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5 Screw-Ups on the Battlefield That Accidentally Won the War

Life is full of happy little accidents, mistakes that wind up working out in the end. They're the best part of, say, painting a picture or baking a pie. But where you don't find happy accidents is on the battlefield, where brilliant commanders will use the slightest misstep against you. In war, you do it right, or you die.

That's what you'd think, anyway. Sometimes, even in war, a little stupidity can work to your advantage.

#5. The British Accidentally Announce Their Surprise Attack on the News

Wikipedia Commons

In 1982, Great Britain and Argentina were fighting over a small island grouping called the Falklands, and Britain was losing. In need of a quick victory to reinvigorate the campaign, operational planners closed their eyes, took out a map and (we can only assume) played pin the tail on the Falklands to decide where to attack.

Getty
We attack here, at "Cow Pasture City."

The selected town was called Goose Green. To prepare, 690 Royal Marines stealthily broke off from the main contingent and moved down to set up the attack. It was all ready to go for May 28, but then ...

The Screw-Up:

... the BBC announced the upcoming attack on their worldwide news, and yes, you guessed it, the Argentinians were watching.

Getty
"Look, we're on the news! Oh ... crap ..."

The British commander of the Royal Marines in the upcoming battle was furious, threatening to sue the BBC for ruining their plan of attack and spoiling their element of surprise.

But It Turned Out ...

The Argentinian commanders saw the broadcast and concluded that no attack would ever come, under the assumption that only total arrogant idiots would announce their plans via worldwide news service. The British, however, continued with their plans anyway. Did they know the Argentinians had let their guard down? Or did they just decide that if they had already gone through all this trouble, they might as well follow through?

Century
We didn't drag this flag all the way here for nothing ...

When the British actually attacked the following day, the Argentinians were caught by an even more complete surprise, and the British easily won the battle, retaking Goose Green, reinvigorating the Falklands campaign and ultimately earning a victory.

#4. Unauthorized Invasion of France Leads to Victory on D-Day

On one morning in 1942, the British Lord Louis Mountbatten up and decided to invade France. Normally an easy task for anyone to accomplish, this time there were a few key differences. One, this was in the middle of World War II, so France was being occupied by the Nazis. And two, he did it without bothering to tell anyone on his side.

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Mountbatten can be seen here with his medal for the smuggest-looking face ever.

He literally launched an invasion and didn't bother to let his superiors or just about any of the Allied command know what he was about to do. He ordered thousands of Canadian, British and American troops to capture the French coastal town of Dieppe and create a beachhead. What could honestly go wrong with this?

The Screw-Up:

Since Mountbatten didn't bother to tell anyone about his plans, the force was sent in lacking many things a normal invasion force would have, such as proper resources, intelligence and also the backing of the British Home Command. Generally speaking, half-assed attacks without any support never really end well, and the Dieppe Raid was no exception.


"OK, here's the plan, run up that beach and shoot. That's it, really."

To start things off, Mountbatten's "plan" relied heavily on surprise, of which the British had none since SPOILER ALERT: the Germans knew they were coming.

From the moment the troops hit the beaches, the whole operation was screwed. Mountbatten had set his "plans" up like dominoes; if one thing went wrong, everything else failed. Sure enough, mere minutes after leaving for the beaches, boats began to get disoriented in the early morning darkness. When the Allied troops hit the beaches, all hell broke loose.

German Federal Archive
"Stop hogging all the kills, Hans."

They suffered a mind-blowing 73 percent loss rate. A whopping 100 percent of the equipment (tanks, jeeps, etc.) that landed on the beach was lost. After several hours of fighting, what was left of the Allied troops ran back for the boats in the most unorganized retreat imaginable, leaving the Nazis with a huge victory, and left Mountbatten as pretty much the most hated military figure in Canada.

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He would go on to cup the Prince of Wales' man-breasts.

But It Turned Out ...

It's comforting to know that your disastrous failure could at least show somebody smarter than you how to succeed. That's exactly what happened here -- that clusterfuck of an invasion attempt gave the Allies precious info on how to handle an amphibious invasion in the future, particularly on D-Day.

German Federal Archive
"We should have brought floaties."

They now knew they'd need a large artillery barrage beforehand, paratroopers to land behind enemy lines and a far more flexible plan to account for conditions on the shore. It even led to the creation of a special tank just for D-Day, after every tank that landed at Dieppe was destroyed.

After the war, many military commanders remarked at the importance of the Dieppe invasion toward the victory at D-Day, with Winston Churchill himself saying that Dieppe was "an indispensable preliminary to full-scale operations."


But the most important lesson was never put this man in charge.

#3. Stalin's Disaster in Finland Helps Him Beat Hitler

When World War II broke out, Germany invaded Poland. Very soon thereafter, Soviet Russia decided to get in on the action and flex their muscle by attacking Finland. And what a laughably easy attack it would be -- Soviet tanks outnumbered Finland's by a ratio of 200 to 1. In aircraft, it was 34 to 1. The Soviets had triple the number of troops. Shit, wars like this shouldn't even be legal.


"Comrades, we vill be home in time for borscht and unsatisfying sex with our dour wives!"

The Screw-Up:

The problem was that at the time, most of the Soviet military was kind of a joke. This made itself obvious when six months after attacking, Stalin had a few miles of territory in Finland and two great big buckets of casualties to show for it. The overwhelming Russian force inflicted 70,000 casualties on the Finnish military ... and suffered over 300,000 for the effort. More than 3,500 of their tanks and a few hundred aircraft were left in burning chunks of twisted metal at the hands of the tiny Finnish force. Eventually Stalin decided to settle with the Finns and end the embarrassment they were causing him.

But Hitler was watching the whole thing.


"Holy balls, Finnish people are terrifying."

Hitler already had his eye on Russia, and was just waiting for a sign that he could feasibly take them on. A sign like Russia invading a country of semi-frozen sardine-eaters and suffering a disastrous loss.

But It Turned Out ...

Stalin's fuck-up made Hitler so over-confident that he said, "We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down." We can't blame him. We mean, if we were watching this happen, it'd be easy to come to the same conclusion.

But if you know even a tiny amount about WWII history, you know what came next.

German Federal Archive
Germany won and the whole world was Nazis.

In 1941, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and, sure enough, made huge gains into the Soviet Union. By the time Stalin got his act together, Hitler's forces weren't too far from Moscow. But, it turned out the Soviets just needed time to get the production of war materials really rolling, and to get reinforcements from Old Man Winter.

The Soviets pushed back, and the Nazis eventually had to retreat, until Hitler demanded the city of Stalingrad be held at all costs. That decision ended up costing several hundred thousand men that Hitler couldn't afford to lose and gained him exactly zero Stalingrads. From then on, it was downhill for the Third Reich. Stalin's fuck-up in Finland wound up being the perfect bait for his Hitler trap.

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He wasn't the sharpest Hitler-Jugend-Fahrtenmesser in the gruppe.

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