Game Changing Moments – WIF History

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Historical Moments

That Changed

Everything

Like the moment when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was taken out because his assassin stopped for a sandwich, some small moments in history can have absolutely incredible impact. While most things in the world take place because of boring and tedious work done over decades, there are those times when things hang in the balance, and the wrong move can alter the course of history forever. Below are several scenarios where the history of the world changed in a very short span of time – if these things had happened differently, we could be living with a very different world today.

 10. James Comey Releasing The Final Report About Hillary Clinton

Certainly, there are many factors involved in the recent election that caused it to come out the way it did, and no one can say that Hillary Clinton was an incredibly strong campaigner. However, when it got close to the end, most of the polls said that Hillary Clinton was going to win handily, and yet somehow she did not manage to do so. In fact, while locking up the popular vote, she lost the Electoral College by quite a lot. Some of the reason for her inability to cross the finish line at the end is that her candidacy was not the most exciting, but the folks at FiveThirtyEight, who perform statistical number crunching of elections, believe it was at least the final straw.

They believe that the final Comey letter about Hillary Clinton, her “October Surprise” as it were, was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back. After all the various election ads against her, and all the various things that she was questioned over such as Benghazi, a final suggestion that she was once again being investigated, after it was supposed to be over, likely tipped the final scales in favor of Donald Trump. While we cannot know for sure how Hillary Clinton would have governed, it is safe to say that she would have had a very different presidency from Donald Trump, and left a very different mark on the world.

9. The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln

Just weeks before the American Civil War came to a close, Abraham Lincoln found himself inside Ford’s Theater to relax and take in a show. Then, as we all know, the actor and southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in the head and ended the second term of his presidency early. Unfortunately, while Booth shot Lincoln in the head, he may have also shot himself, and the South, in the foot. The problem is that right after the Civil War, Lincoln’s plan was to try to get the South rebuilt, forgiven and friendly with the North again as soon as possible. He wanted true reconciliation and reconstruction, and he didn’t want to waste any time. However, the so-called radical Republicans in congress wanted stricter measures against the South, for which the South didn’t want to cooperate.

Then Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor, was much more of a Southern sympathizer, which meant that the radical Republicans did not want to work with him on Southern reconstruction, or really on anything. This led to an atmosphere where, instead of both sides working together to rebuild and reconcile, the South tried to get away with as much as it could, and the North tried to punish them for past crimes. This eventually led to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, and poor leadership that caused the Jim Crow South to be an issue to this very day. The South is still a bit of a mess, all because one angry Southerner’s misguided desire for revenge caused him to take out the man with the plan and influence to fix it. And while some may think Lincoln couldn’t have done it, there is evidence that Lincoln already had support for plans similar to those presented by Andrew Johnson, but that support was withdrawn when Johnson was sworn in, because many politicians did not want to work with a Southern sympathizer.

8. The Yalta Conference Reinforced Soviet Hegemony In Eastern Europe

The Cold War raged up until very recently and if you asked some, it never ended at all. Certainly, even if it did end temporarily, it would seem that a serious conflict with the Russians is nearing again. People are once again getting worried about a violent and global domination-hungry Russia, and tensions have not been higher since the early days of the Cold War. However, it is possible all of this could have long ago been avoided, or at least been very different from how it is now. At the Yalta Conference, in the final discussions between the three major allied leaders, Franklin Roosevelt was nearing the end of his life, and his skills as a negotiator were greatly slipping.

It was said Winston Churchill could not convince Stalin (and did not get along with the man), but Roosevelt was able to get on with him as a friend and equal, and get a lot out of him in terms of negotiation. Experts say that at the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt was exhausted and gave away far too much to Stalin, basically giving away the Eastern European countries that went on to be held by the Soviet Union for decades. While Stalin already held some of the territory, Roosevelt basically gave it up without a fight. If he had managed to get Stalin to back off from much of Eastern Europe to begin with, Churchill may never have given his Iron Curtain speech, and we may not have a man like Putin today who thinks half of Europe belongs to his country by birthright.

7. The Challenger Disaster Was Caused By A Dangerous Few Moments Of Groupthink In A Single Meeting

The Challenger was set to launch, and people were incredibly excited to see it, with NASA promoting it as much as possible. Then, disaster struck. After watching the shuttle explode on national TV, with school children watching around the country, it turned out that the issue was a faulty o-ring that messed up the heat seal and caused the whole thing to be consumed. Immediately many people wondered how the shuttle could go up like that at all. After all, there were procedures in place to test every last part down to the last decimal to make sure there were no issues.

However, it quickly turned it that it did indeed come down to human error. At a meeting the issue of the o-ring had been brought up, but those who were in charge of the meeting seemed uninterested in seriously discussing it, and even though many in the meeting knew it needed to be discussed more for safety, they did not want to upset their superiors. In the end, the meeting became such a perfect example of the psychological phenomenon of groupthink – where people make bad decisions to not rock the boat in a group, even when they know the decision is catastrophically terrible – that mock ups of the meeting have been made using professional actors, in order to help teach the concept to psychology students.

6. The Hessian Commander Neglected A Note Saying George Washington Was Crossing The Delaware

The Crossing of the Delaware is one of the most famous moments in the American Revolution, and has been immortalized with an incredibly famous painting, which stirs the imagination of the bold deed performed by George Washington and his men, in order to take the enemy off guard when they were at their most vulnerable. It was a crucial point in the war that we all know very well, and it could have turned out very differently if the Hessian Commander had taken the warnings he got more seriously.

The Hessian Commander was found much later with a note that told of Washington planning an imminent attack, something a spy had slipped the commander days before. However, he did not take the warnings particularly seriously, and was caught up not properly prepared when Washington came for him and his men. Part of the issue was that they were constantly being harassed by local militias, which made things more chaotic when the full attack from the Colonials arrived. However, the simple fact of the matter is that if the commander had prepared himself for a full blown attack (not just from the local militias, but from Washington) and stayed alert, the entire plan may have been foiled.

5. Andrew Wakefield’s Fake Anti-MMR Study Is Causing Deaths To This Day

Andrew Wakefield is a man who has more blood on his hands than most people who have ever been called a doctor – which he isn’t anymore, because he was kicked off the medical register in the UK for his fraudulent nonsense. Back in the late 1990s Wakefield published a fraudulent medical paper that he was later forced to retract, claiming that vaccines caused autism in children. Despite the fact that the study was swiftly disproven, and Wakefield shown as the scam artist he is, this is still causing horrible problems to this day.

His paper was a catalyst that started a movement, now endorsed by multiple celebrities, to not vaccinate your children. This nonsense has already led to outbreaks of measles in the United States, and has led to more bouts of whooping cough and other potentially deadly diseases that we had previously had under control. Just one fraudulent scientific paper is causing increased deaths decades later, due to so many people that listened to bad medical advice, and decided to embrace conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, it’s hard to convince these anti-vaxxers to protect their children and everyone else’s, because anti-vaccine believers tend to have a cult-like mindset. If you believe that vaccines don’t cause autism, in their mind, you are a part of the big cover-up, or a sheep unwilling to see the truth.

4. President Truman’s Controversial Decision To Launch Two Atomic Bombs On Populated Cities

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a moment in history that will remain in infamy forever. Some people defend it saying that at that point, nothing less had any chance of convincing the Japanese to surrender peacefully, and that otherwise we would have had total war that led to way more deaths on both sides overall. Others would argue that the Japanese were already low on resources and morale, and we could have possibly worked out a peaceful surrender from them without dropping two giant bombs on populated cities.

However, whether you agree with the decision or not, it was an historic moment that forever shaped the globe. Since then nuclear paranoia set in, and countries immediately started racing to build as many of their own and test them all over the world, releasing untold amounts of radiation. This global arms race persists today, where many people still face the possibility of nuclear annihilation daily, and are only comforted by the fact that nuclear war would be unlikely to happen because it would be a no win scenario.

The world could possibly have been a very different place. Even if nuclear testing had continued in various countries, without the historic example of heavily populated cities being leveled in a moment, the true paranoia we see today would likely not exist – we might have had a world where people knew a nuclear weapon existed, but didn’t particularly fear them and feel so paranoid, because they had no proper context in which to put a real life nuclear attack.

