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Old 31st August 2019, 08:36 AM   #1
HansMustermann
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Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

History, including military history, being a bit of a hobby of mine, I thought I'd put forward some of the moments I find fascinating in a "what were they thinking?" kind of way.

And I'd like to start with the battle of Agincourt.

Now probably even people who don't know much about history know about how the English put like 1500 arrows a second into the air, and mowed down the French, but that is only a small part of the picture. It even more a merit of the terrain preventing the English from being flanked, as well as creating a slight funnel shape for the advancing French that plays silly buggers with tightly packed rows of advancing infantry.

What I find more fascinating, though, is that location and terrain was the choice of the French. It's rare that you can force the enemy to have no choice but to attack in the exact place of your choosing, but marshal Jean II Le Maingre (a.k.a., Boucicaut) managed just that. The English had been harrassed and forced along a way that led to exactly where the French wanted them, and were prepared for them.

Except the place that the French wanted them, was a place that would massively favour the English

And that's what I don't get. I'll even admit that other topographical features may have been less obvious at the time as a potential problem. BUT when you have an army whose main advantage is in its large numbers of heavy cavalry... how does one come to the idea of forcing the enemy into a position that has secure flanks and prevents said cavalry from flanking them?
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Old 31st August 2019, 12:44 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
History, including military history, being a bit of a hobby of mine, I thought I'd put forward some of the moments I find fascinating in a "what were they thinking?" kind of way.

And I'd like to start with the battle of Agincourt.

Now probably even people who don't know much about history know about how the English put like 1500 arrows a second into the air, and mowed down the French, but that is only a small part of the picture. It even more a merit of the terrain preventing the English from being flanked, as well as creating a slight funnel shape for the advancing French that plays silly buggers with tightly packed rows of advancing infantry.

What I find more fascinating, though, is that location and terrain was the choice of the French. It's rare that you can force the enemy to have no choice but to attack in the exact place of your choosing, but marshal Jean II Le Maingre (a.k.a., Boucicaut) managed just that. The English had been harrassed and forced along a way that led to exactly where the French wanted them, and were prepared for them.

Except the place that the French wanted them, was a place that would massively favour the English

And that's what I don't get. I'll even admit that other topographical features may have been less obvious at the time as a potential problem. BUT when you have an army whose main advantage is in its large numbers of heavy cavalry... how does one come to the idea of forcing the enemy into a position that has secure flanks and prevents said cavalry from flanking them?

Because these weren't cavalry in the sense of the 18th or 19th centuries, this was a mass of heavily armoured knights who expected to roll right over the English. Flanking was not part of their tactical skills, such as they were. They didn't see the English as having secure flanks but as being hemmed in with no way of escape. The French thought they were administering the coup de grace to a doomed enemy and had no appreciation for the sheer amount of 'firepower' the English archers could bring to bear.
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Old 31st August 2019, 01:06 PM   #3
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Gallipoli.
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Old 31st August 2019, 02:04 PM   #4
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
Because these weren't cavalry in the sense of the 18th or 19th centuries, this was a mass of heavily armoured knights who expected to roll right over the English. Flanking was not part of their tactical skills, such as they were. They didn't see the English as having secure flanks but as being hemmed in with no way of escape. The French thought they were administering the coup de grace to a doomed enemy and had no appreciation for the sheer amount of 'firepower' the English archers could bring to bear.
The idea of flanking is there since ancient times, though, not an 18'th century invention. As an even more extreme case of outright hitting the enemy in the BACK with the cav, the first recorded use IIRC of the Hammer And Anvil tactic is by Alexander The Great. And would then continue to be used at the battles of Cannae and Zama. And it never really stopped being used by the Byzantines, when they could.

I would grant, though, that hubris might have "helped" with that choice of tactics, though.
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Old 31st August 2019, 09:43 PM   #5
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Meade letting Lee get across the river after Gettysburg without any pursuit.

The Japanese Navy neglecting to bomb the fuel storage tanks at Pearl Harbor.
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Old 1st September 2019, 04:49 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post
Meade letting Lee get across the river after Gettysburg without any pursuit.

