10 Highly Decorated American Soldiers (That Everyone Should Know)

Since its inception as a country, America has produced a relentless fighting spirit, resulting in astonishing acts of valor on all corners of the globe. The task of quantifying courage, however, can be a difficult assignment that involves several factors, including different branches of military, date of the commendation, discontinued and/or upgraded medals, and the prestige of an award.

As a measuring stick, it’s helpful to understand the basic hierarchy of the most important American citations for bravery. Heading the class is the Congressional Medal of Honor, an award dating back to 1862 during the Civil War whereby Congress authorized the President to present the citation. The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) falls next in line followed by the Navy Cross — which can’t be won by all soldiers — and where the slippery slope of “Most Decorated” comes into question. As a rule of a thumb, the Silver Star and Bronze Star both carry significant weight, as well as the Purple Heart, a medal given to those wounded in the line of duty.  

Please note this list is by no means definitive or in any particular order, but merely attempts to provide a consensus of highly decorated U.S. soldiers from all major conflicts. Also, one glaring omission is Douglas MacArthur, who technically ranks highest on many polls using an assortment of  arbitrary point systems. However, allowing a 5 Star General (and a man known as “American Caesar”) to sit atop the mountain is kinda like Walt Disney giving himself the honorary key to the Magic Kingdom.

10. Daniel Daly

Daly is one of a select group of soldiers to earn the Medal of Honor twice — and would have probably earned a third had it not been for a petty ruling at the time, setting the limit at two. Nonetheless, the battle-hardened Marine is best remembered for his valor in WWII at the Battle of Belleau Wood, where under intense fire he famously rallied his men, shouting “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?!” The 44-year-old veteran settled for the Distinguished Service Cross, adding to his pile of medals that also included a Navy Cross, a Silver Star, Médaille Militaire, and Croix de Guerre.

The son of Irish immigrants, Daly stood only 5-foot-6 and weighed only 132 pounds, but earned a hard-fought reputation of someone who could scrap and never backed down — a resolve that served him well throughout his life. He first joined the Marines in 1899, and took part in the Boxer Rebellion in China, a mostly forgotten war in which American troops found themselves besieged by local “boxer” militia forces. Pvt. Daly, armed with only a bolt-action rifle and a bayonet, defended a vulnerable position single-handedly against repeated Chinese attacks. By the time reinforcements arrived the following morning, they found his position littered with enemy dead bodies. Throughout the ordeal, the attackers had yelled “Quon-fay,” at Daly, a term meaning “a very bad devil.” For his conspicuous gallantry on August 14, 1900, he received his first Medal of Honor.

Fifteen years later, Gunnery Sergeant Daly earned his second MOH in Haiti while combating the  local Cacos rebels in a conflict designed to protect American business interests commonly known as the “Banana Wars.” Daly’s superiors had offered him an officer’s commission several times, but he always declined, stating  “I would rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”

Perhaps Daly’s greatest accolade came from fellow double Medal of Honor recipient, Major General Smedley Butler, who called Daly the “fightingest Marine I ever knew.”

9. Smedley Butler

At the time of his death in 1940, Butler — aka “The Fighting Quaker” — had achieved the exalted status as the most decorated Marine in history. An impressive accomplishment considering the Corp’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment — and fighting to the death wherever American soldiers are needed.

During his 33 years of service to Uncle Sam, Major General Butler earned numerous citations, including two Medals of Honor, Marine Corps Brevet Medal and The Order of The Black Star. However, Butler is also a fascinating study in contrast as a man who wore a neck-to-navel Marine Corp tattoo on his chest, and later became an outspoken critic of American war profiteering and imperialism.

Born and raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania by Quaker parents, Smedley Butler possessed a streak of rebellion and sense of adventure at an early age. He joined the Marines just prior to his 17th birthday and eventually served in Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Haiti. He also fought in the Mexican Revolution at Battle of Vera Cruz, where received his second MOH.

Known for his leadership and undying loyalty to those under his command, he fought on three continents before retiring from the military in 1931. He then began his second career as an advocate for pacifism, giving lectures around the country which later served as the basis for his book, War is a Racket.

His message didn’t mince words regarding the injustice he could no longer stomach: “At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War… How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill? …Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds… For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it.

8. Edward A. Carter

In 1992, the Secretary of the Army commissioned an independent study to identify African-American soldiers whose acts of valor might have been denied the Medal of Honor due to prejudice in both World Wars. Following completion of the report, Sgt. Edward A. Carter (1916-1963) had been identified and recommended for the country’s highest award.

In 1997, President Clinton presented Carter’s posthumous Medal of Honor to his son, Edward Allen Carter III. His citation in part reads as follows:

On 23 March 1945, near Speyer, Germany, while serving with Company #1, 56th Armored Infantry Regiment, 12th Armored Division. When the tank on which he was riding received heavy bazooka and small arms fire, Sergeant Carter voluntarily attempted to lead a three-man group across an open field. Within a short time, two of his men were killed and the third seriously wounded. Continuing on alone, he was wounded five times and finally forced to take cover. As eight enemy riflemen attempted to capture him, Sergeant Carter killed six of them and captured the remaining two. He then crossed the field using as a shield his two prisoners from which he obtained valuable information concerning the disposition of enemy troops.

Born in Los Angeles on May 26, 1916, to missionary parents, Carter’s path to becoming a national hero involved several foreign stops, including India and China. Eschewing his family’s strict, non aggression beliefs, he ran away from home at 15 and enlisted in the Chinese Nationalist Army to fight against invading Japanese forces; he later wound up in Europe, fighting for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, an integrated volunteer unit of mostly American volunteers dedicated to fighting fascism.  

Upon his return to the United States, Carter joined in the Army in 1941 as a sergeant, but soon found himself subjected to racism within the segregated U.S. military. Making matters worse, an intelligence officer at Fort Benning, Georgia, “deemed it advisable” to put Carter under surveillance because of his background in “communist” China and fighting on the side of the”socialists” in Spain.

Carter eventually shipped out to Europe in 1944 battle-tested and ready to fight; upon arrival in the ETO, he was assigned to George S. Patton’s Third Army, serving briefly as one of the general’s personal bodyguards. By spring of the following year, and with the end of the war in sight, Carter finally saw combat,  but had to accept a demotion to private because he wasn’t allowed to command white troops. That would all change after his heroic actions on March 23, 1945, and saw his sergeant stripes restored for the remainder of the war.

But when Carter attempted to re-enlist prior to the Korean War, his “suspect” background led to being discharged without explanation. Unfortunately, the fact that he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (later upgraded), Purple Heart and Bronze Star fell on deaf ears — and closed minds. Disheartened, he moved back to California, where he later passed away in 1963 at the age of 47 from cancer, a condition his doctors partially attributed to shrapnel still in his neck.

Although Carter was originally buried in West Los Angeles, his remains have since been moved to their rightful final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

7. Robin Olds

Gravitas. A nuanced word that can be difficult to describe but easily understood when looking a photo of triple ace (5 kills = ace) fighter pilot, Robin Olds. He not only looked the part of a superhero — but actually lived it with his lead-from-the front swagger and natural born talent. Not surprisingly, he even married a movie star and pin-up icon, Ella Raines, to complete the picture. However, for all of his many outstanding attributes, it was his non-regulation handlebar mustache dubbed “bulletproof” that would achieve rock star status. The whiskers also pissed off his superiors — which was exactly the point for the rebellious fighter jock who had it all.

Raised in a military family, Olds’ father had been an aviation pioneer in WWI and eventually rose to the rank of a Major General in the Army Air Corp (precursor to the U.S. Air force). The younger Olds attended West Point where he became a football All-American before earning his wings as a pilot in WWII. Shortly after arriving in France in 1944, he earned the first of his 12 confirmed kills during the war, flying P-38s and Mustang P-51s.

He later participated in transcontinental jet races and flew with the air force’s first aerobatic demonstration team, further honing his flying skills and leadership qualities. But his outspoken demeanor and demands for improved training and equipment saw him branded as a troublemaker and iconoclast by higher-ranking officers, who kept him grounded during the Korean War. Olds nearly walked away from the military altogether, but eventually took command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in Vietnam.

His finest hour came in 1967 when he devised a plan labeled “Operation Bolo,” in which F-4 Phantoms used radar-jamming devices to lure (Soviet-made) MiG-21s into a trap. When North Vietnamese fighters responded by attacking what appeared to be slower-moving aircraft, the faster F-4s downed seven enemy jets, including two by Olds in the what became the biggest air battle of the war. He would later bag two more MiGs, giving him a total of 16 kills in his career. Always the outlaw, he stopped logging his combat missions at 99 to avoid reaching the limit that would rotate him back home. He also didn’t want to be used as a publicity tool, and avoided adding more kills to his already impressive record.

By the time he finally retired from the military, now Brigadier General Olds had been decorated 54 times, including the Air Force Cross (USAF’s highest honor), two Air Force Distinguished Service Medals, four Silver Stars, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legion of Merit and Croix de Guerre.

As for that infamous ’stache, Olds cemented his legend this way: “It became the middle finger I couldn’t raise in the [public relations] photographs,” he said. “The mustache became my silent last word in the verbal battles … with higher headquarters on rules, targets and fighting the war.”

6. James F. Hollingsworth

Articles and books written about Lt. General Hollingsworth often describe his unfiltered character as “profane,” “brash,” and “irreverent.” But anyone who fought alongside him during his storied 36 years as a fighting machine held a deep respect for the gruff Texan, whose fearlessness on the battlefield was as large as the state that produced him. From WWII to Vietnam and every conflict in between, Hollingsworth left his mark, earning three Distinguished Service Crosses, four Distinguished Service Medals, four Silver Stars, three Legion of Merit medals, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, six Purple Hearts, and four Bronze Stars.

After graduating from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M) in 1940, he accepted a commission in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. He would participate in seven major campaigns in WWII, rising from platoon leader to battalion tank commander in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army. During a legendary engagement near the Elbe River in Germany, then Major Hollingsworth encountered well-entrenched German defenders. Seizing the moment befitting of fiery nature, “Holly” lined up his 34 tanks and loudly gave the command, “Charge!” As expected, the terrified Germans broke and ran.

Hollingsworth later added to his colorful reputation (and vast collection of medals and commendations) as the assistant division commander of the 1st Infantry (“Big Red One”) Division in 1966. In Southeast Asia, he became known by the radio call sign “Danger 79er” and famously once told a reporter that it felt “real good to be killin’ hell out of the communists.” Hollingsworth would be reprimanded by Army brass for his cavalier raids that included participating in search and destroy missions aboard his helicopter.

5. Eddie Rickenbacker

Prior to becoming America’s most decorated ace pilot in WWI, “Fast Eddie” had been a champion race car driver and set a then world record of 134 miles-per-hour. He later swapped uniforms and registered 26 kills in the skies over Europe in just nine months of aerial combat. Although the infamous Manfred (“The Red Baron“) von Richthofen is credited with more downed aircraft (80), most military historians agree that Rickenbacker’s expert stick and throttle skills, and natural born killer instincts put him in a class all by himself.

As one of eight children born to Swiss immigrants in Columbus, Ohio, Rickenbacker’s mercurial rise as a national hero is a remarkable tale of talent and determination. When American officially entered WWI in 1917, Rickenbacker enlisted in the Army and became a chauffeur on General John Pershing’s staff. “Fast Eddie” set his sights on becoming a pilot in the newly formed Army Air Service, but at 26 years old, he exceeded the age limit by two years and also lacked the formal education required to fly. But with perseverance and a display of undeniable skills, Rickenbacker eventually earned his wings and became commanding officer of the 94th Aero “Hat-in-the-Ring” Squadron. Once airborne, he wasted little time establishing his reputation as a lethal fighter.

He would receive the Medal of Honor for actions on September 25, 1918, during a voluntary solo patrol behind enemy lines in France. Rickenbacker attacked a squadron of German planes (including five Fokker D.VIIs) from behind the sun, plunging his Spad biplane into a power dive, a maneuver that became his signature move on the unsuspecting enemy. After shooting two of the planes, he returned to base for a well-deserved hero’s welcome. In addition to his MOH, Rickenbacker received seven Distinguished Service Crosses and the French Croix de Guerre.

Incredibly, his life after the war would prove far more dangerous as he experienced two near-fatal plane crashes and became lost at sea for 24 days. Somehow, he managed to survive and went on to become a highly successful businessman and the CEO of Eastern Airlines.

4. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

Whether he acquired his nickname for being the cockiest rooster in the yard or simply from all the medals pinned to his chest, this Marine’s Marine achieved near-mythical status during his 37 years of wreaking havoc on the enemy. Puller’s quest for military glory began at an early age while growing up near the hallowed grounds of northern Virginia, where he listened to old war stories about Confederate legends such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Puller briefly attended Virginia Military Institute before dropping out to “go where the guns are” and fulfill his dream of becoming a career soldier. After missing out on WWI, he experienced his first taste of combat in Haiti and later earned the first of his five Navy Cross medals (the most ever awarded) while fighting a guerrilla insurgency in Nicaragua. His personal motto of leading by example became the stuff of legend, taking part in some of the bloodiest fights in WWII and the Korean War. At the Battle of Guadalcanal, Puller became wounded by sniper fire and shrapnel (which only made him angrier) as he repeatedly rallied his vastly outnumbered men against a barrage of Japanese attacks.

Lt. General Puller eventually surpassed Smedley Butler to become the most decorated Marine — despite never receiving a Medal of Honor — an egregious snub that remains a hotly debated subject with military experts and historians alike. Puller’s heroic exploits and unwavering loyalty to the Corps are just a few reasons why to this day, Marines at boot camp typically end each day, declaring “Good night, Chesty Puller, wherever you are!”

3. Audie Murphy

The inscription for the Medal of Honor begins “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of  life above and beyond the call of duty.” A fitting introduction indeed, for the larger-than-life figure of Audie Murphy. Ironically, this pint-sized Texan (he stood 5-foot-5 — and that’s being generous) was repeatedly rejected for military service due to his physical shortcomings. Finally, the Army said yes, and the man called “Baby” proceeded to kill 250 enemy soldiers to become commonly known as the most decorated soldier in WWII.

In January 1945, a particularly brutal firefight near the German village of Holtzwihr, Murphy produced one of greatest acts of courage in American military history.  With his company in retreat and facing certain annihilation from enemy artillery, the fearless 19-year-old climbed on top of a burning M-10 tank, tossing dead bodies aside and commandeered a .50 caliber machine gun. Despite being severely wounded, he held off a steady wave of German infantry and tanks for over an hour — actions for which he would later receive the Medal of Honor.  

