5 Historical Tragedies That Were Even Darker Than You Think

5 Historical Tragedies That Were Even Darker Than You Think

There are moments in history that seem to defy all logic and reason, when the only thing that makes sense is that the Universe is an uncaring, nihilistic asshole. We don't have a good counter-argument for that, especially given that some of those moments were way, way worse than you knew. Like how ...

Ground Zero Left Behind Depressed Rescue Dogs

After the collapse of the Twin Towers, thousands of emergency responders, search-and-rescue experts, military personnel, and charity workers descended on "The Pile" in the hopes of finding survivors. Over the next day, they found 20 people, and no more after that.

The mental and physical toll of working the site hit a lot of responders hard -- including dozens of search-and-rescue dogs who spent weeks climbing over (and through) innumerable piles of rubble. See, these dogs had been trained to associate finding survivors with being good boys and girls. When no survivors emerged, that meant they (in their own minds) were failures, which led to several being diagnosed with canine depression.

In order to spur the dogs onward, handlers would arrange for firefighters to hide inside rubble piles (out of view of the public), and thus give them something to find and feel good about. The dogs were also given as much love and attention as they could stand to receive -- which wasn't hard to come by, seeing as off-duty first responders would flock to off-duty dogs and convert their sadness, despair, and nihilism into hugs, kisses, and ruffles.

Andrea Booher/FEMA
Hold up, we need to take a break for a minute. There's something in our eye. Specifically, tears.

The Pile wasn't just mentally taxing on the dogs; it was physically taxing too. Although the dogs (and their handlers) were working areas that'd been declared safe by a structural engineer, that couldn't protect them from a litany of minor injuries, like cuts, irritation to their eyes and paws, dehydration, back problems, and sickness. A team of veterinarians was on site to ensure the dogs were healthy and being looked after. It's a testament to their hardiness, though, that out of all the strain they suffered, only one ever required surgical attention (for a lacerated foot) and went on to have zero long-term health problems.

Related: 4 Scary Moments In History That Were Worse Than You Realized

The U.S. Army Buried Iraqi Soldiers Alive During the Gulf War

On February 24, 1991, the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army marched across the Iraqi border with the intention of planting a regulation boot up Saddam Hussein's urethra. Although the invasion wound up being such an overwhelming success that a pity ceasefire was declared only four days later, it was still a pretty dangerous situation -- not because they were outgunned or outmanned, but because they were charging an enemy who'd had time to carve out defensive positions.

The 1st Infantry, faced with the prospect of systemically clearing miles of defensive trenches between them and their objective, attached plows to the front of their tanks, drove right up to the enemy trenches, and buried them under hundreds of tons of sand and dirt. By driving parallel to the trenches, the plows filled them in seconds, engulfing the soldiers within. In all, anywhere between 80 and 250 Iraqis were buried alive, while an armored vehicle accompanying the plowtank machine-gunned anyone who returned fire.

This wasn't something that the 1st thought up in the heat of battle, either. During the build-up to the assault, the division built life-size replicas of the trenches and practiced a variety of breaching (and burying) methods. "People somehow have the notion that burying guys alive is nastier than blowing them up with hand grenades or sticking them in the gut with bayonets," said Colonel Lon Maggart. "Well it's not." The Iraqis who had been buried alive could not be reached for comment.

Related: 6 Disasters With Details So Awful, History Left Them Out

Pets Left Behind After Chernobyl Were Hunted Down And Executed

On April 26, 1986, Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew, which not only jettisoned radioactive material into the atmosphere, but also caused a radiation leak that contaminated the nearby city of Pripyat. The city' was soon evacuated, its human population bundled onto buses by armed soldiers, and they never saw their home again.

As anyone who watched Chernobyl knows, life in Pripyat didn't just stop. Its now-former residents had to leave their pets behind. Which led to heartbreaking scenes as dogs tried to push their way onto the buses containing their humans, and when that didn't work, they chased the buses for miles. After the irradiated city was cleared, the local government brought in hunters to kill any animals they found. Accompanied by a tipper truck and zero protective gear, the team set to work:

"We drove around the zone for two months. The first time we went, dogs were running about near their houses. Guarding them, waiting for people to come back. They were excited to see us, came running to a human voice. They welcomed us. We shot them in houses, the barns, the vegetable plots. Then we dragged them out and loaded them on to the tipper truck."

