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1. The RMS Carmania. In 1914, just after the outbreak of the First World War, Germany had a cunning idea. They needed to ensure naval superiority in the Atlantic, but there was no way they could manufacture enough new battleships in order to contest what was traditionally Britain’s inviolate domain.
So, they took the SMS Cap Trafalgar – an 18,700tn luxury ocean liner and retrofitted it with two 4.1inch guns and six 1lb “pom-pom” autocannons so that this colossal Frankenstein’s Monster of a ship would appear to be a cruiser under the command of the British Merchant Navy.
On the 14th of September 1914, after a fruitless first voyage ending with no sightings of any targets and being forced to refuel empty-handed, the “RMS Carmania” met its first-ever opponent just off the coast of Trinidad. It was *THE* RMS Carmania, a 19,500tn ocean liner retrofitted with eight 4.7inch guns and deployed as a cruiser by the *REAL* British Merchant Navy. -u/Infernal_Contraption
2. Wojtek, the soldier bear! He served in the Polish army in WWII, helping his fellow soldiers by carrying heavy crates of ammunition into battle, saving precious time during combat.
He had been recruited as a soldier when his division had to board an English ship that didn't allow animals on board. Outraged, the Polish then made him a soldier and he lived through the war to die of old age in a zoo in 1963. -u/Silver_Alpha
3. The Spanish conquistadors found platinum during their search for gold, and dumped all of it in the sea, because they thought platinum was inferior to silver. -u/drop-in-the-dessert
4. Battle of Karansebes. That time in the 1700s when the Austrian army got confused, waged a huge battle against itself within its own lines, and lost an estimated several hundred to few thousand men (and a lot of equipment and money) in the process. They then retreated. The Ottomans, whom they were originally intending to fight, showed up two days later. -u/Hyval_the_Emolga
5. The latrine disaster of Erfurt. In 1184, the King of Germany Heinrich VI held court in the Petersberg Citadel in Erfurt. On the morning of 26 July, the weight of the assembled nobles caused the wooden second-story floor of the Peterskirche to collapse. Most of them fell through into the latrine cesspit below the ground floor and about 60 of them drowned in liquid excrement. -u/Supraspinator
6. The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855. The Fire Department and some clowns get into a disagreement at a wh*re house and get into a punch-up. The clowns win, but the firemen return to the circus later and start attacking in revenge.
The firemen win the day but violence is stopped when the militia come in. The police do nothing, so the city fires all the police (and I mean everyone) and starts a new police force. -u/splitdipless
7. Back in the 1780s, after being elected President, George Washington decided to send a letter to Congress that basically said, “Hey, looking forward to working with y’all, this will be exciting!” However, George wasn’t very eloquent, so he asked his friend James Madison to compose the letter to Congress. When Congress received the letter, they decided to respond in kind, not wanting to slight the new president.
They wanted to send back a letter that essentially said, “We’re glad you’re excited, so are we!” They decided there was no one better in Congress to write the letter than their very own…James Madison. The future 4th president of the United States wound up writing himself 4 letters back and forth between “George Washington” and “Congress” and was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it while it was going on. -u/happybex
8. Hitler, Tito, Stalin, Trotsky, and Freud were living in the same Vienna neighborhood in 1913. -u/Tsquare43
9. The Korean ax murder incident. Basically, a tree was kinda blocking the line of sight near the Bridge of No Return on the North Korea/South Korea border. A pair of Americans, escorted by South Korean troops, went to trim the tree. North Korean troops took exception to this and came out and told them to stop.
They didn't. NK troops called for backup, which showed up with clubs and crowbars and the North Koreans proceeded to attack the South Koreans and Americans. The two Americans were killed (one bludgeoned to death, the other injured with an ax, and died of his injuries on the way back to a hospital). North Korea, being North Korea, claimed they were acting in "self-defense".
A few days later, Operation Paul Bunyan was launched in what was possibly the largest tree-pruning operation in human history, with over 800 infantry The entire Second Battalion artillery was pointed at the DMZ, along with the 71st Air Defense Regiment. Local DEFCON was elevated. 12k more troops were ordered to Korea. Nuclear-capable bombers were deployed.
