5 Horrifying Attacks on America Your History Books Left Out
Nobody is better at holding a grudge than America is. Oh, you disagree? We'll remember that, buddy. Put you right up there on the list with Pearl Harbor, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and 9/11. We do not forget. Except for when we do. A fair number of extremely brutal attacks against America have just sort of fizzled out before they could leave their imprint in public consciousness. If this stuff happened today, there'd be a war. But due to extenuating circumstances at the time, they barely dented history.
The Hanafi Went Full Die Hard on Washington, D.C.
Hey, remember when a dozen terrorist gunmen seized three buildings in Washington, started shooting cops and politicians, then took 134 people hostage?
If you answered "no," isn't it kind of crazy that you just did that?
This man's not posing for a Gap ad, he's a terrorist, and why didn't you know that?
The 39-hour siege sounds like the setup for a Steven Seagal movie. It was carried out by about 10 members of the Hanafi Movement, a radical splinter section of the Nation of Islam. The buildings they seized were a Jewish community center, the Islamic Center of Washington, and the District Building, which was the city government's headquarters. So they essentially seized the capital of America's capital. The Hanafi holed up in the buildings with their hostages, many of whom were wounded (including future morally impaired D.C. Mayor Marion Barry). Two people, a cop and a journalist, were killed outright. Seriously, can you not just picture Seagal in that scenario, gluing fake sidelocks to his head and rambling about Jewish Mysticism as he arm-locks a terrorist?
And then it turned into an entirely different kind of movie: the terrorists' demands were to stop all theaters from showing a film called The Message (or Mohammad, Messenger of God) which they viewed as blasphemous, handily ignoring the fact that said movie was not actually American at all. They also wanted money. Namely, $750 in cash. That's not a typo -- their leader just happened to be angry about some old court fees and wanted them refunded.
The refund was available at the DMV, but conquering D.C. was quicker and easier.
Sure, they also demanded that the government hand over a number of criminals who had killed the leader's relatives -- but two out of three of the demands from this massive terror campaign were straight out of an Austin Powers film. President Carter didn't even bother sending in whatever the late-'70s equivalent of Seal Team Six was (Charlie's Angels?). Instead, he asked for diplomatic aid from Egypt, Iran, and Pakistan, all countries better versed with the whole "Islam" thing than America. The three countries sent in their representatives and managed to talk the terrorists down, presumably by pooling their pocket change and satisfying that intimidating "ransom."
Puerto Rican Nationalists Attack America Over and Over
Though Puerto Rico is technically an unincorporated territory, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement had a number of differing opinions about this state of affairs. Some factions within the movement were a bit more shooty than others, and they liked to spell out their complaints in bullets on the walls of the nation's capital.
"If they don't understand Spanish, we'll talk to them in American!"
Not that they weren't cool with fighting on their home turf, too. The first major attack on the U.S. by Puerto Rican nationalists was the Jayuya uprising on Oct. 30, 1950, a bona fide revolt where armed nationalists opened fire on the National Guard and police forces. It probably doesn't need to be said that the U.S. forces weren't exactly saints in this situation. The fighting got bad enough that air strikes were called in to help quell the rebellion. Yes, the U.S. actually bombed a U.S. Territory, to the extent that a good 70 percent of the city of Jayuya was leveled.
Later in the same year, two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate President Truman. Their ballsy, if slightly thoughtless, tactic of choice was to grab some revolvers and storm Blair House, where the president was staying. Then they'd just shoot their way through security, Matrix-style. Not big on planning, these guys. The nationalists managed to reach exactly zero presidents, largely thanks to Leslie Coffelt, a White House policeman who was shot three times but refused to take a knee.
He shot back once. One shot was all he needed.
A few years later, in 1954, a team of four Puerto Rican nationalists orchestrated yet another ingenious scheme. They would:
1) Go into the House of Representatives viewing gallery
2) Pull out big-ass guns and open fire on the floor of the House of Representatives
Five congressmen were hit, but none died.
Who could've guessed that such an airtight plan -- show up with guns and shoot your problems into solutions -- could fail?
"Works for Texas."
One assailant's gun jammed. Another emptied her clip into the air while screaming revolutionary slogans, which looks awesome in movies, but doesn't do much in reality, save for murder a poor, innocent ceiling. The remaining assailants did manage to wound a few politicians, but if you're keeping score, only 50 percent of this attack team actually did any attacking.
The violence died down altogether shortly after, and Puerto Rico is generally pretty cool with being a U.S. territory these days. Much like you and your parents, both parties just try their level best not to discuss the awkward rebellious phase.