The Japanese Navy neglecting to bomb the fuel storage tanks at Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese made a huge number of errors in WW2. Part of this was the culture. For example if they had a second strike at Pearl Harbor or put full size subs outside Pearl Harbor to attack the carriers as they approached they might have got the aircraft carriers. Then it would have taken the USA even longer to start offensive actions.
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Old 1st September 2019, 06:28 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The idea of flanking is there since ancient times, though, not an 18'th century invention.
Didn't day otherwise, simply pointed out that the French knights at Agincourt were not cavalry in the manner of those quick moving flankers of either the past or future. Their entire ethos and weaponry was designed to smash through frontally, which was why they were happy with the situation at Agincourt.
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Old 1st September 2019, 06:43 AM   #8
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Dunkirk. The Nazis could have virtually wiped out the British army, but held back allowing many to escape.
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Old 1st September 2019, 07:00 AM   #9
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No, that is a myth.
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Old 1st September 2019, 07:02 AM   #10
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
Didn't day otherwise, simply pointed out that the French knights at Agincourt were not cavalry in the manner of those quick moving flankers of either the past or future. Their entire ethos and weaponry was designed to smash through frontally, which was why they were happy with the situation at Agincourt.
Well, I certainly won't disagree. But that just brings me back to wondering WTH they were thinking.

They had got their asses kicked sky high in the deadly funnel of Crécy around 70 years earlier. Then they had their cavalry's asses handed to them at Mauron, when they tried a frontal attack. Then almost verbatim at Poitiers. Hell even the cavalry being baited into an early attack was almost a verbatim copy of Poitiers. Then there was the proof that getting the English in a funnel where they can put their stakes and pikemen up front is a bad idea at Aljubarrota. Etc.

But the thing is, at Crécy it was the English who chose to give battle there, and so was Aljubarrota. At Agincourt it was the French who chose to funnel the English into a position which promised to be a verbatim repeat of Aljubarrota... and unsurprisingly it was.

So, like, WTH, were these guys fundamentally unable to learn?
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Old 1st September 2019, 07:15 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post

The Japanese Navy neglecting to bomb the fuel storage tanks at Pearl Harbor.
Later analysis of the situation has shown that attacking the fuel tanks would not have done very much. It would have required all the bombers to attack to be effective, was a long-shot to do any real damage, and the fuel was actually easy to replace. The estimate is that it would have delayed operations for about 3 months at most, and the steel needed to replace the tanks would have slowed the build of about 3 destroyers.
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Old 1st September 2019, 07:40 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post
Meade letting Lee get across the river after Gettysburg without any pursuit.

The Japanese Navy neglecting to bomb the fuel storage tanks at Pearl Harbor.
Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
The Japanese made a huge number of errors in WW2. Part of this was the culture. For example if they had a second strike at Pearl Harbor or put full size subs outside Pearl Harbor to attack the carriers as they approached they might have got the aircraft carriers. Then it would have taken the USA even longer to start offensive actions.
Originally Posted by kookbreaker View Post
Later analysis of the situation has shown that attacking the fuel tanks would not have done very much. It would have required all the bombers to attack to be effective, was a long-shot to do any real damage, and the fuel was actually easy to replace. The estimate is that it would have delayed operations for about 3 months at most, and the steel needed to replace the tanks would have slowed the build of about 3 destroyers.
And even then, not launching the third (not second, they did that) strike only slightly lessened the degree of victory.
There are multiple examples of Japanese commanders becoming cautious after achieving the upper hand. The Battle of Savo Island and The Battle of the Komandorsky Islands are other examples.
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Old 1st September 2019, 10:00 AM   #13
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Hittite king Šuppiluliuma, furious with Egypt for supposedly assassinating his son while he was on the way to marry the Egyptian queen, launched an attack on Egyptian territory. He succeeded in seizing a bunch of territory and capturing a bunch of prisoners of war. But some of those soldiers were carrying a plague which would have been just Egypt's problem if he hadn't invaded (or at least Canaan's & Syria's), and capturing them made it the Hittites' problem... including killing Šuppiluliuma and his heir.
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Old 1st September 2019, 10:11 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
Because these weren't cavalry in the sense of the 18th or 19th centuries, this was a mass of heavily armoured knights who expected to roll right over the English. Flanking was not part of their tactical skills, such as they were. They didn't see the English as having secure flanks but as being hemmed in with no way of escape. The French thought they were administering the coup de grace to a doomed enemy and had no appreciation for the sheer amount of 'firepower' the English archers could bring to bear.
Actually, the French had learned a lesson after crecy. If you look back to poitiers then you already see the French attacking on foot (far less vulnerable to arrows) . And they planned the same for agincourt. The problem was always command and control. The French had a decent theory of how to win, they just lacked the ability to control reserves, guard flanks etc. but the idea that the French kept expecting overwhelming charges of mounted knights to do all the work is incorrect.
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Old 1st September 2019, 04:59 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
Dunkirk. The Nazis could have virtually wiped out the British army, but held back allowing many to escape.
Actually, I would argue that no, they couldn't.

