In the movies, we're furious when plots are resolved by some magical episode of divine intervention, because it's a downright cop-out. Wars should be won through strategy and the greater strength of their heroes, not by all the villains suddenly dropping dead of heart attacks.
As always, Cracked is here to show you that reality is often way weirder than fiction, in this case, that the deus ex machina is actually a common plot device in the story of reality.
#6. The Battle of Long Island Decided by Sudden, Inexplicable Fog
On Aug. 27, 1776, just weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the British forces already had George Washington and his Continental Army on the ropes in New York City. There was no escape across the East River, as the Brooklyn Bridge hadn't been invented yet, and the water was thick with British warships -- the start of a long tradition of the East River being full of debris.
The East River
As the British closed in, it looked very much like the American Revolution was over just a few weeks in.
The Divine Intervention:
The weather took an unseasonable turn for the worse in New York on Aug. 29, and for the Continental Army, this seemed like another element to add to a long list of grievances, being that they were trapped, outnumbered, ill-equipped, poorly trained, freezing and starving, and it was raining. It seemed as if God was punishing the Americans with the same weather that usually makes everyone hate England in the first place.
Redcoats didn't fear bullets. A grave is way warmer than the English winter.
But this rain turned out to be one of the best-disguised blessings in history, as it was so foggy the next morning that one could "scarcely discern a man from six yards' distance," which meant the Brits had to sit on their thumbs until the fog passed. What was more, for some freak reason, the fog "concealed from the British the operations of the Americans, while at New York the atmosphere was perfectly clear." In other words, the only parts of the city that were foggy were the parts the Brits needed to see through to figure out what the hell Washington was up to.
Washington did not need to shoot the British the next morning; he just needed to get the hell out of Brooklyn with enough of his army to continue and win the war with. This fog provided him with precisely the time and the cover he needed to successfully sneak all 9,000 of his men into Manhattan while the British sat back and reminisced about this jolly good London weather. It was like Washington shouted, "Cover me!" at God, and God had complied like world's greatest buddy cop. There was not a single loss of life, and Washington was the last one to leave Long Island ... immediately after he snatched his whole army and the Revolution straight out of the British Empire's back pocket.
"Horses and boats basically work the same way, right?"
#5. The Battle of Tanga, aka the Battle of the Bees
The Battle of Tanga was the first major battle in the East African theater of World War I. With a significant advantage in numbers, the British army thought it would be a piece of cake to take what is now Tanzania off the Germans' hands.
It looks dicey, but there's actually a lovely resort just beyond that hill.
Unfortunately for them, Africa had a secret weapon, which is apparent from this battle's famous nickname, the Battle of the Bees.
The Divine Intervention:
Despite outnumbering the Germans 8-to-1 and boasting initial successes, the British were dealt a humiliating, decisive defeat at Tanga when goddamn wild African bees attacked the British troops from out of nowhere.
The battle between man and bee was an utter nightmare for the British. Those who survived were stung beyond recognition, and in one reported case, a soldier who passed out was stung back into consciousness, because the bees weren't about to let him get out of this so easily.
They are engines of hate.
The battle would go on record as "one of the most notable failures in British military history" and one of the most unexpected blessings for the Germans in East Africa. Their "victory" sent morale through the roof, particularly for the units of their commanding officer, Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbec. With nothing short of the blessings of an unknown African bee-goddess at his disposal, the man never lost a battle for the duration of the war.
#4. The Burning of Washington Ended by a Tornado
In 1812, the fledgling and shiny new United States declared war on Britain again, because shit, it sure was fun the last time. This turned out to be kind of a bad decision. After a really determined, last-ditch attempt by the United States to conquer Canada, shit got real for the adolescent nation during the War of 1812, when a British invasion stormed up the Chesapeake for Washington, D.C.
Naturally, President Madison did not like seeing the nation's capital being fondled by some sex-starved limeys, especially since the Americans had just kind of sacked and burned present-day Toronto. On Aug. 24, 1814, at the Battle of Bladensburg, the city's last defense was reduced to a mob of panicking, screaming Marylanders in an ass-whooping hence referred to as "the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms."
That is, shit just got very real.
Madison had no choice but to grab the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence under both arms and get the hell out of Washington. The British promptly marched into the defenseless city, burned the White House and U.S. Capitol, and, just to be dicks about it, the Library of Congress as well. To add insult to injury, before they torched the White House, the Brits actually raided the White House fridge, enjoyed a toast using official booze, looted the mansion and probably raided the first lady's panty drawer.
The Divine Intervention:
While the Brits probably felt the burning of Washington was a righteous act of retribution, they definitely pissed off the wrong deity when they desecrated the U.S. capital. With the city in flames, God punished the redcoats with the sort of smiting usually reserved for characters straight out of the Old Testament.
If you think that's patriotic, wait'll you see God's red, white and blue trailer hitch balls.
A goddamn tornado touched down -- which almost never happens in the capital -- and plowed a path of instant terror right through downtown D.C., uprooting trees, lifting cannons and tossing the hapless redcoats around like maple leaves. The British were forced to flee the city after learning exactly whose side God was on -- after all, he did nothing when the Americans torched Canada.
Why the hell else do you think we keep printing this on our currency?