3. Teddy Kennedy’s Actions Immediately Following Chappaquiddick Ruined His Presidential Dreams

Most people have heard of Teddy Kennedy, one of the three original Kennedy brothers and often called the lion of the senate. Some wondered, as he got on in years, why he never sought the presidency, and the answer is that he once did, and ended up being sunk by his own actions. Back when he was younger, he was a very powerful up and coming politician, and was indeed running for president. He was charismatic, had a lot of support, and likely would have won the Democratic primary, with a good chance at the general election. And while we cannot know exactly what kind of policies he would have had, the Kennedys never did anything small, so it is certainly likely he would have had a strong historical impact as president. However, just as his star was as bright as it could be, he got himself into big trouble.

He was out with a woman in his car on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, when the car crashed over a bridge into the water. He managed to make it out of the car, but not with the woman – Mary Jo Kopechne. He did not notify the police until many hours later, and not until after he had had a good talk with his lawyers about how he could get out of trouble. Many speculated that he did not go to the police immediately or report it because he was drunk and wanted to sober up – he suspected he would be arrested for things like manslaughter and drunk driving if he went to the police right away. Still, he was a Kennedy and they were known for being playboys, he could have potentially managed to avoid it sinking his political career if he had went straight to the police, but the way he handled the incident sunk him. Most people were rather disturbed how callously he left the woman to die.

2. Reagan’s Firing Of Over 1000 Air Traffic Controllers Has Had Lasting Repercussions For All Unions

Many people do not remember the firing of the air traffic controllers under President Reagan, but it still has vast ramifications to this day. The short version of the story is that the then-union for the air traffic controllers was on strike for better pay, and the negotiations were simply not going very well at all. Both sides kept going back and forth, and an agreement was not being put in place quickly enough. Fed up with the entire thing, President Reagan declared it an illegal strike and threatened to fire each and every single one of them if they didn’t stop striking. Unfortunately for them, they called what they thought was a bluff. It wasn’t, and they were all fired.

At first people thought this would be a huge disaster, because air traffic controllers are really important, but he put in military controllers until others could be trained and everything worked out okay. This was a huge blow to unions in general and greatly set them back over the years. However, this wasn’t necessarily something Reagan would have wanted. He didn’t think unions in general were bad or that workers shouldn’t have rights, but he saw a situation where these were vital jobs that absolutely must be filled, and the terms could not be agreed upon. He saw it as an extreme act in an emergency – he did not plan to break the backs of labor unions.

1. Colin Powell’s False Presentation About Iraq Got Us Into War With A Potential Ally

Colin Powell’s presentation about WMDs before congress will go down as one of the most pivotal moments in history. Now, there is some debate and confusion as to whether Powell was simply being used, or was complicit in what was happening. Either way, an incredibly false and misleading presentation made it look like there were WMDs in Iraq when there actually were none at all. This led the United States into a full blown war in Iraq that has had lasting ramifications to this very day. And to make matters worse, there is reason believe that if we hadn’t taken out Saddam, we may have had a stable ally in the region who could have been of great help.

When Saddam Hussein was captured, he explained that he was actually shocked and confused that Iraq was attacked. He thought that the United States would want to ally with him to help find terrorists after what happened on 9/11, and didn’t understand why he was a target when none of the terrorists were from Iraq. He had thought he could help us and that what happened would bring Iraq and the United States closer together. While some may believe Saddam to be brutal, he kept the region stable, something we have been unable to accomplish. If Saddam had remained in power and his words are to be believed, we may have had both a stable Iraq and a solid and stalwart ally in the region.


Game Changing Moments

– WIF History

Rare Can’t-Miss Photos – WIF Photography

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Rare Pictures

You Should See

With the almost insane amount of pictures taken on a daily basis around the world these days, it’s quite hard to say that there’s such a thing as a rare one. That same thing certainly doesn’t apply for past photos. But regardless of whether they’re past or present, there are some rare pictures out there that you should definitely see. And that’s because, as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, unless you’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to subtly flex so you can impress strangers on Instagram.

 10. Maradona’s Hand of God

It was on June 22 during the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico that history was written, and past injustices were avenged – or so the Argentinians say. It was Argentina facing England in the quarter-finals and tensions were running high among the 115,000 fans in the stadium. It was only four years earlier that the two countries were again engaged, but in a totally different way. That was during the Falkland War, fought over the islands in the South Atlantic – a short, but brutal conflict that ended with Argentina’s defeat. So, as you can imagine, the match was for far more than just the chance at the title. Luckily for Argentina, however, they were playing their greatest footballer ever – Diego Armando Maradona.

Six minutes into the second half and the man-legend himself was in the penalty area with the ball flying towards him. The English goalkeeper was charging forward to punch the ball away, only for Maradona to somehow head it over him and into the goal. The crowd went wild! After the match, however, he jokingly commented that the goal was “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” As you can see in the photo, he wasn’t a particularly tall player, only 5-foot-4, and so he made use of his left hand so he could reach it. Just in case you’re unaware, unless you’re the goalie using your hands in soccer (or football, if you like) is very illegal. And almost everyone, his teammates included, saw it, with the exception of the referee. Maradona later said that “I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came… I told them: ‘Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it.” That goal later became known as the Hand of God.

And to make matters even worse for the English, only four minutes later Maradona scored another goal, voted in 2002 as the Goal of the Century. The match ended 2-1 for Argentina, and they went on the win the World Cup. After the England match Maradona said that “Although we had said before the game that football had nothing to do with the Falklands war, we knew they had killed a lot of Argentine boys there, killed them like little birds. And this was revenge.”

9. The Night Prohibition Ended

It’s somewhat amazing and funny to see a group of grown men and women looking like a bunch of kids who just turned 21. And it’s not like most of those people in the photo weren’t drinking any alcohol throughout the Prohibition Era, but they could now do it legally. Soon after the end of WWI, Congress passed the 18th Amendment into law, prohibiting the sale and manufacture of alcohol all throughout the United States. Originally intended to crack down on crime, drunkenness and lewd behavior, Prohibition ended up doing the exact opposite in most respects.

While alcohol consumption did fall by nearly 70% during the early years, it nevertheless gave rise to organized crime. The years that followed weren’t called The Roaring Twenties for nothing, you know. Underground speakeasy lounges opened up all over the place, and the country experienced a high rise in smuggling and bootlegging. It is estimated that around 10,000 people died of alcohol poisoning during the Prohibition Era from bootleg whiskey and tainted gin. The government even poisoned alcohol in order to scare potential drinkers. Some grape growers, who didn’t replace their vineyards with orchards, opted instead for manufacturing juice concentrates to be sold in brick form. Consumers would dissolve those bricks in water and get grape juice. But there was a clear warning on the label to not leave the solution to ferment for 21 days or it would otherwise turn into wine. And a good thing the warning was there, too – you know, for the consumer’s safety.

It was during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency that the 18th Amendment was repealed on December 5, 1933, as a way to raise taxes during the Great Depression that began several years earlier. Some states maintained the ban on alcohol many years after 1933, with Mississippi being the last to start legally selling alcohol again in 1966. But some counties spread throughout 10 states still ban it to this day. One such county is incidentally the one where Jack Daniel’s whiskey is produced.

8. What Does an Upside-down Iceberg Look Like?

As most of us know, icebergs only show about 10 percent of their actual size, with the rest being submerged underwater. And that upper part that we normally see is heavily weathered by the elements and is always covered in snow. But as filmmaker Alex Cornellwould come to see on a trip to Antarctica in 2014, the underbelly of an iceberg is even more incredible than its upper part. It has a stunning aqua-green color with different shades of blue and green pressed in different layers. And not to mention the liquid water that flows through it “almost like an ant colony,” as Cornell described it. The reason the iceberg has that amazing color is because the ice is ancient. Over many thousands of years, as snow piles on the ice, the one at the bottom forces all the air pockets out. In this state, heavily compacted ice absorbs a tiny amount of red light, giving it this bluish tint. And to see something like this is rare, even in iceberg country.

