If you ask any military commander, they will tell you that the condition of the battlefield is as crucial to winning a battle as the number of men or amount of supplies an army carries with it. Unfortunately, commanders don’t always get to pick the places their army must fight over. As with any careful plan, the enemy gets a say in its success.

Men have fought in combat under every possible condition: rain, snow, sleet, and gloom of night. One side will always prevail, but the conditions listed under the five worst would give any casual reader pause to wonder what the brass was thinking.


1) Passchendaele, World War I

The area around the Passchendaele battlefield was originally reclaimed salty marshland. When the artillery shells and trench warfare of World War I’s western front rolled into the area, the area’s delicate ecosystem soon devolved into a muddy, swampy hellscape.

Passchendaele became a sea of mud into which many troops often drowned. Even if one fell into the mud near comrades, it was next to impossible for them to help their friend. At Passchendaele, they would sometimes shoot men who fell into the mud to save them from a slow, choking death.

Chateau Wood Ypres salient WWI
Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade on a duckboard track passing through Chateau Wood, near Hooge in the Ypres salient, 29 October 1917. The leading soldier is Gunner James Fulton and the second soldier is Lieutenant Anthony Devine. The men belong to a battery of the 10th Field Artillery Brigade. (Australian War Memorial collection)


2) Chosin Reservoir, Korean War

Imagine fighting an enemy who outnumbers your side by as many as ten-to-one, while having to do it in waist-deep snow, freezing temperatures, and against an enemy with nothing to lose. That’s the kind of battle the U.S. Marines were fighting at the Chosin Reservoir.

With the Siberian winter in full effect, ten entire divisions of Chinese troops surprised UN forces in North Korea in 1950. With temperatures as low as -17 degrees Fahrenheit, U.S. Marines fought their way out of being surrounded. The ground was too frozen to dig foxholes, so Marines used the frozen bodies of their enemies as cover from communist bullets.