Military History's Best Loser


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 '13 Moderator

    I have the Goldsworthy, so thank you for another suggested title.
    I will probably just flick through the one I own as a reminder.



  • Richard Miles - Carthage Must Be Destroyed


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @wittmann:

    Crossing the Alps was amazing, but it is important to remember at Cannae Hannibal faced a Roman army that switched commanders on a daily basis - a most bizarre and inefficient command structure. That was a weird system admittedly.

    The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, by Dupuy and Dupuy, decribes the Roman military system that existed just prior to the start of the Second Punic War.  At the time, Rome had two consuls in place each year (they changed every year).  Consuls were both elected civic officials and military field commenders, holding both military and political power.  Each of the two consuls commanded a consular army, each consisting of two Roman legions and two auxiliary legions.  When the two regular consular armies were joined for operational purposes, the consuls would alternate command every 24 hours.  My guess is that this practice reflects Roman republican reservations about putting too much power in the hands of one man (just look at what happened to Julius Caesar), plus the fact that consuls were elected civil officials rather than just generals.  Switching command every 24 hours kept the two consuls equal, and put a restraint on their power.  The concept of having a joint consular army under the permanent single command of just one of the two consuls (thus giving him command of not just his army but the other consul’s army too) would have raised the thorny question of just who would get to choose and designate that single commander.



  • @wittmann:

    I have the Goldsworthy, so thank you for another suggested title.
    I will probably just flick through the one I own as a reminder.

    It’s a fine book!



  • I have been reading on Charles XII of Sweden. What an awesome military mind. Shame that he died at such a young age and such a gruesome way.

    Found this quote of his, " I have resolved never to start an unjust war, but never end a legitimate one except by defeating my enemies."


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 '13 Moderator

    I think it is fantastic, remarkable even, that Sweden would dare to take on Russia. And that they did so well!
    Poltava in 1709 saddens me. I love victories against Russia. Sweden’s armies were something special and Charles was a great loser. Well said Worsham.



  • Hard to beat Hannibal.



  • I’m beginning to think that the main topic of this thread is whether the war between Rome and Carthage was primarily a land war or a naval war. And that any discussion other than that would be off-topic. Nonetheless, I’d like to discuss why I voted for von Manstein.

    1939: planned the invasion of Poland–a plan that crushed the bulk of Polish resistance in just two weeks.

    1940: other German generals, senior to von Manstein, had come up with a plan to take Belgium and some north Channel ports. France itself would be left basically intact. Von Manstein and Guderian came up with a bolder, more radical plan–a plan to defeat France outright. Hitler approved this latter plan over the resistance of most of his senior generals, which is why France fell.

    1941: von Manstein’s corps advanced much faster than neighboring parts of the German Army; making it a target for Soviet counterattacks.

    1942: in the Battle of Kerch Peninsula, forces under von Manstein’s command captured 170,000 Soviet prisoners, while losing only 8,000 Germans.

    Third Battle of Karkov: after the fall of Stalingrad, the German front was in disarray. Von Manstein prevented its collapse by launching a brilliant series of unexpected counterattacks; and achieving a favorable exchange ratio in the process.

    Battle of Kursk: von Manstein advised against the attack.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    It was already established as a land war a looong time ago unless elephants were used as boats and swim to Italy.



  • @Imperious:

    It was already established as a land war a looong time ago unless elephants were used as boats and swim to Italy.

    Wow, I recall this topic getting very lengthy. Lol


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Imperious:

    It was already established as a land war a looong time ago unless elephants were used as boats and swim to Italy.

    In shallow waters Hannibal’s elephants, owing to their trunks, would have been analogous to tanks fitted with snorkel tubes (for air intake and engine exhaust) to allow the tank to ford a river while submerged (as was planned for the Maus, which was too heavy for most bridges).  The Mediterranean is too deep to be forded that way, of course, but I guess Hannibal could have brought in his elephants on the Carthagenian equivalent of LSTs and then have allowed them to wade ashore on the final approach to the landing beaches like Duplex Drive Sherman amphibious tanks.  😄


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 '13 Moderator

    Thank you for bringing back this thread KurtGodel.
    I have enjoyed rereading parts.
    Your thoughts on Manstein are pertinent and well made.
    He was the man for the job and of the hour, undoubtably.



  • @wittmann:

    Thank you for bringing back this thread KurtGodel.
    I have enjoyed rereading parts.
    Your thoughts on Manstein are pertinent and well made.
    He was the man for the job and of the hour, undoubtably.

    Thanks Wittmann.

    One wonders what might have happened, had von Mannstein been placed in charge of the German war effort. The Allies had an overwhelming advantage in terms of both manpower and industrial strength. But if the Germans could have achieved sufficiently brilliant generalship, 100% of the time, might that have been enough to balance out the Allies’ overwhelming strategic advantages?

