Star Trek Expanded Universe
World War III
Date: 2026 - 2053
Location: Earth
Result: Post-atomic horror,
San Francisco Peace Accord
United States, European Union and allies Eastern Coalition, Optimum Movement and others
Various Various, including Col. Phillip Green
600 million (estimated) 600 million (estimated)
Previous Next
Eugenics Wars Earth-Kzin Wars

World War III was a global, and ultimately nuclear, conflict on Earth in the mid-21st century. Over 600 million people died in the war, and human civilization nearly collapsed, resulting in a period known as "the post-atomic horror" that lasted into the early 22nd century. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", Star Trek: First Contact)


The flag of Colonel Green and the Optimum Movement.

Historians of later centuries had varying opinions on the exact nature of the war and its origins. Some linked it to the Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century, and while the seeds of the conflict may have been planted then, most scholars agreed it really began with Colonel Phillip Green's ecoterrorism in 2026 which resulted in 37 million deaths. Green and his troops executed hundreds of thousands of people with "impurities" like radiation sickness, claiming that their deaths were for the good of future generations. (TOS: "Space Seed", "The Savage Curtain", VOY: "In the Flesh", ENT: "In a Mirror Darkly, Part II", "Demons", "Terra Prime")

Among other parties in the conflict were the Eastern Coalition ("ECON"), which fought against the United States of America and the European Union. Various factions, including Green's cadre and possibly the ECON, used drugs to control their military. (Star Trek: First Contact, TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", TNG novel: Federation)

Even during this period of global turmoil, the New United Nations worked for peace, and in 2036 declared that "no human being would be held accountable for the crimes of their race or forebearers". However, the group's efforts met with failure. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint")

The Mind Control Revolts of 2043-47 occurred during this period. (TOS novel: Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

World War III reached its peak on 1 May 2053, when nuclear weapons were detonated over London, New York City, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Mecca, Beijing and other cities. Asia was hit hardest, followed by the United States. Nearly half a billion people died in the initial blasts; Washington, DC and the surrounding three states were "blown off the map", and Earth was plunged into a nuclear winter that lasted most of the next decade. The post-atomic horror that followed severely destabilized civilization all over the world as governments fell and terrorist groups and rogue states detonated "suitcase nukes" and released biological weapons. The drug-controlled troops were used as cannon fodder in conventional ground battles after many global computer systems were sabotaged. Numerous small-scale conflicts erupted across the globe. The economy of the United States was devastated, and most of its citizens were reduced to living conditions worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. (Star Trek: First Contact; The Lost Era novel: The Sundered)

For two months following the "outbreak" of World War III, Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas served as the operational command center for Colonel Amber's Regimental Volunteers and was the site of the final battle of the Siege of Las Vegas. (DS9 novel: The Lives of Dax: "Second Star to the Right...")

When the extent of the devastation became clear, the remaining governments gathered in San Francisco to sign a peace accord. Even so, some wished to keep fighting, like Colonel Green and others of his ilk. After Green's death, one of his lieutenants, Colonel Adrik Thorsen, continued terrorist strikes in the name of the Optimum Movement, and by the 2070s, gained control of Great Britain. (ENT: "Demons"; TNG novel: Federation)

Aftermath, first contact, and the legacy of WW3[]

First Contact with the Vulcans in 2063 inspired new hope in humanity and aided in recovery from the war's effects in some areas. Nonetheless, the post-atomic horror raged on in Asia, the Middle East, and the "new third world" sunk into total lawlessness. According to Jean-Luc Picard, these areas remained in "chaos" well into the early 22nd century. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "Up the Long Ladder")

Gradually, as the post-atomic horror declined, new attempts at unified global alliances sprung up, including the European Hegemony c. 2123. These alliances eventually formed the genesis of the United Earth in 2150. (TNG: "Up the Long Ladder", "Attached")

World War III's legacy was far-reaching, and continued to be felt a hundred years later. The war eventually became a popular subject in the recovered film industry. The philosophy of Neo-Transcendentalism was founded to advocate a return to a "simpler life" in response to the devastation advanced technology had brought humanity. Other less-benign schools of thought emerged, including the xenophobia exemplified by the Back-to-Earth movement and its more aggressive "cousin" Terra Prime, an outgrowth of Green and Thorsen's "Optimum Philosophy". (ENT: "Home", "Demons", "Terra Prime", TNG: "Up the Long Ladder"; Star Trek novels: Final Frontier, novel)

