When you think about the Crusades, you don't think about people keeping it fair and civil -- you think about Catholics and Muslims continuously sword-stabbing each other in the dick for 200 years. In the 12th century, two of the main players in the conflict were Saladin, the sultan of Syria and a whole bunch of other places, and Richard the Lionheart, the English king who left England to fight his holy war all over Asia.
His decision to leave his kingdom in the hands of a literal lion would prove controversial.
Richard was an army all by himself, essentially the 12th century's Rambo, only with an actual army to back him up. Unfortunately, some of his main allies in this crusade died or left before shit really got started. It wasn't long before Richard found himself in the middle of the desert, leading an army too exhausted for battle, and to make matters worse, he fell ill to a fever. Stuck in a hostile land with no way to fight, Richard needed a miracle to save himself and his army.
And he got that miracle ... from Saladin, the very guy he was fighting.
"Hey, uh, God? Getting really conflicting signals from you right now."
Despite being enemies in a war, and a religious one at that (you know, the kind that usually end in massacres), Saladin and Richard respected the hell out of each other and were perfectly civil when they weren't catapulting shit at the other's army. When Saladin found out that the English king was ill, he sent his own personal physicians to tend to Richard, nursing the leader of his enemy's armies back to health.
Saladin didn't leave it at that, either. Since Richard had a fever, Saladin made sure to send him snow to alleviate his high body temperature. For those of you who aren't geography majors, snow isn't something that just lies around in deserts.
This wasn't the first time Saladin had helped out his bro Richard. In an earlier battle, Richard's horse was shot out from underneath him. Saladin, seeing that this put Richard at a disadvantage (which is usually a good thing in a war), decided to send the king not one but two spare horses. Presumably to ride Zorro-style into battle.
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Noted straggly beard enthusiast Ho Chi Minh is best remembered for masterminding Vietnam's transformation from a minor French colony to a communist superstate capable of giving the finger to the world's most powerful nation. This led the U.S. to get involved in the Vietnam War, which in turn led to a shitload of awful folk songs in the '60s and '70s.
But all of that probably would have been avoided if a bunch of Americans hadn't helped out one Vietnamese dude in the '40s. You see, in 1945, Ho was deep in the jungles of north Vietnam, leading a guerrilla campaign against the occupying Japanese and their Vichy French collaborators, when he fell sick with a mysterious illness and seemed certain to die.
"This is the illiest Ho I've seen," the medics declared.
Luckily for old Ho, you know who else was fighting the Japanese around that time? Mothra. But also the Americans. And so, operating on the time-honored principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, an elite squad of American special forces known as the Deer Team was airdropped into North Vietnam to provide arms and training to the Viet Minh.
Among the members of the Deer Team (look, it was a world war, all the cool team names were already taken) was medic Paul Hoagland. Taking one look at the ailing Vietnamese leader, Hoagland quickly declared him to be suffering from a combination of malaria, dengue fever, and dysentery, a diagnosis he later admitted to pulling out of his ass. Luckily for Ho, Hoagland turned out to be right. After an intensive course of quinine and sulfa drugs, Ho made a full recovery and would go on to credit Hoagland with saving his life.
"No problem, us Ho's have to stick together."
Bear in mind that Ho Chi Minh was already an influential communist leader at the time, a thing the U.S. government generally tries to discourage from existing. Also, as we mentioned before, Vietnam was part of the vast French empire, and France was America's ally. The government didn't have to send a team to help Ho out, but they did anyway, and as a result, we're sure America and Vietnam stayed the best of friends for the rest of the 20th century.
Pictured: paintball game at the annual America/Vietnam summer cookout.
Ernest Hess was a regular guy who made the serious mistake of being Jewish in Germany during the 1930s. Despite being raised Protestant, his mother's ancestry was Jewish, which was good enough for the Nazis. Even though Hess had fought bravely for his country in World War I, he was treated like every other Jew: He had to wear the Star of David, and he was constantly harassed by Nazi supporters on the street.
But then an old war buddy came along and lent Hess a helping hand. This Nazi-foiling veteran soldier went by the name of Adolf Hitler. Wait, what?
Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1974-082-44/CC-BY-SA
Seen here, seconds before that dog bit off most of his mustache.
Hitler had served under Hess in the first war and decided to pull a few strings to give his old boss a break. That's how Heinrich Himmler, the guy who engineered the "Final Solution," ended up informing the Gestapo that Hess had been granted "the relief and the protection as per the Fuhrer's wishes" and that he was not "to be in-opportuned in any way whatsoever." He was even granted a new passport that made no mention of his Jewish ancestry.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S55480/CC-BY-SA
"New rule: Only kill Jews I don't personally know. Nein, stop making eye contact! Neiiiiiinnn!"
While Hess did eventually end up being sent to a labor camp, he at least survived the war, which he probably wouldn't have done if it wasn't for Hitler's intervention. Fortunately, other people followed Hitler's example (that came out wrong). Take Albert Goering, the brother of high-ranking Nazi officer Hermann Goering. Albert was more or less the black sheep in a family of fascists. Where most of us would have rebelled against society by growing our hair out long and putting on a record of whatever passed for Skrillex back then, Albert took the higher ground and saved hundreds of Jews.
Kinda makes your eyelid-piercing phase seem half-assed in comparison.
Despite being a terrible person, Hermann liked his brother well enough to turn a blind eye to his actions. This included saving hundreds from the concentration camps by employing them Schindler's List-style in his factories, regardless of whether they could work or not. In fact, he saved so many that he's now being considered for the Righteous Among the Nations award.
Hitler's probably like "Hey, where's mein?!" It's all politics, man.
Alex has a sporadically updated blog you can stare at. Yosomono lives on the mean streets of Tokyo, writes for Gaijinass.com, and wants you to like their Facebook page. Robin would like to thank Deirdre B. for her help with research and her support.