But as one of the scientists present on the ship said, this phenomenon could happen more often as time goes on. In the past, the ice sheets would extend for miles out to sea, and when icebergs did break off, they did it more calmly. But with the more recent increases in temperature, that no longer happens and the ice breaks off almost immediately after it no longer touches land. “Like squirting toothpaste out of a tube. A little bit of toothpaste comes out the tube, then it breaks off, and a little bit more comes out the tube, then it breaks off. So you get these really thin pieces of ice that flip over right when they’ve broken off,” explains Justin Burton, an assistant professor at Emory University.

7. Too Revealing?

Back in the 1920s lady beach goers were being arrested by the police for wearing swimsuits that were too revealing. But were these bathing suits too revealing? The short answer is… yes. Kind of. For the time. When looking at past events, it’s easy for us to judge them by our present standards, but as any good historian can tell you, you shouldn’t. Analyzing history based on our current views of the world is known as presentism and should be avoided if you really want to understand the events that happened back then. By looking at things through our present-day lens, we basically remove that particular event out of its own context and we end up judging those people for things that didn’t belong in their time or way of thinking.

In this photo, two women were being arrested by the police on July 12, 1922 for defying a Chicago edict that forbade “abbreviated bathing suits.” At the same time in New York, 20 female special deputies known as “Sheriffettes” were patrolling the beaches looking for ‘too much skin.’ In 1921, a woman was arrested in Atlantic City for wearing her stockings rolled down below the knees. When a police officer demanded that she roll them back up, she refused and ended up punching him in the eye. But looking at the broader picture,women’s bathing suits in the early 1900s were made out of wool, incredibly cumbersome, and had high necks, long sleeves, skirts, and pants. Not even men were allowed to be bare-chested, with the authorities saying that they didn’t want “gorillas on our beaches.” So, these suits could have easily been considered as “abbreviated” back then.

In any case, in 1908 came film star Annette Kellerman who got arrested on a beach in Massachusetts for wearing a one-piece body suit that showed her neck and arms. She brought it back from England and it was somewhat similar to men’s swimsuits at the time. By the 1930s and with the arrival of new clothing materials such as nylon and latex, swimsuits lost their sleeves and began hugging the body more. They also had shoulder straps that could be lowered for tanning.

6. Two Unlikely Partners in Crime

In November 2016, the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center posted several photos of a coyote and a badger working together for their common good. Interspecies collaboration is uncommon in nature, but not unheard of. And when it does happen, it’s usually between prey animals trying to increase their chances of survival, and not between the predators themselves. But in what can only be described as ‘synergy at its finest’, here we have two different predators working together to catch food for themselves. Even though the two were also spotted hunting alone, they do team up on occasion – and most often so during summer.

On the one hand, we have the coyote, who is an excellent runner and can catch prey trying to escape. But if that prey has a burrow in which to hide, then it’s game over for the coyote. Luckily, his friend the badger is an excellent digger, so if that happens and the prey runs into a hole, he then takes over the operation and gets the job done. While studying the pair, the researchers have come to the conclusion that by working together, not only do the two have a greater chance of actually catching something, but they also spend a lot less energy in doing so. So, maybe there’s a lesson in there for all of us on the merits of teamwork and cooperation.

5. The Day Sweden Switched Lanes

It wasn’t that long ago that the Swedes were driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, so on the 3rd of September, 1967, they changed it to the right side… literally. This day came to be known as H Day, where the “H” stands for “Högertrafik” – the Swedish word for “right traffic.” Now, even though the photo gives the impression that everything was in chaos, it actually wasn’t as bad as it looks. Four years before the switch happened, the Swedish government appointed a special committee to oversee the transition. They implemented an extensive education program, they advertised the change on milk cartons and even on women’s underwear. Several days before H Day, they put out over 130,000 reminder signs, as well as flyers on people’s windshields. During the night in question, the traffic was shut down for several hours across the country, over 360,000 road signs were changed, and the drivers were then instructed to change lanes once everything was in place. Only 157 minor accidents were reported on H Day with only 32 personal injuries.

The reason for the change was logical, even though many people didn’t really want it in the first place. For starters, most other European countries, Sweden’s neighbors included, were driving on the right-hand side already. Secondly, most cars in Sweden were imported from the United States and they already had left-side driver seats. In the early days, this mismatch of left-side steering wheel and left-hand roads proved to be an advantage for the Swedes because they had more to worry about with the poor conditions of the side of the roads than oncoming traffic, but by the 1960s this was no longer a problem. And lastly, the country witnessed a tripling of the number of cars in ten years and they were expecting to double again by 1975. So, they decided to make the switch before that happened. The change also brought with it a steep drop in road accidents, particularly during overtaking, or those involving pedestrians. The insurance claims also went down by as much as 40%.

4. The 110 Million-Year-Old Statue

When discovered, most dinosaur fossils look just like a pile of rocks, and only a trained eye can distinguish one for what it actually is. And in the vast majority of cases, these fossils are no more than mere fragments or partial skeletons. But back in 2011, every paleontologist’s wet dream came true when this 2,500-pound dinosaur fossil was unearthed in Canada’s Millennium Mine in Alberta. The fossil was so well preserved it even bears the tile-like plates and parts of its skin. This not only helped scientists have a far more detailed look at an actual dinosaur, but it also offered information regarding its color. Because, believe it or not, we still don’t know what color dinosaurs were, and all depictions we see of them are only based on informed speculation. Nevertheless, this dinosaur seems to have had a reddish or reddish-brown color, which was in contrast to its light colored horns.

When alive, this nodosaur stretched more than 18 feet long and weighed close to 3,000 pounds. The herbivore sported a tough, thorny armor on its back and two 20-inch-long spikes coming out of its shoulders, somewhat similar to bull horns. It is estimated to have lived sometime between 112 to 110 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period, and most likely suffered a tragic end. Paleontologists speculate that it was swept out to sea, possibly during a flash flood, and once it sank to the bottom, minerals quickly infiltrated its skin and bones, turning the dinosaur into stone. Some pebble-like masses found inside the carapace were, most likely, the dinosaur’s last meal. Today, the statue-like fossil is at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Canada.

3. 41 Klansmen and a Ferris Wheel

This photo was taken in Cañon City, a small mining town in central Colorado, on April 27, 1926. One interesting thing about it is that it wasn’t until 1991, when it was donated to the Royal Gorge Museum & History Center in Cañon City, someone else (other than those Klansmen in the photo and some of their friends and family) had the chance to see it. And it took another 12 years before the photo somehow made it from the museum’s archives to the internet in 2003. The reason this is interesting is because the local newspaper ran a story called “Klansmen pose for picture on merry-go-round” without actually adding the picture. But regardless of the fact that it took this photo decades before people could actually see it, it nevertheless represents a somewhat crucial point in American history. And a hopelessly inaccurate newspaper headline, because geez, that’s totally not a merry-go-round.

That year was the KKK’s zenith in power, popularity, and influence over the country. By the mid-’20s the Klan had somewhere between 4 to 5 million members, or about 15% of the country’s entire eligible population. And what’s more, Cañon City was the Klan’s capital back then. The state’s governor was a Klansmen, the senator was openly endorsed by the KKK, the mayor of Denver had links with them, and the town’s Baptist Reverend, Fred Arnold, was the actual Grand Dragon. Now, even though their attire is identical, and the bigoted beliefs are similar, the 1920s version of the KKK was notably different than the Klan that emerged during the 1960s in the South.

For starters, the old-school Klansmen focused their attention on Catholics more than black people; they strongly supported Prohibition, and mostly used intimidation rather than actual violence to deter new immigrants. The end of WWI saw a great deal of immigration, mainly from Italy and other Southern European states, and the Protestants were afraid to lose their jobs because of them. But two years after this photo was taken, the Klan would all but disappear. In 1928, the Reverend Grand Dragon died unexpectedly, and with no succession plan in place, the KKK lost most of its influence in both politics and the general population.

2. Two Afghan Medical Students and Their Teacher

When looking at this photo of two female medical students listening to their female professor as they’re examining a plaster mold, Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be the first place that comes to mind, does it? But back in the mid-1950s, ’60s and early ’70s, the country was going through a period of relative peace and prosperity, spared for a brief moment in time from the many internal conflicts and foreign interventions that had plagued it for decades before, and have since. These two decades in Afghanistan’s history saw the biggest strides made by its people towards a more liberal and westernized way of life.