Ultimately, World War III and first contact marked a turning point for humanity. In the aftermath, humanity came together, putting aside the differences of race and culture, and unified in a way never before seen. (Star Trek: First Contact)


During the three decades between "Space Seed" and Star Trek: First Contact, the nature of Earth's third world war was one of the hot topics of fan debate. Many different theories sprang up, especially once "Encounter at Farpoint" introduced the concept of the post-atomic horror. Many different fan fiction works offer different interpretations of the war, and ever since the "clarification" of First Contact, these differences persist. Different fan continuities will be detailed here.

Dragon Ball Z vs. Star Trek: The Way of Infinity[]

During World War III, Kyoto was destroyed by three hydrogen bombs. After World War III, it was rebuilt.

The Vulcans were able to remove most radioactive material in Earth's atmosphere, but small, harmless amounts of radioactive particles remained in the atmosphere. In many big cities on earth, devices were installed to remove as much of their particles as possible. These devices were still in use during the 24th century.

Federation Spaceflight Chronology[]

In this continuity, World War III took place from 2026 to 2047, ending with the Day of Fire, in which 600 million beings on Earth died within 20 minutes. (Federation Spaceflight Chronology, vol. 3)

Missing Link[]

In this continuity, neither the Optimum Movement nor the Eastern Coalition was involved -- in fact, neither political entity is mentioned. Economic upheavals in 2008 and 2013 are referred to, as is climatic change resulting in the average sea level rising by as much as two feet. A conflict of over 25 years ended with the near destruction of the United States of America, Russia and China by each other's nuclear weapons in August of 2053. San Francisco was one of the cities destroyed in a nuclear strike.

Star Trek: 001[]

In 2752, the crew of Starbase 001 became trapped within a holographic simulation of World War III, where they were forced to protect themselves from the holographic invading forces of the Eastern Coalition. One of the Coalition's strategies was to invade an abandoned city so that they would attain much of what was left, including possible technologies, intact. A corrupted Starfleet Command had claimed the simulation was intended as a time travel test for the crew, but in reality was a plot to kill off those who would oppose them. ("When It Rains...")

Star Trek: The Adventures of Argus[]

In 2026 the Optimum Movement detonated a series of nuclear devices in 25 major cities of the United States of America, killing 30 million people and fracturing the country. In retaliation, what was left of the US government launched their own missiles at those they thought were responsible, killing a further 7 million and igniting the conflict.

Following the opening attacks there was a six-month lull, during which the eastern states America had attacked unified into the Eastern Coalition Of Nations. A quarter of a century's worth of tension between eastern and western nations and hatred of the US and its allies fueled the ECON with a seemingly unending supply of troops that allowed them to initially steamroller their way forwards. With their most powerful member crippled and facing overwhelming numbers, the western nations, under the organisational banner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, used small tactical nuclear strikes to slow the advance.

The virtual stalemate continued for several years, draining resources on both sides and causing unrest to grow in the western nations, which the Optimum Movement used to promote their philosophy of survival of the fittest. By 2033 the USA had been reformed under the Optimum, with Great Britain, United Ireland, Spain, Germany and Italy joining it by 2047 and all withdrew from the New United Nations, effectively disbanding the organisation for a second time.

In 2053 the Optimum finally put its philosophy to the test, launching a massive nuclear strike on the ECON to end the war. Unfortunately for them, the ECON managed to launch a counter strike and the result was the effective crippling of either side's ability to make war and leading the signing of the San Francisco cease-fire, but the cost was high. Almost every major city on earth had been destroyed and 300,000,000 people killed, a death toll that doubled that of the entire conflict up to that point and that made the attack that had begun the war pale in comparison.

Despite the signing of the cease-fire, small conflicts continued to erupt over the next two decades as the Optimum and ECON governments continued to collapse, with the final Optimum stronghold, Great Britain, falling in 2079. ("Nuclear Time")

See also[]

External links[]

USS Enterprise Command Pin.png This is a Star Trek Expanded Universe featured article. We believe that it is well put together, informative and one of the best examples of the wiki's work. If you see a way to improve this page further, we invite you to contribute. To see other featured articles, click here.