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Part of the allure of war is that it can make heroes out of people who otherwise would have nothing useful to offer society. This should take nothing away from the truly heroic and courageous -- we're just saying that the battlefield also offers work to, say, the guy who really likes to set things on fire.

Likewise, warfare creates many openings for bullshit artists. Time and time again, small, ridiculously outnumbered forces have gleefully bluffed their way to victory in situations that should have left them as stains on the battlefield -- then tipped their hat to the bewildered enemy as they realized how badly they'd been played. Read these stories and tell us there shouldn't be a specific medal for doing this kind of thing:

5
A Nonexistent Pilot Shoots Down Two German Fighter Planes

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Malta, 1942. The German Luftwaffe* was pounding the island, because it was World War II and that was the sort of thing that was happening. The British and Canadian defenders there were badly understaffed, lacking in supplies, and generally incapable of maintaining a strong defense. German bombing raids had reached a frequency of three per day, and the only thing the British defenders had was a small fleet of Spitfire fighters. A ragtag group of pilots had managed to keep the fight on by sending up a couple of planes at a time to try to scare away the enemy, a stratagem that had worked surprisingly well, because Spitfires were badass and feared by the Luftwaffe.

Still, the Brits were eventually ground down to a handful of planes that could barely dust a goddamn crop, let alone armed-to-the-teeth opponents. And one day, they were all down for maintenance right when a particularly dangerous German fleet turned up.

*English translation: "Air Waffles"

PaulMichaelHughes/iStock/Getty Images, RAF

Captain A.B. Woodhall watched the dots on the radar in growing desperation, knowing full well that he and his friends would soon be scattered in pieces around several large craters. But then he had an idea. It was a stupid one -- little more than a prank. But it was all they had, and it just ... might ... work.

Woodhall knew the Germans were listening in on their radio, so he grabbed a nearby Canadian pilot whose voice he was sure they'd recognize, threw a microphone in his hand, and started issuing orders as if the pilot was flying his plane. Apparently the Canadian Air Force spend a considerable amount of time in improv training, because the pilot rolled with it and the two struck up a two-way exchange of orders and execution, going through their lines in a wacky bit called "Fully functional Spitfire about to roast some German bomber ass."

Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The secret is really selling the "Pew! Pew!"s.

This impromptu action kicked in motion a Rube Goldberg sequence that presumably bought Woodhall a fair few beers at the mess hall later. The German pilots, who were indeed listening in, promptly shat bricks and started yelling Spitfire alarms to each other. This in turn caused two of the German planes to panic so hard that they immediately shot each other down. The remaining Germans were suddenly faced with a nightmare situation: An unseen enemy in a clearly superior plane was stalking them, and two of their friends had already fallen.

Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Did that radio say 'Superman incoming'? Retreat!"

So they backed the hell off. Woodhall and the pilot had deflected their attack and downed two enemy planes with nothing but a few words in the radio.

Although clearly one of the cleverest spur-of-the-moment strategies in the battle for Malta, everyone involved felt that the events were far too silly to actually report as they were. As such, both kills were unceremoniously awarded to one Pilot Officer Humgufery, who did not exist.

4
Richard Meinertzhagen Weaves A Giant Web Of Bullshit To Distract The Enemy

Sir_Aragorn/iStock/Getty Images

A human being can be easy to fool if you know how. When we receive information we really want to hear, all it takes is a little distraction to convince us not to look too hard and see through the deception.

Major (or Colonel, depending on what source you believe) Richard Meinertzhagen knew how to play other people like violins, and he put that skill to good use in World War I. In fact, he took it entirely upon himself and his mad lying skills to ensure a successful attack on the Turkish defenses at Beersheba. Meinertzhagen started by riding out completely alone, intentionally getting "surprised" and shot at by an enemy outpost. Pretending to be wounded, he made his escape, leaving behind a pre-bloodied bag for the enemy troops to find.

Via Wikipedia
To get an idea of the man we're dealing with, notice he was shot and still had to pretend to be wounded.

The bag, of course, was the point.

So let's recap: An officer drafted a plan that required going up against the enemy alone, purposely prompting them to start shooting at him, and making an in-no-way-guaranteed escape like it ain't no thing. Then he went out and pulled it off all by himself.

Via Wikimedia
That bird underestimated him too.

The bag he had "accidentally" dropped contained a carefully constructed disinformation bomb, made all the more believable by the plethora of convincing but fabricated personal and professional papers, notes, letters of correspondence, and even money (which was real). There were intricate, heartfelt (and 100-percent bullshit) writings about Meinertzhagen's new baby son. There were convincing but fake military code breakers. And in the middle of it all, the jackpot: A seemingly innocuous draft that heavily implied that the British were planning an attack ... only, Meinertzhagen's papers had the location marked at Gaza.

BuckleyPics/iStock/Getty Images
"These effects must be real. No one would willingly let poetry this bad fall into enemy hands."

Just as Meinertzhagen had planned, the intricate mass of distraction he had planted in the bag led to the enemy taking it all at face value. They diverted their attention towards Gaza, which would soon make them feel pretty foolish, once the British force attacked Beersheba largely unopposed.

Sadly, history books don't say whether the captured enemy soldiers congratulated Meinertzhagen on his fictional son.

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3
The British Trick A Powerful German Ship Into Sinking Itself

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The aftermath of World War I left Germans unable to build actual battleships, due to the terms of the Versailles Treaty (which, as we all know, did a bang-up job in preventing them from further warfare). They learned to cheat this by taking their heavy cruiser ships very seriously, and soon the vessels they were producing were far superior to any cruiser produced by other world powers. When the second Big One rolled around, the Admiral Graf Spee was one of the best German heavy cruisers. In 1939, it was authorized to attack allied shipping, which it did very well. Graf Spee singlehandedly sunk nine allied ships before fate came knocking on December 13th.

