Serve logo

The Worst Defeats in US Military History

America is known for military excellence, but not every battle is a winner. These are the worst defeats in US military history.

By Jake PinePublished 7 years ago 4 min read
Top Story - October 2017

In America, the military is a major point of pride, and we almost always come away winners in military conflicts. One of our biggest military traditions is victory. But, things happen. Poor decisions are made, and sometimes we even lose.

Compared to other countries, the US has had much better luck when it comes to avoiding massive military disasters. Our mainland has never had any type of invasion, and our institutions have never been in any real danger of being overthrown. However, we have been involved in a number of foreign campaigns over the years, both near and far, in both small and large conflicts.

So, when talking about military defeats, none of these are flat-out fails. Many are temporary set-backs, bad performances, and unexpected defeats. A few are blunders that could have been avoided. What are the worst defeats in US military history? Read the dark marks in America's military history.

Battle of Antietam (1862)

The Battle of Antietam is the bloodiest single day battle in American history, with a combined tally of 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing. While technically it can be considered a draw, the Confederate Army inflicted a great deal more damage on the Union while heavily outnumbered.

The battle is seen as a disaster for the United States, and even worse, totally unnecessary in the grand scheme. Owing to severe blunders by both sides, it sparked the Civil War’s worst single day of casualties. Abe Lincoln was not happy with his leaders, especially George McClellan.

This level of loss of American life wouldn't be seen until D-Day in 1944. The shear amount of dead American soldiers makes this one of the worst defeats in US military history.

More errors were committed by the Union commander than in any other battle of the war, and since the Union wasn't the army trying to leave America, that makes this a loss for the home team.

Invasion of Canada (1812)

Yes, we lost to Canada — sort of. James Madison led his country into a war with British Canada that would result in one of the worst defeats in US military history. Why did we invade Canada?

Madison was heavily influenced by the Republicans from the frontier political districts of the south and west who wanted to challenge the British blockade. Many of them also advocated for the annexation of some British Canadian territory, in theory to gain more land for themselves.

However, America just didn't have enough soldiers and competent generals ready at the time, and the battle quickly went south. Soon, the British controlled much of the waters along the east coast of the United States.

Eventually, the US came to terms with Britain and by signing the Treaty of Ghent, which required both sides to give up their territorial gains.

Operation Drumbeat (1941)

In December of 1941, Germany and Italy declared formal war on the United States. The US wasn't prepared for the German U-Boats — they were fighting in the Atlantic, and the results were brutal for allied supplies. The Germans would have a field day feasting upon US coastal shipping.

Significant failure in US pre-war planning and the failure to provide ships suitable for convoy escorts make it one of the worst defeats in US military history. Of course, we could recover, but they sank dozens of ships and set the fight back for the allies.

However, later in the war we would learn from our mistakes, and were very effective in fighting the Japanese with submarines of our own.

Battle of Bataan (1941-1942)

The Battle of Bataan was the Japanese's most intense invasion of the Philippines during World War II. The results would end in disaster for US troops — seriously compromising the American forces hold on its Pacific territories.

The Americans had trouble feeding their military, and were pushed back by a fierce unit of Japanese soldiers. They ran right through the allies, resulting in one of the worst defeats in US military history. Hunger, malaria, dysentery — they couldn't catch a break.

Thirteen thousand troops were forced to surrender, which set up one of the darkest moments in America's history: the Bataan Death March. After their surrender, around 10,000 Filipino and US soldiers were killed during the march, and a host more were wounded.

The march was characterized by severe physical abuse and frequent killings. The events would later be considered a war crime by the Japanese, judged by an allied military commission.

Battle of Kasserine Pass (1943)

The Battle of Kasserine Pass is depicted in several military books and films, most notably in the Oscar winning Patton. This was the first time the US encountered the superior German Tanks, and the legendary General Erwin Rommel's Panzer division. The results were a mismatch, ending in one of the worst defeats in US military history.

American tanks were devastated, leaving soldiers running for their lives across the fields of Tunisia. They lost 6,000 soldiers and almost 200 tanks — utter annihilation. The US General was relieved of his command, replaced by the well-known Major General George S. Patton.

The battle was the first major engagement between American and Axis forces in World War II in Africa, and the allies lost more than 50 miles of ground. As a result of the terribly lost battle, the US Army put in place sweeping changes, changes that would pay off huge later in the war.

They replaced weak leaders, altered equipment, and increased organization. One of the worst defeats in US military history wasn't all for not, as it turned out.


About the Creator

Jake Pine

A former Division-1 QB and alt-country enthusiast

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

    Jake PineWritten by Jake Pine

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.