It started when Bolivia invaded part of the territory and fought a Paraguayan garrison. Bolivia had more population and troops than Paraguay, but they countered with a different style of war, a more homogeneous population and intelligence and supplies from Argentina. They were able to seize a large part of Gran Chaco.
Eventually, both sides, unable to keep advancing, decided to end the war. Even though technically Paraguay won, both countries ended up suffering in the direct aftermath, with many deaths and huge debts to pay. Worst of all, no oil was found at the time, making the whole thing seem pointless. Oil was eventually discovered by Paraguay some 77 years later in 2012. The Paraguayan President even mentioned the losses of the war when the discovery was first announced.
Works dealing with this war:
- The Tintin album Tintin: The Broken Ear, in which a 1930s South American conflict is renamed "the Gran Chapo War".note
- A poem by Pablo Neruda, Standard Oil Company, mentions the conflict.
- A Doc Savage adventure, The Dust of Death.