6 Inspiring Tales of Friendship in the Middle of Brutal Wars
As awful as war is, it's still being fought by human beings, and they don't just check their humanity at the door. Sometimes, right in the heat of battle, sympathy and simple human kindness breaks through. Spontaneous truces occur when groups of soldiers decide they just can't take it anymore.
The result is a series of stories that you should bookmark for the next time you're in a bad mood.
Americans and Nazis Share a Christmas Meal
The below story is so cheesily heart-warming that we would call bullshit if multiple people involved hadn't come forward to verify it. It sounds like one of those corny email forwards.
In the last days of the Second World War, just before Hitler realized that picking a fight with the entire world wasn't going to end well for him, the Nazis launched one final offensive against the Allies. The Battle of the Bulge was not, as we thought in elementary school, the story of one man's battle to hide an unfortunate erection, but a very last ditch effort of a cornered and angry German war machine. Occurring over Christmas 1944, yuletide cheer was running in understandably short supply.
The 32nd division's "Nutcracker Suite (With Occasional Flesh Wounds)" didn't go down well.
In the meantime, in a small cottage nearby on the German-Belgian border, a 12-year-old boy and his mother were busy minding their own damn business. Their dreams of blissful ignorance were shattered when three American soldiers arrived at their front door, one with serious wounds. These Americans were armed, desperate and, with it being Christmas Eve, freezing to death. For Germans under the Nazi regime, sheltering enemy troops was high treason. Fortunately, this German woman didn't give even a single shit about politics on Christmas.
It's not Christmas without some kind of fight over who invaded whom.
So she invited them in and began to tend to their wounds. Then there was another knock at their door.
Four Nazi soldiers had arrived.
"History tends to forget that a good 30 percent of us weren't murderous douchebags."
Though the mother knew they could be shot for violating the rules of war, she took a gamble and sternly told the lost and hungry Germans that there would be no killing that night. The boy and his mother had a Christmas chicken all fattened up and ready to be butchered, so they went ahead and prepared the feast with their unexpected guests. Proving that Hollywood has no monopoly on Christmas magic, the American soldiers and the German soldiers all turned their weapons over to the woman and feasted together, without so much as exchanging passive-aggressive insults.
"What are your plans for the weekend?" "Well, we're -- awwwww, you almost got me. You bastard."
Then, in the morning, when the wounded American had semi-recovered, the German soldiers directed the American soldiers back to their lines, telling them how to avoid all the areas that the Nazis had recaptured.
The story spread after the boy, Fritz Vincken, grew up and told the story to Reader's Digest (it became so famous that even President Ronald Reagan mentioned it in a speech when he visited Germany). You could write it off as something he pulled out of his imagination when up against a magazine deadline, but then in 1995 Fritz found one of the soldiers, who had separately been telling the story to everyone he met for years. On that night, American and Nazi soldiers really did just sit down in the middle of the war and have a quiet Christmas dinner.
That little boy grew up and got to meet the American soldier who gave him the coolest Christmas ever.
The Australians Make Friends With the Turks in Gallipoli
In the heat of World War I, the British decided that they needed to invade Turkey. It was a ballsy decision, considering that doing so would result in a bloodbath the likes of which the world had rarely seen. So, rather than suffer the senseless death of tens of thousands of British soldiers, they decided on a different tactic: Send in Australians.
There is so much weird going on in this picture.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) were shipped out to Turkey to seize the Gallipoli peninsula, a task which basically relied on their ability to sprint across the beach and absorb two dozen bullets each before falling over. But the Australians -- who were more than used to living in hellish conditions -- held their own. Although they were unable to drive back the far superior numbers of the enemy, they killed or wounded up to 10,000 Turks while losing only a few hundred of their own.
But then a remarkable thing happened. With the blazing heat of the Turkish beach working on the corpses of thousands of fallen soldiers, both sides simultaneously came to the conclusion that this was a bunch of bullshit. At the very least, someone should give all these dead people a respectful burial.
"If we're going to treat the living terribly, we might as well take care of the dead."