The country remained neutral during WWII and didn’t align with either of the two superpowers during the Cold War that followed. It nevertheless was the beneficiary of aid from both the US and the Soviet Union, who were trying to ‘court’ it to their side. Modern buildings began to spring up all throughout Kabul and burqas became optional for a while. If Afghanistan would have been allowed several more decades of social and economic stability, it would have been unrecognizable by comparison to today’s actual look. Unfortunately, however, things were not to last. Foreign pressure, military coups, subsequent invasions, and ensuing civil wars have made Afghanistan into what it is today – and the war still wages on. If anything, this photo shows what peace, even if it’s short lived, does to people.

1. Savage Capitalism

The buffalo, America’s most iconic animal (second only to the bald eagle) was nearly hunted to extinction by the late 19th century. Once, more than 60 million head strong, their numbers were reduced to only 100 by the early 1880s. The reasons for its systematic extermination were, first and foremost, industrialization and expansion. The Great Plains Indian tribes, most notably the Comanche, were standing in the way of the Americans’ expansion for decades and the best way to deal with them was to deprive them of their main source of food, which was the buffalo. Up until the 1860s, the Indians were hunting them at about a rate of 280,000 head per year – which was around the maximum of the sustainability limit the buffalo population could provide. But in the winter of 1872 to 1873 alone, more than 1.5 million hides were shipped out East. The motivation for this government-endorsed mass killing was the many factories springing up on the East Coast and the ever increasing need for industrial belts, and other everyday leather products.

Hunters were paid $3.50 ($110 today) per hide and could singlehandedly kill an entire herd in mere hours. They would choose a vantage point farther away and then shoot them one by one until all of them were dead. People were even doing it from trains traveling to and from the East and West Coasts, so as to entertain themselves. Many Indians were in on it too, even to the bitter end. And once the proud beasts were all dead, they were skinned and their carcasses left to rot where they fell. Once whitened under the scorching sun, the bones were collected and sent to be turned into fertilizer for the now buffalo and Indian-free Great Plains.

But Mother Nature had a rather ironic way of returning the favor to the savage capitalists. There was a delicate balance struck between the many buffalo herds and the Great Plains themselves, put there by countless eons of coevolution. And when the buffalo were all gone, and together with the intensive agriculture that followed, the topsoil slowly began to erode, leading to the devastating Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Many people died of dust pneumonia, malnutrition, and other complications. America then saw the greatest mass migration in its history, with over 2.5 million people moving to other places, and at a time when the country was already going through the Great Depression no less. Some scientists now fear that with the current climate trends, another Dust Bowl may be looming just over the horizon.


Rare Can’t-Miss Photos

– WIF Photography

Top Trials of the 20th Century

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5  Top Trials

of the

20th Century

Every so often there are trials that become so famous they grab the attention of millions of people from around the world. These are five of those cases from the last century and the early part of this one, where the drama was so immense that the world became enraptured.

 5. The Trial of Leon Czolgosz

The first “Trial of the Century” of the 20th century only lasted eight hours, but it was a huge sensation because of who was killed.

On September 6, 1901, President William McKinleywas standing in a receiving line greeting people at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Suddenly, 28-year-old anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot him twice at point blank range, and McKinley died eight days later. Czolgosz came from a poor immigrant family and shot McKinley because he thought that McKinley only helped the rich.

Czolgosz refused to talk to his two lawyers, two former State Supreme Court Judges, making it hard to come up with a defense. The trial started nine days after McKinley died on September 23, 1901 and Czolgosz didn’t testify in his own defense.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 29, 1901, via the electric chair.

4. The Scopes Monkey Trial

In March 1924, Tennessee passed a law that made it illegal to teach the theory of evolution in schools. Obviously, not everyone supported this law, so John Scopes, a high school teacher in Dayton, and a local businessman named George Rappalyea conspired for Scopes to get charged for breaking the law so they could challenge the ruling.

The court case attracted two of the country’s top lawyers, William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate – who, incidentally, lost the 1900 election to William McKinley – volunteered to help the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow volunteered to help the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in defending Scopes.

The trial started on July 10, 1925, and attracted the attention of the country because it essentially represented what should be taught in schools – fundamental Christianity or science. The case didn’t start off great for the defense, because the judge opened each day with a prayer. Also, the defense wasn’t allowed to argue that the law was unconstitutional.

Near the end of the trial, Darrow changed tactics. He called Bryan, who was helping the DA, as a witness to defend Christian fundamentalism. During his examination, Darrow embarrassed Bryan by making him say contradictory and ignorant statements over his literal interpretation of the Bible.

In his closing statement, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty so that it could be appealed. The jury spent eight minutes deliberating and returned a verdict of guilty. Scopes was fined $100, which was the minimum punishment. In 1927, the ruling was overturned on a technicality, but the law wouldn’t be repealed until 1967. The play (and later Oscar-nominated movie) Inherit the Wind tells the story of the infamous trial.

3. The Trial Charles Manson

In August 1969, the United States was shocked by the brutal murders of seven people in their upscale homes in Los Angeles. The most famous victim was actress Sharon Tate, who was the wife of film director Roman Polanski. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

What made the crimes even more shocking was the people who were responsible for the crimes. It was a cult-like group of hippies that consisted of pretty young women, led by a strange little man named Charles Manson.

Due to the barbarity of the crimes and the weirdness of the culprits, the trial was a media circus. The members of the family that weren’t arrested showed solidarity by doing whatever Manson did, like carve Xs into their foreheads and shave their heads. At the courthouse, they would chant, sing, and treat the trial of the mass murderer like a picnic.

 In January 1971 Manson and several of his family members were found guilty and sentenced to death. The death penalty was abolished in 1972 and Manson’s sentence was commuted to life in prison.

2. The Trial of O.J. Simpson

Just after midnight on June 13, 1994, O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were found brutally murdered in front of Nicole’s condominium.

A short time later, a warrant was issued for O.J. and he agreed to turn himself in, but then went on the infamous, slow car chase with his longtime friend, Al Cowlings. Eventually, Simpson was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder.

Just some of the evidence the District Attorney’s office had against O.J. was that he had a fresh cut on his finger and his blood was at the crime scene. Second, there was a blood covered glove found on O.J.’s property. The blood belonged to O.J., Nicole, and Goldman. Third, there was a sock found in his bedroom that had his blood and Nicole’s blood on it. There was also a bloody shoe print found at the scene from a size 12 Bruno Mali, a pretty rare shoe, and O.J. wore size 12 shoes. Finally, the police had been called several times to the home of Nicole and O.J. because O.J. was an abusive husband.

Of course, the evidence was only a small aspect of what became the definitive Trial of the 20thCentury. The defense’s strategy was to show that the Los Angeles Police Department had a history of systematic racism and had planted the evidence to set up one of the most famous African-Americans in the world.

The trial essentially came down to the credibility of the LAPD. The DA pretty much had a slam dunk case, but all the defense had to do was create reasonable doubt by making it sound like it was possible that the LAPD could have set O.J. up because he was African-American.

On October 3, 1995, the jury was back with a verdict. 150 million Americans tuned in, which was about 57 percent of the population. The verdict was, of course, not guilty.

O.J. would later go on to lose a civil trial against Goldman’s family in 1997. Then in 2008, O.J. was convicted of robbery and kidnapping and he was sentenced to 9 to 33 years in prison.

1. The Trial of Michael Jackson

In the early 2000s, Michael Jackson was already the world’s most famous weirdo. Besides his odd appearance and strange personal life, since a civil suit in 1993, there had been rumors that Jackson was having inappropriate relationships with children. But things got worse for the King of Pop in February 2003, when a documentary called Living with Michael Jackson was released, and in it, Jackson talks about sleeping with children in his bed.

The documentary led to a police investigation and on November 18, 2003, the day after Jackson released his greatest hits album, his home, Neverland Ranch, was searched. The next day, a warrant was issued and Jackson turned himself in on November 20.

Jackson’s trial started on January 31, 2005, and the District Attorney didn’t have much in the way of physical evidence. Instead the case mostly rested on the accusations of one boy, a 13-year-old cancer patient. The DA said that the accusations fit a pattern, even though Jackson had never been convicted of sexual assault, or any crime for that matter.

