Seven Blunders That Changed The Course Of History
Seven Blunders That Changed The Course Of History

Seven Blunders That Changed The Course Of History

Jeanette Lamb - January 23, 2017

Seven Blunders That Changed The Course Of History
Napoleon’s withdrawal from Russia, a painting by Adolph Northern. Wikipedia

Napoleon, the great war strategist, is defeated by warm weather.

The year was 1812. It was early in September. Following a number of failed attempts to make peace, the Russians and the French forces of Napoleon came face to face on Russian soil. A brutal battle occurred, leaving 75,000 men dead.

It is estimated forty-four thousand Russian and thirty-five thousand French were lost on that day of fighting. Napoleon was triumphant. But he didn’t feel like a victor. Indeed, the victory marked the beginning of a run of bad luck for the French emperor. After a few weeks in Moscow, Napoleon was informed of rebellion in France. He did not hesitate to order his troops to mobilize and return home.

Napoleon knew once his army reached Poland they would be out of enemy territory. All they needed to do to reach that safe haven was cross the Berezina River and head directly for Poland. The river was easy to cross, usually – especially as it was usually frozen solid in November. But it had not been a cold winter and the river wasn’t frozen. Instead, there was just cold, rushing, water.

So Napoleon’s engineers had to erect a bridge across the cold but rushing water. The 100-meter long makeshift structure managed to get the cavalry and infantry across safely enough. But 20,000 troops were lost as they rushed to cross the bridges and fell into the icy waters.

Seven Blunders That Changed The Course Of History
President John F. Kennedy answers questions at a press conference about the attempted invasion of Cuba. Newsweek

The United States invades Cuba with disastrous results.

Before New Year’s Eve 1959, Cuba was a vibrant destination, a supplier of sugar, oil coffee – and banks. But on the 1st January 1960, the Cuban revolution began. Cuba aligned itself with the United States’ arch enemy, the Soviet Union. It was the height of the Cold War. Overnight, the tiny island just 90 miles south of Florida become a danger zone. For Cuba was the perfect place for the U.S.S.R. to use as a military base for any attack on the US mainland.

The reaction by the United Sates government was to set up covert operations, designed to support Cuba’s counter-revolutionaries attempting to overthrow Fidel Castro. The United States could not risk being perceived to be involved in supporting the rebels in any way. And so, the Bay of Pigs Invasion was conceived.

To disguise American involvement, Cuban exiles were trained in invasion tactics from military bases in Guatemala. The aim was to drop the U.S trained counter-revolutionaries into Cuba during the night. They would land in a swampy bay, known as the Bay of Pigs. From there, they would lead an attack against Castro; the local Cuban population would no doubt join their brothers in arms and fight. It might have been a good plan, except it began falling apart before it ever got moving.

Soon after its conception, word about the invasion spilled through the streets of Miami. Castro knew about the plan and it was soon in all the Cuban newspapers. On April 15, 1961, when the plot was officially launched, photographs of U.S. planes painted to look like the Cuban Air Force were decorating news headlines. Castro, of course, had his troops on alert ready for the invasion.

Upon arrival, the counter-revolutionaries were greeted with heavy gunfire. Kennedy reacted by sending unmarked B-26s to support their effort. But the planes arrived an hour late and were shot down at once.

The reason for the delay? Details, details — no one took any notice of the fact there was a one-hour time-zone difference between Nicaragua and Cuba.