6 Cartoonishly Simple Battle Plans That Worked
Considering that warfare is a wall-to-wall carnival of gruesome horror, you wouldn't think you'd run into that many moments of wacky slapstick. And you certainly wouldn't expect armies to be thwarted by tricks so stupid that they could have come from the burglary scene of Home Alone.
But that's exactly what happens in pretty much every war. After all, how else can you surprise the enemy but by doing something so stupid that they'd never expect it? Like ...
The U.S. Army Distracts the Japanese With a Kickass Air Show
Finding yourself in enemy territory as a war is winding down is like finding yourself at your ex-wife's father's house after you screwed his other daughter. And his wife. And mom. Nothing good is going to happen while you're there.
... nothing but an extra memorable Thanksgiving.
Which is why, during the last year of World War II, the Allies knew their chances of rescuing POWs held in Japanese internment camps in the Philippines were zero, give or take. For one thing, the Japanese already had a track record of seeing surrendered enemies as subhuman and had no problem executing them on a whim. Any attempted rescue could mean freeing a bunch of corpses. They needed a plan. A ridiculous one.
The Cartoonish Plan:
How do you penetrate a camp surrounded by an open field without being seen? The answer is by creating a distraction in the air and hoping that the guards look to the sky long enough for you to belly crawl your way into the camp. In the absence of a Pink Floyd laser show, they figured some sick airplane maneuvers just might do the trick.
Tragically, "Danger Zone" wouldn't be written for another 41 years.
On January 30, 1945, Captain Kenneth Schrieber and First Lieutenant Bonnie Rucks flew their P-61 into what was quite possibly the most moronic mission they had ever attempted. Flying in low, they backfired their aircraft several times while performing aerobatic maneuvers. They continued doing this for 20 minutes, and every Japanese guard watched, waiting for Schrieber and Rucks to crash.
Basically, it was the monster truck rally of the Pacific Theater.
While that was going on, several hundred U.S. soldiers and Filipino guerrillas sneaked up to the camp walls, completely unopposed and unhindered. When the order finally came to unleash hell, every single Japanese tower and pillbox was obliterated in less than 15 seconds. The Americans quickly liberated the camp and the 500 POWs located there. All because somewhere along the line, someone figured that the Japanese guards would be just as impressed by rolling airplanes as the rest of us.
Hungarians Fight Soviet Tanks With Soap and Jelly
In 1956, living in Soviet-occupied Hungary was like living in a steaming pile of fresh dog poo. Ever since the commies took over, disposable income was slashed by 90 percent, food was running out, formerly free people were working as slaves on collective farms, and everything was a mess by any reasonable person's standards. Except, of course, the guys in charge. They probably thought everything was going great.
Hungarians disagreed. After 10 years of occupation, rebels gathered by the thousands to send the government a ballsy message. If Moscow wondered what their literally hungry Hungarians thought of them, they didn't need to look further than this Hungarian flag with the Communist coat of arms ripped out.
That sure is one defiant poncho.
And their rebellion worked -- for 10 days. In a surprise move that shocked no one but the rebels themselves, the Soviet Union rolled tanks into Budapest and squashed the revolt to a bloody pulp. But that didn't stop the Hungarians from coming up with some pretty innovative battle techniques before the whole thing was over.
The Cartoonish Plan:
In the absence of real weapons, the revolutionaries were forced to improvise their defense with whatever goods were laying around the house at the time. And what they had available was cooking oil, soap, jam, and soft fabric.
"Did I grab the wrong list? I thought I wrote down 'grenades.'"
Once the tanks started rolling into Budapest, they noticed something a little weird about the streets -- specifically, that they were on the slippery side. That's because the rebels had covered the roads in cooking oil and soap so the tanks couldn't get traction. At one point the tank drivers found themselves trying to drive over piles of silk that had been strewn across the streets. Have you ever tried to drive on silk? It's not only impossible, but kind of fabulous. Even more embarrassing, while the tanks were stuck on the world's most aggressive Slip 'n' Slide, kids would smear their windows with jelly.
Sadly, no amount of Smucker's was going to stop the Soviet machine from pouring into Hungary, and the rebellion was crushed. But at some point, maybe only briefly, a bunch of kids stopped 70-ton rolling death machines in their tracks using nothing but items you can find in your kitchen right now.
