Great Military Blunders, Bill Lucas
Great Military Blunders, Bill Lucas
Military history is littered with some appalling blunders, many that led to major defeats. This book looks at eighteen battles and campaigns that the author judged to have included a major blunder - most ended in a major defeat, although the author also includes the Charge of the Light Brigade, an incident during an otherwise successful battle, and the Battle of Antietam, where the blunder is the failure to win a more major victory.
The book covers a lot of ground in its sixty four pages, so each chapter is really more of an overview of the battle than a detailed analysis, but some consistent themes do emerge, most often underestimating your opponent (again Antietam is the opposite, where McClellan performed just about as normal, massively overestimating the size of Lee's army). Each chapter gives a general overview of events and looks at the blunder in question.
This book will be of most interest to someone just getting into military history - those with more knowledge won't find much new. The range of topics is quite impressive, although is almost entirely taken from American and British history (only Stalingrad doesn't include one or the other of the two).
The Battle of Stirling Bridge
The Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Flodden Field
The Battle of Saratoga
The Battle of Bladensburg
The Battle of New Orleans
The Retreat from Kabul
The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Little Bighorn
The Battle of Isandlwana
The Gallipoli Campaign
The Battle of the Somme
Defense of the Philippines
The Fall of Singapore
The Battle of Stalingrad
Operation Market Garden
Operation Eagle Claw
Author: Bill Lucas
Publisher: Park Lane Books
Imagine how much longer and bloodier World War II might have been had Admiral Yamamoto not filled the decks of his vulnerable carriers at Midway with fully fueled airplanes awaiting ordnance. What if Hitler, despite his anger at the bombing of Berlin, hadn’t switched tactics from downing Spitfires to uselessly attacking London?
Battlefield blunders can be as decisive as brilliant tactics, whether they suddenly advance tribal factions toward nationhood, punish a proud military unaccustomed to losing or temporarily swing the balance of power in an utterly unexpected direction. That said, following are five losers who might have wished for a do-over.
HAMILTON AT GALLIPOLI
During World War I, German General Erich Ludendorff famously observed, “The English fight like lions.” “Yes,” a staff officer famously replied, “but they are led by donkeys.”
British General Sir Ian Hamilton might not have been a full-fledged ass, but he was certainly a bumbling Ferdinand the bull—shy, courteous and overly accommodating. Unfortunately, Lord Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, gave him command of the 1915 invasion of Gallipoli—the amphibious landings by British, French and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops intended to take Turkey, a German ally, out of the war. The campaign demanded an assertive, tactically brilliant, take-charge commander. Instead, the Allies got a kindly uncle who really didn’t want to interfere with his brigadier nephews.
Not that a promising young Winston Churchill had done any better. As First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915, he proposed that a task force of 18 aging battleships charge through the Dardanelles, the narrow 38-mile-long strait that led toward the Turkish capital at Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). Forts flanked the high-bluffed Gallipoli Peninsula west of the strait, so Churchill’s strategy was akin to taking a convoy of vintage Cadillacs on a thunder run through central Baghdad. The British lost five battleships, mainly to mines but also to Turkish coast artillery.
This should have been a hint, not that Gallipoli was impregnable, for the Turks really didn’t have a modern army or much in the way of good artillery, but that the commanding terrain made a frontal attack potentially suicidal. Indeed, the Greeks—the Turks’ neighbors and longtime adversaries—had formulated a war plan in case the Gallipoli Peninsula ever needed to be attacked, and it called for 150,000 men. Lord Kitchener scoffed at that estimate. Johnny Turk would cut and run at the first sign of the Allies, he insisted, and half as many troops would do just fine.
Thus, early on the morning of April 25, 1915, Hamilton launched his enormously ambitious amphibious landing. An outline of the beachhead assault might read like a description of the D-Day landings were it not for the absence of any specialized landing craft. Armored assault boats did exist back in England, but they remained a well-guarded secret heaven forfend invaders would use them and thus spill the British beans. Instead, huge warships towed ponderous strings of cockleshells—essentially lifeboats—toward shore, then split the strings and transferred the towing job to slow, shallow-draft launches. Oarsmen stroked the final few yards onto the beaches.
The action most often memorialized in paintings of the landing was the beaching of the old steamer River Clyde to allow soldiers to emerge from its sally ports (doors along the hull at the waterline) and stroll ashore on gangplanks. Unfortunately, it was equally easy for Turkish machine gunners on the heights to pick off troopers one at a time as they popped from the sally ports like mechanical ducks in a shooting gallery. Of the first 200 soldiers to step from the ships, just 21 made it to the beach alive.