After the war, he wrote a best selling memoir, To Hell and Back, and also became a Hollywood movie star. And yes, he even did his own stunts. In addition to his Medal of Honor, he earned a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, the French Fourrager, the French Legion of Honor, Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star, and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

2. David Hackworth

Some boys dream of running away to join the circus. David Hackworth left home at 14 in  search of a war. Incredibly, he would earn 91 medals as one of the most decorated soldiers who ever lived, including two Distinguished Service Crosses, 10 Silver Stars, 8 Bronze Stars, and 8 Purple Hearts. He won a battlefield commission at 20 to become the youngest captain the Korean War and was the youngest full bird (colonel) in Vietnam. Movie buffs will also appreciate that the man known as “Hack” reputedly served as inspiration for the rogue character of Colonel Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now.

After catching the tail end of WWII as a Merchant Marine, he joined the Army and rose quickly through the ranks. He commanded the “Wolfhound Raiders,” an all-volunteer regiment in Korea, where during an intense firefight he was shot in the head but refused to quit fighting. Typical never-say-die “Hack.” By the time the next war rolled around, he had become an expert on guerrilla warfare tactics and would co-author the Veteran Primer, a manual on counterinsurgency still in use today.

But as the war in Vietnam dragged on, Hackworth became more rebellious and independent, as well as increasingly frustrated with the Pentagon. In a 1971 interview with ABC-TV, he even went as far as to say that the war couldn’t be won. His candor caught American top brass off guard — after all, they expected to see his star continually rise — or as Coppola later put it, “He was being groomed for one of the top slots in the corporation. General, Chief of Staff… anything.” Following Hackworth’s controversial statements, the Army floated the possibility of a court-martial, but the colonel was eventually allowed to resign with an honorable discharge.

He then turned to writing and journalism, penning his best-selling autobiography About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. Additionally, he founded Soldiers for the Truth, an advocacy group dedicated to military reform, both in terms of improved capability and treatment of personnel.

1. Robert L. Howard

John Wayne spent most of his career portraying fictional heroes on the silver screen. Colonel Robert L. Howard spent most of his career portraying a hero on the battlefield: himself — and even found time to appear in two of the Duke’s films, The Longest Day and The Green Berets. But for someone like Howard, the word “hero” doesn’t even begin to describe the enlisted man from Opelika, Alabama, who became the most decorated soldier of the modern era.

For those not familiar with Howard’s remarkable story, there’s a good reason: most of his service involved highly classified, covert ops behind enemy lines. In his extraordinary 36 years in uniform, he became a Paratrooper, Pathfinder, Airborne Ranger, Green Beret, and finally a full colonel before his retirement in 1992.  

As a member of Special Forces, he served in the top-secret MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group), which ran cross-border operations along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam, and conducted some of the most gutsy and dangerous missions of the war.

His duty included five tours in which he received eight Purple Hearts (although he was wounded 14 times) and was nominated for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions during a thirteen-month span. The first two actions resulted in a Distinguished Service Cross and a Silver Star, but his third act of “conspicuous gallantry” earned him the Medal of Honor during involving a mission to rescue a fellow soldier in Cambodia.

Howard passed away in 2009 at the age of 70 and was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery. As of January 2019, Hollywood is still trying to figure out who could convincingly play this real-life Rambo.

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10 Historic Mistakes That Cost Businesses a Fortune

A little while ago, we went over 10 of the biggest business failures in the 21st Century. But businesses have been screwing things up for much longer than that. Here are some of the biggest business blunders in history…

10. The “New Coke” Formula Almost Destroyed Coca Cola

In 1985, Coca-Cola decided to reformulate their soda in order to keep up with their main competitor, Pepsi. They called this “New Coke” and claimed that it improved the taste of the original. They also paid millions of dollars to advertise the revamp of the product with the slogan “New Coke Is It!” The commercials featured icons that they believed were popular with young people, like Bill Cosby and the character Max Headroom. The executives at the company never expected what happened next. There was a huge backlash from consumers, and nearly everyone wanted their classic Coca-Cola back. It caused a bit of a panic, as well. People were stockpiling bottles of Coca-Cola from grocery store shelves.

Their biggest mistake was that they had no idea how consumers actually felt about their product. Pepsi even used this fiasco to their advantage, coming up with a commercial featuring a group of angry old men complaining that “they changed my Coke” and choosing to switch to Pepsi, instead. So the CEO of Coca-Cola had to appear on TV and apologize to everyone, promising that they were going to get rid of New Coke.

9. Kodak Passed Up The Digital Camera in the 1970s

Steven Sasson began working for Kodak in 1973, and they allowed him to use their equipment to build his own projects. After tinkering around, he came up with a primitive form of the digital camera using what was called a “charged coupled device.” He presented his invention to Kodak executives in 1975. Since this was years before memory cards existed, Sasson had to keep the still images on a VHS tape, and the only way to view them was by putting them into a VCR and seeing a tiny 100×100 pixel black and white image on a television screen.

Kodak thought this was far too much effort for such a low-quality image, and that people would never want to look at still pictures on their TVs. That wasn’t the point, of course, because this was incredibly valuable technology, and the very beginning of digital photography. Sasson eventually left his job at Kodak and partnered with Robert Hills in 1989 to build the first DSLR camera. Fuji and Nikon became the first companies to begin selling digital cameras, and Kodak missed the boat, potentially losing millions of dollars in sales.

8. Henry Ford Attempted To Create a Utopian Factory Town Called “Fordlandia”

In 1928, rubber was very expensive to manufacture. It had to be tapped from rubber trees in a tropical climate, and it was shipped to the United States from Sri Lanka. Henry Ford was buying massive amounts of rubber to make tires at his car factory. Synthetic rubber had been invented in 1920, but at the time, companies believed that real rubber was far superior, and would even warn customers against buying tires with fake rubber. He figured that if he built a factory in South America, he could produce the real rubber himself, instead of having to pay a third party.

He rented land from the Brazilian state of Para that stretched across a massive 5,625 miles of the Amazon rainforest. He paid $125,000 for the rights to use that land, which would be more like $1,750,000 today. It turns out that he got ripped off, though, because he could have purchased the land for next-to-nothing.

Since he had use of so much land, he decided that they needed a factory, houses for employees, stores, a dance hall, and a school. Soon enough, this was a fully functioning town called Fordlandia. To those who lived there, Henry Ford was remembered for being a bit controlling over people’s lives. He only allowed citizens to eat very healthy food, and alcohol was strictly forbidden. By 1930, there was a riot among the workers, and he lightened up on the rules and tried to make it more enjoyable to live there.

To make matters worse, Ford did not anticipate how difficult it actually was to farm rubber, and they were never able to manufacture it. To make matters worse, artificial rubber would become the new norm for his competitors, which was far cheaper to make in the US. Fordlandia became a money pit. He decided to completely give up on the project and move back home. The old factory and ghost town still remain standing to this day.

7. M&M’s Turned Down The Chance to Be in E.T.

E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial premiered in theaters in 1982, and it far surpassed even Star Wars with its box office success, becoming the highest grossing film of its time. With this type of notoriety, just about any brand in the world would pay big bucks to have their product featured in that movie.

There’s a scene in the movie when Eliot uses candy to lure E.T. out of hiding. Universal Pictures first approached Mars Candy to see if they were interested in paying for product placement to have M&M’s brand chocolate be featured in that scene. They turned it down, because they did not want to be associated with a movie about extraterrestrials. Of course, they had absolutely no idea just how much of an impact the film would have. Hershey’s accepted the offer, and paid to feature their Reese’s Pieces candy. Immediately after the premiere of E.T., sales went up 65%. That year, Hershey’s earned $35 million on Reese’s Pieces alone.

6. The Schlitz Beer Debacle

Schlitz has been called “The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous.” The brewery was started in 1848 by German immigrants, and it was known as being one of the best-tasting beers on the market. In the 1940s and ’50s, Schlitz and Budweiser were battling head-to-head in their spot for the #1 beer in the United States.

In the early 1960s, they decided to change their formula in order to cut costs and make production faster. They reduced the amount of malted barley and replaced it with corn syrup, and used hop pellets instead of fresh hops. At first, their plan worked, because they were able to speed up the process and sell more Schlitz beer in a short period of time. However, consumers could taste that the beer was nothing like it had been before. Even though fans demanded the better-tasting beer, and Budweiser pointed out that they were using unnatural chemicals in their brew, Schlitz didn’t listen.

They stuck to their plan of trying to produce their beer faster than Budweiser, so they began using chemical beer stabilizer to produce “accelerated batch fermentation.” After testing this new formula, the employees noticed that it cause a hazy “mucus” to form on the top of the beer, but the company pushed this formula out into the market anyway. Customers refused to buy it, because they were afraid it would make them sick. So Schlitz was forced to recall $1.4 million of beer. Their reputation was permanently damaged, and they were never anywhere close to being the #1 selling beer again.

By the 1980s, they were closing factories down, and the company lost over 90% of their original value. Schlitz was purchased by the Pabst Brewing Company, and by 2000s, they began to advertise that they were finally going back to their original formula. It was just a few decades too late.

5. In the 1990s, Faulty Firestone Tires Caused 20 Deaths

For over 100 years, Ford had an ongoing contract where they agreed to only put Firestone tires on their cars. The two corporations were so close that even some of the Firestone and Ford heirs got married to one another. From 1992 to 2000, there were 20 incidents of Ford Explorers getting into serious accidents, all because the tread of their Firestone tires would peel off until they were completely bald. Ford recalled all of their Explorers to remove the Firestone tires, and the CEOs of both companies had to appear in court to answer for the deaths of those people.

Both companies blamed the other. Ford was saying the only issue with the car was the tires, but Firestone pointed out that those same tires were used on multiple cars, and yet they only fell apart frequently on the Ford Explorer. There are some people who believe this was an elaborate conspiracy by Ford to get out of their century-long contract so that they could save money by purchasing tires from another company. However, it turns out that Firestone had a long history of losing millions of dollars’ worth of recalled tires, and they paid $500,000 fines as far back as the 1970s.

4. Excite.com Passed on Google

In the ’90s, a company called Excite owned Ask.com, and they were a leading search engine website. In 1998, they were worth $150 million. In 1999, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded the Alphabet company, and came up with their own search engine, Google. While it’s hard to imagine now, Page and Brin were willing to sell Google.com, along with its valuable search algorithms, for just $1 million.

However, the CEO of Excite, George Bell, was feeling confident in their dominance at the time, so he tried to talk them down to $750,000. They walked away from the deal, and decided to keep Google for themselves. They decided to raise funding to help them improve the company and re-launched Google.com. The company went public in 2004, and obviously, this was a great move. These days, Google is worth about $753 billion.  

3. Snapple Lost Quaker Millions of Dollars

In 1994, Snapple was one of the hottest beverages on the market. Instead of soda, it seemed that people were buying into the trend of drinking fruit juices and tea. Quaker decided to buy Snapple for $1 billion, because they were so confident that the beverage brand would only continue to skyrocket in price. The chairman of Quaker, William D. Smithburg, had purchased Gatorade in 1983, and he used clever marketing to make it extremely popular. The drink became a staple for kids to drink at every after-school sports practice in America. Smithburg was overly confident that he could do the same thing with Snapple, even though he was buying the company at the peak of its value.

Unfortunately for them, they weren’t making profits fast enough. There were already so many similar drinks on the market at that time that there simply wasn’t enough of a demand. In 1997, they had to sell Snapple for just $192.5 million. To put this into perspective, this means that Quaker lost $1.6 million dollars for every day it owned Snapple.

2. Pan Am Airlines Is a Fallen Icon

Pan Am Airlines was founded in 1927, and they were the first to make an international flight to Cuba. In the 1930s, it built itself up to become one of the most iconic airlines in history. It was known for hiring beautiful stewardesses, its comfortable seats, and its accommodating service. By the 1950s, they were the only airline that regularly made flights across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The company was so iconic it even inspired a TV show in 2011.

Unfortunately, the company ran into a string of bad luck. There are lots of reasons why it failed, but there were a few key events that lead to its demise. An energy crisis in 1973 increased the cost of fuel, and lead to an economic recession. Then, in 1978, the government deregulated the airline industry, which lead to more competition. And in 1985, there was a worker’s strike, and it forced Pan Am to sell their Pacific flights to United Airlines. In 1986 and 1988, there were two seperate terrorist hijackings. They couldn’t catch a break. No matter how hard they tried, the airline simply couldn’t keep afloat and officially shut down in 1991.

1. In the 1980s People Were Dying From Taking Tylenol

In 1982, seven people in Chicago died after taking Tylenol Extra Strength capsules that were laced with potassium cyanide. After this, Americans were having a crisis about what is now known as the Tylenol Murders, and everyone was afraid of taking the medication. It turns out that this was the work of a terrorist, and they were able to open and fill plastic capsules with cyanide.

This could have completely ruined the reputation of Tylenol, but their crisis management team responded by recalling 31 million bottles of their product, which cost the company $100 million. They also offered a $100,000 reward for any information leading to the person responsible. They release a new bottle that was tamper-proof, and educated people on the importance of never taking medication that looks as if someone had opened the bottle before. While there are several theories of the identity of the Tylenol Killer, their identity has never been confirmed.



10 of History’s Most Depraved Female Killers

Most of the vicious killers who haunt the popular imagination are male. Part of the reason behind this is that most killers aremale. In the US, for example, about 90% of murders are committed by men. However, female killers are out there, and women have committed some truly heinous murders. Below are 10 of the worst exemplars, female killers who are at least as evil as their more well-known male counterparts…

10. Miyuki Ishikawa

While the full extent of her crimes may never be known, Miyuki Ishikawa, who would come to be known as Oni Sanba (“Demon Midwife”), is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of over 100 newborn babies in her care. In the economic turmoil of postwar Japan, many of the poor couples at the Kotobuki maternity hospital where Ishikawa served as director, could not afford to raise their new babies.

Ishikawa’s “solution” to this was a truly heinous one—allowing the babies under her care to starve to death. With the help of her husband and the hospital’s physician, Ishikawa arranged to falsify the death records for the babies she had killed through neglect. Ishikawa’s accomplices also solicited payments from the parents of these infants. The horrific “murder mill,” was uncovered when police accidentally found the remains of five infant victims, and later discovered more than 70 additional bodies. Ishikawa’s argument that the true perpetrators were the parents who abandoned their infants apparently had some resonance with the court—she was initially sentenced to only eight years for her crimes, and that term was reduced to four years on appeal. Reportedly, this case led the Japanese government to reconsider its ban on abortion. The year after Ishikawa’s crimes were brought to light, abortion for economic reasons was legalized in Japan.

