10 Military Blunders That Changed The World

"10 Military Blunders That Changed The World 10) BATTLE OF TEUTOBURG FOREST In the Autumn of 9 AD, the Roman Governor of Germania, Publius Quinctilius Varus , was approached by Arminius, a trusted chieftain of the Cherusci He explained that a rebellion was fermenting on the other side of the Teutoburg Wald

Varus wanted to quell the unrest before winter, and Arminius suggested a quick, narrow path through the dense forest The only problem was the uprising was made up, and presented to Varus as bait by the Cherusci Despite being warned by Arminius’ own father-in-law, Segestes, that his men were walking into an ambush, Varus made the mistake of pressing on regardless, right into the trap After three days of vicious fighting in the heart of the forest, three legions and six cohorts of auxiliaries were almost completely wiped out It was a huge blow to Roman confidence, and while Rome pursued a campaign of retaliation, she was forever wary of settling East of the Rhine

The massacre of Teutoburg Forest is still considered a factor in why Roman culture and language, which still defines Southern Europe, is missing from the North 9) DUNKIRK After Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, the British Expeditionary Force was dispatched to France in May 1940, in much the same way it had 25 years before However the German Wehrmacht had learnt from 1918, and within three weeks the allied armies had been pushed back to the port town of Dunkirk Almost 350,000 French and British soldiers were trapped, and awaiting the final push… which never came On 23rd May Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt ordered a general halt, which was was endorsed by Hitler

The following day, 24th May, the Fuhrer ordered no-one to attack the beaches save for the Luftwaffe Hitler wanted to save tanks for future operations, and believed that Britain would sue for peace after defeat in France Unfortunately for him, the delay in attack allowed the French to establish a rearguard, while the British arranged a strategic evacuation When Hitler resumed the advance, it was too late Over the course of the eight day evacuation 338,226 allied soldiers were evacuated, allowing Britain to stay in the war

In control of North Africa and India, the UK denied the Axis vital resources and would eventually be the launchpad for the invasion of Fortress Europe Hitler’s pause at Dunkirk sowed the seeds of his own downfall 8) RED CLIFFS The year is 208, and China is in a state of civil war The Han Dynasty, led by the weak Emperor Xian, has been fractured into three warring states; Wei, Wu and Shu Dominant among these was Wei, led by Chancellor Cao Cao, who waged war to reunify China under his ultimate control

Key to Cao Cao’s strategy was control of the Yangtze River, and it was at a place called Chi Bi, otherwise known as the Red Cliffs, that Sun Quan of Shu and Liu Bei of Wu faced him Cao Cao had a host of 240,000 men on ships, compared to the alliances 50,000 But the men of Wei were apparently not used to naval warfare, which Cao Cao solved by… chaining the ships together This made them exceptionally vulnerable to fire ships, which of course Shu and Wu deployed en mass The chained ships couldn’t escape in time, burning or drowning the huge army, and leaving Cao Cao’s campaign in tatters

Wei would never recover from their defeat, and Chi Bi would mark the beginning of the end for Emperor Xian, and the Han Dynasty The battle also prevented Northern domination of the South, leading to a cultural and occasionally political divide that lasted centuries 7) STALINGRAD Ok, this one is convoluted, so here’s the simple version Following defeat in the Battle of Britain in 1940, Hitler turned his attention East, towards the Soviet Union On 22nd June 1941 Operation Barbarossa was launched, hoping for a quick, decisive victory to knock out the Russians once and for all with a strike at Moscow

This alone was a huge mistake, for as weak as the Soviet Army was, the expectation that Russia could be taken before winter was optimistic at best The army was not fully prepared for winter, with weapons, fuels and men freezing without proper weatherproofing Then, in December 1941, Hitler assumed full command of the German Army, and decided to turn attention from Moscow to Stalingrad By July 1942, as Soviet resistance in the city grew, Hitler personally rewrote operational objectives to divert more dwindling resources toward Stalingrad The battle was becoming one of attrition, something Germany couldn’t win

With the encirclement of the German Sixth Army in January 1943, Hitler made one more stupid decision, and ordered the army to make no attempt at break-out The battled depleted resources the Wehrmacht could ill afford, breaking their ability to do battle and paving the way to Berlin 6) FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE By 1453 the Byzantine Empire had been pushed back to the walls of Constantinople itself The Ottomans, under Sultan Mehmed II, laid siege to the city in April and battered the great walls of the city with artillery for 53 straight days The walls of Constantinople had weathered Huns, Russians and Arab attacks before, and were considered strong enough to defeat this latest assault

And they might have, had according to contemporary chroniclers, someone had remembered to lock the Kerkoporta gate On seeing the undefended gate, fifty Ottomans rushed in and raised their standard over the walls The exhausted defenders, believing the walls taken, fell back into the city in a panic and Constantinople was taken Not only did this lead to the fall of the Roman world, but allowed the Ottomans to launch further attacks into Europe This would lead to the partitioning of the Balkans along religious lines; Something we’re still experiencing the effects of today

