The 5 Saddest Attempts to Take Over a Country
We tend to want to root for the underdog in our society. When we hear about a rebellion in Egypt or Libya or elsewhere, we instinctively want to root for the scrappy kids trying to fight back against The Man.
The problem is that a lot of coup attempts aren't all that inspirational. Some, in fact, border on slapstick comedy.
Like the time ...
The Oufkir Coup Tried to Ram the President's Plane in Midair
The thing about being an evil dictator is that you need evil henchmen to help out. And the thing about having evil henchmen is that eventually they say, "Wait a second, why aren't I the one in charge?" The only good thing about that scenario is that sometimes, hilarity ensues.
For instance, the henchman in our story was Mohamed Oufkir, who, in the 1960s, was the adviser and right-hand man of King Hassan II of Morocco. He was doing dirty work for his king, and we're not talking about gardening. He violently suppressed protests, spied on his own people and had so many people disappear that French courts eventually tried him for murder. Mohamed Oufkir was the crony that supervillains dreamed of. Until, as you can guess, his ambition got the best of him.
Most top henchmen get metal teeth or a razor hat. Oufkir got off-center glasses.
In the early '70s, Oufkir got tired of being the second banana to the king and decided to have a good old-fashioned "nondemocratic change of power," complete with the backing of the Moroccan military.
"With sunglasses and a uniform of indeterminate rank, anything is possible!"
In 1972, King Hassan went to a conference in France. Smelling a chance for a coup, Oufkir put his well-hatched plans in motion. When King H. was on his way back to the country, Oufkir sent not one, not two, but three fighter jets out to attack the king's plane as it flew over the Mediterranean. How hard could this be -- they had the element of surprise, and it was three fighter jets to the king's one unarmed, sitting duck 727.
What Oufkir didn't realize was that his pilots were none other than the Three Stooges. The planes were shooting at the royal jet when the pilots discovered they only had practice ammunition on board. They did as much damage as a pistol loaded with paper clips. That was when one of them had the brilliant idea to just ram the king's jet midair.
So the king himself got on the radio and, in his own voice, told the jet pilots to stop firing because the "tyrant" had been killed. Happy that this guy (who coincidentally sounded exactly like the person they were trying to assassinate) told them that the king was dead, the pilots returned home. Mission accomplished!
By the time they realized what had happened, the king was already landing in the capital of Rabat. King Hassan II immediately ordered the arrest of hundreds of disloyal officers and was ready to get his one-time buddy Oufkir. But Oufkir by this time had committed "suicide." King Hassan, unfazed, then continued to rule the country until his death by heart attack in 1999.
"You don't need a crown to be a king. Just great, elephantine balls."
Nine White Supremacists Tried to Take Over a Country
Have you ever wondered what would happen if preschoolers thought they could take over a country? Us, too. Fortunately, Operation Red Dog painted a pretty vivid picture of how that would work out -- only instead of imagining grape-juice-stained 4-year-olds storming the beach in red wagons and Big Wheels, picture white supremacists. Give them mullets and cutoff jean shorts, what do we care?
Ubermensch. Some emphasis on the "uber."
The story starts in 1979, when racist politician David Duke introduced American Klansmen to Canadian neo-Nazis, because above everything else, Duke was a matchmaker. Obviously, their mutual love of hating brown skin meant that the two groups should hook up permanently and get some race wars going. But how? Last we checked, there wasn't much of a market for "Team Hate" merchandise.
The plan that emerged was so obscenely convoluted that you'd think it came from a Bond villain: invade a country and set up a puppet government that would be friendly to their businesses. Because God knows starting a business in Canada or the United States would have been CRAZY.
"The demand for poorly tailored white robes just ain't what it used to be."
Their country of choice was Dominica. They had the former prime minister on their side and everything. And as if the motley crew wasn't racist enough, representatives of apartheid-era South Africa offered to provide funding for the escapade as well. By early 1981, the supergroup of invading racists was ready, but "ready" is a pretty subjective term. Enlisting people who didn't actually know anything about covert military operations was probably their first mistake. Buying only one boat was mistake numero dos. Hanging a swastika on their one and only boat as it docked in New Orleans: mistake three.
