|"Our nation is enjoying an unprecedented time of peace and wealth. Our people are happy, and we're so fortunate in so many ways. [...] we should share this prosperity with the rest of the world. In our hands is the most successful empire in history. It's time we expanded it."|
|— Fire Lord Sozin to Avatar Roku about his plan that would lead to the start of the Hundred Year War.|
The Hundred Year War, also known as the War or the Great War, was a major global military conflict that began with the Air Nomad Genocide and lasted for a century, from 0 AG to 100 AG. The conflict was waged by the Fire Nation against the other three nations: the Earth Kingdom, the Water Tribes, and the Air Nomads. However, over the course of the escalating conflict, several smaller factions became involved in the fighting as well. The war was initiated by Fire Lord Sozin, who wished to expand the Fire Nation into a worldwide empire and spread what he saw as his nation's prosperity to the rest of the world.
Taking advantage of the absence of the Avatar and using their economical, technological, and military superiority for most of the war, the Fire Nation was able to wreak worldwide destruction and widespread loss of life upon the other nations. The war began in 0 AG with the infamous genocide of the Air Nomads, whose air temples were falsely presumed to be unassailable to the Fire Nation due to the Air Nomads possessing the sole means of getting to them. Following the destruction of the Air Nomads, the Fire Nation launched a massive coordinated invasion on the western Earth Kingdom. Over the course of the next hundred years, the Fire Nation slowly advanced into the Earth Kingdom and established several colonies on the mainland. On the seas, the Fire Nation also initiated raids on the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, which devastated the South, while the North managed to remain relatively untouched for almost a century. By 99 AG, the Fire Nation had effectively eradicated the Air Nomads, virtually annihilated the Southern Water Tribe, and controlled most of the Earth Kingdom, to the point of near victory. The last strongholds able to defend themselves were the Northern Water Tribe and the Earth Kingdom cities of Omashu and Ba Sing Se.
Upon the Avatar's return in 99 AG, the Fire Nation undertook a far more aggressive plan of attack, taking bigger risks to deliver devastating blows to their opposition and render any possible intervention from Avatar Aang too late. This strategy resulted in colossal setbacks for the Fire Nation when the Avatar became involved. Notably, the Fire Nation launched a massive invasion of the North Pole, after they realized that Aang was taking refuge there, and suffered a crushing defeat at the last second when the Ocean Spirit and Avatar merged to intervene. Similarly, an effort to breach the walls of Ba Sing Se utilizing a giant drill was also thwarted. Despite these setbacks, several victories were also won, including the surrender of Omashu and the infiltration and Fall of Ba Sing Se, leaving the Northern Water Tribe as the last remaining stronghold to Fire Nation global hegemony. In an effort to turn the tide of the war, an army assembled from the remnants of the Southern Water Tribe and members of the Foggy Swamp Tribe and Earth Kingdom attempted an invasion of the Fire Nation Capital on the Day of Black Sun in mid 100 AG, when firebenders were powerless and as such incapable of defending against a siege. The invasion ultimately failed, with nearly all members of the invasion force captured or killed by the Fire Nation.
Nevertheless, the Hundred Year War ended roughly a year following the reappearance of the Avatar due to a combination of efforts of the remaining two nations, the Avatar's group's destruction of the air fleet meant to use Sozin's Comet to deliver the killing blow to the Earth Kingdom, Aang's victory over Phoenix King Ozai, and the newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko's intention to restore peace and harmony among the four nations.
However, the Hundred Year War had changed the world forever; one whole nation and its unique bending art had been virtually wiped out, and it would only slightly recover in the following decades. The Fire Nation had become an ethnocentric and autocratic dictatorship, and much effort had to be applied to restore a tolerant attitude among its people as well as its image among the other nations, which had come to hate the country after a century of conflict that it initiated. On the contrary, great technological and industrial advancements had been conducted by both the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom during the war. The different nations had also blended to create new and diverse cultures in the older Fire Nation colonies, which eventually led to the foundation of the United Republic of Nations, a new sovereign state comprised of a multitude of citizens from all nations.
Rise of the Fire Nation
Following its unification, the Fire Nation gradually became powerful and militaristic, placing great importance on cohesion, strength, and effectiveness. It developed an extremely capable military, including the most powerful navy in the world, and fought many wars against the other nations. Though the Fire Nation had halted its expansionist warfare by the 4th century BG,[nb 1] the country continued to develop contingency plans for all kinds of conflicts, including invasions of the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribe. At the same time, the Fire Nation's ability to truly threaten the other nations was hampered by violent conflicts within the Fire Nation Royal Family and among the country's powerful noble clans. From 295 BG, however, Fire Lord Zoryu and his successors gradually disempowered the clans and turned the Fire Nation into a highly effective autocracy. The last real conflict between the clans and the crown occurred very early in the reign of Fire Lord Sozin, with General Oraso Eiko winning a decisive victory. After bringing the warring families to heel, Sozin could begin to make great strides towards progress, and could implement policies to uplift the poorest in his nation.
