History is basically nothing but an endless loop of miserable people caked in mud slogging through slightly wetter mud. Maybe that's why "historical" films usually try to sneak in some exciting bloodletting or conspicuous nudity. You have to compensate for all those boring but historically accurate scenes of human misery somehow. But there are a few weird and wonderful (well, mostly weird) historical incidents that are way too bonkers to ever show up in a Hollywood movie. For example ...
Charles Carpenter began World War II as a simple observation pilot. With no radio equipment onboard, his job was to recon German artillery positions and then fly all the way back to report them. Easier said than done. But after several simple solo missions, Carpenter had an idea. Instead of making the boring commute back every time, why not cut out the middleman and take out those damn Nazis by himself? But how was he going to do that with only a light scout plane, six bazookas, some rope, and the biggest swingin' johnson in the Air Force?
You guessed it: Carpenter strapped three handheld bazookas under each wing of his plane, then rigged up a system that would allow him to fire from his cockpit by pulling cords attached to them. Now, "Mad Major" Charlie wasn't allowed to return fire during his artillery observation, so he did it on his own dime, flying his jury-rigged plane around Germany and blowing up tanks like the three-way bastard child of MacGyver, Rambo, and the Red Baron.
That's not to say the Mad Major only saw air action. One day, while fixing his plane, German infantry attacked, so Carpenter commandeered a Sherman tank and started unloading its machine gun. A bit overzealous, he chased the infantry down and accidentally shot an Allied tank in the pursuit. He was going to be court-martialed and maybe even executed for it, but the decision was overturned by General Patton himself. And if Patton likes the cut of someone's jib, you know they're a crazy son of a bitch.
By the end of the war, Carpenter and his Mad Max plane were credited with destroying six German tanks, which was enough to qualify him as a tank "ace." For his acts of bravery, he was made a lieutenant colonel and received just about every medal they could throw at him.
In ye olden days, having lots of babies was the most important thing a queen was expected to do, and it wasn't something royal families left up to chance. So when kings and queens had sex, they rarely did so alone. Several attendants would be present at a wedding night to ensure that everything was going according to plan. A nine-month plan, to be specific, as they'd be present for the birth as well. When Marie Antoinette was finally with child, she had essentially no privacy for nine months. And during labor, so many spectators crammed into her room that she passed out from the heat.
Those who couldn't be present to see the king-on-queen action themselves needn't worry, as they'd get to hear about it eventually. Noble boning skills were subject to rigorous study and detailed writing. Let's return to Marie Antoinette and her famously frigid marriage to Louis XVI. Their sexual incompatibility was discussed often in court meetings, official correspondence, and even diplomatic talks. Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II wrote in great detail about how hilariously awful Louis XVI was in bed, as he apparently only "introduced his member, stayed there for two minutes without moving, withdrew without ejaculation, and then, still erect, wished [his wife] good evening." Joseph's holy recommendation was that his brother-in-law be "whipped like a donkey to make him discharge in anger."
Royal ladies' menstrual cycles were also tracked by dozens of people. Catherine de Medici had an entire network set up to keep people up to date on her daughter's time of the month, including all of her male ambassadors. After all, you never know when your detailed knowledge of a teenager's period will make or break international negotiations.
While you can get most things "medievally clean" with a bit of water and some vigorous scrubbing, the easiest way to get stubborn stains out of clothing is a dash of ammonia. Unfortunately, before the invention of bleach, the only readily available fluid with a good bit of ammonia in it was urine. This meant pee-cleaning was a shockingly common practice.
A fine example of this comes from Ancient Rome, where laundromats pretty much ran on pee. The yellow stuff was so precious that laundromat owners became the first ever providers of public toilets, lining streets with piddle buckets for passersby to leak into. The practice continued even after the invention of soap, as many Europeans preferred the all-natural goodness of bladder water.
But everyone's togas reeking of piss wasn't the worst part. That'd be their mouths. Long before toothpaste, 9 out 10 Romans agreed that gargling urine was the best way to keep your teeth clean and sparkly white. And they weren't wrong (sort of), as ammonia is both sterile and a bleaching agent. So the next time you see a movie about the Roman Empire and everyone has perfectly white chompers, just picture the emperor swishing piss offscreen.
After Navy Seals raided Osama bin Laden's compound and killed him, they needed to authenticate the body -- you know, to make sure they hadn't just killed Pakistan's premier bin Laden impersonator instead. But because it's a bit impractical to drag a DNA-testing lab with you during a stealth mission, or to do facial recognition after blowing someone's face off, the first point of identification was checking bin Laden's most distinguishable feature: his freakish 6'6" height. There was only one snag: The always-prepared Seals had neglected to bring a tape measure.
Being such absolute pros, the soldiers quickly improvised. One of them was about six foot, so they had him lie down next to bin Laden on the floor. They then expertly observed that the corpse was "several inches taller," so they figured that was more enough proof. After the raid, President Obama reportedly said, "We donated a $60 million helicopter to this operation. Could we not afford to buy a tape measure?" Fortunately, the Navy already knew the size of that lost helicopter, which saved a ton of Seals from having to lie down next to it.
With the onset of Prohibition, American alcohol companies abruptly found themselves looking for a new line of work. They already had lots of bottles and refrigerated trucks, so the easiest pivot was to slingin' soda and ice cream. Consumers, having no more booze to fill the holes in their souls, sought comfort in the surplus of sugary goodness suddenly available.
When Prohibition was repealed, ice cream remained popular. Even when WWII broke out and the world was suffering a severe sugar shortage, Americans were eating as many as a million gallons of ice cream per day. They were willing to lose the fight to diabetes before winning the one against Hitler.
Soldiers were no exception. Ice cream rations were more coveted than cigarettes and fresh socks. To prove it, one need only look at the Battle of the Coral Sea from 1942. During engagement with Japanese forces, the USS Lexington was severely damaged and eventually sank. But before the crew abandoned ship, they carried out one extremely important task: They ate all of the ice cream. The men broke into the ship's freezer and scooped all the ice cream into their helmets, licking them clean before evacuating at the last minute. Such a scene would have dramatically improved Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor.
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