Some day we're going to look back at the wars of the 20th century and laugh. Except not really, because they were awful and horrifying. But we can take comfort in knowing that as terrible as the wars of the last century were, some of these near misses might have really messed your shit up. Or saved the world. It could go either way, really.
WARNING: The following article contains historical speculation from a comedy website.
#5. MacArthur's Nuclear War
Depending on who you ask, General Douglas MacArthur was either one of the greatest heroes or greatest assholes in American history. After becoming generalissimo of the army during WWII, he was given the honor of heading up all UN forces when North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950. By mid-September MacArthur and his UN troops recaptured South Korea, but it was only a matter of weeks before MacArthur decided he might as well shimmy on over to North Korea while they were in the neighborhood.
"While we're here..."
Naturally, the Chinese got pissed over this charge into communist territory, and answered back with some troops of their own. At this point, the conflict was forced into a stalemate, not unlike the stalemate MacArthur and President Truman were enjoying over who exactly was in control of the United States Army. Especially after the Joint Chiefs of Staff convened to authorize MacArthur the ability to use nuclear weapons against Chinese targets without presidential approval.
He loved two things: smoking preposterously large pipes and committing nuclear genocide.
Mac was poised to drop 30 to 50 atomic bombs on the country, including "the mainland cities of China," whether Truman liked it or not.
What Stopped It:
Truman grew a pair and fired him.
Or his Masonic overlords told him to do it.
When Truman met MacArthur in 1950, the general refused to salute the Commander-in-Chief. That should have tipped him off as to who he was dealing with. When Truman told him to shut the hell up about nukes, MacArthur rallied the Joint Chiefs of Staff against him. Truman had a rogue general on his hands.
As if these private acts of insubordination weren't enough, pretty soon the story broke that MacArthur had sent a letter critical of the President's war policy to the Speaker of the House and the press the same day that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were meeting to give him nuke power. By April, 1951, Truman had had enough and he fired MacArthur's ass. No Chinese nuclear war for him.
If The War Had Happened...
Nuclear weapons would have become conventionalized weapons of war, and China would have been nuked several times over. As for the post-war, any country that had a nuke would have probably used one by now thanks to MacArthur's lead.
Basically, war would be Starcraft with worse voice acting.
Oh, yeah, there is also the question as to what would have become of the U.S. presidency after MacArthur had essentially staged a military coup against Truman.
#4. Fall Grun aka Stopping Hitler Before WWII
World War II, as you probably already know, started when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, and lasted until the Axis nations surrendered in 1945. Over those years, 60 million people were killed and most of the world's countries got involved with over 100 million people deployed in some form or another. Now, imagine if the entire thing could have been avoided by taking the Nazis out before they ever really got started. That's what some historians think might have happened if the Fuhrer would have gotten his way in the Fall of 1938.
If the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts had lowered its standards in 1907, we could have avoided all this unpleasantness.
In 1938, Hitler wanted the Sudetenland, the western part of Czechoslovakia that was largely occupied by ethnic Germans. And Hitler wanted it bad, so bad that he was ready to launch a war for it. The invasion he planned was called Fall Grun, or Case Green, and the Fuhrer was going to use all of the Nazi military might to get it.
What Stopped It:
This miracle of peace.
Way to go, Chamberlain.
Even though Hitler wanted war more than anything else that Christmas, England and France were still shaken over the previous world war. So the European powers managed to talk Hitler into a group therapy session at Munich, and Hitler got the Sudetenland (without Czechoslovakia's approval) in exchange for promising to be nice for the rest of the century.
He has his fingers crossed underneath that podium.
But what if Hitler had shown up drunk, pissed on the carpet, and left?
If The War Had Happened...
WWII would have been over before it began.
Hitler's generals whipped up their plan to invade Czechoslovakia, Fall Grun, but they may as well have called it Operation Many Dead Nazis. The German military was in no way prepared for what would have been war with France and England in 1938, especially while the bulk of their army would have been fighting their way through the Sudetenland. Their whole military was "under-trained, underprepared and unequipped" for any kind of a fight, which is why Hitler's chief of the general staff Ludwig Beck resigned in protest over the operation.
German Wehrmacht, circa 1938.
So, if the Munich Pact hadn't blundered its way into existence, Hitler would have invaded, England, France, Poland and Soviet Russia would have rallied against them, the Nazis would have exhausted their resources, and they would have been soundly defeated in months. Boom. Done. The conflict would likely have gone down as one more European war, getting a one-page summary in the history books. No blitzkrieg, no fall of France, no Holocaust and a new cast of characters in every WWII shooter ever made.
We're guessing they'd be Eskimos.
#3. War Plan Red, aka The U.S. Invasion of Canada
While Anglo-American relations may seem awesome now thanks to J. K. Rowling, Monty Python and Shaun of the Dead, the fact remains that the U.S. and UK spent a lot of time trying to kill each other before settling on their common interests. War Plan Red was America's playbook for a worst-case military scenario with the entire United Kingdom: Britain, India, Canada, anywhere that flew the Union Jack.
War Plan Red. The choice of "Emerald" for Ireland is evidence that war planners might be the least imaginative people on the planet.
By 1902, the U.S. had already fought two wars with England and nearly fought a third one in 1896. So when the UK established an alliance with our not-friends Japan, the U.S. government got a little jumpy. Things cooled off after WWI, but the U.S. Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy nevertheless approved War Plan Red as late as 1930. Nobody thought we would ever use it until something kind of scary happened in 1937... there were rumors that King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom was pro-Nazi.
What Stopped It:
A little WTF moment in history called the abdication crisis. On December 11, 1936, Edward VIII shocked the planet when he resigned as King-Emperor of the British Empire to marry a twice-divorced desperate housewife named Wallis Simpson. Who was Wallis Simpson? A woman who Hitler himself thought "would have made a good Queen."
And she felt the Nazis were "rather dapper blokes."
While the king wasn't exactly in a position of great authority over his country to begin with, he was perfectly capable of leaking Allied secrets to his German buddies. Which, by the way, is something historians suspect he and Wallis did once the war started and the UK was firmly in the anti-Nazi camp. Edward was still a nightmare for the Brits, but fortunately he was no longer in power.
If The War Had Happened...
Say hi to the new United States of America.
Courtesy of John Candy and friends.
The War Department recognized that Canada was the British Empire's best route to strike deep into the American continent, so War Plan Red dictated that the U.S. would launch a full invasion against Canada via Vermont, North Dakota and the Midwest. The playbook even included such delectable pointers as how "the best practicable route to Vancouver is via Route 99."
"Soon, men, we will have enough Maple syrup to sate America's great hunger."
With the Great Lakes a war-zone and Canada's Pacific and Atlantic coasts blockaded by the U.S. Navy, War Plan Red would have ended in nothing short of Canada's utter surrender to the United States of America. Worst case scenario: the United States gets Quebec. Best case: the whole plate of pancakes plus whatever islands in the Pacific, Atlantic and Caribbean we considered a threat to America's newfound superpower status.