General Hamilton chose the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, the grandest ship available, as his command vessel. While it made sense to oversee the battle from somewhere offshore, an oceangoing capital ship engaged in long-range bombardment wasn’t the ideal platform. Hamilton was too far from the beaches to see what was going on (chaos, for the most part), and his corps commanders were also literally and figuratively adrift during the crucial early hours of the invasion. Communications both ashore between units and from ship to shore ran the gamut from primitive to nonexistent, so junior officers on the beach were largely left to their own devices.
Two thousand Brits had landed at a providentially undefended spot called Y Beach and climbed the cliffs unopposed. Having nothing else to do, no commanders to enact Plan B and no direction from Hamilton, they simply hunkered down and boiled water for cuppas. They heard distant firing but had no idea it signified the slaughter of ANZACs at the beachhead to their north. While the Turkish defenders were relatively few in number, they commanded the high ground with machine guns. A flanking maneuver by 2,000 Tommies could have ended the battle in minutes, but it was not to be. To this day ANZACs haven’t forgiven the English for “sittin’ on their arses brewing tea and havin’ a smoke” while Aussies and Kiwis who had never before experienced war were dying by the hundreds only hours away.
Due to Hamilton’s haphazard planning, the beachheads ANZAC forces were able to secure were cramped and highly vulnerable. In fact, British corps commander General Sir William Birdwood suggested an immediate evacuation, to which Hamilton replied: “There is nothing for it but to dig yourselves right in and stick it out….You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig, dig, dig until you are safe.” (Australians have since borne the fond nickname “Diggers.”) At one point, the clueless Hamilton wired Kitchener, “Thanks to the weather and the wonderfully fine spirit of our troops, all continues to go well.”
After eight months of pointless trench warfare, Hamilton’s forces evacuated the bloody beaches. Half a million men on both sides had died for nothing in a true standoff— combined British and French losses numbered just 700 men more than Turkish losses. Each year on April 25, the invasion anniversary, Australia and New Zealand celebrate ANZAC Day, marking their painful emergence into true nationhood.
BURNSIDE AT FREDERICKSBURG
The Battle of Fredericksburg was a humiliating meat-grinder of a defeat for the Union Army, and the fault lies squarely with General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside admitted as much after the war, while many another general played the blame game. The man would be forgotten today but for the fact that he lent his name to excessive cheek hair. Yes, sideburns were indeed originally called burnsides, and Burnside himself looked like he had a pair of squirrels hammocking between his nose and ears.
President Lincoln gave Burnside command of the Union Army of the Potomac because General George McClellan had turned out to be diffident, slow-moving and cautious. Burnside, also a West Pointer and among McClellan’s best friends, was determined not to make the same mistakes.
Unfortunately, he made others.
In December 1862, Robert E. Lee’s rebel forces were precariously divided at Fredericksburg, Va., a rail terminus about 50 miles from Richmond, the crucial Confederate capital. Burnside felt that if he moved rapidly and decisively, he could end the war by eliminating the defenses at Fredericksburg and taking Richmond. Burnside commanded some 118,000 troops—the largest army in U.S. history up to that time.
Some of Lee’s troops were defending Fredericksburg itself the rest, under the famed T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson (so named for his stubborn resistance at the 1861 First Battle of Bull Run), were about three and a half miles south at Prospect Hill. A good tactician might have assessed the situation and said, “Take Prospect Hill pronto with your superior numbers, turn north and finish off Fredericksburg with a flanking maneuver, then on to Richmond. Game over.”
Instead, Burnside chose to confront the Fredericksburg defenders with his main force and send General George Meade to deal with the rebels at Prospect Hill. Driven back by Jackson, Meade begged for reinforcements, but by that time Burnside was busy headbutting Fredericksburg.
Burnside first tried to traverse the Rappahannock River with pontoon bridges—Lee had burned all the existing spans—but Confederate sharpshooters on the far bank proved too much for the exposed, unarmed Union engineers desperately trying to lay planks across the boats. Burnside ultimately used the pontoons as makeshift assault craft to mount one of the earliest amphibious assaults in U.S. history. It didn’t help that a sudden December thaw and heavy rain had turned the far bank of the Rappahannock into boot-sucking, wheel-clogging mud. The river crossing cost an entire day, exactly what Jackson needed to force-march his troops to Fredericksburg and link up with its defenders.
