In the third century B.C., after the collapse of the Qin Dynasty, the Chu and Han forces went to war for supremacy. The Han forces, under the leadership of Han Xin, won a string of significant battles over Xiang Yu and the Chu. When the Chu started retreating back to their capital, Han Xin ordered several ambush attacks, hoping to force Xiang Yu into a canyon, where the Chu would be defenseless. Xiang Yu resisted, until finally Han's forces kidnapped Xiang's wife and held her in the canyon as bait. This is known as the Gruber Gambit, and military tacticians largely advise against it due to the overwhelming odds of the opponent countering with the Willis Maneuver.
Xiang Yu sent most of his forces back to his capital but took 100,000 troops and marched into the canyon to save his wife.
The Chu were able to rescue Xiang Yu's wife, but they were now caught in Han's trap. They tried to break out but were pushed back into the canyon time and time again. Yet they were able to hold their position against the Han, creating a siege situation. That's when Han unleashed his secret weapon: sing-a-longs!
Traditional military strategy -- sending hundreds of conscripts to die in battle with heroic supermen, was turned on its head.
He ordered his forces to sing traditional Chu songs, which he called the "Chu Song From Four Sides" tactic. That's right: It has a name, thus indicating that the Han had some sort of long and storied tradition of musical warfare. When the trapped soldiers heard the songs of their homelands, nostalgia and sentiment charged through their defensive perimeter and began looting and pillaging their heartstrings.
The singing caused massive desertions throughout the night: Only a few hundred men stayed with Xiang Yu. In the morning, they tried to escape together. Though they did successfully break out of the canyon, the Chu forces were eventually tracked down by Han Xin. Seeing that all was lost, Xiang committed suicide on the spot. And thus the Han Dynasty was created ... through the power of song.
Later, Jefferson Starship would adapt this slice of history into their hit song "We Built This Dynasty (On Ancient Chinese Folk Songs)." Sadly, record executives changed the original wording before release.
In 1942, with victory all but assured in North Africa, the Allies began planning for the next stage of the war. Their target was clear: Sicily. Capturing it would make the Allies Rulers of the Mediterranean, which is like, five times cooler than Pirates of the Caribbean. The only problem being that the Germans knew the strategic importance of Sicily all too well and made it their highest priority to stop any and all invasion attempts. The Allies needed some way of making the Germans believe that Sicily was not the main objective, thus forcing them to spread their forces nice and wide, like the tactical deployment equivalent of your mom on a Friday night.
The Allies skipped past the "Fake Radio Transmission" and "Counter-intelligence Operatives" chapters of The Book of War, and instead flipped right to the "Corpses, Weird Uses Of" section. They acquired a dead body, planted fake documents on it, then shipped it off to the coast of Spain, where the supposedly neutral government had a nasty habit of helping German agents while air-quoting the word "neutral."
But they needed a very particular corpse: It had to look as if the person died of hypothermia or drowning and had stayed that way for a couple of days before being retrieved. And, presumably operating under the English assumption that the only good Welshman is a dead Welshman, they found one: A dead man named Glyndwr Michael. In the false documents they gave him, they named him Major William Martin and wrote him a fiancee named Pam. They filled his pockets with love letters, pictures of the woman and even a bill for an engagement ring.
Nothing sells "sad" like a young widow!
We're not sure why the planted corpse had to have a tragically romantic backstory to it, but we're chalking this one up to that infamous German sentimentality.
They also gave Martin a letter from his father, a book of stamps, pencils, bus tickets and a replacement ID card, in order to make the major look careless. Finally, they attached a briefcase to him, filled with documents indicating that Greece would be a major target and that the invasion of Sicily was merely a diversion.
The rumors were helped along by Eisenhower's legendary love of gyros.
When the Germans got their hands on the body, they bought the story completely, wiped away a few tears for Pam, told their commanding officers they just had something in their eye and then relayed the information all the way to the top: Hitler himself. The German forces promptly rushed war supplies -- troop reinforcements, minefields, three panzer divisions and even Rommel himself -- to Greece. When the Allies did invade Sicily, it was undermanned and ill-prepared for the battle. The invasion was a complete success, mainland Europe was now ready for invasion, and Pam eventually learned to love again after engaging in a series of wacky misunderstandings with a stammering Hugh Grant.
Who is charmingly blown apart by long-range artillery fire in Act III.
For more badass war stories, check out 5 Ancient Acts of War That Changed the Face of the Earth and The 6 Most Gigantic Everything in the History of War.
And stop by Linkstorm to read more chapters from The Art of War.
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