9. Juana Barraza

Police in Mexico City initially suspected that the serial killer who was preying on the city’s elderly women–with more than 40 victims, by some estimates–was a man. The killer, who had been dubbed “Mataviejites” (“Little Old Lady Killer”) had been seen leaving a victim’s home. Witnesses reported that the killer had been wearing women’s clothing, but had a heavier frame. The killer won the trust of victims by posing as a helpful neighbor, nurse, or social worker, then entering the homes of the women, who lived alone, strangling them (usually with their own clothing or a stethoscope) and leaving with a small trophy (often a religious statue). Police searched for the killer for a couple years, even harassing local transvestite groups, but had no luck finding the man they believed was responsible.

The mystery was finally solved when a returning tenant witnessed the killer fleeing the scene after murdering the tenant’s 82-year-old landlady. The tenant called the police and they quickly apprehended the person behind the killings–and it wasn’t who they were expecting. Instead of the man in drag the police had been searching for, the culprit was a woman: 42-year-old Juana Barraza, who worked part-time as a professional wrestler. Barraza, who denied responsibility for all but one of the murders attributed to her, attributed her crime to lingering resentment towards her abusive mother. She was sentenced to more than 700 years in prison for the murders of 11 women, though she is suspected to have logged dozens more victims before her capture.

8. Amelia Dyer

Victorian England was not a place that welcomed unmarried single mothers. Women who gave birth out of wedlock and couldn’t financially support their children didn’t have many options. One of these options was to turn to a “baby farmer,” a woman who, in exchange for a fee, would take in and care for the child and/or place it for adoption. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous women determined that they could pocket the money paid by the birth mother without actually following through on ensuring a good future for her newborn. The worst of these women was a former nurse named Amelia Dyer.

Dyer would place ads in the paper that proclaimed a childless married couple was seeking an infant to raise, along with a payment (one ad specifies 10 pounds as the amount sought). Then she would take custody of the baby. Initially, it appears that she killed her young charges through administering opium-laced medications and underfeeding. She even served six months of imprisonment for neglect, after a doctor became suspicious after numerous babies died in Dyer’s care.

Unfortunately, jail didn’t stop Dyer. Upon her release, she returned to her murderous ways, though she had learned to conceal her crimes; she moved frequently, used several names, and disposed of the babies’ bodies on her own. She was caught when the bodies of two babies, which she had packaged and thrown in the Thames, floated to the surface, and identifying information on the packaging was tied to one of her aliases. After first attempting suicide in police custody, Dyer eventually confessed, adding a chilling detail for police investigators. “You’ll know which ones are mine by the tape around their necks,” Dyer reportedly said, indicating that she had used tape to strangle the babies. A jury took only five minutes to decide to convict Dyer and sentence her to death for her one of the murders. On June 20, 1896, Dyer was executed by hanging for this murder, though it is estimated that she was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of other infants.

7. Leonarda Cianciulli

Leonarda Cianciulli struck most folks in her small Italian town of Correggio as a kindly middle-aged woman who ran a small shop in town and doted on her four children. When you hear “murderous cannibal,” Cianciulli is not whom you picture, but nonetheless, that is exactly who she became. Cianciulli had lost several pregnancies as well as several children early in their childhoods, and was extra-protective of her remaining brood. Reportedly, when a fortune teller told Cianciulli she would need to kill to protect her remaining children, Cianciulli took it to heart. When, in 1939, it appeared Cianciulli’s beloved eldest son would be joining the army in the lead up to WWII, Cianciulli went to work.

From 1939 to 1940, Cianciulli lured three middle-aged women into her shop, offering them advice, saying she had found the first one a husband and the latter two jobs. She encouraged the women to tell everyone they knew that they would soon be leaving to move to distant cities to begin their new lives. Then, one by one, she invited them over for a meal before their planned departures, knocked them out with drugged wine and killed and dismembered them with an ax.

Disposing of the bodies might have presented a problem for another woman, but Cianciulli had soap-making equipment at hand and used the caustic soda to melt them down in her soap-making pot, using the blood as an ingredient for cookies. Cianciulli details the process in her confession, saying, “I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Guiseppe [Cianciulli’s son] and I also at them.” Cianciulli became better with practice, saying she was able to produce “some most acceptable creamy soap” from the remains of her third victim and that, “The cakes, too, were better. That woman was really sweet.” Cianciulli’s crimes were discovered after the sister-in-law of the third victim spotted her entering Cianciulli’s house, but not exiting, information which she shared with the police after her sister-in-law went missing. After her killing spree came to light, Cianciulli became known as the “Soap-maker of Correggio.” She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and died in 1970 in a criminal asylum.

6. Dagmar Overbye

Like Amelia Dyer, Dagmar Overbye was a “baby farmer” with a dark side. Her killing spree, in 1920s Copenhagen, Denmark, followed a similar trajectory to Dyer’s, though it may have begun with the murder of her own child, who died under mysterious circumstances.

Overbye claimed to be an adoption facilitator, taking unwanted children from poor women, who paid Overbye a year’s wages to find their child a loving home. However, instead of arranging for adoptions, Overbye murdered the children, usually by strangling them, disposing of their bodies by burying them, hiding them in the attic, or baking them in her oven, a practice that resulted in her nickname—“the Vesterbro baby burner”.

Overbye’s murderous business went on undetected for 7 years, and claimed an estimated 25 infant victims, and it could have gone on longer. However, one birth mother, Karoline Aagesen, had a change of heart the day after she left her newborn daughter with Overbye. When Overbye claimed not to remember the address of the adoptive couple with whom the child supposedly had been left, Aagesen became suspicious and reported Overbye to the police. Upon visiting Overbye’s home, the police discovered the baby’s discarded clothing as well as remains of an infant’s skull and bones in the stove. Overbye was arrested for murdering 16 children, though only convicted of 9 deaths because evidence was lacking in some of the cases. She was sentenced to death for her crimes, though the Danish king later commuted her sentence to life in prison. Overbye died in prison in 1929.

5. Belle Gunness

Belle Gunness may have looked like a big-boned, plain Midwestern farm wife, but her charms were evidently sufficient to lure dozens of men to their deaths at her hands. It isn’t clear Belle Gunness started out as a killer. She likely began with arson and insurance fraud, as she and her first husband collected on insurance proceeds when their struggling candy shop, then their home, burned down. But Belle appears to have moved on to murder fairly quickly, with two of the couple’s four children dying as infants—infants on which Belle and her husband held life insurance policies, on which they collected. Her first husband wasn’t long for the world either, dying on the only day of the year in which his two life insurance policies were in effect, of what a local doctor called heart failure, but which also could have been poisoning.

Belle took her newfound wealth and bought a pig farm in Indiana, marrying a local widower. The widowers infant daughter died mysteriously shortly after the wedding and then Belle’s new husband died in a tragic accident with a meat grinder. If you’re guessing that Belle had a life insurance policy on him, you are correct. From there on out, she catfished, then murdered, a series of men by placing ads in Norwegian language newspapers implying that she was seeking a man with whom to share her life—and her farm. When the lovestruck men showed up with their life savings, Belle poisoned them, chopped up their bodies, and then either buried them or fed them to the hogs.

When one suitor’s brother started digging into the details of his brother’s disappearance, Belle’s home burned to the ground. Four bodies were found in the charred remnants of the home—3 children corresponding in size to Belle’s children, and a headless woman. The woman’s frame appeared smaller than Belle’s, but some of Belles false teeth were found near the body. Investigators combing through the farm looking for the body’s head didn’t find it, but did find other human bones, teeth, a bunch of men’s watches, and several bodies. They conclusively unearthed 14 bodies, and estimated that the total body count may have been as high as 40. As for Belle, she may have gotten away with it. Her bank accounts had been almost completely emptied shortly before the fire and a handyman, who had been Belle’s on-again-off-again lover and accomplice in disposing of her suitor’s bodies, claimed that Belle had killed a maid she had recently hired and left the body in the house before burning it to the ground. More than 20 years later a woman named Ester Carlson, who looked an awful lot like Belle Gunness, was arrested in Los Angeles for poisoning a Norwegian-American man for his money. She died while awaiting trial, and the truth about what ever happened to Belle Gunness may have died along with her.

4. Jane Toppan

The cheerful demeanor Jane Toppan displayed during her nursing work earned her the nickname “Jolly Jane.” But Jane wasn’t “jolly” to cheer up patients who were suffering and dying; Jane was jolly because her patients were suffering and dying, sometimes at her hands. After her arrest, Toppan admitted to 31 murders, saying that she derived sexual pleasure from the life or death power she held over patients.

Toppan’s landlord and, later, his wife were among Toppan’s earliest victims. She also killed off friends (so she could assume their jobs), subsequent landlords, and patients. When her landlord’s wife came to collect on past due rent, Toppan poisoned her, then killed the landlord as well as the landlord’s two daughters. She had finally gone too far. The father-in-law of one of landlord’s daughters was suspicious that four members of a seemingly healthy family could die so suddenly. He had the family’s bodies exhumed and evaluated by a toxicologist; testing revealed that the man’s daughter-in-law had died of atropine and morphine poisoning. Shortly thereafter, on October 29, 1901, Toppan was arrested for murder. She confessed to 31 murders (though she is suspected of up to 100 in total), but was found not guilty by reason of insanity, eventually dying at the hospital to which she had been confined.

3. Gertrude Baniszewski

Unlike the other killers on this list, Baniszewski is only responsible for one death—that of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens. However, the sustained torture that Baniszewski subjected Likens to in the weeks before her death, as well as the fact that she involved both her own children and neighborhood children in Likens’ abuse, make this killing especially heinous. The Indianapolis Police Department’s homicide chief would later call the abuse and murder of Likens, “the most sadistic act I ever came across.”

Sylvia Likens’ living nightmare began when her parents, traveling carnival workers, dropped her and her 15-year-old sister, Jenny, off with Baniszewski. Baniszewski, who had seven children of her own at home, had agreed to care for the sisters for $20 a week while their parents were working elsewhere. When the Likens’ parents were late paying their boarding fees, Baniszewski turned her wrath on Sylvia, who she also later accused of spreading rumors about her daughters. Not only did Baniszewski torture Sylvia, beating her, subjecting her to burning water, starving her, burning her with cigarettes, and pushing her down the stairs, she encouraged her kids and kids from the neighborhood to do the same. Baniszewski encouraged a 15-year-old neighbor to etch “I am a prostitute and proud of it” into Sylvia’s stomach with a sewing needle she provided, and helping him to spell the word ‘prostitute.’

By the time police were called to the house on October 26, 1965, it was too late for her. Sylvia’s mangled body was found on a filthy mattress, and her sister begged police to to get her out of the home, and told them the whole story. Gertrude Baniszewski was tried, along with several of her children, for the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens. Baniszewski was sentenced to life in prison, but was released for good behavior, after serving less than 20 years of her sentence.

2. Delphine LaLaurie

Delphine LaLaurie, a wealthy Louisiana socialite, was well-known in antebellum New Orleans, both for her beauty and the lavish events she and her husband hosted. However, in the early 1830’s, she was in the public eye for a different reason—the cruelty she displayed towards her slaves. The first incident came in 1833, when LaLaurie, enraged that a 12-year slave girl who had been brushing her hair hit a tangle, chased the girl with a whip. The terrified girl ran off the roof to her death. LaLaurie tossed her body in the well. Investigators made her pay a fine and sell her slaves, but she quickly bought them back.

On April 10, 1834, LaLaurie’s French Quarter mansion caught fire, possibly as a suicide attempt by the slave who was found chained to the oven. A gathering crowd noticed Delphine running to save her possessions from the fire and wondered where her slaves were, a question which Delphine would not answer. Bystanders quickly realized that the slaves were trapped in the attic of the home, which was locked. According to the local paper, “Several gentlemen impelled by their feelings of humanity demanded the keys which were refused to them in a gross and insulting manner.” When the men finally got in, “the most appalling spectacle met their eyes. Seven slaves more or less horribly mutilated were seen suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other.” Even in the context of a time when slavery was commonplace, LaLaurie’s cruelty apparently stood out. When word got out about the abuse the slaves had suffered, a mob quickly formed and destroyed the homes’ contents. The Lalauries quickly fled, apparently leaving New Orleans and perhaps the country, and little is known of their subsequent lives. Reports suggested that at least two of these slaves died of their injuries after their rescue, and that other bodies were also found on the grounds of the property.

1. Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova

Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova, commonly known as Saltychikha, was another noblewoman with a dark side. A young Russian widow, Saltykova had inherited her husband’s sizable holdings in 1756, which included a number of serfs. Saltykova was reportedly a very unhappy woman with a volatile temper, which she was prone to taking out on female serfs. Reportedly, Saltykova beat them, mutilated them, poured boiling water on them, threw them outside without clothes in the freezing winter. More than 100 serfs are estimated to have died at her hands.

Because Saltykova had powerful political connections, it took a long time for her to be brought to justice, despite the mounting body count. Finally, in 1762, Empress Catherine II ordered Saltykova’s arrest. A 6-year investigation followed, noting as many as 138 suspicious deaths connected to Saltykova. Saltykova was eventually found guilty of torturing 38 female serfs to death. She was sentenced to be chained on a platform in the center of Moscow for an hour, wearing a sign around her neck saying “I have tortured and murdered,” after which she spent the remainder of her life imprisoned, spitting and waving a stick at people who passed by her cell.

10 People Who Lost Their Citizenship

You might not always like your home country, but at least it is yours. Citizenship to new countriesis something that may be hard to acquire, but at least no one can ever take away the one you already have … right?

Wrong. People can and absolutely do lose and renounce their citizenships all the time, for all sorts of strange reasons. Here are some of the most famous cases.

10. Mehran Nasseri

No one is sure just how Mehran Karimi Nasseri got stuck in the Charles De Gaulle airport — possibly, not even the man himself. This is because most of the information comes from the man himself, who is notorious for changing his account with each telling. We know that he’s originally from Iran, and possibly had a British mother. He speaks English, Farsi and French, and carries himself like a man with higher education. After that, where facts and legend start to intertwine. Sometimes, Nasseri says that he was rejected by his Iranian family. Other times, he states that he was mistreated by the shah’s secret police. He has also claimed that his mother was a Scottish aristocrat, and likes to go by the name “Sir Alfred.”

