Understanding Defeat: How to Recover from Loss in Battle to Gain Victory in War

Written by Trevor N. Dupuy
Category: · History

History is filled with accounts of campaigns designed to sweep opponents aside and make strategic territorial gains, but what happens when the plan goes wrong? And could it have been different? Although Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, had the rain not impeded his ability to manoeuvre, or his most able subordinate been given a field command, the outcome might well have been different …

Guiding the reader through more than two centuries of military campaigns, Trevor Dupuy shows how defeat in battle need not lead to defeat in war. That Ulysses S. Grant suffered a number of repulses during the American Civil War is one instance, the Anglo-French Retreat from Mons in 1914 another. But Dupuy does not focus solely on general officers: analysing the Second World War and Korean War actions, veterans of all ranks impart how the engagements felt to them.

Perfect for students of military history, Dupuy tackles a subject few willingly choose to explore, offering careful evaluation of the factors that affect a campaign. General Stilwell captured the essence of Understanding Defeat when he said: “We got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake it.”

Praise for Understanding Defeat…

Understanding Defeat is a compelling work for all those hoping to understand the anatomy of war. Once again Trevor Dupuy makes a most convincing case by historical example and analysis, and does a masterful job of unravelling the subjective and objective views of defeat. This is a must for commanders, planners, and analysts.” — Admiral J. P. Weinel, US Navy (Ret.)

“Colonel Trevor Dupuy has long argued that the human element is not well understood by military planners. Understanding Defeat sheds light on the human and ethical aspects of warfare which, if not understood, will lead to unnecessary losses in future conflicts. For those interested in the art of war, this book is a vital contribution.” — General Edward C. Meyer, US Army (Ret.)

Colonel T. N. Dupuy (1916–1995) served in the US Army during the Second World War and was a member of the original SHAPE staff in Paris before becoming a professor and military historian. His other works include Military Heritage of America and Brave Men and Great Captains.

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