Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Top Five Most Stupid Battles of All Time

War is hell.  And stupidity.  Just ask any vet sporting one of those futuristic blade-runner legs they're fixing our amputee service-people with from Iraq or Afghanistan and they'll give it to you straight.  Sure, they volunteered, but that doesn't make war such a good idea. And if you want to know just how exactly dumbass war is, it totally flies in the face of evolution, removing the young and strong from the gene pool and leaving the old dip-shit admirals and generals who are too busy writing their memoirs and getting their brass knobs polished to do any actual generaling/admiraling to give the first fuck about the lives they're about to toss into the meat grinder.  As a testament to the idiodacity of war, I present you, in no particular order, with the five most stupid battles ever fought.

1. The Battle of New Orleans - War of 1812.  What should have gone down as the best showing of the new American Repiblic's armed forces under the dynamic leadership of General Andrew Jackson, who had a real goddamn pirate fighting on his side during the course of this humiliating rout of the British Army, instead must necessarily be consigned to the "Whoops, we blew our chunks all over THAT one!" file, because the Battle of New Orleans happened after the fucking war was already

Um, you guys are late.  Does this battle really count?

over!  If there were NFL referees, the U.S. of A. would be hit with a "personal foul-late hit" penalty for this monumental communications breakdown.  Now granted, it's not like General Jackson could have called up the White House and told them "We march at dawn!" and President Madison would have said, "Umm, don't because we just beat them, ok?"  Still, it's not like guys that died at the battle would have been like, "Ok, guess we'll just go home now and not get killed, so have a nice day!"  So to recap: big win, totally bogus battle.

2. The Battle of the Crater - U.S. Civil War.  The Confederate Army at Petersburgh was dug-in so superbly that finer trenches would have to wait for WWI to be built.  Robert E. Lee's troops nickname for their famous general was the King of Spades, not because he always seemed to have one up his sleeve during officer's poker-night, but because he properly understood the devastating effect of the rifled musket, the repeating rifle and the canister-shot shell, so he always had his troops well dug-in if time and conditions favored it.  This, of course, peeved Ulysses S. Grant to no end, who wished to march his Army of the Potomac right over Petersburgh on their way to Richmond.

The siege of Petersburgh had settled down to the dreary long-range artillery duel that so much of the Western Front would experience in 1914-1917, punctuated by sorties of brigade-sized units that made absolutely no headway, until one day, an officer from General Burnside's IX corps informed the mutton-chopped general he had an entire company of soldiers from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, the heart of coal mining country, who had an ingenious plan: they would tunnel under the Confederate lines. pack the tunnel with gunpowder, blow it up, charge through the gap and be heroes.  Burnside gave the go-ahead, but his superior, General George Meade, basically saw it as a way to keep the men busy during an otherwise boring siege.  An elite corps of black Union troops would lead the assault.  It would be totally kick-ass!

You will note at the center of the map, General, a very large crater.  Try and go around it if you can.

June 30 arrived, the mine was detonated, the Confederate lines were blown up, and then absolutely nothing went right after that.  The black troops were replaced by uninformed white troops whose commander was drunk the day of the battle.  And these troops, instead of intelligently charging around the massive crater in the earth where Confederate defenses used to be, charged straight down into the fucking crater, then got stuck and couldn't get out. The Confederates counterattacked, many of them giving turkey calls because a battle between two armies had just degenerated unto a turkey-shoot.  And so the siege of Petersburgh would go on for another seven months.

3. The Battle of Gettysburg - U.S. Civil War.  Robert E. Lee wasn't immune from making dumb strategic moves --he just made 85% fewer of them.  Case in point was the Battle of Gettysburg.  Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had invaded the North with two goals in mind: to win foreign intervention from Britain and/or France, and to bring about a negotiated settlement to the Civil War.  Although the war had been a nearly even affair up to that point, superior Union industry and numbers of soldiers were beginning to tip the balance.  Lee thought if his army could attack and take Pennsylvania's capital at Harrisburg, there would be a very good chance for an end to the war.