Regardless of the specifics of his story, in 1988 a series of complicated reasons that possibly involved a suitcase theft and definitely involved a plan to enter Britain with or without his papers left Nasseri stranded on the Terminal One of Charles de Gaulle International Airport. He could not leave or enter France without official documentation, and after much head-scratching, the airport officials told him to wait in the only place he was legally allowed to stay: the airport lounge. This wait took 18 years.

The man without citizenship soon attracted the attention of media, and managed to survive quite comfortably with modest interview fees, kindness of strangers and airport employees, and eventually, a hefty sum of $250,000 from Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks for the rights of his story. The ensuing movie, The Terminal, made “Sir Alfred” famous, and he seemed content to remain at the airport — even turning down several offers of citizenship, because they didn’t use his preferred name and were from countries he didn’t like. However, fate would not let Nasseri stay in his terminal haven forever. In 2006, he was hospitalized, and eventually moved to a shelter in Paris.  

9. Gerard Depardieu

Famous actor Gerard Depardieu may seem as French as they come, but in reality, the man is Russian these days. In 2012, Depardieu grew tired of France’s tax policies and government, and wrote a fiery open letter where he announced that he would leave the country and renounce his citizenship. The fact that the government had previously accused him of evading taxes by moving abroad was … not entirely coincidental.

Depardieu first moved to Belgium, where taxation is rather more forgiving to the rich. However, Vladimir Putin soon sensed a PR opportunity, and offered the famous actor a chance to become a Russian citizen. Depardieu took up the offer in 2013, and by 2014, he was performing on the stages of Paris as a visiting Russian actor. It appears that Depardieu is not planning to rest in his citizenship laurels, either. In a 2018 trip to North Korea, he reportedly announced that he’s planning to apply for Turkish citizenship next.

8. Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam is famous for directing dystopic visions such as Brazil and 12 Monkeys, and even more famous for being the only American member of the legendary comedy troupe, Monty Python. The latter part of his legacy is at least partially unfounded, though. Although Gilliam was born in Minnesota, he emigrated to Britain in the 1960s, married an English woman and held dual citizenship for three decades. For all practical intents and purposes, this makes him as English as Earl Grey tea with a slice of lemon.

In 2012, Gilliam shed his last remaining connections to the United States when he renounced his U.S. citizenship. He says that the reason for his decision was the increasingly nasty political climate of his birth country: He joked that he’s thinking of suing George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for making a less funny version of the nightmarish Brazil without his approval, and that if he’d stayed in the U.S., he’d be “throwing bombs.”

7. John Huston

It’s anyone’s guess why John Huston, famous director and father of equally famous actress Anjelica Huston, decided to drop his United States citizenship in favor of an Irish one in 1964. Huston and his family had been living in the country for some time, but it has been suggested that the citizenship change had less to do with personal preference — and a lot to do with the 80-90% income tax rate he was allegedly paying at the time. Huston himself insisted that the move had absolutely nothing to do with taxation, and he merely felt that a person should be the citizen of the country he’s living in.

Whatever the real reason behind Huston’s newfound Irishness was, it’s worth pointing out that in 1969, the country’s Minister of Finance, Charles Haughey, made all artists residing in Ireland exempt from income tax. Incidentally, Haughey was also the very same man who gave Huston his citizenship papers five years earlier.

6. Tina Turner

Tina Turner may be an iconic American singer, but this doesn’t mean that she finds America particularly iconic. Over the decades, the artist has become more and more European: She has dated a German music producer called Erwin Bach since 1985, and they finally married in 2013. Turner has also lived in Switzerland for over two decades. She’s now fluent in German, and says that she has absolutely no connections to the United States save for some family. She also has no intention of ever moving back to her country of birth.

The only remaining step for completely ditching her roots was to take up Swiss citizenship and throw away her American one, which Turner officially did in 2013. However, she didn’t dramatically renounce her citizenship, like many other people on this list. Instead, the process she chose is called ‘relinquishment’, which is rather more like an amiable divorce: Turner took Swiss citizenship with the intent of losing her U.S. citizenship, allowing it to drift away over time instead of cutting the ties right away. Although it’s a slower process, it comes with the added bonus of avoiding the tax and other penalties that can be associated with a straight renouncement.

5. Ted Arison

Billionaire Ted Arison may not be as well-known as some of the other people on this list, but his citizenship case is certainly one of the more tumultuous ones because of the sheer amounts of money involved. In 1990, the cruise industry tycoon who founded Carnival Cruise unexpectedly moved from Miami to Israel and dropped his American citizenship, keeping the Israeli part of his dual citizenship as he did so.

The move has been described by some as a plot to avoid estate and inheritance taxes, though this plan ultimately failed. Still, others point out that Arison was an extremely active philanthropist during his time in Israel, so a genuine desire to return in the country for good may have played at least a part of his decision to become a 100% Israelite.   

4. Gong Li and Jet Li

Gong Li is one of China’s biggest film stars ever and the vast country sees her as a figurehead of their national identity. In 2008, she caused quite a stir when she unexpectedly swore in as a citizen of Singapore instead. This wasn’t completely unexpected, seeing as she had been married to a Singaporean businessman since 1996, and had already been scheduled to become a citizen earlier in the year but failed to attend the ceremony. However, her former country saw this as an ultimate betrayal: After all, how could she be the symbol of China’s movie industry if she wasn’t Chinese anymore?

Of course, Gong Li is hardly the first China-born star to lose her citizen roots. The country’s travel restrictions make it very difficult to maintain the hectic international travel schedule of famous actors. Meanwhile, keeping a Chinese citizenship while picking up another for traveling purposes is impossible because China doesn’t recognize dual citizenships. As a result, citizenship-hopping has become fairly commonplace. One of the most notorious examples is none other than martial arts superstar Jet Li, who ditched his Chinese citizenship to become a U.S. citizen. Then, in 2009, he renounced his U.S. citizenship to become a Singaporean, allegedly for his children’s education.

3. Yul Brynner

You might know Yul Brynner from The Magnificent Seven, or as the original menacing android in the 1973 version of Westworld. The bald-headed star was actually born in Russia, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen during his extensive acting work in the 1940s and 1950s. Thanks to his Swiss family roots, he also obtained a dual citizenship of Switzerland, where he mainly resided.

However, Brynner had been a little too hard-working during his time in the American film industry. In 1965, he was informed that he had been working too long in the U.S. As a result, he had lost his tax exemption as an American citizen living abroad, and it soon became apparent that the massive tax and penalty debts would have bankrupted him. Brynner did the only thing that he could to avoid unexpected poverty: In July 1965, he turned in his American passport at the U.S. embassy in Zurich.

2. T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot was one of the most famous poets of the 20th century, and a juggernaut of literature. He’s also a rare cultural figure in the sense that two different countries can lay comparatively equal claim to him. Eliot was originally from St. Louis and educated at Harvard, and wrote his first significant works as an American citizen. On the other hand, his body of work was almost entirely completed on English soil: He settled in the country soon after his studies, and became a naturalized British citizen in 1927. In the process, he dropped his U.S. citizenship and joined the Anglican church.

Eliot’s writings make it seem that his naturalisation process wasn’t quite as simple as could perhaps have been expected considering his celebrity status. In a letter to his brother, he specifically mentions that he “had to pull a few strings with the Home Secretary” to make it happen. Then again, since he was in a position where he had that kind of access to high-ranking officials, we’re guessing that he didn’t have too much trouble with his application.

1. Bobby Fischer

In 1992, American chess superstar Bobby Fischer was offered a cool $3.3 million to play an exhibition match in Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, he soon found out that this violated the U.S. sanctions against the country, and his government now wanted to ask some pretty serious questions from him. Fischer reacted to the situation by dropping off the grid. Over the next few years, he was reportedly sighted in Budapest, the Philippines, and Switzerland, only emerging for the occasional interview in various countries’ radio stations to give increasingly unhinged rants about his home country. He gained quite a bit of infamy by supporting the 9/11 attacks and claiming that a Jewish conspiracy was after him, despite the fact that his own mother was Jewish.

This strange situation lasted until 2004, when Fischer was detained in Japan for trying to board a plane without a valid passport. The chessmaster was promptly thrown in prison, as the various governments involved in his antics tried to figure out just what to do with him. At this point, a surprise participant entered the scene: The government of Iceland offered Fischer a citizenship. The chess champion was something of a legend in the tiny country because he won his star-making match against the Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky in Reykjavik. They saw his greatness to be on par with Mozart, so they were willing to put up with his unsavory comments in exchange of saving him from the American judicial system. And, just like that, Bobby Fischer stopped being American and became an Icelander until his death in 2008.

10 People Accused of Being Spies

Some people choose to become spies out of patriotism; others do so in pursuit of financial reward. Whatever their individual motivations might be, the risks can be considerable. Governments tend to react badly to having their secrets stolen. Anyone accused of being a spyfaces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence or even execution.

This list delves into the murky world of international espionage, taking a closer look at some of history’s most influential spies, and others who were rather less successful.

10. Carl Hans Lody

As a German naval reservist who spoke fluent English, Carl Hans Lody seemed like the ideal recruit to send to Britain to report back on Allied shipping movements. In August 1914, just days after the outbreak of World War One, he left for the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Unfortunately for him he’d received almost no training and was not naturally gifted in the art of espionage.

The British became aware of Logan’s activities almost immediately after his arrival, when he mailed an un-coded message to a mailbox the British were monitoring. Rather than arrest him the British chose to let him go about his work, largely because most of the information he was sending back to Germany was just plain wrong.

Fearing that the British were onto him, and with his landlady increasingly suspicious of her guest, Lody fled to Ireland on September 27, 1914. He was rounded up by police just days later. Lody had been travelling under the alias of Charles Inglais, but this didn’t survive first contact with the authorities. On being searched Lody was found to be carrying copies of the letters he’d posted to his handlers in Germany, and one of his jackets was even tagged with a Berlin tailor’s ticket bearing his real name.

There was no doubt that Lody was a spy, but the British faced a curious legal conundrum. They had signed up to the Hague Convention of 1907, which suggested that Lody could not be charged since he had been apprehended gathering information outside the “zone of operations.” The British sidestepped this hurdle by instead charging Lody with treason, which itself was legally dubious since Lody was not a British citizen.

Lody’s bravery and charm endeared him to his captors, but he was none the less sentenced to death by firing squad.

9. Lewis Costigan

It’s more-or-less part of a spy’s job description that they should avoid doing anything to reveal their true allegiances, even if, like Carl Hans Lody, they aren’t always entirely successful. One American soldier of the Revolutionary War, Lewis Costigan, took an entirely different approach, somehow succeeding in hiding in plain sight for years.

Costigan’s orders were to spy on the British and report back on their strength in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was soon apprehended, not least because he was still wearing his uniform. This did at least have the benefit of persuading the British to try him as a soldier, rather than execute him as a spy.

Having served two years detention in New York City, Costigan was released on parole on the condition that he promised not to escape and re-join the Continental Army. Still wearing his army uniform, Costigan found himself free to wander at will around the city gathering information from British soldiers.

Despite the valuable information he was providing, in September 1778 a deal was made that should have seen Costigan exchanged with British prisoners held by the Americans. However, Costigan chose not to leave. The authorities overlooked him, and the inhabitants of the city were apparently so accustomed to the enemy soldier strolling around the city that nobody though anything much of it.

Having made fools of the British, who had been spectacularly lackadaisical about security, Costigan eventually decided he had pushed his luck far enough, and in January 1779 he made a successful break for American lines.

8. Major John Andre

Shortly after the Lewis Costigan debacle, the British appointed Major John Andre as head of their espionage network in New York.

Andre proved to be charismatic, cultured, intelligent, and it seemed extraordinarily lucky. In 1780, just a few months into his new job, he was approached by an acquaintance with reports that a senior American general by the name of Benedict Arnold was prepared to defect. Not only that, for the sum of £20,000, worth around $5 million in today’s money, he would aid the British in capturing the strategically vital fort at West Point. This would cut off the American forces in New England and had the potential to change the course of the entire war.

The offer was genuine, but the details needed to be discussed in person. In September 1780 Andre set off for a clandestine meeting with the American commander. Things quickly went wrong. The ship in which Andre had travelled up the Hudson River came under fire from American troops, forcing the crew to retreat and leaving Andre stranded ashore deep in enemy territory.

Benedict Arnold provided Andre with a horse, civilian clothes, a fake passport, and written instructions on how to capture the fort at West Point. Unfortunately for Andre this proved to be somewhat incriminating when he was picked up by American soldiers a few days later.

For a time it seemed Andre might get lucky, as the initial plan was to send him to Benedict Arnold. This changed when Arnold’s treachery became suspected and he fled to join the British. Andre argued that he had acted as a soldier, but the Americans tried and hanged him as a spy.

Benedict Arnold himself went on to lead British troops against his countrymen and is remembered as perhaps America’s most notorious traitor.  

7. Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell could easily have avoided World War One. When hostilities began in 1914 she was already 49-years-old and safe from harm in England, where she was visiting her mother.

Nonetheless, she was the most senior nurse in Belgium, and she never hesitated in rushing into danger to offer what help she could.

Belgium was soon overrun by the advancing German Army, and Cavell’s hospital was placed under the jurisdiction of the Red Cross. When it came to treating the wounded she made no distinction between German and Allied soldiers. Cavell believed everyone to be equally deserving of care, but she didn’t consider herself to be a neutral in the most terrible war the world had yet seen.

The courageous nurse began helping injured British, French, and Belgian soldiers to escape to safety through Holland just as soon as they were well enough to travel. The police soon became suspicious, but Cavell refused to flee, leading to her arrest in August 1915.

In addition to aiding Allied soldiers, Cavell was accused of being a spy who had smuggled intelligence back to Great Britain. The British authorities vehemently denied this charge, but history suggests the German’s were justified in their assessment.

Cavell was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. She met her fate with unflinching bravery: “I have seen death so often it is not strange or fearful to me. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.”

6. Stephanie Rader

Born in 1915 Ohio into an impoverished family of Polish immigrants, Stephanie Rader couldn’t even speak English when she first attended school. Despite this handicap she learned quickly and not only graduated but received a scholarship to study chemistry at Cornell, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Eager to serve her country she was amongst the first few recruits accepted into the Women’s Army Corps in 1942, quickly rising to the rank of captain. However, it was with the fall of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union’s occupation of much of Eastern Europe that Rader’s particular skillset came into demand.

In addition to her courage and intelligence Rader spoke fluent Polish, and in late 1945 she became one of only two American spies operating in Soviet-occupied Poland. Her task was to report on Soviet troop movements and smuggle documents between Warsaw and Berlin.

