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Fatal Victories: History's Most Tragic Military Triumphs and the High Cost of Victory [Paperback]

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Item description for Fatal Victories: History's Most Tragic Military Triumphs and the High Cost of Victory by William Weir...

"A bull's eye performance."-Publishers Weekly

"Unique and thought-provoking."-The Historian

A noted historian and master storyteller explores the costly, often calamitous -effects of victories gained by brilliant military commanders in fourteen historical -battles-from Hannibal at Cannae to Bunker Hill, Sarajevo, Pearl Harbor, and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.83" Height: 0.79"
Weight:   0.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2006
Publisher   Pegasus Books
ISBN  1933648120  
ISBN13  9781933648125  

Availability  74 units.
Availability accurate as of May 22, 2017 11:09.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About William Weir

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! William Weir is the author of several history books, including Written with Lead, Fatal Victories, A Well Regulated Militia, Soldiers in the Shadows, Turning Points in Military History, Fifty Weapons that Changed Warfare, and Fifty Military Leaders Who Changed the World. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

William Weir currently resides in Guilford, in the state of Connecticut. William Weir was born in 1928.

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1Books > Subjects > History > Military > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Fatal Victories: History's Most Tragic Military Triumphs and the High Cost of Victory?

Entertaining and highly relevant  Sep 3, 2007
This is a very well written and entertaining book for those who like history, particularly military history. The theme of this book is that sometimes a victory can have ultimately fatal consequences for the victor. This story is told through the military history of 14 events, ranging in time from Hannibal's victory at Cannae in 216 B.C., to the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam in 1968. While different types of fatal victories are discussed, there is unfortunately no summary chapter to tie them all together. Also, some of the fatal consequences occurred long after the victory (in one case centuries), so many factors in addition to the effects of the victory played a role in the ultimately fatal outcome.

One type of fatal victory is well understood - that of the pyrrhic victory, where the losses incurred by the victor lead to an ultimate defeat. (While the victory of Pyrrhus at Asculum is mentioned, it did not merit a chapter.) Other types of fatal victories are often not considered as such and indeed some might argue that the ultimate defeat was not due to the "fatal victory" at all. For instance, Weir considered Hannibal's victory at Cannae to be fatal because, contrary to his expectation, the victory did not result in the Roman vassals flocking to him, thereby largely negating the effect of the victory. It could be argued, however, that his ultimate defeat was not the result of this victory but was rather due to the fact that he underestimated the Roman's determination to fight-on to their ultimate victory. Hannibal's mistake lay therefore not in the victory, but in attacking Rome in the first place. The victory of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor is considered in the same vein. (Again I think that the victory was not the problem, it was thinking that a single victory, no matter how great, would induce the US to sue for peace.)

Weir argues that another type of "fatal victory" occurs when the victor assumes that his victorious military approach did have to be modified to account for the development of new technology and tactics. The victory of Muslim forces at Hattin was used to illustrate this, but if this was a "fatal victory" the fatality did not occur for centuries. Many of these "fatal victories" were thus fatal not because of the victory but because of fatal assumptions regarding the capabilities and determination of the enemy.

Another class of "fatal victories" is the victory that leads to a public relations disaster. The British victory over the Irish rebels in the 1916 Dublin uprising and the American victory in the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam are both examples of this type of "fatal victory". Again, it can be argued, however, that these victories were not fatal in and of themselves, but merely highlighted failures in the approaches to handling both conflicts.

While I may quibble, as above, with some of Weir's choices for "fatal victories" or if they even satisfy any logical criteria for their actually being fatal, I nonetheless do recommend this book. The history provided is well written and entertaining, and the background given for each victory is very illuminating. The book is also very important in 2007, as the American military victory in Iraq in 2003 may be the source of another chapter in a future edition of this book.
Way off topic  Jun 27, 2006
The writer theory is that sometimes the initial military victory affect the losing side in a way, he never expected and sometimes the victory dazzles his own side, so much that it leads to disaster.

I have no argument with the writer theory as such. I could accept this could be true in many cases. Its quite natural for people to keep going with success. If it works once then try it again and I don't doubt that sometimes it leads one to disaster.

However what I do object to the examples that he offers to prove his point.

Some battles listed such as Lutzen in 1632, Chickamauga 1863 in the US civil war and Vietnam in 1968 were actually quite a way into the war and some examples eg Dublin uprising and the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914 are not military victories at all. What are they doing in the book? Maybe he should have widened the subject matter in his introduction to include these events.

However in the cases where he does discuss some military battles, I am not sure that they prove his point.

Hannibal after his great victory at Cannae discovered that the Latin allies would not leave Rome alliance. This does not mean that Hannibal victory at Cannae cost him the war. If he had lost the battle at Cannae would it have changed the result of the war? I doubt it. What it shows is that Cathage numbering 700,000 people could not hope to defeat a Rome and it Latin allies which numbered 6,000,000. As such Hannibal idea of how to conduct the war was flawed from before he left Spain. His victory at Cannae simply confirms this.

A similar case could be made for his example of Pearl Harbour. The plans were already set in motion. The Japanese were already attaching other places at the same time. That Japan seriously expect to take on the US and hold them shows that their plans were flawed before they began the attack on the US. A Japanese loss at Pearl Harbour would not have changed the result of the war, only the timing.

Another example the writer provides is of Attila at Chalons. Aetius's aim was to inflict a partial defeat on the Huns but he did not want to destroy them, as we wished to play them off against the Visigoths. He succeeded brilliantly. You cannot blame his victory for changing the situation as that was his Aetius's aim before the battle. Also the writer underestimates the effect of the loss on Attila. It certainly weaken him and led soon to the fall of the Huns.

Another example, I thought was just silly, Hattin led to the fall of the Crusader kingdom. After Hattin, the Christians were a small outpost depend on foreign aid to keep going. To say that the Moslem's rejected gunpowder in favour of horse archers as a result of this victory is absurd.

On the balance, I don't think most of the examples work. Although Boer victory at Majuba Hill in 1881, he mentions probably does.

Overall he has some nice descriptions of battles so if you are interested in that sort of stuff you might want to read them for this but this is not what the writer stated was his point. What we need is analysis of what the situation was before the battle and how the battle changed the situation! This we do not get.

Entertaining montage of military history  Aug 4, 2004
This is one of those composite books, dealing with a group of battles, campaigns, or events, with the idea here being that the author will discuss victories that led to defeat in various times in history. The examples themselves are interesting at times, but somewhat uneven, and the narrative itself is generally well-done.

There are a few shortcomings of this book. I particularly didn't think that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand qualified for as a battlefield victory, though he does a competent job of recounting the event itself. Several of the other battles contained minor errors (nothing major, though) that marred the narrative a bit.

Given all of the above, the author has a breezy writing style that's interesting to read without being too unintellectual, and he presents his case for each battle's inclusion in the collection intelligently. I would recommend this book to everyone who's interested in warfare in general, or history.
Lighter side of battles!  Dec 16, 1998
This book deals with serious subjects in a newsy & unfussy manner. The author uses almost no heavy historical jargon & a minimum of dates, which makes for an entertaining & informative series of battle accounts. Weir describes the historical background & central characters with just enough detail to tickle one's interest. Some of his suppositions & links that develop the negative consequences of the "fatal victory" were not always wholly convincing. The actual accounts of the battles I thought were a little lightweight. He is however, obviously very well read & a good storyteller. I do recommend anyone interested in military history to give this a book a try, provided they can find the paperback version, as I did. I also suspect that this book will possibly provoke readers into the purchase of some of the "heavier" books mentioned in the excellent bibliography.

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