Israel Attacks a Peaceful U.S. Navy Ship
On June 8, 1967, the U.S.S. Liberty became one of the last United States ships destroyed by enemy fire. The hits it sustained killed 34 Americans and injured a further 171, and though it somehow stayed afloat, it was so thoroughly wrecked that it had to be scrapped.
This happened during the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. Notice the names of any countries missing in that list?
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
The U.S.S. Liberty was essentially an unarmed intelligence ship, sitting off the coast of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Out of the blue, Israeli fighter jets launched an attack. The planes were followed by three torpedo boats that lived up to their namesake and torpedoed the Liberty.
No one disputes that it was the Israeli Defense Forces who attacked the Liberty. However, why they chose to do so remains a subject of considerable debate. Most likely it was a simple case of mistaken identity, like a tragic Hugh Grant film. And the ship did look a bit like an Egyptian supply ship -- though generally you'd hope a country would do more verification than "looks a bit like the enemy" before deploying three torpedo boats and attack jets.
More thought has gone into Battleship guesses.
Others claim the Israeli government was annoyed that the ship might be spying on them, or even flat-out launched the attack in order to blame it on Egypt and bring the U.S. into the war. But, then again, some folks will burn toast and blame it on a false flag operation.
Cultists Murder a U.S. Congressman and His Entire Entourage
Congressman Leo Ryan had a reputation as something of an adventurer. He was a man of bravado and confidence, like the Indiana Jones of politics. Once, he was concerned about conditions in prisons, so he ordered himself imprisoned to see how bad it really was. When confronted with the issue of seal hunting, he traveled to Canada and sat down on the ice between fur hunters and baby harp seals. He had a cold taint but a warm heart. Or perhaps just a really keen publicist. Who's to say?
He used his hair to shield the seals from the hunters' clubs.
In 1978, Ryan was preparing for another of his famous fact-finding trips. He had received word of a suspicious death, occurring after the deceased person had severed ties with a religious sect based in Guyana. So Ryan grabbed a TV crew, jumped in a plane, and set off to find out what the deal was with this Jim Jones guy.
Yep, you see where this is going.
Ryan gave Jonestown a look, spoke with some of the people there, and when a number of them wished to leave, did the compassionate thing and agreed to take them aboard his plane. Jones did not particularly like this plan. What's a crazy cult leader without a crazy cult? Jones had his men follow Ryan to the airstrip. They opened fire, killing Ryan, three journalists, and one evacuee. Several others were injured.
"I offered to explain things to Ryan over some Kool-Aid, but he wouldn't listen."
You know how it ended. Over 900 cultists died, most by suicide, at the instruction of Jones.
Of course you're familiar with Jonestown. But Ryan is hardly ever mentioned. And yet he is the only U.S. congressman ever killed in the line of duty. That's a pretty insane thing to just sort of gloss over, yet the Jonestown Massacre overshadows his death completely. Jones is a household name, while Ryan is a footnote. It's true what they say: history is written by the biggest asshole.
Germany Blows up a U.S. Railroad While the Countries Are at Peace
For most of WWI, the United States was perfectly fine with being neutral, which made it easy for America to do what it does best: sell guns. Germany had a problem: they were totally blockaded by the British Royal Navy, meaning that all those sweet freedom-sticks were ending up in the hands of the British and French. So the Germans hatched a daring plan to deal with a train full of munitions bound for the British and French.
The plan was to make said train go boom. On American soil.
It all went down on a tiny island called Black Tom, which served as a shipping and railroad center in Jersey City, just across the bay from New York and the Statue of Liberty. On July 30, 1916, German agents planted a bomb in a railway car full of explosives, and things got Michael Bay in a hurry. The blast destroyed windows up to 25 miles away. Seven were killed, and hundreds were wounded. The structural integrity of the Statue of Liberty -- all the way across the bay from the explosion, remember -- was so badly damaged that its arm was closed to the public and was never reopened.
Yes, a secret German bombing in 1916 is why you can't moon God from Lady Liberty's torch.
Or take hilarious photos where it looks like she's lighting your fart.
Since it wasn't entirely clear at first what caused the explosion, and Germany didn't raise its hand when America politely asked if anybody blew up part of the country, the Black Tom explosion was thought to be a tragic accident for decades. It wasn't until 1939 that a commission established that Germany was responsible -- and by that time, a number of even better reasons to punch a German cropped up. But don't go thinking it was an unproven assumption or anything: Germany sheepishly paid for compensation back in the 1950s.
Which prompts the question: if they paid for the damages, why is the damn arm not fixed? The people need answers; their cheeks must feel the winds of freedom.
For more things that we sort of glossed over, check out 5 Forgotten Revolutions That Created The Modern World and 5 Important People Who Were Screwed Out of History Books.
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