#3. The U.S. Navy Starts an Ice Cream Fleet
In 1945, U.S. Navy forces spread across the South Pacific were facing three major problems: a hot climate, low morale, and Japanese soldiers trying to kill them all day, every day. That's when Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal came up with a solution to the second and third most pressing of these problems. That solution was called "free ice cream." Literally tons and tons of free ice cream.
Ralph Morse / Life
Two out of three ain't bad.
Forrestal was aware of the importance of these delicious bundles of calories. The man knew his ice cream and took it seriously. He once said, "Ice cream in my opinion has been the most neglected of all the important morale factors" (after porno mags and booze, but he couldn't say that). It was so important to the war agenda, in fact, that Forrestal somehow managed to convince the government budget people to give him $1 million for ice cream.
"But not one damn cent for toppings."
Designing a barge, the Navy pretty much built a floating ice cream parlor with huge freezers on board ready to be sent anywhere in the South Pacific. And the servicemen ate it up: The ship produced 10 gallons of ice cream every seven seconds. It proved such a success that the Navy soon had a whole fleet of ice cream ships sailing around the Pacific like floating Dairy Queens, probably blasting the ice cream truck jingle from giant speakers.
Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures/Brand X
"I still remember the day they ran out of vanilla. It was hell."
#2. A Cat Gets a Medal for Killing Commie Rats
Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Don't worry, Internet: The Royal Navy loved cats, too (just not enough to make thousands of gifs of them). Take Simon, a tuxedo cat who was living aboard the HMS Amethyst, a British Royal Navy frigate, just after World War II. Simon had been adopted by the ship's kind captain, who let him sleep on his cap when it wasn't on his head. Because that would have been awkward.
But then the shit hit the fan. On April 20, 1949, the ship was on its way up the Yangtze River in Asia when it was caught in the middle of the Chinese civil war -- communist shells smashed through the hull, killing 22 men, including the captain. The Amethyst was stuck on the shore and prevented from retreating by more commie guns. The surviving men were trapped there for over three months with nothing to do but make up new ways to curse Karl Marx's name.
Lt. Commander K. Stewart Hett, M.B.E., R.N., Ret.
"More like Butt Marx! We're so tired."
On top of that, the Amethyst had developed a bit of a rat infestation since becoming stuck, with the little bastards multiplying all over the ship and trying to eat what food remained. This was a serious problem, since the injured and exhausted crew couldn't exactly ask the Chinese to let them take a quick trip to England for more supplies.
Even Simon was starting to look delicious.
This is when Simon the cat stepped the fuck up. Despite being badly hurt by the explosions (he'd been left with shrapnel all over his body), the death of his friend, and getting unceremoniously kicked out of the main cabin by the new captain (not a cat lover), Simon recovered and set about tirelessly exterminating all the rats on the ship, one by one.
Between his slaughter of rats and his company while the new captain was sick, Simon saved the ship from starvation and, perhaps more impressively, won the hard man's heart. The captain wrote that Simon "rose nobly to the occasion" and kept the morale up. On the captain's recommendation, Simon won the Dickin Medal, which is kind of like a Medal of Honor for animals, and became a celebrity. It's safe to say he spent the rest of his days drowned in mad pussy.
On the other hand, he's seen as one of the greatest mass murderers ever by rat enthusiasts.
#1. "Gunner" Learns to Be a Canine Air Raid Siren
In 1942, Australia could practically feel Japan looking at them across the Pacific and salivating at the thought of all the bizarre, hilarious animals they could suddenly own if they expanded their empire. And so, in February of that year, Japanese forces began bombing the Australian city of Darwin.
America In WW2
Actual Japanese attack plan for the Pacific.
The first time Japan bombed the city, Leading Aircraftman Percy Leslie Westcott's dog, Gunner, was wounded by one of the explosions, and the experience had a profound effect on the little dog (which isn't surprising, considering that even a vacuum cleaner traumatizes them). What no one suspected was that, like in a comic book, the explosion also gave the dog superpowers.
Keystone / Stringer / Hulton / Getty
It gave a lot of people superpowers, too, assuming "PTSD" counts as a superpower.
You see, one day Gunner began freaking out for no apparent reason and tried to get Westcott to go with him to shelter. Being kind of on duty in the military, Westcott was unable to just drop everything and head in for a break ... until, that is, the Japanese showed up and started bombing the place again. A few days later, the same thing happened -- Gunner started going apeshit for no reason and, like before, Japanese planes were soon overhead dropping death from the skies.
That's when Westcott figured it out: Gunner could hear the Japanese planes coming, like 20 minutes before their instruments picked them up. This would have been impressive enough if the dog didn't live in the middle of an airbase, which he did. Either Gunner had exceptionally discerning ears (he didn't seem to be bothered by non-enemy planes coming and going all the time), or the fucker had psychic powers.
So the next time your dog starts barking for no reason, take heed: The Japanese might be about to bomb your backyard.
After confirming his dog's abilities, Westcott told his superiors about them in what must have been an interesting conversation. Gunner proved to be so good that they gave Westcott a portable air raid siren for him to activate when the dog told him to, saving many lives in the process. Think about that: With all the strange and magical animals they have in Australia, in the end they were saved by a regular dog.
Step up your game, platypus.
Related Reading: War actually has an extensive history of being adorable. Did you know Robert E. Lee once risked his life to save a wounded bird, mid-battle? And at one point in World War 2, squads of Nazi and American soldiers wound up sharing a lovely Christmas dinner. And surprising tales of compassion aren't limited to battling armies. Violent crime syndicates can do great things too.