5 Petty Feuds That Shaped the Modern World
Everyone's been caught in the midst of a petty feud, where two people with trivial differences screw things up for everyone around them. These mostly occur in middle school and really shitty divorces, but some petty feuds have shaped the modern world. Just because they're titans of business and leaders of nations, that doesn't mean grown men are above letting some name-calling influence their decisions. For instance ...
A Misheard Sentence Shapes the Shoe Market
Adolf and Rudolf Dassler were German brothers who shared a passion for shoemaking, and eventually they shared ownership of the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. Like most German citizens at the time, they were card-carrying members of the Nazi Party, but they sort of sucked at it. For instance, during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, they outfitted Jesse Owens with the shoes he would wear while proving that Hitler was wrong about the inferiority of black athletes.
Also unlike Hitler, the brothers' shoe-selling prowess survived World War II, and today they sell more athletic shoes and apparel than anyone other than Nike and Reebok. If you're reading this in a Western society, you've almost definitely worn their shoes or clothing. You just knew them as Puma or Adidas. While the brothers continued making shoes, they did it as separate companies.
Adolf, creator of Adidas. Full-on Nazi.
One night during an Allied bombing raid, Rudolf was sitting in his bomb shelter with his family when Adolf and his wife joined them. Maybe it was the bombs being dropped above, or perhaps a premonition of how hard his name was about to go out of fashion, but Adolf was pissed about this particular bombing raid, and greeted his brother's family with a remark about what a bunch of bastards the Allies were. Specifically, he said, "Here are the bloody bastards again."
The apparently insecure Rudolf thought Adolf was referring to him and his family. Instead of clarifying and bro-hugging it out, what followed was the sort of inexplicably persistent misunderstanding that only happens in sitcoms, bad comedies and apparently German families. Thanks to that one sentence, their relationship grew rockier over the course of the war. When American soldiers accused Rudolf of being a member of the Waffen SS (the war-crimesiest sector of the Nazi military), he assumed that his brother had put them up to it. By the time the war was over, the brothers hated each other so much that they decided they couldn't work together. And so they divided their shoe manufacturing business, with Adolf Dassler naming his company Adidas, after a wisely shortened version of his first and last name (Adolfdas probably wouldn't have sold quite as well). Rudolf chose to name his after a jungle cat, and the two companies have been trying to put each other out of business ever since.
Rudolf, creator of Puma. We really can't stress enough how Nazi these guys were.
They've run smear campaigns about each other, and like the worst divorcing parents ever, forced the citizens of their town to pick sides. Employees from the two companies wouldn't marry each other. Pubs have loyalties to one shoe company or the other. Herzogenaurach was eventually given the convoluted nickname "the town of bent necks" because the citizens wouldn't talk to another person until they checked their shoes to make sure they were wearing the same brand. And it's still like that to this day.
But at least they're Germans, so we know they won't take things too far.
The Gulf War Was a Petty Feud
After the second Iraq War, after two generations' worth of President Bush had spent billions of dollars and hundreds of American lives trying to take out the same maniacal Iraqi dictator, American soldiers finally captured the sonofabitch, and subjected him to interrogation. They wanted to know where the weapons were hidden, why he'd been such a pain in everyone's ass for the past decade and a half, and they probably teased him a little bit for writing all those shitty romance novels.
True to his reputation, Saddam went out of his way to be defiant and uncooperative in the face of FBI and CIA interrogation. An FBI intelligence officer named George Piro was finally able to start getting some answers from him by appealing to his vanity, assuring him that he was a high-ranking official who reported directly to President Bush, and presumably that President Bush would be conducting the interrogation himself, but he had a thing he couldn't get out of.
"And fourth place in the semi-national burping contest: George W. Bush!"
Once Saddam started talking, he revealed that he hadn't been expecting America to follow through with their threats of a ground invasion. This wasn't altogether surprising, since even American generals thought the ground invasion was a bad idea. What was more surprising was what Saddam had to say about his reasons for invading Kuwait, the baffling decision that started the whole damn conflict years earlier.
