Weird, Crazy, And Unexpected Military Blunders

While there are military successes and failures, there are also military blunders. When it comes to war, there’s no room for error because, oftentimes, it’s a life and death situation. Unfortunately, errors are sometimes unavoidable. Whether mistakes, bad planning, or carelessness, military blunders have massive repercussions. Take a look at the biggest military mistakes throughout history and just how damaging they were to a military’s war effort.

Zhao Kuo Got Carried Away

In 260 BC, the Chinese state of Qin, led by Zhao Kuo was attempting to siege the fortress of Shangdang, which was being held by general Bai Qi. In an attempt to end the siege once and for all, General Zhao Kuo led an army of 450,000 men to overrun the fortress. As Bai Qi’s troops began to retreat, Zha Kuo sent his whole army after them to crush him, leaving his supply trains behind unguarded.

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bai Qi’s cavalry, in turn, destroyed the supply train, leaving the army with nothing. Zhao Kuo was killed 46 days later in a failed breakout attempt, and his entire army surrendered due to starvation. Instead of granting the army pardon, Bai Qi had all the men, up to 400,000 executed.

The Battle Of Agincourt Did Not Turn Out How The French Had Planned

In 1415, King Henry V, with an English army of around 8,000, was marching in northern France when they were confronted by a much larger French army of around 30,000. The English army was fatigued, sick, and hungry. All the French had to do was block off the English from moving forward. However, the Englishmen taunted them to the point that the French performed a full-on charge.

Photo Credit: Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

The English longbows were far superior to those of the French, and the battlefield was wet and muddy. As the French attacked and became stuck and disorganized in the mud, they became fodder for the English archers. The English crushed the French and won the battle. In total, around 6,000 French soldiers were lost while the English only lost around 400 men.

Napoleon’s Retreat From Moscow Decimated His Army

In 1812, the French Emperor Napoleon led an army of around 680,000 Frenchman and allies in an invasion of Russia. The armies warred for three months until the Russians eventually retreated. Napoleon then took Moscow, yet the Russians refused to let up. Napoleon’s army was direly low on supplies and decided to head back the way they had come to regroup and find supplies.

Photo Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

However, on the way back, there were no supplies to be found, and the army was caught in a bitter winter. Without adequate clothing and supplies, Napoleon’s army was devastated by the conditions. By the time they had left Russia, 380,000 of his men had died, 100,000 had been taken as prisoners, and more than 50,00 were unfit for service.

Flaminius Got Ahead Of Himself

In 217 BC, Hannibal, a Carthaginian commander, and conqueror was moving his army in northern Italy in preparation for a war against Rome. The Roman commander Gaius Flaminius Nepos went out to meet Hannibal for battle, yet Hannibal’s army had eluded him. At one point, Flaminius’ army caught up to what looked like the rear of Hannibal’s army.

Photo Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Without hesitation, Flaminius sent his entire army to attack. Unfortunately for Flaminius, everything had been staged, and Hannibal’s main arm was actually hiding in the surrounding hills waiting to ambush Flaminius’ troops. It was a slaughter with Flaminius losing his life, over 15,000 of his men killed, with thousands captured.

Pride Cost Tiberias His Army

In 1187, the Muslim leader Saladin laid siege to the Crusader fortress of Tiberias. To save Tiberias, King Guy of Jerusalem gathered a large Crusader army at Acre. His advisors recommended that they attack Saladin’s supply train, however, Guy considered this to be cowardly and not something that a noble king would do. Instead, he chose to march directly across the desert to reach Tiberias.

Photo Credits: DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty Images
Photo Credits: DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty Images

However, Saladin’s army had blocked the access to fresh water and set fire to all of the shrubberies. Once the Crusader army was weakened and slow, Saladin attacked and either killed or captured the entire army.

