5 Ridiculous Military Strategies… That Worked!

Successful strategic planning requires an impressive blend of intellect, historical perspective and scholarship, political insight, and pure guts, too. The greatest military thinkers in history almost invariably become some of the most generally famous figures in history. From Caesar to Napoleon to Eisenhower, we laud our greatest strategists because of their boldness and because of their brilliant plans.
Sometimes, though, even generals will approve plans that seem batsh*t crazy. What’s great is that sometimes plans that seem plucked from screenplays shrewdly passed on by mid-level Hollywood executives actually get tried, and sometimes even work. From the ridiculously elaborate to the laughably simple, sometimes crazy hijinks can transfer into military victory. (And sometimes they result in wholesale slaughter but hey, you gotta break a few eggs…)

5 The Trojan Horse

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Yeah, it’s probably just a legend, but if anything like that did happen? Pretty damn impressive, I say. And even if there never was a big ol’ wooden horse chock full of angry Achaeans, archeology has made it pretty clear there was a Troy, and likely a Trojan War. And real strategy or legend, The Trojan Horse has rolled its way into our everyday lexicon, so you gotta give the Greeks props for either A) Inventive military thinking or B) A very good hoax

4 Everything The Mongols Did

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The Chinese didn’t build that wall for aesthetics, you know? The Mongol warriors regularly used deception, surprise attack, technology, and so on to wreak awful havoc on their enemies (read: Everyone who was not a Mongol). From feigned retreats during battle that were actually carefully plotted maneuvers to using coordinated fires to create smoke screens, these guys were the Special Forces of their day, except every Mongol warrior was in on the action.

3 The Charge of San Juan Hill

The Charge of San Juan Hill was Teddy Roosevelt’s finest, stupidest, and most memorable hour, all at once. T.R., it seems, just really wanted to kick ass in general, and when he saw the opportunity during a battle in the (largely pointless) Spanish American War, he took it, leading his men on a charge UP a hill and into the history books. Usually charges are desperate gambles of last resort and they are almost always recommended to be pointed downhill or at least on level ground, but neither of those was good enough for Teddy and his Rough Riders that July 7th of 1898. Well, he did survive that and the presidency, during which he got shot even more than he did in war.

2 Decoy Dummy

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Operation Overlord’s “Decoy Dummy” comes in second, because 20th century generals seemed to have plucked a plot from the pages 19th century fiction, placed the fate of tens of thousands of soldiers largely hinging on its success, and then staging D-Day about as well as they could have dreamed. Fake plans were “stashed” in an attaché case that was then handcuffed to a dead man who was supplied with papers that would identify him as a fellow of some regard in the intelligence community, and his hapless corpse was dropped off the coast of Spain a few months prior to scheduled early summer/late spring 1944 invasion of Fortress Europe. The corpse dropped worked perfectly, with Spaniard fascists getting the plans to Nazi military intelligence who then bought the B.S. hook, line, and sinker and built up their defenses in the wrong places! Here’s the thing I keep thinking though… what if just one shark had come along, right?

1 Hannibal Crossing the Alps

Our list topper is one of the greatest troop and transport mobilizations ever recorded, and it is so well known that you may not think twice about how actually nuts it is: Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps… with elephants. Anyone who has ever done any mountain climbing or even serious hiking will tell you it can be grueling, difficult stuff, and that’s just with a backpack and a great looking hat. And we all know what a chore it can be just to walk your elephant down a few city blocks, so now picture mixing the task of crossing rugged mountain peaks with elephant walking and goddamn… it’s crazy the Carthaginians ever dreamed of trying that crossing! Crazier still is the fact that they tried it, and of course must loony of all is the fact that to at least some extent, it worked: damned if Hannibal didn’t get over the mountains and into Rome with a few elephants still alive and ready so stomp on Centurions.

So remember: the next time you are tasked with planning the logistics, the tactical potential, and the strategic aim of a military campaign, it’s not all about pincers and enfilade entrenchment encircling. There are always wacky attacks and trickery, too!

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