6 Deadly Serious Cold War Moments (That Now Look Hilarious)
The Cold War wasn't a particularly wacky time, what with the mutually assured threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation and whatnot. But wars are fought by people, and people -- if the feces-wracked flow of the stagnant fjord of human history has taught us anything -- are truly, deeply stupid.
Yes, just like any other war, the War Against Communism churned out its share of moments that belong in a Three Stooges skit (where everybody gets sent to the gulag). What incidents are we talking about?
The Stasi Built A Citizen Scent Database Using Ass Sweat And Dirty Underwear
East Germany's secret police, as you might infer from the fact that they were called the "secret police," were a pretty sneaky bunch. Alongside more conventional tactics like a vast network of secret informants, one of the more clever tricks up their sleeve was a canine unit trained to pick up the scent of dissidents. No, they didn't send the dogs into crowds of protesters and tell them to remember the smell of capitalism. It was much trickier -- and stupider -- than that.
If they found suspicious items, such as fliers or simply the vague vibrations of freedom, the Stasi would seal the contraband with a dustcloth in foil. After a few hours, the cloth would be stored in a pickling jar, then the secret police would use the dust cloths to train their commie dogs to sniff out political dissidents. History hasn't proven that the dogs twirled their mustaches and wore monocles while sniffing out East Germany's dissidents, but history also hasn't proven they didn't.
Do you or don't you see a mustachioed fancy dog taking this group photo? Exactly.
Sometimes, the Stasi had to get sneakier to procure an odor sample, like breaking into people's houses and stealing their underpants. Yes, the Stasi went on actual panty raids. Samples were also procured after wiping down chairs following an interrogation, which tells you how those interrogations tended to go.
A shitty situation on multiple levels.
Eventually, the Stasi had themselves a nice little collection of jars of rebel ass sweat. Some of that collection still exists on display at a museum dedicated to the Stasi in Germany. That's not the only way the tradition lives on -- as recently as 2007, German police were caught building a similar database after violent protests at the G8 summit. Hopefully it didn't involve quite so many butts.
The Stasi Had Some Weird Fashion Sense
To truly appreciate the image of the Stasi collecting secret ass data, you have to keep in mind that they did it looking like this:
Stasi pornos were 50 percent removing layers and 50 percent co-stars laughing their asses off.
Those are photos from the book Top Secret: Images From The Stasi Archives, a collection of documents compiled by German photographer Simon Menner. Among the wealth of formerly classified information are details of the Stasi undercover dress code, complete with photos of the hilarious results. The dress code instructed operatives to blend in with civilians as much as possible, which apparently meant disguising themselves as blue-collar workers, dour old ladies, and hipster Richie Cunningham.
Also available in elderly.
But wait, why do these photos even exist? If the idea was to keep cover, doesn't it seem a little dangerous to hold regular fashion shoots with your operatives, even for classified files? Maybe, but the Stasi were meticulous about documenting everything, right down to taking "before" photos of the homes they secretly searched so everything could be put back exactly as it was. That meant they carried Polaroid cameras everywhere, perfectly capping off the disaffected bohemian aesthetic. Tell us you haven't seen a guy who looks like this today:
You should distrust him no less.
Chairman Mao Gave Khrushchev A State Visit From Hell
For those who didn't know, Chairman Mao Zedong wasn't known to be a nice dude. You'd have to be literally Stalin to have the guts to give him the cold shoulder -- which, as it happens, Stalin actually did. When Mao visited Moscow in 1949, Stalin snubbed him at a party, then put him up in a shack in the Russian boonies.
"You'll love it. The permafrost practically glows this time of year."
It turns out Mao was kind of a grudge-holder, but before he could have his revenge, Stalin inconveniently died. So his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, would have to do as the object of the chairman's grudgelust. Mao's usual method of dealing with those who displeased him -- messy execution -- would be politically unsavvy. Instead, he went full Mean Girls on Khrushchev's ass.
Shockingly, a guy with "dong" in his name turned out to be a massive dick.
First, Mao arranged for the Soviet premier to spend his 1958 visit in a derelict building with no air-conditioning. Then, armed with a list of Khrushchev's dislikes and weaknesses presumably culled from many late nights stalking his Facebook, Mao went to work. During their tense meetings, he chain-smoked, having learned that Khrushchev hated cigarettes. Then he invited the rural miner who had never learned to swim to continue their talks in his pool.
Mao swam easy laps around the luxurious pool while Khrushchev remained firmly planted in the baby end, and interpreters frantically ran back and forth to translate their conversation. Eventually, Mao insisted Khrushchev join him in the big boy's side of the pool. What's that? The leader of the Soviet Empire couldn't swim? Mao made Khrushchev wear floaties.
"Quit palling around with India, and maybe I'll teach you how to doggie paddle."
Mao's tactics worked: It's hard to maintain the appearance of authority while flailing in the water like a toddler, so talks soon broke down and Khrushchev left humiliated. It was the beginning of the end of Russia's relationship with China, which contributed to the USSR's eventual downfall. An entire empire ruined, in part because Stalin just couldn't stop, even for a minute, being a huge asshole.
Canada Accidentally Shelled Washington State During A Training Exercise
We tend to underestimate our neighbors to the north, preferring to think of them as comically nice people whose veins run with gravy and cheese curds and heads flap when they talk. But recent studies suggest that Canadians are, in fact, human beings, capable of both awesome displays of badassery and terrifying incompetence (or just plain terror). Like that time they accidentally bombed us. Oh, you didn't hear about that? Well, you probably weren't born yet, but neither country has been too eager to talk about it, either.