1. The Germans REALLY needed that break for their logistics to catch up.

and

2. "Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight.

If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength. " -- Sun Tzu, Art Of War 11:23

If the British were forced to stand and fight for their lives, well, they would have. That's Brits for ya. Germany would have taken much higher losses in the Battle Of France if they had forced that situation.

Now I'm not saying it wouldn't have been a good idea to wipe them if you CAN, but with exhausted divisions and their logistics backed up, they really couldn't.
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Old 1st September 2019, 05:06 PM   #16
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Let’s remeber that post D-Day breakout the allies bypassed Dunkirk as being too costly to assault and simply left a division to keep watch on the units there.
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Old 1st September 2019, 09:09 PM   #17
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Operation Market Garden.

Logistics were off for weather and other problems.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 05:27 AM   #18
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Gazala

"Oh look, we have the main body of the enemy cut off and surrounded. Its going to take him days to pick his way through the minefields to re-establish contact with his supply chain and support systems. Why don't we just sit here and do absolutely nothing about it?"

- Ritchie. Probably.

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Old 2nd September 2019, 05:29 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by 8enotto View Post
Operation Market Garden.

Logistics were off for weather and other problems.
Stuff went wrong but I'd not say it was a case of defeat from the jaws of victory. It was a roll of the dice which didn't quite work out, for various reasons.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 05:53 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually, I would argue that no, they couldn't. <snip>
More to the point, without the benefit of hindsight, why would they even try?

As you say, their logistics were all over the show. They badly needed a rest and a re-fit, with around half of Panzer Group Kliest’s tanks out of commission. The ground around Dunkirk was totally unsuitable for tanks, and ideally suited to defence, and indeed was being defended by the best troops in the British and French armies.

Add in to this that the German’s knew from experience that sending tanks into built up areas was a recipe for disaster, that most of France of was unconquered and besides, why bother? What are the British going to do, evacuate a third of a million men from the beaches in the space of just over a week?

Don’t be ridiculous. That would take a miracle!
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Old 2nd September 2019, 06:41 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually, I would argue that no, they couldn't.

1. The Germans REALLY needed that break for their logistics to catch up.
I recently saw a documentary describing the use of amphetamines (Pervitin) by German troops in their advance.

On top of waiting for logistics, maybe they simply crashed out.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 08:04 AM   #22
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As Humbert was saying, just the state of their units was enough for that decision to make sense.

As for Pervitin (which, in case anyone is not in the clear, is crystal meth), I think in France they were only about discovering the negative side of it. Which is why they stopped giving it to the ground forces after France. (Though in other branches, well, there's a reason it became better known as "Stuka-Tablets" and "Herman-Göring-Pills")

Basically it would take more time for the reports about the negative effects to make their way up the totem pole and become clear that it's not just flukes or soldiers who were unstable to start with.

Basically I don't have any authoritative source to base this on, so take it with a massive amount of salt, but I would guess that they weren't yet at the stage where they'd plan their operations around the Pervitin crash. If anything, at this point they'd probably be just ok with just giving the soldiers another helping of meth, if they absolutely needed them up.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 09:18 AM   #23
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D-Day troops were also given an amphetamine tab.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 09:36 AM   #24
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There's a difference between amphetamine and METHamphetamine. Pervitin was the latter.
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Old 4th September 2019, 01:22 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post
Meade letting Lee get across the river after Gettysburg without any pursuit.

