The War of 1996 was a full scale assault on Earth from July 2 to July 4, 1996 by a vast extraterrestrial race (later known as the "Harvesters") seeking to harvest Earth's natural resources. It was the largest military conflict in the history of mankind since World War II, taking the lives of 3 billion people. Within a span of two days, 108 cities were outright destroyed, as the aliens began a systematic and genocidal campaign of wiping out humanity.
Human military forces were unable to stop the invaders due to their ships were shielded by force fields. The onslaught, however, was halted when humanity coordinated a global counteroffensive on July 4 after the United States managed to disable the aliens' shields and causing the subsequent destruction of the alien mothership, thus ending the war in human victory.
The conflict drastically altered the political alignment and social structure of Earth. Humanity set aside their previous cultural and nationalistic rivalries and united globally. The Earth Space Defense was established to defend Earth and humanity from future extraterrestrial threats.
The aliens known as the Harvesters had been surveying Earth and the human race for decades, selecting the planet as a potential target seemingly as early as the 1940's; identifying their cultural hubs, military strongpoints, strengths and weaknesses and various other subjects, steadily gathering and processing this information and formulating the perfect time to strike.
In 1947, the United States government secretly acknowledged the existence of extraterrestrial life when an alien ship crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico. The ship and the bodies of its occupants were recovered by the U.S. government and relocated to Area 51, where the ship was continuously studied and attempted to be reverse-engineered. The government covered-up and discouraged the ship and the aliens' existence, which resulted in popular rumors and conspiracy theories surrounding Area 51 and the Roswell incident. Only a few selected people in the U.S. military and intelligence agencies knew and discouraged revealing the aliens' existence to the public for fear of causing mass panic, and driven by the tense political climate of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union.
- "It's like in chess: First, you strategically position your pieces and when the timing is right you strike. See? They're positioning themselves all over the world, using this one signal to synchronise their efforts and in approximately 6 hours the signal's gonna disappear and the countdown's gonna be over."
"And then what?"
- ―David to Marty, explaining about the aliens' attack.
In the early hours of July 2, a 550 km wide alien spacecraft dubbed the "mothership" entered Earth's orbit. The mothership's arrival was detected by human deep space surveillance networks such as the SETI Institute and the United States Space Command. As the mothership came closer to Earth, its arrival caused human satellites to become impaired and disrupted communications across the planet. After the massive vessel settled into orbit, it deployed thirty-six saucer-shaped "City Destroyer" spacecraft, each 15 miles (24 km) wide, and taking position over thirty-six of Earth's major cities, either nation capitals or cultural centers such as New York City and Jerusalem. The aliens made use of human satellites to relay signals between vessels and coordinate their attack.
Human response was in mass panic and uncertainty. People tried to flee from the targeted cities while the world's governments placed their military forces on high alert and made attempts to contact the aliens without causing hostile first contact. Ignorant of the extraterrestrials' malevolent intentions, humanity’s repeated attempts to contact the vessels were met with silence.
In the United States, President Thomas J. Whitmore remained in Washington, D.C. to keep the American public calm while attempting to establish a communications outreach with the City Destroyer over the capital. Unknown to Whitmore, his Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki was one of the select few individuals who knew about the aliens and their advanced technology, but did not inform the President of this so as to ensure "plausible deniability", a decision that would prove disastrous later on.
The aliens' hidden transmissions in Earth's satellites was eventually identified by David Levinson, an MIT-trained satellite technician, who quickly learned about the aliens' hostile intentions. With the support of his estranged wife Constance Spano, the White House Communications Director, he convinced Whitmore to call an evacuation.
Unfortunately, this warning came too late. On July 3 at 2:32 AM EST, the City Destroyers simultaneously fired advanced directed-energy weapons at the thirty-six targeted cities and completely reduced them to ruins. The majority of those remaining in the cities, unable or unwilling to flee, perished in the devastation.
- "We've learned that NATO and western allied installations were the first to be taken out. Then we were hit. They knew exactly where and how to hit us."
"And our forces?"
"We're down to 15%. If you calculate the time it takes to destroy a city and move on, we're looking at the worldwide destruction of every major city... in the next 36 hours."
"We're being exterminated."
- ―General Grey and President Whitmore, explaining on the war's situation.
Following the attacks, the City Destroyers began to move onto other cities. Soon after the initial attacks, the affected nations immediately launched counterattacks against the invaders. However, humanity's retaliation against the aliens proved extremely disastrous; the City Destroyers and their Attackers were protected by energy shields, making their vessels invulnerable to conventional weapons. As a result, human military forces were utterly routed in a one-sided massacre. Following the initial engagement, the aliens began shutting down military satellite communications and then methodically eliminating many military installations and commander centers, such as the Cheyenne Mountain Complex and NATO headquarters in Brussels. Thereafter, the City Destroyers annihilated another thirty-six cities in the second attack wave. With the world's military forces left in disarray, it was calculated that the aliens were expected to destroy every major city on Earth within 36 hours.