Custer Divided His Forces At Little Big Horn

In 1876, United States Luitenant Colonel George Custer led the 7th Cavalry Regiment, comprised of 647 men against an encampment of Sioux, Cheyanne, and other tribes that were camped on the Little Big Horn River. Custer had planned for the attack to be a surprise by attacking from all sides, but the plan backfired.

Photo Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images
Photo Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images

The tribes knew that Custer was coming, and waited for his attack. 210 of Custer’s men were separated and overwhelmed, while the rest of the troops were pushed back. In all, General Custer lost both his life and the battle because he had decided it was wise to divide his forces.

The Soldiers Should Have Rested Before The Battle At Carrhae

In 53 BC, the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus used an army of around 45,000 men to invade the Parthian empire. Upon hearing that the Parthian army was busy attacking Armenia, Crassus marched his army to capture the cities of Mesopotamia. When Crassus arrived at the town of Carrhae, there was a force of 10,000 Parithiam calvaries commanded by Surenas waiting for him.

Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Crassus didn’t want Surenas to escape, so he ordered an immediate attack instead of allowing his men to camp and rest before the battle. By this time, the Roman army was weak for such a fight and was eventually overwhelmed by Surenas. When Crassus went to offer peace terms, he was murdered along with half of his army killed and 10,000 sold into slavery.

Hitler’s Failed Attempt At Capturing Stalingrad

During the summer of 1942, the Nazi army, along with some of their allies, led an arrack on the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front of World War II. Their goal was to obtain the oil fields of Caucasus and mining areas of the Don and Volga Rivers.

Photo Credit: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images
Photo Credit: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

During their push into the Soviet Union, Hitler also decided to capture the city of Stalingrad to protect their flank. However, taking Stalingrad wasn’t that easy, and Hitler was forced to send reinforcements. By doing so, he separated his forces; they were soon defeated by a Russian counteroffensive, causing Hitler to lose 330,000 men.

England Still Prides Itself On The Defeat of The Spanish Armada

In 1588, Spain launched what was considered to be an invincible armada of ships to invade England. They were extremely confident in their attack considering the technology and number of their ships. On July 21, the English began a counter-attack by firing at the Spanish Armada from a safe distance with their superior cannons. However, when the armada continued approaching, the English sent eight burning ships towards the fleet.

Photo Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images
Photo Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images

This forced the Spanish to unanchor and retreat into open waters which was a huge mistake. The armada became disorganized, which the English capitalized on. The English then came in with their superior guns and faster ships and defeated the Armada after an eight-hour battle. It was a highly embarrassing loss for the Spanish and is remembered as one of the greatest naval battles of all time.

The Battle Of New Orleans Was An Embarrassment

The Battle of New Orleans occurred two weeks after the end of the War of 1812. However, news that it had ended had not reached the British troops preparing to attack the Gulf coast. On January 8, 1815, an army of 7,500 British soldiers under Sir Edward Pakenham marched on New Orleans. Under Andrew Jackson, the American army of only 4,500 waited for the British to engage.

Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

During the charge, Sir Edward Pakenham had his soldiers hold their fire for a little too long, and the American soldiers decimated the troops in a half an hour. During the fighting, only eight Americans were killed while the British lost 2,000 including Sir Edward Pakenham.

When Distrusts Leads To Failure

In 636 AD, Khalid ibn al-Walid led an army of 40,000 Muslim Arabs to raid in the southern provinces of the Byzantine Empire. In response, the Byzantine sent the commander Vahan with an army of 100,000 men to stop the invasion. Vahan eventually found the Arabs at Yarmouk and ordered an attack.

Photo Credit: Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Yet, Vahan and his second-in-command named Trithyrius didn’t trust each other, and neither of them wanted to send in all of their troops for fear of being betrayed by the other. After five days of heavy casualties, Vahan and Trithyrius were attacked by the Byzantines and the two commanders lack trust once again led to losing the entire army.