While on its way home with engine problems, Graf Spee found itself up against no fewer than three British cruisers.

Via Desertwar.net
Which weren't exactly swan boats themselves.

After crippling the strongest of the three and seriously ruining the quality of the day for the other two, the Admiral Graf Spee turned to flee -- not because it was losing, but because it was getting kind of worried about its engines. The two British light cruisers chose to pursue -- a ballsy move, as both were by that point keenly aware that the German vessel could sink the shit out of them relatively easily. This didn't stop them from trapping Graf Spee while it made repairs in the mouth of the River Plate. Realizing that they had the timespan of exactly one cruiser repair job to live, the crews of the British cruisers had to think fast. This is what they came up with:

"Why don't we tell them we have a ton of help coming? Maybe they will run away instead of killing us all."

"Sure, whatever. Let's roll."

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Much better than the previous plan of "Get blown to pieces by a floating pile of cannons."

So the British sent a completely fake, deliberately poorly-coded message talking about the huge armada that totally was on its way to destroy the Admiral Graf Spee.

The captain of the German cruiser swallowed the bait hook, line, and sinker. Knowing Germany couldn't afford to let the Brits get their hands on their sweet heavy cruiser tech, he evacuated and scuttled the entire vessel, only to (presumably) have his solemn captainin' moment interrupted by the sounds of high fives and relieved laughter from the British ships.

2
William Standish Talks 40 Germans Into Surrendering

U.S. Dept. of the Army

It was October 1944, and World War II was reaching its crescendo. Lt. William Standish was an American member of the era's popular Allied Troops Against Hitler Club, fighting in Italy against the remnants of a German garrison desperately fighting to keep the country, despite the fact that Italy had already totally switched sides and declared war on Germany.

Marek Uliasz/iStock/Getty Images
Ah, Italy. Because world history needs a fair-weather player.

Unfortunately for Standish and his troops, they found themselves in a not-too-ideal position of staring down the barrel of a German machine gun raining hellfire upon them. Standish and a dozen remaining men had no option but to surrender to the Germans, and their part of the war came to a close.

Or so it seemed.

Unhappy with entering the POW game, Standish began griping to himself about how he wished the Germans were their POWs instead. As luck would have it, a German Sergeant Major happened to speak English and overheard him. This piqued the German's interest. It turns out this particular unit had recently gotten out of the Soviet Front (which was also going pretty badly at the time), and was as sick of this whole war thing as only men who have weathered both Soviet winter and Soviet soldiers can be.

Stuart Monk/Hemera/Getty Images
Pictured: The standard experience of fighting the Soviets in winter.

So the German Sergeant Major skulked up to Standish and inquired about what the Allied forces would theoretically do to German POWs, should some hypothetically turn up from, say, the doomed Italian front. The air around them thick with insinuation, Standish recognized the gift horse for what it was, and he was all set for a rodeo. He started replying to the Sergeant Major's query with a full-blown surrender pitch, basically the era's equivalent of "Oh, it's pretty cozy -- they mostly watch Netflix and drink beer all day."

Via Veteranstoday.com
"Or you can keep at this. Your call."

Eventually, he realized that his silver tongue was working. All 40 Germans promptly surrendered, happy to march off to a POW camp in Africa.

Which we suppose will seem less impressive once you read this ...

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1
A Scottish Officer Tears Through Nazi-Occupied France, Forces 23,000 Germans To Surrender

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tommy Macpherson was a Scottish officer in the British army, assigned to lead a resistance cell in France during the latter stages of World War II. At first, it was business as usual: A typical day at the office revolved around blowing up railways and delaying enemy troop movements with booby traps. Then he decided to kick it up a notch and flat out eliminate the German troops in the area. By forcing them to surrender to him. All 23,000 of them.

There are two versions of how shit went down, both equally remarkable. According to the first one, Macpherson stole a German Red Cross vehicle and drove several miles through enemy territory, often under fire, to meet with the Nazis. Another version says that MacPherson's meager troops were occupying a bridge, and the Germans needed to go through to evacuate the area. Either way, the end result was the same: Macpherson wound up going to meet with the local German commander, armed with little more than his insane confidence and full Highland dress. Yeah, did we mention that the dude was wearing a kilt all along?

Via The Press And Journal
If you guessed "Because pants could not contain his massive balls," then give yourself a gold star.

What followed is best described from the viewpoint of the commander of the Germans: A kid in a dress just stormed in to see you. He delivers a simple message: Surrender immediately, or he will call on his support, which includes tanks, artillery, the French army, and the Royal Air Force.

Surely, there is no way this could be a lie. No man could be conceited enough to show up in the middle of a goddamned Nazi army wearing a clown uniform and demand such things if he didn't have every freaking gun in the world standing directly behind him.

Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
"I'm sorry, but did you say 'Orbital laser cannon?'"
"No, what I said was, 'Quit stalling with stupid questions and surrender like I told you to.'"

And that, friends, is how the German command came to surrender 23,000 men -- including parts of the SS Panzer division -- to a random Scotsman. They were probably pretty surprised when they found out that MacPherson was bluffing all along, but presumably not half as surprised as the American officers to whom MacPherson handed over tens of thousands of Nazi prisoners a few days later.

For more ridiculous war stories, check out The 5 Most Impossible Sniper Shots Ever Made and The 5 Most Epic One Man Rampages In the History Of War.

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