The Japanese Navy neglecting to bomb the fuel storage tanks at Pearl Harbor.
Meade did pursue Lee after Gettysburg, but very slowly.
And most historians discount the ability of Kido BUtai to permanently damage the fuel storage faciltities at Pearl Harbor;they simply did not have the kind of planes that could carry the heavy bombloads neeed for that.
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Old 4th September 2019, 01:25 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by 8enotto View Post
Operation Market Garden.

Logistics were off for weather and other problems.
Problem with Market Garden was for it to work everything in the plan needed to work perfectly, and no plan in war ever works perfectly. There was no margin for error or delays in Monty's plan.
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Old 5th September 2019, 04:36 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
Problem with Market Garden was for it to work everything in the plan needed to work perfectly, and no plan in war ever works perfectly. There was no margin for error or delays in Monty's plan.

Not the case at all, in fact that’s turning the whole thing on its head.

There were three critical bridges to be captured by three separate drops. If any two of these had not been successful, then the plan would almost certainly still have worked. But with all three drops going wrong, then it’s not surprising the plan didn’t succeed.

In order of XXX Corps progress:

1. Bridge at Son, to be captured by the US 101st. Contrary to what is shown in the movie where brave cigar-smoking 506th PIR charge up to the bridge only to see it blown up at the last second, in fact despite being only two miles from the bridge, 506th PIR inexplicably acted with no sense of urgency between being landed at 12:30 and the bridge was blown at 16:00.

Two miles. Three and a half hours.

This causes a significant delay to XXX Corps progress but even so, they get to Nijmegen on time….

2. Bridge at Nijmegen, to be captured by the US 82nd: Gavin inexplicably does nothing to secure the bridge for hours after the drop, preferring instead to secure his DZ, then far too late, despatches a small force to secure the bridge which he then quickly recalls.

End result of which is that XXX Corps now have to spend days fighting through Nijmegen and capturing the bridge. The delay would not have been fatal if the next bridge had been securely held, which leads us to…

3. Bridge at Arnhem, to be captured by British 1st Airborne: The DZ for this one is inexplicably the other side of Oosterbeek meaning 1st Airborne would have to fight through 8km of built up areas just to reach the bridge, and then maintain this 8km long corridor between the bridge and the DZ. This worked about as well as expected, with 1st Airborne hanging on by its fingernails and in no condition to survive any further delays.

The whole thing is remarkable. It’s as if the allied airborne forces had collectively been given a thorough beating with the stupid stick.
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Old 5th September 2019, 12:36 PM   #28
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Battle of Arausio 105 BC.

80.000 Roman legionnaires against 200.000 barbarians would be unstoppable even if merely moderately competently led.

As it was both the Roman generals hated each other, ending up not only not coordinating with each other but having both halves of the army unable to support each other when the fighting did start.

This was a heavier defeat than that of Cannae, a hundred years before. But where at Cannae they could at least say they were being out generalled, this one was all on their own heads.
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Old 12th September 2019, 02:25 AM   #29
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To keep it going, I'd like to offer Poltava, or rather the Great Northern War campaign culminating in it, as a LITERAL example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Because technically Sweden had already won in 1706, with Russia backing out of Poland and even offering to cede all Baltic territories. But no, Charles had to continue.

What followed were a long series of fusterclucks for the next 3 years, with massive losses of Swedish soldiers to the harsh Russian winter (1708 to 1709 was the coldest winter in 500 years!) and even to starvation, as the Russians went scorched earth and Swedish logistics could not support the increasingly long supply lines. Logistics, man... that's the real killer.

And the killer was the final battle at Poltava, where the Swedes decided to attack with 20,000 men against a force of over 80,000 Russians, and more importantly into the mouth of a system of 10 fortifications (2 of them not fully finished, but still...) built as to provide even flanking fire on the attackers, funnelled in as they had to advance through a gap in the woods that led directly into the killing zone. With the results being about what you'd expect. The Caroleans were good, but not THAT good.

And that was the beginning of the end for the Swedish empire, and the start of the rise of the Russian Empire as a superpower.