The Battle Of Teutoburg Forest Was A Massacre

In September of 9 AD, Publius Quintilius Varus was leading three Roman legions along with their auxiliaries and other civilians through the Teutenberg Forest. During his travels, he had been warned by numerous German nobleman that a man named Arminius was planning to ambush the army. Varus ignored these warnings and continued on. What he didn’t know was that Arminius had a Roman citizenship, and received a Roman military education.

Photo Credit: Lombard/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Lombard/ullstein bild via Getty Images

This way, he knew exactly how the Romans would react to an ambush and how to defeat them. Sure enough, in the tight confines of the Teutenburg Forest, Arminius led an army of Germanic tribes and ambushed the army, slaughtering everyone. This is considered to be Rome’s greatest defeat and changed the course of Roman history.

 

The Nap That Cost Mexico Texas

On April 21, 1836, during the Texas war for independence, the Texas Militia launched a surprise attack on the forces of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Within 12 minutes, the Texas militia had defeated de Santa Anna’s army regardless that they were outnumbered.

Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

However, the reason for such an overwhelming defeat was that General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana had ordered his troops to take a siesta, or nap, which allowed the Texans to sneak up on the army and overwhelm them. The defeat led to de Santa Anna signing a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence in return for his freedom.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade Was A Huge Tactical Error

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a charge of British light cavalry on Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on October 24, 1854, during the Crimean War. Lord Raglan, the commander of the British forces meant to send the light brigade to protect captured weapons from the Russians.

Photo Credit: The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
Photo Credit: The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication and the brigade was sent into a full-frontal assault where they came face-to-face with a fully dug-in and prepared artillery battery. The British suffered catastrophic amounts of casualties and those who survived were forced to retreat. Although the brigade understood the certain outcome of their charge, they continued to do so anyway.

A Spy Won The Battle Of The Red Cliffs

During the Han Dynasty in early 200 AD, a spy infiltrated the ranks of the northern Chinese warlord Cao Cao. The spy eventually became one of Coa Coa’s personal advisors and had earned his trust. While warring with the southern warlords Liu Bei and Sun Quan, Cao Cao’s spy turned advisor recommended that Cao Cao chain his navy together in order to prevent seasickness.

Photo Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images
Photo Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images

Trusting his advisor, he chained his ships together stem to stern. While traveling upriver, the southern forces floated ships that were on fire toward Cao Cao’s army. Chained together, Cao Cao’s navy was destroyed and his army defeated.

Pickett’s Charge Was An Unnecessary Loss Of Life

Pickett’s charge was an infantry assault that was ordered by Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The charge was led by Major General George Pickett on July 3, 1863, on the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The charge was supervised by Lieutenant General James Longstreet of the Confederacy although he did not always agree with Lee on the war tactics they used.

Photo Credit: Archive Photos/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Archive Photos/Getty Images

The charge resulted in 50 percent of casualties out of 12,500 men and was a decisive defeat and cost the Confederacy the battle. It has been described as the most avoidable mistake from the Southern war effort which they never recovered from.

The Bay Of Pigs Backfired

During the Cold War, Fidel Castro had overthrown Cuba’s American-backed president General Fulgencio Batista and successfully took over Cuba. The United States then devised a plan to take Castro out of power and stabilize Cuba once again. So, the CIA ordered a top-secret plan to have a 1,400 American-trained Cubans sneak into Cuba and overthrow Castro.

Photo Credit: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images

However, the invasion did not go as planned, and Castro’s troops greatly outnumbered the 1,400 fighters sent by the United States. After just 24 hours of fighting, 114 were killed, and the others were taken as prisoner.

Too Much Wine For An Invasion

When the British Parliament was dissolved in 1625, the Duke of Buckingham ordered a naval conquest on Spain. He wanted the conquest to be comparable to the success of the naval conquests during the Elizabethan era. Sir Edward Cecil was in charge of the conquest and set sail with 100 ships and over 10,000 men. Unfortunately, they had insufficient supplies, which led them to raid the port city of Cadiz.

