Do you remember which President launched the Bay of Pigs Invasion, or which Commander in Chief shouldered the blame for the failed Operation Eagle Claw? Do you know when the Battle of Trenton took place, or which country Napoleon was trying to invade when he suffered a major 19th-century loss? Take our quiz to prove your military disaster IQ!
Throughout history, military organizations have been used to protect countries and their people, enforce borders and laws, and quash conflicts between groups with conflicting beliefs or agendas. Yet, as with every type of organization or undertaking, there are plenty of times when things take a wrong turn. When it comes to military disasters, this can mean an extensive loss of lives, both military and civilian, as well as the destruction of cities, property and million-dollar machinery.
Of course, how you define a military disaster depends on which side you're on. Because history is always written by the victors, what one side considers a disaster may be seen as a source of celebration by those on the other side. With the perspective of time, however, massive casualties of any kind can often be described as disastrous, no matter where your loyalties may lie.
Think you remember the details of some of the biggest disasters and defeats in military history? Take our quiz to find out!
After a group of radical students took 52 Americans hostage in Tehran in 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter was under immense pressure to resolve the crisis. Operation Eagle Claw was an attempt to rescue the hostages in 1980. It ultimately failed and left eight American soldiers dead, with the hostages still firmly under the control of the radical kidnappers.
The Six-Day War between Israel and the countries of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria spanned less than a week in June 1967 but was a major disaster for every participant but Israel. All parties lost major territory, ceding the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank to Israeli control.
The U.S. and President Kennedy suffered a major humiliation in 1961 with the Bay of Pigs Invasion. A CIA-trained military group was sent to Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro, only to be defeated in a matter of days. The incident strengthed Castro's hold over Cuba and helped spur the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 in Vietnam ended in disaster for the French. They were forced to withdraw from Vietnam, and the country was split along the 17th parallel, which ultimately led to the Vietnam War a few years later.
On December 8, 1941, the Japanese invaded the Philippines, resulting in one of the most significant military losses in U.S. history. More than 25,000 American and Filipino forces were killed, and a staggering 100,000 U.S. troops ended up as POWs.
The Battle of Stalingrad in Russia was one of the biggest battles in the history of war, with an estimated 2.2 million troops participating. Between August 1942 and February 1943, the Soviets fought Germany for control of Stalingrad. Though the battle was a decisive victory for the Soviets, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, with some estimates saying as many as 2 million men killed, captured or wounded.
There's a reason the Spanish refer to the Battle of Annual as the Disaster of Annual; it was a major blow to Spanish forces. Taking place in Morocco in 1921 during the Rif War, the Battle saw 20,000 Spanish troops defeated by just a few thousand Rif people (Northern Moroccans.)
The Gallipoli Campaign took place in 1915 in the country now known as Turkey. This WWI Battle began when France and England invaded in an attempt to capture Istanbul. They were driven back by the Ottomans and eventually withdrew their forces into Egypt. This military disaster meant 100,000 lives lost on each side of the battle.
The Siege of Kut took place between December 1915 and April 1916 during WWI. More than 30,000 lives were lost as the British attempted to capture Baghdad, only to be defeated by the Ottomans.
After some bad maneuvering during training exercises, the HMS Victoria, under the command of George Tryon, collided with the HMS Camperdown off the coast of Lebanon in 1893. The Victoria sank, taking 358 men, including Commander Tryon, to the bottom of the sea.
Just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese planned to attack an American naval base on the island of Midway. After American troops intercepted Japanese radio signals and learned of the plans, they were able to defend Midway and sink four Japanese carriers.
On June 25th and 26th, 1876 at the Battle of Little Bighorn, General Custer led U.S. Army forces into battle against Native American warriors in what is now known as Montana. Led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho destroyed Custer's forces and killed Custer himself.
Napoleon's reign came to an end at the Battle of Waterloo, which took place in what is now Belgium in June 1815. At Waterloo, the French leader and his troops were soundly defeated by British and Prussian forces. Napoleon abdicated his throne just a few days later.
During the Revolutionary War in 1777, the British and American troops met at Saratoga, NY. The Battle was a decisive victory for the Americans, with 6,000 British soldiers captured, but was also important because it led France to enter the War on the side of the colonists.
On October 2, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Typhoon. Unfortunately for him, his idea to attempt to take over Moscow just as the harsh Russian winter was beginning didn't end well for him or his troops, and the Soviets were able to send the Germans back across the border.
