during election disturbances and subsequent unrest.
- 1918-20 Soviet Russia.
Marines were landed at and near Vladivostok in June and July to protect the American consulate and other points in the fighting between the Bolshevik troops and the Czech Army which had traversed Siberia from the western front. A joint proclamation of emergency government and neutrality was issued by the American, Japanese, British, French, and Czech commanders in July. In August 7,000 men were landed in Vladivostok and remained until January 1920, as part of an allied occupation force. In September 1918, 5,000 American troops joined the allied intervention force at Archangel and remained until June 1919. These operations were in response to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and were partly supported by Czarist or Kerensky elements.
- 1919 Dalmatia.
U.S. forces were landed at Trau at the request of Italian authorities to police order between the Italians and Serbs.
- 1919 Turkey.
Marines from the U.S.S. Arizona were landed to guard the U.S. Consulate during the Greek occupation of Constantinople.
- 1919 Honduras.
September 8 to 12. A landing force was sent ashore to maintain order in a neutral zone during an attempted revolution.
- 1920 China.
March 14. A landing force was sent ashore for a few hours to protect lives during a disturbance at Kiukiang.
- 1920 Guatemala.
April 9 to 27. U.S. forces protected the American Legation and other American interests, such as the cable station, during a period of fighting between Unionists and the Government of Guatemala.
- 1920-22 Russia (Siberia).
February 16, 1920, to November 19, 1922. A Marine guard was sent to protect the United States radio station and property on Russian Island, Bay of Vladivostok.
- 1921 Panama – Costa Rica.
American naval squadrons demonstrated in April on both sides of the Isthmus to prevent war between the two countries over a boundary dispute.
- 1922 Turkey.
September and October. A landing force was sent ashore with consent of both Greek and Turkish authorities, to protect American lives and property when the Turkish Nationalists entered Smyrna.
- 1922-23 China.
Between April 1922 and November 1923 marines were landed five times to protect Americans during periods of unrest.
- 1924 Honduras.
February 28 to March 31, September 10 to 15. U.S. forces protected American lives and interests during election hostilities.
- 1924 China.
September. Marines were landed to protect Americans and other foreigners in Shanghai during Chinese factional hostilities.
- 1925 China.
January 15 to August 29. Fighting of Chinese factions accompanied by riots and demonstrations in Shanghai brought the landing of American forces to protect lives and property in the International Settlement.
- 1925 Honduras.
April 19 to 21. U.S. forces protected foreigners at La Ceiba during a political upheaval.
- 1925 Panama.
October 12 to 23. Strikes and rent riots led to the landing of about 600 American troops to keep order and protect American interests.
- 1926-33 Nicaragua.
May 7 to June 5, 1926; August 27, 1926 to January 3, 1933. The coup d’etat of General Chamorro aroused revolutionary activities leading to the landing of American marines to protect the interests of the United States. United States forces came and went intermittently until January 3, 1933.
- 1926 China.
August and September. The Nationalist attack on Hankow brought the landing of American naval forces to protect American citizens. A small guard was maintained at the consulate general even after September 16, when the rest of the forces were withdrawn. Likewise, when Nationalist forces captured Kiukiang, naval forces were landed for the protection of foreigners November 4 to 6.
- 1927 China.
February. Fighting at Shanghai caused American naval forces and marines to be increased. In March a naval guard was stationed at the American consulate at Nanking after Nationalist forces captured the city. American and British destroyers later used shell fire to protect Americans and other foreigners. Subsequently additional forces of marines and naval vessels were stationed in the vicinity of Shanghai and Tientsin.
- 1932 China.
American forces were landed to protect American interests during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai.
- 1933 Cuba.
During a revolution against President Gerardo Machado naval forces demonstrated but no landing was made.
- 1934 China.
Marines landed at Foochow to protect the American Consulate.
- 1940 Newfoundland, Bermuda, St. Lucia, Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, and British Guiana.
Troops were sent to guard air and naval bases obtained by negotiation with Great Britain. These were sometimes called lend-lease bases.
- 1941 Greenland.
Greenland was taken under protection of the United States in April.
- 1941 Netherlands (Dutch Guiana).
In November the President ordered American troops to occupy Dutch Guiana, but by agreement with the Netherlands government in exile, Brazil cooperated to protect aluminum ore supply from the bauxite mines in Surinam.
- 1941 Iceland.
Iceland was taken under the protection of the United States, with consent of its government, for strategic reasons.
- 1941 Germany.
