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Hollywood likes to portray WWII as a gritty, heroic time with plentiful tales of courage under fire and honorable soldiers fighting for freedom. The real war had plenty of that, sure, but it was also a crazy time with countless insane plots and plans straight out of a cartoon. Such as ...

5
The British Navy Pulls An Epic Heist Aboard A Sinking Enemy Submarine

Royal Navy

It's 1941. Germany's U-boats are tightening their grip on England, and there's jack shit anyone can do to stop them because the Brits have no way of deciphering their communication. British Intelligence needs access to one of the top-secret Enigma code machines and its files. Luckily, a U-boat has been disabled in the Atlantic, leaving it open to a daring raid. Allied sailors must do whatever it takes to get those code books!

Sounds suspiciously like the plot of the film U-571, right? That's because it is, only without copious bullshit and attempts to pin the glory on Americans. The real-life naval Enigma heist was actually a fully British effort that took place on May 9, 1941. The German submarine U-110 was busy attacking a British convoy when one of the escort ships landed a sucker-punch depth charge and forced the damaged U-110 to surface.


Pictured: A perfectly average-sized tube full of rapidly escaping seamen, thank you.

The captain of the U-boat assumed that the Brits were about to ram him and promptly told his men to abandon ship, only to receive a nasty surprise as the destroyer HMS Bulldog instead slowed down and approached with an interested glint in its eye. His attempts to swim back and scuttle the ship were thwarted, and sailors aboard the Bulldog saw their chance to raid the U-boat and finally catch some of that sweet, sweet Enigma action. A boarding party was hastily assembled, but it soon became apparent that searching the German vessel was not a simple matter: Not only was the U-boat terrifyingly damaged and in inherent danger of getting sucked into Davy Jones' Locker at any second, but the captain might have armed the explosives aboard the sub, essentially turning it into a giant ticking time bomb. These are not optimal circumstances for casually takin' a gander at a submarine.


Plus, something in the sub's bowels was breathing. Something not of this Earth.
Details remain classified.

Despite the inherent danger and the ticking clock, the Brits ventured in and managed to navigate the submarine, a terrifying and panic-inducing environment even when it's not about to sink, you're familiar with the layout, and your bitterest enemy isn't actively trying to explode everything. What's more, their horror trip was successful: The rescue party poked out with the Enigma Machine and all the necessary documents ... only to spend some terrifying time out in the open, with wind and waves rising, when the Bulldog had to temporarily leave them to investigate a potential U-boat sighting nearby.

When the Bulldog returned, this left just one major problem: Against all odds, the U-boat stayed afloat. Obviously, the Germans couldn't be allowed to see that, because even the most incompetent commander could probably figure out that a floating sub-husk with a missing code machine probably necessitates a whole new set of codes, stat. So the Brits hurriedly strapped the U-110 in tow and started hauling ass, at which point the sub, which had clearly been biding its time for maximum comedic effect, promptly solved the problem by sinking beneath the waves before the British could get her to England.


Sadly, "Yakety Sax" wouldn't be written for another 20 years, so they had no appropriate song to play.

The Enigma machine was turned over to the minds at Bletchley Park, and the war was arguably shortened by years. Now, just recast all those pesky Brits with Americans and you've got yourself one hell of a movie.

4
Operation Greenup: The Real Inglourious Basterds

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Operation Greenup was a daring mission in 1945 in which the Allied forces sent a covert team of highly trained Jewish soldiers into Nazi-controlled territory to cause as much havoc as earthly possible. If that sounds like it has shades of a certain Tarantino film, you're absolutely right. In fact, Quentin Tarantino can only wish his film was as badass as the real story. For starters, the Greenup team needed only three guys to completely and utterly wreck Nazi shit: Fred Mayer and Hans Wynberg, from the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, and Franz Weber, former Wehrmacht officer.


One was the brains. One was the brawn. One was the wildcard. All were the balls.

The three were dropped into the mountains near Weber's native Innsbruck, Austria, the center of the area's Nazi war machine, where intelligence reports indicated they were constructing an underground mega-fortress to hold off Allied troops. Things immediately went pear-shaped: They wound up landing on a glacier, lost most of their equipment, got stuck in a snowstorm, and had to painstakingly trudge their way down. After that little misadventure, they set up contact with local resistance units and started doing what they did best: mayhem.

The men donned enemy uniforms and entered local bars to lure drunk Germans to reveal their secrets in between pints, because unlike in Tarantino scripts, members of real covert units are able to actually speak foreign languages. Weber's family members posed as couriers in dangerous missions to obtain information. In one particularly daring heist, Mayer even posed as an electrician to sneak into a local Nazi HQ and acquire important documents. Their missions were mortally dangerous, accomplished with gusto, and immediately followed by the Allied troops raining hellfire on Nazi supply lines based on the information they acquired. Essentially, when they pointed a finger at a place, said place was soon full of exploding Nazi things. As feelings of justified retribution go, it must've been a pretty good one.

FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Image
They stuck around for a quick inhale of the sweet smell of smoldering Nazi shit.

Alas, all good things come to an end, and Mayer was eventually captured by the enemy. Normally, this would mark a very conclusive end of the line for the mission and Mayer alike. However, Mayer remained unflinching despite three days of torture, and because the Nazis were starting to sense that the war was done for (and presumably more than a little concerned by the fact that someone kept bombing their shit to oblivion with unnerving accuracy), he actually managed to talk the commander into surrendering all the forces in the area to Americans. We're not experts on military interrogation techniques, but we can't help but think that "immediately surrendering your entire army to your prisoner" is one of the more unconventional tactics.

EX-POW Bulletin
Today, Mayer is the legal owner of one-third of Germany.

