People are strange, and our battles are even stranger. Here are some of the weird, bizarre, and odd battles we’ve waged with each other.
24. That’s My Bucket!
In 1325, the Italian town of Modena stole a bucket from the town of Bologna, leading to the War of the Oaken Bucket. The Battle of Zappolino was fought and won by Modena, who still hoist this bucket in their main bell tower.
23. Great Ball of Fire
The Third Mithridatic War was fought between the Roman Republic and the Pontic Kingdom from 73-63 BC and led to Roman control over Anatolia. During one of its earliest major battles, as forces were on the verge of combat, a large meteor blazed through the sky and bombed the battleground, leading each side to withdraw from the battle. Goodness gracious.
22. Beer Muscles
Beer muscles have always been a thing: While trying to take the Persian City of Halicarnassus, Alexander the Great’s army grew bored over the length of the siege. One day, two bunkmates got drunk together and decided to lead the attack themselves. What started as drunken courage resulted in a full-scale battle, with the drunks (now joined by some friends) almost capturing the lightly guarded wall. Alexander the Great’s forces ultimately lost the battle, but Halicarnassus almost fell to two drunk guys.
21. God’s Wind
The Battle of Frigidus between the Western and Eastern Roman armies is seen as the last attempt to contest the Christianization of Europe, and the way it was won doesn’t hurt the Christian boast of God. During the climax of the battle, a massive windstorm blew through and disrupted the Western Army, even throwing their spears back into them, leading to their defeat.
20. Blinded by Bravery
Over the last decade of his rule, John of Bohemia was blind—but this didn’t stop him from participating in battles. During the Battle of Crecy in 1346 AD, John, blind and boisterous, tied himself to his horses and a squad of his knights before riding into battle. His body was later found amongst the dead of the battlefield.
19. The Breton War Super Bowl
During the Breton War, a strange battle was fought on a pre-arranged battlefield, called The Combat of the Thirty. It pitted 30 of the highest knights from the French and English forces against each other, and ended up more like a macabre version of a modern football game, with spectators and even a halftime.
18. The Desperation Run
The Battle of Marathon was a decisive turning point for the Greeks, displaying their fierce ability to fight the powerful Persians. The outmanned army of the Greeks was able to pull off a massive upset with unprecedented strategy: charging! While this may seem an old-hat tactic nowadays, no one had ever done it before. By maniacally running straight into the enemy, the Greeks caught the Persians off guard and ultimately defeated them.
17. Confusing Thunder
Armed with only 168 conquistadors and outnumbered by the thousands, Pizarro’s Spanish army arrived at the Inca capital of Cajamarca to meet the Emperor Atahualpa. As things turned for the worse, the originally terrified Spaniards quickly realized their advantage of gunpowder, as it was still foreign to the Incas. They used its wildly baffling and violent effects to capture Atahualpa and assert command over the empire. Not a heart-warming underdog tale.
16. An Ear for an Ear
Although the British certainly had other reasons for declaring war, the War of Jenkins’ Ear was instigated by the British against the Spanish in 1739, eight years after Spanish guards boarded the ship of British captain Robert Jenkins and cut off his ear.
15. Walking on Water
Unless you can walk on water, it’s almost impossible to charge a fleet with calvary. But what if the water is frozen? In 1795, as the French Revolutionary Army was advancing towards what is now the Netherlands, a fleet of Dutch ships attempted to flee, but the harbor was frozen and they got stuck. The French simply surrounded the ships and captured the Dutch by a cavalry charge.
14. You Sunk Our Battleship
On June 22, 1893, a new flagship British Fleet was embarking on a journey into the Mediterranean. In an attempt to show off this beautiful new fleet, the Vice Admiral George Tryon ordered the ships to synchronize and turn 180 degrees while exiting the port. There wasn’t enough space, and disaster ensued: one ship sank, another was badly damaged, and half of one ship’s crew was killed.
13. Flying Cheese
During a navy battle between Uruguay and Brazil in 1865, an Uruguayan ship ran out of cannon ammunition and reverted to stale cheese cannonballs. Even stranger? It worked. The dairy proved disastrous for the Brazilians and they were forced to retreat.