By the 1st century BG, the world was on the brink of a technological renaissance and a subsequent industrial revolution. This was made possible due to the long peace and prosperity of the later life of Avatar Kyoshi, with new universities and technological institutes springing up. Business and academia across the four nations worked together to an unprecedented degree, spearheading an age of innovation. The embrace of the industrial revolution in the Fire Nation saw its economic, military, and living standards greatly outpace those of the other nations. In contrast, the Earth Kingdom had been greatly weakened by unrest and corruption, and while there were innovative minds, any new technology was seized by the government of Earth King Jialun. In the Water Tribes, many were wary of industrialization's negative impact on the human relationship with the Spirit World. As a result, the tribes underwent only some modernization, and remained weaker than the Fire Nation.
Sozin's ambitions and militarization
The new technologies of the era allowed Sozin begin the construction of a defensive coal-powered fleet, with plans being drawn up by the inventor Nyn Chei. The construction created hundreds of jobs for the poorest in society, but materials for the new fleet were scarce. The Fire Nation began to look to the natural resources of other nations, which led to several minor skirmishes and diplomatic disputes.
The Fire Nation laid claim to Natsuo Island after a large cache of ore was between there. As one of the easternmost Fire Islands, it was located very close to the Earth Kingdom, and the greedy and ambitious Earth King desired it for himself. He sent military vessels on training exercises in the region, hoping to goad the Fire Lord into making the first move. They also began to consider an island between the two nations as their own, but this was in fact sacred to the Water Tribes as the halfway point between the North of the South. Chief Skiri of the North was enraged, and wanted to send a majority of his forces to retake the island, but needed the consensus of the Southern chieftains, and many were wary of beginning all-out war with the Fire Nation.
Sozin also spread propaganda campaigns that made the once relatively tolerant and open people Fire Nation increasingly xenophobic and nationalistic. Anti-Earth Kingdom sentiment was spread through the nation in their quest for resources, as well as in the eastern Fire Islands, where the Earth Kingdom had provided no aid or shelter during the seismic instability that had resulted after the eruption on Crescent Island. A join Water Tribe envoy was blamed for any strange spirit incidents that leaked to the general public, though these incidents in fact began due to Sozin encouraging his people to hunt the dragons for the first time. Air Nomad philosophy was once very popular among many Fire Nation nobles, but Sozin saw this as a threat to Fire Nation traditions, and seized the Fire & Air Center of Learning from the nobility and entrenched a military guard there after an Air Nomad sect known as the Guiding Wind sabotaged construction. Sozin saw the Guiding Wind as a threat to him, as it was opposed to the world's wealthy and noble elites, and viewed the Air Nomads' relationship with aristocracy of other nations as impeding spiritual growth of others. Reports began to emerge of the Guiding Wind committing violent acts in spite of their nonviolent principles, and their leader Khandro began to suspect the Fire Lord or his government in setting this up. It was also known that he spread an anti-Air Nomad propaganda campaign targeting the poorest in society after his sister, Princess Zeisan, announced her intention to give up her wealth and titles to join the Guiding Wind, seeking to undermine her brother's reign.
Thirty-seven years prior to the beginning of the Hundred Year War, Fire Lord Sozin continued to feel that because his nation was so fortunate in so many ways, that he should "share" this prosperity with the rest of the world. He spoke about his plan to his best friend, Avatar Roku, and tried to convince him to join him on his quest to expand "the most successful empire in history". Roku vehemently refused to help him and reminded his long-time friend that the four nations were meant to be just what they were: four.
Despite Roku's warnings, Sozin prepared for the unification of the nations through a global conflict. He greatly expanded the Fire Nation's already powerful army and navy, and occupied some Earth Kingdom territories including the village of Yu Dao. He sent Fire Nation families to settle in these areas, forming the Fire Nation's first continental colonies.
Years later, however, Roku discovered Sozin's colonies and went to rebuke him, leading Sozin to attack him. The Avatar subdued the Fire Lord, utterly destroyed his palace and warned him that if he ever acted out of place and attacked the other nations again, he would put an end to him permanently. Regardless, the first Fire Nation colonists were allowed to remain in the Earth Kingdom. In the following years, Roku had to deal with growing tensions between the nations, as nationalism and expansionism took root across the world. For the time being, the Avatar succeeded in maintaining peace and the delicate balance between the nations.
