Historical Blunders

Can you identify these famous blunders from history?
One of these are apocryphal
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: July 9, 2020
First submittedApril 4, 2013
Times taken52,065
Rating4.13
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Blunder
Year
Answer
Germany launches Operation Barbarossa, an invasion of this country
1941
Soviet Union
Japan launches a sneak attack on this naval base
1941
Pearl Harbor
The U.S. becomes entangled in this conflict
1965–1973
Vietnam War
The captain of this ship ignores warnings of icebergs
1912
RMS Titanic
This fleet is sent to invade England, but loses many ships
without even attempting to land
1588
Spanish Armada
Political operatives in the Nixon administration break into Democratic Party
headquarters at this office complex
1972
Watergate Hotel
General Pickett leads the Confederate Army into a suicidal charge at this battle
1863
Gettysburg
This cavalry charge at the Battle of Balaclava ends with heavy casualties
1854
Charge of the
Light Brigade
European powers try to appease Hitler by allowing Germany
to annex parts of this country
1938
Czechoslovakia
The Aztec emperor Moctezuma allows this conquistador to enter his capital city
1520
Hernán Cortés
Allied troops attempt to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in this country
1915
Ottoman Empire
The CIA botches an invasion at the Bay of Pigs in this country
1961
Cuba
This military leader decides to invade Russia
1812
Napoleon
The Soviet Union invades this country
1979
Afghanistan
This nuclear power plant melts down due to a botched safety test
1986
Chernobyl
Blockbuster turns down an opportunity to purchase this fledgling
video service for $50 million
2000
Netflix
This space shuttle explodes due to faulty O-rings
1986
Challenger
Russia sells this territory to the U.S. for just 2 cents an acre
1867
Alaska
This war begins after Franz Ferdinand's driver makes a wrong turn
1914
World War One
Citizens of this city allow a hollow Greek horse inside their walls
?
Troy
+11
Level 65
May 17, 2013
I'm confused whether you mean Pearl harbor was a blunder for the Japanese or the U.S. because it was a rather well executed attack. Yes, the japanese lost, but their attack was well planned and was mostly considered a success except that the aircraft carriers were not in the harbor so they were not harmed.
+6
Level 71
Sep 21, 2014
What would 'victory' have looked like to Japan after the attack? Taking Hawaii? Taking the US mainland? The attack was indeed well planned and executed, but to what end?
+5
Level 72
Oct 13, 2014
Their ultimate aim was to "conquer" most of south-east Asia, and possibly Australia. If they knocked out the US Pacific fleet, they would have had military control of the whole western Pacific, given that most of the world's attention at the time was on Europe
+8
Level 78
Apr 18, 2018
I completely agree that the attack was successful, but as you said "what to do next?" is the blunder. Even Admiral Yamamoto, the brilliant planner of the attack, compared it to poking a sleeping giant, but as a devoted and patriotic member of the Japanese military establishment, he did what was required of him. I don't think that the embargo was a major issue. It was just a political tool to try to force Japan out of Manchuria. A bigger issue was the need for Japan to have complete access to the resources of SE Asia - oil, rubber, tin, rice so that they could achieve their "destiny" to rule the four corners of the world and the US Navy stood as a barrier to that goal.
+4
Level 79
Oct 17, 2015
The attack was a blunder because it could have been worse for the US. The Japanese didn't attack the oil tanks or the navy yard (they weren't even part of the objectives), furthermore, they had a chance to deploy a third wave of attacks, aiming at the ammo and maintenance facilities, but they didn't launch it. Had they done anyone or both of these things, the US would have needed more than a year to recover (This conclusion was said by Admiral Chester Nimitz). So yeah, they did damage and produced a heavy death toll, but it could have been worse, both in the human lives and in the warfare development.
+4
Level 57
Oct 19, 2015
Additionally, the US carrier fleet was out on training exercises during the attack. Had the Japanese sunk American carriers in the harbor instead of the destroyers, the US Navy would have had an extreme tactical disadvantage for a few years while rebuilding. Midway could not have been won without a carrier fleet intact. The eventual importance of mobile air power was not foreseen...
+1
Level 59
Aug 3, 2018
I was gonna say. Pearl Harbor might have led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but it had the desired effect of having the U.S. drawn into the war.
+1
Level 23
Aug 12, 2020
A common misconception, the US wasn`t drawn into the war, they actively started it with Japan. Look up the economic and foreign policies of the USA before Japan launched the attack, FDR had been attacking Japan for over a year with the aim of getting them to fight.
+5
Level 28
Aug 12, 2020
@ meep123,