An infuriated Burnside tried to level Fredericksburg with his artillery, but the Confederates fell back to what would prove to be the finest defensive position Lee would ever hold: Just west of town was a broad cow pasture bordered by a substantial stone wall, built to keep the cattle out of the adjacent sunken road. Confederate soldiers who took up position behind this wall didn’t even have to crouch—just stand and deliver. Behind them was a ridge, beyond which Lee emplaced his artillery, hidden from direct fire.
Inexplicably, Burnside threw 14 brigades at the stone wall, and rebel infantry scythed wave after wave of blue uniforms. Burnside became obsessed with the deadly Southern redoubt, perhaps assuming the Confederates would at some point run out of ammunition or morale. Neither happened, and by nightfall on December 13, 1862, after nine direct assaults, more than 12,000 Union troops lay dead or wounded, a carpet of blue on a meadow where the temperature soon plummeted to 15 degrees. The thaw had ended.
NAVARRE AT DIEN BIEN PHU
Hubris—exaggerated pride or self-confidence—often afflicts Western military men when they confront Eastern armies, navies and air forces. So it was in 1905 at Tsushima when Japanese ships stunningly sank nearly every trace of the imperial Russian navy. So it was in 1942 when superior Japanese Mitsubishis flown by pilots whose skill stunned the Americans and British shot down Grumman Wildcats, Brewster Buffalos and Gloster Gladiators almost at will. And so it was again in 1954 when a Viet Minh peasant army dismantled haughty French commander Henri Navarre’s 16,000 largely elite troops at Dien Bien Phu.
Navarre’s biggest blunder was to underestimate the courage, capability and skill of General Vo Nguyen Giap and Viet Minh forces. How could rice farmers wearing black pajamas and shower clogs possibly defeat skilled French artillerymen and Legionnaires defending a fortified garrison supplied by aircraft—the latter a technological marvel to which the Viet Minh had no access?
Placing a garrison at remote, jungle-bound Dien Bien Phu in the first place was a decision an ROTC freshman might have questioned. The French depended on air support for everything from beurre to bullets—and, above all, reinforcements—but C-47s couldn’t carry enough to keep the fortress supplied. Complicating matters, Navarre somehow got the artilleryman’s credo backward and took the low ground (Dien Bien Phu was in a valley), which meant Giap’s surprisingly skilled antiaircraft gunners could shoot down at landing planes. The weather between Hanoi and Dien Bien Phu was often dicey, and though the base initially had the luxury of two airstrips, the Viet Minh quickly put both out of action, forcing the French to parachute in supplies—about half of them, including stacks of artillery rounds, landed in enemy hands.
When the Viet Minh first attacked Dien Bien Phu in November 1952, it was little more than an outpost, and the tiny French garrison bugged out. It was a logical move, but one that rankled the French, who had been humiliated in World War II. The all-important honneur de l’armée was at stake, and they were intent on reoccupying and holding Dien Bien Phu at all costs.
“Giap has no logistics,” Navarre’s advisers had repeatedly assured him. Au contraire, mon général. Giap had tens of thousands of worker ants chugging everything from trucks to bicycles over impossible mountain roads and trails to the hills surrounding Dien Bien Phu. Giap also understood the vulnerabilities of French logistics. His guerrillas snuck on to French air bases and destroyed countless planes on the ground. On Giap’s orders, they ignored the French Bearcats and B-26s—powerful combat airplanes—and firebombed only the unglamorous cargo craft.
Navarre had imagined Dien Bien Phu as a powerful, ornery hedgehog, a prickly offensive base from which French infantry and armor could range at will. Instead, the garrison played possum, its starving defenders, outnumbered four to one, hunkered down in mudholes under relentless fire from artillery Giap had somehow manhandled to the site. The Viet Minh general had placed his main batteries in secure positions behind the ridges and concealed those guns on the forward slopes in spider holes the French artillery was unable to hit.
In the end, Henri Navarre lost to a smarter, more focused commander whom he had totally underestimated. Hubris? Navarre conducted his war from an air-conditioned office in Hanoi. Giap commanded from a cave.
BARATIERI AT ADWA
Only one obscure movie—a 1999 Ethiopian docudrama—recounts the 1896 Battle of Adwa, in which the Italian army went up against the Ethiopians. Yet like the 1964 Michael Caine classic Zulu, Adwa had all the elements Hollywood loves. Fought on an epic scale over stunning terrain, the conflict involved more than 150,000 men—and one woman, Ethiopian King Menelik II’s consort, the Empress Taitu, who headed a reserve force that ultimately drove the Italians into their final, pell-mell retreat. Adwa represented the clichéd confrontation between cultured Europeans and benighted Africans, between the forces of enlightened civilization and presumed savages. It also offered the classic David vs. Goliath confrontation, though it could be argued that Goliath was Ethiopian. Props included bronze shields, colorful uniforms and feathered headdresses bright as parrot plumage. Menelik’s troops wore the red, gold and green favored today by Jamaican Rastafarians, the Ethiopians’ ideological descendants.