It was on one such journey that she was intercepted by border guards, who accused her of being a spy. Fortunately, Rader had sensed danger and disposed of incriminating documents just moments earlier. The suspicious authorities placed her under surveillance, but she escaped with her freedom and earned a reputation as one of America’s most successful Cold War spies.

5. Francis Walsingham

In January of 1559 Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England. She would rule over a land deeply divided along religious lines. Elizabeth was a Protestant, and many of her Catholic subjects wished her dead. All of them would have preferred to see Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, claim the throne.

Elizabeth appointed Francis Walsingham with the task of unearthing plots and protecting her from assassination. She had chosen well. Walsingham was intelligent, ruthless, and utterly devoted to his cause.

Walsingham set about creating the most sophisticated spy network the world had ever seen, even creating a specialist codebreaking team. Very little of note happened in England without Walsingham hearing of it, and his network of spies stretched into every royal court in Europe.

Armed with this knowledge Walsingham successfully thwarted several plots against his queen. None the less, he recognized that while Mary Queen of Scots still lived she presented the greatest threat to Elizabeth’s rule, even though she had been imprisoned since 1567.

Walsingham’s spies kept a close watch on Mary, who had no idea that her coded messages smuggled to the outside world were being intercepted and deciphered. In 1571 Walsingham got the break he had been waiting for. A message was sent to Mary, possibly by Walsingham himself, suggesting that Elizabeth be assassinated. When Mary went along with the plot, the trap was sprung.

Mary was accused of treason. Her defense was that Walsingham was a spy and therefore not to be trusted. She even claimed he had manufactured evidence against her, which may or may not be true. Walsingham replied that he was an honest man who had only ever done his duty. Despite her protestations of innocence Mary was executed, and Walsingham is remembered as the greatest spymaster of his age.

4. Virginia Hall

In 1932 Virginia Hall was forced to have her leg amputated after being shot in a hunting accident. She learned to walk again with the aid of a wooden prosthetic she affectionately named “Cuthbert”, but when she applied to become a diplomat, she was told that only the “able bodied” would be considered. However, her handicap didn’t prevent her becoming one of the most successful and daring spies of World War Two.

When war broke out in 1939 Hall was in Paris, and she volunteered to serve as an ambulance driver before making her way to Great Britain following France’s defeat in 1940. Fluent in French, German, and Italian, Hall’s talents led to her being recruited by Britain’s Special Operations Executive. Having taken a crash course in explosives, sabotage, and hand-to-hand combat, she crossed the English Channel to train and coordinate the French Resistance.

Hall wreaked so much havoc that the Gestapo named her the most dangerous woman in France. Klaus Barbie, the Nazi officer tasked with hunting her down, reportedly complained: “I’d do anything to get my hands on that limping Canadian bitch.” Hall was actually American, but Klaus’s sentiment was no doubt an accurate, even if his information wasn’t.

Whatever torture Barbie may have had planned for Hall, he never got to put it into practice. In the winter of 1942, with the Nazis closing in, she fled on foot across the snowy Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. This would be a grueling journey for anybody, but to accomplish the feat on a wooden leg was nothing short of extraordinary.

In 1944 Hall returned to France once again to help prepare the way for the Allied invasion of Western Europe. Her primary role was to report back on German positions and troop movements, but her team is also credited with destroying several bridges, downing telephone lines, and killing more than a hundred German soldiers.

3. Alfred Redl

In 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire covered more than 400,000 square miles and numbered amongst the great powers of Europe. By the end of 1918 the empire had been destroyed forever, ripped apart in the cataclysm of the First World War. One man played a major part in bringing down this empire of 52 million people.

Alfred Redl was a senior member of the Austro-Hungarian military. He specialized in tracking down enemy spies, and he seemed to be very good at it. He made use of new technologies, such as establishing a fingerprint database, and personally uncovered several enemy agents.

These successes and innovations bought Redl a reputation as a brilliant counterintelligence officer, but he was hiding a dark secret: Redl was a double agent who’d been passing information to the Russians for more than a decade.

Redl had been handsomely rewarded, but his luck eventually ran out. In 1913 the authorities intercepted a large sum of money, which had been posted from an address known to be used by Russian intelligence agencies. Understandably keen to find out who the intended recipient might be, the Austro-Hungarians returned the package and waited for it to be collected.

When Redl was caught red-handed he needed to conjure up with a brilliant cover story to explain away his predicament. Unable to do so, he was instead handed a revolver and invited to commit suicide.

Much of the damage had already been done. When the European powers went to war, Redl’s treachery ensured that Russia entered the conflict armed with detailed knowledge of Austro-Hungary’s roads, railways, military strength, deployment timetables, and war plans. The Austro-Hungarian forces, who were badly equipped, badly led, and badly trained to begin with, could hardly afford to give away such an overwhelming advantage.

2. Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin

On March 4, 2018 the quiet English city of Salisbury found itself at the heart of a chemical weapon attack. Sergei Skirpal, a Russian spy who had defected to Britain, and his daughter were found slumped unconscious on a bench.

The pair received rapid medical treatment and were lucky to survive, particularly when it was revealed they had been poisoned by a nerve agent called Novichok. This is believed to be one of the deadliest nerve agents ever developed, and so far as is known it has only ever been produced in Russia.

Within a matter of days, the British Government named their suspects as two Russian spies, Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin. Unfortunately, by then the pair were already safely back in Russia, where they appeared on state-run television insisting they were merely tourists who had travelled to the UK to visit Salisbury Cathedral. They were, they claimed, particularly attracted by the cathedral’s clock, which is one of the oldest of its type in the world. That they had been captured on CCTV in the vicinity of Skripal’s house was purely coincidental.

This unconvincing defense became even more untenable when Alexander Mishkin was revealed to be a doctor working for the Russian military intelligence service. His accomplice, Anatoliy Chepiga, has been identified as a highly decorated colonel working for the same organization.

1. Lee Soo-Keun

Born from the chaos of the end of World War Two, North Korea still numbers amongst the world’s youngest nations. However, enough time has passed for millions of North Koreans to lose their lives to war, famine, and the brutal cruelty of their own government.

Thousands of North Koreans have attempted to flee the country. The most common route is to slip quietly across the border to neighboring China, but a handful of escape attempts have been far more dramatic.

In 1967 Lee Soo-Keun was Vice President of North Korea’s Central News Agency. Soo-Keun used the privilege of this position to secretly contact the Americans and enlist their help in breaking him out of the country. The plan was not a subtle one. Soo-Keun dived into a United Nations car at the Joint Security Area in the demilitarized zone. As North Korean soldiers opened fire, the driver accelerated and crashed through a wooden security barrier in a hail of bullets.

Lee Soo-Keun was one of the highest profile defectors ever to reach South Korea, and the South Koreans welcomed him as a hero with more than 50,000 people flocking to a rally held in his honor. Unfortunately, this happy state of affairs did not last long. In 1969 the South Korean Government arrested him, accused him of being a spy, and had him hanged.

It seems this judgment may have been far too hasty. In October 2018 a South Korean court ruled that Soo-Keun’s confession had been obtained under torture and there was no evidence to support the claim that he had been a spy after all.


10 Misconceptions About Imperial Japan During WWII

Many people have their ideas of Japan during World War II based mostly off movies about the war and an HBO miniseries or two, as well as a lot of folk legend passed down over the years. However, some of this has given us a slightly confused picture of how things actually were. A lot of Westerners think of Imperial Japan was a society where people worshiped a god emperor, and happily and regularly threw away their lives in suicide attacks in his glorious name. The truth is a lot more human, as things usually are with human beings.

10. People Did Believe That Hirohito Was Divine, But That Doesn’t Make Him A God

Many people think the Japanese Emperor was considered a god and renounced this at the end of the war, but the concept of the divinity of the emperor is a lot more complicated than most people think. The emperor did claim to be distantly descended from the Shinto god Amaterasu, but he never claimed to be an actual god, nor did the Japanese people claim such for him.

The other major misconception is that the Emperor ever renounced his divinity at all. His statement was interpreted that way by Westerners, but his intent was actually to point out that unlike what we were claiming, Japan had actually been democratic at least to some extent since the Meiji Era, and that the Emperor was not divine in terms of absolute rule and hadn’t been, but was in terms of his responsibility to perform rituals and functions that kept the Shinto gods watching over Japan.

9. Kamikaze Pilots Were Hardly The Willing Sacrificial Cows That People Tend To Think

One of the most enduring legends of World War II are the kamikaze pilots of Japan. The stories have taken such hold in the popular imagination that people tend to think of Japanese people as more suicidal for it. Regardless, this is a commonly held belief that these pilots were happily going to their deaths, willing sacrificial cows who signed up to go die for their divine emperor. However, the truth was way, way more human.

The Japanese authorities knew that no sane man really volunteers for a suicide mission, especially considering none of these tended to be missions of particularly great singular importance in the grand scheme of things. So, most pilots who were going to go on suicide missions were actually “recruited” for it at the last minute and briefed almost right before. In some cases they weren’t forced to go, but considering the patriotism of war, it was hard to be the one to say no.

8. The Japanese Army May Have Surrendered Because Of Stalin, And Not The Bomb

One of the favorite moral debates, and long held controversies, is the use of the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The usual justification is that the Japanese simply would not have surrendered otherwise, and that it was the only way to end the war without literally killing every single Japanese person on the island. However, the truth is that many historians now believe that the entire thing was unnecessary, and we basically killed all those people for no reason.

Like we said, the justification was always that it was the only way to end the war, but many scholars say that the war was about to end anyway, and that the Japanese surrender didn’t really even have to do with the atomic bomb in the first place. The real reason why the Japanese were about to surrender was because the Germans had been beaten, and Stalin was about to open up another front against the Japanese and bring his considerable weight to bear against them. With the beating they were already taking, Stalin coming in to throw his weight around was just too much and they knew it.

7. The United States Tends To Forget Other Countries’ Major Roles Against The Japanese Army

Many movies in the United States tend to focus more on the roles of their own people, and history books always tend to focus on our own guys as well, so sometimes people forget how major a role other countries played in the Pacific Theater, helping the United States against the Japanese Army. One country that’s still rather peeved about their contribution not being noticed is China, who sacrificed greatly during World War II and suffered horribly at the hands of the Japanese, having many of their people slaughtered, tortured, and experimented on. Their resistance in China was crucial to the war effort in the Pacific Theater.

Another country that many forget about is Australia, which provided fierce resistance during World War II against the Japanese and was important to provide staging grounds for the Allies. While the United States tended to be largely responsible for the most aggressive moves toward the enemy, the Australian contributions fighting on islands like Papua New Guinea, New Britain, and others put up yet one more furious front of resistance against the fierce and well organized Japanese Army. Roughly 40,000 Australians died in the war effort, and nearly one seventh of the entire population was involved in some way or another.

6. Many People Forget The Slow Buildup To Pearl Harbor, Or The Reasons For The Attack

Pearl-Harbor

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it was a shock to the core of the United States of America. Even though it was essentially a military target, it was technically on US soil, and it was the first time such an incident had occurred in modern United States history. Most Americans were blindsided and could hardly believe what had happened, but the truth was that even civilians who had been watching could likely have seen this coming for a long ways off.

The buildup to Pearl Harbor was over the course of a good decade or so, as the Japanese continued to try to expand their territory and holdings, and the United States felt the need to slow down or stop them entirely. To this end, the United States applied sanctions of various sorts against Japan over the years, increasing the tension but not resolving anything. The Japanese wanted to aggressively take territory, but we were the biggest thorn in their side and they knew how dangerous we were. Their goal was to cut off our supply abilities at the knees so they could gain momentum before we could stop them — they knew they needed to act extremely fast.

5. Japan’s Strategy May Have Been Well Calculated, But Some In Leadership Had Misgivings


While Pearl Harbor may have been an extremely calculated move against a military target, it was also an incredibly risky strategy, and some in the Japanese leadership knew it and even voiced their misgivings, but were ultimately ignored. Admiral Isoroku, the man in charge of the Japanese Navy during World War II, felt from the start that the entire outlook was grim, and while he obeyed orders as a soldier and worked to the best of his abilities, he was not hopeful.

Admiral Isoroku was worried that Japan’s cities, which were densely packed, populated, and made mostly of flammable material, would be susceptible to major air raids. This part proved incredibly prescient, as General Curtis LeMay’s bombing raids leveled a huge portion of Japan’s infrastructure and slaughtered countless innocent people. He was also worried that Japan’s economy would not be able to sustain itself during a long war, and that they had a very short time to win. Pearl Harbor was supposed to give them a huge head start — otherwise they had no chance at all.

4. It May Surprise Some Americans That In Japan, The Non-Atomic Bombs Are Often Forgotten

In the United States of America, we spend a lot of time commemorating various wars or other patriotic events, and we have a lot of holidays about them. Arguably, there are at least three that center entirely around events regarding war, and they are all official holidays: Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth Of July. For this reason, we would think that in Japan, all of the various bombings and air raids we conducted against them would be acknowledged by the Japanese government, and commemorated as a sad and or solemn event of some kind — especially something as serious as the firebombing of the city of Tokyo.

However, these events have been largely ignored and the Japanese activists who try to bring light to these events find resistance. The authorities feel that some of the material released, or too much acknowledgement of what happened, could make the Japanese government from the time period look bad for not ending the war earlier, when their citizens were suffering so horribly from such horrific raids. The other issue is that there has been little momentum over the years to talk more about all the firebombing raids, because everyone was enthralled by the power of the atomic bomb, and wanted to talk about nothing else after it dropped.

3. The Japanese Did Not Just Take The Bombing Of Tokyo, They Punished Innocent Chinese

After the Doolittle Raid, the first attack on Tokyo shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were furious and wanted immediate revenge. However, the American mainland was a long way away, and the Japanese wanted to get revenge now. Well, as it turns out, the Doolittle raid was basically one way, and the pilots needed to land in China in order to survive. The American government even feared that the Japanese would retaliate brutally and that the Chinese military would not be able to stop them, but the government went through with the raid anyway, and the airmen happily accepted the Chinese help they were offered when they landed — they even gave gifts and other trinkets in honest thanks.

Unfortunately, the entire thing soon became a nightmare. The Japanese not only wanted to get revenge, but more strategically, they realized that this was a major vulnerability. They went on a massive sweep through the Eastern Coast of China, razing villages, slaughtering countless civilians, and raping women. Those who were found to have directly aided and abetted the American airmen were singled out for particularly humiliating and gruesome torture, the trinkets they had been given in thanks now giving them away as helpful post-conspirators in the Doolittle Raid.