In 12 BG, Roku's home island was consumed in a volcanic eruption so massive that Sozin could see and feel it from a hundred miles away, and he flew in on his dragon to assist his old friend. The two used their bending to try to contain the lava flow, but they were hindered by poisonous gases that eventually overwhelmed Roku, leaving him lying on the ground and begging for his old friend's help. Sozin suddenly realized, however, that Roku's death would allow him to fulfill his plans, and he left the Avatar to die. The new Avatar was born into the Air Nomads as Aang. In the next years, Sozin continued to covertly expand his armies and navy, preparing for global war.
Twelve years after Roku had died, Sozin used the return of a comet, a celestial event that grants firebenders near-unlimited power, to deliver a devastating first blow to the other nations and start the war, setting the stage for the Air Nomad Genocide.
Early stages (0 AG - 20 AG)
Air Nomad Genocide
- Main article: Air Nomad Genocide
Fire Lord Sozin decided to launch his attack upon the arrival of Sozin's Comet. With the power of the comet, Sozin's firebender armies launched a genocide on the pacifistic Air Nomads in an attempt to capture the new Avatar, Aang, and to break the Avatar Cycle. This preemptive attack would overcome one of the Fire Nation's biggest obstacles to victory. Unbeknownst to Sozin and his armies, Aang had run away before the attack, thus escaping the carnage. Despite this setback, all other Air Nomads were believed to have been killed in the attack, and the remainder ruthlessly hunted and killed as the Hundred Year War progressed, leaving Aang by the time of his reemergence roughly a century later as the only known airbender left alive. Sozin would continue searching for Aang up until his death. The Air Nomad Genocide involved massive firebending attacks on the four temples. Thousands of Air Nomads were slain along with their flying bison and lemurs.
While striking against the Air Nomads, Fire Lord Sozin used the comet's power to also attack the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes. While the Fire Nation initially maintained no permanent presence at the North or South Pole, the Fire Army's first ground assaults began in the western Earth Kingdom, with the aim being total conquest. Sozin's main objective was to overcome the next Avatar and secure a beachhead on the western coast of the continent and use it as staging grounds to supply his forces and advance further throughout the Earth Kingdom. Other objectives were to cripple and destroy key Earth Kingdom trading centers to weaken the large Earth Kingdom economy. After several battles, including decisive Fire Nation victories in the Battle of Han Tui, the invasion of Taku, and the Battle of Garsai, the Fire Nation was able to gain a strong foothold in the Earth Kingdom's western frontier.
Even though the Fire Nation's war effort was focused on the Earth Kingdom theater, the Fire Navy also battled the Water Tribes, inflicting a series of massive naval defeats on the latter. These defeats forced the Northern Water Tribe to retreat and focus on defense, while leaving the Southern Water Tribe isolated and exposed to attacks. At first, Sozin expanded northward and attempted an invasion of the Northern Water Tribe around 15 AG, which ended in failure due to the North Pole's treacherous landscape. The battle saw ground forces from both the Water Tribe and the Fire Nation confront each other directly. With the North having repulsed their invasion, the Fire Nation eventually ceased further assaults and turned their attention to the weaker Southern Water Tribe.
Middle stages (20 - 95 AG)
Fire Lord Azulon ascended the throne after his father's death in 20 AG and continued his father's campaign by beginning to advance south to the Southern Water Tribe and eastward toward the walls of Ba Sing Se. Before 40 AG,[nb 2] the Fire Navy began to repeatedly raid the Southern Water Tribe to destroy its remaining military capabilities and wipe out its waterbending population. While the first attacks were extensive operations, later raids were smaller as the South's ability to defend itself dwindled with each successive assault.
Waterbenders across the South Pole nevertheless continued fighting the firebenders, prompting the Fire Nation to adopt a policy of eradicating waterbending from the South Pole entirely. This policy was implemented by taking all known waterbenders prisoner, leaving the nonbenders to fend for themselves. Among these prisoners was Hama, who notably developed a deep hatred for her captors, but eventually escaped from captivity while waging her own personal war on them in secrecy. With the loss of their bending population, the Southern Water Tribe remained weak and the victim of constant raids, teetering on the edge of extinction. Eventually, the Fire Nation created the Southern Raiders, a brutal raiding force that pillaged and ravaged the coastlines of the South Sea, further weakening the Southern Water Tribe and devastating the, at that time, largely spared southern Earth Kingdom.
In the subsequent decades of the conflict, the Earth Kingdom faced many large-scale offensives at the hands of the Fire Army, with the fall of the Hu Xin Provinces furthering the Fire Nation's advance into the Kingdom and putting them in control of the entire northwestern third of the continent. Thousands perished in massive violent battles during these campaigns. The Fire Nation continued to set up colonies to support it war effort, with the Hu Xin Provinces being heavily colonized. However, unrest emerged in the occupied territories, and the Fire Nation military was forced to put down at least one armed uprising which engulfed several colonies.