Adwa also had a villain: Italian General Oreste Baratieri, who so badly underestimated his Ethiopian opponents that he suffered the worst European defeat ever at the hands of Africans. But, as is often the case, the defeat wasn’t entirely Baratieri’s fault.
Italy had come late to the let’s-carve-up-Africa party. England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and even Denmark and Sweden had colonized the continent, leaving Italy with impoverished Somalia and Eritrea. If the Italians could finagle a takeover of Ethiopia, the tribal land that sat between the two, they could at least boast a neat arc of captive nations.
In order to befriend King Menelik, Italy grandly presented him with thousands of their most sophisticated rifles and fieldpieces, plus tons of ammunition and artillery rounds. It apparently never occurred to them they might someday be facing this very same weaponry. The Italians first attempted to annex Ethiopia through a mix of politics and guile, but failed. Meanwhile Menelik, realizing he was being gulled, beefed up his arsenal with the best guns he could buy from U.S. and European suppliers and quietly trained an army of superbly equipped riflemen and cannoneers.
Baratieri did score some initial successes against his opponents. Returning briefly to Rome, he boasted that next time he would bring back Menelik “in a cage.”
The remote settlement of Adwa sat amid a lunar landscape—precipitous, rocky, pimpled with bare peaks, confusing and featureless. The Italians had poor maps, scant communication equipment and thin-soled boots ill suited to the terrain. Worse still, Baratieri, trying to save a few lira, gave his troops slow-firing Remington rifles that were less accurate than the Ethiopians’ weapons: He wanted to use up the stocks of obsolete cartridges that fit them.
The two armies faced off and waited. Baratieri had 25,000 dispirited troops, most of whom were native Eritreans and either homesick or green, while Menelik fielded more than 100,000 fanatical soldiers, more than half packing high-powered rifles. Both sides were on short rations in this barren land, each trying to outlast the other. Menelik blinked first. He planned to pull out on March 1, 1896.
To Menelik’s astonishment, however, a mounted scout tore into camp on the eve of the retreat and announced that Baratieri was marching toward them. Menelik welcomed the confrontation.
Baratieri had been stung by a telegram from Italian Prime Minister Francesco Crispi, demanding that he take action or consider his status downgraded from hero to coward. The general had little taste for the fight—he knew he was outnumbered, though he had no idea how thoroughly he was outgunned—but his brigadiers urged him on.
Baratieri’s surprise nighttime assault proved far too complex for the terrain and the mapless Italians. His four brigades stumbled into each other and left miles-wide gaps in the line of advance. Some got thoroughly lost.
The actual battle began at first light on March 1 and was over by early afternoon. The Ethiopians were enraged, pitiless and gave no quarter. More than 10,000 of Baratieri’s troops were killed, wounded or missing, while the Ethiopians lost 17,000 dead and wounded. But in a single morning, Ethiopia had risen from medieval obscurity to claim membership among the modern nations.
CUSTER AT THE LITTLE BIGHORN
Perhaps no battle in history has been as studied, dissected, analyzed, theorized over and wildly guessed about as the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana, where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and 200-plus U.S. officers and cavalrymen were slaughtered to the last man (save one Crow scout who ducked out early). Nobody but the attacking Sioux and their allies actually knew what happened, and the Indians weren’t rushing to admit how brutally they had treated the supposedly crack 7th Cavalry.
Only since the mid-1980s have archaeologists methodically cataloged artifacts in a way that allows a picture of the short but intense battle to emerge. Until that time, what registered on the national consciousness were lurid panoramas commissioned by beer companies for display in saloons, showing the golden-haired, long-locked Custer fighting for the glory of his regiment in the midst of a neat defensive perimeter. That Custer was crew-cut at the time of the battle is the least of the mistakes depicted, for the location of bodies, bullets and cartridges suggests it was more a confused, leaderless rout than a battle.
The spin continues. Custer graduated dead last in his West Point class, by some accounts an arrogant goof-off who learned little more than how to infuriate his superiors. Yet one 7th Cavalry Web site today proudly notes that Custer “graduated 34th in one of the brightest classes that had graduated to date,” neglecting to mention there were only 34 men in the class.
What is known is that with five companies of about 210 men, including packhorse drivers and mercenary Indian scouts, Custer mounted a frontal attack on some 2,000 infuriated Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors. Their reaction has been likened to what might happen if you jab a stick into an anthill and stir hard. It was the biggest battlefield blunder Custer ever made—and, of course, the last.
