6 Hilarious Pranks Pulled by Soldiers in the Middle of War
War is hell, but it is a hell that historically is made up almost entirely of young, high-testosterone males. And no matter what the setting, when you get a bunch of dudes together in the same place, shenanigans will ensue. That's why the horrific history of warfare is littered with wacky pranks that are alternately admirable and utterly insane, making us think that war is really just high school with bombs. How else do you explain things like ...
Sarcastically Bombing Fake Airfields With Fake Bombs
With World War II raging in Europe, the Germans were fighting a losing battle. They needed to look more powerful than they actually were, so they came up with an ingenious solution: build a bunch of fake airfields out of wooden decoys. It's not as stupid as it sounds; a good fake can look just like the real thing from 30,000 feet.
This is a remnant of one. We're pretty sure it's now just filled with used condoms and homemade crack pipes.
But in fact, the Allies soon realized that all of those airfields, complete with runways, fake aircraft, and buildings, were nothing more than elaborate props that could be defeated by an army of termites. The only thing left was to figure out the best way to let the Germans know that they weren't fooling anyone (in the most sarcastic way possible).
So the Allies flew bombing raids over these fake wooden airfields, presumably sending the German fake (wooden?) ground crews scrambling for cover. After several intense minutes in which nothing happened, the Germans finally realized what the Allies were doing: They were dropping fake wooden bombs on them.
"We need a volunteer for a highly classified mission. Who's good with a lathe?"
Just to make it absolutely clear to the Germans what was going on, many of these bombs had the phrase "Wood for Wood" painted on them. Yes, what the military calls "psychological warfare," the rest of us call "being a smartass."
Braving Gunfire in Order to Prank Some Marines
Have you ever watched a cop movie where the hunt for some serial killer gets interrupted by a pissing match between the cops and some other agency, like the FBI? You know, where the feds are asserting "jurisdiction" in order to get all the credit for catching the bad guy? Did you find yourself thinking that the whole thing was ridiculous, as if nobody in the real world would actually put the mission aside over some dumb rivalry? Just wait until you hear about the pissing match between the U.S. Marines and the Navy frogmen.
People always think the Marines were the first ones to hit the beaches in World War II, but there was an elite group of Navy sailors who actually went to the beaches first to scout them out. They were known as the frogmen, and they were basically the Navy SEALs of World War II.
"War is that way. Here's your Speedo."
Being the predecessors to bin Laden killers, the frogmen had a reputation they took quite a bit of pride in -- so the frogmen wanted to make it abundantly clear to the Marines who exactly was at the beach first. And after the Marines bragged that they would totally be first, the completely mature frogmen planned a prank to prove the Marines wrong.
So, on one mission in Guam, several of the frogmen scurried up onto the beach in full view of the enemy. With bullets and death quickly reaching them, they hastily left something behind and got out of there. They had risked their lives so that when the Marines invaded Guam later, they would find a certain sign waiting for them:
"We'll be in town getting syphilis long before you pull out your filthy Marine junk."
Yep, it's a hand-painted sign planted in the middle of a war zone, taunting their fellow soldiers for coming in second place in the race to get to a spot where they were likely to die. We're telling you -- war does funny things to people.
Naturally, the frogmen's commanding officer was pissed off and reprimanded the men. And then proceeded to brag about the incident to Marine generals later.
"It was a dangerous and stupid stunt, and- wait, this isn't a person I'm yelling at. Oh, you wacky frogmen!"
Singing Sarcastic Songs on a Sinking Ship
In 1979, the British comedy film Life of Brian was released. Among its more famous sequences is when Brian is left to be crucified, and a soon-to-be-dead Eric Idle starts singing a song about always looking on the bright side of life, aptly named "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." The song caught on in popular media and, of course, war zones.
In 1982, the Falklands War was raging between Argentina and the United Kingdom. On the fourth of May, an Argentinian jet unleashed a lethal Exocet missile onto the British ship the HMS Sheffield. The ship was destroyed, and the crew was left to sit and wait for rescue. Sensing an abrupt drop of morale, the crew decided to cheer themselves up by singing. Appropriately, they sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." And this, it turns out, would begin a truly insane tradition among British troops.
"It's going down! Quick, break out the emergency karaoke machine!"
A month later, the HMS Coventry was bombarded and eventually sunk. Sitting in the water while watching their ship flip over and fall to the depths, the crew could think of nothing better to do than sing a wonderfully ironic tune to cheer themselves back up. And stick it to the enemy as well.
Nearly a decade later, the tradition still hadn't died out. In 1991, during the Gulf War, British Tornado bombers often had the most dangerous missions. They were flying hazardous low-level bombing runs on Iraqi airfields in a storm of anti-aircraft fire. Every time they went up, they knew there was a good chance they might not return, so they needed something cheerful to send themselves off. Which is why they sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
"If you're taking requests, can you do the universe song next?"