That's ridiculous. The US enacted that more aggresive foreign policy against Japan because they kept invading everything around them. The blatant and horrible war crimes they were committing were also becoming harder to overlook . To say that the US was somehow responsible for imperial Japanese aggression is ludicrous.

+1
Level 46
Aug 12, 2020
While nothing can justify the Japanese war crimes and behavior, I believe their intent was to protect other Asian countries from Western colonial oppression, which was pretty bad at the time. Many Asian countries, including Japan, were forced to sign unequal treaties with European powers. Japan came up with the whole idea of a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere", however, the idea was used by militarists and nationalists to strengthen Japan's position and advance their dominance within Asia.
+2
Level 36
Aug 16, 2020
Japan didn’t care about ending colonial oppression, nor some kind of Asian brotherhood, just look at what they did to China.

Japan wanted to be a colonial power and the other colonial powers were just in the way

+1
Level 47
Aug 19, 2020
Japan did care, but as CFeng said militarists and nationalists took advantage of the situation and flippity flopped it
+1
Level 60
Feb 19, 2019
Didn't they only sink one ship?
+1
Level 88
Jul 13, 2020
4 ships were sunk--the Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and California. Additionally, the Nevada was beached and wouldn't be ready for use for almost a year, and the Tennessee and Maryland damaged enough to be taken out of service for a couple months. The West Virginia and California were raised, and rebuilt, returning to service in 1944. The Oklahoma was also raised, but the damage was too extensive to rebuild.
+1
Level 53
Aug 12, 2020
In addition to the battleships that were sunk (or run aground), the minelayer Oglala was also sunk. The destroyers Cassin and Downes were in dry-dock (and thus not sunk), but were damaged by fire to the point of being unsalvagable.
+3
Level 65
Jan 31, 2020
It was obviously a blunder for the Japanese. Japan orchestrated the attack, failed to hit most of their targets, and it led to them getting wrecked in WWII. How could you possibly be confused??
+1
Level 64
Aug 13, 2020
nobody counts as a Blunder .. not having a proper survelliance on pearl harbor?

I mean.. planes and ships all around..

Someone could attack us?

+1
Level 62
May 17, 2013
I know I wrote Gettysburg, but it didn't take! Ugh, must check my spelling more carefully. I'm totally giving myself credit for that one.
+1
Level 71
Oct 17, 2015
Don't worry--the quiz maker misspelled "Pickett" as "Picket," so you're in good company.
+1
Level ∞
Oct 17, 2015
Fixed the spelling
+2
Level 40
May 18, 2013
There's actually some pretty good evidence that Hisarlik... the site generally recognised as Troy was destroyed by Greeks at about the 'right' time. Even the wooden horse may have some basis in fact. The thinking is that it was an ancient siege weapon, used to breach the city's walls.
+1
Level 80
May 20, 2013
There are something like 8 or 10 different ancient cities stacked one on top of other there. Some of the evidence potentially confirms parts of the Iliad and other evidence contradicts it- though all in all the story seems far more likely than the story of Genesis, and is probably at least based in part on *something* that happened.
+10
Level 40
Jun 6, 2013
I don't think you're going to out Troy me Kal... I did this at uni. Troy 7a is most widely recognised as being the 'right' Troy. And there is independent evidence of the city being destroyed by Greeks at about the right time from ancient Assyrian texts. So it's not a slamdunk cert... but pretty close to it. As to Helen and Achilles and all that... poetic licence most likely.
+2
Level 80
Sep 6, 2017
Is it a competition? If so, I visited the place. And I also attended university. So...
+4
Level 48
Aug 12, 2020
I've never blocked anyone who wasn't a bot or spammer before, but if Jetpunk allowed, I would like to not see kalbahamut's comments again. They seem to inevitably bring down the tone of the conversation and make my day ever so slightly less enjoyable each time I see one.
+2
Level 80
Aug 12, 2020
I've been leaving comments since 2012 so they're all over the place now. Sorry if talk about the ruins of Troy is upsetting to you, I can see how that could be triggering and affect someone's day.
+1
Level 80
Aug 12, 2020
And, ham, for what it's worth, I've been encouraging QuizMaster to implement some kind of block feature for years now, too. He finally did, but the feature so far only makes it so the blocked person cannot comment on the quizzes that you yourself authored. It does not make it so their comments are invisible to you or vice versa everywhere on the site.