So, yeah, sometimes it's better to just graciously accept that you've won already
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Old 12th September 2019, 02:43 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
To keep it going, I'd like to offer Poltava, or rather the Great Northern War campaign culminating in it, as a LITERAL example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Because technically Sweden had already won in 1706, with Russia backing out of Poland and even offering to cede all Baltic territories. But no, Charles had to continue.

What followed were a long series of fusterclucks for the next 3 years, with massive losses of Swedish soldiers to the harsh Russian winter (1708 to 1709 was the coldest winter in 500 years!) and even to starvation, as the Russians went scorched earth and Swedish logistics could not support the increasingly long supply lines. Logistics, man... that's the real killer.

And the killer was the final battle at Poltava, where the Swedes decided to attack with 20,000 men against a force of over 80,000 Russians, and more importantly into the mouth of a system of 10 fortifications (2 of them not fully finished, but still...) built as to provide even flanking fire on the attackers, funnelled in as they had to advance through a gap in the woods that led directly into the killing zone. With the results being about what you'd expect. The Caroleans were good, but not THAT good.

And that was the beginning of the end for the Swedish empire, and the start of the rise of the Russian Empire as a superpower.

So, yeah, sometimes it's better to just graciously accept that you've won already
Yeah.

That one is..... special.
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Old 12th September 2019, 03:31 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
To keep it going, I'd like to offer Poltava, or rather the Great Northern War campaign culminating in it, as a LITERAL example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Because technically Sweden had already won in 1706, with Russia backing out of Poland and even offering to cede all Baltic territories. But no, Charles had to continue.

What followed were a long series of fusterclucks for the next 3 years, with massive losses of Swedish soldiers to the harsh Russian winter (1708 to 1709 was the coldest winter in 500 years!) and even to starvation, as the Russians went scorched earth and Swedish logistics could not support the increasingly long supply lines. Logistics, man... that's the real killer.

And of course Al Stewart wrote a song about it.

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Old 12th September 2019, 03:58 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
So, like, WTH, were these guys fundamentally unable to learn?
Presumably.

It's hard to imagine life in a society where so many people were illiterate, and where the printing press didn't exist. We have read accounts of Crecy, but had they? Did they actually study military affairs or history? Or did they simply view battles as a whole bunch of individual fights that were happening at the same time?
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Old 12th September 2019, 04:43 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
Presumably.

It's hard to imagine life in a society where so many people were illiterate, and where the printing press didn't exist. We have read accounts of Crecy, but had they? Did they actually study military affairs or history? Or did they simply view battles as a whole bunch of individual fights that were happening at the same time?
The accounts that were available weren't being generated with anything approaching the rigor of a modern after action review, or even for that purpose, so it really is hard to glean what important lesson you need to learn from them. The accounts of battles that were being written were commissioned by people who had a vested interest in making themselves look good in it, and the authors had a vested interest in pleasing their patrons, so finding accounts that approach the level of analysis of "this is what they did, this is what we did, this is what we did right, this is what we did wrong, etc." just don't exist. Because criticism of the patron, or even indirect criticism of the patron by saying his ancestor mucked it up, could have really negative consequences for the author.

Socially, shame is a big motivator, and admitting that you and your army just did not do the right thing and got trounced isn't an opportunity for sober reflection to figure out how to do better next time, it would be a sign that you're fundamentally unfit and calls into question your place in the social hierarchy as well.

Commissions of Inquiry into best practices, or determining what lessons to pull from victories or defeats are almost impossible to find in post-consular Roman sources until the English Civil War (when Parliament did a few) and just rare until the Enlightenment era.
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Old 12th September 2019, 11:46 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post
Meade letting Lee get across the river after Gettysburg without any pursuit.
I'd disagree with that. It had no impact of the outcome of the war. Given the economic situation of the South in relation to the North, it didn't matter how many Confederate survivors got away, the South was finished.
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Old 13th September 2019, 02:32 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
Presumably.

It's hard to imagine life in a society where so many people were illiterate, and where the printing press didn't exist. We have read accounts of Crecy, but had they? Did they actually study military affairs or history? Or did they simply view battles as a whole bunch of individual fights that were happening at the same time?
They had some ability to learn. (After the failure of mounted assaults at Crecy, the French tried to rely on foot assaults at Poitiers and Agincourt, as knights on foot were far less vulnerable to archery).

