#3. Biplanes in Military Service
In the early days of flying, half of the fun of getting in the air was impressing your friends with acrobatic feats and novelty stunts, and that was where the biplane came in handy.
"You know, we really should have brought a spare ball."
Sure, it was an awkward early start to what would eventually develop into sleek flying machines, but what could you expect from people who sat on poles for a good time? Thanks to jets and common sense, the clunky, laughably slow biplanes went the way of the flapper.
But Actually ...
Meet the extremely popular Russian-built Antonov An-2.
Dmitry A. Mottl
"The bottle of vodka under the seat may be used as a flotation device."
It looks better suited for pesticide dumping than strategic military purposes. Yet 50 different nations are still cleaving these clunkers to their military bosoms, and some of them, like Germany and China, aren't even that poor. They're using these relics on purpose! To find out why, we have to look harder at the planes themselves.
For one thing, the An-2 was designed for agricultural work, so it can fly pretty close to the ground. You'd think that would be a bad thing, on account of anti-aircraft guns and trees and such, but it's not. Because radar looks way higher when trying to detect aircraft, the An-2 can go unnoticed -- when you get close enough to the ground, radar loses you in the clutter.
Berry Vissers, Airliners.net
"Now we just have to hope they don't, like, use their eyes or anything."
And the other thing about the An-2 is that it can sustain flight at wicked slow speeds; we're talking 30 mph slow. Apparently, the wings have slats that stay closed until the plane hits school-zone speed, then the slats lift, which allows the plane to glide to the ground like a drifting autumn leaf. When you want to be sneaky, there aren't many better options.
That's why oil-starved North Korea switched from bigger, badder planes to the An-2 for reconnaissance missions as late as 2007, and why Croatia used them for bomb-dropping in the Croatian War for Independence in the early '90s. Can you imagine fighting a war today and seeing this thing coming after you? You'd be only slightly more surprised if you were attacked by Snoopy on his flying doghouse.
#2. World War II
Even if you don't know the exact date when WWII ended, you've seen the photographic evidence of the days it happened. And the kiss that apparently ended hostilities.
"The war isn't officially over until we consummate this peace."
Victory in Europe Day was May 8, 1945, and Victory over Japan Day was August 14, 1945, when the above liplock was taken. So, victory was declared, the Axis powers surrendered, war was over. Nothing could be simpler.
But Actually ...
What if we told you that, in very technical terms, the peace wasn't established in Germany until 1990? While some of us were wearing Hammer pants and Urkel was making grandmas everywhere laugh, World War II was still raging in Europe. And by "raging," we mean "quietly simmering in a crock pot no one noticed."
"Boy, that sure is one sour kraut."
At the heart of it was Germany, who was like a kid caught in the middle of a custody battle between the Soviets and USA in the postwar years. And lost in the shuffle over weekend visitation rights was the little fact that, technically, no one declared peace in Germany. When the war ended, the Allies created a provisional arrangement deciding how they would govern the mess that was the tatters of the German nation. And one of those stipulations was that once Germany got its denazified act together, a permanent peace treaty would be put in place, one that Germany could sign itself.
It never happened. The four powers who signed that provisional treaty -- the Soviet Union, United States, Great Britain and France -- quickly devolved into a room of exes who could no longer handle a simple family function together. In 1948, the Soviet representative on the council walked out altogether -- and never came back.
"Please to be fucking this noise."
Which meant that both Germanys, East and West, were under military occupation until the Berlin Wall fell and, in 1990, the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany was finally signed. In it, the four powers who provisionally took over back in 1945 FINALLY relinquished all authority they once had over the place. Which meant that East and West Germany could start the process of getting back together.
The whole thing was a big enough deal that it warranted some street-kissing of its own.
Gary Mark Smith
#1. Spouses of Civil War Veterans
This one's a no-brainer. The Civil War ended in 1865 -- almost 150 years ago. The very last Civil War veterans died back in the 1950s. What, are we going to hear about some Civil War era survivor revived from suspended animation, Captain America style? The freaking thing ended two lifetimes ago.
But Actually ...
While the last Civil War soldiers died in the '50s, their widows have lived into the new millennium. How is that possible? Prepare to get really grossed out.
This sweet old lady was Maudie Hopkins. She died in 2008.
But back in 1934, she was just a 19-year-old girl when 86-year-old Confederate veteran William Cantrell asked her to marry him. As a bonus, he promised her the deed to his house if she bit the bullet. She did, and they lived in icky wedded bliss for three whole years before he croaked.
To distract you from the accumulating mental images, here's a picture of terrible Civil War carnage.
And then there's Alberta Martin, who has a kind of similar story, but with a nasty twist. At age 21, Alberta married 81-year-old Confederate vet William Jasper Martin, mostly so she could get her hands on his pension to help raise her son from a previous marriage. Ten months later, she had a baby -- the last baby (presumably) sprung from the loins of a veteran of the Civil War. We say "presumably" because within two months of her husband's death, she remarried. His grandson. Mrs. Double Martin passed away in 2004.
Finally, there's Gertrude Janeway, the last widow of a Union soldier. Like the other ladies on this list, Gertrude married her very old beau as a teenager, but she got a whole 10 years with her lover before he passed away. Unlike the other ladies on this list, Gertrude collected his pension check from the United States government until the day she died in 2003. That $70 a month may have been modest, but it spanned three centuries.
We're going to guess that the century:erection ratio wasn't much better than 1:1.
If there's anything you should take from these ladies' stories, it's that you should never underestimate the power of a horny old man.
For more changes happening as you're reading this, check out 7 Animals That Are Evolving Right Before Our Eyes. Or learn about the 6 Things From History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover which dinosaur still exists.
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