"We're ... uh, Hindu."
And that was when things just got comical.
The original hired crew of the S.S. White Power got spooked about the trip for some reason, so a new captain and crew were hired. It took the new captain about five minutes to suspect something was amiss, so he immediately tipped off the ATF about the Getalong Gang. The ATF then arrested the former Dominican prime minister, the one the whole plan revolved around. Wait, here's the best part: With the key person to their scheme in jail and their plans completely exposed, the team decided to go ahead and invade Dominica anyway.
A few days later, captainless and prime ministerless, the nine remaining team members began loading up the boat in New Orleans, when the ATF came up and arrested them all. The group then learned of their biggest failure: Of the nine people ready to invade, three of them were undercover ATF agents. The media quickly called the fiasco the "Bayou of Pigs," and all conspirators got three years of jail for never getting anywhere close to overturning a country.
Above: Apparently enough guns to pacify a nation of 70,000.
A Guy Tried to Take Over France With Some Forged Documents
In 1812, former musketeer and all-around French guy Claude Francois de Malet had a great idea: He was going to topple Napoleon's government.
Never mind that he had zero support from the military, or that he was living in a sanitarium when he came up with the plan ... none of that mattered. He had support from a few royalists who wanted a king on the throne and he had something every conspirator needs: crazy eyes.
Most of world history is a clash of mental illnesses.
While Napoleon Bonaparte was off fighting the Russians, Malet managed to escape the asylum, steal a general's uniform (which he gladly wore) and forge some official-looking documents to back up his audacious plan. The plan? Tell everyone that Napoleon was dead and that he was in charge now.
So, the first person "General" Malet approached was a colonel in the French National Guard. Upon seeing the Kinkos-fresh docs, the colonel was 100 percent convinced that everything the general said was true. Did it matter that he had never seen this man before, or that the documents were ordering the arrest of several of Napoleon's officials? Non. And it didn't hurt that the papers also turned this particular colonel into a general. You've got to hand it to Malet, he was pretty smooth.
So the new general released troops to the fake general, and the fake general marched everyone over to La Force prison to order the release of some of his old cronies. No one blinked an eye, but maybe that's because this was the part where Malet started shooting dissenters in the face. Yeah, that's probably why.
Malet was only a few master strokes away from taking over the entire Parisian military when he made a huge mistake: He actually let someone get a closer look at those fake papers. Colonel Jean Doucet wasn't a guy who could be easily placated with a new star for his jacket -- and he knew for a fact that Napoleon had written letters after the death date provided by Malet. Not to mention that he totally recognized the fake general from a previous insurrection and knew that the guy had put in some time at an insane asylum.
Basically, it'd be like if your boss called in sick to work and that temp who was fired for low-hanging jeans showed up, claiming he was totally in charge now. Come to think of it, this whole insurrection played out like an episode of The Office at one point. Except cast members of The Office weren't arrested, tried and executed like Claude de Malet and his collaborators were.
It's debatable whether Malet or the cast of The Office made out better.
Rebels Imprisoned Their Prime Minister on a Warship ... and Then It Sank
This next one became known as the Manhattan Rebellion, but don't worry, it's not about Occupy Wall Street -- Manhattan was the name of a boat that the United States gave to Thailand as an act of goodwill. During the ceremony for the transfer, however, junior officers from the Thai Royal Navy decided the prime minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram had to go, so they kidnapped him and locked him up on the warship Sri Ayutthaya.
It wasn't easy. He had the most highly decorated stomach in all of Thailand.
So that's a pretty successful coup so far. The prime minister is the hostage of the royal navy and he's confined to a boat. Unfortunately, the navy didn't really have a plan beyond that point. They were kind of hoping that naval officers who weren't in on the plan would immediately rush to their aid. They didn't. They also assumed that the prime minister's own backers would want to negotiate to save the prime minister's life. They absolutely didn't.
