Undeclared war

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An undeclared war is a military conflict between two or more nations without either side issuing a formal declaration of war. The term is sometimes used to include any disagreement or conflict fought about without an official declaration. Since the United Nations police action in Korea[1], a number of democratic governments have pursued disciplinary actions and limited warfare by characterizing them as something else such as a military action or armed response.

United States[edit]

There is no specific format required under United States law for the way an official war declaration will be structured or delivered. The United States Constitution states: "The Congress shall have Power […] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water".[2]

As of August 2013, the United States Congress has only formally declared war 13 times, and has not done so since 1942.[3] The United States did not declare war during its involvement in Vietnam, although the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorized the escalation and use of military force in the Vietnam War without a formal declaration of war.[4] On at least 125 occasions a US president has employed military forces without authorization from Congress.[5] One of the most significant of these occasions was the Korean War, a conflict that resulted in over 142,000 American casualties.[5]


  1. ^ Truman, Harry S. (29 June 1950). "The President's News Conference of June 29, 1950". Teachingamericanhistory.org. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  2. ^ "U.S. Constitution - Article 1 Section 8".
  3. ^ Franke-Ruta, Garance (31 August 2019). "All the Previous Declarations of War". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-09-01.
  4. ^ "The Law: The President's War Powers". Time. 1 June 1970. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
  5. ^ a b Yoo, John C.; Delahunty, Robert J. (2002). "The President's Constitutional Authority to Conduct Military Operations Against Terrorist Organizations and the Nations that Harbor or Support Them". SSRN Working Paper Series: 502. doi:10.2139/ssrn.331202. ISSN 1556-5068.