This is the real story behind the 1969 'Soccer War'

In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras fought a war that lasted for 100 hours and left over 3,000 dead. This brutal conflict was called the “Soccer War,” but the three highly contentious soccer games were not the cause of the war, but probably the spark that set off a growing powderkeg of tensions that had been building up between the two Central American countries for a while.

Some of it was a maritime territorial dispute over the Gulf of Fonseca. Those things can be touchy – look at the South China Sea for one such example. Part of it also was the fact that as many as 300,000 Salvadorans had migrated into Honduras.

M3 Stuart at Fort Knox. (US Army photo)

With those growing tensions building and building over the ongoing displacement of Salvadoran squatters, the three-game qualifier for the 1970 World Cup really was the last straw. The heated series ended on June 26, 1969 with a 3-2 victory by El Salvador. After that win, El Salvador cut off diplomatic relations with Honduras within hours of the deciding game.

On July 14, 1969, the Salvadorans attacked, using passenger planes as makeshift bombers. The air battle raged over 100 hours – and it was notable for being the last combat action for the F4U Corsair and P-51 Mustang. On the ground, the Salvadorans used the World War II-era M3 Stuart light tank to make massive gains against the poorly-equipped Honduran Army.

However, the Hondurans managed to hit Salvadoran fuel supplies – at the same time, the Organization of American States worked on the diplomatic front. On July 18, there was a ceasefire. By August 2, 1969, all Salvadoran troops had left Honduras. By that point, not only had over 3,000 people died, but tens of thousands were displaced.

P-51 Mustangs. (WATM Archive)

A full peace treaty was not signed until 1980. The International Court of Justice resolved the Gulf of Fonseca dispute in 1992. Even then, it took 14 more years for Honduras and El Salvador to finally resolve the last of the border disputes.

Oh, and about the soccer. El Salvador made it to the 1970 World Cup, but was quickly defeated by the Soviet team.

TOP ARTICLES
This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns 'Vietnam War' documentary series

Ken Burns' "Vietnam War" was released to relatively little noise in Vietnam. Here's a look at what audiences there had to say.

7 epic songs that prove 'Call of Duty' knows how to lay down tracks

Video game music has improved a lot since 8-bit days. A lot.

The Army is looking for ways to keep generals from misbehaving

Struggling with behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling, and career management programs.

These are the heroics that earned this EOD Petty Officer a Silver Star

Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, recognized EOD 1st Class Thomas for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy.

This why the national anthem is played before sporting events

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the "The Star-Spangled Banner" be played at all military ceremonies and other various occasions.

The Navy wants this drone to extend its fighter range beyond 1k miles

The Navy is exploring how to use unmanned aircraft to extend the range of fighter jets by 1,000 miles. The concept, at this time, is called the MQ-25 Stingray.

How the Pentagon plans to spend $700M to drop drones

ISIS has been using drones to drop bombs on Iraq Security Forces, and the Department of Defense is looking for a better defense against them.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it's awesome

Competitors, celebrities, royalty, and spectators came together Sept. 23 to kick off the 2017 Invictus Games at the sold-out Air Canada Centre.

This was one of the world’s first swing-wing fighters

The Flogger was a ground-breaking plane for the Soviet Union.

This service's Gold Star program supports the military families that have lost

Gold Star family members are now offered Gold Star ID cards, which authorizes access to Air Force bases in the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii.

THE MIGHTY SURVEY GIVE-AWAY

We want to hear your thoughts. Complete our survey for a chance to win 1 of 5 gaming consoles

COMPLETE SURVEY TO WIN