"Watch out! Snacks, 3 o'clock!"
The U.S. Army Is Defeated by a Cross-Dressing Enemy
Five minutes in a history class will teach you that America wasn't always the good guy in every story. Case in point: Thanks to the Spanish-American War and a little something known as imperialism, the U.S. found itself in possession of the Philippines in 1898, which is a whole other story for a whole other day. And as usual, the occupied country wasn't having it and rebelled. Thus the Spanish-American War segued nicely into the Philippine-American War and American troops ended up holding the Filipino town of Balangiga. Not "holding" like hugging, but "holding" like "starving out" and "offending locals" in as many ways as they could manage.
There's not a lot of hugging in imperial occupation, sadly.
The townspeople wanted the Americans out, but the Americans had something they didn't: guns. All the rebels had going for them was a little more manpower, alcohol, and Filipino ingenuity.
The Cartoonish Plan:
Get the Americans drunk and sneak more rebels into the town by dressing them up as women. And yes, it worked.
Making it the first war to ever call for "Yakety Sax" in the documentary soundtrack.
The whole scheme was actually more complicated and less Bugs Bunnyish than that, but not by much. The rebels wanted to attack the American base, but they didn't want their women and children put in jeopardy, so the non-fighters were sent away to safety the night before the raid. But a village suddenly devoid of women might look suspicious, like a night without stars or a Lady Gaga without hilarious joke clothes. So the rebels not only threw on some dresses, but put together a fake funeral procession. Inside the coffins were -- you guessed it -- more dresses! Just kidding, it was knives.
Presumably carried by guys arguing over which badass one-liner rhymes best with "pall bearer."
Imagine this scene from the perspective of the American soldiers: Thanks to local generosity and the occasion of the town's anniversary, you've been plied with ample alcohol for the night. Drunk as shit, you spot the unprettiest women you've ever seen in your life making their way into the chapel. And they're carrying either oddly shaped suitcases or tiny coffins. Do you investigate? One American dared to disrupt the procession, opening a coffin with his bayonet. To his horror, there was the body of a dead child in it. So he presumably apologized profusely and cried a little bit at what he'd become. Little did he know there were weapons in the other coffins.
By six the next morning, the guerrillas and locals were stationed in hidden spots around the barracks while the Americans were nursing hangovers and dragging themselves to the mess hall, completely unaware that they were about to get got. One fighter seized an American rifle and rang the church bell to signal the attack. American soldiers were confused to see all of the women strip down and reveal that -- surprise! -- they were armed soldiers all along. The next few hours were an unequivocal bloodbath. Of the 74 members of Company C, all but a dozen were killed or wounded in the surprise attack, plus the rebels got all their guns and ammo.
We'd tell you how the U.S. responded to the raid, but this isn't a list of straight up crimes against humanity, so we won't.
Improvised Explosive Devices Defeated With RC Toys
You probably already know that the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing like the wars we've seen in Hollywood over the years. For example, most American deaths aren't a result of awesome firefights, but from homemade bombs detonated remotely. Road signs, cars, animal carcasses, people ... anything can carry a shrapnel bomb that can kill dozens. And the worst part is that there are few ways to detect an IED, because you can't tell you're in danger until you're about to meet Jesus.
There's one piece of good news in this awful story: The best defense against IEDs comes from an unlikely source, and it's not cute little dogs risking their lives. The best defense against improvised bombs is a child's toy.
The Cartoonish Plan:
When software engineer Ernie Fessenden heard about the IEDs killing American soldiers, he immediately worried about his brother stationed in Afghanistan, Staff Sargeant Chris Fessenden. But instead of posting a heartwarming meme and asking for "likes" on Facebook, he actually got out his tools and started on a project -- a remote control toy car that could trick bombs into detonating early.
Making "vroom" noises isn't necessary for bomb sweeping, but it doesn't hurt.
The toy truck runs alongside real tanks like a faithful puppy, having a great time (as Toy Story has taught us that toy cars love to do). Only this toy car can be steered into threats and take the hit of improvised bombs before the sentient humans ever get hurt. And that was exactly what happened in 2011, when Fessenden's toy remote controlled truck detonated a bomb that was meant for six Humvee soldiers.
They affectionately named him "Fido."
