5 Stupid Lies That Changed The Outcome Of Historical Battles

As General George S. Patton once said, "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by lying-ass weasels." OK, maybe we're taking some liberties with the exact wording of the quote, but any history buff knows the importance of a good bluff in a wartime scenario. Centuries of warfare have birthed some straight-up hilarious tactics that would violate even the dumbest YouTube prank star's suspension of disbelief. Like when ...

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5
A Single SS Officer Got The Entire City Of Belgrade To Surrender With A Lie

Fritz Klingenberg captured a strategically important city with nothing but six men, a pack of lies, and a set of enormous man-spheres. So why don't the history books celebrate his story? Probably on account of the whole "being a proud Nazi" part.

German Federal ArchivesFritz (right) and a work buddy.

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Klingenberg was in command of SS troops taking part in the invasion of Yugoslavia. His orders were to quickly strike and move on to Greece -- the ol' Nazi hit it and quit it -- but 26-year-old Klingenberg decided he may as well take the country's capital, since he was in the neighborhood and all. When the ferry sank after delivering him and a mere six soldiers to Belgrade, Klingenberg sighed and presumably muttered, "Fine. I'll do it myself." He ordered his half-dozen soldiers to patrol the city like they'd always been there, and to shoot anyone who looked at them funny.

The Nazis faced little opposition -- they even managed to rescue a captured drunken German tourist along the way, in what seems like something a screenwriter stuck in there for comic relief. They raised the German flag, and that's when the mayor came out to see what all the commotion was about. Klingenberg decided to spitball. He told the mayor that he and his crew were patrolling the city in advance of a massive offensive assault, and if he didn't radio in and tell his superiors the Yugoslavians had surrendered, there would be a merciless artillery barrage and Luftwaffe strike. Worth noting: Klingenberg didn't have a working radio, or any way to call for backup, and his men were out of ammo and food.

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But the mayor didn't know that, so he quickly surrendered the city to Klingenberg, who presumably didn't wipe that s**t-eating grin off his face for the rest of the war.

German Federal ArchivesThe earliest recorded trollface.

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Klingenberg was awarded the Knight's Cross for capturing 1,300 soldiers and a city of 200,000 with nothing but six men and a positive attitude. What an inspiring story ... for ill-equipped Nazis?

4
A Boat Built From Trash Successfully Masqueraded As An Ironclad, Scaring Off An Army

The USS Indianola was one of the Union Navy's greatest ironclads, a powerful and intimidating vessel of destruction. This is not the story of that boat. This is the story of the Black Terror, a "ship" constructed entirely from pork barrels, mud, and good old-fashioned American bullshit.

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When the Indianola was damaged and grounded by the Confederates in 1863, the Union wanted to save the ship, but didn't have the assets to recover it. Naval officer Dixon Porter was determined to salvage the vessel, but didn't have any ships or coal of his own, so he made do with what he had. And what he had was half a day and $8.63 (around $170 in today's money).

Harper's WeeklyMost of it went to this bitchin’ portrait.

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In only 12 hours, Porter constructed the Black Terror out of random scrap wood and canvas, with burnt logs serving as its "weaponry." Smokestacks were slapped together out of pork barrels and mud, then more mud was stuffed inside and burnt to create the appearance of a coal-powered vessel (in reality, it was completely unmanned and propelled only by the current). Porter launched the Black Terror in broad daylight, something that only the most impressive and formidable ironclad would try. And the Confederates bought it.

Unfortunately, the Black Terror did its job a little too well. The Confederates were so terrified that they scuttled the Indianola before Porter could arrive to salvage it. Still, the fact that they got punked by a floating tree fort powered by mud pies had to be a major blow to their self-esteem.

