10 Most Important Battles in American History and Why: Part III
By RU Twisted
Ah, who cares about a catchy intro? If you’re reading this one, then you already know what it’s about based on parts one and two, so let’s get right to it with the next few (and yes, there will be a separate piece for the number one spot).
Midway: Just a mere six months after the Japanese attacked Ben Affleck at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and the United States Navy dealt a massive defeat to the Japanese in the near the Pacific island of Midway, which clearly earned its name due to the insatiable creativity of Americans in charge of map-making. The Japanese, intent on gaining dominance in the Pacific theater, set out to destroy the American Navy by laying a trap. But America code-breakers were able to figure out not only the location of the attack, but the day it would happen, as well. Despite heavy losses—31 planes down from the Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise—the US Navy won, according to military historian Victor Davis Hanson, “one of the most complex and decisive engagements in the history of naval warfare.”
Why it’s important: Simply put, the Japanese wanted to control the Pacific theater and end the US Navy’s presence there. Admiral Yamato’s plans of Pacific domination would have been complete with the occupation of Midway, and the United States would have most likely had to negotiate for peace with the lines west of California being decisively drawn in favor of Japan.
That all changed with the victory of the battle fought between June 4 and 7 of 1942. The Pacific theater opened up to the Americans, whose Navy began to increase in size that is unparalleled in human history, while the Japanese Navy was never again as big or as much of a threat as it was leading up to that week. Their confidence was deeply affected after losses that were never replaced at a time when they believed that the Americans were back on their heels after the loss at Pearl Harbor.
We should all take this moment to honor heroes like Cuba Gooding, jr. for his part in this influential victory.
Tet Offensive: Beginning on January 30, 1968, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army launched an offensive campaign against the United States forces and South Vietnam. More than 80,000 communist troops attacked places like Saigon, Hue, Da Nang, and many others when almost half of the South Vietnamese forces were on leave for a holiday.
General Westmoreland initially believed that the attacks were intended as a diversion from the siege going on at Khesanh, which had begun just nine days earlier. It soon became clear that this was not the case and, in fact, may have been the other way around. Yet despite the miscalculation on intent, American forces not only rose to the challenge of a massive, coordinated, country-wide attack, but met it with overwhelming force. The North Vietnamese admitted being dealt a staggering blow with approximately 40,000 Vietcong and NVA regulars being killed in just a few weeks. The communist’s plan of causing chaos and insurrection in numerous cities was an abject failure and their attacks only brought them out into the open and more vulnerable.
Why it’s important: Unlike most everything else on this list, the Tet Offensive was influential for mostly political and social reasons. From a tactical and strategic point of view, it was a victory for the United States and South Vietnamese forces and, oddly enough, most Americans at home still supported the war during and after the offensive had been squashed.
However, it was a very vocal—if albeit small—and influential group that made a lot of noise on the home front both during and after the Tet Offensive that ultimately resulted in a shift of opinion. With voices like Walter Cronkite’s erroneous reporting and the Jane Fonda-types eroding confidence in America’s military, Soldiers and Marines experienced something new—a critical populace insisting they had done the wrong thing despite their recent victories. The US military was winning and their countrymen seemed indifferent or, even worse, hateful towards their efforts.
Tet seemed to signify a shift in how wars were covered from a media perspective and, more importantly, how the public reacted to the coverage. Polls consistently showed broad support for US military involvement in Vietnam and the troops there did substantially better in how they approached the war in the latter half, but ultimately the “first televised war” would become heavily influenced by not just journalism, but how that reporting was done and what was said. The news coverage of Tet had profound influence not only on what Americans at that time saw on their televisions, but how modern media would shape the opinions of many for years to come.
Honorable mentions: What? But you’ve only done 8!?!?! Yeah, I’ve only covered eight of the ten because, to be quite honest, I couldn’t decide between two for the top ten spot, so they will share it in the next installment.
Before then, however, I felt it important to make a mention of a few and why some of them were excluded. For example, many have commented about Operation Anaconda and Fallujah. While those were, without question, defining moments in our modern military (both have, like Operation Gothic Serpent before them, served well as “lessons learned” models that have helped reshape TTPs), it is difficult to say for sure what kind of impact they have had on our country as a whole. Did they change the course of history? Did they reshape our political landscape? The answer is most assuredly yes, but the degree of which is difficult to tell this close to the events.
Other battles throughout our America’s history are also arguably very important, but rating them in the top ten is difficult if their impact was only limited to a particular time and place. Most of the Civil War could probably be included, but that would eliminate so many others as the list wouldn’t leave room for anything else. Similarly, several battles in the Revolutionary War are worthy of mention—Lexington & Concord, Trenton, Saratoga, etc.—but would monopolize most of the list.
So we had to cut out some pretty heroic stuff to get down to ten, and now we’re down to two. What are they? Arnold against Predator? Luke against Vader? Tim Kennedy vs. Michael Bisping? Tune in next time for the final installment of this Award Winning Series* and find out!
*I got an email saying I won an award for what I wrote and that all I had to do was give my SSN, date of birth, and a blood sample to collect. Winner!