2. Many People Don’t Realize That The Japanese Did Not Respect All Their Enemies Equally

As we mentioned in the above entry, the Japanese decided that since they couldn’t reach our mainland, our closest vulnerable ally was the best to punish. Some people believe that that Japanese also punished the Chinese, though, because they feared even worse United States and Western retaliation if they did the worst things they did to the Chinese against Westerners. The Japanese singled out the Chinese people for the very worst experiments from their notorious Unit 731, but that was only the beginning of their biological attacks against the enemy they respected the least.

The Japanese infected the food supplies of many villages they had raided and left in China with cholera, and they deliberately infected fleas with the bubonic plague over Chinese villages as attempts at (and experiments on) biological warfare. Recently, despite the denials of the government, the Japanese courts ruled that the government during World War II did indeed order and authorize such things. However, despite the court repudiating the Japanese government’s continued denials, they also state that under Japanese law, and international agreements, the Japanese government does not have to pay anything to living victims or their families. As far as the authorities are concerned, any reparations for anything regarding the war have already been paid by Japan with agreements made at the end of the war, and it is all over and done with.

1. Many Think Pearl Harbor Was As Close As They Got To America, But This Isn’t So

Most people think that the Japanese only ever got as far as Pearl Harbor, but there were occasions where they actually struck a little closer to the mainland — although not severely enough that most people remember much about either incident. In 1942, a Japanese submarine patrolling off the coast of Los Angeles near Santa Barbara damaged an oil well on Elwood Beach before making its escape. However, the stranger attempts by the Japanese to get at our mainland were their fire balloons.

The Japanese were getting desperate and willing to try anything against the United States in 1944, so they launched about 9,000 fire balloons, which were balloons meant to float across the ocean, and deliver an incendiary payload onto the mainland United States, hopefully over an area where fire would spread easily. A few hundred made it across the ocean, but most of those were shot down. People in 15 different states did report seeing them, but their design was clearly not great, as an incident where a balloon exploded not long after landing, and killed a pregnant woman and five children, was the only time any of their balloons worked. It is also the only officially recorded incident where a someone was hurt on United States soil, during World War II, by an attack from a declared enemy.

The 10 Most Radioactive Places on Earth

There are many terrifying places in the world, but few of the horrors that they contain are as scary as radiation. When a site becomes thoroughly nuclear, you can’t fight it, you can’t outrun it, and you’re pretty hard-pressed to contain it. No matter how well the location is cleaned and taken care of, the residual radiation can still affect the environment for hundreds of years. There are many of these extremely creepy and dangerous sites around the world. These are their stories.  

10. The Polygon

When the Soviet Union crumbled and Kazakhstan became independent, one of the first things they did was shutting down The Polygon. This Soviet nuclear testing site had seen tryout nukes of various sizes for over four decades, and during its Cold War heyday, it was home to an estimated 25% of the world’s nuclear tests. The site was originally chosen because it was unoccupied, but this didn’t take into account the many villages that were located near its perimeter. Years of nuclear radiation bombarded the area, and eventually, the residents of the “safe” villages started showing birth defects and various radiation-related illnesses.

Today, it is estimated that at least 100,000 Kazakhs near the Polygon area suffer from the effects of radiation. The radioactive materials at the Polygon itself will take hundreds of years to reach safe radiation levels, and the poor people suffering from the effects may do so for five generations.

9. Chernobyl

It’s impossible to discuss radioactive sites without bringing up Chernobyl. The 1986 nuclear power plant explosion in Ukraine is considered the worst nuclear disaster that the world has ever witnessed, and despite the fact that it’s been extensively researched, many questions remain. The most pressing of those questions concern the long-term health impacts of the people who were exposed to the radiation. Acute radiation sickness wreaked havoc among the first responders to the scene, but that was just the tip of the deadly iceberg: The nearby town of Pripyat was not evacuated until 36 hours after the disaster, and at that point, many residents were already showing symptoms of radiation sickness. Despite all these clear signs that the situation was pressing, and the realization that the disaster sent nuclear winds blowing towards Belarus and into Europe, the Soviets still tried to play the situation close to their chest — right up until the radiation alarms at a nuclear plant all the way in Sweden went off, and the terrifying situation unfolded.

On the surface, Chernobyl’s death toll was surprisingly moderate: “only” 31 people died in the disaster and its short-term aftereffects, and the Still, the long-term effects to the people in the area were still unsafely high, though just how the disaster affected their lifespans is very difficult to measure. For instance, an estimated 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer in Ukraine,  Russia and Belarus may be connected radiation exposure in some way, but it’s borderline impossible to directly link them to the disaster.

8. Siberian Chemical Combine Plant

Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) is an old uranium enrichment plant in, yes, Siberia. When it comes to its waste disposal, it was always a product of the patented Soviet “eh, just put it wherever, comrade” way of doing things: Significant amounts of the combine’s liquid radioactive waste were pumped into underground pools of water. That would probably been bad enough even without the nuclear accident of 1993, which saw an explosion damage the radio-technology plant of the complex. The blast wrecked two floors of the building,  and more importantly, destroyed a tank containing highly dangerous materials such as plutonium and uranium.

The radioactive gas released by the incident contaminated 77 square miles of downwind terrain, and only sheer luck prevented the fumes from turning the nearby cities of Tomsk and Seversk into Fallout locations. The cleanup process took four months, but for locals, the disaster was just the beginning of the nightmare: They found out that there had been a whopping 22 accidents at the SCC over the years, and even during its normal operations it released around 10 grams of plutonium into the atmosphere every year. For reference, it takes just one millionth of a gram to potentially cause serious diseases on humans.

7. Sellafield

Sellafield is to Great Britain what Chernobyl is to Russia: The worst ever nuclear accident to happen in the country. In a way, it managed to be even more badly managed than its more famous counterpart — or rather, managed in a more British way. When the Windscale No. 1 “pile” (a sort of primitive nuclear reactor) of the Sellafield nuclear material processing factory caught fire in October 1957, eleven tons of uranium burned for three days. Despite this rather worrying situation, everyone went  about their day as if nothing had happened. While the reactor was close to collapse and radioactive material spread across the nearby areas, no one was evacuated, and work went on in the facility with a stiff upper lip. In fact, most people weren’t even told about the fire. The workers realized that something was going on, but were told to “carry on as normal.”

Meanwhile, a true disaster was just barely averted, largely thanks to one heroic man. When the fire started, deputy general manager Thomas Tuohy was called on site from a day off. When it came apparent that the blaze could not be easily contained, he threw away his radiation-recording badge so no one could see the doses he was taking. Then, he climbed at the top of the 80-foot reactor building, and stared at the inferno below him while taking the full force of the radiation. He did this multiple times over the next hours to assess the damage, and when the blaze started to reach the melting point of steel, he made the last-ditch call to use water to drown the pile. It was a risky maneuver that was untested on a reactor fire, and if anything had gone wrong, the whole area would have been blown up and irradiated to the point of uninhabitability. Fortunately, Tuohy’s gambit paid off, and 30 hours of waterworks later, Sellafield was saved. While the area was thoroughly irradiated all the way down to its milk and chickens, Britain carried on with a stiff upper lip. Of course, Tuohy himself, who had basically wrestled with the burning reactor, eventually died … at a respectable age of 90.

6. The Somali Coast

The coastal areas of Somalia are better known for their pirate activity than their nuclear materials, but that’s just because the radioactive waste tends to be hidden under the surface.  Weirdly enough, the two phenomena have the same cause: The area’s unrest during the 1980s led to a long period where the country had no central rule, which left its shores unguarded. Unfortunately for Somalia’s residents, this meant that every unscrupulous operator and their mother was free to cheaply dump their unwanted nuclear and other hazardous waste along the country’s coastline, instead of disposing of it in a safer (and much more expensive) manner.

The United Nations have been aware of the problem for years, and describe it as a very serious situation. It was further aggravated in 2009, when a large tsunami made the problem literally resurface. The wave dislodged and broke many of the containers, causing contaminants to spread at least six miles inland. The cocktail of radioactive materials and assorted toxic sludges caused a host of serious health problems for the residents, and may even have contaminated some of the groundwater.  

5. Mayak


Even before Chernobyl, there were whispers that the Soviet Union’s track record with nuclear power wasn’t exactly spotless. Some of said whispers were almost certainly about the Mayak complex, which was the country’s first nuclear site. Built in the remote southern Urals shortly after WWII, Mayak was a secret military site that was near the closed town of Chelyabinsk, and specialized in manufacturing plutonium for the army. Its secretive nature eventually came in handy for the Soviet government.

In 1957, the complex suffered one of the worst little-known nuclear disasters, when an accident at the facility contaminated 7,700 square miles of the nearby area, which affected roughly 270,000 people. The incident would eventually become known as the Kysthym disaster, after the nearest town. At the time, however, the authorities fully played the “secret facility” card, and released little information about the crisis. The true scale of the disaster would not emerge until the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s. It took until 2009 for the villagers nearest to the Mayak facility to be relocated … and even then, most of them were just moved a little over a mile up the road.

4. Church Rock uranium mill

In 1979, a spill at the Church Rock uranium mill in New Mexico sent 1,100 tons of uranium mine tailings and 94 million gallons of effluent into the Puerco River, spreading contamination some 50 miles downstream. Together, these released three times more radiation than the notorious Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

To this day, the Church Rock spill remains the largest accidental release of radioactive material the United States has ever seen, and its damage to the environment was wholesale. Radioactivity was in water, animals, plants and, eventually, the Navajo population of the area, who suffer from an increased likelihood of birth defects and kidney disease.

The disaster is particularly tragic because it would have been perfectly avoidable. The spill happened because one of the dams holding the United Nuclear Corporation’s disposal ponds at bay cracked. Later, both the corporation itself and various federal and state inspectors noted that the rock it had been built on was unstable.

3. Fukushima

In March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake moved the entire Japan several feet east, and sent tsunami waves washing over the country’s shorelines, causing a death toll of 19,000 people … and the worst nuclear plant disaster in the country’s history. Initially, it seemed that the Fukushima Daiichi power plant had withstood the watery onslaught, and that all of its reactors had automatically shut down and survived without significant damage. However, the plant was not quite as tsunami-proof as everyone had assumed, and it soon became evident that the wave had disabled the cooling systems and power supply for three of the reactors. Within three days, their cores had largely melted, and a fourth reactor started showing signs of trouble.

The government evacuated roughly 100,000 people from the area, and engaged in a battle to cool the reactors with water — and even more importantly, to prevent radioactive materials leaking in the environment. Since the facility is just 100 yards from the ocean and on an area that’s prone to various natural disasters, the cleanup process is a difficult, yet urgent task. The radiation inside the plant is so deadly that it’s impossible to enter the facility, so no one’s even sure precisely where the molten fuel is within the plant. In a massive, unprecedented challenge that is estimated to take decades, the cleanup officials are currently mapping the terrain with radiation-measuring robots, and hope that strong robots are eventually able to seal and retrieve the radioactive substances from the premises.

2. Mailuu-Suu

Mailuu-Suu is a town in Kyrgyztan that not only lives under the constant shadow of Soviet-era radiation, but has actually made its peace with the fact. Some locals joke that they actually need the radiation to survive. You can even get walking tours to the worst radioactive waste dumps — followed by a healthy dose of vodka to flush the radioactivity out of your system, of course.

The town is one of the largest concentrations of radioactive materials in former Soviet Central Asia. Because the area is naturally rich in uranium, the Soviet Union mined it to death, while toxic waste was buried all around town. All in all, some two million cubic meters of radioactive waste lies under gravel and concrete, in 23 different dumping sites around Mailu Suu. The sites are often just lazy piles of hazardous material lying in their deteriorating bunker pits, halfheartedly marked with barbed wire and concrete posts.

Unfortunately, this makes Mailu Suu both a current crisis and a future, potentially much worse one. The dumping sites are located right by a fast-moving water source, the Mailuu-suu river, which is a water supply for two million people downstream. What’s more, the area is tectonically active, and extremely prone to landslides. This has already led to one nasty disaster: In 1992, one of said landslides busted one of the waste dumps open … and 1,000 cubic meters of radioactivity spilled into the river.  

1. The Hanford Site

In the 1950s, America was happily entering the Atomic Age, and the nuclear site in Hanford, Washington was where the future was made. The plant had already made its mark in the 1940s during the Manhattan Project, for which it was built to produced the plutonium required for the nukes. After the war, the future seemed bright in more than one way. Although every kilogram of plutonium the site produced came with a side order of hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive waste, the site’s entrepreneuring owners believed they could sell even that. Unfortunately, they couldn’t … and they also hadn’t bothered to create proper ways to store the deadly sludge.

As years went by, temporary underground containers quietly became permanent, cracked, and allowed their radioactive contents to seep in the ground. The Atomic Energy Commission, which oversaw the manufacture of nuclear bombs, didn’t even bother to set up an office for waste management, so unregulated radioactive material ended up buried wherever, in containers that creaked at the seams. In the end, Hanford and its nearby areas were so saturated with radioactive waste and strange toxic sludges that the site became the largest nuclear cleanup site in the entire western hemisphere. The cleanup process has gone on for decades, caused health problems to dozens of workers, and cost billions of dollars, but the treatment plant that’s meant to deal with the sludge is yet to materialize. In fact, the area is still so deeply dangerous that when they started to demolish the site’s plutonium finishing plant in 2017, 42 workers became exposed to radioactive particles despite all the precautions.

10 Unexpected Origins of Common Phrases

The English language is replete with curious ancient phrases, many of which have bizarrely unexpected derivations. Others retain their literal meaning while their origins have been obscured, often by erroneous (but entertaining) folk etymologies.

The following 10 words and phrases have nothing much in common–except that each falls into one of those categories.

10. Dead as a doornail

There are many things deader than a doornail. “As dead as mutton” and “as dead as a dodo” both make a lot more sense. Even if we’re forced to go with nails, surely (as Dickens pointed out), a coffin nail is “the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.”

But “dead as a doornail” dates back centuries. Perhaps the earliest use of it in print was in 1350, in William Langland’s translation of the poem Guillaume de Palerne. He used the same expression in The Vision of William Concerning Piers Plowman (1362), although his “ded as a dore-nayl” became “deed as a dore-tree” in later editions. It’s not clear why. Maybe it refers to a tree that’s been chopped into timber for doors–something certainly much deader than the nails hammered through them.