The trial lasted six months and it was a spectacle. Jackson’s odd appearance and outrageous wardrobes were interesting enough to attract millions of viewers every day.

On June 13, nearly six months after the trial started, the jury unanimously acquitted Jackson of all charges. He ended up dying four years later on June 25, 2009.


Top Trials

of the 20th Century

Pirates of the Seven Seas – Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth

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Pirates Facts

Pirates have fascinated the masses for hundreds of years. Romanticized in fiction, the image of a pirate has crystallized into a bearded, peg-legged man, with a funny hat and possibly a parrot on his shoulder. The pirate was almost relegated to a quaint decades-old obsession until Disney revived the swashbucklers by rebooting a Disneyland ride into a multi-billion dollar movie franchise. The films star Johnny Depp, pretending to be Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, or as Roger Ebert once wrote, “channeling a drunken drag queen, with his eyeliner and the way he minces ashore and slurs his dialogue ever so insouciantly.”

 So with that in mind, we will charge and plunder our way through 10 surprising pirate myths, facts, and misconceptions.

10. Pirates Were Part of the Normal Economy

In the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, the pirates were literal immortal ghosts that had no need for the world of mankind. There is a myth that pirates were outcasts and pariahs but like any criminal now or in the past they needed to sell their booty. While pirates did get some gold and diamonds, that was far from their only plunder. Most of what pirates stole and looted was anything that ships had, like water, food, soap, timber, salted fish, and supplies for the New World colonies. The most coveted of all prizes was medicine.

With all these goods pirates needed a place to sell them, and there were plenty of ports, pirate and otherwise that encouraged pirate trade. Often pirates were sanctioned by their home countries, like the English Privateer, and their “letter of marque” gave them the legal right to capture ships from enemy nations. With this they could legally sell their booty to their homeports. Privateering, which was similar to today’s version of military contractors, “spurred the growth of Atlantic cities from Charleston to Dunkirk.” Non-nation criminal pirates had no shortage of middlemen and smugglers who would take their tons of stolen salted fish off their hands and integrate it into the local economy.

9. Wore Jewelry to Improve Their Eyesight

Those brave souls who step off the sturdy earth onto a rickety boat to righteously sail the rough seas have always been a superstitious bunch. Bananas famously are taboo on the open sea and are thought to bring doom upon all those on the boat. Real sailors will quickly throw a banana overboard ASAP. Sailors are just as superstitious with their good luck talismans.

Famously bad luck on land, black cats are a seen as signs of good luck at sea with sailors having a black cat on board. There are even those who have their wives have a black cat at home to get a double dose of good fortune. Pirates were no exception to superstitions of the seas. According to the Journal of the American Optometric Association, pirates heavily pierced their ears in hopes that it would improve their eyesight.

8. Pirate Ships Were Democratic

Pirates in the movies are often portrayed as mafias with a head criminal ruling their ship with an iron fist. In real life, pirate ships had surprisingly democratic micro-societies. During the golden age of piracy, over 100 years before democracy took hold in America, sailors on legitimate sailing ships were little more than slaves. The captain controlled everything and in the British Navy, it was even worse. Sailors lived under terrible conditions; conditions so bad that the only way to get new crew members was to pressgang or kidnap innocent people from whatever harbor the ship entered.

This kind of life paled in comparison to pirate ships, where democracy thrived. Not only did pirates share the wealth of their plunder but they voted on everything. They held elections on where to sail, where to strike, what to do with prisoners, and even whether or not to impeach and replace their captain.

7. Pirate Health Insurance

Sailing hundreds of years ago was tough. Piracy, which involved violent resistance and sparse prey, was even tougher. If they weren’t dealing with malnutrition or scurvy pirates had to deal with the normal hazards of the seven seas like storms and new tropical diseases. As outlaws, they also didn’t have a military organization or state to fall back on. Since the pirates were in it together they also banded together forming collectives with health care. If there was an injury on board a ship or while seizing a vessel pirates could depend on each other for monetary support.

In the Caribbean, a pirate group operated that called themselves The Brethren orBrethren of the Coast (they appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean series). One of the most famous pirate captains of this group was Henry Morgan. Morgan offered the following compensation for injury: a right arm was worth 600 pieces of eight, a left arm 500, a right leg 500, a left leg 400, and an eye 100 pieces of eight. In 1600 one piece of eight was about a modern £50 note, so the pay out for a right arm was 600 pieces of eight, the equivalent of £30,000. Even crazed scourge of the sea Blackbeard cared enough for his crew to seize three French surgeons to provide medical care.

6. Pirates Raided Only Ships… Or Not

Merriam-Webster says the definition of a pirate is someone who engages in piracy, or an act of robbery on the high seas. Water thefts, according to the dictionary. But the true mavericks they were, pirates didn’t limit themselves to just looting and pillaging on the high seas. No, when they had the means pirates would attack targets on land, too.

There have been a number of invasions by pirates. One pirate warlord, Edward Mansvelt, controlled a 1,000-men strong pirate army that landed and attacked the Spanish in what became known as the Sack of Campeche in 1663 (now a city in Mexico). Pirate Lord Henry Morgan led another Pirate army 50 miles inland to attack Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in central Cuba). If the prize was high enough pirates had no problem leaving their ships to pillage the land lubbers.

5. Pirates Are Not Forever

The pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean were doomed to an immortal purgatory sailing the seven seas forever, but real pirates had a less permanent legacy. Piracy was often seen as a way to increase their standing in mainstream society. Spend a few years in a high-risk occupation and then take your plunder and improve you and your family’s position in life.

That was certainly the case with Woodes Rogers (he’s the dapper gent on the right in the above painting). He sailed around the world, paid for from all the ships he plundered along the way. He even had enough time to rescue Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish sailor that Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is based on. After he came back home he hung up his pirate standard and became the Governor of the Bahamas. His past didn’t stop him from trying to stamp out local pirates. Not all pirates became politicians, but many parlayed their ill-gotten gains into an easy life back in normal society.

4. Pirate Tropes

Our word for pirate didn’t have a standardized spelling until well into the 18th century. In historical archives ocean raiders, or what we call pirates, were spelled as “pirrot,” “pyrate,” or “pyrat,” which is probably where parrots became an associated pirate trope. Other fictional tropes were that pirates buried treasure, a fiction created by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island.

The 1950s Disney movie of the same name also created what we now know as pirate talk. For the film, Robert Newton, the pirate star of Treasure Island used an exaggerated version of his southwestern England hometown West Country dialect. Pirates also didn’t have peg legs, and the skull and crossbones flag was just one of many pirate flags used in pirate history.

3. Cannonballs are Spheres of Death

In the age of sail, the preferred means of attack was the cannon. Modern pirate movies have their share of implausible Michael Bay explosions. They also show how each cannon hit causes thousands of serrated pieces of wood to fly into the fleshy, exposed skin of sailors and pirates alike. Yet compared to their fictional Hollywood movie stars, the pirates of old had one less thing to worry about.

As proven by Mythbusters the wooden shrapnel didn’t have enough velocity to penetrate the exposed skin, or for their test, dead pigs. They did discover, however, the gunpowder explosion of a cannon gave the metal cannonballs enough force to rip through the bodies of at least four people, as demonstrated by the unfortunate pigs that took their place.

2. Pirates Aren’t a Relatively Recent, Caribbean Thing

For as long as there has been wealth there have been people that will take that wealth. Robbery and banditry have to be one of the oldest jobs in history, although not the oldest job. That would be ladies of the night. In the same vein of thought, as long as there have been ships there have been people who are willing to take whatever is on that ship. Starting 1200 BC the Egyptians feared a mysterious group of people only known as the “Sea Peoples” that swept over the known world like black death, destroying everything they touched.

Later, in 75 BC, Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates while traveling to Rhodes. Upon hearing their ransom demand, Caesar got insulted and told them to double the asking price for his life. The pirates got their money but after he was released Caesar returned with a fleet of ships and captured and crucified every one of his pirate captors. In the Mediterranean, during the 15th and 16th centuries, there were two groups of pirates that were mirror images of each. The Barbary corsairs were Muslims who raided Christian commerce while the Knights of Saint John were Christian pirates who raided Islamic ships, “mirror image[s] of maritime predation, two businesslike fleets of plunderers set against each other.” The official hymn of the United States Marine Corps even has a line, “to the shores of Tripoli” that’s about the Battle of Dernain 1805, where US Marines attacked a pirate stronghold during the First Barbary War. While the west is more familiar with the Pirates of the New World, Pirates are found throughout history and all over the world.