On May 24, 1915, a daylong ceasefire was arranged between the troops. The Allied troops and Turkish troops came out of their trenches together to bury the dead. It was hard, sweaty work, but in between, the soldiers struck up quite a remarkable friendship. They started by exchanging greetings and cigarettes before they began to swap badges like players at the end of a soccer game. Thousands of Turkish civilians came out to watch the spectacle from the surrounding hills. For the first time in recent memory, it was kind of like, you know, there wasn't a World War going on.
"I like to pretend my lice are actually itchy tingles of happiness."
When it came to 4 o'clock, the Turks approached one of the Australian commanders, Captain Audrey Herbert, asking him for orders. He then retired both the troops and walked down the lines and made the two sides shake hands. When a dozen Turks popped out of their trench, Audrey taunted them, saying they would shoot him the next day, to which they replied, "God forbid! We would never shoot you."
Especially as the Australians had secretly deactivated the Turks' rifles.
Twenty minutes later, all jokes aside, the indiscriminate killing began again, as though this eerie interlude had never happened.
The Confederates Show Mercy at the Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was one of the most one-sided battles of the American Civil War. The South was defending a stone wall at the base of Marye's Heights, and it must have been a pretty damn important stone wall, because they shot 8,000 Union soldiers in just one morning to stop them from getting to it.
It's OK as walls go, we guess.
Sergeant Richard Kirkland decided enough was enough. So Kirkland walked up to his general and calmly stated that he couldn't bear to hear the cries of the wounded soldiers.
He pleaded with the general to let him go out and give the wounded enemy soldiers some water. The general, who knew it probably wasn't a brilliant idea to go running headlong into the line of fire, tried to talk him out of it. But Kirkland was so insistent that the general offered a compromise: He could go, but he couldn't take a white flag, the general opting instead to see whether God would protect him. It's fortunate for the Confederates that he didn't extend this logic to taking the soldiers' weapons away to see if God would shoot the Yankees dead.
God has an amazing kill ratio, but really lets himself down when he teabags whole countries.
Kirkland left the trenches and started pouring water into the mouths of wounded Union soldiers. When the enemy saw what was happening, they stopped trying to annihilate him as he moved from body to body. When he was done, he returned to safety behind the lines.
Richard Kirkland died a year later at the Battle of Chickamauga because the universe hates good people. But at least he got a statue.
Here he is, apparently shoving a whole canteen down a guy's throat.
Aaron Burr Makes a British Friend During the Attack on Quebec
During the American War of Independence, the Americans, led by a not-yet-traitorous Benedict Arnold, waged war on British-loving Canada. Specifically, the cheese-eating Frenchy British-loving region of Quebec.
It was probably a matter of who the French hated least.
Aaron Burr was on the march to Quebec when he stopped by a Kennebec Indian party. Burr's group was carrying plenty of rum, and they were warmly welcomed by the Kennebecs. Soon, alcohol did what it does best, and Burr met and knocked up an Indian woman named Jacataqua. Obviously, pregnant women aren't the most able of combatants in a battle, so Burr was concerned about her safety. But Jacataqua so endeared herself to the regiment that they paid her the courtesy of not eating her dog.
"Wow, I, uh ... thanks, I guess. Not eating my dog should really be a given."
Before the final assault on Quebec, Burr was walking unarmed by himself in the woods near the army camp. He was thirsty, so he started to drink some water from a nearby brook. By the sort of chance rarely found outside Hollywood, an enemy British officer arrived at the other side of the brook at that time and didn't immediately kill the shit out of him. Instead, they politely saluted each other and the British officer offered Burr his cup.
He couldn't get those sideburns wet for fear of being pulled under the water.
The two soldiers declared a private truce between themselves and got to know each other. They met up again a few more times before the attack on the city and promised to stay good friends once the war was over. The British officer also pledged to bring Jacataqua and Burr's child to safety if the Americans were defeated at Quebec.