Anyway, “dead as a doornail” is the phrase that caught on. Even Shakespeare used it in Henry VI, Part 2 (1591): “I have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more.”

We know what doornails are: The heavy studded nails driven through medieval doors. They were essentially a form of riveting, giving strength to wooden constructions. But what’s less clear is what makes them so “dead.” One explanation is that doornails looked old–rusted and worn away like a miniature metal corpse. Another is that “dead as a doornail” refers to one type of doornail in particular: The one on which the door knocker rested. The idea here is that so many whacks on the head with wrought iron would surely be enough to kill anything.

The most likely explanation, however, comes from carpentry, and in particular the technique of “clinching.” When a nail is hammered through a piece of wood and bent to fasten it on the other side, it’s effectively useless for anything else and is therefore said to be “dead.” Since screws weren’t in use until later, doornails in the Middle Ages were largely secured, or “killed,” in this way.

9. The Land of Nod

As you might have guessed, ‘the Land of Nod’ (the place we drift off to in our sleep) comes from the phrase ‘nodding off’—which can be traced back to Chaucer, who used it in The Manciple’s Tale(c. 1390): “A thief might easily rob him and bind. See how he’s nodding!”

But Nod is also a region in the Bible. And far from a place of rest, it was “a place of anguished exile.” Located ‘east of eden’, it’s where God sent Cain after he murdered his brother Abel. In Hebrew, nod is the root of the verb ‘to wander’, so ‘the Land of Nod’ suggests a place of restless wandering.

Jonathan Swift may have been the first to equate the two ‘nods’, introducing ‘the Land of Nod’ as a pun in A Complete Collection of genteel and ingenious Conversation (1738). He used it alongside a number of other bed-related puns, such as heading off “for Bedfordshire,” a county in England.

8. Dead ringer

There’s a persistent myth that ‘dead ringer’, meaning a person who looks eerily like another, comes from the historical practice of burying corpses with ropes connecting the hands, feet, and head to bells above ground. The idea was that if anyone was buried alive, their panicked movements would signal their need for a rescue.

However, while these ‘safety coffins’ did apparently exist, they were never in widespread use. Not only were they rather unnerving, but they were also practically useless. After all, dead bodies can be animated too—bloating, swelling, and bursting as they rapidly decompose. In any case, this macabre invention—which has also been linked (erroneously) to the phrases ‘graveyard shift’ and ‘saved by the bell’—rings false as an origin for ‘dead ringer’. At a stretch, we might imagine a person so rescued returning to their friends and family only to be mistaken for an uncanny lookalike, but the phrase has a more obvious derivation.

A ‘ringer’ refers to a fast horse secretly substituted for a slow one before a horse race, defrauding bookies by way of its similar appearance. It was originally called a ‘ring-in’, with the word ‘ring’ (as a verb) long being synonymous with ‘exchange’ or ‘substitute’. The ‘dead’ part just means ‘exact’, as in ‘dead right’ (or ‘dead wrong’). So ‘dead ringer’ literally means ‘exact substitute’.

7. Spitting image

Another phrase for a lookalike is ‘dead spit’. As above, ‘dead’ means ‘exact’, but there’s some contention over why we say ‘spit’. Some say it’s a corruption of ‘spirit’, which makes sense—except there’s no record of the uncorrupted form. Others say it’s always been ‘spit’ in the literal sense, suggesting an appearance so similar to someone else’s that it might as well have come out of their mouth. And while there’s plenty in the record to support this, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Maybe it has something to do with mouth-breeders (creatures that give birth through the mouth), such as the gastric-brooding frog—or classical mythology and mouth-breeding deities, like Eileithyia the Greek goddess of childbirth. It could also have something to do with the medieval idea of ‘homunculi’, miniature people made in a lab with bodily fluids and horse dung (and sometimes believed to spit acid). It might even just derive from the word ‘spat’, as in the offspring of oysters, which naturally look alike.

Either way, one of the earliest uses of ‘spit’ to mean ‘a close likeness’ was in George Farquhar’s 1698 play Love and a Bottle: “Poor child! he’s as like his own dadda as if he were spit out of his mouth.” Its earliest use as a metaphor appears to have been in The Newgate Calendar (1824-1826), which refers to “a daughter, … the very spit of the old captain.”

Later texts use ‘spit and image’ (or ‘spit an’ image’), which by the turn of the 20th century became ‘spitting image’—as in A.H. Rice’s Mrs Wiggs (1901): “He’s jes’ like his pa – the very spittin’ image of him!”

Interestingly, other languages have versions of their own. The French talk of a portrait craché(‘spitting portrait’), while the Norwegians think of lookalikes as something blown ut av nesen (‘out of the nose’).

6. Run amok

‘Running amok’ means chaotic, frenzied behavior, usually of kids, that leaves a bit of a mess. It sounds like, and is often spelled as, ‘running amuck’. Hence, many people assume it derives from ‘muck’ (from Old Norse myki, ‘cow dung’), either in the sense of an out-of-control boat running aground, i.e. ‘amuck’, or in the sense of ‘mucking around’.

Really though, the phrase ‘run amok’ comes from the Malay word mengamok, meaning a bloodthirsty, frenzied attack. More specifically, it refers to the sudden massacre of one’s fellow tribesmen, often resulting in the death of oneself.

It was first mentioned in The [Portuguese] Book of Duarte Barbosa (c. 1516):  “There are some of them [Javanese] who … go out into the streets, and kill as many persons as they meet. … These are called Amuco [Amok].” But it was Captain James Cook who popularized the term in Englishwhen he defined “run amock” as “to get drunk with opium … to sally forth from the house, kill the person or persons supposed to have injured the Amock, and any other person that attempts to impede his passage.”

The Malays themselves attributed this frenzy to possession by the evil tiger spirit hantu belian. As a result, runners amok weren’t held responsible for their actions and, assuming they survived, appear to have been tolerated in the tribe.

5. Go berserk

In general usage, ‘go berserk’ has a much stronger implication of madness and rage than ‘run amok’. But it actually has a tamer derivation (or at least it has nothing to do with killing friends and family). Still, its namesake Norse ‘berserkers’ could be dangerously unpredictable on the battlefield.

Much like the ‘wolfskins’ or ‘heathen wolves’, these elite Viking warriors were essentially human tanks, deployed to absorb enemy attacks or to launch devastating attacks of their own. And they were notoriously difficult to control. Olav Haraldsson (Olaf II or St. Olav of Norway) found this out the hard way; having ordered them to hold the line in front of his own phalanx at the 1030 Battle of Stiklestad, he was ultimately defeated when they decided to advance instead.

Their allegiance was primarily to Odin, whose protection rendered them invulnerable to pain. Otherwise, they were said to be mercenaries, traveling around the country offering their services to various chiefs. They owed their brute strength to a kind of battle trance, which saw them biting their own shields and attacking boulders and trees in their fury.

In 1784, the Swedish naturalist and theologian Samuel Ödmann suggested they were actually intoxicated with toadstools, or fly agaric (Amanita muscariamushrooms. But while this might explain their delirium, it’s not in the historical record. Instead, it was likely a kind of self-hypnosis, a near-mystical state induced by religious fervor, the biting of shields, and the wearing of bear skins or sarks. In fact, ‘bear sark’, (berserkr) is the most likely etymology of the name. But the cold might have contributed too. According to Sir Walter Scott in The Pirate (1822), the ‘berserkers’ were “so called from fighting without armour” (i.e. from ‘bare sark’, even though the Norwegian for ‘bare’ is really naken).

In any case, Rudyard Kipling was among the first to use ‘berserk’ outside of the context of the Vikings: “You’ve gone Berserk,” said one of his characters in A Diversity of Creatures (1917) “and pretty soon you’ll go to sleep. But you’ll probably be liable to fits of it all your life.”

4. Crocodile tears

Strangely enough, the phrase ‘crocodile tears’, meaning an insincere expression of sorrow, literally derives from weeping crocodiles.

Describing the creatures in his travel memoir circa 1400, Sir John Mandeville wrote: “In that contre [probably Ethiopia, the land of the apocryphal Prester John] … ben gret plentee of Cokadrilles [crocodiles] … Theise Serpentes slen men, and thei eten hem wepynge.” Although Mandeville may have been a little preoccupied with tears and weeping in general—having earlier described a lake in Indonesia as one hundred years’ worth of Adam and Eve’s tears—the idea that crocodiles weep as they eat is one that has persisted for centuries. Hence in 1563, the Archbishop of Canterbury Edmund Grindal was quoted as saying: “I begin to fear, lest his humility … be a counterfeit humility, and his tears crocodile tears.” In fact, the idea persists even to this day and for good reason too: It’s true.

According to herpetologists, crocodiles huff and hiss as they eat, forcing air through the sinuses and possibly the tear glands as well. Tears are especially visible on crocs that have spent a long time out of water, serving to lubricate the eyeball for the movement of the nictitating membrane, i.e. the lid that sweeps across the eye to clean it and protect it underwater.

Of course, while crocodiles may also get sad (like many animals) crying probably isn’t a symptom. And they probably aren’t saddened by their food.

3. Cold turkey

If you or anyone you know has ever gone through sudden opiate (e.g. heroin) withdrawal, you may be familiar with the pale skin and goosebumps that go with it. The resemblance to a plucked turkey can be uncanny—and withdrawals can certainly make you feel cold and clammy.

But that’s not why it’s called going ‘cold turkey’ (although it may explain how it caught on).

In the US, at least, ‘talking turkey’ means ‘talking plainly’ or ‘getting down to business’. Some define it differently—such as grandiloquent speech reminiscent of a pluming male turkey, or as nonsense talk with “the silly airs of a turkey-cock”—but in general it’s understood as ‘plain talking’. It derives, allegedly, from something said by a Native American who once went out hunting with a white man. At the end of the day’s shooting, they had only a crow and a turkey between them. And, in the usual manner of bamboozling Indians with English, the white man proposed splitting the spoils as such: “Now Wampum,” he said, “you may have your choice: you take the crow, and I’ll take the turkey; or, if you’d rather, I’ll take the turkey and you take the crow.” Wampum didn’t have to think about it long. Seeing through the ruse, he said: “Ugh! you no talk turkey to me a bit.”

By the early 20th century, ‘talking turkey’ became ‘talking cold turkey’, as in a May 1914 edition of The Des Moines Daily News: “And furthermore he talks “cold turkey.” You know what I mean – calls a spade a spade.” The [UK] Daily Express was among the first to use the phrase overseas, reporting in January 1928: “She talked cold turkey about sex. ‘Cold turkey’ means plain truth in America.”

So if ‘talking cold turkey’ means ‘no-nonsense speech’, ‘going cold turkey’ just means ‘no-nonsense action’.

2. Coming out of the closet

‘Coming out of the closet’ appears to have a fairly straightforward, literal derivation: Revealing oneself from a place of hiding. But it’s a little more nuanced than that.

For example, the ‘closet’ in question probably isn’t just any old closet, but the one in which you might keep your skeletons (i.e. secrets). The phrase ‘skeleton(s) in the closet’ is often thought to derive from the historical practice of surgeons stockpiling stolen corpses for teaching and having to hide away the evidence of their crime. But in fact the earliest use of the phrase wasn’t in reference to secrets at all, but to something frightening that we don’t want to face. Specifically, in A Philosophical Treatise on the Hereditary Peculiarities of the Human Race (1815), Joseph Adams observed that “men seem afraid of enquiring after truth; cautions on cautions are multiplied, to conceal the skeleton in the closet or to prevent its escape.”

Anyway, ‘of the closet’ is a 1960s addendum to the phrase ‘coming out’ (as gay), which dates back to the 1920s or ‘30s at least. Of course, back then ‘coming out’ didn’t mean quite the same thing as it does now. After all, it wasn’t until 1962 that Illinois became the first state to decriminalize gay sex, so revealing one’s homosexuality in public was generally a bad idea. Instead, the phrase ‘coming out’ was used in much the same way as by the débutantes of the Victorian era—young ladies presented to high society for the first time since coming of age. The difference was that gay “débutantes” ‘came out’ to a far more clandestine society—specifically, to a society of their homosexual peers via the drag balls of New York City, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, and elsewhere. A spring 1931 article in The Baltimore Afro-American describes one such event as “an outstanding feature of Baltimore’s eighth annual frolic of the pansies.”

In wider society, homosexuals felt compelled to ‘wear a mask’ or ‘wear their hair up’ as they called it, ‘dropping hairpins’ (i.e. signals) only to other gay men.

1. Cloud nine

It’s easy to see how a state of ecstatic bliss might be equated with sitting on a cloud (figuratively speaking, at least), but why is it always ‘cloud nine’? And who ever heard of clouds having numbers anyway?

Some people assume it must have something to do with the classification of cloud types; the earliest edition of the International Cloud Atlas apparently listed cumulonimbus (the huge, puffy, white type) as cloud number nine out of ten. Others think ‘cloud nine’ refers to a ninth stage of enlightenment, or to some other spiritual heaven, often citing the related phrase ‘seventh heaven’from Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

As it turns out, however, the number isn’t all that important. Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, ‘cloud eight’ was the place to be. It was apparently gangster slang for drunkenness, as well as another phrase for dreaming, as per the Chicago Daily Tribune in May 1945: “Any worth-while career takes years of patience and hard work, but why not stop day-dreaming, come in off cloud eight, and get started this year instead of next?” There was also a ‘cloud seven’, defined by The Dictionary of American Slang in 1960 as “completely happy, perfectly satisfied”—and even a ‘cloud thirty-nine’, a pinnacle of musical perfection.

It’s possible ‘cloud nine’ just caught on because ‘nine’ is the highest single digit number, and because it features in other phrases, such as ‘dressed to the nines’ and ‘the whole nine yards’, both of which suggest a superlative quality.



10 Historical Suicides That Might Have Been Murders

History is full of mysterious deaths. Some of them are deemed suicides, but have enough puzzling details to leave lingering doubts. It is possible, even likely, that these people killed themselves, although it would not be out of the realm of possibility to suggest that they fell victims to foul play.

10. Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis became famous 200 years ago when he led the Corps of Discovery mission commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson alongside William Clark. Jefferson then appointed him Governor of Upper Louisiana in 1806. Lewis died of an apparent suicide in 1809.

Lewis was passing through Natchez Trace. He had stopped at a lodging called Grinder’s Stand and spent the night in a cabin. He was found dead from gunshot wounds which appeared to be self-inflicted. There were plenty of contemporaries and historians who had no problem with the suicide verdict. Lewis was depressed, he struggled with alcoholism, he had financial troubles, and reportedly had tried to take his own life before. He also made plans in the event of his death prior to his journey and wrote a will on the road.

