Which Battle Was Deadlier?

Raj Chander

Image: VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

"What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" 

This shouted refrain is the chorus of Edwin Starr's 1969 classic, "War." Despite the opinion of Starr and hundreds of other celebrities over the decades, war remains a central theme of human history. According to reporting from The New York Times, humans have been fully at peace for only 268 out of the last 3,400 years.

This means that for 92% of recorded history, civilizations have been fighting each other. Wars start for many reasons, but religion and territory have undoubtedly been the two most significant. Consider World War II, a conflict borne largely from Adolf Hitler's insatiable desire to spread his Nazi empire across all of Europe. Thousands of years before Germany came under Hitler's reign, a series of Persian kings waged a campaign with a similar goal. At its height, Persia controlled nearly 3 million square miles across Africa, Europe and Asia.

Whether it's an ancient conflict for land or a modern battle over ideology, one constant of war is the human cost. By some estimates, nearly a billion people have lost their lives throughout human history thanks to violent conflict. Historians tend to compare battles and rank them based on which were deadliest, a grim sorting for bloody conflicts of history.

How much do you know about the cost of war? Take this quiz to find out.

Persia's conquest of civilization was one of the major conflicts of the ancient world. Which of these two battles from Persia's war with Greece was deadliest?

Even though Marathon involved a much larger force of fighters, Thermopylae was actually deadlier. Before the entire regiment of Spartans was slain, Leonidas and his men managed to kill nearly 20,000 Persians.

The Civil War is still the deadliest American war in history. Of these two 19th century battles, which brought more death?

Both of these battles were extremely costly, involving over 20,000 deaths. But at Gettysburg, Lee lost around a third of his army. In the wake of the crushing defeat, the famous Confederate general attempted to resign, but President Jefferson Davis rejected it.

Virginia saw much bloodshed during the American Civil War. Which of these two battles in the Old Dominion cost more lives?

Despite being massively outnumbered, Lee used smart maneuvering of his troops to win a decisive victory for the Confederacy. The engagement was known as Lee's "perfect battle" as a result.

During the American Revolution, colonists paid a big price to be free. Can you name the Revolutionary War battle that was deadliest?

Camden isn't as well-known as conflicts like Yorktown or Bunker Hill, but it involved the most casualties of the war — over 1000 Americans and more than 300 British were killed.

Conflicts of the Revolution happened everywhere, from the Carolinas to Massachusetts. Which of these two Revolutionary War fights killed more men?

In the small battle of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina, both sides claimed victory. While Monmouth wasn't very decisive either, its larger scale meant that more people died as a result.

World War I changed the way battles were fought throughout the world. Which of these WWI battles cost more lives?

Both of these battles in France ended in allied victories, and while both had substantial human costs, Verdun caused the loss of over one million lives across both sides. To this day, it's considered one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

As the name implies, battles of World War I were fought across multiple continents and involved over 30 different countries. Do you know the deadliest of these two conflicts?

While Gallipoli was a major confrontation of the Middle Eastern theatre and actually lasted longer, Somme involved over three million troops and killed more than one million.

Some historians view World War II as a continuation of the first World War. Can you guess which WWII conflict killed more people?

Okinawa was essential for setting up a Japanese invasion that never came, but the Battle of the Bulge cost over 100,000 total lives, several times more than the number of men who died at Okinawa.

As was the case in World War I, Russia was a major player in World War II. Of the two Russian battles below, which had a higher number of casualties?

Both of these victories saw Russian victories, but at Stalingrad, Russia alone lost over 478,000 men — over 2 million were killed, wounded or captured across both sides.

The Vietnam War, which saw nearly 10 years of American involvement and ultimately ended in a loss, is commonly referenced by Americans as a reason to avoid foreign military conflict. Can you name the deadlier Vietnam battle?

Khe Sanh lasted for over six months, and although only a few hundred U.S. Marines lost their lives, approximately 10,000 communist forces were killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Much of Vietnam was defined by offensives by communist North Vietnam, intended to demoralize America and South Vietnam into giving up. Of the below campaigns, which cost more lives?

Occurring after the Tet Offensive, the Easter Offensive was more intense and cost more life — close to 100,000 on both sides, compared to just over 80,000 deaths in the Tet Offensive.

Many people think of modern conflicts when they imagine wars, but ancient times saw some devastating battles as well — many involved Rome and Carthage. Which of these battles from the Second Punic War was deadlier?

Of a massive force of over 86,000 troops between Rome and its allies, only about 15,000 survived. Cannae was considered one of the best tactical victories in history and cemented Hannibal's reputation as one of the most skilled generals to ever lead troops in a war.

Another significant ancient confrontation was the Muslim invasion of the Persian empire, which lasted over two decades. Do you know which of these two fights from that war killed more men?

Khalid ibn al-Walid, general under the famous Muslim leader Abu Bakr, won both of these battles — but at Ullais, 70,000 Persians alone were killed, making it one of the deadliest conflicts of the ancient world.

The Thirty Years' War between various powers of Europe cost over eight million lives. Which of these two battles from the 17th-century conflict was bloodier?

Besides the loss of roughly 20,000 men on both sides, Lutzen also led to the death of Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish King who transformed Sweden into a significant player in European affairs during the Middle Ages.

In the 18th century, the Seven Years' War was a conflict that nearly every major European country participated in. Of the below battles, which killed more people?

Prussian leader Frederick the Great was considered one of the most excellent military commanders in history, but at Zorndorf, Prussia lost over 3,600 men, while Russia may have lost as many as 22,000.

