Top 10 Worst Military Blunders in History

Suggested by SMS

Civilization has been at war since the dawn of man and it’s been making mistakes for even longer than that. When these two most natural of man’s habits are combined the result is tragedy. When a military blunder is made not only are lives lost but the fate of entire nations can change.

10. The Munich Agreement


  • Who: Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany
  • When: September 30, 1938
  • Where: Munich

In an attempt to prevent the second world war, prime minister Nevile Chamberlain, along with Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Édouard Daladier signed a treaty of appeasement in Munich. This signed away the Sudetenland, along the Czechoslovakian border, to the expanding Nazi Germany. The Czech government was not invited to the meeting. Essentially Chamberlain told Hitler that he could have the Sudetenland so long as that was all he wanted. But, of course, Hitler was only just getting started. The majority of Czechoslovakia’s border defenses were located in the Sudetenland. With these handed to him on a plate, Hitler went on to conquer the rest of Czechoslovakia unopposed. Chamberlain and Daladier did nothing. This thoughtless carving up of a foreign nation allowed Hitler to expand his empire without any losses. He is said to have been annoyed at having been ‘robbed of his war’.

Hungary also benefited from this agreement, gaining permission from Hitler and Mussolini to annex the southern areas of the newly formed Slovak vassal state and Carpathia. Hitler was already full and these were just the scraps left on his plate. But it wouldn’t be long before he digested Czechoslovakia and started looking for his next meal.

9. The Vietnam War


  • Who: Republic of Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the U.S vs North Vietnam, China, U.S.S.R and the Viet Cong.
  • When: 1959-1975
  • Where: Vietnam

The U.S’ military involvement in Vietnam has been said to be one of the worst mistakes of in U.S history. U.S support for the Republic of Vietnam against the communist North was part of the government’s containment of communism strategy and the cold war. After a long struggle the U.S and it’s allies failed to contain communism to the North of the country and lost approximately 60,000 army personnel in the process. This, of course, pales in comparison to the civilian losses suffered by South Vietnam, estimated to be around one and a half million. The U.S’ technology and air superiority failed to combat the guerrilla warfare tactics of the Viet Cong rebels and the North Vietnamese Army.

8. The Battle of Lake Trasimene


  • Who: Hanibal vs Rome
  • When: 217 BC
  • Where: Northern Italy

When Hannibal marched his huge army of Carthaginians and Gauls over the alps the Romans began quaking in their boots. The great general had fought his way across southern Gaul and entered the Roman heartland complete with war elephants and vicious barbarians. Winning a major battle at the river Trebia, Hannibal pushed on towards Rome. The Romans were keen to stop, or even delay him and sent an army of 40,000 soldiers to halt his advance. Hannibal was a master of military strategy, however and ambushed the Roman army by Lake Trasimene as they marched hastily to where they thought he was camped. The Romans had no chance to form ranks and were forced to fight a desperate struggle, many of them being forced backwards into the lake where they drowned. Despite taking the tactical advantage in this battle an equivalent number of Hannibal’s army was also killed, making this a blunder on the side of both armies.

7. The Charge of the Light Brigade


  • Who: Great Britain vs Russia
  • When: October 25, 1854
  • Where: Sevastopol, Russia

The Battle of Balaclava had nothing to do with knitted head wear but everything to do with knitted jackets. As part of the Crimean war, British, French and Turkish forces were advancing towards the major Russian port of Sevastopol when they met the defending Russian army. The British had a large amount of cavalry but the Russians countered this with an impressive array of guns and artillery. The defenders had control of the valley and had flanked the British army by capturing several redoubts on the valley wall.
It was a miscommunication that caused the British cavalry to charge into the valley. The original order had been to capture the enemy guns on one side of the valley, but instead they were given the instruction to charge through the valley and to capture the main bank of enemy guns. The British Cavalrymen, led by Lord Cardigan, must have known this to be suicide but dutifully followed their orders. Lord Cardigan led the charge. This foolish action led the Russian officers to believe that the British were drunk.

Miraculously, nearly two hundred of the 600 strong Light Brigade survived the charge and Lord Cardigan returned home as hero and a fashion icon. As a result, his woolen jacket , which had been made especially for the cold Russian weather, became a popular item of clothing known as the cardigan (the sweater).

Tennyson immortalized the charge of the Light Brigade in his poem of the same name. In this he famously wrote ‘ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die’.

6. The Dieppe Raid


  • Who: Canada/Britain vs Germany
  • When: August 19, 1942
  • Where: France

The Dieppe raid was an attempt to capture an area of coastline and port in Nazi occupied France, for little other reason than to prove that it was possible. The operation used the combined allied Naval and Air Force powers to land 6,000 troops on the beach near Dieppe. Most were Canadian but were accompanied by some 1,000 British commandos. The result was a massacre. None of the operational aims were accomplished and the landing party took losses of sixty percent, over 3,000 men. The naval and aerial support also took losses. The allies might have proved that it was possible to land a significant force onto a German held beach but they failed to prove that it was possible to hold the position without getting killed. Better luck next time boys.

In fact they did have better luck next time. The Dieppe raid provided inspiration and vital tactical information for the Normandy landings. Call it a test run for the real thing.

5. Battle of the Little Big Horn


  • Who: America vs Lakota-Northern Cheyenne
  • When: June 25-26, 1876

The battle was the most famous battle of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, and was a remarkable victory for the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, under Sitting Bull. The U.S. Seventh Cavalry, including a column of 700 men led by George Armstrong Custer, was defeated by Sitting Bull and his army of historically inaccurate stereotypes.

