U.S. Periods of War
U.S. Periods of War
Barbara Salazar Torreon
Information Research Specialist
Knowledge Services Group
Many wars or conflicts in U.S. history have federally designated “periods of war,”
dates marking their beginning and ending. These dates are important for qualification
for certain veterans’ pension or disability benefits. Confusion can occur because
beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” in many nonofficial sources are often
different from those given in treaties and other official sources of information, and
armistice dates can be confused with termination dates. This report lists the beginning
and ending dates for “periods of war” found in Title 38 of the Code of Federal
Regulations, dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It also lists and
differentiates other beginning dates given in declarations of war, as well as termination
of hostilities’ dates and armistice and ending dates given in proclamations, laws, or
treaties. This report will be updated when events warrant. For additional information,
see CRS Report RL31133, Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of
Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications.
Congress, usually through a declaration of war, has often been the first governmental
authority to designate the beginning date of a war or armed conflict. The President, or
executive branch officials responsible to him, through proclamation, or Congress, through
legislation, have been responsible for designating the war’s termination date.1 In some
cases, later legislation is enacted to extend these beginning and ending dates for the
purpose of broadening eligibility for veterans’ benefits.2 This report notes the variations
in the dates cited in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) “periods of war” and those
dates given in the declarations of war beginning and the proclamations, laws, or treaties
terminating such conflicts. Adding to the confusion, during World War II, wars were
1 For background on the War Powers Act and use of military force abroad, see the following CRS
Report RL32267, The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Four Years, CRS Report RL33532,
War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance, and CRS Report RL32170, Instances of Use
of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2007, all by Richard F. Grimmett.
2 The American Legion also follows these dates closely in determining who is eligible for
membership; the Veterans of Foreign Wars has its own much more elaborate list of dates.
declared and terminated with six individual combatant countries. Moreover, armistice
dates are also often confused with termination dates.3
Title 38, Part 3, Section 3.2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), dealing with
the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), lists official beginning and termination dates
for most war periods from the Indian Wars to the present to be used in determining the
availability of veterans’ benefits.4 The material below summarizes these dates. Where
applicable, a summary of the Department of Veterans Affairs official beginning and
termination dates is provided followed by a citation to the lettered CFR section. For some
entries, this initial summary is followed by an explanatory note or declaration, armistice,
cease-fire, or termination dates cited by other official sources.
January 1, 1817, through December 31, 1898, inclusive. Service must have been
rendered with U.S. military forces against Indian tribes or nations. Code of Federal
Regulations, 3.2 (a).
April 21, 1898, through July 4, 1902, inclusive. If the veteran served with the U.S.
military forces engaged in hostilities in the Moro Province, the ending date is July 15,
1903. The Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion are included for the purposes
of benefit determination under this CFR section. Code of Federal Regulations, 3.2 (b).
Declared by an act of Congress April 25, 1898 (30 Stat. 364, ch. 189). An armistice
signed August 12, 1898. Terminated by Treaty signed at Paris, December 10, 1898 (30
Stat. 1754), ratified and proclaimed April 11, 1899.
Mexican Border Period
May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917. In the case of a veteran who during such period
served in Mexico, on the borders thereof, or in the adjacent waters thereto. Code of
Federal Regulations, 3.2 (h).
3 Armistice — “In International law, a suspension or temporary cessation of hostilities by
agreement between belligerent powers.” Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and
Associated Terms. Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense, April 12, 2001 (Washington:
GPO, 2001), p. 32.
See also the more detailed definition in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of
International Law (New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1986), p. 30.
4 Title 38 of the CFR, titled “Pensions, Bonuses and Veterans’ Relief,” is not to be confused with
Title 38 of the United States Code, titled “Veterans Benefits.” Laws enacted in each Congress
are first collected as session laws, published in the Statutes at Large for each session. These
laws are then codified by subject and published in the United States Code. The general guidance
given by these laws results in the issuance of more detailed regulations to implement these laws.
Such regulations are first published in the Federal Register and are then codified by subject in
World War I
April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918, inclusive. If the veteran served with the
U.S. military forces in Russia, the ending date is April 1, 1920. Service after November
11, 1918, and before July 2, 1921, is considered World War I service if the veteran served
in the active military, naval, or air service after April 5, 1917, and before November 12,
World War I against Germany. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress of
April 6, 1917 (40 Stat. 429, ch. 1). Armistice signed near Compiègne, France, November
World War I against Austria-Hungary. Declared by Joint Resolution of
Congress, December 7, 1917 (40 Stat. 429, ch. 1). An armistice signed near Compiègne,
France, November 11, 1918. Terminated July 2, 1921, by Joint Resolution of Congress
(42 Stat. 106, ch. 40, 3).
