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101 votes
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Why did the Germans spare Allied troops trapped at Dunkirk?

Although we know a great deal about the events surrounding Hitler's "Halt Order" at Dunkirk, the truth is that the reasons behind it are not completely understood by historians, even now. It is a ...
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65 votes

Why did trench warfare accept deadlocks?

sides got locked into relatively short lines of heavily defended trench warfare with little prospect of gains for either side. The lines on the Western Front were not by any stretch of the ...
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64 votes

Why did the Germans spare Allied troops trapped at Dunkirk?

It's easy to ask these questions after the fact, but a primary reason was that what we now know as the Miracle of Dunkirk was basically unthinkable. It is easy to forget that in reaching the coast, ...
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61 votes
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Which battle was the most lopsided result in terms of casualties?

It's actually quite difficult to point to a specific answer because, as your Boudica example shows, in many cases casualty estimates are not very reliable. The 80,000 figure given for Boudica's forces ...
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53 votes

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, how could two Japanese scouts grossly mis-identify two American ships?

Mistaking the Sims for a cruiser is easy: a Sims-class destroyer has the same number of turrets (3) as the majority of American cruisers, while most American destroyers of the time had two, four, or ...
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49 votes
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Under which conditions does the losing party actively commemorate a battle?

The battle caused mass casualties. The commemoration is part of the mourning. Example: Stalingrad from the German viewpoint. The battle showed outstanding heroism from the defeated side. The ...
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  • 16k
41 votes

Under which conditions does the losing party actively commemorate a battle?

Battle of the Alamo is certainly remembered in Texas, and they certainly lost that battle. Pearl Harbor was a major loss to the United States, and is still commemorated annually. In these two cases ...
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39 votes
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Has any medieval army ever fought 3 or more distinct battles on the same day?

Battle of Mohi might be what you are looking for. It's not a perfect fit but that's the closest I could find. It was fought on 11th April 1241 between Kingdom of Hungary and Golden Horde. The Battle ...
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  • 8,133
37 votes

How difficult was to escape from a naval battle after engaging into one during the Age of Sail?

This is where the wind gauge becomes critical. Having the wind gauge, contrary to popular perception, was of little tactical benefit; but rather enabled one to prevent the enemy from escaping. This is ...
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34 votes
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How true is this observation concerning battle?

As Mark C. Wallace noted in his comment, this is from the Spartan poet Tyrtaeus whose verse became an integral part of the Spartan military ethos and propaganda. His exhortations to fight bravely were ...
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29 votes

Which battle was the most lopsided result in terms of casualties?

Pearl Harbor attack: Discarding the materiel lost, the USA had 2,335 killed and 1,143 wounded, while Japan had only 64 killed and 1 prisoner. That makes a ratio of 1:56. If one adds in the materiel ...
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28 votes

Why did trench warfare accept deadlocks?

There were no "sides" where one might perform a side-attack. After the initial German push was defeated at the First Battle of the Marne, the British and French attacked the Germans at the First ...
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  • 12.1k
28 votes
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What is the technical term for a head on head battle?

The basic circumstances of a battle depends on the readiness of the two sides to give battle at that time and place. When neither side is prepared, and both armies arrive piece-meal and assemble as ...
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27 votes
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When was the first electrical intra-battlefield communication?

Chapter 16 - TELEGRAPH AT WAR 1854 - 1868 of Distant Writing by Steven Roberts outlines several battlefield usages of the telegraph prior to the American Civil War. The British, French and Spanish all ...
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27 votes

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, how could two Japanese scouts grossly mis-identify two American ships?

Misidentifying of ships from scout planes was a consistent problem for both sides in the Pacific Theater. In fact, it seems that getting a scouting report exactly right was more the exception rather ...
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22 votes
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How did galleys battle?

The question as it stands would require a book to answer it. Luckily for you, the book has been written: "Naval Warfare Under Oars, 4th to 16th Century" by Rodgers (1940). To quote from Chapter 8 on ...
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22 votes

Was the Battle of Trafalgar strategically pointless?

In order to be strategically pointless, it must be the case that a victory the other way would have had a negligibly different effect on subsequent historical events. Consider the possibility that as ...
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20 votes

How difficult was to escape from a naval battle after engaging into one during the Age of Sail?

The subject of disengagement and, possibly, the subsequent chase is one that fills chapters and even whole books on Age-of-Sail tactics. Determining the possibility of escape involves a large number ...
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  • 18.1k
18 votes

Why did trench warfare accept deadlocks?

The existing answers provide detail on why side attacks and real breakthroughs were impossible in practice. I want to add a theoretic level why strategists might also wouldn't want them. To answer ...
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  • 181
16 votes

Are there famous battles that took place on ice?

Oh boy, this is the moment to speak of the most awesome battle ever. You see, in winter 1794, a French Hussard regiment was sent to prevent a Dutch fleet, stuck in Den Helder, from rejoining British ...
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16 votes

Physics of a heavy cavalry charge?

Your question is underpinned by a key misunderstanding of the course of an ancient or medieval battle: the slaughter occurs in the pursuit (or endgame if you will), not what might be termed the battle ...
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16 votes

What was the significance of the BEF moving into the gap between German forces in First Battle of the Marne?

It meant that at least one army, the first, but also quite probably the second, and maybe even endangering the severely weakened third army, faced the danger of encirclement and total defeat. Supply ...
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  • 77.2k
15 votes

Under which conditions does the losing party actively commemorate a battle?

Per your comment "I am interested in ... the conditions under which the loser comes to actively keep memories of the battle alive." Conditions for retaining a memorial of the defeat include ...
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15 votes
Accepted

Where was the Battle of Antioch (613 CE) fought?

Questions about the historical accuracy of holy texts can get dicey, so I'll try to treat this like any other question. First, I'm not an Islamic scholar, so I'm not going to try and work out whether ...
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  • 53.1k
15 votes

Which battle was the most lopsided result in terms of casualties?

Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC between Alexander and Darius III's Persians. One of Alexande's great victories. Even if we take the highest estimate for Alexander's casualties (1,500) and the lowest ...
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15 votes

In the Battle of the Coral Sea, how could two Japanese scouts grossly mis-identify two American ships?

I'd like to provide an alternative explanation that addresses the question of, "How could two independent reports contain exactly the same mistakes?", which isn't specific to this battle, ...
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14 votes

How true is this observation concerning battle?

This statement is usually true, and has been throughout the millenia. The point is that once an army routs, they are suddenly a lot less dangerous - they are no longer firing back to kill, for example,...
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  • 5,500
14 votes
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Did a submarine ever torpedo and sink a destroyer?

Why yes, indeed. I count, fast and dirty, at least 37 Japanese destroyers sunk by US submarines in WW2. A good place to look is the Joint Army Navy Assessment Committee though it requires a little ...
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  • 4,020
13 votes

Magic armies examples in history?

Lots. Probably the most well-known example is that the Jews used to take their God (inside the Arc of the Covenant) into battle with them. (Of course in their accounts, the magic often worked). A ...
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  • 110k
13 votes
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Which battles of WWII did the cracking of Enigma decisively influence?

According to "Marching Orders", Enigma had a decisive impact on the (Second) Battle of El Alamein. Montgomery's first attacks were thrown back with heavy loss. Under different circumstances, he (or ...
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