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3
The Royal Air Force Trolls Hitler's Anniversary With A Crazy Bombing Mission

RAF

The 10th anniversary of the Nazi ascension to power is coming up. Luftwaffe head Hermann Goering and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels are set to make speeches. However, you, the collective spirit of the Allied forces, are having none of that. If only there were some gloriously insane way you could absolutely wreck their party ...

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Their Nazi Party Nazi party.

Cue the Raid on Berlin on Jan. 30, 1943 -- an operation conceived by the British largely to embarrass and piss off the Nazi higher-ups. They already had some experience on bomb-lobbing Berlin, but their attacks had mostly been nighttime missions, and the Nazi capital was defended by countless anti-aircraft guns and several of these doom-fortress flak towers:

RAF
The Nazis always built the best supervillain lairs.

If that didn't make the mission suicidal enough, the planes chosen for the mission were Mosquito bombers, which were fast but had the slight drawback of being constructed largely out of plywood. "So," said the collective pilots of the entire Royal Air Force, "let's recap: You want us to fly to the heavily protected enemy capital in the middle of the day, during one of their biggest celebrations, in rickety plywood constructs with large bombs strapped on, solely to mess with them? Holy shit that is hilarious. Where do we sign up?"

RAF
"Through adversity to the lolz."

Not only did the six Mosquito pilots pull it off, they succeeded with flying colors. They bombed Berlin with two carefully coordinated attacks, each timed to interrupt and undermine the Nazi big shots' speeches, handily broadcast so everyone could hear their panic and confusion. The story goes that they actually managed to scare Goering so badly that he physically dived for cover in mortal fear, possibly with his head under a table and his ass sticking out and shaking in fear. We like to believe that Goering and Goebbels were immediately afterward pulled into Hitler's office for a stern talking-to and possibly a call home to their parents.

2
The U.S. Navy Joins Forces With A Gangster To Keep Nazi Saboteurs At Bay

Hulton Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

As soon as America started flexing its war muscles, New York docks became a huge potential target for Nazi saboteurs. So how could you keep them safe?

The answer came as an offer they couldn't refuse.

William England/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Ensuring dock workers needn't sleep with the fishes.

We've already talked about Operation Underworld and the Government's secret wartime work with Charles "Lucky" Luciano, but he was far from the only one taking part in the war effort. Another mob heavyweight, Meyer Lansky, was a Jewish gangster from New York, and one of the few mobsters who was paying more attention to what Hitler was doing to the Jews of Europe than what Mussolini was doing to the Cosa Nostra in Sicily.

Lansky and his crew had a massive bone to pick with the Nazi party, and they already had a good head start. Even prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lansky and his men were taking pride in locating and busting up secret Nazi sympathizer meetings (heavy emphasis on the word busting).

New York World-Telegram
He spent the remainder of his time journeying with his good friend James Kirk.

So the Navy approached Lansky for help in weeding out saboteurs, and he was all too happy to keep the New York shoreline clean of Nazi trash. In fact, he was the one who pulled Lucky Luciano into the war effort -- he suggested the Navy consider cutting a deal with the dude. Because the government didn't want to let slip that they were collaborating with mobsters (though Lansky maintained he was nothing but a simple "investor" and "music distributor"), the collaboration was kept top secret. Behind the scenes, the feds gave the mob free rein to do whatever it took to keep the docks safe from sabotage. And because mobsters didn't have to file reports, they made sure they used that freedom. Stories about the Lansky crew's Nazi-fighting tactics range from simple dockyard patrols to full-on Tarantino-style beat-downs of German agents before dumping them into whatever container was convenient. (Generally, the Atlantic Ocean.)

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1
A Squadron Of James Bonds Steals A Ship Using Prostitutes And Booze

Royal Navy

The mission: British Intelligence needs more, uh, intelligence from the Gulf of Guinea. Plan and execute a daring raid against three Axis ships anchored there, and steal the ships right out from under the nose of Spain, risking the creation of a fourth Axis nation. Do so under strict secrecy, and remember that you have been granted a license to kill.

Cue the James Bond theme, right? It's not a coincidence: Ian Fleming, apparently collecting material for his Adventures Of A Drunken Sociopath Who Sometimes Does Spy Stuff series, was a member of the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. And he would later base his famous character on the guys who took part in this mission.

via Den of Geek
This is an actual photo of the four men involved.

The task, dubbed Operation Postmaster, was a risky one, because it meant breaching the waters of a neutral, potentially Axis-leaning nation. Luckily, the men of the Small Scale Raiding Force commando unit in charge of the mission came with all the skills necessary for a 1940s heist crew. On Jan. 14, 1942, the British raiders snuck onto the island of Fernando Po aboard a tug boat. Their first order of business was to distract the Spanish guards who patrolled the harbor area like clockwork. This distraction was accomplished with the help of a giant party, the local brothel, and copious amounts of liquor.

John Oxley Library
When you get booze and hoes together, a boat will spontaneously appear.

Once the raiders were certain that the Spanish guards were either hammered or hammering away, they made their way aboard the large Italian merchant vessel Duchess D'Aosta and its two accompanying German tugs, overpowered the crews, and made their jolly way off into the night, presumably with a smug one-liner and a martini in hand.

M. Storino is a freelance writer from Chicago with an affinity for old hats, the obscure, and the peculiar. To read more of his oddball writings, go here.

Wars are rife with completely insane behavior. For instance, Bill Millin's contribution to WWII was to play bagpipes while bullets whizzed by him during the Normandy landings. And then there's Piru Singh who took a machine gun nest while screaming and probably naked. See what we mean in The 5 Most Badass War Heroes Who Never Held A Weapon and The 5 Most Epic One Man Rampages In the History Of War.

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