The 5 Most Embarrassing Failures in the History of War

We really don't get enough stories about incompetent soldiers. Think about it: It's a real disservice to war heroes if we never give people anything to compare them to. The very reason bravery and quick wits under fire are to be celebrated is because they're rare.

So let's take a moment to celebrate some of the hilariously stupid shit that goes on in the name of war.

#5. The Australian Army Loses to Emus


In 1932, Australian farmers had a problem: A gigantic flock of birds had migrated into their land and were obliterating their wheat crops. And this being Australia, these particular birds were unlikely to be intimidated by a dude made of straw and old clothes. They were emus: flightless, 6-foot-tall eating machines that had decided to take over the local farmlands. And there were 20,000 of them.

The situation quickly escalated to the point where you could barely see the fields from scores of Big Birds lounging around. And since the problem was downright cartoonish, the farmers opted to solve it in an appropriately Wile E. Coyotesque way: They asked for military assistance.

That is how Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Royal Australian Artillery found himself leading two regiments of battle-hardened soldiers, complete with some big-ass heavy machine guns, to unleash hell on a bunch of helpless birds.
And thus began Bird War One.

This did not go well.

The Embarrassment:

The very first clash of the operation proved that the emus were gifted in the art of guerrilla tactics in a way that would make the Jurassic Park velociraptors break out into spontaneous applause. Herding them together for easy pickings proved near impossible, and they scattered in every direction the second the first bullets flew. Only a handful of birds succumbed to the worst hail of bullets the troops could offer -- the others vanished into the scenery without a trace. What's more, many of the birds that ran away with zero difficulty had clearly sustained hits. They just didn't give a shit about bullets.
"I've got more balls in my beak than your whole damn battalion!"

Meredith, in no doubt the proudest moment of his military career, decided to set up a proper military ambush at a local dam in order to surprise a group of 1,000 emus. Once again, the birds scattered and slipped away. This scenario repeated itself until Meredith's I've-Had-Enough-of-This-Shit-O-Meter reached critical levels. He mounted one of the machine guns on the back of a truck in order to hunt the emus down and just flat out drive-by the bastards, gangsta style.

The emus easily outran the truck and led it over such rough terrain that the gunner didn't even manage a single shot. The chase ended when the truck crashed through a fence, because at that point the universe was just throwing Looney Tunes tropes at them. Having had their share of humiliation, the weary soldiers had no option but to admit defeat after a week's combat. The score: 10,000 fired rounds and less than 1,000 dead emus. Here's what Meredith had to say about his avian enemy:

"If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds, it would face any army in the world. They could face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks."

"You think I'm afraid of you? I eat my own shit, boy!"

Are you imagining a war fought entirely with armed emus? Let's all take a few minutes to do that now.

#4. Pilots Dip Their Choppers in a Lake ... for Facebook


To even be allowed behind the stick of a military aircraft, you have to prove yourself to be a confident, level-headed type who won't steal a plane and go strafe your ex-girlfriend's house. So when two experienced Navy helicopter pilots had a close encounter with Lake Tahoe in 2010, causing half a million dollars' worth of damage, everybody wondered just what went wrong. It's all on video, and it looks like it could have been much worse than it was:

The helicopters are hovering over the water, and then one suddenly takes a dip, like a giant Oreo made of spinning blades. To be clear, the machines are in no way designed to do that -- what you're seeing is a helicopter pilot's near-death experience. So what could have caused two highly trained pilots to surface-hover with a chopper model that's not even designed for such activity? Were they attempting some kind of crazy rescue attempt?


The Embarrassment:

It was a military training exer- wait, what?

Facebook. It was Facebook.

The pilots dunked their multimillion-dollar aircraft in the lake while attempting to take cool pictures to post on their Facebook wall.

In what may be the strangest case of a simultaneous brainfart in military history, both pilots decided to neglect this whole "flying" thing in favor of holding their camera phones with one hand and attempting to make a duckface. As a result, the two helicopters rapidly lost altitude and took a swim. Luckily, they were both able to regain altitude and get back to base, with enough damage to the aircraft to wipe out all of the federal taxes you'll ever pay.

It's OK though, that money probably would have been wasted on body armor or wounded veterans anyway.

After a no doubt interesting investigation, both pilots were stripped of their flight status. Presumably, they also had to stick with that boring old profile picture of them using a submarine periscope as a bong.

#3. The British Navy Accidentally Sink Their Own Best Ship

HMS Victoria was a massive warship that was built for one purpose and one alone: to turn Britain's enemies on the sea into Britain's enemies under the sea. Designed to be the flagship of their Mediterranean fleet, the Royal Navy spared no expense in making Victoria terrifyingly unstoppable. With its 17-inch armor, state of the art engines and two 110-ton guns built into one massive turret, the ship was essentially the Death Star of the seas.

"We shall call this gun ... the Nauticock."

The Navy hype machine lauded the ship as virtually unbeatable, because everyone knows nothing bad has ever happened to ships that have been dubbed invincible.

The Embarrassment:

Yeah, with all the hoo-hah surrounding it, HMS Victoria was always pretty much destined to become a connoisseur of the finer textures of the ocean bottom. The real embarrassment factor came in how it happened: In 1893, the Brits accidentally sunk HMS Victoria all by themselves. With a flashy parade maneuver.

Via Wikipedia
You can't quite see it, but all the men on deck are flipping God the bird right now.

It must have seemed like such a good idea at the time. After all, the massive ship was completely seaworthy and presided over by Vice Admiral George Tryon, a known master of complicated ship handling. As they were pulling into Tripoli, Tryon decided to show off his fleet's capabilities and designed a display for the masses gathered on the shores, in a manner not unlike a skateboarder impressing onlookers with a perfectly executed frontside ollie.

The idea was that the 10 ships under his command would head directly away from port in two parallel columns, then turn 180 degrees to meet in the middle and head back to port in perfect formation. Correctly executed, it would have looked pretty sweet:

The problem is that both wide receivers button hooked when one should have been drawing the cornerback deep.

However, Tryon evidently sucked at math. Both lead ships -- Victoria and HMS Camperdown -- had a minimum turning radius of 800 yards, meaning they needed to be over 1,600 yards apart to pull off the stunt. Tryon, despite the frantic protests of his underlings, set their distance at 1,200 yards.

In what must've been the biggest, most drawn-out "oh shit" moment in the history of naval prancing, everyone except Tryon watched in horror as Victoria and Camperdown drew closer and closer, until the latter rammed into Victoria's side and ripped it open like a weaponized iceberg. At that point reality finally dawned on Tryon, if only because he happened to be onboard Victoria himself.

Via Wikipedia -- US Public Domain
For the rest of the day, you'll imagine this man doing boardslides with a warship.

HMS Victoria's turret full of giant guns immediately proved the dangers of overcompensation. The weight dragged the damaged ship down nose first, burying it deep in the silt. It sank so hard that its recovery remains impossible to this day.

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