Photo Credit: Kean Collection/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Kean Collection/Getty Images

During the raid, the soldiers pillaged the ports wine supply and overindulged. Before the ships even reached Spain, the drunken troops had given up on the conquest and threatened a mutiny against Sir Edward Cecil. Eventually, Cecil managed to get everyone back on the ships before setting sail back to England.

The Japanese Flooded Their Own City

During World War II, the Japanese began building what they call the Yamato. The Yamato specific type of heavy battleship with each one being able to carry 72,000 tons on a full load. During this building phase, the Musashi was commissioned and was the second heaviest battleship in history.

Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

The Japanese military had high hopes for the ship and wanted to get it in the water as soon as possible. When placing it in the water, it caused a four-foot tsunami in the Nagasaki harbor, which flooded the surrounding buildings, rivers, homes, and even capsized other boats. If that wasn’t problematic enough, their plan backfired, and the Musashi didn’t even make it through the war.

The Tootsie Roll Dilemma

During the Korean War, the 1st Marine Division was pinned down in the Chosin Mountain Reservoir. The marines were around 15,000 strong. However, they were facing an oncoming Chinese army of about 120,000. In addition, they were in below-zero temperatures, causing their rations to freeze. When putting out an order for resupplies, someone ordered “tootsie rolls,” the slang term for mortar shells.

Photo Credit: Bert Hardy/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bert Hardy/Getty Images

When the resupply was airdropped down to the troops, there were crates dropped that were full of the tootsie roll candy and not mortar shells. This put the marines in a terrible situation because what they needed was ammunition to defend themselves, not candy.

Hitler’s Atlantic Wall Got Obliterated In One Day

In 1942, Adolph Hitler predicted that the Allied Forces would invade his French territory. To prevent future invasions, Hitler commissioned a 2,000-foot-long wall filled with guns, tank traps, and other obstacles. The “Atlantic Wall” would have been the most impressive engineering feat ever conceived if it worked.

The Nazi propaganda image shows German Wehrmacht soldiers on the Atlantic Wall
Berliner Verlag/Archiv/picture alliance via Getty Images
Berliner Verlag/Archiv/picture alliance via Getty Images

To start, Hitler wanted the Atlantic Wall finished within a year; it took two years to build. He bought 1.2 millions tons of steel, enough to build 20,000 tanks. Around 25,000 Germans worked on the wall, and the entire endeavor cost $200 billion in today’s money. The Atlantic Wall ended up scattered and unstable, and even Hitler’s generals weren’t impressed. The wall fell within a day.

Project Nike: Missiles That Were Never Fired

During the late 1940s and 1950s, engineers delivered the United States’s first anti-aircraft missile through Project Nike. But that was the only thing this project achieved. Originally, the Military planned to build these anti-aircrafts across the country to combat Soviet bombers. But they never entered combat.

 an unidentified American soldier stands under an anti-aircraft missile launcher at a Project Nike
U S News & World Report Collection/Thomas O’Halloran/PhotoQuest/Getty Images
U S News & World Report Collection/Thomas O’Halloran/PhotoQuest/Getty Images

In 1953, Nike Ajax came into existence. It was soon replaced with Nike Hercules, and then Nike Zeus. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was in the process of phasing out bombers, which made the Nike missiles useless. By the late 1970s, Project Nike disappeared, swallowing a catastrophic $20 billion.

The Maginot Line Consumed One-Third Of France’s Military Budget

A defensive wall that cost 7 billion Francs became the reason that the country fell to Germany in World War II. After World War I, the French Military worked on an impregnable border called the Maginot Line. The problem is that it turned out to be a glorified trench.