During the war's ninety-fourth year, the Southern Water Tribe was attacked in yet another minor raid aimed at eliminating any remaining waterbenders. The attackers, the infamous Southern Raiders, were informed that one last waterbender, who happened to be Katara, was left in the Southern Water Tribe, and were given orders to kill her. However, Katara remained undiscovered because, during this raid, her mother Kya turned herself in as the last waterbender in an attempt to protect Katara. Kya was in turn killed, but her heroic act meant that the Fire Nation would never discover the true identity of the last waterbender in the South Pole. Katara would later rediscover the Avatar and become a major contributor to the eventual capitulation of the Fire Nation as an indirect result of her mother's actions.
In the Earth Kingdom theater, the Fire Nation enjoyed even more success, conquering every major Earth Kingdom city and stronghold until only Omashu (who hindered any major overland progress in the east) and Ba Sing Se were left. The Fire Army also pushed down further south, conquering most of the southwestern coastlines. General Shu and his troops even advanced into the vicinity of the Si Wong Desert, fighting Earth Kingdom forces there. Finally, the Fire Army reached the walls of Ba Sing Se itself, under the command of General Iroh, famed as "The Dragon of the West", and the six hundred-day-Siege of Ba Sing Se began. In its final stages, the Fire Nation managed to break through the Outer Wall, but their advance ended when the general's son, Lu Ten, was killed in battle, resulting in him ordering a full retreat. However, the order was also motivated by the fact his army was fatigued and had been embroiled in continuous fighting for so long.
Late stages (95 - 100 AG)
In the last years of the war, the ferocity of the Hundred Year War eased slightly as the Fire Nation neared victory. Ozai was crowned Fire Lord upon Azulon's death in 95 AG and Iroh's forces had retreated from the area of Ba Sing Se, although they remained in control of the Western Lake, where they began construction of a drill to help them penetrate Ba Sing Se's Outer Wall. The Northern Mountains were left alone, allowing refugees to move in. Some units of the Earth Kingdom Army outright defected, and began working with the Fire Nation military to secure some areas.
However, the conquered western shore of the Earth Kingdom was put under tighter control, where General Fong's fortress was the only Earth Kingdom military base left, hidden in a coastal mountain range. Several fortified bases were set up there. Prince Zuko began his search for the Avatar upon his banishment three years before, hoping to reclaim his birthright as Crown Prince. Zhao, an eager and ambitious naval officer, began plotting the conquest of the Northern Water Tribe. Any attempt at rebellion was dealt with harshly, and the Fire Nation began arresting any earthbenders in their territory, forcing them into slave labor on offshore factories and shipyards. The Fire Nation also expanded in the southern Earth Kingdom, taking control of several rivers which brought them into conflict with local pirate groups like that of Jiang.
To add to the Earth Kingdom's troubles, a large number of their villages and cities were now under Fire Nation control, with their native citizens forced to obey the demands of the Fire Lord if they were to avoid persecution. Only non-essential territories were left alone. Even though major cities like Ba Sing Se and Omashu remained free at the time, the Fire Nation clearly controlled the majority of the continent, free to prowl almost anywhere in the north and west unopposed.
Last Fire Nation offensives
The fortunes of the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes made a turn for the better with the sudden return of the Avatar and last airbender, Aang, who was rediscovered by Sokka and Katara. This immediately attracted the attention of both Zuko and Zhao, who chased him across the world. Rumours of the Avatar's return quickly spread across the world, increasing the hope of those who still resisted the Fire Nation. As the Avatar traveled north to the North Pole in an attempt to learn waterbending, Zhao was promoted to Admiral. During this time, Aang and his friends encountered Jeong Jeong, a Fire Nation Navy deserter and member of the Order of the White Lotus, who temporarily taught him firebending before Zhao and his forces found and attacked them. Jeong Jeong subsequently disappeared and later took part in the Liberation of Ba Sing Se during the war's climax. A small Fire Nation force attacked the Northern Mountains, only to be beaten back in what culminated as the battle for the Northern Air Temple. However, the defeated force did acquire an important new invention for the Fire Nation – the hot air balloon.
Upon discovering that the Avatar had succeeded in reaching the North Pole, the newly promoted Admiral Zhao ordered his massive fleet to advance on the North Pole. However, the Siege of the North was unsuccessful due to the Avatar's intervention, and the fleet was nearly entirely destroyed. Zhao was subsequently imprisoned in the Spirit World by La, the Ocean Spirit, after an unsuccessful attempt to kill the Moon Spirit in a bid to neutralize the waterbenders' power. With the Fire Nation's main ambition in the north out of the picture and their control of the seas weakened, the Fire Nation refrained from further attacks on the Northern Water Tribe. However, as the Northern Water Tribe did not participate in any major engagements against the Fire Nation for the rest of the war, and the Earth Kingdom Navy was already all but obliterated, the loss of Zhao's fleet meant a bearable defeat. Ozai had his armies continue the slow and steady advances on all the Earth Kingdom fronts, subsequently sending his daughter, Princess Azula, to search for and capture the traitorous Iroh and Zuko.