The September 1683 Battle of Vienna is remembered as one of the largest cavalry charges in history. A group of 20,000 soldiers from Poland, Germany, Hungary and other nations fought off Ottoman Turk invaders.
The Soviets seemed assured of victory when they invaded Poland during the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. Miraculously, the Polish troops were able to repel the Red Army, leading to heavy losses for the Soviet forces.
The Battle of the Yellow Ford was fought in Ulster, Ireland on August 14, 1598. It was a disaster for English troops, who were held off by Irish rebels, which gave the rebellion against English rule time to spread among the Irish people.
Everyone knows the story of Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas, but did you know what happened next? In a critical Revolutionary War moment, Washington's troops defeated the British-loyal Hessian soldiers at the 1776 Battle of Trenton.
The Battle of San Jacinto took place in 1836 during the Texas War for Independence from Mexico. Sam Houston led the Texas militia to victory against the Mexicans and General Santa Anna, who signed a Treaty recognizing Texas Independence to secure his release after he was captured.
Napoleon and his 500,000 troops marched into Russia in June 1812. A huge number of those troops never made it home, and by March 1814, Napoleon had been exiled to Elba.
In May 1588, Spain was eager to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and restore a Catholic monarch to the English throne. After sending 130 ships to attack England, the Spanish were forced to retreat after losing a third of their vessels and an estimated 15,000 men.
The U.S. was home to more than 7 million people in 1812 when the Americans decided to invade Canada, home to around 500,000 people, during the War of 1812. The invasion was a major disaster for the U.S., and the war ended two years later with the Treaty of Ghent.
Part of the Austro-Turkish War in the 18th century, the Battle of Karansebes took place in what is now Romania. Sometimes called the Battle of the Schnapps - there was alcohol involved - the Austrian Army fought against itself believing they were engaging the enemy. Historians put the friendly-fire death toll between 1,200 and 10,000.
The Battle of Solway Moss took place along the English-Scottish border in 1542. Hundreds of Scottish troops died, many of whom drowned in bogs rather than succumbing in combat.
Around 40,000 Ottomans tried to invade the island of Malta in 1565. After fighting a force of between 6,000 and 9,000 Maltese for four months, the Ottomans were forced to retreat after losing more than 10,000 men in the battle.
Tsushima is an island located halfway between Japan and South Korea. In 1905, it was the site of a battle fought in the Russo-Japanese War. The battle was a decisive victory for the Japanese, who managed to destroy more than two-thirds of Russia's fleet.
The Battle of Adwa took place just outside the city of Adwa, Ethiopia in March 1896. It was a decisive victory for the Ethiopians, who were successful in fighting off colonization by Italian troops.
While they were busy fighting American colonists in the War for Independence, Great Britain was also busy back in Europe. The Siege of Gibraltar was a failed attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British and cost the Spanish and French forces more than 5,000 men and dozens of ships.
The War of the League of Cambrai was fought in 1513 after King James IV of Scotland declared war on England. At the September 5th Battle of Flodden Field, the Scots lost 10,000 men, including King James himself.
The 1571 Battle of Lepanto was one of the largest naval battles in history, and one of the last to primarily rely on rowing vessels. In a battle against the Holy League of Spain, Venice and other allies, the Ottomans lost 200 ships and 40,000 men.
The Battle of Cajamarca was a major disaster for the Inca people and a huge victory for the Spanish conquistadors. It occurred in 1532 when a small group of Spanish men captured Inca ruler Atahualpa and killed thousands of Inca, with virtually no loss of Spanish life.
On June 30, 1520, the Aztecs drove Hernan Cortez and his Spanish forces out of Tenochtitlan in Mexico. The Spanish suffered heavy losses, and the event is now known as La Noche Triste or The Night of Sorrows.
The Battle of New Orleans took place on December 24, 1814. While the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed to end the War of 1812, troops weren't yet aware of this when the Battle of New Orleans began. In less than an hour of fighting, the British lost 2,000 men, compared to just 70 Americans, who were fighting under the command of Andrew Jackson.
The Battle of Antietam in Maryland during the Civil War was one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history. More than 20,000 troops lost their lives that day in 1862. The Battle was a major victory for the North, and Abraham Lincoln went on to issue the Emancipation Proclamation just a few days later.