History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach

History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach
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24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Petersburg: Union Digs Its Own Grave—1864
Follow the chain of events that led to the Civil War's ill-fated Battle of the Crater, a notable example of what can happen in warfare when a plan goes awry…
Episode 2 Syracuse: Athens’s Second Front—413 B.C.
From initiating a second front with a new enemy to dividing supreme command among multiple generals, see how failures of decision-making and leadership spelled disaster for the Greek city-state of…
Episode 3 Carrhae: The Parthian Shot—53 B.C.
The Roman military suffered one of its most humiliating defeats at the hands of the smaller Parthian force at the Battle of Carrhae. Discover how this shocking defeat involved glaring…
Episode 4 Red Cliffs: Cao Cao’s Bad Day—208 A.D.
Even outstanding commanders can have a bad day, as evidenced by one of the most celebrated conflicts in Chinese history: the battle of Red Cliffs. How did general Cao Cao…
Episode 5 Barbarian Gate: Adrianople—378, Pliska—811
Although waged 400 years apart, the battles of Adrianople and Pliska share a number of curious similarities. Explore how both defeats were triggered by the Romans' mistreatment of immigrant "barbarian"…
Episode 6 Fourth Crusade: Byzantium Betrayed—1204
Innocent III initiated the Fourth Crusade to recapture control of the Holy Lands from Muslim rulers, but Crusaders ultimately rampaged through Christendom. Learn what led to the brutal attack and…
Episode 7 Kalka River: Genghis Khan’s General—1223
More than 40,000 Russians were slain at the hands of the Mongols at the Kalka River, including six princes and 70 noblemen. Examine the factors that led to the allied…
Episode 8 Courtrai: Knights versus Shopkeepers—1302
At the Battle of Courtrai in 1302, a French army of the finest knights equipped with the best available arms and armor was beaten by what many viewed as an…
Episode 9 Nagashino: Taking Swords to a Gunfight—1575
The Battle of Nagashino was the culmination of a multi-generational conflict with some of the most memorable battles and colorful figures in Japanese history. Although both armies possessed guns, only…
Episode 10 Cartagena: High Walls, Short Ladders—1741
The most spectacular battle of the War of Jenkins' Ear was a massive amphibious assault launched against the Spanish port city of Cartagena, Colombia. Trace how this expedition began with…
Episode 11 Culloden: The Bonnie Prince Blunders—1746
Prince Charles Edward Stuart disembarked a French warship onto the shore of Scotland intent on restoring the House of Stuart over England and Scotland. As you delve into the battle…
Episode 12 Russia: Napoleon Retreats in the Snow—1812
Napoleon made many mistakes in his campaign to invade Russia, a fatal miscalculation that led to his downfall and blemished his legacy as a brilliant general. Investigate his errors here,…
Episode 13 Afghanistan: Khyber Pass Death Trap—1842
Propelled by paranoia about Russian plots, the First Afghan War was an unmitigated disaster for the British. See how their attempt to protect the East India Company's interests resulted in…
Episode 14 Crimea: Charge of the Light Brigade—1854
Although a minor incident, the Charge of the Light Brigade has gained a reputation as both a glorious moment in the history of warfare and one of the greatest military…
Episode 15 Greasy Grass: Custer’s Last Stand—1876
Military historians still argue over what happened and who was at fault in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Examine why this battle between George Custer's cavalry and the Lakota…
Episode 16 Isandlwana: 25,000 Zulus Undetected—1879
How could an army accompanied by cannon and rocket artillery be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears, clubs, and a smattering of outdated firearms? Find out in this account…
Episode 17 Adwa: Italy’s Fiasco in Ethiopia—1896
Learn how overconfidence, miscommunication, and miscalculation were all displayed by the Italians at Adwa in Ethiopia, resulting in one of the greatest victories of a native people over an imperial…
Episode 18 Colenso: The Second Boer War—1899
The Boer War's Battle of Colenso marked a turning point in military tactics, as the British forces clung to obsolete methods of fighting in the face of new weaponry and…
Episode 19 Tannenberg: Ineptitude in the East—1914
The Battle of Tannenberg was a brilliant victory for the Germans--made possible by the many errors committed by the Russians. Discover how the Germans turned the tables on Alexander Samsonov,…
Episode 20 Gallipoli: Churchill Dooms Allied Assault—1915
With World War I bogged down in trench warfare, Britain attempted to break the stalemate--which had tragic results in the Gallipoli campaign, an infamous episode of military incompetence. See where…
Episode 21 World War II: Royal Navy Goes Down—1941–42
Examine two of the worst naval disasters in the Britain's history, the causes of which include both grossly underestimating and overestimating the enemy: the sinking of the Royal Navy's most…
Episode 22 Dieppe Raid: Catastrophe on the Beach—1942
From conception to execution, the Dieppe raid was filled with unclear objectives and poor planning. Why did the Allies undertake such an ill-fated attack on this German-occupied French city? Find…
Episode 23 Operation Market Garden: A Bridge Too Far—1944
Operation Market Garden is routinely listed among the great military mishaps of World War II. Investigate the Allies' numerous errors in planning, organization, and execution in this bold air/land mission,…
Episode 24 The Great Blunders: Four Paths to Failure
Review the conflicts in this course to determine the major recurrent errors leading to such blunders. Then, turn to the final case study: a location and culture encompassing modern-day Afghanistan…

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