At the time, Iraq was in some serious debt to their tiny neighbor Kuwait, which had loaned them a whopping $80 billion for the Iran-Iraq War. At this point, America didn't have a dog in this fight. They'd given Iraq $40 million in aid to fight Iran. They were of the opinion that as long as nobody was getting too strong and invasion-y in the region, everyone would act like a couple of little Fonzies and be cool. When Saddam stationed 100,000 Iraqi soldiers along the Kuwait border, things started looking decidedly un-Fonzie-like, but then on July 25, 1990, Kuwait finally agreed to an oil settlement that would have solved the crisis. Everyone with an economic interest in the region had given both sides of the conflict a resounding "Bitch be cool!" and it had worked.
Saddam went back to his day job, revolutionizing the world of sweaters.
That is, until the emir of Kuwait said he wanted to make every woman in Iraq into a $10 prostitute. That's right, according to what Saddam told Piro under interrogation, the entire Gulf War was a result of that one insult. Saddam took this comment personally, and in revenge for it, invaded Kuwait. America and a coalition of over 20 nations and millions of forces invaded Iraq, and Saddam retaliated by attempting to invade Saudi Arabia, too.
Iraq's armed forces were annihilated in the conflict, but Saddam stayed in power, and remained defiant about the permanent presence of U.S. forces in the area, which would lead directly to his country being invaded a second time by U.S. forces, and being captured and put to death. All because one guy insulted the women of Iraq. In the end, Saddam really was a hopeless romantic.
"Seeing your mustache in this light brings me much joy ... in here."
Two Generals Feud and Allow the Entire German Army to Escape
World War II was a classic Hollywood-style come-from-behind story. The Nazis rolled over Europe and into Russia without much problem. Knowing a winner when they saw one, Japan joined the Nazis by bombing Pearl Harbor and quickly conquered the West Pacific. But by 1943, the Allies had turned a corner. The Russians had won a brutal battle in Stalingrad, and the British and American forces had just kicked the Nazis out of Africa. Contrary to what Americans like to tell themselves, they weren't the cause of, or even much of a help in, turning things around up to that point. They'd been all thumbs and assholes in Africa to the point that the British, having been firsthand witnesses, didn't want them involved with the next stop on their journey of Nazi-ass whomp: Sicily. Also known as Italy's oversized toe wart.
Or as they like to call themselves, "The James Bond poison boot mist of Europe."
Sicily had been the Nazis' chosen diving board for bombarding anything flying an Allied flag in the Mediterranean. The British had managed to convince Germany that they weren't planning to invade Sicily by stuffing a briefcase full of fake plans, handcuffing it to a dead body and dropping them off the coast of Spain, because the people who write shitty comic books were temporarily in charge of reality during World War II.
The Nazi forces in Sicily were plum for the plucking, but instead a pissing contest broke out between American general and overall badass George Patton and British General Bernard Montgomery. Each was in charge of commanding his own nation's troops in the operation and each absolutely hated the other. Montgomery saw World War II as a British war, and had seen the American troops shit up the works in Africa. Patton hated Montgomery as a general, and also hated the British in general.
You can't really tell from this angle, but each of them is trying to slyly stab the other in the hand.
The weight of their hate boners was enough to change the earth's rotation.
The plan was for British and American troops to invade from different points on the south of the island and meet up in the northern city of Messina, capturing thousands of Axis soldiers when they got there. Once both battalions had landed in Sicily, Montgomery kicked things off by taking away vital roads from the American troops at the last second and giving them to himself, causing all the American soldiers to go back to the beaches and reposition themselves.
Patton decided that this was his cue to make a charge for Messina and get there before Montgomery. In the midst of the most deadly conflict in human history, the two generals who were supposed to be cooperating would send each other messages riddled with racial slurs insulting one another's intelligence.
"... oh, and say something about how dry their sausages are."
