Sure, sure, you should honor the troops. And respect all those who've sacrificed their lives, of course. But as for the broad concept of war itself, well, there's a chance that it's all just one big joke. How else to explain some of the completely laughable stuff that wars have cooked up for us.
1. Guam Borrows Ammo
When America fired upon Guam during the Spanish-American War, Guam sent out an officer who requested ammunition so Guam could return the gesture. It turned out Guam was unaware a war was ongoing, thought America was merely saluting Guam, and wanted to respond in kind.
2. The Toy Boat Messengers
In 1862, opposing Civil War armies were camped on opposite sides of Virginia's Rappahannock River. With no orders to attack and getting increasingly bored, the Southerners sent a toy boat across, loaded with tobacco. The Northerners sent it back, filled with coffee. One side held a sports competition, and the other watched and cheered them on.
3. The Misidentified Brits
During the War of 1812, American General John Chandler awoke after getting knocked out then ran into a nearby camp to command the men there. He didn't realize till too late that they were all British and immediately captured him. This would be the end of the story, except his second-in-command then also ran into the camp to command the men there and was also captured.
The Allies had a plan to slip estrogen into Hitler's food to make him weaker, more like his timid sister Paula. They hoped his hair would also fall out, and his voice would rise in pitch, but the plan never worked, possibly because the mole tasked with it was secretly a traitor.
5. The Great Snowball Battle
In 1863, the Confederate Army held a 10,000-man snowball fight. One highlight was Colonel William Stiles' plan to send all his men forward with a single ball in hand, only to be met with an opposing platoon, each man armed with a sack of snowballs.
6. Nuisance the Dog
7. Sarcastic Bombs
Late in World War II, the Germans built fake airfields to exaggerate their military prowess. The Allies flew over these wooden fields operated by wooden decoys and bombed them ... with dummy wooden bombs.
8. The Invasion of Kiska
The US lost 122 men when storming the island of Kiska to take it back from the Japanese. This sounds a bit less heroic when you learn the island was completely uninhabited. And no, the Japanese hadn't planned a brilliant trap. The casualties were due to friendly fire, one stray mine, and then dozens of men succumbing to exposure.
9. The British Pleasure Cruise
The British wanted to lure German subs to their warships during World War I by pretending to be defenseless passenger ships. This meant disguising the sailors as civilians, who panicked and pretended to flee as soon as they caught sight of a sub. For maximum authenticity, half the men had to cross-dress.
10. Robert E. Lee
Lee was a legendary badass and was even offered command of both Union and Confederate forces before choosing the South. But one day, toward the end of the war, he stayed behind after sending his men away so he could pick up a fallen baby bird and return it to its nest.
11. Ulysses S. Grant
In case you think the baby bird detour was why the South lost, the North was also open to that sort of thing. While marching to the Southern capital, General Grant passed a horse and cart stuck in the mud, with the driver whipping the horse to urge it out. He stopped to scold the man, and when the driver kept whipping, Grant tied him to a tree for six hours.
12. The Nagasaki Flood
Leaving aside what Nagasaki would experience later in the war, the port city faced a tidal wave in 1940 ... because a Japanese battleship turned around. The Musashi was huge (she fired shells at targets 26 miles away), and when she turned around too close to shore, she displaced so much water that she overturned every other ship in the harbor and flooded every house nearby.
13. The Finger of Peace
14. Pee On North Korea
Finally, the Koreans forced a statement out of the Pueblo's commander, Lloyd M. Bucher, by threatening to execute his men. He wrote out the statement for them: "We paean the North Korean state," which he assured them meant praise. Then he said the statement aloud: "We pee on the North Korean state. We pee on their great leader Kim Il Sung."
15. The Underwear Database
During the Cold War, the Stasi tried to build a library of its citizens' smells. This meant breaking into their homes and stealing their used underpants. For the same reason, they'd also carefully collect butt sweat from chairs after interrogations.
16. Fighters vs. Asses
Flying over Vietnam in 1971, First Lieutenant Gordon Evans wanted to fire on the enemy, but rules of engagement meant they had to fire on him first. So he tried to goad them into shooting by flying closer and closer to the ground. Instead, the Vietnamese just dropped their pants and mooned him.
17. Vampire Attacks
To scare the communists they were fighting in the Philippines, the CIA staged vampire attacks. They'd abduct someone at the rear of a patrol, puncture his neck, and leave his body for the others to find. The communists quickly learned to stay clear of the area (though it's possible they weren't scared of vampires so much as scared a CIA nut draining people's blood).