Why Custer thought he could go hey-diddle-diddle-right-up-the-middle into a swarm of angry Indians remains inexplicable. The Plains Indians were among the finest cavalrymen the world had ever seen, and when the repeating rifle came into their hands, they weaponized that Spanish import the horse. In less than 200 years, they had assimilated two warrior technologies with unprecedented success.
For Custer’s men—many of them immigrants, others inexperienced conscripts—pitting their ponderous warhorses against the Sioux was about like a bunch of pickup-driving carpenters challenging a thousand Italian and Brazilian Formula 1 aspirants to a drag race. Some 7th Cavalry horses bolted, balked, even took their luckless riders straight into the Indian encampment.
The war against the Plains Indians, which stretched from the 1820s until the final clash at Wounded Knee in 1890, was not a simple territorial dispute. The Indians had little concept of land ownership. To them, it seemed as silly as owning the air: There was plenty of it, available for anyone’s use.
Plains tribes were nomadic. Most of their needs were met by vast herds of American bison—a mobile, self-perpetuating crop that provided food, clothing and the raw materials for their tools and tepees. When settlers flooded west, the railroads followed, as did buffalo hunters to supply the work crews. Soon the bison were all but gone, and the Indians fought furiously to preserve their way of life.
So furiously the 7th Cavalry never stood a chance. Notes from the battlefield suggest even Custer was stunned when he first saw the encampment of some 7,000 Indians (including women, children and nonwarrior males), yet he attacked at once with tired troops and horses that had just completed a grueling 30-mile march. He maneuvered to block the Indians’ escape—picture an angry drunk locking a barroom door to “trap” two dozen Hells Angels wielding broken pool cues. The cavalry held the high ground, and Custer wouldn’t have expected the Indians to attack uphill. But they did.
Prior to the battle, Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry had advised Custer to await the arrival of two columns (one under Terry himself) before engaging the enemy. These reinforcements were approaching at the time of the attack. So why did Custer disregard Terry’s warning? Some historians suggest Custer had lost the element of surprise and was compelled to attack. Author Mari Sandoz suggested it was because he wanted to be president the Democratic National Convention was to begin in St. Louis in two days, and news of a victory would certainly boost one’s presidential ambitions. Dozens of other theories abound.
The truth died with Custer and his troopers in the grass along the Little Bighorn.
For further reading, Stephan Wilkinson recommends: How to Lose a Battle: Foolish Plans and Great Military Blunders, edited by Bill Fawcett.
Originally published in the September 2007 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.
How to Lose a Battle : Foolish Plans and Great Military Blunders
The annals of history are littered with horribly bad military leaders. These combat incompetents found amazing ways to ensure their army's defeat. Whether it was a lack of proper planning, miscalculation, ego, bad luck, or just plain stupidity, certain wartime stratagems should never have left the drawing board. Written with wit, intelligence, and eminent readability, How to Lose a Battle pays dubious homage to these momentous and bloody blunders, including:
Cannae, 216 B.C.: the bumbling Romans lose 80,000 troops to Hannibal's forces.
The Second Crusade: an entire Christian army is slaughtered when it stops for a drink of water.
The Battle of Britain: Hitler's dreaded Luftwaffe blows it big-time.
Pearl Harbor: more than one warning of the impending attack is there, but nobody listens.
How to Lose a Battle includes more than thirty-five chapters worth of astonishing (and avoidable) disasters, both infamous and obscure -- a treasure trove of trivia, history, and jaw-dropping facts about the most costly military missteps ever taken.
The low rating on this book has less to do with the book as to with the uneven nature of these type of book. This book is a series of essays on various wars. Some of them are very well written, very easy to comprehend and are easy to follow the reasoning of the author in choosing this as an example of how to lose a war. Others aren&apost as good, although it is fair to say none of them are just plain bad. Of course some of the essays don&apost have the same appeal as others. It is unlikely that all of t The low rating on this book has less to do with the book as to with the uneven nature of these type of book. This book is a series of essays on various wars. Some of them are very well written, very easy to comprehend and are easy to follow the reasoning of the author in choosing this as an example of how to lose a war. Others aren't as good, although it is fair to say none of them are just plain bad. Of course some of the essays don't have the same appeal as others. It is unlikely that all of the wars will be ones that are of interest to a reader. To many are covered for that, but it is almost a surety that one will be found that appeals to the reader. The list of wars is comprehensive.