World War II
December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in
service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered
World War II service. Code of Federal Regulations, 3.2 (d).
Note: During World War II, war was officially declared with six countries. The war
with each was not over until the effective date of the Treaty of Peace. Note also the
confusion cited below over which day is the official Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day)5
and Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day).6
5 May 7, 1945, is listed as V-E day in commentary about signing the first German surrender
document in Historic Documents of World War II by Walter Consuelo Langsam (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1958), p. 144. However, May 8, 1945, is cited as V-E day in The
Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates, p. 528; as the “Official V-E Day” in Louis L.
Snyder, Louis L. Snyder’s Historical Guide to World War Two (Westport, CT: Greenwood,
Pharos Books, 1981), p. 347, states in its chronology for May 8, “The British and Americans
celebrate VE Day (Victory in Europe Day). Truman, Churchill and King George VI all make
Although President Truman did not officially proclaim May 7 as V-E (Victory in Europe)
Day, he did proclaim Sunday, May 13, 1945, a day of prayer. To make for more confusion, his
May 8, 1945, Proclamation 2651, proclaiming May 13 as a day of prayer, is titled, “Victory in
Europe; Day of Prayer” (3 CFR, 1943-1948 Comp.), p. 55. In addition, his May 8 news
conference in which he proclaims May 13 a day of prayer is titled, “The President’s News
Conference on V-E Day” — Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Harry S.
Truman, 1945 (Washington: GPO, 1961), p. 43.
6 In his news conference of August 14, 1945, announcing news of the Japanese government’s
complete acceptance of terms of surrender, President Truman states, “Proclamation of V-J Day
must wait upon the formal signing of the surrender terms by Japan.” — Public Papers, p. 216.
The proclamation of September 2 as V-J Day was given in his September 1, 1945, “Speech to the
American People After the Signing of the Terms of Unconditional Surrender by Japan.” —
World War II with Germany. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress,
December 11, 1941 (55 Stat. 796, ch. 564). German representative Colonel General
Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional act of surrender to Allied representatives in a Riems,
France schoolhouse on May 7, 1945. A second German surrender ceremony was held on
May 8 in Berlin at the insistence of the U.S.S.R. Cessation of hostilities declared as of
noon, December 31, 1946, by presidential proclamation of December 31, 1946 (Proc. no.
2714, 61 Stat. 1048). State of war with the “government of Germany” terminated October
19, 1951, by Joint Resolution of Congress of that date (65 Stat. 451, ch. 519), by
Presidential Proclamation 2950, October 24, 1951. No peace treaty with Germany signed.
World War II with Japan. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress, December
8, 1941 (55 Stat. 795, ch. 561). Japanese representatives publicly sign unconditional
surrender document on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay on
September 2, 1945. President Truman proclaimed this date Victory over Japan Day or V-
J Day. Cessation of hostilities declared as of 12 noon, December 31, 1946, by presidential
proclamation of December 31, 1946 (Proc. no. 2714, 61 Stat. 1048). Terminated by
Multilateral Treaty of Peace with Japan, signed at San Francisco, September 8, 1951 (3
UST 3329), and ratified March 20, 1952, effective April 28, 1952.
World War II with Italy. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress, December
11, 1941 (55 Stat. 797, ch. 565). Cessation of hostilities declared as of noon December
effective September 15, 1947.
World War II with Bulgaria. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress, June 5,
Terminated by Treaty of Peace dated at Paris, February 10, 1947 (61 Stat. 1915), effective
September 15, 1947.
World War II with Hungary. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress, June 5,
1946, by presidential proclamation (Proc. no. 2714, 61 Stat. 1048). Terminated by Treaty
of Peace dated at Paris, February 10, 1947 (61 Stat. 1757), effective September 15, 1947.
World War II with Romania. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress, June 5,
Public Papers, p. 254. However, no formal, numbered proclamation was apparently issued. Both
August 14, the day of President Truman’s announcement of the Japanese surrender, and
September 2, the official day proclaimed by President Truman in his speech, are cited as V-J Day
in Chase’s Calendar of Events 2002 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), pp. 421 and 555. Augustth
15 is cited as V-J Day by The Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates, 9 ed., by Gordon
Carruth (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 530. August 15, on which the Japanese Emperor
made his historic broadcast to the Japanese people telling of Japan’s surrender, is cited as V-J
Day in The World Almanac of World War II, p. 353.
Terminated by Treaty of Peace dated at Paris, February 10, 1947 (61 Stat. 1757), effective
September 15, 1947.
June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955, inclusive. Code of Federal Regulations, 3.2 (e).