Alexander the Great was one of history's most important conquerors. Which of these conflicts during his campaigns was deadlier?

Gaugamela took place in what is now Iraq. Despite a Persian force of hundreds of thousands of men compared to Alexander's army of just under 50,000, the Macedonian victory led to the fall of the Persian Empire.

Another war often overlooked compared to the wars directly before (American Revolution) and after (Civil War), the War of 1812 is still a major historical conflict. Do you know which of these two fights in that war killed more men?

The British had the Americans outnumbered by more than 2,000 troops, yet General Andrew Jackson successfully defended the major American city, killing or wounding nearly 2,000 English soldiers in just a few hours.

Besides the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, the War of 1812 was one of the only major conflicts to be fought in North America. Which of these two War of 1812 battles was more lethal?

While the Americans won at Baltimore, the combination of the Niagara River plus Mohawk forces allied with the British led to a U.S. loss in Canada at Queenston, which cost the lives of several hundred American soldiers.

China and Japan have had a tenuous relationship for centuries. Of these two conflicts during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which cost the lives of more troops?

Although Chinese forces were outgunned by superior Japanese war technology, their heart and stubbornness surprised the Japanese and demoralized the island nation. Around a quarter million troops perished over the three months of the assault on Shanghai.

World War II was fought all over the globe, but most major battles occurred in Europe. Which of these two WWII battles in Europe was bloodier?

Greater than 2 million soldiers fought for Berlin, and close to 200,000 were killed, including the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who committed suicide about a week before the city officially surrendered to the Soviets.

The Korean War was a significant conflict in Asia, which killed millions of Koreans. Do you know which Korean War battle cost more lives?

The victory at Inchon, also known as "Operation Chromite," helped lead to the end of the war and cement Douglas MacArthur's place as a highly-respected military mind.

Even the World War II battles that aren't as famous still involved a high human cost. Which of these two WWII conflicts killed more people?

During the Siegfried Line campaign, the allied advance into the Rhineland helped lead to the end of WWII. This major offensive came at a high cost, killing nearly 100,000 and wounding hundreds of thousands of more across both sides.

While not as prominent as some global conflicts, the Chinese Civil War still cost many lives. Which campaign during the Chinese Civil War was more lethal?

At Huaihai, around half a million Nationalist troops were killed, compared to just over 130,000 Communist fighters. It's still considered one of the most significant victories in the history of Communist China.

It only involved one nation, but the American Civil War still had a massive impact on the world at large. Do you know the more deadliest of these two Civil War battles?

Part of the difference in the amount of bloodshed can be explained by the duration of these battles. Chickamauga in Tennessee was fought over multiple days, while Antietam, the more famous battle, took place on just a single afternoon.

Sometimes comparing battles from different wars can help understand human conflict. Which of these two battles from separate conflicts in the 1940s killed more?

Over 100,000 were killed during the major battle of South Shanxi, compared to just over 25,000 at Dunkirk. A feature film was produced about the battle in 2017.

While WWII raged on, the Japanese and Chinese fought for control of China. Which of these two city sieges was deadliest?

It took over a month, but after the death of over 600,000 Red Army soldiers, the Germans won a decisive victory and occupied the major Ukrainian city.

Khalid ibn al-Walid was a famous leader of the Rashidun Caliphate that conquered a significant part of the Middle East. Can you name the more lethal battle of the two below?

At Walaja, the Christians and Persians lost around 20,000 people thanks to the tactical prowess of Khalid, who emulated a maneuver that Hannibal also used to defeat the Romans.

The Mongols were some of the fiercest warriors in ancient civilization. Can you name the Mongol battle that ended the most lives?

The Hungarians faced a decisive defeat to the Mongols, allowing the expansion of the 13th century Mongol Empire, a progression that would continue well into the 14th century.

The French Napoleon Bonaparte was responsible for some of the greatest military conquests in history. During the Hundred Days (or Waterloo Campaign), which battle cost more men?

After the French defeat at Waterloo, which cost the lives of around 50,000 across both sides, Napoleon was exiled to the island of Saint Helena, where he would die six years later.

In the southern United States, lots of blood was shed during the American Civil War. Which of these two battles saw more lives perish?

Around 3,000 died at Stones River, but more than 4,000 perished at Spotyslvania, despite the latter being a more inconclusive fight than the Union victory at Stones River.

In the 20th century, WWI cost the lives of over 10 million civilians and soldiers. Can you name the deadlier battle of the Great War?

After over a month of warfare, the result of Ypres was still indecisive, although nearly a hundred thousand were wounded, killed or missing in action.

Many different countries hosted battles in World War I. Of these two battles — one in Italy, and one in France — which killed more troops?

Nearly 30,000 died at Asiago, but that was a mere drop in the bucket compared to Somme, where around a million were killed or wounded.

Even towards the end of the Great War, lots of blood was being spilled. Both of these WWI conflicts took place in 1917 — which killed more soldiers?

Nearly 100,000 died at Cambrai, a war that was fought largely with the British Mark IV tanks.

Most people remember World War II for German battles, but the fighting happened everywhere. Do you remember which of these two was most lethal?

While the Greek campaign lasted much longer, Kharkov was bloodier, in large part due to advanced German artillery and devastating airstrikes.

Italy and Estonia are two smaller countries that still hosted battles in WWII. Which of these two clashes spilled more blood?

While somewhere around 75,000 lost their lives at Monte Cassino, modern historians estimate that Soviet casualties were well into the six figure range.

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