The Peloponnesian War, Pyrrhus's War (the soul for who forever will be linked with the phrase Pyrrhic Victory), Fall of the Aztec Empire, The Spanish Armada, Five Different essays on the Napoleonic era, Egyptian-Wahhabi War, The Mexican War, The Confederacy, Anglo-Sudan War, Franco-Prussian War, The Boer War, The Winter War, Germany 1941, Japan WWII, Korea, Mau Mau Rebellion, Vietnam, The Six-Day War, Uganda-Tanzania, Desert Storm.
As you can see the list is extensive and in spite of a Eurocentric slant, it does cover Wars outside of that scope. As with all Essay books of this type it is more of an introduction, than a comprehensive study of any of the wars involved, but it is a fairly even look at various wars in history, that may have been capable of a different outcome, but seem to have been fought in such a way as to insure a loss or as in the case of Korea at least a tie. For me it was interesting to see a fresh look at Wars that I was more familiar with, but this view of standing back and looking at the whole was refreshing and helps to adjust my own view on things. All in all a book well worth a look. . more
Another laugh at historical idiots
1 April 2013
I used to like these kind of books, namely books about various blunders and mistakes in history, but I guess after this one they were all starting to become bland and boring. Okay, as an historian I am always interested in the cause and effect of certain events, but I guess I also look at a more grander scale than do many of these writers. I suspect that these books are generally not written for people like me but rather for the average person who h Another laugh at historical idiots
1 April 2013
I used to like these kind of books, namely books about various blunders and mistakes in history, but I guess after this one they were all starting to become bland and boring. Okay, as an historian I am always interested in the cause and effect of certain events, but I guess I also look at a more grander scale than do many of these writers. I suspect that these books are generally not written for people like me but rather for the average person who has little knowledge of history (the sort of people who when they are in the London Portrait Gallery will have an argument over whether Edward I or Edward II is Edward the Confessor – it is Edward I by the way).
Look, in reality, it is quite easy to lose a war, and that simply comes down to poor planning. Okay, also making stupid decisions or letting emotion get hold of you, but in the end it all comes down to poor planning. This, ironically, is something that Jesus alludes to in one of his parables, namely suggesting that a king does not go to war unless he understands what he is up against. While Jesus suggests in the parable that more troops is a sure winner, I suspect that he was not necessarily meaning that because, being God in the flesh, I am sure he was well aware of what happened at Salamis.
Anyway, as I said, it has all to do with poor planning. When Napoleon invaded Russia there were a lot of things that he did not take into account (particularly the Russian winter, but also that the Russians were working on a scorched Earth policy). The same thing occurred when Hitler invaded Russia, but there was also emotion involved, which overruled his common sense. As I have suggested numerous times, Hitler would have done much better if he had invaded the Middle East via Turkey, but I guess it is a good thing that he turned against Russia because otherwise we would be living under a facist dictatorship (I won't comment on speaking German because, well, I do speak German, even if badly).
I could go and have a look at a lot of other examples, but I really can't be bothered. As for the book, well I guess if you like a bit of light humour based on real historical events then maybe this would be a book for you, as for me, I tend to crave much deeper and more complex books. . more
That time a WWII bomber pilot climbed onto the wing mid-flight to save his crew
Posted On July 21, 2020 02:24:23
Jimmy Ward was a 22-year-old pilot when he received the Victoria Cross. World War II had been ongoing for a year and the British Empire stood alone against Axis-occupied Europe. Things looked grim as a whole, but small time pilots with stories like Sgt. Ward’s added up to a lot in the end.
Sergeant James Allan Ward of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF.
The New Zealander was flying with his crew back from a raid on Münster, in northeast Germany. The resistance was light there were few search lights and minimal flak. He was the second pilot, positioned in the astrodome of his Wellington bomber when an enemy interceptor came screaming at them, guns blazing.
An attacking Messerschmitt 110 was shot down by the rear gunner before it could take down the plane, but the damage was done. Red-hot shrapnel tore through the airframe, the starboard engine, and the hydraulic system. A fire suddenly broke out on the starboard wing, fed by a fuel line.
A Vickers-Wellington Bomber. The astrodome is a transparent dome on the roof of an aircraft to allow for the crew to navigate using the stars.
After putting on their chutes in case they had to bail, the crew started desperately fighting the fire. They tore a hole in the fuselage near the fire so they could get at the fire. They threw everything they had at it, including the coffee from their flasks.
By this time, the plane reached the coastline of continental Europe. They had to decide if they were going to try to cross over to England or go down with the plane in Nazi-occupied Holland. They went for home, preferring a dip in the channel to a Nazi prison camp.