Sometime in the spring the President ordered the Navy to patrol ship lanes to Europe. By July U.S. warships were convoying and by September were attacking German submarines. In November, the Neutrality Act was partly repealed to protect U.S. military aid to Britain.
- 1941-45 World War II.
On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war with Japan, on December 11 with Germany and Italy, and on June 5, 1942, with Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania. The United States declared war against Japan after the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor, and against Germany and Italy after those nations, under the dictators Hitler and Mussolini, declared war against the United States. The U.S. declared war against Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania in response to the declarations of war by those nations against the United States. 1945 China. In October 50,000 U.S. Marines were sent to North China to assist Chinese Nationalist authorities in disarming and repatriating the Japanese in China and in controlling ports, railroads, and airfields. This was in addition to approximately 60,000 U.S. forces remaining in China at the end of World War II.
- 1946 Trieste.
President Truman ordered the augmentation of U.S. troops along the zonal occupation line and the reinforcement of air forces in northern Italy after Yugoslav forces shot down an unarmed U.S. Army transport plane flying over Venezia Giulia. Earlier U.S. naval units had been dispatched to the scene.
- 1948 Palestine.
A marine consular guard was sent to Jerusalem to protect the U.S. Consul General.
- 1948 Berlin.
After the Soviet Union established a land blockade of the U.S., British, and French sectors of Berlin on June 24, 1948, the United States and its allies airlifted supplies to Berlin until after the blockade was lifted in May 1949.
- 1948-49 China.
Marines were dispatched to Nanking to protect the American Embassy when the city fell to Communist troops, and to Shanghai to aid in the protection and evacuation of Americans.
- 1950-53 Korean War.
The United States responded to North Korean invasion of South Korea by going to its assistance, pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions. U.S. forces deployed in Korea exceeded 300,000 during the last year of the conflict. Over 36,600 U.S. military were killed in action.
- 1950-55 Formosa (Taiwan).
In June 1950 at the beginning of the Korean War, President Truman ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet to prevent Chinese Communist attacks upon Formosa and Chinese Nationalist operations against mainland China.
- 1954-55 China.
Naval units evacuated U.S. civilians and military personnel from the Tachen Islands.
- 1956 Egypt.
A marine battalion evacuated U.S. nationals and other persons from Alexandria during the Suez crisis.
- 1958 Lebanon.
Marines were landed in Lebanon at the invitation of its government to help protect against threatened insurrection supported from the outside. The President’s action was supported by a Congressional resolution passed in 1957 that authorized such actions in that area of the world.
- 1959-60 The Caribbean.
2d Marine Ground Task Force was deployed to protect U.S. nationals during the Cuban crisis.
- 1962 Thailand.
The 3d Marine Expeditionary Unit landed on May 17, 1962 to support that country during the threat of Communist pressure from outside; by July 30 the 5,000 marines had been withdrawn.
- 1962 Cuba.
On October 22, President Kennedy instituted a “quarantine” on the shipment of offensive missiles to Cuba from the Soviet Union. He also warned the Soviet Union that the launching of any missile from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere would bring about U.S. nuclear retaliation on the Soviet Union. A negotiated settlement was achieved in a few days.
- 1962-75 Laos.
From October 1962 until 1975, the United States played an important role in military support of anti-Communist forces in Laos.
- 1964 Congo.
The United States sent four transport planes to provide airlift for Congolese troops during a rebellion and to transport Belgian paratroopers to rescue foreigners.
- 1964-73 Vietnam War.
U.S. military advisers had been in South Vietnam for a decade, and their numbers had been increased as the military position of the Saigon government became weaker. After citing what he termed were attacks on U.S. destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf, President Johnson asked in August 1964 for a resolution expressing U.S. determination to support freedom and protect peace in Southeast Asia. Congress responded with the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, expressing support for “all necessary measures” the President might take to repel armed attack against U.S. forces and prevent further aggression. Following this resolution, and following a Communist attack on a U.S. installation in central Vietnam, the United States escalated its participation in the war to a peak of 543,000 military personnel by April 1969.
- 1965 Dominican Republic.
The United States intervened to protect lives and property during a Dominican revolt and sent more troops as fears grew that the revolutionary forces were coming increasingly under Communist control.
- 1967 Congo.
The United States sent three military transport aircraft with crews to provide the Congo central government with logistical support during a revolt.
- 1970 Cambodia.
U.S. troops were ordered into Cambodia to clean out Communist sanctuaries from which Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attacked U.S. and South Vietnamese forces in Vietnam. The object of this attack, which lasted from April 30 to June 30, was to ensure the continuing safe withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam and to assist the program of Vietnamization.