Soon after the defeat at the North Pole, the Fire Nation won a great victory by conquering the city of Omashu, capturing King Bumi in the process, leaving Ba Sing Se the last major Earth Kingdom city in the north unconquered. Though most of the city's population managed to flee under the ruse of a plague, the city itself remained under the control of a Fire Nation governor and was renamed New Ozai by Princess Azula.
The Fire Nation's next major battle would be at the walls of Ba Sing Se once more. The drill, a powerful and gigantic mechanized siege weapon, attacked the Outer Wall. However, the Avatar had just arrived to intervene. Though the machine succeeded in drilling through the Wall, it was destroyed by the Avatar, making the attack a failure and filling the newly drilled hole with the machine's wreckage.
The Fall of the Earth Kingdom
- Main article: Coup of Ba Sing Se
Princess Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, a trio of the Fire Nation Academy's best, infiltrated the capital of Ba Sing Se in the spring of 100 AG. Clad in Kyoshi Warriors uniforms, stolen from members of the order after having defeated them in an earlier engagement, Azula infiltrated the court of the Earth King and undermined the Dai Li. She eventually convinced Long Feng to launch a coup d'état against the Earth King. In the end, she double-crossed him and assumed control over the capital in the name of the Fire Nation. She also succeeded in capturing her uncle and convinced Zuko to rejoin the Fire Nation, clouding his judgment by promising him his father's love. With Ba Sing Se under their control, the Fire Nation was on the cusp of total victory, with only the tattered Water Tribes and isolated parts of the Earth Kingdom left opposing them. Azula also learned that Ba Sing Se had been planning a major invasion of the Fire Nation home islands on the day of a solar eclipse in late summer, which would briefly leave all firebenders powerless. With the Western Navy still recovering from the Siege of the North, the invasion might have been successful had the Dai Li not arrested the Council of Five. Still, with the knowledge that their homeland would still be vulnerable, the Fire Nation made plans to use this to their advantage.
During the Fall of Ba Sing Se, Avatar Aang was gravely injured in a failed attempt to defeat Azula, who struck him down with a powerful lightning blast. Although Katara was able to revive him, Aang remained in a coma in the following weeks, and he was immediately presumed dead by the entire world. When word of Aang's apparent demise spread across the globe, the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes lost hope and the Fire Nation came close to declaring victory in its imperialist war. Unbeknownst to most, however, Aang and his friends traveled into the Fire Nation incognito until the time to strike came again.
Last counteroffensive, resistance, and escalation
Several weeks later, Ozai called a war meeting with his generals. One of them, Shinu, said that while Ba Sing Se had been conquered, a number of Earth Kingdom rebellions arose and that the Earth Kingdom military was still controlling vast swaths of territory, including the southern Earth Kingdom and scattered areas in the north, which kept the Fire Nation from claiming ultimate victory in the Hundred Year War. When Zuko said that the Earth Kingdom could endure anything as long as they had hope, Azula said they should "take their precious hope, and the rest of their land, and burn it all to the ground." Ozai, using this idea, planned to use the power of the returning Sozin's Comet to completely destroy the Earth Kingdom in a final scorched-earth campaign.
Though the Fire Nation controlled great swathes of territory, they were not unopposed. A small multinational invasion force led by Chief Hakoda of the Southern Water Tribe and the Avatar assaulted the Fire Nation Capital on the Day of Black Sun. The invasion force was nearly successful, but their supposed success was actually a carefully planned trap by the Fire Nation. Although the invasion force had secured the Capitol City and Royal Palace, the Avatar failed to locate and capture the Fire Lord before the end of the eclipse, at which point the Fire Nation launched its counter-offensive through the deployment of the new Fire Air Force fleet of airships. The invasion force was quickly routed, resulting in most of the resistance leaders capture. Despite its failure, the invasion proved that the Fire Nation could continue to be resisted as long as hope was maintained.
The Day of Black Sun, however, was not a total failure for those resisting the Fire Nation. During the eclipse, the captured King Bumi saw the opportunity he had been waiting for. He broke out of his prison and, with the firebenders unable to firebend, retook the city of Omashu single-handedly. Iroh also broke out of his cell and, according to a guard, fought as a "one-man army."
During the invasion, Prince Zuko realized the full extent of the Fire Nation's crimes and the folly of his nation's century-long imperialist war, deciding to defect by joining the Avatar, agreeing to teach Aang firebending before the anticipated battle with the Fire Lord. This development only increased the threat the Avatar posed toward the Fire Nation. Coinciding with this, Princess Azula was betrayed by her allies, Mai and Ty Lee, after a failed sabotaging of an escape from the Boiling Rock, badly hurting both her psyche and leadership ability in the waning days of the war.