That’s when Sgt. James Ward realized he might be able to reach the fire and put it out by hand. His crewmates tied him to the airplane as he crawled out through the astrodome and tore holes in the plane’s fuselage to use as hand holds as he made his way to the fire on the wing.
Trace Sgt. Ward’s path from this photo of his Wellington bomber.
He moved four feet onto the wing, avoiding being lifted away by the air current or rotor slipstream and being burned by the flaming gas jet he was trying to put out. He only had one hand free to work with because the other was holding on for dear life.
Ward smothered the fire on the fuel pipe using the canvas cockpit cover. As soon as he finished, the slipstream tore it from his hands. He just couldn’t hold on any longer.
With the fire out, there was nothing left to do but try to get back inside. Using the rope that kept him attached to the aircraft he turned around and moved to get back to the astrodome. Exhausted, his mates had to pull him the rest of the way in. The fire flared up a little when they reached England, but died right out.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally awarded Sgt. Ward the Victoria Cross a month later.
More on We are the Mighty
Great Military Blunders
This is an outstandingly reliable and controversial book at the same time. Reliable with its impartiality of showing the blunders or errors of both sides in war and controversial with its open to debate decisiveness of the results of wars whether that mistake could&aposve been avoided or whether it is inevitable and so on with such thought-provoking and brainstorming notions.
The author starts in each chapter with a headline declaring the blunder and giving a brief overview then backs it up with supp This is an outstandingly reliable and controversial book at the same time. Reliable with its impartiality of showing the blunders or errors of both sides in war and controversial with its open to debate decisiveness of the results of wars whether that mistake could've been avoided or whether it is inevitable and so on with such thought-provoking and brainstorming notions.
The author starts in each chapter with a headline declaring the blunder and giving a brief overview then backs it up with supporting points and then give examples through the battles where the errors have been involved in. All in all, this non-fiction is an interesting combination of instructions, historical narratives and empirical experiences. Definitely, I'm going to read it again. . more
This is an intriguing volume, one that promises much and does not quite deliver. The focus is, as the title would have it, "Great Military Blunders." And this volume includes a number of these. However, the selection is open to some question, and the detail is not quite what it might be to make the case. Nonetheless, a good read and a fascinating subject.
Chapter 1 looks at those "Unfit to lead." Historically, there is a long list of those who were incompetent as leaders. This chapter only inclu This is an intriguing volume, one that promises much and does not quite deliver. The focus is, as the title would have it, "Great Military Blunders." And this volume includes a number of these. However, the selection is open to some question, and the detail is not quite what it might be to make the case. Nonetheless, a good read and a fascinating subject.
Chapter 1 looks at those "Unfit to lead." Historically, there is a long list of those who were incompetent as leaders. This chapter only includes four vignettes, and one could argue that it does not include some real incompetents. However, it does make its case that leaders who are incapable create great problems for their countries. Herman Goering is one example, and there is no question that his ineptitude cost Germany dearly in World War II (to all our benefit).
Another chapter (2) explores poor planning. One case study is the Schlieffen Plan at the outset of World War I. It is not altogether clear that one could blame Schliefen himself, since he created it years before the war one could argue that von Moltke too slavishly stuck to it, but that is like 20-20 historical hindsight.
Chapter 3 looks at instances of underestimating the enemy. Here, classic examples include the French underestimating the Vietnamese and their subsequent disaster at Dien Bien Phu and the English contempt for the Japanese precipitating the fall of Singapore.
Other categories of blunder: Hubris and nemesis Politics, and Technology.
All in all, this volume does provide some brief case studies of military blunders. However, the case studies are too brief and the examples seem chosen in somewhat of an arbitrary fashion. Other works treat the subject in a more magisterial fashion, such as Tuchman's "The March of Folly." . more
7. Freeway Rick Ross: Made over $600 million from crack cocaine
From the appearance, it is easy to confuse Freeway Rick Ross with Rick Ross the rapper. However, these are two different people, with Freeway Rick Ross having sued William Roberts for using his name. That is a story for another day!
From his sale of crack cocaine, Freeway Rick Ross made over $600 million. In the 1980s crack was a fast selling commodity and Rick Ross took advantage of this and made it big time. He was arrested in 1996 and released in 2009.
Grant advocated for humane treatment for Native Americans.
Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Sioux, pays a peace visit to President Grant to accept the capitulation of the US authorities to his demands and to recommend peace between the Sioux and the settlers.
