The 5 Most Adorable Stories in the History of War
There are two places you'll never expect to find stories of cuteness: the toilet and battlefronts. And while we have yet to hear anything adorable coming from the former, we do know a few heartwarming stories that happened at the scene of some of history's most brutal struggles.
The Okunoshima Chemical Weapons Bunny Rabbit Factory
From Gettysburg to Verdun, areas involved in wartime atrocities carry their scars decades after the actual fighting has stopped. But sometimes, just sometimes, nature takes a look at that shit and decides to reclaim what was once ruined by humans -- Disney-style.
For example, Okunoshima is a tiny island just off mainland Japan that was the hub of Japan's chemical warfare program during World War II, housing facilities that produced atrocious amounts of deadly mustard gas. If you go there today, you will find hundreds and hundreds of adorable bunny rabbits:
And thousands of gallons of buried nerve gas. But hey, bunnies!
Being a secret military facility (and probably also because "Top Secret Skin-Eating-Gas Cannery" is hard to fit onto a tiny dot on a map), Okunoshima was erased from official maps when the factories were cranking out poison during the war. Even after the facilities were shut down and abandoned, Japan decided to leave it out of the maps due to their shameful past. Can you blame them? Over the decades, however, people started visiting the island again, because the thrill of creepy abandoned places always overrules survival instinct sooner or later. What these visitors found was scores of cute, fluffy bunnies, skippity-hopping all over the island.
And, just like that, the most brutal war in human history was totally worth it.
Hundreds upon hundreds of bunnies. Just bouncing around the abandoned facilities, cavorting amongst themselves without a worry in the world. They aren't the usual shy variety, either -- the instant people set foot on the island, bunnies gather at their feet and start begging for treats.
But how does an island best known for its role in wartime atrocities evolve into a haven for free-range bunnies? The most logical explanation would be that the rabbits are descendants of test animals that were released when the facilities were shut down. The truth, however, just adds to the fairy tale vibe of the island: In 1971, a nearby elementary school was having difficulty caring for their class pets. They had to get rid of their eight rabbits. Somehow, they ended up choosing the creepy abandoned chemical weapons island as the perfect place to dump said rabbits, because apparently the whole "teaching students responsibility" thing wasn't really in vogue back then.
Sadly, this woman lasted another seven seconds before the horde consumed her.
But the eight domesticated bunnies, cast into the wild with only each other to rely on, survived. And bunnies being bunnies, there were soon a lot more than eight. Because it's difficult to remain an ominous site when your every square foot features a contestant for the most adorable creature in the world, Okunoshima cast away its war-mongering past literally overnight. Today, the island is popularly known as Usagi Shima (Rabbit Island), and the dark clouds of its past have dissipated to make way for a future full of peace, sunshine ... and bunnies. Lots and lots of little furry bunnies.
Adorably inbred little furry bunnies.
The Civil War Toy Boat Messengers
During the second half of 1862, soldiers in the Civil War were getting bored. Camped on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River in Virginia, they were locked in a waiting game -- the Northern army was waiting for a bunch of pontoon boats to be fastened together as bridges, and the Southerners were waiting for the Northerners to just try and cross. But this ended up taking weeks, and so the two armies, both made up of Americans, wound up having a lot of time to sit and stare at each other. What's more, the area where they had set up camp had precisely jack shit to do. Eventually, they started to get goofy.
"It took hours to carve all those dicks on the cannonballs, but it'll be worth it once the fighting starts."
They were all stuck somewhere they didn't want to be, waiting to do unpleasant things they didn't want to be doing to a bunch of other guys they didn't even know. In a nutshell, it resembled a particularly crappy summer camp, and many of the soldiers were pretty young. So they started behaving accordingly: They built little toy boats and sent them across the river to the enemy soldiers.
The boats carried soldier variations of those little notes kids send to each other in the classroom. Instead of a scrap of paper with a "Do you like us?" scribble, the Southerners would fill a boat with tobacco, then float it over. Northern soldiers would send the boat back, stacked with coffee.
