6 Real Historic Battles Decided by Divine Intervention
In the movies, we're furious when plots are resolved by some magical episode of divine intervention, because it's a downright cop-out. Wars should be won through strategy and the greater strength of their heroes, not by all the villains suddenly dropping dead of heart attacks.
As always, Cracked is here to show you that reality is often way weirder than fiction, in this case, that the deus ex machina is actually a common plot device in the story of reality.
The Battle of Long Island Decided by Sudden, Inexplicable Fog
On Aug. 27, 1776, just weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the British forces already had George Washington and his Continental Army on the ropes in New York City. There was no escape across the East River, as the Brooklyn Bridge hadn't been invented yet, and the water was thick with British warships -- the start of a long tradition of the East River being full of debris.
The East River
As the British closed in, it looked very much like the American Revolution was over just a few weeks in.
The Divine Intervention:
The weather took an unseasonable turn for the worse in New York on Aug. 29, and for the Continental Army, this seemed like another element to add to a long list of grievances, being that they were trapped, outnumbered, ill-equipped, poorly trained, freezing and starving, and it was raining. It seemed as if God was punishing the Americans with the same weather that usually makes everyone hate England in the first place.
Redcoats didn't fear bullets. A grave is way warmer than the English winter.
But this rain turned out to be one of the best-disguised blessings in history, as it was so foggy the next morning that one could "scarcely discern a man from six yards' distance," which meant the Brits had to sit on their thumbs until the fog passed. What was more, for some freak reason, the fog "concealed from the British the operations of the Americans, while at New York the atmosphere was perfectly clear." In other words, the only parts of the city that were foggy were the parts the Brits needed to see through to figure out what the hell Washington was up to.
Washington did not need to shoot the British the next morning; he just needed to get the hell out of Brooklyn with enough of his army to continue and win the war with. This fog provided him with precisely the time and the cover he needed to successfully sneak all 9,000 of his men into Manhattan while the British sat back and reminisced about this jolly good London weather. It was like Washington shouted, "Cover me!" at God, and God had complied like world's greatest buddy cop. There was not a single loss of life, and Washington was the last one to leave Long Island ... immediately after he snatched his whole army and the Revolution straight out of the British Empire's back pocket.
"Horses and boats basically work the same way, right?"
The Battle of Tanga, aka the Battle of the Bees
The Battle of Tanga was the first major battle in the East African theater of World War I. With a significant advantage in numbers, the British army thought it would be a piece of cake to take what is now Tanzania off the Germans' hands.
It looks dicey, but there's actually a lovely resort just beyond that hill.
Unfortunately for them, Africa had a secret weapon, which is apparent from this battle's famous nickname, the Battle of the Bees.
The Divine Intervention:
Despite outnumbering the Germans 8-to-1 and boasting initial successes, the British were dealt a humiliating, decisive defeat at Tanga when goddamn wild African bees attacked the British troops from out of nowhere.
The battle between man and bee was an utter nightmare for the British. Those who survived were stung beyond recognition, and in one reported case, a soldier who passed out was stung back into consciousness, because the bees weren't about to let him get out of this so easily.
They are engines of hate.
The battle would go on record as "one of the most notable failures in British military history" and one of the most unexpected blessings for the Germans in East Africa. Their "victory" sent morale through the roof, particularly for the units of their commanding officer, Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbec. With nothing short of the blessings of an unknown African bee-goddess at his disposal, the man never lost a battle for the duration of the war.
The Burning of Washington Ended by a Tornado
In 1812, the fledgling and shiny new United States declared war on Britain again, because shit, it sure was fun the last time. This turned out to be kind of a bad decision. After a really determined, last-ditch attempt by the United States to conquer Canada, shit got real for the adolescent nation during the War of 1812, when a British invasion stormed up the Chesapeake for Washington, D.C.
