The history books are full of great military minds who turned the tides of war with their creative genius. This article is not about them.
No, we're here to talk about the embarrassing fuck-ups, the confused incompetence that ensured these men would never have a high school named after them.
#5. Flushing a Toilet Sinks a Submarine
About five minutes after somebody first drew up the plans for an underwater ship called a "submarine," somebody standing over that guy's shoulder said, "so how do you take a shit in one?"
It's not like a regular boat where you can just poop over the side (that's what they do, right?) and the whole physics of a flushing toilet like you have in your bathroom stop working when, instead of a house, you're in a vessel submerged in water exerting massive pressure from every direction. To see what flushing a toilet in that situation would look like, picture the exact opposite of a successful toilet flush.
On April 14, 1945, the German submarine U-1206 found this out the hard way.
Who Fucked Up?
That model of boat had a new, fancy toilet-flushing system that used a complex system of high-pressure valves to allow them to flush the toilets even when running deep under the sea. So complex, that you couldn't operate the system without supervision.
But the captain of the submarine, Karl-Adolph Schlitt, figured he would chance it. After all, it's a damned toilet! How complicated can it be?
One splashing, cursing, Charlie Chaplin-esque slapstick sequence later, and Schlitt found himself wading through the Atlantic seawater that was quickly rushing into the submarine. Unable to pump the water out, Schlitt had no choice but to surface the sub.
Of course, this was in the middle of a war. Oh, and the German submarine just happened to be on a spy mission just 10-miles away from the British coast. It was almost immediately spotted by an English plane, which proceeded to bomb the shit out of the sub. Schlitt found himself unable to escape and gave the order to abandon ship, where every surviving member of the crew was captured.
#4. Indians Take Over Fort During a Game of Lacrosse
In 1761, the British gained a new post in present day Michigan named Fort Michilimackinac. They also gained some new neighbors in the local Indian tribe. If you've spent five minutes reading an American history text book you'd be able to predict that such a living arrangement could only end in tears.
However, the two groups lived in relative peace, at least for a while. It's sort of like The Odd Couple, if you replace the charm of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman with deep-seated racism and impromptu scalpings.
With the threat of battle constantly looming over them, members of the Ojibwa tribe lightened the mood by playing lacrosse near the entrance of the fort, silently hoping to shatter a window a la Dennis the Menace. The British adored observing these games, often watching them from the safety of the fort ramparts.
As the rivalry between the Ojibwa and the Brits waned, the British started to edge further and further out of the safety of their fort, with smiles and beckoning hand gestures from the Ojibwa.
Who Fucked Up?
Eventually, years passed without incident and nearly the whole force of the fort came out to enjoy the games, insulting the "savages" and betting on the outcome of the game with each other. This included Captain Etherington, who was the British commander at the fort and had seemingly forgotten why they had a fort in the first place (hint: it had been attacked multiple times in just the previous few months).
Then, during a game on June 2, 1763, a ball was hit a little too high and sailed over the walls of the fort. The two closest Ojibwa's chased it into the fort. The soldiers, eager to discover the outcome of the match, left the gates open to let them through.
Then more players ran in, then more and, eventually, all the players were inside the gates and the British were still outside wondering when the game was going to resume. Inside, the Ojibwa were handed weapons previously smuggled in before closing the gates and slaughtering almost everyone inside, including Captain Etherington. The game had been postponed on account of vengeance.
The Ojibwa went on to hold the fort for an entire year. We're assuming that the British tried to counterattack by playing soccer outside but their plan was somehow ineffective.
#3. General Somehow Misses the Enormous Battle
The civil war had its fill of frankly embarrassing moves by its Union generals, but some errors can be hand-waved away with excuses such as "misinformation" or "my army is dead." However, "I couldn't find the battlefield of 25,000 men" doesn't really cut it.
Who Fucked Up?
At the battle of Shiloh, General Lew Wallace was given orders from General Grant for his division to serve as the reserves in case things got a little too messy. So he hung back, lit a cigar and relaxed. At 6am the order came for Wallace to move up and help out in the fight against the Confederates. So General Wallace moved his division out... in the wrong direction.
Wallace lead the march, no doubt giving them an inspiring speech all the while. His men were ready to fight the Rebs, for decency, for freedom, for America. A few hours later, noting the distinct lack of blood on their hands, they began to wonder if they were even in America anymore. Wallace's division had been wandering to the point where they were more lost than the cast of Lost on the lost island who had gotten lost in the jungle. Also, they're lost in time.
Seriously, where the fuck are we?
Somehow, not investing in a compass, map or a friend who could read road signs paid off for Wallace when his men found themselves at the rear of the Confederates, who were firing at Grant's men and doing a damn fine job of it. Wallace had unwittingly placed his army at a classic rear flank position and himself on the cusp of victory. All that was left for him to do was sound the charge, put the Rebel balls in the vice-grip known as Yankee Justice and within hours he'd be getting hammered in a tent with General Grant. Hell, he could even claim it was his idea all along, and go down in history as a military genius.
But he wasn't one. Instead, Wallace decided that the much more advantageous position he had accidentally marched to was still wrong, dammit, and a job worth doing was a job worth doing right. So, against all advice, he ordered his troops to turn around and go back to where they were supposed to go. This whole trip took a total of five hours.
The men finally reached their original destination, but by then the battle had moved. Rather than mark it all up to a brain fart, Wallace had his men march onwards to the fight. He finally got to Grant's position at 7pm. That's 13 hours of looking for a battle consisting of nearly 25,000 men, a spectacle that frankly shouldn't be that hard to spot.
"Are you sure that's our battlefield?"
When Wallace finally found Grant's army, he also found a lost battle and a reasonably pissed of General. Wallace, who cost thousands of Union lives and blistered countless Union toes, was removed from command.