One day in 1962, the Royal Canadian Navy were conducting training exercises off the Pacific Coast that consisted of shooting at airborne drone targets. They apparently had a lot of confidence in their marksmanship, having failed to make provisions for what would happen if they missed their targets -- like, say, not putting them in front of a very populated and soon-to-be very panicked village. Which is exactly what they did. The result: a shower of live ammunition over the town of Clallam Bay, Washington.
Even when they're raining bombs on us, we still don't take Canada seriously.
Miraculously, no one was hurt, as most of the shells exploded in the sky well before they could reach anything mortal. But not all of them. Some of the shells were duds, landing pristine and deadly looking in old people's gardens and a freaking elementary school playground. For the duration of the 20-minute exercise, the town's residents freaked the hell out, logically assuming they were being bombed as fuck. After the U.S. Navy cleared the damage, everyone figured out what was going on, and the entire town sat down for a minute, the captain responsible for the incident faced a nasty court martial ... and was allowed to keep his job. We might have dismissed those stereotypes about nice Canadians a bit too quickly.
Music Was Smuggled Into The USSR On Discarded X-Ray Film
Whatever merits communists may tout, let's face it: They do not make good music. That's plain to see from the list of banned Western bands circulated in 1985, which condemns those menacing thugs the Village People for promoting violence and anyone just for being "punk." The premier don't like it, apparently.
"They are clearly conditioning our young men to defect to their armed services. This cannot stand."
That left the Soviet youth, who weren't content to jam to government-approved tunes for some reason, in a bit of a pickle. There was, of course, a healthy black market in contraband Western media, but this was the turntable era -- you couldn't just hold your tape deck up to the radio and press "record." Some people had the machinery to create copies, but not the material. The solution: X-ray film and highly negligent nurses.
It turned out that the plates onto which your broken ribs or tumoriffic lungs were photographed served as a nice substitute for a wax record. It wasn't at all difficult to get the discarded film: All a strapping young man had to do was walk into a hospital and ask the typically female nursing staff if they'd like some help "throwing away" the hundreds of pounds of X-ray plates that had piled up. What couldn't be procured from the lazy staff could be found tossed unguarded into the hospital dumpster. In case you're not keeping track: Doing the YMCA? Strictly fucking forbidden. The disposal of medical waste? Meh, toss that shit wherever.
Whatever ate that guy's flesh is probably dead by now, but rock will live forever.
Those X-rays could be cut and grooved into records. The hard part was finding Western music to record onto them. For that, rock fans turned to sailors, actors, and diplomats who smuggled illegal music in after their trips to no-no zones. For two weeks' salary, a Soviet worker could get his hands on a terrible-sounding Beatles record covered in the insides of his comrades. If that's not badass, we don't know what is.
You haven't lived until every song sounds exactly like "Revolution 9."
The USA Tested Supersonic Jet Ejection Seats Using Bears On Drugs
In the years following World War II, we were all pretty bomb-happy. So the Air Force was all too delighted when they got their hands on the B-58 Hustler -- the first bomber to go Mach 2 -- in 1950. There was only one problem: Such unprecedented speeds posed safety risks for the pilots, namely in the case of ejection. Presumably, someone asked, "Can we use rockets?" Because that's what we would ask in every situation if we were aerospace engineers. It turns out, yes, they could: An ejection seat was designed that would encase the pilot in an escape pod and pop him like a champagne cork on the backs of actual rockets.
After a righteous round of high-fives, another problem became apparent. Raise your hand if you'd be willing to volunteer for the very first safety test of rocket-powered off-fucking. Now put your hand down; you're automatically disqualified. Crash test dummies had inconveniently not been invented yet, so naturally, their first idea was to rustle up some bears. Instead of immediately dismissing this as a ludicrous and dangerous idea, they collectively slammed down a shot and said, "Fuck yes," because holy shit, the 1950s Air Force were our kinds of guys.
When they did it, it was called patriotism. When we tried it, it was called probation violation.
After doing whatever the hell one does to procure a bear army, they went back and ordered a large supply of animal tranquilizer, because you're probably not going to wrestle a Himalayan black bear into a stealth bomber without him putting up a fight. Then they went about the task of manhandling several hundred pounds of stoned bear into position, a fight which, as you can see here, they only barely won.
We would apologize for that pun, but we're too busy watching bears on giant goddamn missiles.
All that was left to do was launch some motherfucking bears into the motherfucking sky on some motherfucking rockets. Thankfully, the ejection seats worked just fine: All of the bears, after their strange trip whizzing through the atmosphere to the tune of a time-traveled copy of Katy Perry's "Firework," survived without any lasting damage. That is, until they were dissected to make super-extra-double sure the flight didn't harm their insides. But man, wouldn't that be funny? If they played Katy Perry?
So yeah, don't think about all the dead bears. Think about Katy Perry.
Manna will challenge any communist to a fistfight and then quickly back down on Twitter.
It turns out those assholes didn't need to give the bears drugs, because they're perfectly capable of getting wasted on their own. See what we mean in 6 Animals That Get High More Than Humanity's Biggest Stoners. And check out The 5 Weirdest Drug Experiments Performed On Animals to see what happens when you give a bee a bump of cocaine.
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