Naturally, President Madison did not like seeing the nation's capital being fondled by some sex-starved limeys, especially since the Americans had just kind of sacked and burned present-day Toronto. On Aug. 24, 1814, at the Battle of Bladensburg, the city's last defense was reduced to a mob of panicking, screaming Marylanders in an ass-whooping hence referred to as "the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms."
That is, shit just got very real.
Madison had no choice but to grab the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence under both arms and get the hell out of Washington. The British promptly marched into the defenseless city, burned the White House and U.S. Capitol, and, just to be dicks about it, the Library of Congress as well. To add insult to injury, before they torched the White House, the Brits actually raided the White House fridge, enjoyed a toast using official booze, looted the mansion and probably raided the first lady's panty drawer.
The Divine Intervention:
While the Brits probably felt the burning of Washington was a righteous act of retribution, they definitely pissed off the wrong deity when they desecrated the U.S. capital. With the city in flames, God punished the redcoats with the sort of smiting usually reserved for characters straight out of the Old Testament.
If you think that's patriotic, wait'll you see God's red, white and blue trailer hitch balls.
A goddamn tornado touched down -- which almost never happens in the capital -- and plowed a path of instant terror right through downtown D.C., uprooting trees, lifting cannons and tossing the hapless redcoats around like maple leaves. The British were forced to flee the city after learning exactly whose side God was on -- after all, he did nothing when the Americans torched Canada.
Why the hell else do you think we keep printing this on our currency?
A Sudden Wind Saves Orleans
Joan of Arc is a bit of an oddity in human history. We know enough about her life -- hell, we even know whether she was hot or not -- but even scholars scratch their heads over how the hell a 17-year-old farm girl was able to be taken seriously by any male-dominated medieval military, never mind a French one.
It was kind of a boys club.
Jean de Dunois, better known as the Bastard of Orleans -- seriously -- was one of Joan's earliest critics at this crucial juncture in her career. Not only did she have boobs, but Joan had no military experience whatsoever, she sincerely believed her orders came from the archangel Michael, and frankly, her full-time job as "peasant" was not all that impressive, even in 1429. As a result, the Bastard would have been more than happy keeping Joan out of battle and, for the most part, ignoring her, which was exactly what he did.
The bastard himself.
The Divine Intervention:
The Siege of Orleans started off pretty shitty for Joan once she found out that Dunois left her out of his war counsels simply because she lacked the testicular girth. When Joan complained about this to the Bastard in person, he blew her off by saying he was more concerned about the strong wind preventing his army from receiving supplies from the Loire than her griping. This was Dunois' way of saying he had more important things on his mind than this teenager bullshit and that losing wars was something better left to the men of the French military.
Photo c/o deputy Van Halen of the San Dimas police.
Well, according to the Bastard himself: "All of a sudden, and as though at that very moment, the wind -- which had been contrary and which had absolutely prevented the ships in which were the food supplies for the city of Orleans from coming upriver -- changed and became favorable. From that moment I had good hope in her, more than ever before." Forced to believe that Joan had stopped the wind with her mind or something, Jean de Dunois used his military and political clout as the Bastard to become one of her greatest supporters in the male-dominated French military.
The Siege of Orleans ended up becoming Joan of Arc's greatest victory, the turning point of the Hundred Years' War and one of the most decisive battle in history, ever, thanks to a gentle breeze and a sexist bastard's sudden change of heart about a schizophrenic teenager.
Sounds a lot like a Disney Channel Original Movie.
The Second Battle of Britain is Turned on a Dream
When we mention the "war against the machines," the time frame that pops into your mind isn't usually the 1940s. For that reason, this is one of those rare occasions when real history is actually more awesome than what you learned in school.
During the period of World War II known as the Second Battle of Britain, Allied troops were pitted against something called the V-1 buzz bomb, a flying murderbot designed by the Nazis.
Terminator: Episode I
Without a pilot, a complex engine or really any weak points at all, the V-1 was as hard to kill as the T-1000, and on top of that, it was faster than anything the Allies had in the air. So, as if being a Londoner during the 1940s wasn't bad enough already, the public had to deal with newsreels like these about the old-timey robot uprising they were fighting.
