You can read by review here: Review of History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach

But here’s the notes that I took, things that I found interesting and lessons that I learnt from listening to this lecture series.

Great military blunders,

4 main failures that lead to blunders in warfare.

  1.  Failures of planning,
    2. Failures of leadership,
    3. Failures of execution
    4. Failures of adaptation

Never fight two wars at once
Be ready, but when ready don’t delay

The battle of red cliffs, Cao Cao. General in China

-Failure of his attempt at unification , led to the 3 kingdoms period of Chinese history.
-He was one of the generals string to restore the han empire
-Made his name in he yellow turban rebellion.
-Cao cao became a warlord in the North.

Q-Why did the Han empire disintegrate?

-Liu yu bei general in the South West.
-Zhu gei liang brilliant military strategist for liu yu bei.

“Even the most powerful arrow fired from the strongest crossbow cannot even pierce one layer of silk at the end of its flight”

To describe that an army fatigued cannot be of much use, no matter how powerful it once was”
-Try romance of the 3 kingdoms. Features the battle of redcliffs.
-1 of the 4 great novels.
Red cliffs film.

Crusades – constanopolis. 1st crusade victory to conquer the holy lands. Byzantine empire, 3 alexi s all claimed rightful rulers of the land, crusaders were essentially bought, Pope John Paul the 2nd said they were fighting in his name, but in Fact weren’t , at the end of the 4th crusade the crusaders had turned to become murderers and rapists and stole many artefacts, the Pope said they were bad…But still took tribute part possession of the treasure they stole.

What a bastard

Chapter 7– Mongolian empire

Temojin = Genghis khan
Suba tai a great mongol empire general

Chapter 9- the Japanese with guns

Don’t go for a glorious battle. Go for a battle that you will win.
Japanese general wanted a glorious battle, one that wasn’t about defence but about attack, and therefore was lost.
-keep weapons maintained and functioning to the best of the ability. In this case gun powder & Flint’s dry.
-keep attackers defended. They are your winning points, if they die.. it is difficult to win.

Notes on story telling, difficult to imagine which side is which. Would help so much with basic drawings or animations.

Chapter 10 Spanish and the English trade wars cheating on treaties.

<The war of Jenkins ear>

Chapter 11 – Aim to restore the house of Stuart.

Ex prince of England and Scotland

Chapter 12 – Napoleon in Russia

Some Russians left notes with their burnt down houses in Moscow, so as to deny them from the enemy.
-Denying things from your enemy can also be a powerful tool, allows you to retreat and doesn’t allow them to have a comfortable takeover.
-Napoleon lost about 30,000 men on that battle.
-Recipes came our of ‘slartan gruel’ snow, dirt, axel grease and sprinkled with a bit of gun powder.
-Due to the winter and his retreat through the freezing cold etc, only 35,000 (French) were left from an initial 400,000 men. 50,000 if you count the allied forces.

The Russians lost a similar number, therefore the total cost of Napoleon’s attempted invasion of Russia was over 1 million lives.
-Napoleon also lost all the horses and animals.
-And so was down on cavalry for the next battles.
On his defeat in Russia, his allies left him and made a pan-european coalition against him.

-After battles of wypsic?? And Waterloo he was indeed brought down.

Moral: Don’t expect how your enemy will react. Don’t count on it. Or assume that they will definitely do something.
-Always use meritocracy (a system of merit) to advance the leaders of an army, don’t just give command to your brother like Napoleon did.
-Try for easy , easier wins at the start, don’t sacrifice on this. Ensure that you get them because they increase moral, decrease moral for the enemy, and you can gain resources. & A chance to rest.
-Don’t be prideful, to not know when to cut your losses.

This war ended up blemishing Napoleon’s reputation as a brilliant general.

Chapter 13- the 1st Afghan war.

Afghanistan. Lone rider in some mountain pass retold event of British troops getting slaughtered by Afghani tribal people

British east India trading company controlled the region with private armies.

Chapter 14 the Crimean war.