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3
A War Correspondent Randomly Answered A Phone, Impersonated An Enemy Officer, And Saved An Invasion

Michael Chinigo was an Albanian-born American reporter, fluent in multiple languages and a quick thinker. All of which will come in handy when he was accompanying American troops on an amphibious assault of the beaches of Sicily during World War II. Chinigo overheard a phone ringing in an abandoned bunker. Slipping into fluent Italian, Chinigo answered the call and heard a panicked Italian general on the other end asking for an update on the rumors of an impending Allied invasion. Chinigo smoothly informed the general that such rumors were absolutely false, and there was no invasion. The general hung up, relieved.

British Armed Forces"Why do I see smoke coming from the beach?" "That's not smoke. That's steam, from the steamed hams we're having."

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Chinigo bought the Allies a bit more time to complete their invasion and gain ground, and thus became the patron saint of casual liars everywhere.

2
A German Cruiser Added A Single Fake Smokestack, Wrecked Dozens Of British Ships

In WWI, German cruisers were known to have three smokestacks, while British cruisers had four. These strict design guidelines lasted exactly as long as it took for one guy to figure out the incredibly obvious way to exploit the system. Simply take a three-stack cruiser ...

Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-001329/CC-BY-SA 3.0

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... and add a dummy fourth one.


Scientific American

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The tactical genius behind this innovation was Karl von Muller, a veteran German captain. He came up with the ruse while serving as commanding officer of the SMS Emden in the Indian Ocean. By adding the extra smokestack, the Emden was able to replicate the profile of a British ship and approach Allied ships unopposed before utterly ruining teatime with a rude surprise attack. These Scooby-Doo-worthy antics allowed Muller and his crew to capture or destroy dozens of Allied ships, absolutely dominating the Indian Ocean for months on end. At one point, the Emden captured nine ships and sank six others in nine days.

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Then they got cocky. The Emden made a daring solo raid on the British port of Penang, sailing into the harbor as if they belonged there and shelling the hell out of the place. It's the equivalent of a raccoon wrecking your house after it snuck in while wearing your kid's hat. Shortly thereafter, the Emden was grounded on the Cocos Islands by an Australian ship. But that still doesn't take away from the fact that Muller and the Emden terrorized an entire ocean with nothing but a massive fake phallus and the self-confidence granted by it.

1
The Soviets Tricked Germany Into Sending Them Free Supplies And Hostages

Operation Scherhorn was a brilliant endeavor by the USSR to siphon off valuable resources and experienced field officers from the Nazis during World War II. And if there's something we can all hopefully get behind, it's the inconveniencing of Nazis. The operation was named for Colonel Heinrich Scherhorn, who was captured with a group of German soldiers deep within Soviet territory. Using that famous Russian hospitality, the Soviets coerced Scherhorn into communicating with his superiors and telling them that a group of more than a thousand Nazi soldiers were operating behind enemy lines, like some sort of Bizarro Hogan's Heroes. The Germans totally bought it and began sending in air drops of weaponry and supplies, which the Soviets happily gobbled up.

German Federal Archives"Da, it is I, Comrade Scherhorn. Glory to Premier Hitler, the people's champion!"

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Eventually, the Nazis decided that Scherhorn and his band of badasses needed rescuing, so they put together a team of highly skilled operatives and sent them in to bring Scherhorn home. These commandos were promptly captured themselves, and then forced to radio home to say that their mission was a success, and the Nazis should send some more top-level guys. Three more teams were sent, and each was captured in succession, and pretty soon the Soviets were collecting German POWs like fidget spinners. Overall, the Germans sent 39 flights and lost 22 field agents. They also awarded Scherhorn the Knight's Cross in absentia in early 1945, and maintained radio contact right up until Germany surrendered later that year. Presumably, Hitler saw his whole empire crumbling around his head and thought to himself, "Well, at least we've still got Scherhorn out there, fighting the good fight."

Make sure nothing catastrophic by making sure your loved ones go through a polygraph from time to time.

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For more, check out The 6 Biggest Lies Used To Start Horrifying Wars and 5 Lies About The Vietnam War You Probably Believe.

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