10 Greatest Underdog Victories Of War

10 Greatest Underdog Victories in History 10 The Battle of Morgarten Nowadays we know Switzerland as a land of chocolate, watches and peace

However, the Swiss were once used to not just fighting wars, but winning them That legacy stretches back to the Battle of Morgarten in 1315, just after the formation of the Swiss Confederacy Habsburg Austria wasn’t too happy with this alliance of rebellious peasants, so Duke Leopold led a force of 5,000 men into the mountains In most settings, the 1,500 Swiss peasants would be no match for the highly-trained Austrian cavalry, but they put their native alpine terrain to excellent use The Swiss hid at the narrow pass of Morgarten where, against all the odds, they destabilised and confused the opposing cavalry with nothing more than rocks and logs

With the tide turned, the Swiss charged down to inflict as many as 1,500 Austrian casualties and force a swift, chaotic retreat 9 The Battle off Samar In 1944, the American and Japanese forces fought a series of engagements known collectively as the Battle of Leyte Gulf – by some accounts the largest in naval history One engagement, near Samar in the Philippines, saw the tiny American unit dubbed “Taffy 3” face a much greater contingent of the Japanese fleet Taffy 3 was mostly light armoured escort ships, compared to heavy cruisers and battleships from the Japanese

The Americans could have been wiped out by the superior Japanese force, leaving an open route to key US naval positions But Taffy 3’s relentless defence convinced Japanese Admiral Kurita that the opposition was far larger than it actually was They even sent fighter planes on repeated fake assaults to simulate a larger assault There’s a good chance that if Kurita’s forces didn’t retreat, it could have crushed Taffy 3 and massively extended the pacific naval conflicts of World War II 8

The Battle of Stirling Bridge This 1297 battle took place as part of the first Scottish War of Independence, a campaign that decimated southern Scotland By the time of the battle, the Scottish army was comprised mostly of the lowest classes since King Edward’s army had captured most of the Scottish Nobility But that wasn’t enough to deter William Wallace and Andrew Murray, who led a contingent of around 5,000 men, mostly peasants with 300 horsemen, against 9,000 English soldiers, including a 2,000 strong cavalry force However, Murray and Wallace had the cunning plan to use the English army’s size to their advantage They waited uphill and allowed around 2,000 soldiers to cross stirling bridge before striking, eventually killing more than 5,000 and leaving the leftover soldiers shaken with fear

That victory didn’t just stall the English advance, it gave us one of the most iconic film moments of all time 7 The Battle of Fei River By 383 AD, the Chinese state of former Qin [chin] had grown rapidly in size to conquer all of Northern China and had its sights on the South The Qin [chin] Emperor Fu Xian [Foo She-an] had amassed an army of over 800,000 to the west of the Fei River, ready to face the opposing Jin Dynasty with an army just one tenth the size Though sources suggest this scale was probably a massive exaggeration

But cunningly, the Jin general Xie Xuan sent word to the Qin to move their army back slightly so that they could engage in battle Fu Xian agreed despite his generals’ protests, and that turned out to be his downfall By moving back, the poorly trained Qin soldiers believed they were already retreating in defeat and descended into chaos, giving the Jin a chance to kill more than 700,000 of them as they fled out of confusion 6 The Battle of Suomussalmi Everyone’s familiar with the Western, Eastern and Pacific fronts in World War II, but one conflict mostly goes under the radar

The Winter War in 1939 saw Stalin pit 760,000 soldiers, 6,000 tanks and 4,000 aircraft against 300,000, 32 and 114 of the same from the Finnish Army The war did end in Moscow’s favour, but staunch resistance from the Finns trashed Stalin’s military reputation, and there’s no better example than Suomussalmi This particular clash saw 11,000 Finns take on five times as many russians and a tank brigade in a struggle for the key Finnish territory But despite dwarfing the Finns’ numbers, the Russians dealt with low morale and a lack of experienced officers after Stalin’s purges That, combined with bad intel and a massive lack of knowledge about the terrain gave Finland a crucial win that may have prevented a total Russian conquest

