5 Real MacGyvers Who Won Battles With Improvised Weapons
War never changes.
That's why you have to switch it up whenever possible. Keep it interesting! Toss those spears and bombs away, have yourself a sit-down and really think: Can I win a battle with my bodily waste, fire reptiles instead of bullets or defeat an invading army with rock 'n' roll? Hell yes, you can! The historical precedents are already there:
The British and Opium-Laced Cigarettes
Most of the fighting in WWI was taking place in Europe, but the Middle East, where British and Ottoman soldiers clashed, saw its fair share of the action as well. By1917, the British had the Ottomans on the run, and they were hoping to get to Jerusalem by Christmas. You know: Really honor the birth of Christ and all that by sacking the Holy Shit out of the Holy City. Elsewhere, an intelligence officer named Meinertzhagen was enacting a propaganda operation that involved dropping cigarettes and leaflets to Ottoman soldiers, hoping to convince them to surrender. The Ottomans, much like downtown homeless punks at an all are welcome church pancake breakfast, simply took all the free crap and paid no attention to the proselytizing.
Addicts don't stop for propaganda.
Later in the campaign, the Ottomans were making their last stand against the British, holed up in the city of Sheria. The British bombarded the Ottoman positions day and night, but they would not budge. It seemed the only way to take the city was a costly and brutal attack. Then in comes Meinertzhagen: He hopped into his plane and dropped thousands of cigarettes on the Ottomans, just like usual. They didn't even fire at his vehicle: The Weird White Guy Free Cigarette Express was always welcome in Ottoman Town.
Proof that, sometimes, smoking can be good for your health.
This time, however, Meinertzhagen's cigarettes also contained large doses of opium, so when the Ottomans lit up, they got a nice, unintended high with their nicotine. When the British attacked afterward, the Ottomans were too bombed to mount a successful defense. The British successfully took Sheria, and soon after Jerusalem.
And that's why the DARE. chapter in Sheria is so goddamn militant to this day.
DARE to keep Gaza out of British hands.
Hannibal's Snake Catapults
Hannibal was kind of a bad motherfucker, but the Romans were kind of a lot of bad motherfuckers, and they eventually sent the great military commander into defeat. He traveled around the Mediterranean, searching for allies to protect him, and he eventually he came to live in Bithynia (in modern-day Turkey) under the protection of King Prusias I. Prusias was having some problems with King Eumenes of the Pergamenes and needed Hannibal's help defeating him.
When King Eumenes and the Pergamenes sailed for Bithynia to provoke a sea battle, Hannibal allowed it because, even though he had fewer ships, he had something better: A plan.
His favorite part is when it comes together.
Hannibal ordered his men to gather as many poisonous snakes as possible, and put them into pots. He then sent a message to King Eumenes and tracked the messenger to find out which ship he was stationed on. Hannibal ordered all of his forces to attack that ship when the Pergamenes fleet was within range, and then launched his pots against the enemy.
Elephants were so last war.
When they saw dishes being hurled at them instead of literally anything else -- burning material, boulders, vicious insults -- the Pergamenes thought it was the desperate last-ditch effort of a depleted enemy, and they laughed. When the pots broke, they stopped laughing: Thousands of snakes slithered throughout their ships, some venomous, some biting, but all terrifyingly unexpected. The Pergamenes went into panic mode, and don't you dare judge them for it: Everybody has a snake phobia when they're being launched at you from god damn catapults. Some of the sailors retreated back to the coast to slap at their clothes and cry, while others tried to fight the snakes and Hannibal's men simultaneously, and lost. Badly.
Their shins were weak.
Probably after slipping in all the puddles of fear urine.
The Canadians' Piss
Less than a year of fighting into WWI, the Western front was at a stalemate. The armies of France, the British Empire and Germany were unable to break through one another's trench defenses. The Germans, not a people exactly fond of "calling it a tie," decided to use a new weapon of war to break the standoff: Chlorine gas. They deployed the gas on the French territorial troops, and "the line quickly broke." Well, that's how the Germans phrased it, anyway.
Jolly-fun-time Germans, not scary Buchenwald Germans.
A more accurate way to put it would be to say that 6,000 soldiers died in the first 10 minutes of the battle from asphyxiation, many more were blinded and a four-mile gap of destruction was carved into the Allied lines. The only downside to this tactic was that the Germans had to wait to advance into that gap, seeing as how Chapter 1 of The Art of War is "Don't Run Into Your Own Poison, Fellas."
Chapter 2 is "Owe Your Artillerymen Money."
While the Germans waited for the gas to disperse, Canadian forces were sent in to fill the gap. A medical officer (there is some debate as to which one, exactly) saw the greenish cloud approaching and identified the weapon. Then, thinking quickly, he spread word to the troops, advising them to urinate in cloths and hold them up to their faces.
"Dulce et decorum est, eh buddy?"