Little Bighorn was either a great success for the Native peoples of North America, or a huge defeat for the entire Custer family. Custer not only lost his own life, but those of his nephew, brother-in-law and two of his brothers.

4. Japanese Attack of Pearl Harbor


  • Who: America vs Japan
  • When: Dec 7, 1941
  • Where: Hawaii

When the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a preemptive strike on the U.S Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor they were hoping to cripple the U.S defensive capabilities, leading to an early victory. Little did they know that this would end with the complete destruction of two of their largest cities and the embarrassing surrender of the Japanese nation.

The purpose of the Pearl Harbor attack was to destroy the American will to wage war and gain naval control of the Pacific. The architect of the Pearl Harbor attack later described this as incredible error in judgment, an understatement of epic proportions. After learning that, due to a communications glitch, Japan’s declaration of war was delivered after the attack took place, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto warned his colleagues, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” No truer words were ever spoken. American vengeance would be swift and complete with no small amount of assistance from our invaluable allies, England, Canada, Australia, and the Soviet Union.

As a blunder within a blunder, Japanese forces did not deploy their third wave of attack at Pearl Harbour. Had this been done they would likely have destroyed the American fuel depot and severely crippled the U.S ability to fight an offensive naval campaign.

3. Battle of Watling Street


  • Who: Romans vs Celtic Britons
  • Where: Southern England

Queen Boudicca of the Icini raised an army of 80,000 Celtic Britons against the Romans and went on the rampage, burning Roman towns to the ground and leaving villagers in the South of England singing ‘vive la resistance’, or whatever the iron age equivalent was.

Boudicca marched her undiciplined army of tribal warriors and farmers along the Roman road known as Watling Street, hoping to ambush the Roman army on it’s return from Wales. Perhaps it was because all Roman roads are straight that the Romans saw her coming. They took a defensive position and set up their ‘scorpios’, large repeating crossbows capable of capable of picking off a bearded barbarian up to 100 meters away. If the Britons thought that their large numbers were enough to tackle the professional Roman army, they were wrong. The Romans used their superior tactics against the Celts, creating a wall of shields and spears that Boudicca’s forces could not penetrate. Then, with the enemy on the run, the Romans marched forward, keeping their formation and slaughtering every hairy heathen in their path. The Britons were crushed between the advancing Roman line and their reserve forces and supply wagons to the rear. They were slaughtered.

The Roman army at Watling Street consisted of only 400 men but their tactics were so deadly that even Queen Boudicca turned and ran. It is believed that she took her own life rather than surrender to her enemy. For the Romans this was a great victory over a superior number. To the Britons, however, it was a bit of a boob.

2. German Invasion of the Soviet Union


  • Nazi Germany vs Soviet Russia
  • Where: Russia

Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union is often considered to be one of the wost decisions ever made by anybody. Hitler had already defeated all of his European enemies. Only Great Britain remained. The fact that Britain commanded an empire comprised of three of the largest countries on the Earth didn’t bother Hitler. He was bored and wanted a new challenge. And so he decided to declare war on a nation ten times the size of his own empire.

The attack on the Soviet Union was sneaky and rather dastardly. Hitler had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviets only two years previously. As a result the Russians had not armed themselves for war and posed no threat to Nazi Germany. Hitlers decision to break the pact and invade was nothing short of greed and would see him fighting a war on two fronts.

Of course, Nazi Germany was the most powerful military force in the world at that time and it has to be said that the invasion of Russia went very well at first. The unprepared Soviet troops offered little resistance, allowing the Germans to push forward to Moscow, capturing most of the Union’s major cities. Eventually, however, the weather changed and so did the fortune of the German’s. The Soviet troops were used to the cold, Hitler was not. The reds made a spectacular comeback and forced the Nazis out of their territory.

The Soviet Union was a major player in the downfall of Nazi Germany. Had Hitler never angered the Russian bear there is a good chance that he might never have been defeated by the allies at all. The map of Europe might still now be painted red and dotted with little swastikas. You got too greedy Adolf – shame on you.

1. Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia


  • Who: French Empire (and allies) vs Russia
  • When: 1812
  • Where: Russia

By 1812 Napoleon had built an empire almost the size of Europe. Those countries not already occupied by or allied to the French Empire had been pacified through treaties favorable to France. As with the Nazi’s it was ‘next stop Russia’.

Napoleon entered Russia with around 690,000 men. This army was made up of 250,000 French and soldiers from Italy, Naples, the German states, Span, Portugal, Poland, Croatia and Austria. Leaving many of the non-French forces to defend the border Napoleon set of for Moscow with high hopes. Unfortunately, along the way the heater in his Citroen 2CV broke and he was forced to find a nearby garage.

Napoleon entered Moscow to find that it had been abandoned by the Russians. Those that remained were starving and had begun looting food. There were no officials to offer the surrender of the city and no food to feed the massive army. Soon the French army began looting for themselves and somewhere in this chaos a fire was started. The fire destroyed four fifths of the city of Moscow and left Napoleon and his army with no shelter, food or plunder. Napoleon had not even received a formal victory and, being a pompous little man, this annoyed the hell out of him.

With no supplies and the heater in his 2CV still not fixed, Napoleon was forced to withdraw from Russia. Of his 600,000 strong ‘Grand Army’, only about 40,000 limped back into France to quell a revolt that had taken place in his absence. The Nepalese, Austrian and Prussian armies all ran off home swearing that they thought it was a bad idea from the start. This defeat sent a message across Europe Napoleon was not invincible, and with his army now crippled from frostbite he was open to attack.