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"In the shadow of this incalculable devastation, we find ourselves facing a colossal challenge. There's an entire world to rebuild. Not only our cities and homes, but mankind itself!"

World War III was the last of Earth's three world wars, lasting from approximately 2026 to 2053. The conflict involved nuclear cataclysm as well as genocide and eco-terrorism. The post-atomic horror in the aftermath persisted as late as 2079.

The war was preceded by the Eugenics Wars and the Second Civil War, all of which were sometimes regarded as parts of a single escalating conflict. It resulted in the deaths of some 30% of the Human population, at least six hundred million people, and the extinction of six hundred thousand species of animals and plants. By the end, most of the major cities had been destroyed and there were few governments left. (TOS: "The Savage Curtain"; TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint"; Star Trek: First Contact; VOY: "In the Flesh"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"; DIS: "New Eden"; SNW: "Strange New Worlds")


Prior to the war, in 1968, when a time-displaced Captain James T. Kirk was trying to reason on whether or not he should trust Gary Seven to stop a nuclear weapon, Seven warned Kirk that if he didn't allow Seven to stop the weapon, World War III would commence then. (TOS: "Assignment: Earth") The Eugenics Wars of 1992-1996 in which thirty-seven million died were also, at times, referred to as World War III. In fact, the conflict most likely directly linked to World War III, because in 2024, only two years before the third world war began; Doctor Adam Soong examined a file called "Project Khan," which dated back to the era of the Eugenics Wars. (TOS: "Space Seed", "Bread and Circuses"; PIC: "Farewell")

The Eugenics Wars also seemed to share some relation with the Second Civil War. This might have been because of the formerly mentioned Adam Soong using Project Khan, as Starfleet history has made clear that the war resulted due to the issue of the manipulation of the Human genome. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II")

In 2259, Captain Christopher Pike described the period following the Second Civil War as the "Eugenics War," which in turn led directly to World War III. (SNW: "Strange New Worlds")

The updated description that Pike gives in Strange New Worlds that the Second Civil War, Eugenics War, and World War III are sometimes viewed by historians as one long escalating conflict (or series of related conflicts) may parallel similar discussions about when World War II began: from an American-European perspective it began when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, but in the Asia front the "Second Sino-Japanese War" which began in 1937 is seen as the start of one continuous war through 1945. Moreover, there were earlier related conflicts seen as a prelude to the main war: the Spanish Civil War from 1936 - 1939, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, etc.


Soldiers, 2053

Soldiers during a nuclear attack in Indiana in 2053

Q 21st Soldier

Q, dressed as a soldier of one of the armies of World War III and using a retractable stimulant dispenser

World War III was fought in an era where various factions were known to control their military with narcotics. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint") Among the parties involved was the Eastern Coalition (also referred to as "the ECON"), whose direct attacks included those against the United States of America. (Star Trek: First Contact) In 2026, at the start of the war, Colonel Phillip Green led a faction of ecoterrorists that was responsible for the loss of thirty-seven million lives. Green continued to be active several years after the war ended. (TOS: "Bread and Circuses", "The Savage Curtain"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", "Demons")

Green might have been the one instigating the war, as in "The Savage Curtain" he was introduced as having "led" a genocidal war in the early 21st century.

Some of this information, such as when the war started and its basic causes, comes from an historical archive screen in "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II". The initial death toll matches the "despotic" deaths mentioned by Spock in "Bread and Circuses" as being from WWIII. See the Eugenics Wars for a discussion of Spock's comment on the "last so-called world war" from "Space Seed."

Phillip Green, 2269

Colonel Green as recreated by the Excalbians in 2269

Colonel Green's activities during the war were often cited as "genocidal" and treacherous. He and his troops personally killed hundreds of thousands of individuals affected with radiation sickness and other "impurities," using as a rationale that it was necessary in order to prevent their passing on such traits to later generations. (ENT: "Demons", "Terra Prime") He was notorious into the 23rd century for striking at his enemies in the midst of negotiating with them. (TOS: "The Savage Curtain")

Despite an escalating and ongoing global conflict, manned space exploration continued at least into the 2030s, for example the Ares IV mission to Mars in 2032 and the launch of the Charybdis in 2037, Humanity's first mission to leave the Sol system. (TNG: "The Royale"; VOY: "One Small Step")

World War III

People seeking refuge in a church in Richmond, Indiana during a nuclear attack in 2053

In 2053, jets dropped nuclear bombs near Richmond, Indiana. A group of people that took refuge in the East Fork Presbyterian Church located there were saved, along with their church, when it was transported to Terralysium by a time traveling Gabrielle Burnham using the Red Angel suit. The rescued built a colony called New Eden and thought that they were saved by extraterrestrial angels, a belief they passed on to their descendants. (DIS: "New Eden")

Aside from Richmond, many other cities were bombed during the nuclear war. These included Washington, New York City, Paris and others. (SNW: "Strange New Worlds")

Aftermath and legacy[]

The war ended with a cease fire. (ENT: "Demons") This began the era known as Post-World War III. (LD: "Grounded") Earth's atmosphere continued to contain radioactive isotopes indicative of the conflict a decade later. (Star Trek: First Contact)