1. Pirates Still Exist

Pirate movies inevitably always focus on pirates with swords and sailing ships, but pirates still exist today. We don’t just mean the infamous Somali pirates that plagued the Horn of Africa a decade ago (although there was recently an attack after five years of no incidents). Pirates on the other side of the Atlantic have stepped up their attacks in places like Nigeria. Even outside of Africa there is piracy; or rather, piracy never went away. In the early 19th century famous Pirate Queen Madame Ching, or Ching Shih, ruled the waves with hundreds of ships, crewed by thousands of pirates. Not far from Madame Ching’s haunt is one of the busiest shipping straits in the world, the Strait of Malacca. Through this 550 mile-long sea lane, thousands of ships travel and are easy targets for modern day pirates.

Dozens of attacks and hijacking take place every year, although coordinated patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are trying to put a stop to it. Hitting a little closer to home is piracy on Falcon Lake, which straddles the American and Mexican border. The lake is a result of Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande which was built in the ’50s. After the Mexican side descended into the anarchy of the drug wars small boats full of pirates would prey on fishermen and pleasure boats, as well use the boats to smuggle drugs into the US. Piracy is not something that was stamped out hundreds of years ago. It still exists, to this day, even in America’s backyard.


Pirates of the Seven Seas

– Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth

April Fools’ Day – WIF WABAC Almanac

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April Fools’ Day

Color Me

(sometimes called April Fool’s Day or All Fools’ Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The jokes and their victims are known as “April fools”. Hoax stories may be reported by the press and other media on this day and explained on subsequent days. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in India, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States.Related image

The earliest recorded association between 1 April and foolishness can be found in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392). Some writers suggest that the restoration of 1 January as New Year’s Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.

Origins

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere. Some precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India, and the Medieval Feast of Fools.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote,Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, i.e. 1 April. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

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In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day“, the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

Reception

The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial. The mixed opinions of critics are epitomised in the reception to the 1957 BBC “Spaghetti-tree hoax“, in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was “a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public”.

The positive view is that April Fools’ can be good for one’s health because it encourages “jokes, hoaxes…pranks, [and] belly laughs”, and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart. There are many “best of” April Fools’ Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated. Various April Fools’ campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort – especially those from the major corporations such as Google and Apple.

Image result for harmless pranks clipart

The negative view describes April Fools’ hoaxes as “creepy and manipulative”, “rude” and “a little bit nasty”, as well as based on schadenfreude and deceit. When genuine news is published on April Fools’ Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke—for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion, misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger), and even legal or commercial consequences.


 

April Fools’ Day

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

WIF WABAC Almanac

United States Invaded! – WIF Almanac

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10 Times

the United States

Was Almost Invaded

The Red Scare of the 1950s. The Japanese invasion panic of WWII. Fears of ISIS troops running amuck in our major cities… the US has long been a country worried that someone’s gonna invade it. Aliens, Commies, North Korea, you name it. Someone, somewhere, has fantasized about America being dominated by it.

 The most ironic part of all this is how unlikely it actually is. A massive nation bordered by allies to the north and south, the US is almost comically difficult to attack. In WWII the Nazis didn’t even try. The Imperial Japanese occupied a measly handful of Alaskan islands. The last time an enemy nation directly carried out a successful invasion was when the British burned down the White House in the war of 1812, and even they were eventually repulsed.

But that hasn’t stopped other powers from dreaming of marching troops over American soil. Some of the following plans were deadly serious. Some were mere fleeting ideas. One or two even actually succeeded. Terrified at the thought of the US being invaded? The following suggest you needn’t worry.

10. The Kaiser’s Crazy Pre-WWI Invasion Plan

What do you picture when you hear the words “Kaiser”, “America”, and “war” in a sentence? We’re betting it’s 1917 and images of US troops poring onto the battlefields of France as Woodrow Wilson sits in the White House. If the Kaiser had had his way, you’d be imagining something very different: the dawn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt as president, and Germany launching an insane invasion of the eastern seaboard.

Nearly a decade and a half before WWI, Kaiser Wilhelm II was already planning a gigantic cross-Atlantic war. At the time, the US was backing the construction of the Panama Canal, leading Berlin to worry Germany would be excluded from Pacific trade. The Kaiser had already been toying with an invasion of America since 1897. The new canal seemed the ideal pretext to order the bombardment of Manhattan.

The plan itself was audacious. As German ships shelled Manhattan, sixty troop carriers would land on the Atlantic seaboard with orders to attack. Roosevelt would be forced to sign away the Panama Canal, or watch Washington and Boston burn. Incredibly, the invasion nearly went ahead. The order was about to be given to attack when German chief of staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, vetoed the plans for being completely insane.

9. Canada’s Crazy Post-WWI Invasion Plan

Yep, you read that right. Canada, the country so nice even Denmark thinks it’s soft, once planned to invade the USA. And not at some sane point, like in the aftermath of the War of 1812. This plan was mooted only three years after the countries had fought side-by-side in WWI. Known as Defense Plan No. 1, it was borderline insane.

The rationale for making a plan was, incredibly, Canadian fears the US would invade first if they didn’t. Rather than sitting around waiting to be annexed, Ottawa figured they should attack first. The problem was the US army was clearly better trained, better equipped, and much bigger than the Canadian one. So Lt.-Col. James “Buster” Sutherland Brown drew up an attack plan that avoided having the Canadian army fight at all costs.

Instead, Canadian troops would launch lightning strikes on northern American cities, occupying Maine, destroying Detroit and the Twin Cities, and burning Seattle and Portland. They’d then retreat as the US army mobilized, pausing only to blow up bridges. Once safely back in Canada, they’d scream “look you guys, America is attacking!” and sit back while Britain mobilized the Empire’s troops to save them.

Not surprisingly, everyone thought this was the dumbest thing they’d ever heard. Buster’s successor ordered all copies of the crazy plan burned.

8. The Nazi Plan to Bomb New York

For about half a century, successive German regimes were fixated on bombing New York City. After the Kaiser’s wacko plan above was shelved, Adolf Hitler took up the mantle. And, boy, was he serious about it. According to Albert Speer, Hitler was obsessed by the idea of New York in flames. From 1937 onwards, at least part of the Nazi war machine was consistently looking for ways of attacking the Empire State.

Their first plan was to develop a long-range bomber that could fly to America and back from occupied France without having to refuel. Known as the “Amerika” aircraft, it would do to NYC what the Blitz did to London. While the Nazis eventually managed to develop planes that could nearly fly 10,000 kilometers on a single tank, they didn’t quite hit the 11,800 kilometers needed to make bombing NYC viable. So they switched to rockets. As V2 rockets crashed down on London, the Nazis began construction of an “Amerika rocket” that would’ve crashed into New York at supersonic speeds, killing hundreds.

The scariest part is how close some of these projects got to completion. The Amerika rocket was almost ready at the war’s end. Had the Nazi state held out just a few months longer, it seems likely that Hitler would’ve realized his dream of seeing Manhattan on fire.

7. Japan’s Plan to Annex Hawaii

The bombing of Pearl Harbor remains one of the biggest losses of American life in a single action. So imagine how much worse it could have been if Japan had followed it up with an invasion of Hawaii. Back in 1941 it was a terrifying possibility. Had one faction of the Japanese Imperial army had their way, it might even have become reality.

The idea came from Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese naval strategist who orchestrated the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto was convinced the US was significantly stronger than Japan and that a massive, early propaganda victory would be needed to shake American morale. With an invasion of the US mainland out of the question, it stood to reason that Hawaii was the only sensible target. Yamamoto’s plan called for the Japanese to follow up Pearl Harbor with an invasion of the island, securing a quick Japanese victory.

Given the way the US public freaked when Japan occupied a few lumps of rock off the coast of Alaska, it’s fair to say Hawaii being annexed would probably have sent the county nuts. In the end, though, Yamamoto’s superiors disagreed. Pearl Harbor was bombed, but Hawaii itself spared.