After the failed counterattack, President Whitmore, who escaped Washington on Air Force One, was finally informed of the existence of Area 51 from Nimziki and personally inspected the facility there in hopes of learning anything that could stop the invaders. During a chance encounter with a captured alien, which was downed and captured by U.S. Marine Corps Captain Steven Hiller, Whitmore gained insight into the aliens' motives; through an extrasensory connection with the alien, Whitmore learned of the aliens' intentions to plunder Earth's natural resources at the cost of destroying all life on the planet. Acknowledging that an attempt to make any truce with the invaders to be impossible, Whitmore authorized the launch of a nuclear strike on the City Destroyers over America. The recommendation was transmitted to the remaining nuclear-armed states, which they refrained from launching their arsenals until the results of the Americans' nuclear attack were made clear.
A City Destroyer set to obliterate Houston was targeted, but ultimately the nuclear missile failed to penetrate the vessel's shields, leaving Houston devastated while the alien vessel remained completely intact. Further nuclear attacks were then immediately called off. By the late evening on July 3, all the remaining major cities had been abandoned and military forces had been routed. A select few, including Whitmore, began considering ways of how they could resist the inevitable ground invasion by the aliens.
- Main article: July 4 counteroffensive
- "We're fighting for our right to live, to exist, and should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice, 'We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on, we're going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence day!"
- ―Thomas Whitmore
Since the arrival of the alien mothership, the alien spacecraft kept in Area 51 reactivated itself and provided its human handlers new insights into the aliens' technology. David Levinson, working with Area 51's staff, developed a means to temporarily shut down the invaders' shields: by transmitting a coded virus directly into the mothership's systems, which the City Destroyers and the Attackers drew their energy and coordination from, and enabling a single worldwide counteroffensive. This plan required physically entering the mothership in order to transmit the virus. The captured alien spacecraft was refurbished and used in infiltrating the mothership, with Captain Steven Hiller volunteered as its pilot and accompanied by Levinson, who personally transmitted his virus, and along with deploying a nuclear warhead to cripple the mothership.
All remaining military forces on Earth were informed of the July 4th counteroffensive via Morse code from the Americans, with Whitmore himself personally leading the first strike to confirm the shields are disabled. After Levinson successfully transmitted the virus, Whitmore led his forces in battling a City Destroyer approaching Area 51 and were able to inflict damage on the invaders. It is during this battle that the Americans learned that the destroyer's weapon port is its weak point, when one pilot, Russell Casse, flew his aircraft directly into the weapon port in a suicide attack, causing a explosive chain reaction that completely destroys the entire ship.
The Americans then informed other military forces from around the world of the City Destroyers' weak point, before they could strike in their fourth wave. Meanwhile, Hiller and Levinson successfully launched the nuclear warhead that completely vaporized the mothership, and managed to escape the ensuing destruction unharmed. The loss of the mothership ensured the disorientation and subsequent destruction of the remaining alien forces left on Earth.
- "In the space of three days, the world had changed forever. The whole of the planet united in a single goal, fighting one common enemy. That is unprecedented in the history of our species and the greatest building block we could have for starting again. I do find it ironic that we came together and triumphed on a day named for independence and separation. But I'm guessing extra-terrestrials don't have a good sense of irony."
- ―David Levinson
Humanity had won the war, but at a tremendous cost. Earth was devastated from the invasion as more than a hundred of the planet's populous and historical cities along with irreplaceable institutions such as museums and libraries were destroyed, and at least three billion human beings were killed. Many of these deaths were caused by riots, disease, crime and hunger during and following after the conflict. Those alive would never recover from the wounds of the invasion, both physical and emotional.
Alien survivors were discovered in the aftermath in which many were either captured or killed. A City Destroyer, damaged by the Mothership's destruction, fell into the Atlantic Ocean; in which the vessel's surviving occupants attempted to create artificial tsunamis. However, an U.S. Marines team, led by Joshua Adams, sabotaged the alien plot and destroyed the ship. Other aliens, however, were able to establish a temporary and fierce resistance against human forces such as in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the African Congo. While all alien resistance were eventually suppressed, however, in the newly founded and self-isolated African nation of the National Republic of Umbutu, an alien cell continued to fight for the next ten years due to the nation’s government’s refusal to seek outside help.
Within time, the international community recovers and becomes more politically united by common cause and putting to rest centuries-old conflicts and political distrust due to a newfound fundamental sense of self-awareness that humanity as a whole is not alone in the universe and had barely escaped from their extinction. Coinciding with this unity, the United Nations formed the Earth Space Defense to prevent the possibility of a similar extraterrestrial invasion in the future. The remains of the alien vessels were salvaged and reverse-engineered by humanity to create new technology for consumer and military use, and further help in Earth's reconstruction process and expanding humanity's reach across the solar system.
Twenty years later, it was revealed the aliens were able to send a distress signal on the X-Band frequency before the mothership was destroyed, which results in forcing the aliens' queen to personally come to Earth and threatening the human race once more in 2016.