Staging the Classic "Phantom Musket" Prank
As awful as war is now, it can't compare to the conflicts of centuries ago, when you had a great chance of dying from infection, cold, or the plague, even if you never came within sight of a battlefield. Did the fact that Army life back then was a never-ending parade of sickness and starvation kill the desire for wacky battlefield shenanigans? Not in the slightest.
"Pull my finger."
During the American Revolution, for instance, soldiers weren't always the most professional (mainly because they weren't professionals), which wasn't helped by the fact that they often went without pay, and their commanding officers were often stuffy, wealthy types. So the relationship often resembled what you saw between the students and principal in The Breakfast Club. There were ridiculous conflicts over the rules about how hats were to be worn, and soldiers got revenge by pulling childish pranks, like tying a hunk of burning straw to an officer's horse to make it freak out. It was basically high school, is what we're saying.
"I say we light Colonel Fuckingham's wig on fire next."
Which brings us to one of the most Breakfast Club-ish examples of this behavior. There was at the time a standing order to not fire muskets in camp -- powder and shot were for war, not fun, and they didn't have unlimited amounts of either. However, it was also a rule that a soldier named Joseph Plumb Martin decided would be perfect for driving the officers crazy. All he needed was a loaded musket, some string, and a place to hide ... all three of which were pretty easy to come by in a military camp.
Once they were ready, a musket was loaded with the string connected to the trigger and placed inside an empty tent. Martin pulled the string, the weapon discharged, and the officers proceeded to go apeshit looking for the person responsible. Unable to locate the violator, they went back to officer-ing, and Martin rigged up another surprise. Moments later, the officers were once again on the hunt for the joker who was making a mockery of the standing orders. They proceeded to do this all through the night.
"Oh, man. Dude, look what I just found. This one is going to be epic!"
Then everyone probably had a good laugh before dying of malaria.
Fighting Aircraft With Asses
Contrary to what you see in movies, in war you can't just start shooting the hell out of every enemy you see. Soldiers are operating under rules of engagement that actually change depending on the mission. And during Vietnam, the ROE sometimes put troops in a situation where they couldn't shoot unless the enemy shot at them first. And the enemy knew it.
"Come at me, bro. Too pussy to take a shot? I'm right here."
So during one mission in 1971, first lieutenant Gordon Evans was flying a small propeller-driven scout plane and saw some North Vietnamese soldiers he wanted to shoot. His four machine guns would do the job beautifully. Except the darn rules of engagement said the soldiers had to fire at him first, and here is where you realize that war is fucking madness.
In order to get the enemy to shoot at him, Evans went in low, intentionally trying to provide a juicy target. No dice -- they just watched him fly by. He went around again, slower this time, deliberately trying to get the men on the ground with machine guns to try to murder him.
"Next pass, I'm gonna fly real low and cockslap the shit outta 'em."
Again, they refrained.
Finally, Evans decided he'd give them a target they couldn't resist. He came around again, landing gear down, full flaps, landing lights -- the equivalent of a "SHOOT ME DAMN IT" neon sign on his aircraft.
This time he got a reaction: Several dudes shot him ... the moon. They knew exactly what he was doing and were too smart to take the bait. So, in true "war is just high school with more guns" style, they dropped trou and full-on mooned him.
"Now quickly, storm the beaches! Saturate it with your powers of smartass. And regular ass!"
Giving a Mass Naked Salute
Prince Henry Charles of Wales, affectionately known as Prince Harry, is a popular British "royal" who is third in line for the crown and is respected and admired in England, in part because he eschewed the posh life of traveling and going to university in favor of enrolling in the British military. But in 2012, he got in a bit of hot water when a party he attended in Las Vegas got a little out of hand and some photos of him sans clothing turned up on the Internet.
Instead of being embarrassed or angry, however, over 13,000 people joined a Facebook page called "Support Prince Harry With a Naked Salute." Standing in solidarity with the prince, who was subject to be reprimanded when he returned to the Army Air Corps, British soldiers stripped down and saluted him while taking pictures.
"This is my rifle; this is my gun ... wait, which is which again?"
The photos showed female as well as male participants, many of whom abhorred the idea of posing in a state of undress on the Internet, but damn it, they just had to express their support. And what else are they going to do, sign a petition?
"To be perfectly honest, we were doing this long before we heard about the Prince Harry thing."
Although no one was likely disciplined for the stunt, army commanders didn't approve. One source told a British newspaper, "Everyone sees the funny side but there are people at senior levels in the army who do not consider this to be appropriate. They will be thinking 'Does this really show us in the professional light we want to be seen in?'" And really, when have soldiers ever acted unprofessionally?
Douglas A. McDonnell also enjoys participating in our Photoplasty contests. Xavier Jackson has an email at XavierJacksonCracked@gmail.com, and he also has a "Fun Fact of the Day" on his Facebook page.
For more people enjoying themselves just a little too much during war, check out The 6 Coolest Things Said by Soldiers Before Killing People and The 10 Greatest Uses of Trash Talk in the History of War.