However, command & control (and unfit commanders) were a symptom of societal factors that couldn't be fixed as easily.
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Old 14th September 2019, 07:27 AM   #36
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I'd like to nominate the Battle of Tali-Ihantala, said to be 'the largest battle in the history of the nordic countries'.

Of course, the Russian Soviet Army was supposed to win this but the Finns had other ideas.

Quote:
The Battle of Tali-Ihantala (June 25 to July 9, 1944) was part of the Finnish-Soviet Continuation War (1941–1944), which occurred during World War II. The battle was fought between Finnish forces—using war materiel provided by Germany—and Soviet forces. To date, it is the largest battle in the history of the Nordic countries.[15]

The battle marked a point in the Soviet offensive when the Finnish forces first prevented the Soviets from making any significant gains.[16][17] Earlier at Siiranmäki and Perkjärvi the Finns had halted advancing Soviet forces.[18] The Finnish forces achieved a defensive victory against overwhelming odds.[2][3][19]

After the Soviets had failed to create any breakthroughs at Tali-Ihantala, Vyborg Bay, or Vuosalmi, the Soviet Leningrad Front started the previously planned transfer[17][20][21][22] of troops from the Karelian Isthmus to support Operation Bagration, where they were encountering particularly fierce resistance.[2]
<snip>

Quote:
June 29 was the hardest and worst day for the Finns during the whole battle, and defeat was not far off. The Finnish forces finally managed to restore the line on June 29 after very bloody fighting. On June 30, the Finnish forces retreated from Tali. The heaviest fighting took place between July 1 and July 2 when the Finns lost some 800 men per day.[5]

Ihantala: July 1–9
The ensuing Finnish concentration of artillery fire was the heaviest in the country's military history.[31] It was based on the famed fire correction method of Finnish Artillery General Vilho Petter Nenonen, which enabled easy fire correction and quick changes of targets.[5] At the critical Ihantala sector of the battle, the Finnish defenders managed to concentrate their fire to the extent of smashing the advancing Soviet spearhead.[31] The clever fire control system enabled as many as 21 batteries, totaling some 250 guns, to fire at the same target simultaneously in the battle; the fire controller did not need to be aware of the location of individual batteries to guide their fire, which made quick fire concentration and target switching possible. The Finnish artillery fired altogether over 122,000 rounds of ordnance. This concentration was considered a world record at the time.[5] These fire missions managed to halt and destroy Soviet forces that were assembling at their jumping off points. On thirty occasions the Soviet forces destroyed were larger than battalion size.[10]
<snip>

Quote:
On July 2 the Finns intercepted a radio message that the 63rd Guards Rifle Division and 30th Armored Brigade were about to launch an attack on July 3 at 0400 hours. The following morning, two minutes before the supposed attack, 40 Finnish and 40 German bombers bombed the Soviet troops, and 250 guns fired a total of 4,000 artillery shells into the area of the Soviets. On the same day, beginning at 06:00, 200 Soviet planes and their infantry attacked the Finnish troops. By 19:00 the Finnish troops had restored their lines.[5]
<snip>

Quote:
From July 9, the Soviet troops no longer attempted a break-through. Nevertheless, some fighting continued.[5] Soviet forces were ordered to cease offensive operations and take up defensive positions on July 10 as the Stavka redeployed forces to the Baltic fronts, where the Red Army was encountering "fierce German and Baltic resistance."[33]

Losses
Finnish sources estimate that the Soviet army lost about 600[11] tanks in the Battle of Tali-Ihantala, mainly to air attacks, artillery, and close defence weapons. Between 120 and 280 Soviet aircraft were shot down.[5]

The Finnish army reported that 8,561 men were wounded, missing, and/or killed in action. According to Finnish historian Ohto Manninen, the Soviets reported their losses as about 18,000–22,000 killed or wounded, based on the daily and 10-day summary casualty reports of the Soviet 21st Army.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tali-Ihantala

