Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

If you like military history (and this style of writing) I highly recommend 100 Decisive Battles From Ancient Times To Present. It gives an overview of 100 engagements that changed the world: the strengths of each army, the expected outcome, and usually some "twist" that turned the tables.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/100-Decisive-Battles-Ancient-Present/...

It looks like there's a PDF here, but you'll be waiting 2min: http://rogers.sharpschool.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_73281...

Here's the list of battles:

- https://i.imgur.com/izTpwpG.png

- https://i.imgur.com/sdUljXu.png

Here's the list in text form, sorted by year, for blind users: https://gist.github.com/shawwn/099cadef6d0e2600172cd0d202b16...

Is there a list of indecisive battles that changed the world? Battles like Jutland, Guadalcanal, the Atlantic, the North Russia Convoys, Stalingrad, Siege of Malta, along with all the knock-down guerilla warfare in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the Syrian Civil War, etc. These are almost more informative, because

a.) they seem more representative of what most war is like

b.) the turning points of most wars actually fall during them, eg. Guadalcanal rather than Midway was the turning point of the WW2 Pacific Theater, the Battle of the Atlantic rather than Dunkirk or Normandy was the turning point of the European theater.

c.) oftentimes, the long, brutal experience of these types of battles is what led to the logistic and technical improvements that actually wins the war

Similarly, it'd be interesting to read war histories that focus on logistics and technological development. D-Day has had zillions of movies made about it; codebreaking has had one or two; and the logistics of assembling an army of millions and shipping them across the Atlantic in secrecy to land on hostile territory has had none that I know of.

  the logistics of assembling an army of millions and shipping them across the Atlantic in secrecy to land on hostile territory has had none that I know of. 
If they made a movie like that, it would be so boring. Just endless meetings, with the highest drama being some argument about the supply chain. And yet I would love it, and watch it over and over.

I mean Twelve Angry Men is a movie that is just one long meeting and it is deservedly a classic.

Regarding Guadalcanal: from page 402,

Retention of Midway was important, but, more importantly, the Japanese were unable to accomplish any of their desired goals: to gain a necessary bastion to protect their Far Eastern frontier or to destroy the remaining U.S. fleet in a massive surface engagement. The U.S. loss of Midway could have spelled the loss of Pearl Harbor and the Hawaiian Islands. If Japan had taken them, the United States may well have been forced to sue for peace. Even without a Japanese invasion, the key position that Midway represented could well have slowed or stopped U.S. offensive moves for some time to come. It is for this reason that Midway, and not Guadalcanal (launched 7 August 1942, the first offensive of the United States against the Japanese), is included in this work. A U.S. loss at Guadalcanal in late 1942 to early 1943 would have forced a longer war and attacks at other locations. A U.S. loss at Midway, however, may have precluded any U.S. offensive into the Pacific.

> a.) they seem more representative of what most war is like

Yes, that's true. I'd highly recommend With The Old Breed. It's sort of the inverse of 100 Decisive Battles: a single soldier put his pen to paper and recorded everything he remembered about the Okinawa conflict, from start to finish.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Old-Breed-At-Peleliu-Okinawa/dp/08914...

epub: https://the-eye.eu/public/Books/Bibliotik/W/With%20the%20Old...

> Similarly, it'd be interesting to read war histories that focus on logistics and technological development.

I agree! Does anyone know of something like this?

It's a daft idea that we would have been forced to sue for peace had we lost Hawaii.

Japan certainly did not have the logistical capability to take and hold Hawaii (Morison and Toll agree on this point) at any point in the war, so I'm suspicious of the argument that Midway was decisive. It represented one instance in a chain of many of Japan's fixation on the decisive battle. Guadalcanal, on the other hand, represents the American strategic fixation on continuous pressure and attrition. When the United States fought the battles Japan wanted to fight, we won (repeatedly; Midway, Philippine Sea, and Leyte). When Japan fought the battles the United States wanted to fight, they lost repeatedly. That suggests that none of the battles themselves were decisive, rather the strategic concepts of the respective nations.

Anthony Tully does a nice job demonstrating how absolutely screwed the Japanese were whatever the outcome of Midway: http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm

You are right but with the benefit of hindsight. Japan hoped the USA would be like Russia in 1905, in that once it became clear that regaining a lost fleet would take years Russia lost the will to continue the war. The US was ready structurally and politically for a long war of attrition.

At the time the Japanese did not know that the USSR would overcome Germany. An invasion of Midway, with US CVs sunk to boot, would give Japan at least another year of offensive operations. They could have used that time to threaten Australia, incite insurrection in India, secure ocean supply lines and train pilots. The US and the UK would have the means to resist and the US would certainly still have the means to overcome Japan eventually. But with all those challenges ahead-- in Europe and the Pacific-- maybe the US would negotiate.

There are some great video interviews with Eugene Sledge out there too. He had such a great ability to convey the view from the boots on the ground.

That is a fascinated concept and a real insight into the kinds of conflicts that really do shape the world.

As far as logistics go, I'd easily believe military planners in the early 1930s were not accounting for a Blitz into france, because they probably had been planning on the last-war assumption that germany would field a coal-powered, not a synfuel-powered army.

An emphasis on energy sources also puts the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Stalingrad as the crux of WW2, because the mechanisation of warfare in the 20th century meant that failure to get to caucasian (let alone middle-eastern?) oil foretold failure of the Nazi project.


Similarly, I believe the current US position is that it globally controls the waves, but the navy with which it does so is still largely oil-fueled. Does shale change that catch-22?

Well, both sides were extremely surprised that the invasion of France worked ot the way it did. The French, The British and the Germans as well. Becaue by all acounts, it shouldn't have worked.

IMHO, Germany lost the war in late 1941 when they failed to knock out the USSR. The same way the lost WW 1 already in 1915 when they failed to knock out France on the continent. After 1941, Germany had no clear path to victory anymore in a global, industrial war of attrition. And the fate was sealed with the US entering the war. And sill, millions more of people had to die until it was over.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact