Author Topic: Historic Anecdotes  (Read 171 times)

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Offline Stybar

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Historic Anecdotes
« on: November 21, 2017, 09:05 »
So, I've told the story of the Smoking Snakes, and thought it would be nice to make a thread with similar stories.

Let's go with the Night Witches.
You may have heard of them. They were featured in a Sabaton song (if you didn't know it yet, I get a lot of these from Sabaton songs), as well as in the DC "Bombshells" comic.
They were an all-female Soviet bombing squadron.
Initially they were a bit shunned (Female pilots?!?), but Stalin eventually issued three female Bomber Squadrons in 1942. The most famous of them was the 588th, which was the only one to be all-female. When I say all female, I mean ALL female. Even the technicians were female. The other two has either male mechanics or male commanders. It was the 588th that became famously known as the "Night Witches"

Instead of fancy new metal bomber planes, with fancy glass domes and such, the Night Witches were given old wooden Po-2 planes. These things were made and designed during the '20s, and were mostly used as crop dusters, or training planes.
Now, these planes had both advantages and disadvantages. Major disadvantages were obviously due to their age. These planes were not very roomy. Only 6 bombs was the maximum load. Not very effective if you want to bomb the shit out of some Nazi's. Because of that, they flew up to 8 missions per night.
These planes also were quite slow. However, this proved to be a bit of a plus, since the top speed was below the minimum speed of German fighter planes. So the Luftwaffe couldn't chase them down in air, since their planes would stall if they went too slow.
What gave the 588th their distinctive nickname was the fact that they would shut off the engines before approaching the target, and glide down the last miles. Since the only sound they made was the turbulence they created, the German soldiers thought it sounded like a witch' broomstick flitting through the air.

Of note is that because the planes were so old, even 6 bombs was a heavy load. Combine that with a low top speed, and the Witches were forced to fly very low. Because of their low fly height, they didn't use any parachutes.

Offline Mave

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2017, 10:19 »
Of note is that because the planes were so old, even 6 bombs was a heavy load. Combine that with a low top speed, and the Witches were forced to fly very low. Because of their low fly height, they didn't use any parachutes.
When you know you're fucked either way.

Love the story behind their name, thanks for sharing Sty!

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2017, 05:16 »
If you like these, buckle up. I've got over 30 of them.



Let's continue with a double whammy.

It is a general rule in aerial warfare to not shoot down pilots who have to bail out of their plane. This was a strong belief with both the RAF as the Luftwaffe in WWII. The pilots were notoriously chivalrous towards each other, calling themselves "knights of the air". However, this rule was broken from time to time.

One of the times was with Richard "Bud" Peterson. He was an American pilot, who witnessed a Luftwaffe pilot actively shooting down bombers, and then systematically hunting down the crew who jumped out with parachutes. Angered by this offence, he started firing on the German pilot. He didn't outright try to destroy the plane though. He wanted the pilot to bail out. He wanted payback for the killed bomber crews. When the German pilot eventually did bail out. Peterson didn't hesitate to shoot the Luftwaffe pilot down while he was hanging from his parachute.

On the lighter side of the rule, there is the famous story of Ye Olde Pub.

Ye Olde Pub was a B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber, and on 20th December 1943 it was flown by Lt. Charlie Brown. It was the first run of this crew, and it didn't go well.
The B-17 planes were heavily armed. Thick plating, heavy machine guns, 4 engines,... There was a reason they called them "Flying Fortress".
On the night of the events though, everything went wrong.

First off, they were positioned on the outside of the squadron. A bomber squadron is like a herd of buffalo. Strong in group, but any stragglers, or those who lose the group are doomed to be caught by surrounding wolves (or German fighters, in this case).
Secondly, shortly before their actual bombing run could begin, their nose cone was hit by German flak cannons. Their dome shattered, and one of their engine was destroyed, and another engine lost almost all power. This caused them to lose speed, which caused them to break formation, which, as stated before, is not a good thing to happen to a bomber.

Because they were straggling behind, they were the focus of a lot of German fighters. The fighters kept on hammering them for over 10 minutes, blowing the plane apart. Reading the damage done, I think it's a fucking miracle the thing was still flying.
There were holes in the hull (big ones), the internal hydraulics and electronics were shot, as was the oxygen system (B-17's weren't pressurized. They had special internal oxygen and heating systems). One of it's remaining engines was damaged, forcing the plane to fly on only 40% of its power. Their tail gunner was killed by enemy fire, and most of the rest of the crew were heavily wounded as well, with Brown taking shrapnel in the shoulder. Their radio was shot, and to top it all off, because of the intense cold (-60 °C), the morphine in the first aid kit was frozen, seriously hindering the first aid efforts.

In this state, flying on nothing but hopes and dreams, they passed over a German airfield. One of the fighter pilots present, Franz Stigler, immediately jumped in his fighter, and set pursuit.
On catching up, he saw the damage to the plane, and through the holes in the hull, he saw the injured crew. Later, in and interview, he said he remembered the words of one of his commanding officers: “If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute, I will shoot you myself." He considered Ye Olde Pub's damage as if the crew were in parachutes.

He closed in, not opening fire, and tried to signal Charlie Brown with hand signals to either set the plane down in Germany, and be treated as a prisoner of war, or try to make it to Sweden (which was neutral), where they would be interned for the remainder of the war. Brown refused, intent on getting his plane back to England. Stigler then flew in close formation with the hurt bomber, preventing any Nazi AA guns from targeting the plane. In this formation, he escorted Brown and his crew to the British Channel, where he gave his final salute, and flew back to base.

In the debriefing, the Allied command told Brown to not tell this story further, as they believed this would lead to positive sentiment among allied pilots towards enemy pilots. Stigler remained silent, knowing that if his commanding officers would find out, he would likely be executed.

Both pilots survived the remainder of the war, although Brown came out a bit better. He moved back to the States, went to college, and stayed with the USAF until 1972. In 1986, Brown was speaking at a reunion, and was asked if he had any crazy stories from WWII. He told the story of the friendly German pilot, which was received with open mouths and general astonishment. Brown then decided to find this mysterious pilot. He searched for 4 years with the US Air Force and the West German Air Force, but to no avail. Eventually, he wrote a letter to a newspaper made for combat pilots, requesting information.

Stigler, on the other side of the ocean, initially had less fortune. The impoverished West Germany didn't have much need for veteran combat pilots, so Stigler was forced to take a slew of menial jobs, such as brick laying. In 1953, he moved to Canada, where he became a businessman. Eventually though, he found out Brown was looking for him, and he wrote a letter. Brown contacted him on the phone, at which Stigler told him all the details Brown needed to know to confirm Stigler was who he said he was. The two men eventually became close friends, and met up regularly, until their deaths in 2008. They died within several months of each other.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2017, 04:31 »
Pests are not very nice. Here's two anecdotes of rulers that fucked it up.

First, let's start with the British Empire. Upon arriving in India, they realized there were a fuckton of snakes around. Of course, these needed to fucking go. But how? The British lords were way to refined to go snake hunting in the woods.
Instead they offered a bounty. Every local that turned in a dead snake would get some money.
Initially this worked really great. People were bringing in dead snakes left and right. And more dead snakes. And more. And more.
What happened was that the Indian population had actually started breeding snakes. It was easy money: breed 40 snakes, kill 30 of 'em, get money, and use the remaining 10 to breed more. Unfortunately, the Brits caught wind of this practice, and cancelled all bounties for dead snakes. The locals, who didn't know what else to do with the fuckload of snakes they bred, simply released them, causing the British to be stuck with even more snakes in their colony than before.


Chairman Mao had big plans for China. One of those plans involved killing "The Four Pests". Those pests being rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows. However, it didn't go that well.
He gave out an order, every citizen was to kill or disrupt as many sparrows as they could. And kill and disrupt they did. They scared the sparrows off so often they simply dropped from the sky, dead from exhaustion. Nests were raided, eggs smashed and some people simply shot the birds from the sky.
As a result, the sparrow population in China dropped close to a total extinction.
Which turned out to be a bad thing.
You see, the sparrow was the natural predator of an even worse plague: locusts. Mao ordered the death of sparrows because they ate all the grains and seeds on the farms. But they also ate all the locusts. And since the sparrows were gone, the grains stayed. As well as the locusts. Once he realized this, Mao ordered the stop of the sparrow hunt, but it was too late. The insect population inflated enormously, with large swarms devouring farms even harder than sparrows could. This failure in ecological planning is said to further increase the Great Famine, in which millions of people died of starvation.


SO DON'T FUCK WITH PESTS UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING

Offline Mave

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2017, 06:50 »
The two men eventually became close friends, and met up regularly, until their deaths in 2008. They died within several months of each other.
What I was hoping for as soon as you mentioned the German pilot showed empathy. 10/10 story.

What happened was that the Indian population had actually started breeding snakes.
Capitalism 101. Imagine catching snakes every day and noticing suddenly that your neighbor was simply breeding and killing them..

The insect population inflated enormously, with large swarms devouring farms even harder than sparrows could.

They still have these in Madagascar


Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2017, 03:55 »
The two men eventually became close friends, and met up regularly, until their deaths in 2008. They died within several months of each other.
What I was hoping for as soon as you mentioned the German pilot showed empathy. 10/10 story.

It's one of my favorite stories, for that reason alone. So good.



Let's continue with Australians.

Australians are fucking crazy, man.
They fought in both World Wars, but still lost to a war to a couple of angry birds.

Okay, it was a group of really pissed of Emus. ny Ozzie cunt will tell you how fucking awful those things are.
And it wasn't really a war, more of a failed attempt to curb the growing Emu population. With soldiers. And machineguns. The presence of the soldiers was the cause of the "Emu War" nickname.
Despite the large number of emus down, the population still persisted, leading to the "Australia lost the Emu War!" jokes, since the intended goal of the army (KILL ALL EMUS) wasn't achieved.


There are other stories as well, stories that depict the Australians as more... heroic. Still insane, but heroic.

Ever heard of Mephisto? Probably not. It's available as a skin in BF1. It was an A7V tank that was used in WWI. And it is only one original A7V left in existence.
So now ask yourself: "How the fuck did it end up in Brisbane?", because that's where it is.

The answer, of course, is fucking crazy Australians.

Mephisto was left behind on a WWI battlefield. It fell into a ditch, it's engine went kaput, and the Germans quickly abandoned it. Somewhere during the fight, however, some Australian troops decided they wanted it.

Now, note that this tank had absolutely no strategic value. It was stuck, broken, and abandoned. They couldn't use it against the Germans. The Germans couldn't use it against them. But still, they wanted it.

So, they got a couple of other vehicles to help them (likely British tanks, it's not sure) tow it out of the ditch, and managed to convince some artillery to suppress the German troops.

Covered by their new friends, they started dragging the tank away. The Germans, however, didn't want to let that slight go without resistance. Despite the artillery fire, they started firing at the Ozzies, and chucked poison gas at them. The Australians had to take cover, and don their gas masks, but eventually, they manage to drag Mephisto back to safety. Their safety, to be precise.

It was dragged to a tank demonstration ground in France, and on it's way there it was marked with graffiti from all the troops involved. Someone drew a British Lion, and someone carved the names of the Australian soldiers who captured it into its hull.

Eventually, it was shipped to London, and there it was decided it would serve as a monument to war. It was loaded onto a ship, which sailed to Australia. Originally bound for Sydney, they changed their minds halfway through, and instead shipped it to Brisbane, where it ended up in the Queensland Museum.



Imagine telling that to your grandkids.
"Grandpa, what did you do during the war?"
"Well Billy, we captured a tank!"
"Oh wow! Did you take it out because it was shooting at your squad?"
"Nah. We just felt like doing it"

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2017, 09:25 »
A quick one, for the last minutes of Sunday.

Eyewitnesses tell the tale of Moscow after the victory on Germany in WWII. At 2 in the night, there was an announcement on the public radio: an important announcement would be made, soon.
10 minutes later, there was a broadcast, with someone narrating the official surrender of the Nazi government.
People poured into the streets to celebrate, and, being Russian, they did so by drinking a lot of vodka.
A loooot of vodka.

So much vodka, in fact, that the next day, all the stores had run out of new bottles. They drank it all.
It didn't take long for new shipments arrive, of course, but for one night, the Russians drank Moscow dry.

Offline Mave

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2017, 12:21 »
Originally bound for Sydney, they changed their minds halfway through, and instead shipped it to Brisbane, where it ended up in the Queensland Museum.
Damn Aussies can't make up their minds!

And I'd like to see footage of the emu war.



It didn't take long for new shipments arrive, of course, but for one night, the Russians drank Moscow dry.

Well to be fair I think the supply would be lower in a war anyway? So it'd be a lot easier to outdrink Moscow during war vs peaceful periods.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2017, 07:34 »
It didn't take long for new shipments arrive, of course, but for one night, the Russians drank Moscow dry.
Well to be fair I think the supply would be lower in a war anyway? So it'd be a lot easier to outdrink Moscow during war vs peaceful periods.

Maybe, but vodka was state funded. It was the largest income of the Soviet regime.



Witold Pilecki was a soldier in the Polish "Armia Krajowa", and had bigger balls than all of us combined. In 1940, he wanted to know just how much of the rumours about Auschwitz were true, so he devised a plan. A plan initially shot down by his superiors, but he convinced them, in the end.
His plan was simple: to confirm the rumours, he had to see it for himself. So he let himself get captured in the Warsaw ghetto, and shipped to Auschwitz.

There, his plan was to confirm the horrendous rumours, create intel to be sent to the Polish government, and start a rebellion in the camp itself. The first two parts worked well, and in 1941 his first reports were delivered to the Allies, detailing the horrors that happened in the camp.

He escaped in 1943, because his cover was about to be blown. He wrote a detailed report, called "Witold's Report" (original, I know), which detailed how in three years time, 2 million people were killed in Auschwitz. The Allied command, however, claimed the report was a "gross exaggeration". Pilecki suggested to liberate the camp, but Polish scouts said that they'd never take the camp without Allied support. The Allies responded by not doing anything. They thought that it wasn't their top priority, and didn't want to risk their troops in an assault deep behind enemy lines.

That wasn't the final stroke of bad luck though. After he escaped Auschwitz and wrote his report, he partook in the Warsaw Uprising (I'll get to that another time), where he was captured as a POW, and sent to Germany. There, he was liberated by the US forces, and was recalled by the Polish government in exile, to gather intel on the Soviet forces roaming in Poland. It didn't last long though, as in 1946 the Polish government in exile gave the order to all its forces to lay down arms and accept the Soviet command. Pilecki didn't take that order very well, and he stayed in Poland, sending reports of the Soviet terror reign that had replaced the Nazi reign.
In 1947, he was arrested, tried for espionage, found guilty, and executed in 1948, in Warsaw. Any information about him was kept hidden by the Polish regime, until 1989, when the communist government fell.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2017, 04:11 »
The Polish city of Warsaw was basically fucked in WWII. They were occupied most of the time, all of it's Jews were rounded up into a ghetto, and it's two rebellions failed horribly,

The Jewish ghetto was, in one word, horrible. Thousands of people, packed into an area of 3.3km2. Diseases spread like wildfire. To top it off, the SS regularly captured people for "relocation". They failed to notice it was relocation to Treblinka, an extermination camp. The ghetto leaders initially cooperated with these "relocations", since they were told it was to somewhere in the east. Upon hearing the true goal of these "relocations", the leader of the Ghetto committed suicide.

Eventually the local SS commander, Jürgen Stroop commanded the remaining Jews to surrender, to all be shipped to Treblinka. The population, of course, refused. In response, Stroop ordered the burning of the Ghetto, block by block.
The ghetto did try to rebel, but it went as well as you'd expect: 13000 Jews died, while only 300 Nazi soldiers were lost.


The second rebellion in Warsaw didn't fare well either.
The local resistance, fueled by the Allies with guns and ammo, started their uprising August 1st 1944. They timed it to be in sync with the German withdrawal from Poland, who were fleeing from the Soviet war machine.

This particular timing had three reasons:
1: They could use the Soviet's help
2: They wanted to grab Poland sovereignty back before the backed Polish nationalist committee could capture it instead
3: The germans, in retreat, threatened to capture Warsaw citizens, to force them into a death march. The uprising wanted to prevent this from happening.

Initially, the rebels captured the centre of Warsaw, but communications with the incoming Soviet army failed.
They failed, because the Soviets ignored all calls. And instead of marching into Warsaw, they halted on the other side of the river, letting the Polish rebels and German Nazi's tear eachother to shreds.

A regiment of 1200 Polish soldiers, under Soviet command, ignored the order to halt, and marched into the city nonetheless. However, without aerial or artillery support, they didn't last long, and had to retreat soon.

Churchill tried to reason with Stalin, to help the rebellion, to no avail. The RAF, along with the South African and Polish Air Force did manage to get 200 supply drops into Warsaw, without Soviet clearance. The USAF dropped 1 large airdrop, with Soviet clearance, but the bombers were no longer allowed on Soviet airfields.

The Polish rebellion fought bravely, but without the Red Army to back them up, the Nazi soldiers soon crushed them.


During the fighting itself, about a quarter of the buildings were destroyed, and 200.000 Polish civilians died, mostly in mass executions. In retalliation to the uprising, the Nazi's razed another third of the city. In total, the Jewish rebellion and the uprising combined resulted in 85% of the city to be destroyed. The Germans, forced to retreat from the Soviet army, abandoned the city in January 1945.


Stalin's move, to let the Germans and Polish soldiers destroy each other, was condemned internationally, claiming it as "one of the major infamies of this war".
To make matters even worse, most of the members of the Warsaw resistance were persecuted after the war, convicted by the now Soviet-backed government. Monuments to the Soviet army were erected instead, with their involvement heavily exaggerated, claiming they were the sole protectors of the Jews in Warsaw.
The entire uprising, the bravery of the rebels and the betrayal of the Soviet army, ensured that anti-Soviet sentiments were high in the Cold War.

After the fall of the Soviet empire, research into the uprising started again. August 1st is now a national holiday in Poland.

In 1994, the 50th anniversary was celebrated, with invitations sent to both the German and Russian presidents, Roman Herzog and Boris Yeltsin. Herzog accepted, and issued a formal apology for the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during the uprising.
A joke circled around Poland upon hearing Yeltsin was invited, saying that they "would have to arrange binoculars for Yeltsin, if he's to watch the ceremony from the other side of the river". Yeltsin, however, declined the invitation.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2017, 06:59 »
Erwin Rommel was a German commander, who was widely respected by both German and Allied forces.
During WWI, he was already known as a charismatic and intelligent leader. The troops he served in, the Deutsches Alpenkorps, were lauded as "one of the best" of the German troops.

In WWII, he was reinstated by Hitler, who had a great deal of respect for Rommel's prowess. Rommel was enthralled by Hitler enthusiasm and personality, at first.

Rommel lead the 7th Panzer division, which became famous due to their insane quickness in the Blitzkrieg. They attacked so fast across the Maginot Line, the french soldiers gave them the nickname "Ghost Division". Even the German high command occasionally lost track of the 7th.

Rommel made his greatest achievements in the African theatre. He was nicknamed "The Desert Fox", for his multitude of tricks to defeat the enemy. His trick included:
   - During a military parade, he had several tanks in the front of the parade take a quick detour to rejoin at the back of the parade, to confuse the British spies.
   - He would tie branches and leaves to cars, and let them drive through the sand, which kicked up a huge dust tail, again letting it seem he had more tanks than there really were.
    - He had huge cardboard fake tanks made, again to deceive enemy intelligence into thinking he had more tanks available than reality.

Eventually, he was forced to withdraw from Africa. The Allied troops were too numerous, and Operation Torch meant he was to have a fuckload of MORE enemies on top. He argued to have his troops withdrawn to Italy, but Hitler refused. Angered, Rommel traveled to Germany in person to demand the retreat of his troops. Hitler refused again, and kept Rommel in Germany, to prevent his prized commander from facing a humiliating defeat.

Instead, he was sent to the Atlantikwall, the enforcements along the Western Front. There, he made numerous improvements, before meeting some conspirators.
These conspirators were planning on killing Hitler. He opposed this idea, not because he wanted Hitler to live, but because he thought that killing Hitler would make him a martyr, which would only create further chaos. He had a better idea: he would give Hitler an ultimatum. Either Hitler surrendered and started peace talks, or Rommel would collapse the western defence, which allowed the Allies to march into Berlin with ease. On his way to Berlin, however, he got hit by a aerial attack, and was forced to abandon his plan.

Shortly after his accident, the conspiracy was discovered, and Rommel was given a choice. Either he would take a cyanide pill and go down with his glory intact, or he would be put on public trial, and he and his family would be brought to shame. Taking the honorable way out, Erwin Rommel took the pill, and died on 14 October 1944.

Rommel was lauded by both the German troops as the Allied troops for his respect for common decency. He and his troops didn't commit any war crimes. Prisoners were treated with respect and dignity. He ignored the order to kill any Jews he came across, and he ignored Hitler's secret order to kill any enemy commando instead of capturing them.
It is said that he was a commander for his country, not it's Nazi leadership.

Offline Mave

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2017, 09:06 »
In 1947, he was arrested, tried for espionage, found guilty, and executed in 1948, in Warsaw. Any information about him was kept hidden by the Polish regime, until 1989, when the communist government fell.
Well that didn't end well..



Warsaw had a lot of bad luck indeed.. At least Poland got the national holiday out of it...
The binoculars joke is pretty good though.



It is said that he was a commander for his country, not it's Nazi leadership.

At least he's remembered as the good guy he was. I hope his family lived to tell this story.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2017, 07:02 »
Short one.

You ever wonder why a marathon is called a marathon? And why it's exactly 42195 m long?
The reason hails back to ancient Greece. There are multiple versions of the legend, but the main point is this: Greece fought an important battle against the Persian empire. That battle was at the city of Marathon. One of the Greek soldiers then ran from Marathon to Greece, according to some, to get help, and  according to others, to announce their victory. Either way, the distance between the two cities is 42 km and 195 meters.

Well, not exactly. Of course, it's difficult to exactly determine how long a guy ran back in 400BC. Especially seeing as the marathon was invented for the first modern Olympic Games, in 1896.
See, at the Olympic games in London in 1908, at request of the British Royal family, the distance was set to 42 km and 195 meters, which was the distance between Windsor Castle and the Royal stands at White City Stadium in West London. 12 years later, that distance was set as the official distance for the marathon event.

Offline Mave

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2017, 10:10 »
Short one.

You ever wonder why a marathon is called a marathon? And why it's exactly 42195 m long?
The reason hails back to ancient Greece. There are multiple versions of the legend, but the main point is this: Greece fought an important battle against the Persian empire. That battle was at the city of Marathon. One of the Greek soldiers then ran from Marathon to Greece, according to some, to get help, and  according to others, to announce their victory. Either way, the distance between the two cities is 42 km and 195 meters.

Well, not exactly. Of course, it's difficult to exactly determine how long a guy ran back in 400BC. Especially seeing as the marathon was invented for the first modern Olympic Games, in 1896.
See, at the Olympic games in London in 1908, at request of the British Royal family, the distance was set to 42 km and 195 meters, which was the distance between Windsor Castle and the Royal stands at White City Stadium in West London. 12 years later, that distance was set as the official distance for the marathon event.

Reminds me of the Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand, which is only 55 miles (88km) long.

Quote
Several theories have been advanced for the name, the most common stemming from the days when missionaries travelled on horse back when on average a horse could travel 30 miles (50 km) in a day before needing to be rested. The beach took three days to travel therefore earning its name, but the missionaries did not take into account the slower pace of the horses walking in the sand, thus thinking they had travelled 90 miles (140 km) when in fact they had only travelled 55.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2017, 07:49 »
Oh damn, that's a weird story. I thought it was because of nautical miles vs. regular miles, but this story is a lot better.



You've probably heard of the Hindenburg, or at least its crash. It was the largest zeppelin to ever fly, and it's the most famous crash ever. It was not the only large zeppelin crash, however.

7 years earlier, the British RAF built 2 large zeppelins as well, the R100 and the R101. They were the largest of their time, at 223m. Only the aforementioned Hindenburg was larger, 7 years later.
The R100 managed to fly across the Atlantic, albeit with some hiccups, and was considered a success.
The R101, however, wasn't. It flew all right during testing, but on its first flight with passengers aboard, it ended badly.

The flight started out alright. There was a nice breeze, the sun was shining, and the craft moored off around 18:00 from Cardington, with its destination Karachi, India. It would stop in Egypt for refueling, and fly past London and Paris on the way there.

During its journey to London, however, the weather changed.
It started to rain.
Heavily.

Heavy winds were pushing the R101 out of course, but it did manage to make its way to London. Onlookers who braved the heavy weather to watch the airship pass by, say the R101 was flying with its nose at a 30 degree angle.
During its trip, one of its engines started developing a problem with low oil pressure. The engine was shut down, and repairs were made. The repairs, however, were only finished by the time the ship was already flying across the Channel.

They made the flight across the Channel safely, flying over French ground close to midnight. The navigators plotted a course to Orly, but because of the heavy winds and rain, their estimates on where the aircraft was, were incorrect. As a result, their course was plotted further east than initially planned. This error was only noticed when they nearly crashed into a hilltop that the Chief Navigator recognized. Their course was corrected, but now it would take them over the Beauvais Ridge, which was notorious for turbulent wind.

At 02:00, middle of the night, the R101 was staying aloft purely by its speed, at 300m altitude. Not ten minutes later, the craft slipped into a steep dive, from which it only partially recovered, but by now the altitude was only 160m. Finally, the Chief Coxswain went into the crew quarters, shouting "We're down, lads!", at which the ship dropped into a second dive, which sent with the ship crashing into the ground.
Despite the low speed (21 km/h), the entire structure instantly caught fire, likely because it was made up of giant bags of flammable hydrogen.
46 people died on impact. 2 more people died from their injuries later in hospitals.

The crash brought the British airship program to a grinding halt. The R101's sister ship, the R100, was grounded immediately, and later dismantled and sold for scrap.

I know of this story because of my favorite Iron Maiden song, Empire of the Clouds. Seriously, listen to it. Pay close attention around 6:56, when they manage to spell out SOS in morse.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2017, 04:55 »
It's Finland's birthday today! Yaaaay!

Here's a story about a crazy Fin as celebration, Simo Häyhä.

Simo was a Finnish bad ass, born with a knack for sharpshooting.
He joined the Finnish voluntary militia when he was 20 years old, but before that he was a simple farmer. Even still, his house filled with trophies for marksmanship contests.


Finally, in 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland, starting the Winter War. It wasn't a long war, only 3 months, and in the end Finland had to surrender 11% of their territories, which makes it seem like Finland lost. Of course, the Soviets threw almost 750.000 soldiers against Finland's 250.000, not counting tanks and planes.
The Soviet force was so enormous, it should have been a crushing defeat, but because Stalin started his Great Purge shortly before, almost 30.000 of it's officers were unfit (read: dead or imprisoned) for duty, leaving the army mostly in command of inexperienced men. The result of the war made Hitler believe the Soviet army was weak enough for him to assault the Soviet Union.


But back to Hayha. Upon the start of the Winter War, he grabbed his rifle, head into the woods, and started shooting Communists.
He did so with a rifle without lens. See, a normal sniper will use a telescopic lens. Not Häyhä. He thought that the disadvantages of using a scope were too big. He used his rifle's iron sights, to make himself a smaller target (he didn't have to raise his head to properly see into the scope, exposing himself to Soviet soldiers), and to prevent his scope's sight from fogging up or freezing over in the Finnish winter weather, and, most notably, to prevent being spotted by the sunlight glinting off the lenses.

On top of this, he used the snow to his advantage. He was covered in white camouflage clothing, while the Soviets weren't (they really were horribly unprepared). He packed dense mounds of snow at his position, so he could hide better. He also famously kept a bit of snow in his mouth, to prevent his breath being visible in the ice cold weather.

The Soviets quickly learned of this "White Death" roaming in the Finnish woods. They sent in teams of counter-snipers, and used artillery strikes. None of them managed to kill him though. He simply took out the counter sniper units, and hid in the woods. Eventually, hey did manage to hurt him, badly. An explosive bullet hit him in the cheek, leaving him alive, but heavily wounded.
The Finnish soldiers who found him said that "half his face was missing".


Statistics about his killrate differ. Western intelligence claims he had over 500 confirmed sniper rifle kills, but his direct commanding officer claims it was only 259. However, he also used a Finnish SMG, which he used to kill another 250 Soviets. All of these kills were made, however, in the duration of the Winter War, which only lasted a bit more the 100 days. That's 5 kills PER DAY.
So, not the most sniper kills, but the most kills in total after all.

He survived the heavy wound to his face, and lived on to 2002, when he died in a nursing home at the age of 96.

Offline Mave

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2017, 09:29 »
Despite the low speed (21 km/h), the entire structure instantly caught fire, likely because it was made up of giant bags of flammable hydrogen.
Sounds logical.

I've been to Beauvais two times on a language course, almost 12 years ago. And I vaguely remember heavy winds indeed, especially at night.

Interesting fact about the Iron Maiden song too.



He also famously kept a bit of snow in his mouth, to prevent his breath being visible in the ice cold weather.
Now that's dedication.

When I read the "half his face was missing" I was surprised to read that he managed to live until the age of 96.

A great story for today indeed, what a hero.

Offline Stybar

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2017, 09:33 »
Juan Pujol García is the British spy that you never heard about. The Germans did, however. Although he wasn't really a member of the Allied intelligence, at first. Or a Brit, to begin with.

Confusing? Nah, his story is more hilarious than confusing.
So, García lived in Spain. At the time, Spain had just gone through a bloody civil war, which ended with the dictator Franco in power. During this civil war, García developed a distaste of all things Nazi and Fascist. So during WWII, wanting to do the right thing, he went to the British and US intelligence services, to offer himself as a spy. Both, however, rejected him, because he had no experience, and there was no further reason to take him in.

But García was stubborn, and hatched a better plan. He created a complete fake identity, and went to the GERMAN intelligence agency, to offer himself as a spy for them. There, he WAS accepted, and told to go to England, start recruiting other potential agents, and report back with information on the British Army.

García went to Lisbon instead. There, he set up an entirely FICTIONAL network of agents that were "in his service", and fed the Germans useless information, mostly based on publicly available sources such as newspapers and travel brochures. This information would never pass any close inspection, but the Germans quickly accepted García as a trustworthy agent nonetheless. Any mistakes that were made were quickly blamed on his fictional subordinates, and the Germans never realized that everything was absolute bullshit.

Eventually, the Allies realized something was fucky, when the Germans spend a considerable amount of resources trying to hunt down a convoy that didn't exist in the first place. Their intel said that the Germans received the intel on that convoy from one of their secret agent in Britain. Realizing that this was obviously fake intel, they immediately thought of a double agent. But they didn't have a double agent by that name. They quickly found out it was Garcia all along, took him in, interrogated him, found out what he has been doing for the last years, probably had a hearty chuckle at the entire story, gave him a nice office in London, with the order to continue bamboozling the Germans.

This time, however, he had the full support of the British MI5, which allowed him to give out more accurate bullshit information, information which was pretty useless to the Germans. They expanded his network to 27, still completely fictional, agents, and to make it even better, the Germans willingly paid up to $340.000 to support these made up people.
In 1944, the German command even gave him an Iron Cross, a medal usually only rewarded to soldiers on the front line, which had to be authorized by Hitler himself. In the same year, the British king George VI also gave him a MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), making García one of the few people awarded by both sides.

His most important role was his direct involvement in Operation Fortitude, the massive double agent operation that made the Germans believe that the Allied invasion was going to happen on another day and place than it really was. García's influence on the German command was so great, that they believed him when he said Operation Overlord was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the "main invasion" had yet to come. Because of his false information, they believed the assault would happen in Pas-de-Calais, so they kept the largest part of their troops stationed there, instead of defending Normandy from the actual invasion.
To make things even better, some of his communications went missing. These communications were important for the Allies, however, as they were supposed to mislead the Germans into believing false information. After the missing communications were retrieved, Garcia angrily told his German handlers that this was unacceptable, saying "I cannot accept excuses or negligence. Were it not for my ideals I would abandon the work."

After the war, García fled Europe, fearing reprisal from surviving Nazi's. He faked his death in Angola, and fled to Venezuela. There he lived in relative anonymity, until a British writer, who was interested in his MI5 handle, GARBO, started digging and found out where he lived. He returned to England, and met up with his old colleagues. He passed away in 1988.

Offline Mave

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Re: Historic Anecdotes
« Reply #18 on: Yesterday at 06:42 pm »
^ Now that’s an interesting story. Garcia playing the long con.
His story should be made into a movie.