Phillip Green, 2056

Colonel Green in 2056

Three years after the cease-fire, Colonel Green was recorded giving an impassioned speech, asking for the impure to be purged from society. (ENT: "Demons")

Approximately ten years after the end of the war, in 2063, First Contact was made with the Vulcans. The realization that Humans were not alone in the universe united Humanity in a way no one ever thought possible, and within fifty years, less than two generations after the post-atomic horror, Humanity was finally able to eliminate poverty, disease, war, and hunger. Along with poverty, a lot of other things disappeared from Humanity, including hopelessness, despair, and cruelty. (TNG: "Time's Arrow, Part II"; Star Trek: First Contact; ENT: "Broken Bow", "Demons")


A trial during the post-atomic horror

When news of the Vulcan contact reached Vulcan, some Vulcans, including V'Lar, were fascinated by Humanity, but also worried, believing the idea that Humans had deemed themselves ready to join the interstellar community, so soon after the war, seemed premature. (ENT: "Fallen Hero") Indeed, for several years after first contact, various parts of Earth were still affected by what became known as the "post-atomic horror." In 2079, one such culture reverted to a state of near-barbarism that followed the credo "kill all the lawyers," and "guilty until proven innocent." (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint") Due to these and other factors, parts of Earth continued to be in – as Captain Jean-Luc Picard put it in 2365 – "chaos" well into the early 22nd century. (TNG: "Up The Long Ladder")

Terra Prime logo

Terra Prime's philosophy drew on Colonel Green's views

The legacy of the war was felt in many ways during the hundred years after its conclusion. It was the subject of many movies during that time and, in 2153, one of these epics swept the awards. (ENT: "Home")

In the early 22nd century, the Neo-Transcendentalist movement was founded by Liam Dieghan; he advocated "a return to a simpler life" in response to the war's carnage. (TNG: "Up The Long Ladder")

The war additionally influenced a powerful xenophobic movement of mid-22nd century Earth known as Terra Prime. Led by John Frederick Paxton, the organization drew inspiration from the war through adoption of Colonel Green's goals and teachings concerning a "pure" Human race. It also blamed the Vulcans for not stopping the war with their superior technology, and thereby saving the lives of hundreds of millions of people. This blame was then channeled into a general distrust of all non-Humans. (ENT: "Demons", "Terra Prime")

During the war, a group of scientists had launched seed pods into space in an effort to preserve some of Earth's forests. By the time Humans went to retrieve them, the forests had grown too large to be returned to the surface, and thus they were incorporated into the construction of Starbase 1. (SNW: "Strange New Worlds")

In 2372, Admiral Leyton described the threat of the Founders of the Dominion infiltrating Earth and its facilities as being "maybe the greatest danger it's faced since the last world war." (DS9: "Homefront")


Background information[]

Like the Earth-Romulan War, very few details have been presented in Star Trek on World War III. In 1996, this event received a Trekker's Choice Award for the 'Oft Heard but Never Seen' Award, as being "the favorite historical moment only alluded to in Star Trek."

References also circumstantially linked to this war were that of the multiple nuclear winters Earth was said to have seen in its 21st century in "A Matter Of Time".

Furthermore, in "Judgment", Archer talks about thousands of years of Human conflict, and its three world wars in specific, saying that whole generations were nearly wiped out. However, he does not make it explicit that this happened in World War III.

In DS9: "Past Tense, Part II", following Kira Nerys and Miles O'Brien's visit to San Francisco during an alternate 2048 (where the Bell Riots had not occurred), O'Brien noted that that was "not the mid-21st century that [he] had read about in school," adding, "Earth history had its rough patches, but never that rough." It might be interesting to know what O'Brien saw that was more "rough" than a nuclear war responsible for six hundred million casualties.

World War III flag

A flag seen in the mirror universe

According to the 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection auction catalog, during the middle of ENT Season 4, plans were in place for an episode to feature Colonel Green. It was planned to link Q's World War III uniform to the colonel by having the emblem on Q's hood appear on flags representing Green. Such a flag was created for "In a Mirror, Darkly", and seen in the briefing room aboard the ISS Enterprise. When Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled, plans for the episode fell through and all that remains of the link between Q's uniform and Colonel Green is the flag seen in the mirror universe.

During development of TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver", World War III was alluded to as a potential result of the Sino-Western trouble. Although not referred to in the final draft of the script (dated 3 May 1966), the war was addressed by NBC executive Stanley Robertson in a letter he wrote about the first revised final draft of the teleplay and sent to Gene Roddenberry on 17 May 1966. In that letter, Robertson stated, "As we discussed, a suggestion would be that on Page 48 of this draft, it be made pointedly clear that there was no 'World War III' between the Sino-Western powers. Let's keep emphasizing with our writers, as we know you have been, that this is a topic we'd like to avoid." In the second revised final draft of the script (dated 20 May 1966) and a deleted scene from "The Corbomite Maneuver", World War III was referred to as having been averted, in the outcome of the Sino-Western trouble. ("Inside the Roddenberry Vault, Part I", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features) In an early script of Star Trek: First Contact, upon seeing Beverly Crusher's new more advanced scanner, a doctor wondered if it was Japanese.

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