"Men! Up and to your posts!  Remember, you are from Old Virginia!
And you're working for Ted Turner!"
The one thing Lee didn't count on was Pennsylvania's macadam-covered turnpikes.  The Army of Northern Virginia was mostly shoeless, but they didn't really mind because most of the roads  they trod were dirt.  Macadam was a different story.  Think asphalt, but way more sharp and pointy.  His army was basically bleeding-out on the roads, and not a shot had been fired.  Lee's intelligence reported that there were shoes to be had up the road at the small town of Gettysburg, so he sent a detachment of troops to liberate said shoes.  Instead of returning triumphant with Pradas, Kate Spade's, vintage Chuck Taylors and classic Bostonians, Lee's scroungers ran into a detachment of dismounted Union cavalry, who stubbornly stood their ground.  So Lee sent more men in, forcing the Union elements to evacuate the town and take up positions on the best fucking terrain around.

During the night and into the next day, each side continued to pour more and more men into a totally nowheresville Pennsylvania town with absolutely no strategic value or military advantage.  And the shoes?  Someone had fucking lost them by day 1!  There was now nothing to do but fight: up Little Round Top, Culp's Hill, Seminary Ridge, the Peach Orchard, the Wheat Field, the Devil's Den, the Sunken Road, and finally, make George Picket destroy his entire division attacking the union center in the stupidest frontal assault of all time.  To his credit, Lee realized what a total mind-numbingly dip-shit he had been to fight here of all places, claiming the loss was "All [his] fault," but I personally think he should have been busted down to sergeant for such total pig-headed stupidity.  However, he didn't have his "eyes and ears" with him during the battle, as the Confederate cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart was absent for most of the fight, so we'll give him a pass on just this one.

3. Dunkirk - World War II.  The German War Machine had patched itself up from it's shabby old condition at the end of World Way I and had proven itself by conquering Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and was just about to conquer France and destroy the British Expeditionary Force which was holed-up in the picturesque seaside town of Dunkirk, when the unthinkable happened.  The armored columns were told to halt and let the National Socialist Luftwaffa destroy the British on the beach.  Nazi General Gerd von Rundstedt was all like, "Umm, hey der Führer, we've like got these Limeys in the bag, so why've you got to be all like, 'Quit it,' and 'Slow down' and junk like that?"   --I am paraphrasing somewhat here.  But Hitler was like, "Nope, Fat Herman told me he could pull it off, so we'll do just that."
"Quick men, commandeer that rowboat!"

What happened next was that Goering did send in his air force, which at that time consisted in large part of these slow dive-bombers called Stukas, which made a terrifying noise, but were fairly easy for anti-aircraft guns to hit.  While this duck-shoot was going on and the odd bomber was getting through, the British assembled the weirdest looking flotilla of anything that could float --ships, ferry boats, yachts, Huck Finn's raft, garbage scows, three guys in a tub --and sent it over to Dunkirk, where they saved the British Expeditionary Force, a few of their French and Belgium friends, and a dog named Digby, who went on to fight Rommel in North Africa and eventually fuck things up in Operation Market Garden, which is just barely edged-out by this bit of mind-fucking stupidity of the Dark Ages, starring the Saxons (basically half-British Germans) and the Vikings (not the NFL team from Minnesota).

4. The Battle of Maldon - Viking Invasion of England.  There were basically three types of Vikings: Swedes, Norwegians and Danes.  The Swedes were the ones who explored all of Russia's rivers, founded its first cities, traded in timber and amber, and got so stinking rich and famous that the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople kept a bunch of Swedish Viking warriors on retainer as his Varengi Guard.  The Norwegians explores the Orkneys, Shetlands, settled Iceland, Greenland and Vinland (Newfoundland to you and me), spreading their DNA from Oslo to Canada and back.  Then there were the Danes.  These were the "Let's kill everybody who won't make a good slave, rape the rest, steal their stuff, burn everything else, then get drunk and swap stories in Heorot Hall, pass out, and get eaten by the monster, Grendle, during the night."  --oh, it was also this lot that attacked England.
"Unleash the ultimate Viking weapon: IKEA!!"