    The successful invasion of France was one example of brilliant generalship altering the strategic equation. That alone was insufficient to assure Axis victory, but it was a step in the right direction.

    In 1940, von Manstein felt that the invasion of Britain was risky but necessary. Before Germany could invade Britain, it needed air superiority over British skies. It came close to achieving that. But then Winston Churchill launched attacks on German cities. The effect on German civilian morale was devastating. Hitler was in many ways a politician first; and wanted to do something to increase German morale. He therefore ordered retaliatory bombings against British cities, instead of making the RAF his primary target. But if Germany hadn’t let itself get distracted that way; it would probably have achieved the air superiority necessary for an invasion to work. With von Manstein as the invasion planner, there is an excellent chance it would have worked.

    1941 represented a land grab against a Red Army unready for war. Von Manstein controlled a small but significant portion of this invasion force. Von Manstein’s portion moved significantly faster than the neighboring parts of the German Army. Had von Manstein been given control of the entire German eastern front, Germany would probably have taken Leningrad, and might also have taken Moscow. This isn’t Axis and Allies–the Soviet Union wouldn’t have had to hand over all its IPCs once Moscow fell. But even though Soviet resistance would have continued, the loss of all that additional land would have altered the Soviet strategic position.

    The German summer offensive of '42–intended to capture the Caucasus and the Baku oilfields–would also likely have achieved more, at a more favorable exchange ratio, had von Manstein been in charge.

    In '41, the German Army achieved a 10:1 exchange ratio against its communist foe. By '43, improvements in the Red Army had reduced the usual exchange ratio to 3:1. However, the Soviet Union had a prewar population of 169 million; as compared to only 69 million for Germany. Moreover, an increasingly large portion of Germany’s attention was being consumed by the Western democracies. In 1942, Germany and the Soviet Union each lost about 1 million soldiers at the Battle of Stalingrad. A tactical defeat of that magnitude had very serious strategic implications for a nation such as Germany. Germany’s strategic situation was such that it had to be tactically brilliant 100% of the time, because it simply could not absorb Stalingrad-like defeats. Had von Manstein been in charge from the get-go, Germany would probably have avoided the defeat at Stalingrad; significantly altering the strategic situation on its eastern front.

    In the actual war, von Manstein used a series of tactical battles to chip away at the Soviets’ strategic advantages in manpower and materiel. He often achieved exchange ratios far beyond what would have been required for an outright German victory on the eastern front. Had he been in charge of the entire German eastern front; then enough such victories could have forced Stalin to the negotiation table. Germany could have ended the war against the Soviet Union in control of a very significant portion of the Soviets’ prewar population, industrial capacity, farmland, and oil supply.

    Assuming Germany had (wisely) refrained from declaring war on the United States, the war would then be over; unless Britain insisted on fighting on from her colonial empire. There was a pro-war faction in the United States, which hoped to get the U.S. into WWII in much the same manner it had entered WWI. A long, dragged-out war between Germany and the British Empire would have given this pro-war faction additional opportunities to achieve its goals. But even if it did, Germany’s strategic situation would (by this point) be strong enough that an American victory would be far from reassured.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I don’t see how putting Mannstein in charge of planning Sea Lion would have compensated for the material deficiencies that made such an operation a virtual impossibility for Germany in 1940.  The British and the Americans, two first-rate sea powers, took two whole years (1942 to 1944) to build up the physical infrastructure of their own cross-Channel invasion, and that’s even taking into consideration that they started out in 1942 with much more significant existing naval assets than Germany ever had.

    The other material disadvantage under which Germany operated during most of the war, and which Mannstein could not have corrected unless he’d perhaps deposed and replaced Hitler as Fuhrer of Germany, was that the Nazi regime was pathetically inept at making efficient use of its economic and industrial base.  By late 1941, Germany controlled so much of Europe (including the USSR’s prime agricultural and industrial areas) that it had the potential to be an economic superpower – a potential advantage that (thankfully) it never exploited effectively.  Germany didn’t even bother putting its economy on a full war footing until after the fall of Stalingrad in February 1943, whereas Britain mobilized its own economy virtually from day one of the war.  Germany also frittered away its resources by pursuing helter-skelter a plethora of redundant or pointless military hardware development projects, in contrast with the Soviets who stuck to producing (and incrementally improving) just a few basic types of tanks and aircraft. Also, the Wehrmacht was so fussy about quality control that mass-production of major weapons like tanks was severely hampered.  So as a result of all this (to give just one example), the USSR produced many more tanks than Germany, and did so using much smaller quantities of steel – or to put it another way, the Soviet Union, for all of its industrial primitiveness, ended up being more industrially efficient that Germany in converting raw materials and labour into operationally practical weapons of war.  Albert Speer might have been in a position to fix some of these basic infrastucture problems if he’d been put in charge of the economy two or three or four years sooner, but the best that Mannstein – however brilliant he was on the battlefield – could have done as an army officer to improve Germany’s material position might have been to order the Wehrmacht to stop obsessing about every rivet on the production lines.



