11 Old War Photos You Won't Believe Aren't Fake (Part 2)
War is like a hellish meat grinder that takes a steady stream of humans in one end and pushes a misery shower of blood, guts, and despair out the other. As it turns out, it is also a recipe for wacky pictures. We've already told you about some of the strangest war images ever captured, and now we bring you even more real photographs that are almost too ridiculous for words.
It comes with a little flag labeled "bang!"
OK, this is clearly a screenshot from a Marx brothers movie. There's no way air raids have ever been as imprecise as a game of beer pong, even back when airplanes had to be pedaled into the sky and could only be flown by pilots weighing less than 130 pounds. Also, who is taking the picture? World War I flying aces didn't have dashboard cams, and unless a helpful gremlin stowed away with the entire trunkful of equipment required to take a photograph 100 years ago, this photo is obviously staged.
Actually, it turns out that during World War I, bombing enemy targets was basically like playing darts with explosives, because the bombs had to be aimed and dropped by hand. Correction: a badly shaking and sweating hand.
However, that's not exactly what's happening in that picture, because that picture wasn't taken on an airplane. It was taken on a SSZ-class blimp, a setup so desperately primitive it was essentially a boat dangling beneath a giant balloon.
They were supposed to kill people, but they kept going on whimsical adventures instead.
A small team of soldiers could sit inside this airborne canoe as it spit in the face of God and drop satchels of bombs on the populace below like a bunch of disgruntled Christmas elves, because as this article demonstrates, old-timey war frequently set the benchmark for unintentional comedy.
World War II Was Fought with Action Figures
Its mother was a tank. No one can identify the father.
Apparently, COBRA was instrumental in the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
The nefarious contraption in that photo is most likely the Soviet Progvev-T, a gas-dynamic minesweeper. Weighing in at 37 tons, it consisted of a tank with a MiG-15 jet engine strapped to its roof, which would superheat a kerosene flame that, when pointed at the ground, would ignite and detonate any mines lying in wait. Yes, the Soviets built a tank for the specific purpose of shambling across the countryside and blasting superheated jet flame at the ground until it exploded.
Really, though, this was far from the most ridiculous-looking vehicle on tank treads. Take the German SdKfz 2, for example:
"Did someone weld two bikes back to back? HOGAN!!"
The SdKfz 2, or Kettenkrad, was an armored motorcycle that saw extensive use on the Eastern front, because it was one of the few things that didn't sink into the gray oceans of mud the Russians called roads. However, this probably didn't stop the Russians from making fun of the Germans for riding around on golf carts like a bunch of assholes.
"Ignore them. They're just jealous."
Magnets. They do it with magnets.
Nope. Whatever is supposed to be happening in this picture cannot possibly be real. There is no way a 15-ton mobile fortress with the top speed of a dead snail could ever become airborne. That's either a toy or a paper cutout of a tank that someone dangled in front of the camera with fishing wire. No other explanation makes sense.
But that picture does indeed show a M3 light tank kissing the sky. The M3 could achieve speeds of 36 mph -- probably not enough to help the Duke boys escape Rosco P. Coltrane, but more than sufficient to jump a small ravine. In fact, most tanks were way faster and more mobile than we give them credit for. For example, the British Cromwell tank boasted an impressive weight of 31 tons and a top speed of 40 mph, which, when combined with a ramp, transformed it into an aircraft wrought from hatred and destruction:
"Please put your tray tables in the 'Fuck you, Hitler' position."
No, that's not cat fur. Look down.
This photograph has the unique distinction of being both 100 percent authentic and exactly what it looks like. That is a bunch of soldiers spraying jets of flaming death into the night sky, because apparently there either wasn't quite enough war going on or the Army had a bunch of spare flamethrowers laying around.
Bucking the trend of catchy songs and dance numbers, the Army War Show, which started in 1942, aimed to raise money for the war effort by dazzling enraptured crowds with the discharging of horrific deadly weaponry. The flamethrower display took place in New Orleans, but other shows (which always performed for sold-out venues) included such acts as weapons firing, cavalry riding, tanks crashing cars, and "jeep comedy routines," which is a phrase that makes no immediate sense and cannot possibly be defined to our satisfaction. Why not incorporate comedy into the flamethrower bit? The jokes practically write themselves.
