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Top military disasters: 20th century

Rank Topic Wikipedia views
Oct 21 2010
1 The Attack on Pearl Harbor seemed a serious victory against the US Pacific Fleet for the Empire of Japan on December 7th 1941. However, the attack came to be a long term strategic blunder that inflicted little significant lasting harm on American forces while provoking an overwhelming response that led to Japan's crushing defeat. 16036
2 The Allied Dieppe Raid on German-occupied France in 1942 ended with ~60 % of the attacking force being lost in battle without any of the major objectives of the raid achieved. 10602
3 The Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942/43 was one of the turning points of World War II. The German General Friedrich Paulus failed to keep a mobile strategic reserve and the entire (and formerly invulnerable) 6th Army was surrounded on all sides by a rapid Russian flanking attack. Rubble caused by excessive bombing and artillery by the German troops had left their tanks unable to effectively enter the city. The German troops in Stalingrad surrendered even though Hitler had promised that they would never leave the city. 7095
4 The Battle of the Somme - an attempt by Allied forces to break the German line during WWI, remembered most for the incredibly high casualties suffered by the British Army. Over 19,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day of the battle, due in part to ineffective artillery preparation of the objective and a gross underestimation of German fortifications. 6104
5 The Bay of Pigs Invasion, a United States-backed 1961 attempt to overthrow Cuban President Fidel Castro with 1,500 Cuban exiles. Not only were the exiles heavily outnumbered when they reached the bay, but the US-promised air support never came to aid the exiles. 4619
6 The naval Battle of Midway. Admiral Yamamoto of the Imperial Japanese Navy attempted to invade the American navy base at Midway Island. US navy intelligence broke his codes and anticipated the attack. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost four fleet carriers in three days partly due to the decision to refuel their aircraft simultaneously on the flight deck, making the fuel hoses and aircraft vulnerable to bombing. 4097
7 The Battle of France in 1940 - the French Army moved to meet the Germans inside Belgium, believing the Maginot Line would force the Germans to rerun the Schlieffen Plan, but was cutoff by a German advance through the Ardennes, which the French had believed was impassable for tanks. Unlike World War 1 when trench warfare caused Paris to stay French for 4 years, the entire Battle for France was over in 2 months. 3588
8 Operation Market Garden A British plan to encircle the Ruhr Area and end the war by Christmas. The plan failed due to the entire army having to advance along a single road, making them vulnerable to attack on both sides, costing over 15,000-17,000 Allied casualties. 2581
9 USS Liberty incident, the United States Navy Technical Research Ship USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli jets and torpedo boats on June 8, 1967, after the ship was supposedly mistaken for an Egyptian vessel. A total of 34 sailors were killed and 171 wounded, and the ship was heavily damaged. 1898
10 The Halifax Explosion - A French ship laden with explosives collided with the Norwegian ship Imo, causing massive explosions resulting in a tsunami which devastated the city of Halifax (Canada) 1739
11 The Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which forced the French to withdraw from northern Vietnam in 1954. 1597
12 Operation Eagle Claw, a US attempt to rescue hostages in Iran. This operation was marked by a series of mechanical and communication failures that lead to the deaths of 8 American servicemen, and failed to rescue the hostages. 1358
13 The fall of Singapore (believed to be an impregnable fortress) in February 1942 to two Japanese divisions was the largest surrender of British-led troops in history and destroyed the linchpin of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command. The British Commonwealth overestimated the size of the Japanese invasion force which was 1/3 of the size of the defending force and surrendered. 1307
14 The Battle of Tsushima – the Russian Baltic fleet was sent halfway around the world in a suicidal attack on the Japanese in the Tsushima Straits in 1905. 1145
15 Operation Bagration (1944) the Soviet summer offensive sliced through the Germans and reached Poland within two weeks, the offensive also destroyed army group centre, the backbone of German forces in the east. 814
16 1967 USS Forrestal fire – a disastrous fire broke out aboard the aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, killing 134, injuring 161, destroying 21 aircraft and costing the Navy $72 million. John McCain was a US Navy pilot aboard the aircraft carrier at the time and his aircraft was one of the first involved in the fire. 583
17 The Battle of Longewala, a battle of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 in which an Indian force of 120 infantry men armed with small arms repelled a Pakistani force comprising of 2800 soldiers and 65 tanks. 506
18 Operation Compass in North Africa during winter 1940/41. The Italian army built their forts too far apart so they were not mutually supporting, and lacked tanks or other mobile forces. A British force of 35,000 men was able to rout the Italian army of 150,000, forcing them back 800 km and capturing around 3 times their own number for almost no losses. 402
19 The Battle of Annual in 1921. A 20,000-man Spanish-Moroccan force in the Rif was annihilated by Abd el Krim's much-smaller rebel force, initiating the Rif War. 81
20 The 2008 attack on Omdurman and Khartoum was an attempt by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfur-based rebel group, to capture the Sudanese cities of Khartoum (the capital) and Omdurman (the largest city). The attacks were repulsed by Sudanese military and police forces. The bodies of 90 JEM rebels were found, with dozens more scattered outside the city, and two thirds of their 180 vehicles were destroyed. Scores of JEM rebels were captured, and many were executed. 66
21 The Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 and early 1916. A combined British, Commonwealth and French attempt to capture Istanbul fails completely at the Gallipoli peninsula. 8
22 Operation Typhoon, the failed German drive towards Moscow in 1941 was exacerbated by the German decision to not bring along any winter clothing and vehicle antifreeze. < 5
23 The Maginot line - although from a strictly technical viewpoint the line itself functioned as designed, it was emblematic of a deeply flawed defensive strategy. < 5


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