Nevertheless, Fire Lord Ozai proclaimed himself Phoenix King prior to the arrival of Sozin's Comet and appointed Azula to be his successor as Fire Lord. Ozai intended to finish the Hundred Year War by using the comet's immense power to vanquish his enemies, so the Avatar's group, one of the Fire Nation's greatest threats, acted quickly to prevent this catastrophe.
Conclusion (100 AG)
Fall of leaders
When Sozin's Comet made its return to the world, Ozai launched his massive attack on the Earth Kingdom with his armada of airships, with the intention of destroying the Earth Kingdom and with it, the last major opposition to Fire Nation supremacy. When he arrived at the Wulong Forest, which he quickly proceeded to incinerate, Avatar Aang confronted him. Despite Aang's pleas to end the Hundred Year War peacefully, Ozai blatantly refused and engaged him in combat. At first, Ozai and Aang were evenly matched, but Aang refused to go on the offensive due to his belief that all life was sacred. This allowed Ozai to gain the upper hand, but in his effort to deliver the death blow to the Avatar, he accidentally smashed Aang into a rock that hit the scar on his back where Azula had struck him with lightning at Ba Sing Se. This released the pent up energy there and opened his seventh chakra, allowing Aang to enter the Avatar State. Using the Avatar State's full power, Aang went on the offensive. Despite his enhanced firebending, Ozai was quickly overwhelmed and forced to retreat. Aang pursued him and eventually pinned him down. But just as he was about to deliver the finishing blow, Aang left the Avatar State. Instead of killing Ozai, Aang used energybending to strip him of his firebending.
While Aang and Ozai fought, three members of the Avatar's group, Sokka, Toph and Suki, hijacked one of the airships in Ozai's armada. Ramming their hijacked airship into the ones next to them, the group successfully destroyed the fleet, putting a complete stop to Ozai's plans to destroy the Earth Kingdom. Meanwhile, the Order of the White Lotus, under Iroh's leadership, successfully retook Ba Sing Se, a colossal defeat for the Fire Nation.
Azula, after losing her alliance and friendship of Mai and Ty Lee, was weakened by a growing state of mental instability in the lead up to her coronation as Fire Lord. This caused her to lose all trust in everyone, developing severe paranoia and coming to the belief that everyone was against her. She banished all those loyal to her, and in effect, had no allies or external protection. This rendered her unable to effectively fight Zuko and Katara, resulting in Zuko's victory in their Agni-Kai and taking her place as Fire Lord. She suffered a mental breakdown shortly after the conclusion of their fight, making her incapable of continuing to fight in the Hundred Year War.
With the loss of Omashu and Ba Sing Se, an entire fleet of airships destroyed, and the fall of their leaders, the Fire Nation military forces found themselves unable to effectively continue the war effort, leaving the Water Tribe and the Earth Kingdom victorious, albeit at tremendous cost.
Following the Fire Nation's capitulation, all war prisoners were released and Zuko was crowned Fire Lord, officially declaring the war to be over. At his coronation, he promised before a large audience of the world's citizens that he would dedicate his rule to rebuilding the war-torn world with the help of Avatar Aang. The new government started to pay war reparations to the Earth Kingdom, as well as the Water Tribes and the Air Acolytes of the new Air Nation.
After being defeated by Aang, Ozai was arrested and put in prison, while Azula was institutionalized in a mental health facility on an isolated island near the Fire Nation capital. The worst offenders from the Fire Nation during the Hundred Year War were hunted down to stand trial for their crimes.
With the war's conclusion, however, all nations could begin the long process of rebuilding, both physically as well as spiritually. The Harmony Restoration Movement was created as a step toward peace in removing the Fire Nation colonies from the Earth Kingdom. However, after seeing all the hard work his people had done in the colonies, Fire Lord Zuko removed his support from the movement. This decision started a confrontation that threatened to throw the world back into war, causing Avatar Aang to intervene. After a brief skirmish, an agreement was reached, which eventually led to the Fire Nation colonies being transformed into the United Republic of Nations.
After a century of fighting, all four nations were left exhausted from the conflict. Over the course of the war, the Fire Nation had caused unprecedented worldwide devastation and loss of life, annihilating an entire nation save for one person, and oppressing people on a large scale. Countless numbers of civilian and military personnel had died for all belligerents. While the overall infrastructure of the Earth Kingdom and Southern Water Tribe suffered gravely, the Northern Water Tribe came out relatively unscathed, albeit more isolated than before. Despite the liberation of Southern Water Tribe prisoners, many of these still suffered the emotional consequences of the war. While some did not feel comfortable going back to the South Pole after all the changes it went through and how much time they spent away, others discovered that an emotional block that prevented them from waterbending.