These were valuable gestures of friendship during a time when such luxury supplies were nearly nonexistent, and they didn't go unnoticed on either side. Like little boys on opposite sides of a river, the soldiers began making new friends. Waves and informal friendly gestures were exchanged across the water. When the Confederates held sports contests, Union troops were eager spectators from their waterside seats.
They were hoping for a long injury time.
Eventually, men would even start crossing the river to meet with their friends on the other side, engaging in conversation, exchanging newspapers and generally acting like actual human beings toward the very men they were supposed to attack.
This would go on for weeks before the Battle of Fredericksburg would snap everyone back to reality.
"Unfiltered? You cheap shits."
Robert E. Lee Rescues a Baby Bird
General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of North Virginia, was a badass to end all badasses. When the Civil War started, he was offered by both Winfield Scott and Abraham Lincoln full command of the Union armies. Instead, Lee chose the opposite side and proceeded to repeatedly fight and win battles against the Union -- despite being constantly outnumbered more than 2 to 1. This was presumably his way of telling Lincoln, "No, thank you, I will not accept your offer." A masterful and ruthless strategist and a self-admitted leader by nature, chances were that many Union soldiers would rather face the Grim Reaper himself than Lee.
"Is the building behind me exploding? No? I want someone flogged."
So, yeah, we're not talking about a particularly gentle and sensitive man. Bear that in mind as you read on.
Toward the end of the Civil War, Lee's army was stuck within the borders of Petersburg and Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. His men were barefoot, starving and low on ammunition. To Lee, however, this whole "hopelessly outnumbered" thing was business as usual, and he went about his day with barely a change in his composure. Until finally one day, when getting intelligence on enemy positioning under some heavy fire, Lee suddenly stopped dead (not literally). He gathered his men around him, and with a voice as quiet as a grave told them:
"Men, you had better go into the backyard. They are firing up here, and you are exposing yourself to unnecessary danger."
"Especially since there's a whole bunch of necessary danger just beyond that hill."
The men, used to obeying their commander, immediately rushed for shelter. Upon reaching there, however, they noticed that the worried-looking Lee wasn't following them. Instead, the old man walked out to a tree, totally oblivious to gunfire. He reached down to the ground, and then up into the tree. Then, without hurry, he jumped on his horse and rode away, every bit the hardass that was par for his particular course.
Curious, some soldiers went out to check what the old man was up to. In the tree, there was a nest. In the nest, there was a freshly rescued baby sparrow.
Who had already imprinted on Lee and wasn't taking shit from anyone.
General Lee had spotted a freaking baby bird, fallen from its nest. There and then, the man made it his immediate mission in life to help it back to shelter. The reason he ordered his men away was that he didn't want any witnesses for this moment of gentleness.
Which, come to think of it, brings forth a question: Since we know about that story today, the word obviously spread. This means that at some point, Lee must've figured out who ratted out his bird-saving antics. While we have no idea how he dealt with that guy, we're reasonably sure it wouldn't have made it into this article.
"Men, I've found a new source of leather for your boots."
But hey, that's probably why they lost the war. You sure as hell wouldn't have seen Union General Ulysses S. Grant getting all soft around animals ...
General Grant Stops to Defend a Whipped Horse
In 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant was the Optimus Prime of the Union Army and the future 18th President of the United States, as shown in the famed documentary film Wild Wild West. He had plenty of negative personality traits to balance out all that high-and-mightiness, though: Grant had a reputation as a drunk and was known to hate meat with a taste of blood in it (notoriously embarrassing during a time when bloody was the only flavor meat came in) and for accepting no terms but unconditional surrender on occasion.
"No one's hat shall be taller than mine."
Grant was preparing his army to march on the Southern capital, where Robert E. Lee and his troops waited, in a buildup to what would be the Battle of the Wilderness, the first of their many death matches.
On the road to the battlefield, Grant knew full well who he was up against and where he was heading. His mind must have been teeming with strategies for what was destined to be the single bloodiest part of the Civil War. Within mere days, he would face battles so intense, thousands of people would be gunned down in minutes. What's more, Grant was developing the headache of his life. Which made it all the more amazing when he dropped it all to defend a horse.
To be fair, it was a really attractive horse.
