Top 10 Historic Victories Against All Odds
5. Winter War
Sometimes it’s all in how you look at it. During the Winter War the Soviet Union believed its’ massive Red Army would simply roll over Finland’s much smaller forces. One Russian commander boasted that the war would take all of two weeks. The Fins however, had a different idea. The Soviet Union had approximately 700,000 men, the Fins had 350,000 men. But they were fighting to keep their country. Stalin’s purges had depleted the Red Army of its’ best and in many cases highest ranking commanders. The Fins used logs and crowbars to stop tanks. They came up with the Molotov cocktail, a bottle filled with flammable liquid using anything that would burn as a fuse and thrown at the target. The Fins used snow-camouflage to make their ski soldiers nearly invisibility in the snow. This allowed them to use guerrilla attacks against the Soviets. By 1940, the Soviets had enough and were ready to pull out. The Fins gave up 11% of their territory and 30% of their economic assets to the Soviet Union, but kept their country and their self-rule.
4. The Battle of Thermopylae
The 2007 movie; The 300 is loosely based on fact. The Spartan leader Leonidas and most of his force died at the Battle of Thermopylae. King Xerxes of Persia gathered a huge force to invade Greek. Some ancient observers said it numbered in the millions; others estimated it at 80,000 and 290,000. Leonidas had 4,000 and 7,000 men. It was Aug. 480 BC when Leonidas set out to meet Xerxes at Thermopylae. Leonidas forces killed approximately 20,000 Persians and suffered a loss of 2,500 of their own men. A traitor showed the Persians a secret path that allowed them to get behind the Greeks. Leonidas then made his famous decision and sent the rest of the army away, keeping a force of approximately 1,900 including the 300 Spatans. They held the pass at Thermopylae until every one of Leonidas’ Spartans was dead. The 300 Spartans have become a symbol of valor.
3. Battle of Salamis
There are battles that capture land or put Kings on thrones but very few battles can be said to have influenced the development of a civilization. At the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, 378 Greek ships called “triremes”, met between 800 and 1200 Persia triremes. This battle was fought after the battle of Thermopylae, Xerxes should have learned by now that the Greeks were fearsome fighters. King Xerxes’ fleet sure of victory with their greater numbers sailed into the straits near Salamis island. He positioned his fleet to block and hold both sides of the straits, but bigger is not always better. There were so many Persian ships that they had no room to maneuver and lost any formation they may have had. This gave the Greeks a chance to attack and sink or capture approximately 200 Persian ships. Seeing his fleet falling apart Xerxes retreated. The Greeks were victorious, stopping any future attempts by the Persians to attack the Greek mainland. Some historians believe this actually gave the Greeks a chance to develop their culture and from it Western civilization.
2. The Siege of Eger
Turkish Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, was a conqueror who wanted land and lots of it. Unfortunately, for Hungary part of the land the Sultan wanted was theirs. By 1552 when his army marched toward Eger, everyone thought his victory was a foregone conclusion; that is everyone except the Hungarians. The Fort at Eger was built on the ruins of an older fort, which meant the foundation was stronger than usual. The Ottoman army that arrived at Eger was a well-oiled machine of 80,000 soldiers plus another 70,000 support personnel including entertainers. Eger defenders numbered 2,000 including untrained peasants and women. The Hungarians withstood everything the Ottoman army threw at them. On October 18, 1552, after sustaining heavy losses due to everything from mill wheels loaded with gunpowder being rolled into their troops to women pouring hot water on them as they tried to climb the fortress walls; the Ottomans left Eger. That gave the Hungarians a victory that is still talked about with national pride to this day.
1. Battle of Red Cliffs
Never underestimate the home field advantage. The Han Dynasty, had ruled China for nearly four hundred years, but by 208 AD it was falling apart. The Emperor had no real power and warlords ruled the country. One of the strongest was Cao Cao, he rivals were Liu Bei and Sun Quan . Cao Cao, controlled the north and planned to conquer the south. Their armies met at Red Cliffs. Cao Cao, sailed his massive army of approximately 240,000 ( The movie “Red Cliff” about this battle shares Cao Cao’s version of 800,000 but this is considered an historical exaggeration) into the Yangtze River near Red Cliffs. His opponents had 50,000 men but they were on their home ground. Cao Cao’s army, fell prey to diseases the southerners were immune too. The northerners also battled sea sickness. The southern commander feigned surrender and sent fireships into Cao Cao’s fleet, destroying ships, sailors, and horses. In complete disarray he tried to retreat but the southern rains had left nothing but mud where roads once were. Hundreds drowned in the mud or were trampled. The Southern armies pursued and won the battle. Cao Cao was contained, never again amassing as huge an army or posing as big a threat.