18. The Ice Cream Fleet
Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal came up with a great plan to keep morale up in the South Pacific during World War II: lots of ice cream. He built a new barge as a floating ice cream parlor that cranked out more than a gallon of the stuff each second, then he expanded into an entire fleet.
19. Fort Detroit
The British allied with the Shawnee during the War of 1812. Hearing that the Americans feared the "savage Indians," the English commander spread word that he had 5,000 Shawnee with him, 10 times the actual number. Then the Shawnee leader Tecumseh marched his men in single file in front of the fort. The Americans saw a seemingly endless line of painted warriors (not realizing the warriors were circling the fort) and surrendered the city.
20. Bear Pilots
21. Candy Bombs
Following World War II, the Allies kept Berlin stocked with food from the air. But one thing was missing: candy. So Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen took to dropping chocolates wrapped in handkerchiefs for the children of Berlin. This was completely against the rules, so his superiors responded by ... turning his idea into a full-scale operation, airdropping tons of candy on Berlin.
22. The Phantom Musket
During the Revolutionary War, a soldier named Joseph Plumb Martin came up with a prank that involved remotely firing a gun by tying a string to a musket. He'd pull the string, making his officer jump up and search the camp to see who'd discharged a weapon. Then he'd repeat the process, keeping the prank going all night.
23. Baby Khrushchev
When Mao visited Moscow in 1949, Stalin put him up in a shack. Mao took revenge on Stalin's successor by inviting Khrushchev (who could not swim) to talks in a swimming pool. Khrushchev tried to stick to the shallow end, then Mao made him move deeper -- and wear floaties.
24. The Bombing of Washington
Canada bombed Washington state in 1962. Their Navy was aiming at airborne test drones, but they missed, and their live ammunition hit Clallam Bay. Local residents, of course, thought war had broken out. Surprisingly, no one was injured.
25. The Nazi Titanic
The Nazis produced their own film about the Titanic disaster, painting German soldiers as heroes who tried to save the passengers. Unfortunately, with Germany in the midst of a real-life disaster in the form of constant World War II bombings, it tuned out the public wasn't in the mood to watch one onscreen, so the Nazis had to pull the film from theaters almost immediately.
26. Burning Sea
The British successfully convinced the Nazis that they could ignite the ocean. In reality, oil moves too slowly across water for this, but the Nazis were fooled and looked into countermeasures, coating a ship with asbestos and sailing it into a test fire. This did not end well for them.
27. Marines vs. Navy
28. The Papier-Mache Horse Carcass
A French horse ran toward the Germans during World War I and got shot. So the French made a paper-mache copy, replaced the corpse with the model at night, then stuck a sniper inside. It worked fine till the Germans one day spied the dead horse giving birth to a Frenchman.
29. The HMS Victoria
Britain's best warship sank in 1893. She was sunk by the Brits themselves during a parade maneuver. A neighboring ship flipped around too close and ripped her open, the Victoria sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean, and that was the end of the HMS Victoria.
30. The Imaginary Motorcycle
At POW Camp #2 in North Korea, Navy Lieutenant Jack Thornton would pretend to ride a motorcycle when called to formation every morning, making vroom vroom noises. Till the guards "confiscated" the bike, forbidding him from riding it. Later, the POWs organized and gave their guards one demand: to give Thornton back his imaginary motorcycle.
31. Garbage Tanks
Serbian troops built a bunch of fake tanks to divert NATO attention during the Kosovo War. They made these out of used cars and straight-up garbage, with the real trick being heaters inside that showed up on IR scans as working engines. Real tanks, meanwhile, were hidden in the woods.
32. The Honey War
Iowa and Missouri went to war in 1839. A militia in Iowa rose up against Missouri tax collectors, arming itself with such weapons as swords and sausage stuffers. The Missourians took their payment by cutting down and removing some Iowan beehives.
33. Ship Island
The Dutch were down to just one warship in the East Indies in 1942. To get safely to Australia, past seas full of Japanese, they covered the ship with trees and pretended to be an island. They moved only at night, and they fooled every plane that spotted them.
34. Bunny Island
35. Tree Hideout
Germans built a fake tree in 1917 and stuck a soldier inside. First, they cut a real tree down in the middle of the night, and then they put the fake one up in its place. It took Allied soldiers camped all around it seven months to discover the truth.
36. The Bobblehead
When Uzbekistani rebels got pinned down by a sniper in 2014, then made a puppet by sticking a mask on top of a shovel. Then they leaned the shovel around a corner, waited for the sniper to fire, then pulled the shovel back with a string. This fooled the sniper again and again and again.