His party came upon a teamster whose cart had sunk in the mud. In true "minor bad guy in a history movie" fashion, the man was attempting to get out of the ditch by whipping the ever-loving crap out of his poor horse.
From that second on, it was clear that Grant -- a man famous for showing little fear or emotion -- did in fact have one berserk button: cruelty to animals, particularly horses. Grant Hulked out the instant he saw the poor horse, visibly angered for the first time since, well, ever.
The teamster paid him no attention. That was his first strike.
"Whipping horses is cruel, but exposing them to gunfire and explosions is totally cool."
Grant ordered the man to stop, swearing like a sailor, despite notoriously despising foul language. The teamster, who must have been either the bravest or the dumbest person in the history of everything, somehow saw this as a challenge and answered back: "Who's driving this team anyhow, you or me?" Second strike.
There never was a third strike. Within the minute, the teamster found himself tied to a tree for six hours, while he thought long and hard about what he did.
This tree should do fine.
The Great Snowball Battle of Rappahannock Academy
Yes, we realize almost all of our examples are from the Civil War. Our research found conclusively that it was the most adorable war ever fought, and we dare you to prove otherwise.
In February of 1863, the Confederate Army found itself in a jam near Rappahannock Academy. Two back-to-back snowstorms buried several divisions under nearly a foot and a half of snow in northern Virginia. After five days of relentless snow, the sun finally returned and milder temperatures began to soften the deep snow cover.
A lot of good snowmen died that day.
The soldiers emerged from their tents into the newly white landscape, pushed to their extreme limit. They were wet, freezing, filthy and hungry -- this could not go on any further. They had one thing in mind, and one thing alone:
A 10,000-man snowball fight.
The Confederate Army had recently undergone an organizational overhaul, which had led to a certain amount of friendly rivalry between units. Up to that point, this had been limited to verbal barbs and we assume the occasional West Side Story-style dance battle. But when the battle-hardened soldiers took one look at the vast fields of ideal-for-snowballs snow, they knew shit was about to go down -- 11-year-old style.
"Make them snowballs bigger. I've got me an idea ..."
In the morning of February 25, General Hoke riled up his North Carolinian soldiers for an early morning assault at the camp of Colonel Stiles' Georgian Brigade. They formed up in full battle lines -- complete with cavalry and everything -- and followed their officers straight into the Georgians' camp, where they proceeded to pelt them with snowballs.
Understandably, the Georgians were taken by surprise when the barrage of friendly fire hit them in the form of a metric fuckton of snow. It was looking like a quick victory for Hoke's boys, until everyone at the nearby camps noticed what was going on and decided to help. The influx of reinforcements joined in on the ruckus and pushed Hoke's soldiers back.
"Hey! That one had a severed finger in it!"
With North Carolina on the retreat, Colonel Stiles quickly convened a Council of Snowball War for counterattack measures. He decided to employ a variation of the most basic of military strategies: organize his troops, put a snowball in the hand of each man and march straight into the heart of "enemy" territory.
Sadly, Stiles had never learned the "build a big-ass snow wall and park yourself behind it" gambit as a kid, while Hoke clearly had plenty of experience. Stiles' men stormed the North Carolinians' camp in a neat formation -- only to find Hoke's troops standing steadfast against them, each and every one of them holding the middle schooler's equivalent of a Gatling gun: a sack filled to the brim with snowballs.
"How stupid are they? We've got guns."
What followed was nothing less than a snowbath, where hundreds of Georgians were captured and "whitewashed." It was later described by a participant as "one of the most memorable combats of the war." Even though the Georgians and their allies eventually succumbed to the superior firepower of the North Carolinians, everyone went back to their camps happy -- they'd all had jolly good fun, and the worst injuries of the day were a few bumps and scrapes here and there.
So, in case you spend your time reading comedy websites, governments of the world: Please consider fighting all future wars as epic snowball battles. The precedent's right there.
So that's sorted then, Canada. Mexico can referee.
For more stories that combine cuteness with war, check out this article.
For some not-so-cute war stories, check out 5 Soldiers Whose Horrific Injuries Only Made Them Angry and 6 WWI Fighter Pilots Whose Balls Deserve Their Own Monument.