Go into any Finnish library or book shop and they are still talking about. Shelves full of this stuff.
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Old 14th September 2019, 08:53 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by jeremyp View Post
I'd disagree with that. It had no impact of the outcome of the war. Given the economic situation of the South in relation to the North, it didn't matter how many Confederate survivors got away, the South was finished.
My understanding is that Grant's simultaneous victory at Vicksburg was actually the more significant in terms of damaging the ability of the Confederacy to continue the war.
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Old 3rd February 2020, 03:12 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
To keep it going, I'd like to offer Poltava, or rather the Great Northern War campaign culminating in it, as a LITERAL example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Because technically Sweden had already won in 1706, with Russia backing out of Poland and even offering to cede all Baltic territories. But no, Charles had to continue.

What followed were a long series of fusterclucks for the next 3 years, with massive losses of Swedish soldiers to the harsh Russian winter (1708 to 1709 was the coldest winter in 500 years!) and even to starvation, as the Russians went scorched earth and Swedish logistics could not support the increasingly long supply lines. Logistics, man... that's the real killer.

And the killer was the final battle at Poltava, where the Swedes decided to attack with 20,000 men against a force of over 80,000 Russians, and more importantly into the mouth of a system of 10 fortifications (2 of them not fully finished, but still...) built as to provide even flanking fire on the attackers, funnelled in as they had to advance through a gap in the woods that led directly into the killing zone. With the results being about what you'd expect. The Caroleans were good, but not THAT good.

And that was the beginning of the end for the Swedish empire, and the start of the rise of the Russian Empire as a superpower.

So, yeah, sometimes it's better to just graciously accept that you've won already
A few partial corrections. First Peter the Great, the Russian Tsar, did NOT offer to return all the Baltic territories he had seized from Sweden. Peter offered to return virtually everything except the mouth of the Neva river, which flows into the Baltic, (Gulf of Finland.), where Peter was building his new capital of St. Petersburg. Karl of Sweden would not accept that and desired not only get back everything but humiliate / defeat Peter. Which is why instead of going to the Baltic to reconquer those areas lost to Russia Karl invaded deep into Russia. Which turned out to be a mistake.

Further the Russian army at Poltava did not number 80,000. That figure goes back to Swedish propaganda trying to explain away a crushing defeat. In fact the Russian army seems to have numbered c. 38.000 to 45.000. It still outnumbered the Swedes by more than two to one, but I guess the actual odds are just not unbalanced enough.

Karl is considered by many to be a military genius, and I agree with that opinion overall. However, Karl's handling of his army in the campaigns of 1708-1709 was over all almost comically bad, (Except for all the men who died.). Just reading about Karl's various "Ice marches", etc., is enough to make you think that Karl had lost his mind at some point. Peter is generally not considered a military genius, yet his handling of his army in 1708-1709 was much better than Karl's in the same years. THe result was a crushing victory for Peter.

Also it must be remembered that given Swedish resources, (Wealth, manpower etc.). Sweden's position of being a "Great Power" was very fragile and heavily dependent on bluff and sparkle. The result was that one great defeat was enough to bring the whole thing crashing down.
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Old 3rd February 2020, 03:16 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by erwinl View Post
Battle of Arausio 105 BC.

80.000 Roman legionnaires against 200.000 barbarians would be unstoppable even if merely moderately competently led.

As it was both the Roman generals hated each other, ending up not only not coordinating with each other but having both halves of the army unable to support each other when the fighting did start.

This was a heavier defeat than that of Cannae, a hundred years before. But where at Cannae they could at least say they were being out generalled, this one was all on their own heads.
One should be very careful with the number's given by ancient Greco-Roman sources. The figure of 200,000 given for the Barbarians at Arausio are almost certainly vast exaggerations. Logistics in those days were pretty poor. And the Roman's were very found of stories of them fighting and generally beating huge Barbarian hordes.
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Old 3rd February 2020, 04:49 PM   #40
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George McClellan at Antietam. Not exactly a defeat, maybe, but he sure has hell threw away a chance to crush Lee and the ANV. All he needed to do was launch a coordinated attack, something any second Lt fresh out of West Point should be able to do. But LIttle Mac totally blew it.
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