37. The Hot-Rod Bomber
Major Ralph Hayes got hold of a B-17 that had been stripped of its armor and most of the cockpit. Then he'd ride it in formation with other planes, shoot to the front of the pack, then pop up out of the roofless cockpit and wave back at everyone. His only goal? To prove B-17 planes were the best.
38. Fake Boob Commandos
Israeli Special Forces who infiltrated Lebanon in 1973 disguised themselves as women, complete with wigs and fake breasts. This got them all the way into the Palestinian leader's quarters. One of these commandos was future prime minister Ehud Barak.
39. "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
This song was originally from Monty Python's Life of Brian. The British have taken to singing it during moments when you'd think all song was impossible. Like on a sinking ship, while awaiting rescue. Or on a sinking ship when no rescue is coming.
40. George Washington and The Dog
George Washington and British General William Howe were enemies, by most conventional standards. Then came the Battle of Germantown, and the Americans suffered a major loss but managed to take one prisoner: Howe's dog. Washington called a ceasefire so they could send the dog back safely.
41. The Toilet Bomb
42. The Danube Bridge
Napoleon's men in 1805 had to cross a bridge wired with explosives and set to blow if Frenchmen approached. So, two officers walked ahead and started chatting with Austrians on the other side about an (imaginary) armistice they'd just signed. Then the rest of the men walked across the bridge casually. The ruse was so effective that when one Austrian tried to light the fuse, his superiors arrested him.
43. The Decorated Cat
Simon, the cat, who lived aboard the HMS Amethyst, got injured by flying shrapnel. That didn't stop him from ridding the ship of Commie rats, earning himself the Dickin Medal.
44. Big Condoms
The US used to drop balloons full of good beyond the Iron Curtain. One agent came up with the idea of including oversize condoms in the packets to convince the Soviets that the average American penis was enormous. The CIA dealt with this rogue agent by ... promoting him and giving him control of 75 percent of the agency's budget.
Lord Robert Baden-Powell held the town of Mafeking during the Second Boer War by burying a bunch of boxes and telling people they were mines. They actually just held sand. He also needed to surround the town with barbed wire, which he didn't have. But he had his men crawl under imaginary barbed wire between fence posts, so people watching through binoculars assumed barbed wire had to be circling the place.
46. X-Ray Bootlegs
During the Cold War, the Soviets strictly banned Western music. They kept a close eye on all vinyl. They didn't keep a close eye on X-rays, however, so smugglers engraved music into these and carved them up as records.
47. The Lusitania Medal
The Germans produced a medal to commemorate the sinking of the Lusitania. Only problem: They got the date wrong. It said "May 5," when the ship sank on May 7. Which seemed to prove the sinking had been premeditated, angering a little country called the United States ...
48. Stonewall Jackson
49. Ghost Foxes
The US dipped foxes in phosphorescent paint to scare the Japanese into thinking they were ghosts. Unfortunately, during the first test run, the foxes all ran straight into the ocean and drowned.
50. The Battle of Shiloh
General Lew Wallace had orders to back up the main Union army at dawn. The only problem was, he couldn't find the battle. You'd think a field with 25,000 men fighting would be hard to miss, but his battalion took off in the wrong direction. By the time they got themselves where they needed to be, they were 13 hours late, and the battle was lost.
51. Gunner The Siren
A dog named Gunner, who lived in the Australian city of Darwin, was able to predict Japanese bombing raids. He sensed the incoming planes 20 minutes before instruments picked them up and responded with loud barks. Eventually, the Air Force gave him a portable air raid siren he could set off to warn everyone.
52. Richard M. Nixon
Nixon had a plan to make the Vietnamese think he was crazy. He figured that if the communists got word that he was mad and unable to be restrained, they'd beg for peace. As part of his plan, he loaded B-52s with nukes and repeatedly sent them to Vietnam before suddenly pulling them back.
53. The Deadly Flush
On April 14, 1945, someone aboard the German submarine U-1206 flushed a toilet. The pressure systems went haywire, and the sub started filling with seawater. The captain had to surface, an English plane bombed the vessel, and all aboard had to flee and were captured.
54. Yellow Water
An old prophecy said that Burma's Irrawaddy River would change color to foretell a foreign invader's defeat. So the US came up with the idea to dye the massive river yellow so the locals would rise up against the Japanese. This got as far as shipping in barrels of dye before someone tested it out in a tub and found the stuff didn't actually work on water.
55. The Emu War