I know that there are many people here who enjoy reading the comments I've posted. Quite a few have come forward to tell me so. But I also know that there are many who, for whatever reason, find the facts and/or opinions that I share to be upsetting some how. And these people often end up trolling me all over the site posting personal attacks or disagreeing just to be disagreeable. And, honestly, that gives me no pleasure at all. I'm not here to upset anyone. I'm not out to attack Christians or Europeans or Muslims or Canadians or Libs or Republicans any other group of people aside from the Belgians who clearly deserve it.

+2
Level 80
Aug 12, 2020
I come to the comments section because I enjoy the exchange of ideas. I enjoy the witty banter and sometimes colorful back-and-forth with other similarly intelligent people. I like reading about other peoples' experiences and stories and sharing my own. I'm not here to engage in flame wars or to ruin anyone's day. I post to make people laugh, or to make them think, or to encourage them to share their own perspectives. That's all. So if my words were truly upsetting to someone, I would much prefer that they have the ability to not see them if they wish. Would be fine with me.

But until a more robust block feature is pushed out, why don't you just stop reading my comments? That's a fair compromise, right? And then you won't have to tell everyone how much you dislike me. Which I doubt does anything good for their day.

+1
Level 73
Aug 19, 2020
I'm not often a fan of your comments, Kal. But this response is very well written and I couldn't agree more. Kudos.
+1
Level 56
Sep 21, 2014
I clearly need to brush up on my US history - it always lets me down!
+3
Level 76
Oct 17, 2015
There is no evidence that Nixon was aware of the Watergate burglary until after the fact.
+2
Level ∞
Jul 9, 2020
Thank you @JoshPen. I've reworded the question.
+4
Level 53
Oct 17, 2015
Kinda surprised there was no mention of the British cavalry charge on the Russian guns in the Battle of Balaclava, best known as the Charge of the Light Brigade. Especially since the quiz title made me think of a line from the Tennyson poem....
+6
Level 80
Jul 20, 2019
still not as disastrous as the charge for baklava after dinner at a Lebanese restaurant.
+2
Level ∞
Jul 9, 2020
Added that one.
+1
Level 79
Aug 12, 2020
Had no idea the word balaclava (hooded face covering) had its origins in a battle. Thanks for the new knowledge.
+3
Level 70
Oct 17, 2015
It's just a little quiz, not a blueprint for life.
+3
Level 23
Oct 23, 2015
The Soviets in Afghanistan wasn't really an invasion as they where invited by the Afghan government, which was then a communist government, which had been established through a coup led by the Soviets.

So yeah, intervention would be a better word since they never invaded the country. And yes, even though they invited themselves into the country it still wasn't and isn't considered an invasion.