The Fire Nation mostly suffered a cultural loss: dancing was kept downtrodden, resulting in the loss of several ancient dance moves, sections of their history prior to the war were sealed off and eventually forgotten, and firebending became distorted into being fueled by hatred and rage rather than as a veneration of life and energy, a process that was only sped up when the dragons, the original firebenders, were pushed to the brink of extinction due to Sozin starting the tradition of hunting them for glory. The nation's focus also turned more to warfare and their society militarized, which placed its spirituality in the background, causing the Fire Sages to fall from prominence. This loss of knowledge was felt across all nations, as nations were plundered of artifacts, people were lied to by their leaders, and beautiful buildings were destroyed all together. Some lost knowledge and physical artifacts were secretly preserved by the Knowledge Seekers and kept in Wan Shi Tong's library, though this was almost completely inaccessible to humans until after Harmonic Convergence.
After the end of the war, much of the world still resented the Fire Nation because of the grievous harm its government and military inflicted, and people did not know how to feel about its civilians, as many of them had supported Ozai's regime or allied with it in fear of punishment. People of the Fire Nation started to learn what it meant to be part of the world and not just a part of the Fire Nation. To that end, many citizens worked where they could to repair some damage inflicted by the war. As a result of Zuko's reforms, Fire Nation inventors contacted Earth Kingdom colleagues to collaborate for the first time in over a century; the Fire Nation started to craft policy to ensure nothing like the Hundred Year War happened again; and scholars strove to recover lost history and eliminated deceitful propaganda long taught in school texts. Investigators' jobs were difficult as they had to go through crimes that took place all throughout the war, often with little to no recorded evidence save for numerous first-person accounts. These reports were highly contested for being biased.
Even after the war some Fire Nationals still believed that the rest of the world would be better off under Fire Nation rule. When foreigners visited the Fire Nation, they could still find individuals who did not want them there and business owners who did not want to offer their services. Similarly, when Fire Nation citizens visited other nations for the first time, they found that some of these places were not like how they were depicted in political propaganda.
During the war, it was obvious from the beginning that there was a great disparity in means and effectiveness between the military powers of the four nations. For the most part, the nations that opposed the Fire Nation lacked a united front that would allow them to launch a successful counterattack.
The Air Nomads, being pacifistic, had no formal military power, nor any standing means of fighting a war. Being nomadic and reclusive from the world-at-large, they believed that they were for the most part safe from military excursions. They possessed no weapons, and whatever they created was hand-made. Despite this, they did mount a defense when the temples came under attack and though they were ultimately wiped out, the Fire Nation suffered several casualties.
The Northern Water Tribe was an isolated power that managed to survive mostly unscathed for much of the war because of its remote and treacherous location. Centralized around tribal leaders and unified by a cultural feeling of unity, the Northern tribe was able to unite in the face of Fire Nation aggression.
The Northern Tribe had a standing army, but could conscript most adult men as warriors in times of need. The tribe had a large number of benders able to utilize the surroundings of their home, and a number of nonbender warriors who utilized spears and various weapons made from animal bones. For the majority of the war, women were forbidden from offensive waterbending, restricted to healing, and nonbender women were banned from training as warriors.
Waterbenders typically used small canoes to surround and neutralize the bulky Fire Nation warships. This worked well against individual ships, or small groups, but was impractical against fleets, and especially the armada assembled by Zhao. These ships were not made for journeys, but for quick response to immediate threats.
Unlike the Northern Tribe, the Southern Water Tribe made use of female waterbenders in offensive combat. The Southern Tribe was much more isolated than its sister tribe and suffered near extinction close to the end of the Hundred Year War. By the later years of the war, the Fire Nation believed there were no more waterbenders in the South, and the few known waterbenders were very young children who did not know how to use their element.
As opposed to the almost impregnable fortress-like city of Agna Qel'a in the Northern Tribe, the Southern Tribe's traditional capital of Wolf Cove was a much smaller, inland walled-town. Over time this town was reduced to a makeshift village.
By this time, the warriors of the tribe departed for the Earth Kingdom, with Chief Hakoda of Wolf Cove serving as the primary leader of the Southern forces. Most of those who remained were children, teenagers, mothers, and the elderly, as well as a few adults with specialized jobs who were needed at home.
The Southern Tribe employed sailing ships made of bones and animal skins. After the Siege of the North, the Northern Water Tribe sent a group of waterbenders and others to the South Pole in order to help rebuild their shattered sister tribe.
Foggy Swamp Tribe
The Foggy Swamp Tribe was a relatively primitive tribe that possessed no major or advanced technology. This, coupled with the isolation of their habitat, the Foggy Swamp, meant that they passed beneath the radar of the other nations until they encountered Team Avatar around 99-100 AG. As such, the Foggy Swamp Tribe was not involved in the war until months prior to its conclusion, when they participated in the invasion of the Fire Nation, which resulted in the imprisonment of several of its members.
