Nations often linger on their military defeats as long as, or longer than, they do on their successes. The Battle of Kosovo remains the key event of the Serbian story, and devastating military defeats adorn the national narratives of France, Russia and the American South. What are the biggest disasters in American military history, and what effect have they had on the United States?
In this article, I concentrate on specific operational and strategic decisions, leaving aside broader, grand-strategic judgments that may have led the United States into ill-considered conflicts. The United States may well have erred politically in engaging in the War of 1812, World War I, the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, but here I consider how specific failures worsened America's military and strategic position.