When you think about World War I, you probably picture machine gunners, gas masks, pointy little helmets, Snoopy mercilessly gunning down that Red Baron pizza guy ... but as is so often the case, it turns out that history class presented us with an extremely narrow, kinda boring viewpoint for one of the world's greatest conflicts. See, the Great War was also quite possibly the weirdest. That's because ...
5Lances Were Used On The Same Battlefields As Machine Guns
Though it's often considered the first modern war, World War I went down while most of humanity still took the word "horsepower" literally. A WWI battlefield was an odd and terrifying blend of the old and the new. Take Germany, for example, which had a reputation of being fairly high-tech at the time: Their army launched into the earliest battles of the war led by Uhlans -- horse-mounted shock troops armed with 10-foot steel lances, then followed by the main units armed with machine guns and artillery.
This presumably inspired the Uhlans to ride faster.
"Let's hurry up, the fife players already got run over."
The British were the first to introduce armored vehicles, in 1916 -- the term "tank" was actually a code word intended to fool eavesdropping Germans into thinking they were discussing (inordinately deadly) water tanks. Even then, the Brits relied heavily on horses to move artillery and supplies, drafting more than a million of them to slog through the muddy trenches of Belgium and France. By the end of the war -- taking all sides into account -- more than 8 million horses had died on the Western Front alone. But where's their memorial, huh?
4London Was Bombed By Gargantuan German Airships
Remember The Blitz during World War II, when the Nazis bombed London for the better part of a year straight? Well, it turns out that was the big-budget sequel to an oft-forgotten original performance, which featured motherfucking Zeppelins.
Hans Rudolf Schulze
Any death metal bands out there need a sweet public domain album cover?
Germany's airships were the only aircraft capable of making it across the English Channel and far enough up the Thames to rain hellfire on London, and from 1915 to 1917, that's precisely what they did. Problem was, though they undoubtedly looked metal as hell, the airships were basically just giant, floating bags of ludicrously flammable gas. While they initially operated at a higher altitude than the Brits could reach, improvements in anti-aircraft artillery soon transformed them into history's biggest fireworks displays. And that's when they were replaced by heavy bombers.
Said heavy bombers looked like this, by the way:
One of the Wright brothers lived to see this. We're pretty sure it's not what he had in mind.
Remember, the airplane was still a fairly new technology, so the first bombers were basically scaled-up biplanes with a big hole in the floor through which bombardiers dropped bombs. By hand.