Florence nightingale, trench warfare, modern tactics, live via telegram to people back home. Establishment of modern nurses practices and techniques.
-War and peace comes from this war.
-First tactical employment of railway.
-Start of the war was bizarre due to being who controlled the keys of a nativity store room in a church in Bethlehem.

-Famous battle of balaclava, the charge of the light brigade.
-Shows miscommunication and the problems with it as the British attacked the wrong target.
-Real real behind this build up = declining power of the ottoman empire.
-And other nations squabbling about gaining land or benefitting from the breakup of the ottoman empire.

Moral: Then giving messages to convey out it in two forms. Written and oral for clarification.
-Get messenger to repeat it back to you. Otherwise the wrong message could be conveyed AND the wrong action could be taken.

Chapter 15 – Montana territory.  1876

Chief sitting bull.

<<When were guns actually made? And when were they popularised?

Indians vs. white Americans.

The battle of little big horn. Or the battle of the greasy grass.

Native Erica’s won. Wiped out George Armstrong Custer.
Custer loved self promotion, he wore a custom army jacket to stand himself apart.

Why? Gold was supposedly found in the black hills where Indians considered it sacred.
-White Americans decided to just take it.
-And therefore essentially declared war.
-Ultimatum made to get natives to move to reservations. To be enforced by white American troops.

Crazy horse, fierce and brave fighter.
-Reno went through 11 gallons of whiskey I’m 22 days. << How much is a gallon?

Chapter 16 – Zulus

Technological inferiority… British had a huge power advantage. Tech advantage.
Allowed the British to view themselves as superior, and arrives as savages.
Battle of isan wana. 1879.
Umma buthu system.
-“Natives must be crushed to show their inferiority. ” British army leader. Chelmswood
-Discovery of diamonds in the area.
-Zulus good use of scouting, strategy and stealth.

Reason for British loss: Overconfidence and lack of respect for his enemy

Chapter 18- Ethiopia vs Italian army. 1896

Battle of odwa.
-Von Bismark, presented the conference of Berlin. Dividing up Africa
-Ascari = name of Italian troops.
-Italians. Lack of group strategy, and clear orders. Italians lost.
-Instead of follow up campaign Ethiopia declared itself a sovereign nation.

Chapter 19 – 2nd boa war

Boas were more camouflaged, all hunters, commando decisions with democratically elected officers, leaders.
-Dug trenches and fox holes.
-Had superior German rifles with smokeless gun powder, and magazine clips of 5 rounds so quick loading, they knew their land well.
-Boa leader was simple and caring, but knew how to blend into the land.-
British were led by a guy that although had a lot of experience still used old tactics.
-Didn’t like trench warfare or sniping tactics.
-But boas maps were old and could have moved more.

-British outnumbered boas 20,000 to 5,000.
-British plan was very bad, didn’t recognise the main strategic position which would have allowed them to fire into boa position.
-Battle of calenso.
-British losses. 1127 killed missing captured
-Boa losses. Fewer than 50.

Reason for British loss: Poor scouting, outdated tactics , and errors of judgment made by the British.
Battle of spion cock. Lost another battle against the boas.

Chapter 19 – Tenenburg. East Prussia Russia. 1914 

Samsonoff Russian general. Committed suicide.
-Germany, Italy, Austrian empire. Vs France, Russia, UK.
-Schlieffen plan. 6 week plan to knock out France.
-8th army to guard eastern border with Russia.
-150,000 German deaths. Vs 400,000 Russian.
-Russian generals didn’t like each other.
-Paul van Hindenburg replaced uneasy German general.
-Ludendorff 2nd in command.

Russian messages not coded.
-Russians plans found on a dead officer.
-Lack of communication on Russian side.
-The day of the harvesting. Russian 140,000 casualties. Russian surrender.
-If they captured Paris , German might have won WW1.

Chapter 20 – Gallipoli

Outcome: Churchill damns allies.
-British advantage over Germany = navy.
-Hamilton UK general was vague in instructions, and made an unnecessary complicated plan. 7 beach landings.
-Stupid assumption that Turks were cowardly.
-Turks defences were very formidable.
-28,000 UK troops. 5 beaches.
-32,000 ANZAC troops on ‘z’ beach.
-17,000 French troops on another concolei beach.
-Uk betrayed Anzac to some degree. Anzac asked to retreat… Denied.
-Uk captured the beach but didn’t get strategic control.
-Hamilton s orders were too polite. Not definite.
-Evacuation was actually very well planned.
-Hardly any losses.
-Losses. Uk 2500
-Aus. 7500
-France. 10,000

500,00 committed. Half died.