However it would also result in Byzantine scholars fleeing to the wealthy courts of Italy and France, kick starting the Renaissance 5) BAY OF PIGS On 17th April 1961, 1,500 CIA trained Cubans landed in the Bay of Pigs, with the intention of overthrowing the unsteady Castro regime However President John F Kennedy was desperate to maintain deniability, and refused to back up any Cuban invasion with American troops, or meaningful air support This was the first mistake

The second was before the force had even landed, a team of trigger happy frogmen scouted the bay, and inadvertently alerted the Cuban authorities By the time the main CIA force arrived, most of the Cuban army was on the way By 19th April, Kennedy at last authorised air support for the beleaguered CIA; Bombers from Nicaragua and fighters from an aircraft carrier near Florida Except they took off from different time zones and no one had bothered to synchronise watches The bombers arrived an hour early with no support whatsoever, and two B-26s were shot down

With dwindling supplies and no air cover, the remaining CIA forces quickly surrendered and were ransomed back to the US for $59 million Far from toppling Castro, the invasion strengthened his regime, and would directly lead to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 4) NAXOS It’s 499 BC and the island of Naxos in Aegean Sea has declared independence from the Persian Empire

A local Persian administrator, Aristagoras, has borrowed a vast amount of money, men and ships from Emperor Darius’ brother, and sailed to reclaim the island Problem was that Aristagoras was an unlikeable guy, and quarrelled so much with the admiral of the fleet, Megabates (MEG-A-BART-EES), that Megabates decided to sabotage the siege He sent word to Naxos that a fleet was coming, and they managed to repel Aristagoras’ invasion Returning to Persia with his tail between his legs, Aristagoras decided that instead of waiting to be dismissed, he’s instigate his own rebellion After all it worked for Naxos

The Ionian Revolt as it became known lacked the power to defeat Persia in the field, and so called in Athens and Eretria for support The revolt was eventually put down, but Darius was now intent on punishing Athens, previously ignored by the Persians Fifty years of Greco-Persian wars ensued, serving to forge Greek identity and culture Everything we regard as Ancient Greek was crystallized as anti-Persian, and marked a clear divide between East and West Because of one man’s inability to make friends, later Western cultures such as Rome adopted Grecian culture, which would influence “The West” for millenia to come

3) BATTLE OF TRENTON By Winter 1776, George Washington’s Continental Army was looking at defeat Suffering from poor morale and British victories, desertion was high, and Washington needed a decisive victory to prevent complete disintegration He settled on attacking Trenton, in New Jersey, however his army happened to be on the wrong side of the Delaware River Washington’s force of two and a half thousand men was pretty difficult to miss, and on spying the build up, one loyalist ran to warn the Hessian garrison However the date was 25th December 1776, and Hessian Colonel Johann Rall had left instructions not to be disturbed

Sensing he won’t get to see the colonel any time soon, the loyalist scrawled a note in English, and asked for it to be passed on For whatever reason though Rall failed to read the note, either because he couldn’t understand the English, or because he was busy The following morning Washington attacked, taking the garrison completely by surprise Rall was killed with the unread note still in his pocket The victory boosted morale and the following Spring saw the Continental Army swell with recruits

The larger army bought time for the Spanish, French and Dutch to effectively bankrupt Britain into submission If Rall had read the note in time, perhaps America would be a British colony to this day 2) HIROSHIMA In July 1945 Japan’s looming defeat was obvious to just about everyone except Japan’s military A determined army could still inflict thousands of casualties before the end, so in an effort to avert this the Potsdam Conference issued an ultimatum Either surrender or face “prompt and utter destruction”

When asked for a response by reporters, Japan’s Prime Minister Kantaro Susuki responded with the phrase “Mokusatsu” Now this term can mean either “remain wisely silent or inactive”, or the more aggressive “to treat with contempt” An unknown US translator is thought to have only provided one meaning to the Joint Chiefs of Staff

the negative one Ten days later, a bomb is dropped on Hiroshima that kills 70,000 in an instant But who is to blame? The translator? The U

S military for bombing anyway? Or Sasuki for being ambiguous? It isn’t clear, and many believe there were other reasons to drop an atomic bomb But this account suggests that an era of atomic threats, and thousands of lives, hinged on one simple mistranslation However this was not the first bloodshed due to a language barrier BATTLE OF JUMONVILLE GLEN Before the American Revolution, the British and French had been antagonising each other in the New World for decades

The French would claim land, the Brits would build a fort on it, everyone got angry In 1754 the British sent a young officer called George Washington to Pennsylvania, to protect Fort Necessity It was during this tour of duty that on 27th May 1754 Washington attacked without prevarication a French patrol, killing their commander Joseph Coulon de Jumonville Naturally Jumonville’s brother Louis wanted revenge, and with a force of 700 men, captured Washington’s shiny new fort Vastly outnumbered, Washington was forced to surrender, and signed a document allowing him and his men to withdraw

Except Washington couldn’t read French, which meant he couldn’t read what it was he was signing Washington had inadvertently admitted to assassinating Jumonville When news of this reached London and Paris, it caused a severe deterioration in relations, leading ultimately to war in 1756 The Seven Years War as it became known involved almost every European country, spanned the globe, and led directly to the American and French Revolutions All that bloodshed, because George couldn’t read French

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