3Tecumseh Takes Fort Detroit by Marching Around in Circles
The War of 1812 is famous for two things: lasting until 1815, and the Native Americans getting in on the action. Chief among them was the legendary Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who fought with the British. He and Isaac Brock, his equally badass English counterpart, were assigned to capture a heavily armed American base called Fort Detroit. They were massively outnumbered and had no way in. Once again, it was time to dip into the old bag of tricks.
What the Indians and British did have were a few captured letters from the commander of the fort. From these, they learned that the man was terrified of "the savage Indians." So, Brock wrote a letter of his own to his superiors saying that he wouldn't need reinforcements because he had 5,000 bloodthirsty Native American warriors he was about to set loose on Detroit (of course, in reality this was only about 10 times the actual number). He then let said letter fall into American hands.
Tecumseh then marched his 600 men toward the fort. They embarked on a campaign of fear on the night watchmen on the stockades, howling and chanting and whooping like men possessed, playing up the role of the violent natives. As daylight emerged, a fearful sight met the Americans: a massive, savage army of horribly war-painted Indians circling their fort, hidden in the woods save for a small clearing. The horrified soldiers at the fort managed to count at least 1,500 savage warriors from what little the clearing revealed. In reality, Tecumseh's troops were moving single file across the clearing. Every man walked the small open space, giving the guys at the fort his best "bloodthirsty injun" impression, until he was safely under the cover of the forest again. Then he'd run a large loop back until he was at the end of the line again.
This created a never-ending conveyor belt of intimidating warriors, making the surrounding army look massive. As their coup de grace, Brock warned Fort Detroit he was "losing control" of Tecumseh (who was probably trying not to burst into laughter in the background) and would sadly be unable to prevent an unholy scalpin' party if the fort had to be taken by force. The fort's commander, terrified to his very bones, surrendered without consulting his officers or even firing a shot. Incidentally, this makes Detroit the only American city that has ever surrendered to a foreign power. (Insert your own "If only they'd kept it" joke here.)
The "Spirit of Detroit" statue, signifying their cowardice and gullibility in the face of danger.
2Britain Convinces Nazis They Can Set the Ocean on Fire
It was one year into World War II, a time when things weren't going well for Britain. They'd been unceremoniously bitch-slapped out of France at Dunkirk. German U-boat attacks were gnawing into their food supply routes, invasion rumors ran rampant, and you couldn't even light a cigarette without the Luftwaffe horror-bombing everything within a 40-mile radius. So how do you keep Hitler from crossing the English Channel? By telling him that you'll set the goddamned ocean on fire.
It actually wasn't an entirely hollow threat -- thanks to Shell and BP, Britain had managed to collect a hefty surplus of oil and did tests to see if they could use it to re-enact the Battle of the Blackwater from Game of Thrones. Sadly, what would have been the most metal thing ever created (until Ronnie James Dio would be born two years later) was not to be. Trial runs did manage to produce a "frightening spectacle" of fire and smoke, but ultimately the oil spread way too slowly. What's worse, a single mortar strike on the pipe system carrying the oil to the sea would cause a backfire and turn the entire coastal area into the world's largest decorative glasswork. But, of course, the Nazis didn't need to know that.
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"That's what we call 'burn off.' Let's keep that up there instead of engulfing everything we've ever known."
So British intelligence swung into action, spreading the story of their newly acquired pyrotechnic powers throughout occupied France, including whispering it to German patients at the hospitals of Paris. Before long, half the German army was convinced that anyone invading England would have to sail through a coast-to-coast tsunami of flame. And as they grew fearful, the locals got cocky. Soon, French resistance members started amusing themselves in bars by pretending to warm their hands on the backs of German soldiers.
By the time the rumor reached Nazi high command, the story had grown into a magic mine weapon that ignited the sea. They started experimenting with asbestos-coated invasion barges, which worked pretty well until the live test that involved loading a barge with troops and sailing it into a pool of burning gasoline. This did not end well.
Meanwhile, the British intelligence was astonished by the success of their plan and got a little carried away. They started circulating a follow-up rumor, which involved the British importing 200 man-eating sharks from Australia and releasing them into the channel. This story was a lot less successful (since the sharks would be boiled alive by the flaming water, duh).