The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat


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The French and British each gained authority over some territories of the defunct Ottoman Empire. The French and British bribed Italy to enter the war on their side by signing the secret Treaty of London April 26, that promised Italy war spoils in Austria-Hungary, the Balkans, Asia Minor, and elsewhere — and the Italians wanted it all. They were outraged to find that the French and British planned on giving them little. The vindictive surrender terms, made possible by American entry in the war and enshrined in the Treaty of Versailles, triggered a dangerous nationalist reaction.

Hitler was able to recruit several thousand Nazis. Allied demands for reparations gave Germans incentives to inflate their currency and pay the Allies with worthless marks. How bad might that have been? The Germans showed how harsh they could be in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk March 3, in which, as a condition for ending the war on the Eastern Front, they gained large chunks of territory including Ukraine, Georgia, Finland, and the Baltic states.

If Germany had won on the Western Front, it would have acquired some French territory and maybe Belgium. Britain would have retained its independence, protected by its navy that might have continued the hunger blockade against Germany. Such problems might have proven to be too much for the German army that was already struggling to put down mutinies. Bad as this would have been, even it was preferable to what did happen: the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Holocaust.

American entry in World War I helped produce another terrible consequence: the November Bolshevik coup in Russia. The country had been deteriorating ever since Czar Nicholas II entered the war in France and Britain had to know they were playing with fire when they pressured the Russians to stay in the war so that German forces would continue to be tied up on the Eastern Front. The last thing France and Britain wanted was for Russia to make a separate peace with Germany and thereby enable the Germans to transfer forces to the Western Front. Allied pressure assured that the deterioration of Russia would continue or even accelerate.

Wilson was oblivious to the fact that ordinary Russians had nothing to gain from whatever happened on the Western Front, which was his sole concern. The Bolsheviks exploited deteriorating conditions brought on or aggravated by the war. Haig had largely dismissed the effect of the machine gun on the battlefield, believing that previous Allied failures owed to something other than an impenetrable wall of lead traveling at ballistic velocity.

Thus, on July 1, , Haig ordered his men to go over the top at the First Battle of the Somme , and 20, of them had the audacity to die almost immediately there were 60, total British casualties on the first day of the attack. Having amassed roughly twice as many losses in a single day as Arthur Wellesley, 1st duke of Wellington , had suffered during the entire Peninsular War , Haig saw no reason to change tactics. He continued to view attrition as the most effective strategy for defeating Germany; the British lost some , men at the Somme.

The next major British offensive came at Passchendaele July 31—November 6, , where Haig lost another , troops in a battle whose name became synonymous with pointless slaughter. Instead of sweeping around the French defenses in a massive flanking movement, the Germans were checked at the First Battle of the Marne. Of course, that is what they did when Ludendorff pushed for the use of unrestricted submarine warfare against Allied shipping.

The United States entered the war, forcing Ludendorff to accelerate his time line for a conclusive battle against the Allies on the Western Front. The Second Battle of the Somme was the first of a series of successful German offensives, but Ludendorff had failed to integrate these tactical victories into a broader strategic plan. Ultimately, he was denied his final showdown with the Allies by German political leaders who realized that the Americans could produce soldiers faster than Germany could produce bullets.

As the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles crippled Germany, Ludendorff effectively sabotaged the Weimar Republic by propagating the belief that he and his armies had been undefeated on the battlefield. He served as a National Socialist member of the German parliament before authoring a book about how humanity exists in a state of perpetual war and why that is a good thing.

Although he eventually disavowed Hitler, by that point Ludendorff had become so deeply involved with mysticism that few took him seriously.

The Biggest Mistakes In World War 2

George McClellan is one of those generals who really looks great on paper. Gordon, and George Pickett. His work as an observer during the Crimean War gave him insight into the importance of logistics for an industrialized army, and years spent as the chief of engineering for the Illinois Central Railroad made him aware of the transformative nature of rail transport.

Because he never wanted to face a superior force, he refused to fight. After months of inactivity, McClellan was finally spurred to action by Pres. Abraham Lincoln.

The resulting Peninsular Campaign April—July was a marvel of planning but something of a farce in execution. Eschewing a direct overland march to the Confederate capital of Richmond , McClellan orchestrated an impressive amphibious landing of more than , troops at Fort Monroe , at the southeast end of the peninsula between the James and York rivers. In stereotypically McClellan fashion, he was promptly checked by a vastly inferior force under John Bankhead Magruder. By the end of May , Confederate commanding Gen.

Joseph E. Johnston had withdrawn his forces to Richmond, and McClellan was close enough to the Confederate capital to hear its church bells ringing. Johnston was wounded on the first day of the Battle of Seven Pines , six miles east of Richmond, and he was replaced by Robert E. Once again, McClellan worked his organizational magic, restoring the morale of a shattered Union army. He ran as a Democrat against Lincoln in the presidential election. How does an admiral make a list of the worst generals? You start by being the only thing that can frustrate Napoleon more than a Russian winter.

