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An interesting conversation has come up on the Science Fiction and Fantasy SE site. I will try to summarize it as briefly as possible.

Someone asked a question about the second Star Wars prequel. For those who aren't familiar with the movies, the gist is as follows: A group of separatists try to secede from the Galactic Republic, and the Jedi try to stop them. The Jedi are few in number, but they have an army of clones to fight for them. When the first battle takes place, the Jedi master Yoda says something like "Begun, the Clone War has".

The ensuing conversation was rather interesting. Someone suggested that no one ever names a war after their own country, faction, alliance, or side. I'm not arguing that it is common for a country to name a war after themselves, but I suspect that it has happened from time to time.

Obviously, the more common approach has been to name wars in one of four ways:

  1. Name it after your opponent(s). The 'Them' War. This is especially attractive because we like to blame everyone else for our problems, and most people don't want to create the impression that they accept responsibility for starting a war. By naming the war after the other guy, you implicitly shift the responsibility onto the shoulders of your enemy.

    • Examples of this include: The French and Indian War, the Iraq War, Queen Anne's War, the Black and Tan War (aka The War of Irish Independence), etc.
  2. Name it after both sides. The 'Us and Them' War. I think this is more common in hindsight than at the time of the actual conflict, but it happens one way or another.

    • Examples of this include: The Spanish-American War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Mexican-American War, etc.

      • In many cases, the war is referred to in one way by each side while it is still being fought, but afterwards, the victors get to determine the official title. For example, during the Mexican-American War, the Mexicans referred to it as the American Invasion, and Americans referred to it as the Mexican War. After America won, we decided to call it the Mexican-American War. By the same token, the Southern states referred to the American Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression", and the Union referred to it as "The War Between the States", "The War to Preserve the Union", "The War of Southern Secession", or "The War of Rebellion". At the time, Northerners didn't like the idea of calling it a Civil War, but later on, tempers cooled and we decided to call it "The American Civil War", despite the desire of some southerners to keep calling it the War of Northern Aggression.
  3. Name it after the place where it happens, or the cause of the conflict. The 'There' War; The 'That Thing That Happened' War. This is less common in recent history, but was fairly common in the past.

    • Examples of this include: The Crimean War, The American Revolutionary War [This comes very close to naming a war after yourself, but I'm not sure if it is exactly the same], the War of the Polish Succession, The War of the Spanish Succession, The French Revolution, etc.
  4. Name it after how long it lasts. The "This Long" War. This very rarely happens now, but people used to love it for some reason.1

    • Examples of this include: The Seven Years War, The Hundred Years War, The Thirty Years War, The Seven Day War, etc.

There may be a few cases in which one side in a conflict has named the conflict after themselves (either their country, their cause, or their faction or alliance), but I am having trouble trying to think of such a case.

The former Soviet Union refers to World War II as "The Great Patriotic War", and it goes without saying that the "great patriots" are supposed to be the Soviets themselves. This is close to what I'm talking about, but it isn't quite the same thing as naming a war after yourself - it is simply choosing a name that makes your side look good.

And so we come to the point. My question is this:

Has anyone ever named a war after their own country, faction, alliance, or side?

Note: Because the victor always gets to write the history books, and this frequently includes renaming the war, the best way to answer the question is probably to refer to what people called the conflict while it was still in progress.


1 Thanks to Francis Davey for reminding me of this one.

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    I think the most obvious reason countries don't name wars after themselves is that it would get confusing. How many times can the United States participate in "The American War"? – two sheds Aug 5 '15 at 0:14
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    @WadCheber it wasn't called the Great War because of how much fun they were having.. – FiringSquadWitness Aug 5 '15 at 4:00
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    You missed out the 4th method of naming wars: after periods of time, as in the 7 years war, 30 years war, 100 years war, 7 day war etc. – Francis Davey Aug 5 '15 at 18:15
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    Another interesting example, probably in the in the "Us and Them" category, is the Wars of Roses. – Adam Aug 5 '15 at 19:38
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    The "War of Jenkins' Ear" was named by Jenkins. – Pieter Geerkens Aug 5 '15 at 22:42

14 Answers 14

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(1) "The Battle of France" - so called by the French.

The the term "Battle of France is widely used for the WW2 fighting of the French against the German invasion. See e.g. Wikipedia Battle of France

And the naming of it accordingly is attested to e.g. Winston Churchill: here

... What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. ... if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour". — Winston Churchill

General Maxime Weygand


(2) Winston Churchill apparently coined the phrase Battle of Britain for the fight of Britain against the Germans in WW2 - see reference above. It has since come to be more tightly used to refer to the initial German-British air battle.
"The Battle of Britain" has the distinction of being so named by both the British and essentially anyone else who talks about it - even though it was "just one small battle" out of very many - albeit an extremely important one.

Note below that the Germans call it "The air battle for England" whereas the English call it "The Battle of Britain".

Wikipedia Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England, literally "Air battle for England") is the name given to the Second World War air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940. The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces,[18] and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date.

