The past is essentially one Butterfly Effect away from completely changing the world as we know it at any given moment, which is what makes time travel so illogical (a controversial topic first explored in the docudrama Timecop). So many of the people who went on to shape the modern world were nearly wiped out of the timeline, only to be saved at the last possible moment by some minor, ridiculous coincidence. For example ...
6Clint Eastwood Nearly Suffocated Hiding In A Plane, But Was Saved After It Crashed
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Clint Eastwood was in the Navy during the Korean War, and although he never saw combat, he nearly became a casualty of war in a much stupider way. While on leave, Eastwood decided to visit his girlfriend in Seattle, but rather than take a bus or something, he decided to hitch a ride on a Naval torpedo bomber. The only issue was that the plane wasn't designed to carry any passengers. That wasn't about to stop Eastwood, who crammed himself into the radar compartment (the small area of the plane housing its radar equipment) and prepared for a flight experience two categories below economy class, or roughly on par with a trip on Spirit Airlines.
But as the plane began to climb, the door in his compartment swung open, which wouldn't necessarily be a problem if nothing inside that compartment needed to breathe. Unable to get oxygen as the air was sucked out, Eastwood fell unconscious and nearly reenacted the end of Dave Chappelle's hilarious part in Con Air.
This is one of the few times in history that the phrase "thankfully, the plane crashed" makes sense. When Eastwood came to, he found himself hurtling toward the ocean -- the bomber had run out of fuel, and the pilot was aiming to ditch the plane in a water landing. You'd assume that making sure you have enough fuel for the journey is one of the first things a pilot would check, but it seems the Universe was a big fan of Paint Your Wagon.
After crashing into the sea, Eastwood had to swim two miles to reach the shore, after which he collapsed on the beach and decided to take on a career that would only involve pretending to cheat death, while simultaneously allowing him to afford passenger tickets on commercial aircraft. And speaking of air disasters ...
5Lyndon B. Johnson Missed A Doomed Flight Because He Really Needed to Pee
Lyndon B. Johnson was one of America's most controversial presidents. On the one hand, he passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made it a law that you can't deny someone's basic human rights simply because their skin is a shade darker than yours or because they don't have a penis. On the other hand, he's largely responsible for that whole Vietnam War thing. Regardless, for better or worse, American society would look different if Johnson had, for example, died back in World War II. Which is exactly what almost happened.
On June 9, 1942, as a young man in the Naval reserve, Johnson was part of a bombing mission that was supposed to attack a Japanese air base in New Guinea. Johnson was assigned to a plane called the Wabash Cannonball, which is appropriate, because it sounds like a nickname Johnson would give a bullying maneuver he would later subject lowly Secret Services agents to.
However, moments before the plane was to take off, Johnson suddenly realized that he really needed to pee. Now, peeing your pants as an adult is taboo in any social situation, but doing so while tightly packed into a plane with seven other men is easily the most egregious. Not wanting to make waves (hold your applause until the end of the article), Johnson excused himself to visit the toilet. When he came back, he found that Lieutenant Colonel Francis R. Stevens had taken his seat, for no reason other than to play the same kind of prank that your buddy does when he sits in your chair as soon as you get up for a beer -- e.g. the same sort of prank Lyndon B. Johnson would play on people.
LBJ Presidential Library
Look at his eyes. He's already planning something for the photographer.
Johnson was forced to board a different plane, the Heckling Hare, and the mission began as scheduled. But the Heckling Hare didn't make it to its destination -- engine trouble forced the plane to turn back before it saw any combat. That was fortunate for Johnson, because the Wabash Cannonball never returned -- it was shot down by the Japanese, killing everyone on board.
Johnson wound up getting the Silver Star medal for basically no other reason than not dying in that plane crash, and later used that same, "I wasn't present when people were killed" luck to become president. Doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would work more than once, but who are we to argue?