"To be honest, we're a lot more concerned about the new boat."
Instead, within six hours of the kidnapping, the army teamed up with the police and launched their own attack on the rebels' boat -- the same one Phibunsongkhram was being held on. Holy shit! They couldn't have been expecting that.
And this wasn't exactly firing some shots across their bow -- they bombed the shit out of that boat. They bombed it so hard that it sank. Amazingly, one of the few survivors was Phibunsongkhram himself, who actually swam back to shore completely uninjured and not the slightest bit bothered that his own army had just almost killed him. Considering what the navy had done to him that day, the army looked completely loyal in comparison.
Plus, they had elephants.
Without a hostage, a cohesive plan or their dignity, the navy conspirators were forced to just give up. And then the navy itself was completely dismantled, you know, just in case they ever thought they were once useful to the country in any way whatsoever.
Hitler Tried to Take Over a Beer Hall
For all you would-be rebels out there, here's a coup that proves that the only thing standing between you and success is willpower. Oh, wait. Never mind. This is a Hitler story.
"Och! Mein Godwin!"
Before Hitler became the embodiment of evil, he was just an angry guy with a mob. So on November 8, 1923, the leadership of the Weimar Republic was hosting a debate at a beer hall, because that's how they do in Germany. Young Hitler knew this was the time to strike.
Now, when you hear "beer hall," don't picture some little rinky-dink honky-tonk with Bavarians line dancing or riding mechanical bulls or whatever. This particular bar sat 3,000 people, and the place was brimming with drinkers listening to one of the leaders, Gustav Ritter von Kahr, speech it up ... until Hitler and about 20 of his friends in the German Workers Party burst in the door. Their "plan"? To kidnap the three leaders and hold a gun to their heads until they joined their cause.
"National socialism can't move forward without this mustache!"
Hitler had two things on his side -- a machine gun and 600 stormtroopers. So, maybe that's 601 things. The machine gun was position at the door and his mob surrounded the building. Adolf jumped on a chair, shot a bullet in the air and screeched the following:
"The national revolution has broken out! The hall is filled with 600 men. Nobody is allowed to leave. The Bavarian government and the government at Berlin are deposed. A new government will be formed at once. The barracks of the Reichswehr and those of the police are occupied. Both have rallied to the swastika."
Apparently Hitler was one of those guys who always looked the same.
That would have been a striking statement if any of it had been true -- for instance, the barracks at the military headquarters were not occupied by his men. Pretty much the only thing that was true about the future Fuhrer's statement was the part about nobody being able to leave, on account of the machine gun. All three members of the ruling triumvirate were forced into another room and made to dance while Hitler shot their feet. And also asked to join his new government. To his complete shock, all three refused.
And that was the first failing of the plans: The Putsch Pals really, really believed the country's rulers would just acquiesce and hand over the keys to the national Audi. When they didn't, Hitler rejoined the crowd and did the one thing he did best -- made a bombastic speech -- and the audience loved him. Boom! The Nazi era begins!
Nothing but goose-stepping and evil Boy Scouts from there on out.
Not quite. Thinking he'd won the country, Hitler takes off, and nobody knows what to do next. The next day somebody shouts, "We march!" and 2,000 Nazis just start kind of ambling through the streets of Munich, vaguely hoping the army and police would join them.
Only instead of inspiring millions, these marchers just got shot at and arrested. Hitler, who had rejoined his coup by this point, rode away from the march in a waiting car, leaving his followers to fend for themselves, where 16 of them died. He would later get arrested and sent to prison for treason.
His first-generation stormtroopers would go on to claim they were into Nazism "before it was cool."
In a perfect world, the last we would have heard of Adolf Hitler was that he was the joker who started a rebellion and then ran away crying when the guns came out. As it is, well, you know the rest.
For more bizarre acts of aggression, check out The 5 Most Retarded Wars Ever Fought and 5 Forgotten Revolutions That Created The Modern World.