________________________________

The following are not "named after their own side" in the sense of being eponymous, but are in each case named by one of the combatant countries or leaders after their perception of their role or performance in the conflict.

(3) WW2 is known to the Russians (or the then USSRians) as "The Great Patriotic War".

Also known as "Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́" or "Velíkaya Otéchestvennaya voyná".
Presumably they did not have the German patriots in mind :-(.

Wikipedia Great Patriotic War says:

The term Great Patriotic War (Russian: Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́, Velíkaya Otéchestvennaya voyná[1]) is used in Russia and some other former republics of the Soviet Union to describe the conflict fought during the period from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945 along the many fronts of the Eastern Front of World War II between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany with its allies.

Many examples here.


(4) They are not being very original, as Wikipedia French invasion of Russia says

The French Invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 (Russian: Отечественная война 1812 года; Otechestvennaya Voyna 1812 Goda)

__________________________

(5) Iraq's war against Iran under Saddam Hussein was known (at leat initially) by the Iraqis as
"The Lightning War" due to the rapidity with which it was expected that they would overwhelm the opposition. The opposition has other ideas. That reference is harder to substantiate, but it is cited in various web references.
A reasonable example is here

Saddam Hussein: The Last Great Tyrant - by the much derided and lauded Robert Fisk, December 2000

I recall huddling with Iraqi commandos in a shell-smashed city in southern Iran in 1980 when an officer announced a personal message from Saddam to all his fighting forces. They were participating, he announced, in "the lightning war". There was even a song that played continuously on Iraqi television: "The Lightning War". Like the "Mother of All Battles", it was a mockery of the truth.


(6) Saddam may have been hat tipping to the well known German term Blitzkrieg = "lightning war".

Wikipedia Blitzkrieg

Blitzkrieg - German, "lightning war" is an anglicised term, describing a method of warfare whereby an attacking force spearheaded by a dense concentration of armoured and motorized or mechanized infantry formations with close air support, breaks through the opponent's line of defense by short, fast, powerful attacks and then dislocates the defenders, using speed and surprise to encircle them. Through the employment of combined arms in maneuver warfare, blitzkrieg attempts to unbalance the enemy by making it difficult for them to respond to the continuously changing front and defeating them in a decisive Vernichtungsschlacht (battle of annihilation)

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    You're talking about battles, not entire wars. – Loren Pechtel Aug 6 '15 at 4:23
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    Battle of Britain and Battle of France are more geographical names (the OPs 3rd category) - if they were the "British Battle" or "Battle of the British" they would be contenders for naming after yourself. – user13123 Aug 6 '15 at 6:41
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    I don't think @LorenPechtel is splitting hairs. France was at war with Germany before the Battle of France, and still at war with Germany after the Battle of France (the Free French being then based in London). Britain was at war with Germany before the Battle of Britain, and still at war with Germany after the Battle of Britain. – Jon Hanna Aug 6 '15 at 10:12
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    And in any case, NO ONE that I have heard of calls the fighting that occurred in France in 1940, "The French War" or "The War of France". It is, as you say it yourself, "The BATTLE of France". It's a battle, not a war. Or really more accurately a campaign or a front, but whatever. – Jay Aug 6 '15 at 13:51
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    @RussellMcMahon - I'm an Englishman from London who has emigrated to Australia - but that really couldn't make a difference. The Battle of France was a campaign within the greater war - it was literally the battle to control the nation of France, it was not ever called the Battle of the French. I'm not sure how that offends the French (or how Battle of Britain offends the British or English). – user13123 Aug 6 '15 at 14:54
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The Austro-Prussian War is currently known in Germany as "Deutscher Krieg", or "The German War" - though it was originally known as "Preußisch-Deutscher Krieg", or "Prussian-German War".

Another contender are the Napoleonic Wars--or the Guerres napoléoniennes, as they are called in France.

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    The Austrians and the Prussians were both Germans, this is the same as the second point in the Question: 2. Name it after both sides. – FiringSquadWitness Aug 5 '15 at 3:57
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    "Guerres napoléoniennes" is the literal translation of Napoleonic Wars in French though ... of course they won't use English ... – Autar Aug 5 '15 at 7:18
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    @twosheds Nah it's probably just my brain reacting strangely to the formulation since I'm not an english native speaker :) – Autar Aug 5 '15 at 11:11
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    I understand, but I'm pretty doubtful that Napoleonic Wars were called Naponeonic Wars by the French at that time. They did not have the vision of Yoda. Or they wouldn't have gone to Moscow in Winter ;-) – bilbo_pingouin Aug 5 '15 at 13:18
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    @bilbo_pingouin Now I wish bounties could be awarded to comments. :) – reirab Aug 5 '15 at 14:07
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I can think of an example of this from the ancient period:

The Lamian War(323–322 BC): was known to the ancient Greeks as the "Hellenic War".

Obviously there were many wars in ancient Greece that we could call "Hellenic Wars" but this particular one was explicitly noted by Diodorus Siculus as such. Independent Greek states fought on both sides of this war: Athens and the Aetolian league on one side, Macedonians and Boeotians on the other side.