- Evacuation from Cyprus.
United States naval forces evacuated U.S. civilians during hostilities between Turkish and Greek Cypriot forces.
- 1975 Evacuation from Vietnam.
On April 3, 1975, President Ford reported U.S. naval vessels,
helicopters, and marines had been sent to assist in evacuation of refugees and U.S. nationals from Vietnam.
- 1975 Evacuation from Cambodia.
On April 12, 1975, President Ford reported that he had ordered U.S. military forces to proceed with the planned evacuation of U.S. citizens from Cambodia.
- 1975 South Vietnam.
On April 30, 1975, President Ford reported that a force of 70 evacuation helicopters and 865 marines had evacuated about 1,400 U.S. citizens and 5,500 third country nationals and South Vietnamese from landing zones near the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the Tan Son Nhut Airfield.
- 1975 Mayaguez incident.
On May 15, 1975, President Ford reported he had ordered military forces to retake the SS Mayaguez, a merchant vessel en route from Hong Kong to Thailand with a U.S. citizen crew which was seized by Cambodian naval patrol boats in international waters and forced to proceed to a nearby island.
- 1976 Lebanon.
On July 22 and 23, 1974, helicopters from five U.S. naval vessels evacuated approximately 250 Americans and Europeans from Lebanon during fighting between Lebanese factions after an overland convoy evacuation had been blocked by hostilities.
- 1976 Korea.
Additional forces were sent to Korea after two American soldiers were killed by North Korean soldiers in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea while cutting down a tree.
- 1978 Zaire.
From May 19 through June 1978, the United States utilized military transport aircraft to provide logistical support to Belgian and French rescue operations in Zaire.
- 1980 Iran.
On April 26, 1980, President Carter reported the use of six U.S. transport planes and eight helicopters in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue American hostages being held in Iran.
- 1981 El Salvador.
After a guerilla offensive against the government of El Salvador, additional U.S. military advisers were sent to El Salvador, bringing the total to approximately 55, to assist in training government forces in counterinsurgency.
- 1981 Libya.
On August 19, 1981, U.S. planes based on the carrier U.S.S. Nimitz shot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra after one of the Libyan jets had fired a heatseeking missile. The United States periodically held freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, claimed by Libya as territorial waters but considered international waters by the United States.
- 1982 Sinai.
On March 19, 1982, President Reagan reported the deployment of military personnel and equipment to participate in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai. Participation had been authorized by the Multinational Force and Observers Resolution, P.L. 97-132.
- 1982 Lebanon.
On August 21, 1982, President Reagan reported the dispatch of 80 marines to serve in the multinational force to assist in the withdrawal of members of the Palestine Liberation force from Beirut. The Marines left September 20, 1982.
- 1982-1983 Lebanon.
On September 29, 1982, President Reagan reported the deployment of 1200 marines to serve in a temporary multinational force to facilitate the restoration of Lebanese government sovereignty. On Sept. 29, 1983, Congress passed the Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution (P.L. 98-119) authorizing the continued participation for eighteen months.
- 1983 Egypt.
After a Libyan plane bombed a city in Sudan on March 18, 1983, and Sudan and Egypt appealed for assistance, the United States dispatched an AWACS electronic surveillance plane to Egypt.
- 1983-89 Honduras.
In July 1983 the United States undertook a series of exercises in Honduras that some believed might lead to conflict with Nicaragua. On March 25, 1986, unarmed U.S. military helicopters and crewmen ferried Honduran troops to the Nicaraguan border to repel Nicaraguan troops.
- 1983 Chad.
On August 8, 1983, President Reagan reported the deployment of two AWACS electronic surveillance planes and eight F-15 fighter planes and ground logistical support forces to assist Chad against Libyan and rebel forces.
- 1983 Grenada.
On October 25, 1983, President Reagan reported a landing on Grenada by Marines and Army airborne troops to protect lives and assist in the restoration of law and order and at the request of five members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
- 1984 Persian Gulf.
On June 5, 1984, Saudi Arabian jet fighter planes, aided by intelligence from a U.S. AWACS electronic surveillance aircraft and fueled by a U.S. KC-10 tanker, shot down two Iranian fighter planes over an area of the Persian Gulf proclaimed as a protected zone for shipping.
- 1985 Italy.
On October 10, 1985, U.S. Navy pilots intercepted an Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Sicily. The airliner was carrying the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro who had killed an American citizen during the hijacking.