And defeated they were -- horribly and embarrassingly. But the British officer kept to his promise. Jacataqua was placed in a nunnery in the city, where she gave birth to her child in safety. Aaron Burr went on to become the Vice President of the U.S. under Jefferson, during which time he became famous for straight up shooting a dude.
"May all my offspring kill a man for slights upon their manhoods!"
The Spanish Civil War Is Plagued by Rampant Peace
Between the two world wars, the Spanish fought a civil war between Hitler's Fascist buddy Francisco Franco and the rest of the country. The Fascists ultimately won, but not without a fight.
And thank goodness, because it wouldn't have been much of a war otherwise.
The majority of the conflict in the Spanish Civil War was spent on so-called "quiet fronts," in which the opposing camps didn't just shoot on sight. With forced conscription and disease spreading across the front, soldiers on both sides began to get sick of the war. After all, they were all Spaniards. Letters taken from the front in 1938 suggest that some soldiers spent the quiet periods of the war interacting in relative peace with their opponents on the battlefront, even trading goods like cigarettes, which doesn't make sense from a tactical point of view unless you're trying some elaborate plot to kill the enemy through lung cancer.
"The cancer is just to pin them down while diabetes takes the flank."
One letter from a soldier shows that he even wrote home to his family asking for goods he could use to trade with his "buddies in the Fascist zone." In fact, the soldiers actively encouraged each other not to fight if at all possible. When newly arrived Republicans came to the front, the Nationalists would shout, "Reds, don't shoot. It's not our fault."
"Blame this guy, he's the one with the stupid glasses."
The two enemies became friendly pretty quickly, with men on both sides promising to alert the others if their officers ordered them to attack. And every night, their partying and singing echoed around the country.
Understandably, their officers were pretty pissed off about the war they were trying to start that just couldn't get off the ground because the opposing sides liked each other too much.
It was a civil war, after all.
Christmas Miracle in World War I
It can't be overstated how absolutely horrible World War I was for basically everyone on Earth. One of the largest wars ever fought in history, most of the soldiers were conscripted by their respective governments to kill loads of people who had never personally wronged them, fighting in foreign lands while starving and suffering fatigue and bullet wounds. It's really no surprise that, on Christmas Day 1914, these conditions led to the biggest bag of "screw this war stuff" ever opened.
"It's what I've always wanted!"
Think what you will of the Germans, but they were the ones who kicked off the cheer on Christmas Eve. The German frontline put lights all along their trenches and began to sing Christmas carols and put up banners wishing the British a Happy Christmas. The soldiers then came out of the trenches to meet and greet the enemy. They exchanged autographs and stories, and they agreed not to fire on each other on the following Christmas Day.
A tradition that has spread to every household since.
The commanders, noticing too late to stop the truce that was already in full swing, simply stood back and let it happen. Across the entire front, soldiers from both sides shared Christmas dinners and services with each other, often in the enemy trenches themselves.
"Call this a trench? We have two, maybe three whores at a time."
During the day, the British and the Germans played soccer against one another, using bundles of straw or empty jars in place of a ball. One man even set up a makeshift barber shop in the middle of no man's land to serve both British and German troops, charging a couple of cigarettes for a haircut.
War and soccer are literally the only ways these two countries communicate.
The Christmas Day truce marked one of the most poignant moments in a horrible war. However, not everyone approved of the truce. A young soldier named Adolf Hitler denounced the episode, declaring that this sort of understanding "should not be allowed." It's surprising (or not -- he was Hitler), but Hitler experienced a similar act of humanity during the same Great War. Hitler himself adorned his private residence with paintings of a British war hero named Henry Tandey. Why? During a WWI battle, Tandey spared the life of the wounded future Fuhrer in a rare act of mercy.
It is very possible to be too nice for your own good.
Sure, Hitler didn't really learn anything. But it does raise the question of how many potential future-Hitlers have been avoided by small acts of kindness early in life.
For surprising sources of charity from terrible people, check out 5 Inspiring Acts of Kindness by Terrifying Crime Syndicates. Or read about the 5 True War Stories That Put Every Action Movie to Shame.
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