The technique has been so effective that Fessenden developed a group called Trucks to Troops in order to fund even more RC cars to help protect U.S. soldiers. After spending millions of dollars upgrading vehicle armor and developing radio jammers to stop cell signals to no avail, the greatest threat to soldiers fighting in the Middle East today was defeated using something any kid could buy from his local toy store down the street.
World War II Allies Treated Flying Bombs Like Harmless Turtles
Before there was such a thing as guided missiles, there was Germany's V-1 bomb, the world's first remotely launched flying bomb. So rather than simply dropping the bomb from a piloted plane, the weapons were launched from Axis-controlled pads in France. When the bastards strategically ran out of fuel, they fell to Earth at 350 mph and exploded, if everything went well.
... or at least as well as any "flying Nazi rocket bomb" scenario can go.
So on top of dealing with food rations, dying husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons, and pasty complexions, the women left on the English homefront were also left with the prospect that these howling death rockets were on their way, and by 1944, the V-1 bombs were launched at a rate of a freaking hundred per day.
The Cartoonish Plan:
In a moment of complete desperation/genius, the Royal Air Force figured out something crazy about the V-1 bombs. If you flipped them over, they were completely useless, like an upside down ladybug or a baby.
Sadly, that's the only intersection between "infant" and "rocketry."
So how do you flip a bomb? Very carefully. The move was called the coup de wing, and pilots performed it by flying right under the bomb itself. When the little stubby wings of the bomb were tipped, it lost its stability and plopped to the ground then and there, undetonated. So ideally, the maneuver was carried out over fields and water, rather than school buildings.
"You've just been ... wingtipped."
It had to have made for some harrowing moments, what with having to fly a plane so close to a 2,000-pound bomb that you're freaking touching it. We suspect the reason you don't see more scenes of bomb-tipping in old World War II movies is that the whole thing is kind of sad.
Hey, speaking of pilots being crazy people with no regard for personal safety ...
Robert Klingman Plays Bumper Cars With a Japanese Plane
Robert Klingman was an F4U Corsair pilot in World War II serving in the Pacific. One day his carrier spotted a Japanese recon aircraft, so Klingman and some other pilots were sent to shoot it down. Simple enough. Bing. Bang. Boom.
Except that when the Japanese pilot saw the Americans approaching, he decided to start flying higher and higher, because either he thought his plane could handle the altitude better or he was hoping to eventually reach an asteroid field he could dodge through. By 38,000 feet, only Klingman was left in the dogfight, as all his wingmen had to bug out because, sure enough, the height was killing their engines. The only reason Klingman was able to press on was because he had expended most of his ammunition on the way up to lighten his aircraft.
"Shoot motherfuckers" and "visit space" are on our to-do list as well.
Klingman maneuvered himself to within 50 feet of the enemy aircraft's tail and squeezed the trigger to send them tumbling toward death. One problem: At that altitude, the guns were frozen. Klingman assessed his options and came up with a solution.
The Cartoonish Plan:
Klingman decided the giant spinning propeller on the front of his aircraft was less a tool for keeping his fighter aloft and more a giant spinning death blade to use against his enemy. So, he decided to ram the aircraft and use his propeller to literally chop the enemy plane up, like something out of a Bugs Bunny World War II propaganda cartoon.
It's basically the Benihana chef of the skies.
Now, the last we checked, two aircraft colliding in midair usually never ends well for either aircraft. But not only did Klingman not fall out of the sky in flames, he managed to get three chops into the enemy aircraft. Each time he shredded away more and more of the Japanese plane. On the third hit, Klingman managed to evaporate the rudder of the (probably confused) enemy, sending him into a spiral of death toward the beckoning ocean.
"Feed me your lesser men!"
You'd think that by this point, Klingman would be plummeting to Earth right behind him. In fact, you're probably thinking that he was actually suicidal all along. You're wrong. After using the one thing that was keeping his aircraft flying as a tail fin shredder, Klingman landed his plane safely ... leaving behind chunks of the propeller.
Related Reading: Badass battle plans are one thing- but how about improvised weapons? You'll never look at war the same way again once you've read about the Polish Home Army's tank-killing homemade flamethrowers. And if you think you know what a big cannon looks like, you should check out the $2.7 million pound Gustav gun. Hell, let's follow "Giant" as a theme. Read about the hugest things in the history of war.