5 Famous Wars That Showed Up in the Last Place You'd Expect

#2. German and British Fleets Bumped into Each Other in a "Safe Zone"

Via photo pantai

During World War I, pretty much all of South America (save for Brazil) was neutral. As such, Chile had no reason to think that any of the warring countries would just randomly show up on their doorstep. And when it happened, it wasn't a couple of random boats like in the Civil War example we told you about before -- these guys each brought a goddamn naval squadron with them.

Public domain
And the ability to make panties evaporate with a glance.

In the blue corner, we have Christopher "All the Bling" Cradock. In the red corner, Maximilian "Too Cheap to Have a Photo Taken" von Spee. Both were going through particularly relaxed parts of their respective missions. Von Spee's squadron had performed a two-month scouting mission to the Pacific, eluding enemy troops left and right, and were finally back in the safer waters of the Chilean coastline. Cradock was expecting even less trouble -- he was just in the process of moving his squadron along the coast.

So ... Cradock was heading down the coast. Von Spee was heading up the coast. Both were secure in the knowledge that there would be no enemies around because, goddamn it, the ocean is a big place, and what the fuck are the odds. So what happened next was a nasty shock for everyone involved.

Via World War I: A-D
"We're trying to swim here, you assholes!"

The fates of the two forces intertwined near the port city of Coronel in late October of 1914. Von Spee immediately gained a dual advantage in their unavoidable contest: Not only did he learn of the enemy's existence first, he also had much better ships. Still, he had his work cut out for him, as both sides had a lot of goddamn ships.

The Brits, in a trademark stiff-upper-lip moment, put up a good fight, but the German forces quickly took out the two largest ships, damaged two retreating ones, and generally scored the kind of curbstomp victory rarely seen outside professional wrestling. It was, by the way, the first naval battle of World War I, and, for the good people of Coronel, the fireworks display of the century.

Nick Daly/Photodisc/Getty Images
"I think I'll just stick with these. There's much less blood involved."

#1. Japan Attacked Alaska ... and Oregon ... and California

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

For a "global" war, World War II stayed pretty far away from North America. The few battles that took place nearby were entirely naval, but except for a bunch of random bomb balloons, no enemy ever entered U.S. soil.

That is, except for the Japanese. Something that gets left out of history lessons is the fact that, after Pearl Harbor, they attacked American soil all the time, in increasingly random places.

For instance, Japan kicked things off with a submarine attack against Ellwood, California, a small town right next to Santa Barbara. Although there was a viable target in the form of an oil refinery, the sub only managed to slightly damage a derrick and a few surrounding buildings. Still, this attack against a random West Coast town did its job, sending shockwaves all around America and single-handedly launching the whole Japanese Invasion hysteria that ran rampant until the tide of the fight turned definitively in favor of the Americans.

Via Goleta Valley Historical Society
Back then, newspapers damn well knew how to make headlines.

Then a few months later in June, the Japanese submarine I-25 surfaced outside another random target, an Army fort in Oregon, and started blasting the base with artillery shells from its 5.5-inch deck gun. The sub soon had to escape a retaliating bomber, but not before damaging phone lines, destroying part of a baseball field, and ... well, that's about it.

The biggest Japanese attack on U.S. soil, however, was an actual, honest-to-God invasion. In fact, for a while it looked like it could have actually become a major battlefront. Its destination was even less expected than the previous ones: The Japanese brought their A-game to the extremely surprised residents of the tiny Alaskan Aleutian Islands. In a legendary feat of thoughtlessness, however, they then proceeded to try to attack Canada. As fighting an enemy while standing on another enemy's soil is referred to in military strategy books as "What? Shit no," Japan soon found itself beaten back by the collective force of the American and Canadian troops.

Via US Navy
"Prepare for the combined wrath of Dunkin' Donuts AND Tim Hortons!"

Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't plotting to take over Finland, he can be found on Facebook, and be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line.

For more bizarre battles, check out The 5 Most Retarded Wars Ever Fought and 5 Lesser Known (Completely Ridiculous) American Civil Wars.

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