#2. Britain Wants to Steal ... the Nile?
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In 1956, the British Empire was falling apart, but they weren't about to give up the Suez Canal just because Egypt had decided to run off with that wanton hussy, Independent Rule. Britain was used to exercising unofficial control over the strategically vital channel, but under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt had forced Britain to withdraw its troops from the country and nationalized Suez.
He took his frustration at not being able to grow a decent mustache out on an entire empire.
Britain needed to get the canal back, but how? The British Colonial Office thought they had the answer: crazy an-eye-for-an-eye geopolitical justice. If Egypt took a valuable body of water from them, well, they'd take one right back. That's right: They hatched a plot to steal the Nile River. We'll give you a dollar if you managed to resist reading that last sentence in your best Nicolas Cage voice.
The plot isn't as outlandish as it sounds: Britain still controlled Uganda, where the source(ish) of the Nile lay. And it just so happened that they had been building a dam there already. Why, it would be just shocking if somebody down at the dam happened to press the wrong button. The Nile might find itself reduced by seven-eighths by the time it reached Egyptian farmland.
And if that failed, the Angel of Death would simply slay every Egyptian firstborn.
The Brits took the plan all the way to the prime minister's office, where it was finally rejected because it would also deprive two other countries of most of their water, and because nobody wants "stealing a river" on their criminal record, save for Captain Planet villains. But it was a serious proposal: The colonial secretary gave a speech detailing the backhanded threat. Shockingly, Egypt remained unfazed, so Britain gave up the tactic. (To be fair, maybe the Egyptians just thought "We will shut off the Nile" had to be some sort of wacky mistranslation.)
#1. The Nazi Plan to Devastate New York With Radioactive Sand from Rocket-Fueled Space Planes
Basic geography was a problem for the Nazis (also problems for the Nazis: general evil and public relations). They simply did not have a bomber that could carry enough fuel to make it from Germany to New York, and a quick stop in London to refuel before crossing the Atlantic was not an option because those silly Brits just couldn't take a prank-blitz or 10.
They tried the Azores, but the Brits had called dibs on those already.
A Luftwaffe scientist named Eugen Sanger came up with a plan for a manned jet plane that would be shot into space, where it would conserve fuel by skipping across the atmosphere "like a stone bouncing over a pond." The most ridiculous thing about this particular Wile E. Coyote-sounding Nazi plot was that it actually might have worked.
The plane was to be launched from a huge rocket-powered sled propelled along train tracks at 1,200 miles per hour. Just before the tracks ran out, the plane would take off and be instantly flung 90 miles above the Earth, using its sheer speed to skip across the denser parts of the stratosphere. Once the jet reached New York, it would detonate a bomb packed with radioactive sand, casting a devastating radiation cloud over the city.
Then the Yanks would fall, and the crab people would rise. Nazi crab people.
Luckily for New York and other American cities, we had Captain America to bash those Ratzis back to the Stone Age with his trusty shie- oh wait, no. There were some calculation errors, and the plane was just too difficult and costly to build. That's the true superhero of this story: budgetary concerns.
Related Reading: Some American presidents had origins worthy of a supervillain. Calvin Coolidge was basically a psycho. Also a supervillain? Leonardo Da Vinci. He had his own damn robot army. Ready for more of the craziest schemes ever hatched? Click here.