As their numbers shrank, the dogs realized the score and would either flee into the surrounding forests or attack. The hunters did their best, but that wasn't enough. Today there are still wild dogs descended from those pets. We'd recommend not trying to snuggle them, though. That definitely wouldn't end well for you.

5 Historical Tragedies That Were Even Darker Than You Think
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Though a few have actually been cleared for adoption, if you want a dog that can light up both your heart and a Geiger counter.

Related: The Most Awful Things You Know About History (Are WAY Worse)

The KKK Had Creepy Youth Clubs

This KKK isn't just for adults with preexisting white supremacist leanings. The group has had numerous groups designed specifically to indoctrinate the young. It began at an early age, with a mass baptism (before hundreds of spectators) by the leader of a local chapter. This would then be followed by the parents signing the "cradle roll" -- a cast-iron promise that their child would not only be brought up as a member of the KKK, but also raised to uphold "the principles and ideals of Americanism." Remember that their idea of "Americanism" is the darkest (ironically) possible one.

Kids aged 3-11 would become members of the "Ku Klux Kiddies" (yes, really), moving onto one of two groups when they entered adolescence. The boys would be inducted into the "Junior Ku Klux Klan," a miniature version of the KKK that with an emphasis on secret codes and insider-only messages. The girls, meanwhile, would be inducted into the "Tri-K Club," whose job was to teach them about the joys of motherhood, being housewives, getting soot out of white fabric, and how consorting with black men was a capital offense.

Luckily, this version of the KKK collapsed in the mid-1920s, or these kids could've gone their entire lives without leaving the group. They would've attended a "Klan Kollege" (a real thing), been married at a KKK wedding (a real thing), spent their summers vacationing at the "Kool Koast Kamp" (a real thing), participated in KKK charity drives (a real thing), all before being buried in a KKK funeral (a real thing).

Via Wikimedia Commons
There was even a theme song, because in the absence of Saturday morning cartoons, organized hate is the logical option for children's entertainment.

Related: 6 Dark Details History Usually Leaves Out (For Good Reason)

Only The Wealthy Passengers' Corpses Were Salvaged From The Titanic

The sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 14, 1912 claimed the lives of 1,514 people. The CS Mackay-Bennett was tasked with retrieving the bodies of the victims. Of the 1,514 casualties, only 337 bodies were ever found, and the Mackay-Bennett was responsible for 306 of those. This number still proved too high, however, and the Mackay-Bennett soon ran out of embalming supplies. This was a huge problem for the crew, because according to the health laws of the day, only embalmed bodies could be returned to shore ... which meant that unless a solution was found, the Mackay-Bennett couldn't return to port.

Captain F.W. Lardner made a decision based on stone-cold logic, and decreed that only the bodies of first-class and second-class passengers (as identified by their clothing) would be embalmed. The third-class passengers, as well as the ship's crew, would be given a burial at sea.

Of the 306 people recovered, 97 third-class passengers and crew were consigned to the deep, while 209 second- and first-class passengers were brought back to Halifax and into the care of their mourning families. When questioned about why only the wealthier passengers were brought back, especially given that this could've been decided by a blind lottery, Captain Lardner replied that they were given priority because their bodies might be needed to settle disputes over estates:

"No prominent man was recommitted to the deep. It seemed best to embalm as quickly as possible in those cases where large property might be involved. It seemed best to be sure to bring back to land the dead where the death might give rise to such questions as large insurance and inheritance and all the litigation."

It isn't known what happened to Captain Lardner, but we like to think that went on to spend many more years sailing the ocean blue before retiring to his home planet, Vulcan.

You can find more from Adam on Twitter! He also has a newsletter about depressing history facts. (It's not as sad it sounds, promise.)

For more, check out The Unfortunate Truth About The Civil War:

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