Cartoon Supervillain Headgear
Technology constantly changes the face of warfare, which in 1917 was apparently all about fighting cybernetic mice conquistadors from the jungles of Neptune. Either that or the trench warfare of World War I was so dismal that everyone agreed that Friday would be Wacky Hat Day to increase troop morale. Third possibility -- those are mind-reading helmets, and the Germans have just deduced that the Allies are trying to sell them a subscription to the Saturday Evening Post.
The source of those Disney anti-Semitism rumors.
Actually, those guys in the photograph are two German Feldartillerie (field artillery) soldiers, which means that what's strapped to their heads is most likely some kind of device meant to detect the approach of enemy planes (while risking serious hearing damage should someone happen to fire artillery in their immediate vicinity).
Nowadays that job is performed by radar, but up until World War II, enemy detection was done entirely by sight and sound, meaning soldiers had to try to spot approaching planes, tanks, and infantry with their eyes and ears and nothing else. Sure, you may spend most of the day looking like a cartoon character, and it would immediately become completely useless the moment any fighting started, but a tenuous, unreliable advanced warning system is still better than getting bombed out of the blue.
The Military's Top Secret Car Plane
To keep the secret, they shot all 150 spectators.
Despite appearances, this is not Doc Brown trying to hit 88 miles per hour in a budget time machine, nor is it Clark Griswold steering his family into well-intentioned-yet-calamitous oblivion. No, this is a photo of the USS Enterprise dumping old cars off the coast of the Philippines in 1978, which is a sentence that somehow manages to make even less sense.
In the days before the environment was invented, it was apparently business as usual for servicemen to get rid of unwanted automobiles by casting them into the sea. The car in the photograph appears to be a Plymouth Savoy, and the reason it's leaving behind a trail of white smoke is because it's being launched by the steam catapult system normally used to assist jet fighters during takeoff. Slapping Captain Planet in the face has never looked so spectacularly awesome.
If that stroller holds a bomb, it's somehow less horrifying.
One of two things is going on here: A) it is the winter of mankind's doom, and Mary Poppins has managed to scavenge together enough bottle caps and copper wire inside that old pram to make a decent trade with Mohawk, the leader of the local cannibal tribe, or B) that child is in serious trouble.
Well, the thing about war is that even though things may be exploding all around you, shit still needs to get done. People's lives don't stop just because there's a war going on -- they still need to buy cereal and go to the laundromat. No picture captures those realities of war better than this photograph of a woman in a gas mask taking her baby out for a walk in Berlin after a 1943 Allied bombing raid. That baby's not going to walk itself, after all.
The British also understood the need to carry on with everyday life despite the constant threat of deadly gas attacks, and they demonstrated this in the most noble way possible -- leggy girl shows:
Giving girls an excuse to go days without shaving their mustaches.
Of course, gas masks weren't exclusive to World War II. They also had them during World War I, as evidenced by this photograph of Austrian sailors demonstrating the oft-held belief that everything about that war had to be bizarre and/or terrifying:
Those masks look like they were designed by a team of scientists forced to consume nothing but expired heroin and the movie Scream for 17 straight hours. Amazingly, Austria still managed to lose that war, despite the fact that they had an entire navy dressed up like Batman villains. Historically, gas masks were not necessarily seen as instruments of intimidation, even though this 1937 photo by Viktor Bulla, showing off a patriotic group of young fighters from Leningrad ready to defend their homeland, seems to indicate the primary theater of battle was their enemies' nightmares:
Russia's casualty statistics often fail to count the restless undead.
"Turn the Valve on the Left. No, the Other One!"
They would have labeled the wheels, but they ran out of letters.
OK, that spider web of M.C. Escher confusion must be fake; that's the set of some ridiculous Buster Keaton slapstick set piece, right?
The terrifying truth of that picture is that it's of the control room of a submarine. Now, we know submarines are complex pieces of machinery, so much so that a German U-boat was once sunk when someone pushed the wrong button on the toilet and managed to flush the entire thing to the bottom of the ocean. The room you see in the picture is from a German SM U-110 submarine that was sunk by depth charges in 1918 along with its 39-person crew.
