Missed opportunities in military history

Nov 2011
4,640
Ohio, USA
#1
What do you all think were great 'missed opportunities' in military history?

One that comes to my mind right away was France not invading Germany in 1939, when almost the entire German army was away in Poland.
 
Aug 2010
6,736
Ireland
#2
Charles XII of sweden's failure to stay for the battle of pruth in 1711. after the battle of poltava in 1709 Charles XII army was destroyed and he was forced to retreat with what survivors remained. he stayed with the ottoman sultan who had now marshaled an army of 100,000 men. as peter the great advanced towards the pruth river near modern Moldavia he finds himself cut off as the Crimean tartars attack from the east and the ottomans from the west. peters army was trapped and faced certain destruction. yet then the ottomans gave him some very generous terms whereby he was allowed to leave with his army so long as he abandoned some cities on the black sea and dismantled the black sea fleet, Charles XII who had earlier been offered the chance to stay for the battle by the ottoman sultan refused and headed home. had he stayed on he would have seen his nemesis trapped and could have convinced the ottoman sultan to attack and destroy him. had this happened russia would have lost a great leader and Charles may have regained the initiative and control over the baltic area which had been lost in the war with peter the great. who knows how history may have unfolded then?
 
Nov 2009
1,577
Texas
#4
The Ottomans in the Pruth River campaign. Baltaci Mehmet Pasha had Peter the Great at his mercy and let him and his walk away virtually unscathed. The Ottomans got the return of Azov and some minor concessions on the Black Sea coast, when they could have either annihilated the Russians or forced much harsher terms on them. Peter admitted that he would have been forced to give the Ottomans almost anything they wanted. The Ottomans could have overturned the result of the Great Northern War and restored Sweden's Baltic Empire among other things.
 

tjadams

Ad Honoris
Mar 2009
25,362
Texas
#5
Many, many times during the American Civil War, <1861-65>
the Union armies, lead early on by overly cautious
and incompetent generals, could have defeated the Confederates
only if they followed up certain engagements. The
CSA always seemed to slip away just in time.
 
Nov 2011
16
#6
Late 1776 - American revolutionary war - During Washington's retreat across New Jersey after a string of defeats in and around New York, had Gen. Howe been more aggressive in his pursuit, they could have crushed the reeling Continental army and ended the rebellion.
 

Jake10

Ad Honoris
Oct 2010
11,960
Canada
#7
At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese could have gone on to destroy the repair docks, fueling stations and remaining ships. They might have even invaded Hawaii later on.
 
Jun 2010
159
Aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini
#8
I second the Civil war example. From McClellan's hilarious overestimation of enemy strength (ie. Siege of Yorktown in the Penninsula Campaign) to Burnside catching the confederates completely by surprise in the Fredricksburg campaign and watching while they occupied the heights opposite, to Hooker loosing all will to fight once he was facing the enemy...Hard to say any of these things would have doomed the confederates, but they were glaring military flaws nonetheless.

One famous example is Hannibal's reluctance to march on Rome after Cannae, i think he had too much faith that all of Rome's allies would desert.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, after the Soviets had surrounded the Germans in the city, Hitler would not allow his men to retreat from a clearly impossible military situation. The breakout force was within a few miles of the German's lines but Hitler would not allow the Germans inside to move an inch. Had he allowed them to link up with the breakout forces, he could have saved 300k soldiers
 
Oct 2009
2,178
the Boomtown Shenzhen
#9


Above: The USS Shaw took three bombs in the forward mag.

At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese could have gone on to destroy the repair docks, fueling stations and remaining ships. They might have even invaded Hawaii later on.
Yes, Pearl was actually an enormous missed opportunity, as I have written elsewhere, we would have still been digging them out of South East Asia today had they finished the job at Pearl (fuel dumps) and more importantly waited until the carriers returned. Apparently (I've just finished watching an interview with a Japanese spy) their agents were using the public telegraph system and the fleet was maintaining radio silence, for the most part, so there wasn't a whole lot of communication between them.
 
Aug 2010
6,736
Ireland
#10
During the Battle of Stalingrad, after the Soviets had surrounded the Germans in the city, Hitler would not allow his men to retreat from a clearly impossible military situation. The breakout force was within a few miles of the German's lines but Hitler would not allow the Germans inside to move an inch. Had he allowed them to link up with the breakout forces, he could have saved 300k soldiers
well that's open to debate as Hoths panzer corps was still about 50km from the nearest point of the kessel and Palrus claimed they only had enough fuel to make it less the 20km. those 50km would have become a mass killing field but more would still have probably escaped then those who actually survived to make it home, 6000.
 

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