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Top 40 Most Decisive Battles of all Human History

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  • Top 40 Most Decisive Battles of all Human History

    In ROTC we have to take American Military History and our presentation is to pick one of these battles he has deemed the Top 40 decisive battles in history. I do find it interesting to include world military history, but the world does affect the US and vice versa, so I get that. My question is out of this list what would you choose and why? What were actually the most decisive battles that would've had a real impact on history?

    Here's are the battles in order by date:

    Megiddo (Armageddon) 1479 B.C.
    Marathon 490 B.C.
    Syracuse 415-413 BC
    Gaugamela (Arbela) 331 B.C.
    Gaixia (Kai-Hsia) 202 B.C.
    Pharsalus 48 B.C.
    Teutoburg Forest (Teutoburger Wald) 9
    Milvian Bridge 312
    Adrianople 378
    Tricamarum (and Ad Decimum) 533
    Badr 624
    Tours (Poitiers) 732
    Hastings 1066
    Hattin 1187
    Bouvines 1214
    Ain Jalut 1260
    Mongol Invasions of Japan/Hakata Bay (1274 & 1281)
    Constantinople 1453
    Tenochtitlan 1521
    Vienna 1529 (not 1683)
    Lepanto 1571
    Spanish Armada 1588
    Breitenfeld 1631
    Quebec (Plains of Abraham) 1759
    Saratoga 1777
    Valmy 1792
    Trafalgar 1805
    Waterloo 1815
    Mexico City (Chapultepec) 1847
    Gettysburg and/or Vicksburg 1863
    Tsushima 1905
    First Battle of the Marne 1914
    Warsaw 1920
    Battle of Britain 1940
    Pearl Harbor 1941 and/or Midway 1942
    Stalingrad (1942-43) and/or Normandy 1944
    Israel War of Independence (May 1948- Jan 1949)
    Huaihai (Hsupeng) (Nov 1948- Jan 1949)
    Tet Offensive 1968
    Desert Storm 1991

    Here's the rubric:

    a. Your name, name of the battle, the date and the place it was fought. (5)
    b. The name of the sides involved, and the name of the commanders, if known. (5)
    c. WHY was this battle fought? (10)
    d. Briefly describe what happened during the battle. (5)
    e. Make a simple X and O diagram of the battle action. (5)
    f. Break the battle down according to the Nine Principles of War (MOSS MOUSE). (20)
    g. Answer this question; How did this battle change the world? (10)
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  • #2
    Just found this decade-year-old post: It would seem the consensus for my list back then was Saratoga which is also probably the easiest to find academic research on.
    The Europa Barbarorum II team [M2TW] needs YOUR HELP NOW HERE!


    • #3
      IMO Hasting plays a bigger role on today's history. Many of the others should be questioned as to what would have happened if the out comes were different?
      Spanish Armada, Teutoburg Forest (Teutoburger Wald), Desert Storm 1991, Tet Offensive 1968

      The last two were not decisive.
      "Ask not what your country can do for you"

      Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

      you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.


      • #4
        I'm surprised Bannockburn isn't included.

        1314. Robert I, King of Scots, faced the army of Edward II of England.

        Scottish defeat would've almost certainly turned Scotland into another Wales, and simply a conquered territory, but Bruce's victory secured Scottish independence for the next 300 years, and it was one of his descendants who ultimately ascended the thrones of both countries (Elizabeth II of England is Bruce's 19th Great-granddaughter).

        Of course, historians can point to many catastrophic Scottish defeats, but seldom were the stakes so high, and it remains one of the few times in history when a guerilla force has not only won the pitched battle into which such movements are inevitably drawn, but actually forced a peace treaty on the side employing a professional army (Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton 1328).

        Of course, the treaty was ripped up on Bruce's death in 1329, but that should surprise no-one.
        Indyref2 - still, "Yes."


        • #5
          • Battle of Tsushima Russo Japanese War, May 27–28, 1905. Destroyed Imperial Russian Battle Fleet, delivered a blow to Imperial Russian prestige from which it never really recovered. Established Japan as a major naval power and a player on the world stage with imperial ambitions rather than a quaint little archipelago somewhere off China.
          • Battle of Taranto. WW2. 11–12 November 1940 First ever carrier strike on a battle fleet at anchor. Sank 3 Italian battleships and changed the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean. Most importantly it said to the Japanese navy, in the words of Mr Punch, "that's the way to do it"
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)