To a Danish Viking, England, Ireland and Scotland must have looked like easy pickings.  The place was chock-full of these places called monasteries, filled with unarmed men, who had lots of gold crosses and other nice stuff, and could be enslaved to do all the busy-work an important Danish Viking just doesn't have time for, because their days were heavily scheduled with berserk-fighting, dashing babies' heads out against stones, and drinking mead.  That is, until they ran into the Anglo-Saxons, those German-blokes who were slowly turning into Englishmen, who knew a thing or two about fighting.  Their king was one Ethelred the Unready, which doesn't have anything at all to do with how well prepared he was, because the Saxon form of his name is "Unroody," which means "unschooled," or "self-taught."  The Saxon force consisted of this citizen-militia called the fyrd, which was about as good as any citizen militia can be expected to be, plus the king's Housecarls and Earls, professional fighting men who could seriously mess you up if you had the poor sense to tangle with them.

The Vikings, for all the terror they caused, were essentially ship-borne raiders, whose main tactics were surprise attack and swift retreat with their jacked-stuff.  But once in a while, Ethelred's Earls and Housecarls caught up with the Vikings, and things would then be fairly evenly matched.  The Battle of Maldon was one of these occasions.  However, because of the inexplicable stupidity of the Head Saxon in Charge... well, just see for yourself.

Contrary to popular opinion, I am ready
...to pay-off the Vikings 
The Vikings had been looting and burning the English coast in Folkstone, Sandwich and Essex, before turning their attention to Maldon.  Landing on an island connected to shore by a land bridge at low tide, the Saxon commander, Ealdorman Brihtnoth, got into a shouting match with the Viking leaders when they demanded plunder and Eldorman told them to suck it.  The Vikings then made an incredibly ballsy request: put off the battle until low tide, so they could all cross and fight a proper battle at full strength.  And wonder of wonders, Ealdorman, whose fyrd and retainers were a smaller force than the Vikings had, actually agreed!

The battle was an especially brutal one, but luckily, Ealdorman was killed.  However, his boys fought so bravely that the Vikings said, "Aw, fuck it!" and limped back to their ships, leaving Maldon intact.  However, King Ethelred was convinced that with dip-shits like Ealdorman running his army, it might just be better to pay the Danes a heap of gold so they would just go the fuck back to Denmark.  Which they did.  Except for the bunch that didn't and settled on the East Coast, where they lived under their own Danish laws and customs.

Because of his incredibly stupid conduct at the Battle of Maldon, two new terms enter the English (or Anglo-Saxon) language: Danegeld, or gold paid to the Danes so they'll stop murdering and raping us, and Danelaw, the place the Danish Vikings settled and eventually became English.

5. The Battle of Los Angeles - World War II.  Folks were jittery in 1942, and quite understandably.  Following an invasion of Martians in Grover's Mill, New Jersey on Halloween in 1938, and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December seventh in 1941, America was all like, "Just don't FUCK  WITH  ME  because if you do, I will SERIOUSLY fuck you up!"  Which partly explains what happened the night of February 24, morning of February 25, 1942.

The night before, a Japanese Submarine's deck gun opened up and pumped 14 shells into the Ellwood Oil Refinery, just north of Santa Barbara.  The next night, before midnight, air raid sirens sounded in Los Angeles.  A total blackout was ordered and air raid wardens were called out to enforce it.  Searchlights swept the sky, looking for all the world like the worst Hollywood movie premiere ever.  Then at about 3:16 a.m., the 37th Coastal Artillery Brigade went off the reservation, blasting away with their .50 caliber machine guns and 12.8 pounder anti-aircraft flak batteries.  Shrapnel rained down on Lala Land as the gunners fought like hell to bring down what was either some kind of  meteorological balloon or a barrage balloon that had slipped its moorings. Or it could have been a flying saucer.  I mean, there's this one pic of something caught in the searchlights that looks kinda E.T.  I'm just sayin'.
Weather balloon my ass.
Total casualties from the Battle of Los Angeles: 5.  Three car wrecks --L.A. drivers can't drive in the rain, fer chrissakes.  How do you expect them to drive during a blackout with shrapnel raining down? --and two heart attacks.  The balloon was never recovered.  Or so they say...

HONORABLE MENTION goes to something the British called "The War of Jenkins' Ear."  There were some good battles and it was by all accounts a decent war, but really?  Jenkins' Ear?  Come on.

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