The Earth Kingdom was composed of a number of provinces loosely controlled by the Earth King in Ba Sing Se. Though they had the largest population and territory of all the nations, the Earth Kingdom lacked a well-organized, powerful central government like the Fire Nation. Most of its provinces had their own local lords or, in cases like Omashu, kings who were largely autonomous.
This political divisiveness meant that the majority of Earth Kingdom military retaliation to the Fire Nation was conducted by these provincial lords and kings. By the time of the reign of Earth King Kuei, the Earth King was a puppet ruler who had no knowledge of the war and no control over the military until the Grand Secretariat, Long Feng, was arrested. The Earth King's sphere of influence was limited to the walls of Ba Sing Se itself.
Earth Kingdom military prowess paled in comparison to the tactics of the Fire Army. The army as a whole was structured similarly: benders and a number of varying sorts of nonbender infantry, such as pikemen and swordsmen. Whereas the Fire Nation used mainly machines, along with rhinos for certain terrain, the Earth Kingdom typically employed animal labor, such as ostrich horse cavalry, which had a diverse amount of uses. The only non-animal vehicle known were stone tanks mounted on caterpillar treads. Moved via earthbending, these tanks were versatile juggernauts capable of laying waste to their metal Fire Nation counterparts, though they only became available to the Earth Kingdom Army during the final stage of the war.
The Earth Kingdom navy utilized wooden ships. The Fire Navy dominated the seas during the Great War, with the Earth Kingdom possessing no seen naval presence, although General How mentioned there still being naval forces during the Council of Five's discussion of the invasion plan.
The Earth Kingdom possessed no air force. The technology was newly founded by the time of the coup.
Near the end of the Hundred Year War, the multi-ethnic invasion force that invaded the Fire Nation on the solar eclipse possessed several new technological devices, including caterpillar-tread transports, submarines, and a number of smaller inventions devised by Sokka and the mechanist. Most of these were not employed by the Earth Kingdom as a whole at this time, as at this point Ba Sing Se had fallen to the Fire Nation.
The Fire Nation, a relatively small but prosperous empire, possessed technological prowess beyond any of the other nations, courtesy of its far greater level of industrialization. By the time the war began, they had metal-based ships, steam-powered engines and machines, the ability to mass-produce standard military hardware, and many other industrial-age based social, economic, and political traits. Numerous factories for metalwork, military construction, and commodities dotted the Fire Nation homeland.
Unlike the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation was a centralized power from the beginning of the war, directly controlled and directed by the dictatorial power of the Fire Lord and his advisers. This combination of unity and technological advancement gave the Fire Nation a distinct edge over its main military opponent, the Earth Kingdom, which still functioned under a feudal system. The Fire Nation military was organized, rigidly controlled, and directed by the Fire Lord and his council of generals. The army was organized into benders, various divisions of nonbenders, such as archers, pikemen and swordsmen, and into a domestic national guard. The army employed a variety of war machines, including steam-powered tanks, trebuchet artillery, and the drill.
The navy was structured similarly, possessing several fleets of the most advanced warships in the world, including a domestic defense fleet that formed a large blockade around Fire Nation waters. These ships were steam-powered and used deck-mounted trebuchets for long-range assault.
Near to the end of the war, the Fire Nation also employed a burgeoning air force of airships and zeppelins, utilizing benders for close-quarters defense and bombs for air-to-ground bombardment. The zeppelins also featured a forward-cannon for shooting bombs forward at level targets.
The Fire Nation initially had surprise on their side; however, given the intervention of Avatar Roku, this was lost to the twenty years between the first established colony, and the death of Roku, which allowed Sozin to pursue his ambition.
List of known engagements
- The war's monikers, the Hundred Year War and the Great War, can be perceived as allusions to the real-world Hundred Years' War and World War I, the latter of which was alternatively known as the Great War and was notable for being the first war involving all the major world powers.
- The Hundred Year War also resembles the Second Sino-Japanese War, or the Asian front of World War II, in that a technologically advanced island nation invaded a massive continental power with great success. Both instigators also rationalized their imperialistic endeavors as a means of sharing prosperity; for Japan, expansion into other Asian countries was deemed necessary in order to establish the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
- After Avatar Yangchen's time, no inter-state wars took place, as Kuruk had to deal with no major conflicts among the humans, while Kyoshi primarily faced civil wars and internal rebellions. Kyoshi herself argued that "a great era of peace" began during her lifetime.
- According to Hama, the raids began "over sixty years" before 100 AG. According to unverified information by the Avatar: The Last Airbender YouTube channel, the raids began in 35 AG.