Literally, 5 minutes into the operation was when the UNC let North Korea know that a UN work party was there "in order to peacefully finish the work left unfinished". The tree was successfully pruned to the point of being a stump, which was later replaced with a monument in 1987. -u/ERankLuck
10. Juan Pujol García. WWII spy who won both the German Iron Cross and Order of the British Empire for spying. He initially approached British Intelligence and offered his services, and was refused.
Undeterred, he created the persona of a loyal Nazi supporter, became a German agent, gathered a payroll of fake sub-agents (all bankrolled by Germany), persuaded the German Navy to chase a fake convoy, then finally got recruited by the Allies.
He finally fed misleading info to the Axis about the D-Day landings, causing them to deploy forces to the wrong locations, even after the invasion had begun. -u/Sebillian
11. When Ivan the Terrible died, he had two sons(he had clubbed the third one to death). The older son Feodor, who was likely mentally disabled, became the puppet of his regent Boris Godunov. The younger son, Dmitry, was sent into exile in Uglich.
The accepted historical narrative is that Gudanov had Dmitry murdered in Uglich so when Feodor died, he could usurp the throne. However, after Feodor died, no less than three different people claiming to be Dmitry tried to take power.
These "False Dmitrys" provided Poland with the casus belli to invade Russia, starting a war that killed nearly half the Russian population. The first False Dmitry ended up almost converting Russia to Catholicism and was subsequently beaten to death by a mob and his remains fired out of a cannon in the direction of Poland.
The Second False Dmitry was possibly a converted Jew. Very little is known about the Third False Dmitry to the point that there may have been a Fourth False Dmitry or possibly a False False Dmitry. -u/Victoresball
12. The Cadaver Synod in which the dead body of a former pope was disinterred, propped up on the throne, and then formally tried by The Church to have his papacy retroactively annulled. Predictably, he was found guilty.
Then they chucked his corpse in the Tiber. -u/mikenyle They propped the corpse, which had been decaying for about 7 months at that point, upon the throne of the Pope. They then assigned someone to stand next to the Corpse-Pope to lean in and "listen" to him and then answer the questions on his behalf.
After they chucked the corpse in the river it washed up a little while later and people started claiming it could perform miracles because it's the Pope so why not. -u/gentlybeepingheart
13. A guy broke into the Prime Minister of Canada's house with a knife, intent to kill the Prime Minister. The Prime Minster's wife gets up and investigates - finding the knife-wielding assassin. She grabs a statue of a loon and beats the sh*t out of the guy.
Our PM then runs into the hall and helps his wife take down the assassin. These are two people in their 60's just kicking the sh*t out of some dude in his late 20's. She calls the local police; the assassin was later confirmed to have major mental health issues.
He was successfully treated for his schizophrenia, released from his treatment facility, and formally apologized to the couple. -u/Ganglebot
14. When Napoleon returned to France from his exile, a Regiment of French soldiers were sent by the Coalition Powers to intercept him. Upon seeing them, Napoleon approached and simply said, "If you wish to kill your Emperor, here I am."
The Commander of the Regiment ordered his men to open fire. Out of the 2,000 soldiers present, not a single one obeyed the order. They all joined Napoleon and marched to Paris with him. Truly a real-life Mary Sue. At least until he was thoroughly beaten and exiled again, permanently this time. -u/SugoiBakaMatt
15. The assassination of U.S. President James A. Garfield. Basically, this guy named Charles J. Guiteau wrote some essays campaigning for Ulysses S. Grant's failed 1880 nomination. When Garfield won, Charles marched up to the White House claiming to be owed some credit for that and wanted to be rewarded for his efforts by being made a consul to Vienna or Paris. He was told to scram and he was so mad that he decided then and there that he'd teach them a lesson by killing Garfield.
As Garfield was hanging out with Robert Todd Lincoln, Charles walks up, fires, and was immediately arrested. Garfield was taken back home and doctors dug around inside him with dirty fingers looking for the bullet. That got infected and after nearly 80 days of misery, Garfield died. Modern doctors and historians believe he would've likely been fine if they'd just treated the wound and not worried about digging out the bullet, or at the very least be smarter about getting the bullet out.