Whoever he was, we feel we can unequivocally state at this point that the medical officer in question was either the most beloved man on the battlefield or the most feared, because the troops quickly obeyed and basically pissed all over their own faces at just his say-so. And that's what saved all of their lives: The urea in urine reacted with the chlorine, effectively neutralizing the deadly gas. The Canadians were able to hold the Germans back until British reinforcements arrived. And though they suffered nearly 50 percent casualties defending Ypres, they successfully held the Germans off with the power of pee.
"The mustache will act like a filter!"
The Han's Song
In the third century B.C., after the collapse of the Qin Dynasty, the Chu and Han forces went to war for supremacy. The Han forces, under the leadership of Han Xin, won a string of significant battles over Xiang Yu and the Chu. When the Chu started retreating back to their capital, Han Xin ordered several ambush attacks, hoping to force Xiang Yu into a canyon, where the Chu would be defenseless. Xiang Yu resisted, until finally Han's forces kidnapped Xiang's wife and held her in the canyon as bait. This is known as the Gruber Gambit, and military tacticians largely advise against it due to the overwhelming odds of the opponent countering with the Willis Maneuver.
Xiang Yu sent most of his forces back to his capital but took 100,000 troops and marched into the canyon to save his wife.
The Chu were able to rescue Xiang Yu's wife, but they were now caught in Han's trap. They tried to break out but were pushed back into the canyon time and time again. Yet they were able to hold their position against the Han, creating a siege situation. That's when Han unleashed his secret weapon: sing-a-longs!
Traditional military strategy -- sending hundreds of conscripts to die in battle with heroic supermen, was turned on its head.
He ordered his forces to sing traditional Chu songs, which he called the "Chu Song From Four Sides" tactic. That's right: It has a name, thus indicating that the Han had some sort of long and storied tradition of musical warfare. When the trapped soldiers heard the songs of their homelands, nostalgia and sentiment charged through their defensive perimeter and began looting and pillaging their heartstrings.
The singing caused massive desertions throughout the night: Only a few hundred men stayed with Xiang Yu. In the morning, they tried to escape together. Though they did successfully break out of the canyon, the Chu forces were eventually tracked down by Han Xin. Seeing that all was lost, Xiang committed suicide on the spot. And thus the Han Dynasty was created ... through the power of song.
Later, Jefferson Starship would adapt this slice of history into their hit song "We Built This Dynasty (On Ancient Chinese Folk Songs)." Sadly, record executives changed the original wording before release.
The Allies Enlist a Corpse
In 1942, with victory all but assured in North Africa, the Allies began planning for the next stage of the war. Their target was clear: Sicily. Capturing it would make the Allies Rulers of the Mediterranean, which is like, five times cooler than Pirates of the Caribbean. The only problem being that the Germans knew the strategic importance of Sicily all too well and made it their highest priority to stop any and all invasion attempts. The Allies needed some way of making the Germans believe that Sicily was not the main objective, thus forcing them to spread their forces nice and wide, like the tactical deployment equivalent of your mom on a Friday night.
The Allies skipped past the "Fake Radio Transmission" and "Counter-intelligence Operatives" chapters of The Book of War, and instead flipped right to the "Corpses, Weird Uses Of" section. They acquired a dead body, planted fake documents on it, then shipped it off to the coast of Spain, where the supposedly neutral government had a nasty habit of helping German agents while air-quoting the word "neutral."
But they needed a very particular corpse: It had to look as if the person died of hypothermia or drowning and had stayed that way for a couple of days before being retrieved. And, presumably operating under the English assumption that the only good Welshman is a dead Welshman, they found one: A dead man named Glyndwr Michael. In the false documents they gave him, they named him Major William Martin and wrote him a fiancee named Pam. They filled his pockets with love letters, pictures of the woman and even a bill for an engagement ring.
Nothing sells "sad" like a young widow!
We're not sure why the planted corpse had to have a tragically romantic backstory to it, but we're chalking this one up to that infamous German sentimentality.
They also gave Martin a letter from his father, a book of stamps, pencils, bus tickets and a replacement ID card, in order to make the major look careless. Finally, they attached a briefcase to him, filled with documents indicating that Greece would be a major target and that the invasion of Sicily was merely a diversion.
The rumors were helped along by Eisenhower's legendary love of gyros.
When the Germans got their hands on the body, they bought the story completely, wiped away a few tears for Pam, told their commanding officers they just had something in their eye and then relayed the information all the way to the top: Hitler himself. The German forces promptly rushed war supplies -- troop reinforcements, minefields, three panzer divisions and even Rommel himself -- to Greece. When the Allies did invade Sicily, it was undermanned and ill-prepared for the battle. The invasion was a complete success, mainland Europe was now ready for invasion, and Pam eventually learned to love again after engaging in a series of wacky misunderstandings with a stammering Hugh Grant.
Who is charmingly blown apart by long-range artillery fire in Act III.
For more badass war stories, check out 5 Ancient Acts of War That Changed the Face of the Earth and The 6 Most Gigantic Everything in the History of War.
And stop by Linkstorm to read more chapters from The Art of War.
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