Exact delineation of this tour is unclear. Well before War's release on 28 February 1983, U2 played what has been labelled a "Pre-Tour" of 20 shows and one television appearance in halls across Western Europe, starting in Glasgow in Scotland on 1 December 1982 and ending back home in Dublin on 24 December. These shows generally featured only three songs from the upcoming album - "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "New Year's Day", and "Surrender".
The tour then restarted (or started) on 26 February 1983 at Caird Hall in Dundee, Scotland and played 29 shows and three television appearances in Scotland, England, and Wales, ending on 3 April with a single Continental show at the Printemps de Bourges in Bourges, France. Three or four additional songs from War were added to these set lists, including "Two Hearts Beat As One" and, in the start of their 1980s practice of ending shows with it, "40".
The next leg went to North America for 48 shows and two radio appearances, beginning on 23 April in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and ending on 26 June at the Hudson River Pier 84 facility in New York City. Most of the venues were colleges and smaller auditoriums, but they played a few arena shows, such as at the Centrum in Worcester, Massachusetts and at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Many of the shows featured the Welsh band The Alarm as the opening act.
During this tour, they appeared before one of the largest audiences in US music history: on Memorial Day at the US Festival in San Bernardino, California, they appeared at noontime on the third day of the festival before a crowd of over 125.000 . The festival was broadcast live on MTV. The performance climaxed in a grand finale where Bono scaled the proscenium of the US festival's huge stage while singing the song "The Electric Co.", ending up about 100 feet above the ground.
A week later, their June 5, 1983 performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre (a picturesque outdoor venue near Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains) was recorded for what turned out to be a spectacular live EP and video, entitled Under a Blood Red Sky. A steady rain and the surreal, torch-lit natural beauty of the surroundings combined to present U2's performance in the most dramatic of contexts. Frequently shown on MTV, the video helped to further expand the band's American audience. (Two decades later, U2 recording at Red Rocks was selected in Rolling Stone's list of the "50 Moments that Changed Rock and Roll". ) The record version of Under a Blood Red Sky used performances culled from the Red Rocks show as well as a 6 May show in Boston's Orpheum Theatre and a 20 August show in St. Goarshausen, West Germany at the Lorelei Amphitheatre.
U2 then played at 5 outdoor summer festivals in Western Europe in July and August.
After another sizeable interlude, U2 played a show in Honolulu, Hawaii before their first tour of Japan for 6 shows, with the tour finally ending on 30 November 1983 at the Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo. While in Japan, U2 made a couple of television appearances, one of which featured a notable performance of "New Year's Day" that Edge performed almost entirely on piano due to a guitar failure.
War's music, its music videos, and the War Tour all served to separate U2 out from the mass of new wave or college rock acts and into mainstream rock visibility. "New Year's Day" became a hit single and was an exciting number in concert, with The Edge rapidly switching back and forth between piano and electric guitar. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and its martial beat was also highly effective in concert, with Bono giving various spoken introductions to it and waving a white flag around to illustrate his anti-war and anti-nationalist stances. Older songs such as "Gloria" and "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" fit seamlessly into the flow. Finally, "40"'s show-closing, thoughtful presence grew into an audience participation ritual that would continue even after the band had left the stage. It was clear to concert audiences that this outfit was going after some big ideas and big goals. This was the first U2 tour on which the stage and lighting design was done by Willie Williams, who would continue to do perform that role in all of U2's subsequent tours, including the groundbreaking Zoo TV Tour.