6. Pancho Villa’s Successful “Mexican Invasion”

There are very few people who aren’t dead, 19th century Brits who can say they successfully invaded the US and burned an entire town. Pancho Villa is one of those people. A Mexican Revolutionary leader, he started life as America’s golden boy in the huge unrest happening south of the border. But then the government of Woodrow Wilson switched support to his rival, Venustiano Carranza, and threw Villa under the bus. Villa responded by unleashing hell on any American who crossed his path.

First, he managed to kidnap 18 Americans inside Mexico and had them all slaughtered. But his crowning achievement came on March 9, 1916. Followed by a band of 1,500 guerillas, Villa crossed the border onto US soil. His troops surrounded the small town of Columbus, New Mexico. A few hours later, the citizens were dead, and Columbus itself was in flames.

It marked the last time in US history that a town on American soil was laid siege to and destroyed by foreign attackers. The US responded by invading Mexico, supported by Carranza’s government. Although the carnage they caused was enough to dissuade Villa from ever attacking America again, they were unable to capture the rebel leader. Villa wouldn’t be assassinated until 1923.

5. Japan Partially-Occupies Alaska

Although Pancho Villa’s ‘invasion’ of New Mexico would be more dramatic, it was the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska that really scared the public. That’s because both are part of the island chain that makes up the far-western fringe of Alaska. And while Alaska wasn’t yet a state in 1942, it was an American territory. In the same way that we’d freak out about a hostile force occupying Puerto Rico today, Americans of the time went loopy at Attu and Kiska’s annexation.

After Pearl Harbor, it was probably the biggest psychological blow of the entire war. The public fretted the Japanese army would proceed along the Aleutian chain until they conquered Alaska proper. Only a few months before, the Battle of Los Angeles had seen antiaircraft guns pepper the LA sky when someone thought they saw a Japanese plane, and now the Imperial army was making a real move on America.

Yet nothing like what the press and public feared ever came to pass. Japan had neither the resources or the inclination to occupy the whole of Alaska. In fact, some historians think they only grabbed Attu and Kiska to distract US attention from their attack on Midway Island. Whatever the truth, the occupation only lasted 14 months before the US retook the islands.

4. The Kaiser’s Plan to Have Mexico Invade Texas

Despite his reputation as a fearsome warmonger, Kaiser Wilhelm sometimes seems more like a supervillain from a cruddy Saturday morning kids’ show. He even had a knack for coming up with the sort of easily-defeated plans Skeletor would be embarrassed by. Chief among those was the time he tried to convince Mexico to launch an unprovoked invasion on Texas.

It was January 1917, and the US was a mere four months away from joining WWI. Rather than do everything in his power to keep the Americans out, the Kaiser had foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann telegram the German ambassador to Mexico, instructing him to make Mexico an offer they could almost certainly refuse. With German financial and military backing, the Mexicans would invade America, while also trying to convince the Japanese to join in the war. In return, Mexico would be able to reclaim territory recently taken by Texas.

For a plan that relied a whole lot on Mexico taking arms against the US, it failed to recognize that there were literally no scenarios where Mexico could defeat the American military. On top of this, the British managed to intercept and decode the Zimmerman Telegram and make its contents public. Mexico wisely decided to keep out of the war. The US, meanwhile, decided to join in, achieving the exact opposite of what the Kaiser had hoped for.

3. Britain and France Almost Join the Civil War

In the early days of the Civil War, the Confederacy really believed it could get the European powers on its side. The South was the main exporter of cotton to the continent. European countries, it was believed, would all rather recognize the Confederacy than face a cotton shortage. In the end, Britain and France nearly did join in the war… but not due to any cleverness on the South’s part. Instead, they almost attacked the Union over a badly-bungled Yankee mission to arrest two Confederate diplomats.

At the time, the diplomats were traveling on the British ship Trent to drum up European support for their cause. The North seized the ship, arrested the two Confederate men, and then let the Trent continue on her way. Unfortunately, holding a neutral ship up was in violation of international law. When the British found out, they hit the roof.

London immediately began drawing up plans for war, including an attack from Canada and a bombardment of the Union ships blockading Confederate ports. At the same time, France announced it would back Britain in any conflict with America, raising the insane possibility of the US Civil War spilling over into WWI’s unnecessary prequel.

Ultimately, the Union apologized to Britain and let the arrested men free. The UK and France backed off, and the prospect of a Confederacy with powerful friends never materialized.

2. Japan Successfully Occupies Guam

A small island in the Pacific, Guam was taken from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War and has been classified as an unincorporated US territory ever since. In WWII, it was also the site of Japan’s most successful invasion of American territory. Hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Army seized the island. What followed was a thirty month horror show of rape, forced labor, murder and torture.

The occupation of Guam was the closest the Japanese got to interring American citizens en masse and it shows just how lucky we are that they never got any closer. Chamorros (Guam natives) were beheaded, worked to death, and forced into concentration camps in the heart of the jungle. They were beaten, their women raped, and their children mutilated. Then the American navy attacked to retake the territory, and the shelling killed even more Chamorros.

Eventually, on August 8 1944, US forces succeeded in liberating Guam. It marked the end of Imperial Japan’s hopes of invading and occupying America.

1. The Confederacy Nearly Takes Washington, DC

We mentioned earlier that no enemy nation has successfully invaded the American mainland since the British burned the White House. Depending on how you define a nation, the Brits might have almost had some company. In 1864, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, Confederate troops under Jubal Early nearly pulled off an impossible trick. They came within a hair’s width of successfully invading and destroying Washington, DC.

It’s impossible now to imagine how this could’ve affected our perceptions of the war. The destruction of the Federal capital at the hands of Southern rebels would’ve thrown the entire Yankee force into disarray. And it nearly happened by accident. Early just happened to march near Washington at a time when Union defenses were stretched so thin his army could break through. So he rallied his troops, and nearly pulled off the impossible.

We say ‘nearly’ because one factor stood in his way: his men were just too dang tired. After relentless days of marching in the middle of a suffocating heatwave, they simply couldn’t move fast enough. To Early’s dismay, his men weren’t up to the job. Washington was saved.


United States Invaded!

– WIF Almanac

Cowboy Confidential – Old West Misconceptions

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Common Misconceptions

About Cowboys

Image result for old west

They’re the guys with the thousand yard stare. The one with six-shooters in their holsters, a broad-brim hat on their heads and enough jagged iron in their guts to break down even the toughest steak. They are the cowboys, and everyone knows they’re the coolest, calmest, most-heroic folk in America history.

 Or are they? What if we were to tell you that the cowboys you think you know are nothing like the real ones? That your mental image of cowboys could do with slightly less stoicism and gunfights… and more camels, examples of poor personal hygiene, and venereal diseases. Here are 10 little-known, crazy facts about the men who really tamed America’s wild west.

10. Most Cowboys Didn’t Carry Guns

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The gun-totin’ cowboy is the only cowboy most of us can picture. He’s Clint Eastwood on the way to a shootout. John Wayne blowing away bad guys. Yet take your Blu-Ray player back to the 19th century and show a genuine cowboy these films and he’d likely look at you askance. Why? Because real cowboys only rarely carried weapons.

Sure, you might need them when you were out on a cattle drive or whatever. But when you got to town? Check that baby at the door. Most towns in the wild west enacted strict gun control, just to make sure the sort of shootouts we see in movies didn’t happen on a daily basis. Even the infamous Tombstone didn’t let its cowboys walk round armed. The Gunfight at the OK Carrol only came about because Doc and Earp were trying to enforce gun laws.

The city wasn’t alone. Dodge City, Wichita, and others all stopped their visitors from packing heat. So how did cowboys solve problems without their pistols? We’re glad you asked…

9. They Almost Never Got in Fights

It’s said that “the true story of the American West is one of cooperation, not conflict.” Although 90 percent of westerns involve people getting shot, a barroom brawl, a violent posse riding into town, or (more likely) all three, the truth of the frontier was that acting tough was a good way to wind up dead. If you wanted to survive, you basically had to get on with your neighbors.

This meant no high noon showdowns, no thuggery, and no murders. Even in the roughest, toughest cattle towns, the murder rate was generally lower than that of most modern American cities. Bank robberies, too, were rare. In 2005, the University of Dayton calculated that there were more bank robberies in modern Dayton in a single year than there were across the entire Old West in a typical decade.