108 cities were completely destroyed in three waves by the aliens, and 35 were saved and suffered from minor structural damage after the prevention of a fourth wave.
|First Wave||Second Wave||Third Wave||Intercepted Wave|
|Rio de Janeiro, Brazil||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Buenos Aires, Argentina||Caracas, Venezuela|
|New York City, U.S.||Philadelphia, U.S.A.||Pittsburgh, U.S.A.||Cleveland, U.S.A.|
|Washington, D.C., U.S.A.||Atlanta, U.S.A.||Houston, U.S.A.||Dallas, U.S.A.|
|Los Angeles, U.S.A.||Colorado Springs, U.S.A.||Phoenix, U.S.A.||Las Vegas, U.S.A.|
|Toronto, Canada||Chicago, U.S.A.||Detroit, U.S.A.||St. Louis, U.S.A.|
|Vancouver, Canada||Seattle, U.S.A.||San Francisco, U.S.A.||Area 51, U.S.A.|
|Mexico City, Mexico||Guadalajara, Mexico||Monterrey, Mexico||El Paso, U.S.A.|
|Havana, Cuba||Miami, U.S.A.||Boston, U.S.A.||Montreal, Canada|
|Paris, France||Lyon, France||Marseille, France||Barcelona, Spain|
|London, UK||Birmingham, UK||Liverpool, UK||Belfast, UK|
|Moscow, Russia||St. Petersburg, Russia||Helsinki, Finland||Stockholm, Sweden|
|Vladivostok, Russia||Harbin, China||Sapporo, Japan||Petropavlovsk, Russia|
|Kiev, Ukraine||Odessa, Ukraine||Volgograd, Russia||Ankara, Turkey|
|Warsaw, Poland||Vienna, Austria||Prague, Czech Republic||Budapest, Hungary|
|New Delhi, India||Hyderabad, India||Mogadishu, Somalia||National Republic of Umbutu, DRC|
|Bombay, India||Bangalore, India||Madras, India||Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Calcutta, India||Dhaka, Bangladesh||Kathmandu, Nepal||Lahore, Pakistan|
|Berlin, Germany||Hamburg, Germany||Frankfurt, Germany||Munich, Germany|
|Tokyo, Japan||Yokohama, Japan||Nagoya, Japan||Osaka, Japan|
|Seoul, South Korea||Pyongyang, North Korea||Pusan, South Korea||Hiroshima, Japan|
|Jakarta, Indonesia||Medan, Indonesia||Perth, Australia||Sydney, Australia|
|Manila, Philippines||Hanoi, Vietnam||Pingxiang, China||Kunming, China|
|Singapore, Singapore||Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Rangoon, Myanmar||Mandalay, Myanmar|
|Hong Kong, China||Guangzhou, China||Macau, China||Taipei, Taiwan|
|Shanghai, China||Ningbo, China||Hangzhou, China||Wuhan, China|
|Beijing, China||Shenyang, China||Changchun, China||Qiqihar, China|
|Rome, Italy||Venice, Italy||Milan, Italy||Monaco, Monaco|
|Athens, Greece||Naples, Italy||Algiers, Algeria||Casablanca, Morocco|
|Istanbul, Turkey||Bucharest, Romania||Belgrade, Serbia||Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina|
|Jerusalem, Israel||Tel Aviv, Israel||Damascus, Syria||Beirut, Lebanon|
|Tehran, Iran||Baghdad, Iraq||Riyadh, Saudi Arabia||Cairo, Egypt|
|Karachi, Pakistan||Islamabad, Pakistan||Kabul, Afghanistan||Mecca, Saudi Arabia|
|Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam||Phnom Penh, Cambodia||Vientiane, Laos||Bangkok, Thailand|
|Dakar, Senegal||Abidjan, Ivory Coast||Kinshasa, DRC||Tripoli, Libya|
|Lagos, Nigeria||Addis Ababa, Ethiopia||Nairobi, Kenya||Cape Town, South Africa|
|Amsterdam, Netherlands||Brussels, Belgium||Antwerp, Belgium||Rotterdam, Netherlands|
Arrival of the City Destroyers
The City Destroyers attack
July 4th counterattack, also known as The Fourth
Behind the Scenes
- Independence Day/novel (First appearance)
- Independence Day: Dark Fathom
- Independence Day: Crucible (Mentioned only)
- Independence Day: Resurgence/novel (Mentioned only)
- War of 1996 website
- Independence Day: Resurgence, David Levinson: "There must have been a queen up there that we didn't know about."
- Independence Day: Crucible
- Independence Day: Official Novelization
- Independence Day: Silent Zone
- How I Saved the World
- Independence Day: Dark Fathom
- Independence Day: Resurgence
- Colorado Springs was targeted for destruction because of the NORAD base at Cheyenne Mountain.
- The original target was San Diego.
- Hong Kong at the time was a British Dependent Territory prior to returning Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
- Macau was under Portuguese administration until returning to Chinese sovereignty in 1999.
- Serbia was part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1996.
- The DRC was called Zaire in 1996.