Charles sat in jail until his trial where he insulted his lawyers, gave his testimony in the form of poetry, and passed notes to people in the audience asking for legal advice. He sang, he put out ads in the paper looking for a wife and had plans to go on a speaking tour once he was found innocent. Charles was sentenced to death by hanging, danced his way up to the rope, and sang a song he wrote. Now part of his brain is on display in Philadelphia. -u/ZacPensol
16. The Marathon at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. The first-place finisher did most of the race in a car. He had intended to drop out and got a car back to the stadium to get his change of clothes, and just kind of started jogging when he heard the fanfare.
The second-place finisher was carried across the finish line, legs technically twitching, by his trainers. They had been refusing him water and giving him a mixture of Brandy and Rat Poison for the entire race. Doping wasn't illegal yet. The fourth finisher was a Cuban Mailman, who had raised the funds to attend the Olympics by running non-stop around his entire country.
He landed in New Orleans and promptly lost all the traveling money on a riverboat casino. He ran the race in dress shoes and long trousers (cut off at the knee by a fellow competitor with a knife). He probably would have come in first had it not been for the hour nap he took on the side of the track after eating rotten apples he found on the side of the race.
The 9th and 12th finishers were from South Africa and ran barefoot. South Africa didn't actually send a delegation - these were students who just happened to be in town and thought it sounded fun. Half the participants had never raced competitively before. Some died. -u/irou-
17. The last known kill by bow and arrow in combat was actually during the battle of Dunkirk, 1940. Jack Churchill landed a well-placed arrow into a german soldier's chest. He also chose to carry bagpipes and a Scottish longsword. -u/WasteNet2532
18. Operation Acoustic Kitty. In the ’60s the CIA spent months and tens of millions of dollars to surgically bug and then train a cat to sit near foreign officials in order to transmit their private conversations to CIA operatives. On the day of the first official test run they release the cat, it wanders into the street and is promptly hit by a taxi. -u/tinyyellowhouse
19. Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small town in the south of France. It fell in Nazi-occupied France, and it was a destination for Nazis for r&r. The entire town worked together during the occupation to save thousands of Jews and other folks fleeing Nazis by acting as a hub to help folks cross the border.
E.g. “Distant family members” would visit for a few days, and then “head home.” Lots of forged documents, secret communication. All non-violent. Again, all the while Nazis are basically vacationing there. Town never really bragged about it. The general sense was that it was simply the right thing to do. Old documentary called Weapons of the Spirit highlights the story. -u/octaviousearl
20. During WW2, a balloon bomb was launched by Japan that killed a woman and her 5 kids in Oregon. They're the only casualties of WW2 on US soil (not counting islands and other territories) -u/jrock07
21. Chinese revolutionaries blamed the sparrows for famine, which lead to killing the population of sparrows and... more famine because they broke the ecosystem and the locust could spread. -u/YourExcuse1991
22. The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the UK and Zanzibar in 1896. It lasted 38 minutes. -u/Gadget100
23. Draco, the Ancient Greek lawmaker and namesake of draconian rule, which is known as excessively cruel, was actually beloved by his people. He was so beloved that, in fact, he died at a celebration held in his honor when Greek citizens threw their hats at him, a symbol of affection.
However, the crowd threw so many hats that he ended up suffocating under them and died. Whether this is folklore or truth is hard to tell. While the event was well documented, some documents show that he was likely driven out of Athens, which would make more sense given his behavior. -u/spicymayo19
24. During the battle of Fishguard, the last land invasion attempt of Britain the: "British forces lined up in battle order on Goodwick Sands. Up above them on the cliffs, the inhabitants of the town came to watch and await Tate's response to the ultimatum.
The locals on the cliff included women wearing traditional Welsh costume which included a red whittle (shawl) and Welsh hat which, from a distance, some of the French mistook to be red coats and shako, thus believing them to be regular line infantry.” -u/Miner142
25. Teddy Roosevelt once had his boat stolen. So, he made a new boat from a tree, then went after them. Held them at gunpoint, (he was a deputy) and then took them in. He caught people who stole his boat, by building a new boat then giving chase. -u/skorj