4The U.S. Mistakes an Italian Island for a Libyan Submarine
Back in 1986, Libyan terrorists blew up a German discotheque and, not willing to let this aggression go by unpunished, President Ronald Reagan was determined to send a stern message back to Libya consisting of jets and explosions. Unfortunately, the message got scrambled somehow, like in that game Telephone -- only, instead of ending up with a wacky misinterpretation, the jets accidentally bombed the everloving puddingshits out of an Italian island.
"I don't really like spaghetti. What can we do about that?"
While crossing the Mediterranean Sea on their way to the bombing, American fighter pilots noticed some strange steam rising up out of the water beneath them. If nearly 100 years of movies are to be believed, mysterious ocean steam is never a good thing, and, in fact, is frequently a catastrophically-bad thing that occasionally rhymes with Godzilla. The pilots, clinging to the more rational (but no less knee-jerk) assumption that what they were seeing were telltale signs of an enemy Libyan submarine (does Libya even have any submarines?), dropped depth charges on the source of the steam and continued on to their scheduled bombing raid.
Only later did they discover that the alleged Libyan submarine was actually the volcano Empedocles, located at an underwater island called Ferdinandea, which is a territory of Italy. It didn't used to be underwater, you see, so at one point it was actually worth the effort for the Italians to plant a flag in it before it promptly sank back into the ocean. On their way to immolate some disco-hating Libyan terrorists, the United States inadvertently bombed Italian soil, which is ironic, considering Italians love discos.
"Map? No? Ok, we'll just guess."
3Two Generals Mistake the Same Enemy Soldiers for Their Own Men
The Washington Post / Getty
The Battle of Stoney Creek was a key conflict in the War of 1812, during which two separate American generals confused British soldiers for their own troops and tried to rally them into action, hilariously resulting in both of them being captured.
To be fair, the whole situation was awfully confusing. The battle was the result of a moonlight sneak-attack by British forces on a sleeping American camp. However, the Brits were being supported by auxiliary flanks of Native American soldiers, who let out a war-whoop that alerted the Americans in enough time to form a ragged line of defense. We have to believe this was done on purpose.
MPI / Getty
"Iron Bear will wake up the Americans, and then we ride out and let all the white people kill each other."
The battle was a chaotic nightmare. As the melee became even more jumbled, American General John Chandler rode his horse out into the middle of the bedlam to try and get some idea of what in the mighty fuck was going on. Predictably, his horse was blasted out from under him, and he fell to the ground unconscious.
Chandler awoke moments later to the sounds of commotion coming from the artillery emplacement at the center of the camp. Knowing that artillery was key to winning the fight, Chandler rushed over to try and rally his men to stand strong at their post. He did this despite the fact that he didn't recognize any of the men and that they were all speaking with British accents.
"Hey, would one of you guys pronounce the word 'bathroom'? I'm just curious about something."
As you may have guessed, the commotion Chandler had heard was the sound of his artillery section being overtaken by the enemy, and he had just run headlong into a swarm of British soldiers, who immediately took him captive.
With Chandler out of the picture, it fell to his second-in-command, William Winder, to rally the American defense. Unfortunately, Winder had also heard the noise coming from the artillery section, and he heroically strode into the emplacement to be captured in the exact same fashion as Chandler had been a few minutes earlier.
"Any bad idea is worth doing twice."
Soon after this, the Americans rallied to try to retake the camp, and, as you can guess, they accidentally attacked their fellow Americans instead. Realizing they could not defeat this "British" army, they finally retreated. After just 45 minutes of fighting, the actual (and rather small) British soldiers realized they had won one of the most slapdick military engagements in history.