Soldiers in the maginot line during the Second World War
Christophel Fine Art/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Christophel Fine Art/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Because the army poured so much faith into the Maginot Line, its forces were scattered. The German Wehrmacht went around the wall and punched through France’s undefended territory in southern Belgium. Within six weeks, German troops successfully invaded France. Now, Maginot line has come to mean “a defensive barrier or strategy that inspires a false sense of security,” according to Merriam-Webster.

750,000 Useless Albanian Bunkers

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Albania lived under the communist rule of Enver Hoxha. He was incredibly hostile toward his neighboring countries and believed that they would invade at any moment. To protect civilians, Hoxha commissioned thousands of round, concrete bunkers across the country.

People sunbath atop of decrepit communist era bunkers on the shore in Qerret beach
GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP/Getty Images
GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP/Getty Images

These domes are everywhere in Albania, from vineyards to towns to beaches to mountains. By 1983, over 173,000 bunkers existed, around 15 per sq mi (6 per sq km). While the government spent one-fourth of its money on “bunkerization,” roads and housing crumbled from the lack of income. Once Hoxha died in 1990, the program ended, leaving behind 750,000 bunkers that were never used.

Navy Officers Won’t Even Use The Zumwalt-Class Destroyer

When the Zumwalt-class destroyer began operating in 2016, it became the most sophisticated warship in existence. It is also the most expensive — so costly that Navy officers are hesitant to use them in combat.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) in the Naval Station Mayport
PO2 TIMOTHY SCHUMAKER/AFP/Getty Images
PO2 TIMOTHY SCHUMAKER/AFP/Getty Images

The Zumwalt-class began as an anti-aircraft model until the Navy repurposed it as a ship. It has two Advanced Gun Systems and Long Range Land Attack Projectile ammunition. The rising costs cut the project from 32 boats to ten, and then from ten to three. By April 2016, the program spent $22.5 billion total, costing around $7.5 billion per ship.

The Peacekeeper, Also Known As The MX Missile

During the Cold War, the U.S. Department of Defense began constructing the LGM-118 Peacekeeper, also called the MX Missile. This land-based Peacekeeper was designed to fire MIRV warheads against Soviet missiles, using increased accuracy and firing power. However, the program suffered from long delays and downgrades that cost the government $25 billion.

A MX or
Michael Smith/Getty Images
Michael Smith/Getty Images

For starters, the Peacekeeper was supposed to hold 100 silo-based missiles, but this was cut to 50 in 1984. Engineers also produced substitute Peacekeepers in case of attack, which cost even more money. Construction started and ended several times because the missiles were hard to store. Finally, around 2002, the Peacekeeper was phased out of service.

The Future Combat System Never Went Into Combat

In 1999, the U.S. decided to build an integrated system of manned and unmanned vehicles that would dominate 21st-century warfare. The Future Combat System created a series of tanks that U.S. Army called “the most ambitious and far-reaching modernization” since World War II. Then the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred, and the project went downhill.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., speaks during the unveiling event of the first Future Combat System Manned Ground Vehicle
Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images
Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images

Future Combat System was pushed back due to ballooning costs and technical problems. As the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina drained resources and funds, the project continued to be delayed. The teams announced that the tanks would roll out by 2015, even though they never met its 2004 incentive. In 2009, the Future Combat System ended, resulting in only eight prototypes and $19 billion wasted.

The U.S. Spent $11 Billion On Joint Tactical Radio Systems

In 1997, the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) entered development, with the goal to replace all existing radios used by the American Army. Instead of using multiple radio types, the JTRS would have a set of software-defined radios that would allow it to switch frequencies. At least, that was the idea.

A soldier of the US Air Force talks on the radio during an earthquake simulation exercise
JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP/Getty Images
JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP/Getty Images

Because the project kept replacing management in the early 2000s, it lasted much longer than intended. Around 2006, the Army no longer aimed to replace all radios, so they canceled JTRS after spending $6.8 billion that produced 180,000 radios. By 2007, they revived the program. As the military waits for JTRS to finish, they continue to spend $11 billion on radios that will eventually be replaced.