As awful as war is, it's still being fought by human beings, and they don't just check their humanity at the door. Sometimes, right in the heat of battle, sympathy and simple human kindness breaks through. Spontaneous truces occur when groups of soldiers decide they just can't take it anymore.
The result is a series of stories that you should bookmark for the next time you're in a bad mood.
#6. Americans and Nazis Share a Christmas Meal
The below story is so cheesily heart-warming that we would call bullshit if multiple people involved hadn't come forward to verify it. It sounds like one of those corny email forwards.
In the last days of the Second World War, just before Hitler realized that picking a fight with the entire world wasn't going to end well for him, the Nazis launched one final offensive against the Allies. The Battle of the Bulge was not, as we thought in elementary school, the story of one man's battle to hide an unfortunate erection, but a very last ditch effort of a cornered and angry German war machine. Occurring over Christmas 1944, yuletide cheer was running in understandably short supply.
The 32nd division's "Nutcracker Suite (With Occasional Flesh Wounds)" didn't go down well.
In the meantime, in a small cottage nearby on the German-Belgian border, a 12-year-old boy and his mother were busy minding their own damn business. Their dreams of blissful ignorance were shattered when three American soldiers arrived at their front door, one with serious wounds. These Americans were armed, desperate and, with it being Christmas Eve, freezing to death. For Germans under the Nazi regime, sheltering enemy troops was high treason. Fortunately, this German woman didn't give even a single shit about politics on Christmas.
It's not Christmas without some kind of fight over who invaded whom.
So she invited them in and began to tend to their wounds. Then there was another knock at their door.
Four Nazi soldiers had arrived.
"History tends to forget that a good 30 percent of us weren't murderous douchebags."
Though the mother knew they could be shot for violating the rules of war, she took a gamble and sternly told the lost and hungry Germans that there would be no killing that night. The boy and his mother had a Christmas chicken all fattened up and ready to be butchered, so they went ahead and prepared the feast with their unexpected guests. Proving that Hollywood has no monopoly on Christmas magic, the American soldiers and the German soldiers all turned their weapons over to the woman and feasted together, without so much as exchanging passive-aggressive insults.
"What are your plans for the weekend?" "Well, we're -- awwwww, you almost got me. You bastard."
Then, in the morning, when the wounded American had semi-recovered, the German soldiers directed the American soldiers back to their lines, telling them how to avoid all the areas that the Nazis had recaptured.
The story spread after the boy, Fritz Vincken, grew up and told the story to Reader's Digest (it became so famous that even President Ronald Reagan mentioned it in a speech when he visited Germany). You could write it off as something he pulled out of his imagination when up against a magazine deadline, but then in 1995 Fritz found one of the soldiers, who had separately been telling the story to everyone he met for years. On that night, American and Nazi soldiers really did just sit down in the middle of the war and have a quiet Christmas dinner.
That little boy grew up and got to meet the American soldier who gave him the coolest Christmas ever.
#5. The Australians Make Friends With the Turks in Gallipoli
In the heat of World War I, the British decided that they needed to invade Turkey. It was a ballsy decision, considering that doing so would result in a bloodbath the likes of which the world had rarely seen. So, rather than suffer the senseless death of tens of thousands of British soldiers, they decided on a different tactic: Send in Australians.
There is so much weird going on in this picture.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) were shipped out to Turkey to seize the Gallipoli peninsula, a task which basically relied on their ability to sprint across the beach and absorb two dozen bullets each before falling over. But the Australians -- who were more than used to living in hellish conditions -- held their own. Although they were unable to drive back the far superior numbers of the enemy, they killed or wounded up to 10,000 Turks while losing only a few hundred of their own.
But then a remarkable thing happened. With the blazing heat of the Turkish beach working on the corpses of thousands of fallen soldiers, both sides simultaneously came to the conclusion that this was a bunch of bullshit. At the very least, someone should give all these dead people a respectful burial.
"If we're going to treat the living terribly, we might as well take care of the dead."
On May 24, 1915, a daylong ceasefire was arranged between the troops. The Allied troops and Turkish troops came out of their trenches together to bury the dead. It was hard, sweaty work, but in between, the soldiers struck up quite a remarkable friendship. They started by exchanging greetings and cigarettes before they began to swap badges like players at the end of a soccer game. Thousands of Turkish civilians came out to watch the spectacle from the surrounding hills. For the first time in recent memory, it was kind of like, you know, there wasn't a World War going on.
"I like to pretend my lice are actually itchy tingles of happiness."
When it came to 4 o'clock, the Turks approached one of the Australian commanders, Captain Audrey Herbert, asking him for orders. He then retired both the troops and walked down the lines and made the two sides shake hands. When a dozen Turks popped out of their trench, Audrey taunted them, saying they would shoot him the next day, to which they replied, "God forbid! We would never shoot you."
Especially as the Australians had secretly deactivated the Turks' rifles.
Twenty minutes later, all jokes aside, the indiscriminate killing began again, as though this eerie interlude had never happened.
#4. The Confederates Show Mercy at the Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was one of the most one-sided battles of the American Civil War. The South was defending a stone wall at the base of Marye's Heights, and it must have been a pretty damn important stone wall, because they shot 8,000 Union soldiers in just one morning to stop them from getting to it.
It's OK as walls go, we guess.
Sergeant Richard Kirkland decided enough was enough. So Kirkland walked up to his general and calmly stated that he couldn't bear to hear the cries of the wounded soldiers.
He pleaded with the general to let him go out and give the wounded enemy soldiers some water. The general, who knew it probably wasn't a brilliant idea to go running headlong into the line of fire, tried to talk him out of it. But Kirkland was so insistent that the general offered a compromise: He could go, but he couldn't take a white flag, the general opting instead to see whether God would protect him. It's fortunate for the Confederates that he didn't extend this logic to taking the soldiers' weapons away to see if God would shoot the Yankees dead.
God has an amazing kill ratio, but really lets himself down when he teabags whole countries.
Kirkland left the trenches and started pouring water into the mouths of wounded Union soldiers. When the enemy saw what was happening, they stopped trying to annihilate him as he moved from body to body. When he was done, he returned to safety behind the lines.
Richard Kirkland died a year later at the Battle of Chickamauga because the universe hates good people. But at least he got a statue.
Here he is, apparently shoving a whole canteen down a guy's throat.