+4
Level 67
May 26, 2016
whatever you call it, it ended up being a bit of a blunder.
+2
Level 83
Jul 10, 2020
I think you could call it an invasion if your troops enter your country, kill the leader and install their own. (Along with the international community demanding that the troops leave, sounds like an invasion to me.)
+1
Level 43
May 27, 2017
Please accept Armarda/Amarda for Spanish Amada, it's such an easy mistake!
+2
Level 77
Jul 9, 2020
*Armada
+3
Level 50
Feb 26, 2018
My take on this is if you are attacking Russia or being attacked by them a blunder is coming.
+3
Level ∞
Jul 9, 2020
Just listed to "Ghosts of the Ostfront" from Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast.

You really, really don't want to invade Russia.

It's really hard to defeat people who don't even value their own lives and won't surrender even when their cause is hopeless. Most countries would have sued for peace in 1941, but Russia kept fighting, and just threw millions of their own people into the meat grinder.

+7
Level 82
Jul 9, 2020
*Laughs in Mongolian*
+1
Level 45
Oct 25, 2020
Oh come on, Kievan Rus is barely even part of the same continuum as modern Russia.
+2
Level 67
Jul 9, 2020
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Japanese_War
+1
Level 58
Aug 12, 2020
The Russo-Japanese War did not involve Russia being invaded.
+1
Level 59
Aug 12, 2020
No one said it did. HectorVortac's comment talked about "attacking" Russia, not "invading" it. The Japanese did win the war against the Russians.
+1
Level 87
Jun 14, 2018
Great quiz 15/18. Thank you.
+3
Level 67
Aug 3, 2018
I would argue that the blunder at Gettysburg was committed by Robert E. Lee rather than Pickett. The plan was Lee's, and he's the one who insisted on going forward with it even over General Longstreet's objection. Pickett is just the one to whom it fell to try and make the bad plan work.
+1
Level 67
Aug 6, 2018
The question on annexation by Germany in 1938 needs to be changed to include Austria. Parts of Austria were also annexed by Germany in March of 1938 and since this was the only annexation I was aware of I didn't have any other alternatives. Please amend. Source: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/germany-annexes-austria
+4
Level 77
Jul 9, 2020
Appeasement and allowing annexation clearly refer to Czechoslovakia.
+3
Level 83
Jul 10, 2020
So you want QM to change the question because you admittedly knew of only ONE annexation? That's on you, man.
+1
Level 57
Feb 19, 2019
If I've learned anything in school so far it's that people should never invade Russia in the winter, never invade Russia any other time of the year, and to never buy discount coleslaw. 2 of these 3 helped me.
+1
Level 80
Jul 20, 2019
You bought some fancy coleslaw and invaded Russia in the spring time?
+1
Level 79
Aug 12, 2020
One thing I remember from high school history class is that Russia has two generals who will always defeat invaders - General Distance and General Weather.
+1
Level 45
Oct 25, 2020
General Too Many People To Kill All of Them
+1
Level 83
Sep 13, 2019
The break-in was not at the Watergate Hotel; it was at the Watergate Office Building. (The Watergate complex consists of the office building, the hotel, and condos.)
+1
Level 80
Sep 13, 2019
There's also a CVS where you can get passport photos taken, and a coffee stand and a pastry store. Convenient when making visa runs to the Saudi Arabian embassy right across the street.
+1
Level ∞
Jul 9, 2020
This has been fixed.
+1
Level 48
Sep 13, 2019
Please accept Czechia or Czech Republic for Czechoslovakia
+1
Level ∞
Jul 9, 2020
Okay
+4
Level 67
Aug 12, 2020
No, that should NOT be accepted. Or then you should also accept Slovakia.
+2
Level 49
Aug 13, 2020
Germany did not annex any part of Slovakia, though.
+7
Level 83
Jul 9, 2020
Minor spelling mistake. Should be 'cavalry' not 'calvary' for the Crimean War question.
+2
Level 67
Aug 12, 2020
Still not corrected...
+2
Level ∞
Aug 12, 2020
Fixed now
+7
Level 78
Jul 9, 2020
Other historical blunders:

* The Trojan Rabbit

* Vizzini engaging in a battle of wits with the Man in Black.