On June 25, 1950, North Korean Communist forces attacked South Korean positions
south of the 38th parallel, leading to an immediate United Nations (U.N.) Security Council
resolution calling for a cease-fire and withdrawal of the North Korean forces. On June
On June 27, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution asking U.N. members for
assistance in repelling the North Korean armed attack and in restoring peace and security
in the area. On June 30, the President stated that he had authorized the use of certain U.S.
air and ground units wherever necessary. No declaration of war was requested of
Congress. An armistice signed at Panmunjom, Korea, on July 27, 1953, between U.N.
and Communist representatives (4 UST 234; TIAS 2782). No peace treaty ever signed.
The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in the
case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. The period
beginning on August 5, 1964, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in all other cases.
Code of Federal Regulations, 3.2 (f).
Tonkin Gulf Resolution. No declaration of war was requested of Congress.
Instead, there was a Joint Resolution of Congress to promote the maintenance of
international peace and security in Southeast Asia stated in part that the Congress
“approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to
take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United
States and to prevent any further aggression.” H.J.Res. 1145, P.L.88-408, August 10,
1964 (78 Stat. 384). Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam signed
in Paris, January 27, 1973 (TIAS 7674). Joint communiqué implementing the agreement
and protocols of January 27, 1973, signed at Paris and entered into force, June 13, 1973.
Conflicts in Lebanon 1982-1983 and Grenada 1983
U.S. Marines deployed on August 21, 1982, and September 29, 1982, were part of
a temporary multinational force in Lebanon. S. 639, P.L. 98-43 (Lebanon Emergency
Assistance Act of 1983). On October 25, 1983, U.S. troops were deployed to Grenada “to
restore law and order” and to protect American lives at the request of the members of the
Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. See CRS Report RL32170, Instances of Use
of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2007, p. 19 for both Lebanon and Grenada.
Persian Gulf War
August 2, 1990, through April 6, 1991, when Iraq officially accepted cease-fire
terms. Congress passed H.J.Res. 77, Authorizing the Use of Military Force Against Iraq,
the same day it was introduced (January 12, 1991), and it was signed by the President on
January 14, 1991 (P.L. 102-1). Operation Desert Storm and the air war phase began at
3 a.m. January 17, 1991 (January 16, 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).7 Allied ground
assault began at 4 a.m. February 24 (February 23, 8 p.m. EST). Cease-fire declared at
Iraq, March 1, 1991.9 Iraq officially accepted cease-fire terms, April 6, 1991.10 Cease-fire
took effect April 11, 1991. Currently, the Code of Federal Regulations, 3.2 (i) does not
list an official end date.
Current Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq
Shortly after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001,
President George W. Bush called on Afghanistan’s leaders to hand over Osama bin Laden
and other al Qaeda leaders and close their terrorist training camps. He also demanded the
return of all detained foreign nationals and the opening of terrorist training sites to
inspection.11 These demands were rejected.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Operations began with U.S. military
forces deployed on October 7, 2001, and are ongoing in Afghanistan and in other nations.
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). On March 17, 2003, in an address to the nation,
President Bush gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons a 48-hour ultimatum12
to leave Iraq. On March 19, 2003, President Bush announced to the nation that the early
stages of military operations against Iraq had begun.13 In a May 1, 2003, address to the
nation, President Bush declared that “... major military combat actions in Iraq have
ended.”14 U.S. and coalition forces remain in Iraq.15
There are no termination dates for these current conflicts.
7 U.S. Department of Defense, The Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm Timeline, available at
[http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Aug2000/n08082000_20008088.html]. Used for this and all
subsequent dates and times for Persian Gulf War.
8 Cease fire — “A command given to any unit or individual firing any weapon to stop engaging
the target.” Department of Defense Dictionary, p. 65.
9 This agreement is actually a transcript of the discussion held at Safwan Airfield, Iraq, between
Coalition participants, U.S. Gen. M. Norman Schwarzkopf and Lt. Gen. Khalid of the Joint Arab
Forces, and Iraqi participants, Lt. Gen. Sultan Kasim Ahmad, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of
Defense, and Lt. Gen. Sala Abud Mahmud, III Corps Commander.
10 Acceptance is in the form of a letter to the U.N. Security Council accepting the terms of U.N.
Resolution 687 (U.N. document S22485, April 11, 1991).
11 President George W. Bush, Address Before A Joint Session of Congress on the United States
Response to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, September 24, 2001.
12 Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, March 24, 2003, vol. 39, no. 12, pp. 338-341.
13 Ibid., pp. 342-343.
14 Ibid., May 5, 2003, vol. 39, no. 18, pp. 516-518.
15 See the Multi-National Forces Iraq Website at [http://www.mnf-iraq.com] for details.