The borderline absurdity of its control valves, meant to regulate the flow of air in the vessel while the sub's operators prayed every second that they didn't turn the wrong valve and kill everyone on board, goes along well with the rest of the submarine, which looks like somebody put the blueprints into a blender before sending them off to the builders:
Terry Gilliam directed Germany's sub program.
They trimmed the tusks, of course. Shit's dangerous.
We know that battle elephants were used for thousands of years, but that had to have gone out of style since the advent of rifles and gunpowder, right? Surely these gentlemen are merely riding that elephant on their way to the battlefield, and have no intention of trying to pilot that lumbering earthquake machine during a firefight.
Well, the Thai people love them some elephants. So while the rest of the world stopped using nature's bio-tanks as instruments of war once the implementation of rifles reduced them to giant bullet sumps, the Thai army kept right on using them until the 1893 Franco-Siamese War.
The elephants were mostly used for transporting artillery (because that stuff is simply too heavy for people to carry), but the Thai also outfitted them with swivel muskets called jingals, so that they worked like four-legged attack vehicles that the Galactic Empire would be proud of. The elephant's crew would guide the animal into position and then fire the jingal, sending both bullets and psychological trauma toward the enemy (because the guns could only be fired over the animal's rear, making it look like the elephants were shooting bullets out of their assholes).
Real missed opportunity, not sticking cannonballs in the trunk.
Half of a Ship Floats on the Ocean
The official name for such a vessel is an "ip."
Here's one you'll have to stare at for a moment, until you realize that's not the design of the boat -- the entire bow is in fact missing, and the rest of it is floating along like it ain't no thing.
In the midst of Allied fleet operations during World War II, the Greek destroyer Adrias struck a mine that blew its front section completely off. Another destroyer came alongside and offered to take in the crew, but the captain of the Adrias insisted that the damage was minimal and stayed with his ship, as if his sheer ignorance about how ships work would manage to keep it afloat.
Still, it proved to be a wise decision, because the would-be rescue ship then hit a mine and began sinking. The survivors climbed aboard what remained of the Adrias, and the captain was able to beach the ship in enemy territory to make emergency repairs with wire, tape, and bubble gum, before limping to an Allied port for a full overhaul.
Total War Looks Totally Amazing
Let's never cut the military budget ever.
As unglamorous as it sounds, war generally boils down to opposing heads of state trying to batter each other into submission with giant bags of money. This money-swinging tends to manifest in the form of stupefying amounts of weapons and vehicles, sort of like that one rich friend of yours that had every single G.I. Joe vehicle and wouldn't let you play with any of them. Case in point, the picture above featuring a shitload of Japanese dwarf submarines.
The photo shows roughly 84 "Koryu" boats, the same type used during the attack on Pearl Harbor, which might help explain what the American forces did once they took over the Kure Naval Base, where the photo was taken:
"Fuck each and every one of those boats. That's an order."
But obviously, Japan wasn't the only country that went on to inspire the invention of the Photoshop clone tool. Here's an impossible number of Allied jeeps from the invasion of Japan, abandoned in Okinawa in 1949:
Pearl Harbor explains most of this decision as well.
Then there were the so-called Liberty ships. Hitler's U-boats sank hundreds of cargo ships supplying the Allied war effort in Europe. To replace them, the British developed designs for a ship that could be built for about $2 million in 40 days, which was relatively cheap and absurdly fast. Appropriately, the U.S. government then built enough of them to fit two of every animal on Earth:
Because God had told them to destroy every man, woman, and child.
Finally, in case you thought the sky was safe from this game of military flexing, we want to bring to your attention the number of aircraft the Allies were pumping out during World War II, which resembles a hangar holding all of your extra lives in a game of 1942:
Our initial plan for defeating Japan was to blot out the sun.
Eric Yosomono spends hours scouring the darkest depths of the Internet in search of images. You can check out other photo essays of his on Gaijinass.com or be good boys and girls and like their Facebook page.