          • #6
            Originally posted by Frtigern View Post
            Marathon 490 B.C.
            Salamis 480 B.C. was more decisive and established Athens as a major naval power.
            Pharsalus 48 B.C.
            Didn't decide anything but a name of a Rome's dictator (which was irrelevant in historical perspective). Indicative of a Rome's slide into (de-facto) monarchy, but not decisive.
            Hastings 1066
            A different dynasty and different aristocracy in medieval England. A big deal for humankind for sure.
            Bouvines 1214
            Quebec (Plains of Abraham) 1759
            A skirmish in a distant, wild and sparsely populated colony, few people in Europe gave much damn about.
            Saratoga 1777
            Yorktown (1781) was more important than Saratoga and effectively decided the American War for Independence.
            Valmy 1792
            Indecisive skirmish.
            Trafalgar 1805
            Just confirmed already established British naval superiority. Also didn't have an obvious and immediate effect on the course of war on the continent.
            Waterloo 1815
            Huge British patriotic hype aside Leipzig (1813) was more decisive for Napoleon's demise and establishment of post-revolutionary Europe. Also the largest and one of most bloodiest battle fought until the start of the XX century. Important in symbolic aspects for further history (rise of German nationalism, Germany's unification under Prussia, tripartite alliance of Austria, Prussia and Russia etc)
            Gettysburg 1863
            Bloody but indecisive.
            Tsushima 1905
            Russo-Japanese War was mostly fought on land and was decisively won by Japan long before Tsushima. That one is actually for the list "most known battles that didn't actually decide anything". Besides, I doubt an importance of the RJW for the global history.
            First Battle of the Marne 1914
            I doubt that you can find any "decisive battles" in WWI. A sort of war without culminations and turning points.
            Warsaw 1920
            Another huge patriotic hype. In the historical perspective just another war for control of borderlands between Poland and Russia, results completely revised 20 years later. I would propose Orel-Kursk (1919) - decisive defeat and beginning of the agony of Whites in the Russian Civil War, consolidation of communist rule in Russia, establishment of the Soviet Union as an immediate consequence.

            Missing in the list:
            Sedan (1870) - unification of Germany, seeds of the future WWI
            siege of Kazan (1552) - start of the Russian conquest of the entire northern Eurasia which ended at the Pacific a century later. Beginning of Russia as an absolutist monarchy and a multinational and multi-religious country.
            Something from the Bolivar's wars is also needed (beginning of the Latin America as we know it).


            • #7
              Originally posted by Frtigern View Post
              f. Break the battle down according to the Nine Principles of War (MOSS MOUSE).
              I had to look for that one, Fuller apparently.

              The Nine Principles involve the uses of Force (combat power). They have been expressed in various ways, but Fuller's 1925 arrangement is as follows:
              1. Direction: What is the overall aim? Which objectives must be met to achieve the aim?
              2. Concentration: Where will the commander focus the most effort?
              3. Distribution: Where and how will the commander position their force?
              4. Determination: The will to fight, the will to persevere, and the will to win must be maintained.
              5. Surprise (Demoralisation of Force): The commander's ability to veil their intentions while discovering those of their enemy. Properly executed Surprise unbalances the enemy - causing Demoralisation of Force.
              6. Endurance: The force's resistance to pressure. This is measured by the force's ability to anticipate complications and threats. This is enhanced by planning on how best to avoid, overcome, or negate them and then properly educating and training the force in these methods.
              7. Mobility: The commander's ability to maneuver their force while outmaneuvering the enemy's forces.
              8. Offensive Action (Disorganisation of Force): The ability to gain and maintain the initiative in combat. Properly executed Offensive Action disrupts the enemy - causing Disorganisation of Force.
              9. Security: The ability to protect the force from threats.

              This should be fun too,

              e. Make a simple X and O diagram of the battle action. (5)
              Especially for the larger ones

              Good idea for a thread though..

              High Admiral Snowy, Commander In Chief of the Naval Forces of The Phoenix Confederation.


              • #8
                This is one of the toughest questions in military history.

                Perhaps the Battle of Chalons, or the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, as it seems to be called, is the most important in long term implications.
                Aetius and his barbarian allies defeat Attilla and the Huns, saving Western Europe from a complete collapse into primitive society.

                One of the toughest issues with this question is that one battle hardly decides everything; usually there are follow up battles or some other event that changes the course of history. In any event, the existence of Western society seems to have been staked on the Battle of Chalons.
                "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"


                • #9
                  Thanks for your input guys. Yes, I agree the instructor had chosen some dubiously defined "decisive" battles, which I felt were better represented by other battles in history. In the end I was given Hastings. We put our top 5 on sheets of paper and based on grades were assigned a battle. My first choice was Saratoga followed by Hastings. My other three I think were Stalingrad, Midway and Adrianople.
                  The Europa Barbarorum II team [M2TW] needs YOUR HELP NOW HERE!


                  • #10
                    If you want "decisive" for "all human history", "campaigns" or even entire wars would be better no ?

                    Something like the Mongols, the various migratory invasions in Europe or the New World, the Crusades maybe, probably the world wars,

                    but single battles ?

                    But "Hastings" can be presumably expanded to include the entire Norman invasion(s) (of Britain), then you indeed have something that fits the premise
                    Last edited by Snowygerry; 29 Mar 19, 06:33.
                    High Admiral Snowy, Commander In Chief of the Naval Forces of The Phoenix Confederation.


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