* Me attempting this quiz.

+2
Level 82
Aug 5, 2020
* Never start a land war in Asia

* Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line ;)

+2
Level 66
Aug 12, 2020
Calvary should be Cavalry
+1
Level 80
Aug 12, 2020
So you decided to remove the Crusades? I remember arguing that they were not a historical blunder, but actually very successful.
+1
Level ∞
Aug 12, 2020
Yes. Most of the Crusades were a blunder, but the First Crusade actually conquered Jerusalem and held it for a long time.
+1
Level 59
Aug 12, 2020
I would like to advocate for more leniency concerning Chernobyl. I would like to bring forward the spellings "Cernobyl" and "Czernobyl". "Cernobyl" because slavic langauges often use "č" for this sound and the latter, because in English this sound is often written thus.
+1
Level 45
Aug 12, 2020
i keep writing Tchernobyl
+1
Level 72
Aug 12, 2020
I love how 35% of these answers could be construed as “land wars in Asia”
+1
Level 55
Aug 12, 2020
The "Ottoman Empire" is not a country. The correct answer should be Turkey.
+4
Level 80
Aug 12, 2020
It was at the time it was invaded. Turkey did not exist. But it's generously accepted as a type-in anyway.
+1
Level 82
Aug 12, 2020
Just for the record, the US was entangled in Vietnam long before 1965.
+1
Level 79
Aug 12, 2020
True. During WWII the US supplied Ho Chi Minh with arms and guerilla training to help his Viet Minh fight the Japanese, which came back to haunt them when he became an enemy. As communists came closer to taking over, no US president wanted to go down in history as the one who allowed Vietnam to fall to communism and they kept increasing troops and support. Historians say that President Kennedy planned to have all troops out by 1965. After Kennedy's assassination, Johnson took over and felt he had to send in more troops to appease General Westmoreland. Nixon used the war for political gain and prolonged it, but at least he finally ended it. I heard his speech on TV and cried because my husband had a low draft number and would surely have been called up had the war not ended.
+1
Level 80
Aug 13, 2020
They wouldn't have gotten involved (on the side against Ho) in the first place except that deGaulle demanded it, and as France was crucial to Western Europe's resistance against Communism and the Soviets, the US gave up their support for Vietnamese independence. Roosevelt said the year before this, "Indo-China should not go back to France...France has had the country...one hundred years, and the people are worse off than they were at the beginning."
+1
Level 57
Aug 12, 2020
Surprised that the charge of the light brigade is the lowest, we’ve done Tennyson’s poem so many times
+1
Level 64
Aug 13, 2020
when reading this list I feel better for failing in the capitals quizz. at least I did not harm anyone.
+2
Level 45
Aug 13, 2020
Where is: "Donald Dump's presidency." Pretty sure that beats all of these for greatest debacle.
+1
Level 70
Aug 15, 2020
The captain of the Titanic followed all procedures and posted notices for the iceberg warnings. What else was he going to do? Stop the ship and wait for the icebergs to hit him?
+1
Level 45
Aug 17, 2020
Missed Light Brigade and Ottoman
+2
Level 67
Sep 14, 2020
Not certain if Russia selling Alaska should actually be considered as blunder. It may look like one, thinking of the oil drilled there during the recent decades. But during the 19th century it was really pretty worthless. And I dare guess that USA OR UK would have captured Alaska anyway after the communist revolution in Russia 1917.
+1
Level 68
Oct 11, 2020
A lot of these are at the very least debatable as "blunders". Unless you're going for a very superficial look at history, like "Napoleon/Hitler tried to invade Russia and failed, lol".
+1
Level 45
Oct 25, 2020
Oops, I thought it was asking for the name of the city the Spanish were allowed in, not the name of the conquistador. This is why you read carefully, folks.