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One potential answer is "The People's Crusade." This certainly refers to the people fighting it (peasants instead of noblemen). I haven't found any primary source material for contemporaries calling it "The People's Crusade", but this source seems to suggest that it was called "The Popular Crusade" which is fairly close.

As two sheds and Steve Jessop pointed out, the word crusade comes from the Latin for cross which refers to the Christians who did the fighting, so all of the crusades were actually named by one side to refer to themselves and that terminology was used at the time.

  • I'll give you that. The name "Crusades" in general is referring to the Crusaders, so they should count. – two sheds Aug 5 '15 at 14:12
  • @twosheds: surely "Crusaders" is referring to the Crusades. But either way the wars are named for the side naming them, in the sense that they were the crosses. – Steve Jessop Aug 6 '15 at 7:47
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    @SteveJessop: Right, I didn't mean the word "Crusaders" came before the word "Crusades." I just meant Christendom named the Crusades after itself, so nearly all of the Crusades are a legitimate answer, not just the People's Crusade. – two sheds Aug 6 '15 at 12:00
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Naming a war after the leader of our side (especially if he wants to be remembered for the victory, even anticipated) like in "Napoleonic Wars" as referenced by two sheds seems to be the most natural case of naming the war after one's side.

In Clone Wars it's a different case: naming the war after a key or new weapon. I don't know about any war named like this, but I know of one battle: the battle in which Antioch I. defeated Galatians is known as the "Elephant Battle". I see no reason why a war couldn't be named after a weapon/technology in a similar manner.

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Hmm... Perhaps the War of the League of Augsburg / War of the Grand Alliance / Nine Years' War would count, at least with respect to the first two of those names. According to Wikipedia,

The Grand Alliance was a European coalition, consisting (at various times) of Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg, the Dutch Republic, England, the Holy Roman Empire, Ireland, the Palatinate of the Rhine, Portugal, Savoy, Saxony, Scotland, Spain and Sweden. The organization, which was founded in 1686 as the League of Augsburg, was known as the "Grand Alliance" after England and Scotland joined the League (in 1689). It was originally formed in an attempt to halt Louis XIV of France's expansionist policies.

Unfortunately, in a quick search I can't seem to find anything that says authoritatively whether contemporaries used either of those two names, though they have been used quite a bit since then.

  • This makes sense. Usually you don't name your war after your own side, because there's some other factor that's specific to the war. Either the opponent, a location, or a weapon (The clone wars). But when the side you're on was only created for the war, it's the new thing. – Peter Cordes Aug 9 '15 at 6:42
  • @PeterCordes Though it has happened a few times since then, such as in both world wars. – reirab Aug 9 '15 at 7:46
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One example that comes to my mind is the War of the Triple Alliance, perhaps more commonly known as the Paraguayan War, which was won by the said Triple Alliance (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay).
EDIT – But to be honest, I don't actually know nor could I find out whether it was called like that while it was being fought; it's pretty probable that it was called either "Paraguayan War" by the Allies and "War against the Triple Alliance" by the Paraguayans at the time.

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    Brazilian here. I've known it as War of Paraguay since I was a little kid. – Emilio M Bumachar Aug 5 '15 at 12:11
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Winston Churchill, before fighting it: "The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation."

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Surely an obvious example is the American Revolution? And likewise for many other revolutions.

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    Included in my question under point 3. – Wad Cheber Aug 5 '15 at 5:02
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    @Wad Cheber: Yes, and I'm disagreeing with you that it is not a case of the victors naming the war after themselves. – jamesqf Aug 5 '15 at 17:48
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two sheds already mentioned the Napoleonic Wars, which do kinda qualify(they're named after the leader of the country), AND

The French Revolutionary wars(guerres de la Révolution française in French) are a perfect example for what you're asking. They're named after the... we can say faction or political entity, that caused and won most of them, and are known under this name both in France and abroad.

  • Good point. I suppose then the American Revolution(ary War) would also count. Ah, nevermind. I just saw that both of these are in the original question. – reirab Aug 5 '15 at 14:12
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At least two other answers have mentioned that the French refer to the Napoleonic wars by the name of their leader, but miss that they are also referred to (in English) by the faction the British were in. The War of the First Coalition, The War of the Second Coalition, all the way through The War of the Seventh Coalition.

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Well, I am not sure if it counts for you, but the Russians named their struggle against Germany (WW2) as "Great Patriotic War". Stalin used it on his radio message on 3. July 1941

see: http://www.1000dokumente.de/index.html?c=dokument_ru&dokument=0029_stj&object=translation&st=&l=de

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The Falklands War between the UK and Argentina in 1982.

  • The Falklands are a group of islands in the South Atlantic, off the coast of Argentina. The UK has sovereignty over the Falklands as a British dependent territory. – Peter Point Sep 9 '16 at 4:11
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    But that then counts as a war named after the place it occurs - i.e. the OP's option 3... – Nick C Sep 9 '16 at 10:24
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Pink's War, a campaign fought between British India and the Mahsud in 1925. The war was initiated by the British, but it was named after the British officer in command of the campaign.

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