When Frederick Douglass praised Grant’s efforts on behalf of African Americans, he added that “the Indian is indebted [to Grant] for the humane policy adopted toward him.” By the time of Grant’s inauguration, wars between Native Americans, white settlers and the U.S. Army had been going on for decades, particularly in the expanding western U.S. Some prominent politicians and military leaders made no secret of their desire to rid the country of certain tribes by any means necessary. General William Tecumseh Sherman spoke favorably of exterminating the “men, women, children” of the Sioux, and Nevada Congressman Thomas Fitch, in a House floor debate, called for the 𠇎xtinction” of Apaches.
In an address to Congress in 1869, Grant argued that 𠇊 system which looks to the extinction of a race is too horrible for a nation to adopt without entailing upon itself the wrath of all Christendom.” While his proposed solution—“placing all the Indians on large reservations, as rapidly as it can be done”—hardly seems enlightened today, he also insisted on “giving them absolute protection there.”
Grant appointed a Native American, General Ely S. Parker, as his commissioner of Indian Affairs. He also set about to reform the notoriously corrupt system that licensed traders to do business with𠅊nd often cheat—the tribes, asking respected religious groups, starting with the Quakers, to nominate worthy candidates for those positions.
As a long-term goal, Grant favored extending full citizenship to Native Americans, an injustice that wouldn’t be addressed until 1924. “Grant saw absorption and assimilation as a benign, peaceful process, not one robbing Indians of their rightful culture,” Chernow writes. “Whatever its shortcomings, Grant’s approach seemed to signal a remarkable advance over the ruthless methods adopted by some earlier administrations.”
Bill Fawcett (1)
The Literature track promotes and celebrates authors, editors, publishers and literary agents from the science fiction and fantasy publishing industry. Whether they are large publishing giants or tiny specialty presses, printed on the page or on the screen, makes no difference if the talent is great. We hope that by bringing these talents to the membership of I-CON, that we encourage literacy and the love of reading. Look for our guests at panels, readings and book signings throughout the weekend! Many guests are planning to attend the Meet the Pros party on Friday night at the hotel. (jlabeatnik) &hellip (more)
Bill has been a professor, teacher, corporate executive, company founder, CMO, CEO and college dean. His entire life has been spent in the creative fields. He is co-founder of Mayfair Games, a board and role playing game company where he wrote and edited many of the 50+ game adventures and supplements. He is also the designer of almost a dozen board games, including several Charles Roberts Award winners for Best Board Game of the Year.
In 1984, Bill became the founder and manager of Games Plus Hobbies in Mount Prospect Illinois. Games Plus remains the largest gaming goods store in the Midwest. Incorporated in 1985, Bill Fawcett & Associates packaged over 300 books for major publishers. These include a number of best selling Science Fiction, Mystery, and Action novels. His most recently co-authored published works are fun looks at bad decisions in history, including: It Seemed Like a Good Idea, Great Historical Fiascos and You Did What?, and recently released Oval Office Oddities and The 100 Mistakes that Changed History from Penguin/Caliber books. He joined Transit Computing in 2005 as our CFO.
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How to Lose a Battle: Foolish Plans and Great Military Blunders (Paperback)
From the ancient Crusades to the modern age of chemical warfare and smart bombs, history is littered with horribly bad military decisions. Whether a result of lack of planning, miscalculation, a leader’s ego, spy infiltration, or just a really stupid idea in the first place, each military defeat is fascinating to dissect.
Get How to Lose a Battle: Foolish Plans and Great Military Blunders (Paperback) by Bill Fawcett and other history books online and at Fully Booked bookstore branches in the Philippines.
A remarkable compendium of the worst military decisions and the men who made them
From the ancient Crusades to the modern age of chemical warfare and smart bombs, history is littered with horribly bad military decisions. Whether a result of lack of planning, miscalculation, a leader’s ego, spy infiltration, or just a really stupid idea in the first place, each military defeat is fascinating to dissect. Written in a tongue-and-cheek style, How to Lose a Battle chronicles the vast history of these poorly thought-out battle plans, including:
• The Roman’s 80,000-troop loss at Cannae in 216 B.C.
• The disastrous Second Crusade: an entire army slaughtered while stopping for water
• Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812 in the middle of the Russian winter
• Antietam: The bloodiest day of the Civil War
• Hitler’s Luftwaffe blow-it during the Battle of Britain during WWII
• Pearl Harbor: why the U.S. ignored vital information before the attack
""tongue-in-cheek" and "humorous" analysis of the world's worst military disasters" -- Publishers Weekly
" The writers approach their subjects with a healthy dose of sarcasm and even humor. This book will appeal to both general readers and amateur military historians." -- Booklist