  • @CWO:

    I don’t see how putting Mannstein in charge of planning Sea Lion would have compensated for the material deficiencies that made such an operation a virtual impossibility for Germany in 1940.  The British and the Americans, two first-rate sea powers, took two whole years (1942 to 1944) to build up the physical infrastructure of their own cross-Channel invasion, and that’s even taking into consideration that they started out in 1942 with much more significant existing naval assets than Germany ever had.

    The other material disadvantage under which Germany operated during most of the war, and which Mannstein could not have corrected unless he’d perhaps deposed and replaced Hitler as Fuhrer of Germany, was that the Nazi regime was pathetically inept at making efficient use of its economic and industrial base.  By late 1941, Germany controlled so much of Europe (including the USSR’s prime agricultural and industrial areas) that it had the potential to be an economic superpower – a potential advantage that (thankfully) it never exploited effectively.  Germany didn’t even bother putting its economy on a full war footing until after the fall of Stalingrad in February 1943, whereas Britain mobilized its own economy virtually from day one of the war.  Germany also frittered away its resources by pursuing helter-skelter a plethora of redundant or pointless military hardware development projects, in contrast with the Soviets who stuck to producing (and incrementally improving) just a few basic types of tanks and aircraft. Also, the Wehrmacht was so fussy about quality control that mass-production of major weapons like tanks was severely hampered.  So as a result of all this (to give just one example), the USSR produced many more tanks than Germany, and did so using much smaller quantities of steel – or to put it another way, the Soviet Union, for all of its industrial primitiveness, ended up being more industrially efficient that Germany in converting raw materials and labour into operationally practical weapons of war.  Albert Speer might have been in a position to fix some of these basic infrastucture problems if he’d been put in charge of the economy two or three or four years sooner, but the best that Mannstein – however brilliant he was on the battlefield – could have done as an army officer to improve Germany’s material position might have been to order the Wehrmacht to stop obsessing about every rivet on the production lines.

    You’ve made good points in your post.

    Had Operation Sea Lion succeeded in 1940, it would have been because of two reasons:

    1. Because Germany had achieved air superiority.
    2. Because the British Army was temporarily very weak; so that even a small invasion force could achieve victory.

    After the fall of France, Germany had a brief window of opportunity during which the British Army was very weak.

    the Nazi regime was pathetically inept at making efficient use of its economic and industrial base.

    They were getting better at that as the war proceeded. Germany produced 15,000 military aircraft in 1942, and 41,000 military aircraft in '44. Germany produced 5,500 tanks in '42, and 19,000 tanks in '44. Moreover, the production in '44 contained a greater percentage of heavy tanks than had been the case in '42. Had Germany’s E-Series tanks been put into production, the pace of tank production could have been ramped up much more.

    The Soviet Union, for all of its industrial primitiveness, ended up being more industrially
    efficient that Germany in converting raw materials and labour into operationally practical weapons of war.

    True. Part of the reason for the above may be due to the lingering effects of the Versailles Treaty. Prior to 1933, the Versailles Treaty was like a noose, strangling both Germany’s economy and her military. It took Hitler a little time to escape from that noose completely. During the mid-'30s, Germany had to figure out how to create a real military; while also building the industrial base necessary to support that military. By 1938, it still didn’t have a good tank design–a problem which the annexation of Czechoslovakia helped solve. In 1939 Germany had light tanks only. By 1940 a few medium tanks were added to the force mix. In 1941 it was realized these medium tanks were greatly inferior to the T-34.

    the best that Mannstein – however brilliant he was on the battlefield – could have done
    as an army officer to improve Germany’s material position might have been to order
    the Wehrmacht to stop obsessing about every rivet on the production lines.

    Had von Manstein been in charge of the German military, it’s possible his brilliant generalship might have been enough to offset Germany’s (considerable) strategic disadvantages. Not necessarily likely, but possible. Those strategic disadvantages were so overwhelming that you wouldn’t think any general could have overcome them.



  • Other - Gustavus Adolphus. I think dying definitely counts as losing, and he was undoubtedly a military genius, using tactics as revolutionary for that time period as blitzkrieg or ‘Total War’ were for theirs.



  • The Swede’s were just plain awesome in the age of musket lol. So many great commanders.



  • @DarthShizNit:

    The Swede’s were just plain awesome in the age of musket lol. So many great commanders.

    No doubt, The Great Northern Kingdom had an elite battle force.


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