Churchill later removed as head of admiralty.

Mustaffa kamal. Turkish leader that initially repelled invasion.
-ANZAC troops bravery became cornerstone of culture.

Inadequate minesweepers

Identity of 3 countries , Australia, NZ, Turkey was forged here.

Chapter 21 – WW2 British navy goes down

Reason for British loss:  British arrogance was their own downfall. 2 separate events during WW2.

-Misjudging their opponents.
-Japanese underestimated. Germans over estimated.
-Previously the overwhelming majority of these were getting through to sustain the Russian was effort. June 1942
U-boat and air attacks.

-June 27th 1942
-35 merchant vessels, 6 navy destroyers, over a dozen smaller warships. Got 2 thirds of the way, no problems. (Only 3 ships sunk)
-Told by some old general to scatter, and almost all was lost.
-Commanding officer /admiral. Dudly Pound. Was elderly and experienced but also overly frantic from German attack. Believed the Terpitz was on its way to destroy them. (Not very founded)
-Terpitz German warship that they were thinking of intercepting this convoy with.
-PQ17 35 cargo ships to Russian allies.
-26 sunk.  Vital cargos, tanks(430), planes( 210), jeeps and trucks (3,000), 100,000 tons of vital supplies were lost. Months of industrial production.
-Caused the suspension of the whole convoy system for 4 months.
-Prince of Wales sinking from the Japanese.

Also a case of underlings having to obey illogical orders. Just because that mentality has been ground into them from such and early time.
-Sure to be a blunder.
-Bad decision making, and misjudging ones enemies.
-Grossly underestimated the competence of the Japanese army.
-Uk planes were actually far inferior to Japanese planes. British ethnocentricism effectively blinded them.
-Also overestimated the aggressiveness of the Germans.

Chapter 22- August 19th 1942 Canadian and British troops , amphibious raid on German held French town of Diep

1 of the worst casualty rates of WW2.
-In 6 hours 4100 people killed or captured.
-68% of people. Over 80% of the infantry that landed on the beach was lost.
-Germans only lost 600 men.

British under pressure from the Russian to invade Germany from the west to allies pressure on the Russians.
-Responsibility = combined operations.
-Leader= Lord mount batton
-Operation jubilee.
-Sounds like a pretty intense battle. However the goals of the attack were too many, with such a terrible beach landing position.
-On a very heavily fortified location.

Lesson. Frontal attacks don’t work so well.
-Navy and army are not connected enough.
-Aircraft can bomb. Navy can bombard. But both were asked to join…But were reluctant and caused army to lose out.

1st moments of an attack are the most important. For everything to be ready, good to go is critical.
-Tanks arrived 15 mins later compared to the infantry. Arriving late destroyed infantry moral , reluctance to push forward.
-Logistics is incredibly important then.

Lesson: Terrain very important. Shingle (type of churned rock) proved that tanks got stuck in them.

Moral: Got to ask yourself, what is the exact situation, what is the exact terrain? How may we be hindered?  And may we be prevented not just based on the enemy but by natural environments.

Conception to execution…The whole thing had problems.
-German officer afterwards. “Too small for an invasion. Too big for raid. Germans were unsure by what the allies were trying to do.”

Churchill and Batton, tried to claim that this disaster they managed to learn hard lessons for invasion at d-day. Plus maybe modification to specialised vehicles.
-Even though of course they should have been obvious.

Chapter 23 – Holland. Operation market garden. September 17 1944.

Allies overconfident once again.
-Montgomery and Patton.
-40,000 troops by parachute and glider. Capture designated sections of bridges.
-But they would be isolated.
-Ground army would then reach each paratrooper claimed area.

All about the river Rhine.
-Last area was Arnhem.
-Speed is the central part.
-30 core = the tank brigade.