As the generals crept closer to Messina, they began making reckless decisions that cost hundreds of lives, all to be the first one standing in Messina, wagging his dick when the other arrived. When the British showed up in Messina, victory bagpipes in hand, the Americans were there. After making the fastest advance in military history up to that point, the Americans captured Messina easily. We say easily because there were no Axis soldiers there. Why? Because while the two generals had been stretching their respective penises out to the five on their respective rulers, the Germans and Italians had actually evacuated their troops the hell off of Sicily.
Everybody around the two generals saw that they had their heads up each other's asses. According to Patton's right hand man, "However rapidly we pushed into that city, we could not cut the enemy's escape route across to Italy." In total, around 100,000 soldiers, 10,000 vehicles and 17,000 tons of equipment made it from Sicily to fight again on mainland Italy. Still, Patton got the chance to waggle his dick at the British when they arrived second in Messina. Had he not, they would have wasted all that time they'd spent polishing the little army penis helmet they'd built for the occasion.
"Pardon me if I don't stand at attention. Last time I did that, an innocent woman who was just walking by got pregnant."
Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson Cause the Nixon Presidency
If the nation ever needed a strong leader, it was after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The two most likely candidates for the role were Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who had been his brother's closest adviser, and of course Lyndon B. Johnson, who had gone from the relatively toothless position of vice president to being the leader of the free world. Unfortunately, the two men didn't see eye-to-eye, mostly because they'd spent much of the past years trying to claw them out of each other's faces.
LBJ technically drew first blood by being a vocal critic of Robert and John's father, Joe, though to be fair, lots of people were critical of Joe Kennedy, a dirty politician who'd been strongly and loudly in the "everyone's secret communists" side of McCarthyism. RFK made the beef real in their first face-to-face meeting -- a chance encounter in the Senate cafeteria. Johnson, the Senate majority leader at the time, was walking around shaking hands with senators. He'd probably said terrible things about plenty of them, but he was the most powerful guy in the room, and that's how politics works. Robert was a newly hired aide. Had Johnson farted in his face, he would have been expected to thank him for letting him smell what real men of power eat for breakfast. Instead, when the most powerful guy in the room extended his hand to the least powerful man in the room, the young man refused to stand and extend his, or even look at him. It's unknown whether LBJ said, "Oh, it is so on!" but it totally was. What could have been a deleted scene from Mean Girls would lead to a feud that would define a decade.
Kennedy, seen here picturing himself in a threesome with Johnson's wife and mother.
Things got openly hostile between Johnson and the Kennedys once again when Johnson and JFK squared off for the Democratic nomination that would eventually land Kennedy in the White House. LBJ ran a vicious campaign focused on Kennedy's Catholicism (controversial at the time). Of course, JFK would eventually ask LBJ to be his vice president because it was the strategically rational thing to do, and because he was a grown-ass man who knew that he was in politics and not an episode of The Real World. Robert, apparently less clear on that point, decided to go with the "No, but seriously, fuck some Lyndon Baines Johnson" approach, going behind his brother's back and begging LBJ to not accept his brother's offer.
According to friends and aides, JFK's assassination transformed Robert into a completely different, more soft spoken and circumspect person, which appears to have been true in every category other than the stiffness of his hate boner for Johnson. When Air Force One arrived in the hours after the assassination, he rushed past Johnson. While RFK had spent his time as attorney general as his brother's closest adviser, his time under Johnson was spent doing what he did best and giving Johnson the cold shoulder. Since politics is more like rap fights than we'd care to admit, both sides used their aides and followers to do most of their dirt. Kennedy people openly blamed Johnson for having urged President Kennedy to take the trip to Dallas. Johnson people let it be known that the president blamed RFK for the disastrous mistakes in Cuba, which he thought had created an atmosphere of conspiratorial violence. Of course, neither leader publicly blamed the other, but with the country reeling and searching for answers that would help them move along, the president and the most powerful surviving member of the previous administration were all too happy to let their people throw insane accusations at the other guy.