There were exceptions, of course. In the immediate post-Civil War period violence sporadically flared up, and Native American tribes often experienced the brutal side of the frontier. But these were the exceptions. Even notorious outlaws were less violent than their reputation suggests. Billy the Kid, for example, spent way more time rustling cattle than he ever did robbing banks or shooting people.

8. Many Were Ravaged by Venereal Diseases

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If your mental image of a cowboy is John Wayne acting all moral and clean-cut, you might not want to read this entry. The reality of cowboy life was dirty from beginning to end. Cowpokes often went days on end without bathing. They were smelly. Often covered in grime and stale sweat. But dirtiest of all was what was happening inside their bodies. Y’see, it’s now thought that many citizens of the frontier were crawling with venereal diseases.

Depending on where you were in the Old West, between 50 to 90 percent of the local prostitutes were likely carrying STDs. And since many cowboys liked to, ahem, avail themselves of these ladies’ talents, that meant a whole bunch of cowboys were riding around with a growing bacterial menagerie between their legs.

Although precise figures are hard to come by today, we know that new recruits to the US Army between 1876 and 1896 were frequently diseased, suggesting many of the general population were, too. Some have even suggested that crazy behavior by guys such as the Wild Bill Hickok might have been due to syphilis, making them act all eccentric.

 7. Plenty Didn’t Do Any Riding Whatsoever

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Close your eyes. Picture a cowboy. Got him? Right: What animal did he appear with?

Despite the name, almost none of you said ‘cow’. For a good reason. Cowboys in modern mythos are almost completely inseparable from their horses. The image of them riding across the high plains on a long cattle drive is one charged with romance and the spirit of adventure. For many cowboys, that was exactly what life was like.

But not for all of them. For a significant minority, their job description involved absolutely no riding whatsoever.

This was especially true at the end of the era, from about 1885 onwards. A dry summer and a terrible winter had convinced many ranchers to keep their cattle close to home. For a huge chunk of cowboys, that meant the romance of the plain was suddenly replaced with menial labor like mending fences and checking penned cows for disease. If they got to ride anything at all, it would likely be a haymow. Unsurprisingly, most hated such work.

6. Some That Did Ride Rode Camels

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Here’s a classic western scene. The sun stands at high noon, baking the lifeless city streets. A tumbleweed blows through the dust. A shadow appears on the horizon. It’s the cowboy. He emerges out of the heat haze, skin like cracked leather… and proceeds to ride into town on the back of his Arabian camel. Wait, what?

It’s true. In certain parts of the Old West, horses were as rare as they are in big cities today. Instead, ranchers had their cowboys ride on the backs of camels that had been imported in the 1850s, and accidentally released into the wild at the height of the Civil War.

Because of the harsh conditions on the frontier, it had been theorized camels would cope much better than horses with the heat. The US Government agreed. At great cost it imported hundreds of camels to Camp Verde, only for war to break out. When the Confederates seized the camp they released the camels. For the next few decades, enterprising ranchers occasionally caught a few, broke them in and gave them to their cowboys to work with.

 5. ‘Brokeback’ Encounters Were Surprisingly Common

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Remember 2005? That was the year Brokeback Mountain hit cinemas and Heath Ledgerproved he didn’t have to be in clown makeup to provide a magnetic performance. The movie was also controversial among some who thought it was grafting our modern notions of sexuality onto a historic setting (in this case, the 1960s).

Interestingly, this is the one criticism that can easily be refuted. According to historian and author Patricia Nell Warren, gay encounters were way more common in the Old West than we ever realized.

A lot of this is thanks to the conditions cowboys had to endure. Long stretches of time away from women, surrounded by other men, led to occasional ‘one-off’ trysts simply as a way of relieving sexual tension. Within that mix, you had a handful of genuinely gay cowboys, who’d often fled out West as a way of achieving anonymity. Because manpower was scarce, it was impractical for landowners to refuse to hire them due to their sexuality.

As social historians John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman noted in their book Intimate Matters, there are even surviving love poems written from cowboys to one another. It might have been frowned upon by the rest of society, but on the Frontier, homosexuality was relatively open.

4. Black Cowboys Were Also Surprisingly Common

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Quick: how many westerns can you name that feature black cowboys? Most of us can probably only get Django Unchained and Blazing Saddles. As a result, you might think African-American cowpokes were a rarity on the frontier. You’d be wrong. By some estimates, as many as one in four cowboys were black.

It makes sense when you think about it. Cowpunching, as it was often called, was a dirty, difficult, badly-paid, working class job. In the post-Civil War era, those were exactly the sort of jobs newly-emancipated slaves might be expected to do. And as we mentioned above, the Old West was one area where employers couldn’t afford to turn a good pair of hands away, no matter what the color of their skin was.

That’s not to say everything on the frontier was racial harmony. Way into the 20thcentury, black cowboys were expected to do the hardest, toughest jobs of all. They were the ones breaking in wild horses, doing all the cooking on wagon drives, and holding the cattle down at branding time. On the other hand, black cowboys often had a degree of autonomy and responsibility they would have lacked in other jobs. Perhaps that’s why so many ex-slaves chose to head out West.

3. Outlaws Were Shameless Self-Promoters

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When you hear that robbers today are live-Tweeting their own break-ins, it’s tempting to assume we’ve hit rock bottom as a culture. Such nonsense would never have happened in the stoic Old West, right? Kinda. Although photographs of Pat Garrett playing on his smartphone have yet to surface, outlaws of the cowboy era were just as narcissistic as today’s criminals. When conducting major crimes, they frequently handed out press releases.

Jesse James was notorious for this. When holding up a train, he’d pass witnesses a carefully-written note, boasting about his own exploits. He wasn’t the only one. Billy the Kid deliberately inflated his kill-count from 8 to 21, and boasted about his violent temper. In fact, the Kid almost never got involved with shooting, robbing or hold ups. The main reason the law went after him was because he kept rustling cattle.

On the other side, the good guys were equally image-conscious. Wild Bill’s nickname actually referred to his gigantic nose, similar in size to a duck’s bill. It was only by effort he made out it referred to his ‘wild’ and dangerous nature, thereby terrifying local criminals.

2. The Rest of the Country Considered Them Suspicious and Dirty

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The cowboy is enshrined in legend as the epitome of American values. While other eras and professions have their draws, it’s impossible to think of a historic figure today more beloved by the entire nation. Which just goes to show how times change. In the early days of the Frontier, cowpunchers were regarded as ill-educated vagrants at best, and dangerous carriers of disease at worst.

Around the Deep South, cowboys were considered trespassers who used public land for their own gain. The North generally considered them illiterate (they usually were). Even along the Great Plains, there was much resentment. Cattle drives routinely trampled the crops of farmers and Native Americans, and it was the cowpunchers themselves who got the blame. Many people even feared they would spread dreaded ‘Texas Fever’ throughout the land. It’s safe to say that, during the golden age of the cowboy, most of America regarded them as a smelly nuisance.

It wasn’t really until the early 20th century that pulp novelists and early Hollywood began to transform these tough, dirty, uneducated men into folk heroes. Fast forward to today and that’s the image that remains.

 1. Modern Germans Love Them

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Of all the countries in the world, which do you think has fallen for the cowboy myth the hardest (aside from the good ol’ US-of-A, that is)? Nope, it’s not Canada. Not Australia. Not even Great Britain. The country most obsessed with the cowboy today? Germany.

For some reason, Germans go nuts over cowboy-related stuff. Hundreds of clubs exist across this mountainous European nation, where people go on weekends to dress as cowboys and pretend they’re living in 19th century Texas. It’s estimated that several tens of thousands of Germans do this every single week, with many, many thousands more holding a passing interest in such exploits.

Nor is this a completely modern thing. Back in the 1930s, the Nazis venerated cowboys almost as much as they did genocide. Hitler himself was known to be a huge fan of westerns, often reading cowboy books between bouts of conquest and megalomania. For some reason, this very un-German tradition has taken deep root in a country far more ordered and rule-abiding than the Old West ever was. Which just goes to show, we guess, that you never can tell what the future has in store.


Cowboy Confidential

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– Old West Misconceptions