Problem: Dutch roads very narrow, and marsh land very unsuitable to tanks.
-All Germans had to do was cut the narrow road.
-If any 1 part failed, then the whole thing would fail.

‘a bridge too far’ about trying to capture Arnhem bridge…Thought to be too far.
Movie produced.

Eindhoven. 18 miles behind enemy lines.
-British and American joined taskforce.
-Germans blew up some bridges so as not five them away to the enemy (British and American)
-Engineers could rebuild bridges though.

What went wrong: Communication was terrible. Incorrectly tuned, or lacked range. Therefore could not communicate with each other, or with high command.
-Maps weren’t detailed for the town they were meant to capture.

Commander in Arnhem =Frost. Had 750 men.
-Germans responded well to the surprise of this attack.
-Airdrops to the wrong locations. 390 tonnes of supplies dropped only 12 recovered by the British.
-10,000 men dropped, 2,000 escaped.

Total casualties of British =17,000
-Germans less than 1/3

-Battle of the Aden forrest, Germans strike back.
–Bad planning, organisation & execution.
-Unrealistic timetables.
-30 core nearly actually reached the bridge.
-Arnhem bridge now known as john frost bridge.

Chapter 24 – Alexander the great

How is a military blunder different from a military defeat?    It has to have been avoidable.

-When a leader or decision maker makes a decision that common sense, training or circumstance strong suggested it was unwise.
-Maybe someone had to fail to make an obvious decision.
-Sometimes deeper underlying structural flaws as well. Following orders unquestionably.

4 themes

1.Failures of planning

  1. Failures of leadership
  2. Failures of execution
  3. Failures of adaptation.

1. Planning. Decisions, Ommissions.

Strategic level, goals or objectives are unclear or poorly chosen.
-Benefits may be way less than potential losses.
-Excessively complex plans, not contingency for exit.
-Failure to gather proper intelligence. Enemy position and situation.
-Deliberately ignoring info which contradicts what the planners want to believe.
-Terrain understanding, and use it for planning.

Moral: Use your spies well. For real information up to date.


-Dithering, poor decisions. Unclear orders.

Moral: Know ones limitations.
-Proven competence in 1 area doesn’t automatically translate to competence in another arena.

Overconfidence. Arrogance of superiority, and own abilities. Same as underestimating the enemy. Possessing inferior technology.
-General needs to have confidence to inspire men… But can’t be overconfident.
-Boldness and rashness is not the same.

  1. Failures of execution

Tactical errors on the battlefield.
-Dividing ones army when it’s not needed.
-A clever enemy can entice the opposing leader to do exactly that, split up the main army and scatter. Easy pickings later.
-Control of the army is split amount several different generals. Resulting in unclear orders. Especially if generals are rivals or have animosity or are challenged by each other.

Morals: Branches of the armed services should work well together.

Failures in communication.
-Orders unclear, or tech problems.
-Inability to recognise when to cut ones losses.

  1. Failure to adequately adapt to change.

Clinging to outdated strategies or methods.
=Often because of technology change.
-Need to figure out HOW to use the tech completely. Better than the enemy.
-Failure to recognise that another segment is. Aircraft as compared to.sea power is now the more powerful weapon.

Me: USA failing to recognise that computer hacking is the more powerful tech, or weapon to cripple a society / enemy.

-Fundamental failure to learn from the past.
-Same mistakes different situations.
-Specific area.
-Borderline of India continent and central Asia. Modern Pakistan and Afghanistan.
-Controls access between Asia and Europe.
-Highlights entire military tech range.
-Invaded and fought over for over 2,000 years.

-Alexander the Great,  Victorian British, soviets. All technologically advanced but still all failed.
-2 key factors. Geography. Difficult to traverse.
-Complex tribal structures. Unified. Central administration fails in this.

-Alexander died from a fever whilst marching back to Babylon at age 33.
-Arrow might have impacted this though.

Moral: Learn from the mistakes of the past.

The past is still one of the best guides to the future.

In history you see examples of every sort of behaviour  acts. You can chose nobles deeds to emulate plus harmful acts to avoid.