5 The Battle of Isandlwana You’d think the invading British Empire would crush the technologically inferior Zulus at every turn That 1879 campaign eventually succeeded, but when you’re the most powerful military force on the planet, it’s easy to underestimate your enemies That was exactly the case at Isandlwana , a rare case where the favourite failed because of monumental mismanagement The Zulu forces of Cetshwayo KaMpande [Cets-why-oh Kam-pan-day] should have been no match for British General Lord Chelmsford’s rifles, mountain guns and rockets in a fair fight

Chelmsford believed that was the case too, but he made a laundry list of tactical errors His bad location intel, the choice to split his army in two and the underestimation of the Zulus’ home-field advantage proved catastrophic But most of all, the arrogant Chelmsford saw fit to send just 1,837 men to engage what turned out to be 15,000 zulus, losing all but 500 in the process 4 The Battle on the Ice History teaches that conquering Russia pretty much doesn’t happen, well unless you’re these guys [show mongols on screen]

But the Teutonic Order of Germany hadn’t learned that lesson by 1242 In fact, they tried to crush Orthodox Prussia as part of the crusades Those Knights of the Holy Roman Empire sent 2,600 armoured soldiers towards the east However, that campaign failed with the Battle on the Ice against prince Alexander Nevsky’s Republic of Novgorod Despite doubling the Order’s numbers, Nevsky’s force was mainly a ragtag assortment of pagans who had been weakened by earlier Spanish and Mongol invasions, making it a major target for the Papacy

But the Order made a fatal error by fighting on the frozen river Peipus The hostile terrain let Nevsky attack from both flanks and destabilise the invaders Some sources claim that the ice cracked and drowned the Germans, but true or not, the Order suffered a decisive loss that crippled the crusade 3 The Battle of Salamis When it comes to Greco-Persian warfare, you’re probably picturing 300 and the battle of Thermopylae [Ther-mop-ill-ee] in 480 BC

But there’s another underdog fight just weeks later that didn’t go quite so badly The united forces of the Greek city states were in a fraught position against Xerxes the first’s massive military, which drew units from across Asia Minor to completely subjugate Greece But when Xerxes sent as many as 1200 ships across the Aegean sea, the Athenian general Themistocles sent word to the public that some of the Greeks were evacuating to distract the Persians When the persians eventually returned to their invasion, the Greeks had gathered their ships at the straits of the Island of Salamis, which was far too narrow for the massive Persian fleet The 378 Greek Trireme ships had perfectly positioned themselves to ravage Xerxes’ forces, destroying 300 ships and losing just 40 before the Persians retreated

2 The Battle of Long Tan Everyone thinks of the Vietnam War as an American conflict, but Australia played a big part in the pacific conflict too And what’s more, the Battle of Long Tan became one of the west’s most impressive victories against the Vietcong This engagement saw the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, which contained just 108 men, defeated an ambush force of at least 1,500 Vietcong in August 1966 The Australian Battalion exchanged fire with their enemies in darkness for three hours, unable to see each other in the thick monsoon rain

Almost out of ammo, RAAF air support arrived to give covering fire for evacuation, with 90 men surviving That doesn’t sound too victorious, but when the Australians swept the area the next day they found nearly 300 enemy casualties, almost triple their number, and eventually realised that the battle had massively stalled vietcong activity in the Nui Dat area 1 The Battle of Myeongnyang Japan and Korea don’t exactly have a peaceful history In fact, they’ve fought nine major conflicts in seven centuries

But at no point in the history of those conflicts has there been such an unlikely victory In 1597, General Yi of Korea commanded just his entire force, just 13 ships, against Todo Takatora’s Japanese fleet of 120-300 vessels But in the face of such dire odds, General Yi was steadfast – he even said “though our navy is small, as long as I live the enemy cannot despise us"" So he hatched a plan to use the Myeongnyang strait as a natural bottleneck The narrow waters and unfavourable tide meant that the Japanese fleet had to send in small batches of ships and lost their hopes of surrounding the Korean boats

From there, Yi was able to take out 30 ships with none of his own lost, swiftly convincing Todo to retreat That was the 10 Greatest Underdog Victories in History Which one did you find most impressive? Let us know in the comments and make sure to like and subscribe While you’re at it, check out this great Alltime10s video on screen now

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