"Mom! Robert's being a stupid cunt!"
The next year, Kennedy resigned from the Cabinet to run for a Senate seat. LBJ grew more and more paranoid about Bobby's political aspirations, and spent the next couple of years destroying his bills just to reintroduce his own, nearly identical versions. The passage of time did nothing to give either leader perspective on how crazy it was to blame the other for the assassination, thought it did make it more acceptable for them to mock each other in public.
When the 1968 election rolled around, everyone assumed that Johnson was going to run and win his second term, but following a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary, RFK decided to run against the president. It was considered an unorthodox move to run against a sitting president from your own party, but Kennedy was riding a wave of popularity, and if he was good at one thing, it was ignoring the fact that LBJ was in a position of power. Either because he'd had enough of this shit, or realizing that a knockdown drag-out election with his dead boss' brother was a bad look, Johnson shocked the world by dropping out of the race.
"Fuck you and you and you and you. You all can eat my presidential shit. Enjoy your Nixon."
Kennedy became the frontrunner, and had just won the California primary when he was tragically assassinated, leaving the Democratic Party in tatters (leading to what was probably the shittiest convention in the history of the planet) and America up shit creek with only a Richard Nixon-shaped paddle. But even in death, the feud continued. In the last days of LBJ's presidency, Kennedy supporters in the National Park Service used a loophole to switch the name of the new Washington area football stadium from LBJ Stadium to RFK Stadium on the last day of his presidency. Had Kennedy still been alive, he probably would have been OK with just changing the name to LBJ Has No Penis Stadium.
Japanese Inter-Service Rivalry Causes the U.S. to Enter World War II
You probably know that Pearl Harbor caught America off-guard, but they weren't the only ones. For Japan to come so hard at a nation that was still deciding whether or not to sit out World War II didn't make strategic sense, by pretty much everyone's estimation. Historians had puzzled over the decision for years, and then they took a look at the inter-service rivalry between Japan's army and navy. If you're familiar with the annual Army-Navy football game in America, you know that rivalries between different factions of a nation's armed forces can get pretty heated. The feud between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Imperial Japanese Army was sort of like that, except instead of being played with a football, it was played with the fate of the world.
In order to justify more troops and funding, the Japanese army and navy spent much of the 20th century picking fights with giant countries like China and Russia, often in the face of specific orders to not attack. For instance, in World War I, the navy went rogue and captured a bunch of islands in German Micronesia after they'd been told to leave them alone. They then demanded further government money to administer the new regions they had captured without orders, and the government reluctantly forked it over.
"Thank you. Now, if you don't mind, we're off to fingerbang rattlesnakes."
By 1921, the navy had nearly twice the budget of the army, and needless to say, the army was getting a little antsy. Going back to their favorite page in the Japanese military's one-page playbook, they decided to start a new war and invaded China. Since giant warships can't really do jack shit in a land war, it was the navy's turn to sit on the sidelines with their dicks firmly in hand.
By 1941, the budget was dismally low for the navy, and nobody was quite sure what to do. Psych! Of course they knew what to do. Start a war, son!
"You fucking did WHAT?!" -All of Japan
And holy shit did they get one. After attacking the United States at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, it looked like it might work out for a while, but eventually the U.S. used their superior resources to outpunch them in the Pacific. But sure as shit, the navy got that budget increase they were angling for. So we can pretty much thank the Japanese army and navy for creating the world as we know it today.
Xavier Jackson has a list of people not to kill when he takes over the world. Join it by liking his Facebook page. If you want to send him resumes for jobs when he completes his world takeover, you can send them to XavierJacksonCracked@gmail.com.
For ways bitter rivalries screwed us all, check out 7 Incredible Scientific Innovations Held Back by Petty Feuds. Or learn about 6 Global Corporations Started by Their Founder's Shitty Luck.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Kill Me Now.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why there's bad blood between Honest Abe and William "Fat Tub" Taft.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!