The Divine Intervention:
Fortunately for the Allies, they had a 29-year-old techie on their side named David B. Parkinson, who apparently graduated from the same Jedi academy as Luke Skywalker. Shortly after the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940, the secret to defeating these marauding sky horrors came to him in a dream.
The dream started off as typical war-geek fantasy -- Parkinson dreamed he was on a Dutch anti-aircraft gun crew alongside "a marvelous automatic robot gun."
After successfully downing just about every airplane in the sky, "one of the men in the crew smiled at me and beckoned me to come closer to the gun," at which point Parkinson discovered it was driven by the same recording equipment he had recently developed for Bell.
The next morning, Parkinson forced his equally-nerdy friends at Bell Labs to hear all about his dream from the night before, presumably prompting reasonable objections like, "we don't invent weapons, we invent recording devices." But he wore them down, and working together they used his dream-schematics as a starting point to invent the M-9 electrical anti-aircraft gun complete with robot detector, even though "neither of them knew anything about guns, ballistics or fire control." That's pretty awesome, considering that we at Cracked have about the same level of qualification, but all of our anti-aircraft guns have so far been miserable failures.
The M-9 entered military service in 1943, and in one month, "90 percent of German V-1 buzz bombs destined for London were shot down over the cliffs of Dover." In a single week, 89 of 91 V-1 bombs launched from Antwerp were shot down using "radar-guided 90-millimeter guns controlled by M-9s," a victory that may not have occurred had Parkinson only dreamed about showing up to the war in his underwear.
Fret not, Free World. The Force will be with you.
The Battle of the Bulge
The single bloodiest battle in American history was a desperate surprise attack launched by Germany in December 1944. The most serious shit during the Battle of the Bulge went down in the Belgian town of Bastogne, where 12,000 men from Private Ryan's old outfit were encircled and under siege. The U.S. Third Army's Gen. George S. "Old Blood and Guts" Patton hoped to break the siege using tanks greased with the "goddamned guts" of dead Germans.
Actual grease would probably have worked better, but whatever. Some people have a flair for drama.
But Patton had a more pressing problem on his hands at the moment: The weather had been relentlessly shitty all month. All he needed was 24 hours of good weather so that he could send in his Third Army, rescue the 12,000, kill the blitzkrieg and strut out with enough gut-grease to last him all the way to Moscow.
Dude had his driving gloves and everything.
But since no weapons of mere mortals could crack a dent in the atmosphere, Patton had no choice but to resort to more unconventional means to improve the five-day forecast.
"Old Blood and Guts" on a good day.
The Divine Intervention:
After screaming at the clouds for days on end and insisting that they were all "goddamned cocksuckers," Patton took matters into his own hands and decided to appeal to the only entity capable of actually changing the situation. He summoned Third Army chaplain Col. James O'Neill to draft up a prayer for him that could double as a weather machine.
O'Neill was a bit weirded out by this request, never mind the fact that Patton was "dead earnest" about it, and the general staff of the Allied nations condemned the move as an insult. Nevertheless, the chaplain formulated an awesome rain-destroying prayer that Patton distributed to his men on 250,000 wallet-sized cards, then chilled out the next few days to let God sort out the enemy's growing bulge.
Now, we're not claiming that God literally reached down with his fists and punched a hole through the clouds directly because of Patton's prayer, but the weather did suddenly clear up, just long enough for the Third Army to break the German encirclement and reinforce Bastogne. Decide for yourself. We're just a comedy site.
Anyway, the heroic feat went down in history as Patton's finest hour, and the general celebrated by immediately awarding chaplain O'Neill the Bronze Star "for writing a prayer." According to O'Neill himself, Patton then "cracked me on the side of my steel helmet with his riding crop. That was his way of saying, 'Well done.' "
Well done, indeed.
And stop by Linkstorm to see how God wouldn't touch the Internet with a 10-foot poll.
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