Pierre de Villeneuve had his first brush with history when he bravely ran away at the Battle of the Nile. His was one of just two French ships of the line to escape the destruction of the French fleet there. He retreated to Malta but was captured when that island fell to the British. Leningrad was assailed. Kiev, in the Ukraine, braced for an assault. Each day, the steel-tipped German columns bit more deeply into Russia, scouring the wheat fields, demolishing the pitiful villages, destroying great cities.

To the anxious watchers in London, and even more to observers in Washington, a German victory and the destruction of the Communist state seemed inevitable.


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Occasionally, a whiff of optimism appeared among the military. In London late that summer, an anonymous British brigadier, lately returned from Moscow, emphasized that if the Red Army could hold on until winter, the German offensive would come to a halt. He said that the resilience of the Russian people and army, now inspired by national rather than party fervor, should not be discounted. There weren't many like him. There was an almost English understatement in Stalin's message to Winston Churchill on July 18 that ''the position of the Soviet forces at the front remains tense.

Then, this early in the campaign, Hitler made a major mistake. The Fuhrer's strategy prevailed over the more orthodox approach of Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, the commander in chief, who held that Marshal Simeon Timoshenko's battered army group covering Moscow must be defeated and the city - the political, military and communications center of the Soviet state - taken.

Hitler, now convinced that he was a military genius, thought otherwise. He wanted to win more territory: the Donets Basin and its industrial resources in the southern Ukraine; the Crimea and the oil of the Caucasus; Leningrad, renamed for the founder of the Communist state.

Divisions were diverted from the Central Army Group to strengthen the northern and southern wings of the invasion force. When the time came to resume the offensive on Moscow, snow was already falling on shivering German columns and the drive stalled under the fire of a slowly reviving Red Army.

The diplomatic counterpoint to this explosion of German fire and steel is one of the strangest episodes of World War II. The Soviet Government's refusal from late onward to face the exigent facts has no parallel in that war. For Operation Barbarossa, as the German invasion of Russia was code named, was one of the war's worst-kept secrets. On Dec. Only nine copies of this ''Secret Matter for the Command Only'' were circulated.

Yet little more than a week later, according to Andre Brissaud's biography of Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, Hitler's chief of intelligence, British intelligence laid the guts of the Barbarossa plan before Churchill, including the sentence, ''The most far-reaching preparations must be commenced now and completed by 15 May, , if not before. View all New York Times newsletters. British intelligence watched the gradual buildup of German forces in the east throughout the winter: such and such a division had passed through Dresden; Stuka squadrons had been routed out of comfortable billets in France and sent to the Polish plains.

Welles's timing was slightly off.

The top 10 military blunders in history

The original date for the invasion was the third week of May The Germans were forced by other preoccupations to postpone their attack and that postponement had much to do with their winter reverses. Western Governments could not understand the Soviet unwillingness to accept the multiplying signs of invasion.

10 Worst Military Mistakes In History

Winston Churchill saw ''error and vanity'' and ''cold-blooded calculations'' in Moscow as the root cause of Moscow's failure to foresee the German blow. To that robust mind, the ''selfish calculators'' in the Kremlin proved to be ''simpletons'' as well. These attacks - and the long civil war fought against czarist generals and admirals who were supported by the West - left an indelible mark on Soviet attitudes toward the capitalist states.

In , however, this suspicion was sublimated to an optimism that even today is impossible to understand. This optimism outweighed the carefully documented reports of Richard Sorge, the Russian spy in Tokyo, who transmitted to Stalin's senior intelligence group the exact date of Barbarossa, and information from the spy network known as the Red Orchestra operating out of Paris and Brussels, as well as from agents in Sweden, Switzerland and the Balkan states.

Stalin's unbelievable faith in his treaty with Hitler may have been one cause for his optimism. Their nonaggression pact of freed the Nazis for the invasion of Poland that September and enabled the Russians, when the battle was won, to rumble into eastern Poland and claim their share of the kill. With his eastern front secure, Hitler was able to attack western Europe with no fear of a war on two fronts.

1. Italy's Invasion of Greece

The treaty brought economic benefits to Germany: Manganese, oil, rubber and wheat from Russia fueled the German war machine. Deliveries continued until the invasion; one of the last trains to steam into German Poland from Russia was an express laden with rubber.

Dunkirk was a victory for morale but ultimately a humiliating military defeat

Anthony Eden, pondering Russian unwariness when he was British Foreign Secretary, suggested once that the key lay in Stalin's vanity. So the Russians sat complacently on the sidelines watching the Germans prepare for the invasion.


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They did not stir when Rumania, Hungary and Bulgaria were bullied into the Nazi camp, although these states on Russia's southwestern flank were of great strategic importance to the defense of Mother Russia. The German destruction of Yugoslavia and Greece in April and May of prompted no words of criticism from the Kremlin. Yet that diversion of German military efforts may have played a part in Russia's salvation. The armored divisions required for the subjugation of Yugoslavia and the drive into Greece had been selected for the invasion of Russia.

So had many of the bombers that destroyed Belgrade in a day. Consequently, Barbarossa was set back from late May to the third week in June. When, in April, the panzers turned north for Poland and the German armies gathering there, Churchill sent Stalin an urgent warning that the invasion was at hand.

The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat
The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat
The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat
The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat
The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat The Greatest Blunders of World War II: How Errors Mistakes and Blunders Determined Victory or Defeat

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