War is like a hellish meat grinder that takes a steady stream of humans in one end and pushes a misery shower of blood, guts, and despair out the other. As it turns out, it is also a recipe for wacky pictures. We've already told you about some of the strangest war images ever captured, and now we bring you even more real photographs that are almost too ridiculous for words.
#11. "Special Delivery!"
Imperial War Museum
It comes with a little flag labeled "bang!"
OK, this is clearly a screenshot from a Marx brothers movie. There's no way air raids have ever been as imprecise as a game of beer pong, even back when airplanes had to be pedaled into the sky and could only be flown by pilots weighing less than 130 pounds. Also, who is taking the picture? World War I flying aces didn't have dashboard cams, and unless a helpful gremlin stowed away with the entire trunkful of equipment required to take a photograph 100 years ago, this photo is obviously staged.
Actually, it turns out that during World War I, bombing enemy targets was basically like playing darts with explosives, because the bombs had to be aimed and dropped by hand. Correction: a badly shaking and sweating hand.
However, that's not exactly what's happening in that picture, because that picture wasn't taken on an airplane. It was taken on a SSZ-class blimp, a setup so desperately primitive it was essentially a boat dangling beneath a giant balloon.
Early Aviation Image Archive
They were supposed to kill people, but they kept going on whimsical adventures instead.
A small team of soldiers could sit inside this airborne canoe as it spit in the face of God and drop satchels of bombs on the populace below like a bunch of disgruntled Christmas elves, because as this article demonstrates, old-timey war frequently set the benchmark for unintentional comedy.
#10. World War II Was Fought with Action Figures
Wojciech K/Dark Roasted Blend
Its mother was a tank. No one can identify the father.
Apparently, COBRA was instrumental in the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
The nefarious contraption in that photo is most likely the Soviet Progvev-T, a gas-dynamic minesweeper. Weighing in at 37 tons, it consisted of a tank with a MiG-15 jet engine strapped to its roof, which would superheat a kerosene flame that, when pointed at the ground, would ignite and detonate any mines lying in wait. Yes, the Soviets built a tank for the specific purpose of shambling across the countryside and blasting superheated jet flame at the ground until it exploded.
Really, though, this was far from the most ridiculous-looking vehicle on tank treads. Take the German SdKfz 2, for example:
2nd Armored Productions
"Did someone weld two bikes back to back? HOGAN!!"
The SdKfz 2, or Kettenkrad, was an armored motorcycle that saw extensive use on the Eastern front, because it was one of the few things that didn't sink into the gray oceans of mud the Russians called roads. However, this probably didn't stop the Russians from making fun of the Germans for riding around on golf carts like a bunch of assholes.
German Federal Archives
"Ignore them. They're just jealous."
#9. Flying Tanks
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Magnets. They do it with magnets.
Nope. Whatever is supposed to be happening in this picture cannot possibly be real. There is no way a 15-ton mobile fortress with the top speed of a dead snail could ever become airborne. That's either a toy or a paper cutout of a tank that someone dangled in front of the camera with fishing wire. No other explanation makes sense.
But that picture does indeed show a M3 light tank kissing the sky. The M3 could achieve speeds of 36 mph -- probably not enough to help the Duke boys escape Rosco P. Coltrane, but more than sufficient to jump a small ravine. In fact, most tanks were way faster and more mobile than we give them credit for. For example, the British Cromwell tank boasted an impressive weight of 31 tons and a top speed of 40 mph, which, when combined with a ramp, transformed it into an aircraft wrought from hatred and destruction:
vja Military Models
"Please put your tray tables in the 'Fuck you, Hitler' position."
#8. Flamethrower Fireworks
No, that's not cat fur. Look down.
This photograph has the unique distinction of being both 100 percent authentic and exactly what it looks like. That is a bunch of soldiers spraying jets of flaming death into the night sky, because apparently there either wasn't quite enough war going on or the Army had a bunch of spare flamethrowers laying around.
Bucking the trend of catchy songs and dance numbers, the Army War Show, which started in 1942, aimed to raise money for the war effort by dazzling enraptured crowds with the discharging of horrific deadly weaponry. The flamethrower display took place in New Orleans, but other shows (which always performed for sold-out venues) included such acts as weapons firing, cavalry riding, tanks crashing cars, and "jeep comedy routines," which is a phrase that makes no immediate sense and cannot possibly be defined to our satisfaction. Why not incorporate comedy into the flamethrower bit? The jokes practically write themselves.
#7. Cartoon Supervillain Headgear
via Museum of Retro Technology
The source of those Disney anti-Semitism rumors.
Actually, those guys in the photograph are two German Feldartillerie (field artillery) soldiers, which means that what's strapped to their heads is most likely some kind of device meant to detect the approach of enemy planes (while risking serious hearing damage should someone happen to fire artillery in their immediate vicinity).
Nowadays that job is performed by radar, but up until World War II, enemy detection was done entirely by sight and sound, meaning soldiers had to try to spot approaching planes, tanks, and infantry with their eyes and ears and nothing else. Sure, you may spend most of the day looking like a cartoon character, and it would immediately become completely useless the moment any fighting started, but a tenuous, unreliable advanced warning system is still better than getting bombed out of the blue.
#6. The Military's Top Secret Car Plane
via NavSource Naval History
To keep the secret, they shot all 150 spectators.
Despite appearances, this is not Doc Brown trying to hit 88 miles per hour in a budget time machine, nor is it Clark Griswold steering his family into well-intentioned-yet-calamitous oblivion. No, this is a photo of the USS Enterprise dumping old cars off the coast of the Philippines in 1978, which is a sentence that somehow manages to make even less sense.
In the days before the environment was invented, it was apparently business as usual for servicemen to get rid of unwanted automobiles by casting them into the sea. The car in the photograph appears to be a Plymouth Savoy, and the reason it's leaving behind a trail of white smoke is because it's being launched by the steam catapult system normally used to assist jet fighters during takeoff. Slapping Captain Planet in the face has never looked so spectacularly awesome.