12. A Civil Scrap
A duel during a battle might seem redundant, but it happened during the Civil War. At the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, a Confederate and a Union soldier came face to face in a gully. Instead of going at each other in private, they decided to duel each other in the middle of the battlefield, sans weapons and with fisticuffs.
11. The 40 Minute War
The Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 is the shortest war in history, and it was hardly even a battle. After the Zanzibar Sultanate refused to step down as ruler in place of the British choice, the British bombed the royal palace (which caught fire) and attacked the royal yacht. After only 40 minutes a ceasefire was declared.
10. Any Means Necessary
One of the strangest battles of World War I took place on the longest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa. A strategic location dominated by the German navy, the British did not have direct access to the lake. This forced them to transport their shipping vessels through the African interior variously by steam tractors, oxen, and log rolling. Their persistence paid off: the versatile British motor boats were able to defeat two German battleships.
9. Trick or Treat
Code names can be risky—just ask the US Marines fighting in the Korean War. During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, the Marines had to call in a resupply of ammunition by parachute, an operation that was coded “Tootsie Rolls.” Whoever put the shipment together for the drop missed the memo, and instead of ammunition the Marines received a large supply of actual Tootsie Rolls.
8. Where The Dog Strays
During escalating tensions between the Greeks and Bulgarians in 1925, a Greek soldier was shot while chasing after his pet dog in enemy territory. This led to the War of the Stray Dog, as the Greeks demanded reparations, were declined, launched an invasion, were defeated, and in turn had to pay “reverse” compensation. It’s a dog’s life.
7. Bathroom Break
In 1937, China and Japan were attempting to exert dominance in East Asia, and tensions were high. One night, the Japanese made maneuvers into a conflict zone, and when a Japanese soldier went missing, they attacked the Chinese for capturing their comrade. Later in the night, the soldier arrived back to base, confused, as he had simply used the toilet. Too late! Both sides were itching for a fight, and the incident erupted into the Second Sino-Japanese War, which merged into WWII.
6. False Alarm
With paranoia abounding after Pearl Harbor, 25 unidentified aircrafts were allegedly spotted above Los Angeles in 1942. The Americans responded by firing over 1,400 shells of ammunition, creating utter chaos and leading to 5 civilian deaths. The incident was later dismissed as a false alarm. The event is now known as the Battle of Los Angeles, and there are still conspiracy theories that it was actually an alien invasion.
5. Battling Yourself
Before founding Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard was the commander of a sub-chasing ship during WWII. In May of 1943, he began a two day battle against an elusive enemy he spotted on his radar. It turns out that, after 68 hours of battle, Hubbard fought a battle against an enemy who did not exist: he was firing away at a magnetic deposit.
4. Potato Grenades
Patrolling the Pacific Ocean during WWII, the USS O’Bannon was confronted with a surfaced Japanese Submarine. As the ship pulled alongside the submarine, which was preparing for an attack on deck, the crew began pelting potatoes at the Japanese. The Japanese, distracted, scrambled to clear the “grenades” from the deck while the O’Bannon sailed away, opened up fire, and sunk the sub.
3. An Unlikely Communion
The Battle at Castle Itter was the only time American forces fought alongside Germans during WWII. The castle was used to house prisoners of the SS, and in the days after Hitler’s death, SS troops returned to the castle in order to execute their hostages. However, upon arriving, they ran into American soldiers who had now teamed up with 10 resistant Wehrmacht German troops and the very prisoners the SS was coming to execute.
2. High and Dry
During the battle of Jerusalem in 1917, the British decided to surprise the besieged Turks by dropping packs of cigarettes and propaganda leaflets. The Turks, appreciating the gesture, kicked back and enjoyed their smokes. Little did they know that the cigarettes were laced with opium, and the next day the British attacked a high and defenseless army.
1. What’d a Seal Ever Do to You
In 1982, Argentina and the UK were engaged in the Falklands War. As the British approached South Georgia, they noticed the Argentine army waiting for them atop a hillside, dressed in balaclavas. The Brits immediately hit their enemy with real force and charged without any return fire, only to realize that they’d just slaughtered a colony of elephant seals.