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How goes the battle?

Examining wars of the past via the Web might help you understand wars of the future.

As a wise man once asked, “War! Huh! What is it good for?”

You might think the answer is “absolutely nuthin’,” and you might be right, but one positive result of the United States’ ongoing staredown with Iraq and North Korea is that it revitalizes interest in past wars. With any luck, that interest might keep combat history from being repeated in the future. Regardless, as you might imagine, the Web is full of extremely informative sites about past conflicts, occupations, coups, counter-coups, police actions, and plain old wars.

For now, let’s stick with real, official, good old American wars–to be specific, what old-timers used to call The Great War. World War I: Trenches on the Web isn’t a graphical thing of beauty, but it’ll look just fine if you’re after research fodder. The site’s centerpiece is a reference library that contains information and photos on weapons and troops; biographies of key figures; downloadable reproductions of artwork, posters, and documents from the era; detailed, zoomable maps of key theaters of battle; period music and other recordings; and tons of analysis, history, timelines, and other WWI-related essays. Also worth a look: The World War I Document Archive, the British perspective, and poetry inspired by the war.

The Korean War is often pointed to as the one that gets short shrift from historians, but what about the War of 1812? Few non-history buffs could tell you the first thing about it (aside from what year it started). Appropriately, the U.S. Army has an excellent (if no-frills) introductory Web page about this oft-misunderstood conflict Once you’ve got the basics down–and I sure didn’t know that this war was waged as far north as Ontario–there are numerous other sources for in-depth study.

There’s MultiEducator’s comprehensive 1812 site, the history of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which was written during this war, and a complete guide (with names of the buried) to the 1812 war cemetery in Cheektowaga, N.Y.

From the 1950s through the ’80s, the United States found itself in a seemingly never-ending series of scrapes in its effort to scrub the world clean of Communism. While the Korea and Vietnam wars got all the headlines, they were far from the only combat our troops saw, and far from being the only source of interesting data. For instance, you might not know that the Granada conflict in the fall of 1983 was the first military action officially “won” by the United States since World War II.

That and other handy facts about Grenada are on The History Guy’s site, along with information on wars of all sorts. But for a thorough wrap-up of the many, many Cold War-era operations in which the United States participated, from the Berlin airlift to the optimistically named Operation Classic Resolve in 1989, see the Federation of American Scientists’ comprehensive site.

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