Lewis’s family was not as satisfied with this story. His mother believed he was murdered and so did many of his descendants. There is still an ongoing effort to have his body exhumed, but it has proven difficult since Lewis’s gravesite is in a national monument. If the explorer was, indeed, murdered, the most likely culprits were bandits prowling the Natchez Trace. There have also been more outlandish hypotheses claiming that Lewis was the victim of an assassination plot or that he was caught by the innkeeper sleeping with his wife.

9. George Reeves

George Reeves was an actor best known for portraying the original Superman in a 1950s TV show. In 1959, during a party at his home in Benedict Canyon, he went upstairs and shot himself in the head. That’s the official story, though. Sixty years later, the death of Superman remains a controversial issue.

If someone else killed George Reeves, it was likely due to his tumultuous love life. He had been in a long-term relationship with an older woman named Toni Mannix. A struggling actor for most of his Hollywood career, Toni bought almost everything for him, including the house where he died. At the same time, Toni was the wife of Eddie Mannix, an executive at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with a reputation as a “fixer” who protected the studio’s stars from scandal. He was recently played by Josh Brolin in the movie Hail, Caesar!

In early 1959, Reeves dumped Toni Mannix in favor of a nightclub girl with an explosive temper called Leonore Lemmon who was there the day he died. All three of these people could have killedReeves. Leonore could have shot him herself while the Mannixes had the resources and alleged mob ties to have him murdered. The whole story was presented, but also fictionalized in the movie Hollywoodland.

8. Bobby Fuller

In early 1966, musician Bobby Fuller scored the biggest hit of his career when his group, The Bobby Fuller Four, released a cover of I Fought the Law. A few months later he was dead. The 23-year-old was found in his mother’s Oldsmobile clutching a plastic hose which led to a gasoline can. The police quickly closed the case as a suicide by asphyxiation, but there were plenty of suspicious details which led to tales of murder.

There were mentions that Fuller’s body was bruised and bloody, suggesting that he was beaten or dragged. There was also advanced rigor mortis inconsistent with the fact that his car had only been parked for 30 minutes before Fuller’s mother found his body. The official autopsy report notes the presence of hemorrhages likely caused by gas vapors and the summer heat, but makes no mention of blood, cuts or bruises. Officers on the scene didn’t seem interested in an investigation as they didn’t even dust for fingerprints or interview any witnesses.

Multiple wild stories appeared after Fuller’s death. He died at a party after taking LSD. The owner didn’t want any trouble with the cops so he staged the singer’s suicide. Another version claimed Bobby was killed after sleeping with the girlfriend of a powerful nightclub owner with mob connections. One theory implicated his manager, Bob Keane, or Morris Levy, founder of Roulette Records. The most outlandish story claimed Fuller was taken out by the Manson Family.

7. “The Mad King” Ludwig II

Ludwig II reigned as King of Bavaria during the second half of the 19th century. He became known as the Fairy Tale King for his love of lavish construction projects, chief among them the Neuschwanstein Castle. In 1886, his body was found floating in Lake Starnberg alongside the corpse of his physician.

Ludwig spent obscene amounts of money on his palaces and was heavily in debt. In 1886, he was dethroned after a team of medical experts led by psychiatrist Bernhard Van Gudden declared him insane. Ludwig was transported to Berg Castle and placed in Gudden’s care, but a day later they were both dead after going out for a walk together.

Could Ludwig have killed Gudden as revenge for turning him into the “Mad King” and then drowned himself? It is possible, although the king’s autopsy reported that there was no water in his lungs. Alternative theories suggest that it was all part of a coup, orchestrated either by the government or by Ludwig’s uncle Luitpold who became regent and de facto ruler of Bavaria.

There is some anecdotal evidence that Ludwig was shot. Allegedly, Countess Josephine von Wrba-Kaunitz obtained the king’s coat which had two bullet holes in it and occasionally showed it off to dinner guests. There are also mentions of fishermen who were on the lake that night and heard gunshots. Lastly, a modern medical review of Gudden’s insanity diagnosis was found to be “incorrect in form and substance”, suggesting that the psychiatrist was in on it and later silenced as a witness.

6. Jan Masaryk

The coup known as “Victorious February” occurred between February 21-25, 1948, in Czechoslovakia. With Soviet backing, the country’s communist party assumed control of the government. Only one pro-West politician remained in a prominent position – Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk. A few weeks later, he was dead after a fall out the window of the Czernin Palace.

The government quickly ruled Masaryk’s death a suicide. At his funeral, new communist leader Klement Gottwald blamed the diplomat’s demise on Western powers which he labeled “foreign enemies.” Unsurprisingly, many people were unsatisfied with that verdict and believe Masaryk was assassinated either by the Soviets or by his own countrymen.

It wasn’t until decades later when the communist grip loosened on Czechoslovakia that newer inquiries were made into the minister’s death. One forensic expert did, indeed, conclude that Masaryk was pushed out the window. Curiously, his family and many close friends always believed that he committed suicide and labeled his assassination at the hands of Soviet agents an “indisputable cold war cliché.”

5. Pierre-Charles Villeneuve

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson is regarded as one of the greatest heroes in British history, particularly for his triumphant victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. On the other side of the coin, Pierre-Charles Villeneuve was the naval officer in charge of the French and Spanish forces who suffered a catastrophic defeat at the same battle. He committed suicide in a hotel in Rennes a few months later, but some historians have argued that he could have been assassinated on orders from Napoleon.

Villeneuve acted rashly and took on Nelson’s fleet unprepared after finding out that the French Emperor was planning to replace him with another commander named Rosily. He not only lost two thirds of the ships in his command, but also foiled Napoleon’s planned invasion of Britain. It’s understandable why some people feel like the emperor wasn’t too pleased with his admiral.

Besides motive, it was the nature of Villeneuve’s death that attracted suspicion. People who commit suicide rarely stab themselves six times in the chest. Even so, no concrete evidence has ever been found to suggest murder.

4. Vincent Van Gogh

The mental struggles of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh are almost as well-known as his paintings. Famously, he severed part of his left ear during an argument with fellow artist Paul Gauguin, but he suffered from multiple psychotic episodes and bouts of depression throughout his life. Van Gogh came to represent the stereotypical “tortured artist” so it wasn’t surprising that he committed suicide. However, in recent years, some people have claimed that the painter did not kill himself.

The alternative scenario came courtesy of Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. According to the official version, Van Gogh shot himself with a revolver in a field, returned to his lodgings and died after two agonizing days. However, the authors claim that the artist was not the one who pulled the trigger, but a group of boys who mocked and played pranks on the bizarre painter. They even put forward René Secrétan as the likely culprit. Decades later, Secrétan admitted to bullying Van Gogh in his younger days and he had the revolver which he used to emulate his hero, “Wild” Bill Cody.

The biggest support for the hypothesis came from forensic expert Dr. Vincent Di Maio. Based on the notes of Van Gogh’s physician, Dr. Di Maio ascertained that the muzzle was around two feet away from him when the gun was fired. Therefore, it was highly likely that Van Gogh did not shoot himself.

3. Philip Taylor Kramer

Philip Taylor Kramer is best remembered for his stint as the bassist for American rock band Iron Butterfly. In 1995, he seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth. His remains were found four years later in Decker Canyon near Malibu. Police ruled his death a “probably suicide”, but there were signs that pointed to foul play.

Following his rock star days, Kramer became a successful computer scientist and did top secret work on rocket guidance systems for the US Department of Defense. In the 90s, he started his own software business.

On the day of his disappearance, Kramer was supposed to meet an investor at Los Angeles International Airport. He went there, spent 45 minutes in the airport, and left alone. During that time, he made 17 phone calls, including to his wife and former band member Ron Bushy. His last call was to 911. Kramer said that he was going to kill himself and that O.J. Simpson was innocentbecause “they did it.” That was the last anyone heard of him.

Philip’s father, Ray Kramer, was the first to dismiss the idea of suicide. He revealed that people were interested in the work his son was doing with computers and even made threats. According to Ray, calling 911 and saying that he was going to kill himself was code indicating that other people were controlling Philip. A congressman urged the FBI to investigate Kramer’s disappearance as a foreign abduction, perhaps in connection with the work he did for the DoD. No evidence was ever found to substantiate these claims.

2. Marilyn Monroe

One of Hollywood’s biggest sex symbols and the archetype “blonde bombshell,” Marilyn Monroe’s death was almost as fascinating as her life. She died in her home in 1962 of a barbiturate overdose. Officially, Marilyn committed suicide, but many conspiracy theories soon appeared that said otherwise.

There was a notion that Monroe overdosed accidentally. However, given that her body contained dosages several times over the lethal limit, the idea was dismissed. More intriguing were the various claims that the actress had been assassinated.

Most conspiracy theories have to do with Marilyn’s ties to the Kennedys. Some say that the powerful political family ordered Monroe’s death to shut her up or because she knew too much. Others claim that third parties such as the CIA or Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana had the actress killed to hurt the Kennedys.  

One conjecture suggests Bobby Kennedy was involved in a plot to “induce” Marilyn’s suicide. It even has an FBI file which recently came to light, although it cannot be authenticated. It indicates a conspiracy orchestrated by Kennedy’s brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford, which also included Marilyn’s psychiatrist and housekeeper. Together, they encouraged the actress to fake a suicide attempt, as she had done in the past, except this time they were there to ensure that it succeeded.

1. The Isdal Woman

Unsolved for almost 50 years, the Isdal Woman remains one of the most perplexing mysteries in the modern history of Norway. In November 1970, hikers found the severely-burned body of an unidentified woman in the Isdalen Valley in Bergen. An autopsy later revealed that she had swallowed over 50 sleeping pills shortly before her death so police tentatively rule her death a suicide. However, many aspects of the case point to foul play and have even given rise to tales of an international espionage ring.

The first clue was the fire. Cause of death was a combination of barbiturate overdose and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you want to commit suicide and have already taken dozens of pills, why would you also set yourself on fire?

Another clue was the extreme length that someone went to conceal the woman’s identity. All the items she had with her (clothing, pill bottles) had labels, names, and other identifiers removed. A few days later, police found two suitcases at the Bergen railway station which belonged to the woman as one of them had her fingerprint on it. All the items inside also had names and labels removed, although investigators did find money from five different countries. They also found a mysterious coded note. It was decoded later and revealed that the victim had traveled throughout Europe using, at least, seven different aliases.

These discoveries led to rumors that the Isdal Woman was a murdered spy. Five decades later, her identity remains a mystery, although a recent breakthrough came from forensic analysis of her teeth. It suggested that she was born in France and grew up along the French-German border.


10 Times People Were Saved by the Enemy

War is the manifestation of the most extreme levels of human conflict, as tensions culminate in mass violent action. In such circumstances, rules, codes of honor, and care are frequently sacrificed as the goal of triumphing over an opponent — whether civil or international in nature — becomes central. Yet it is worth noting that in certain cases, wartime has been recognized as a time where showing more humanity (rather than less) may be warranted as the best in people is brought out on rare occasions. In this account, we scour exceptional cases including the Japanese boy who fed a starving POW, a Luftwaffe pilot who escorted his intended victim to safety and a Nazi officer who protected Chinese citizens from rapacious Japanese Imperial Army troops.

10. John Rabe and the Chinese

Germany and Japan may have officially been co-members of the Axis but one German businessman and bonafide Nazi party member based in Nanjing, Jiangsu province presented an unusual juxtaposition of loyalties in the annals of war history. Considered a hero and a humanitarian, John Rabe was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1882 and moved to China in 1908 to pursue his work with the Siemens Company, a German business with operations in China. He moved his family to China and developed strong ties with the local populace, including the Chinese workers and their families. Rabe established a German school in Nanjing in the year 1934, which he placed and operated on his property. By the time the Japanese Imperial Army was invading China, Herr Rabe had already become an enthusiastic member of Germany’s National Socialist German Worker’s Party through his work with the German school.

In the same breath as he talked about what being a Nazi meant to him in terms of supporting German workers, he also acted as a humanitarian. He described facing a “moral dilemma” in Nanjing, and ended up playing a key role in establishing a demilitarized safe zone. While he was technically an ally of the Japanese, he used that nominal alliance as a Nazi party member to protect Chinese civilians and even soldiers despite great risk from Japanese atrocities. While there were many he could not save, he protected hundreds of Chinese refuges in the safe zone, using the Nazi armband, Nazi flags and Swastika emblems to keep his Japanese allies from harming his Chinese trusters to the greatest extent possible.

9. Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown

It’s not often in history that the person officially tasked with killing you becomes your guardian without having even met you. It is even more exceptional for that person to eventually meet their intended victim and subsequently become good friends. But the pilot of the deadly Messerschmitt BF-109 that was in the process of intercepting a B-17 bomber over Germany had a change of heart as a Luftwaffe airman with a sense of fair fighting. Despite the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, it is known that a certain number of German combatants fighting for the Third Reich retained a sense of proper conduct.

One of the most spectacular examples of this wartime honor that went far above and beyond is the case of Luftwaffe fighter pilot Franz Stigler and American B-17 pilot Charlie Brown, whose life and the life of surviving crew onboard were spared in the course of the interception over Germany. Instead of shooting down the badly damaged B-17, Stigler chose to escort the bomber to safety,waving to the pilot and flying alongside the plane to prevent it from being shot down until it could get within range of the English coast. The pilots did not discuss the incident until after the war, when Stigler and Brown found each other following a newspaper notice placement. The two men became friends until death. Stigler had immigrated to Canada, while Brown had remained in the USA.

8. Fumio Nishiwaki and Carl Ruse

American soldiers captured by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II could not expect good treatment, and a certain Carl Ruse was no exception. Imprisoned in the Yokkaichi-Ishihara Sangyo Japanese prison camp, Ruse was underfed and poorly treated by guards and could have faced death through stress and starvation. After surviving what would eventually be called the Bataan Death March of April 1942, Ruse had arrived at the camp where he faced the daunting prospect of forced labor. By the time of his liberation and repatriation to the United States in 1945 following the closing of World War II hostilities, Ruse was in lousy shape, to say the least, but fortunately still alive. His survival, however had not been a matter of mere personal strength and determination.

A young boy, later found out to be a very young factory worker by the name of Fumio Nishiwaki,took a liking to the imprisoned Ruse and formed a friendly acquaintance with him. Aware of the starvation rations that put Ruse’s very survival at risk, the young Nishiwaki snuck in food for Ruse on a steady basis, supplementing his far too meager rations. Nishiwaki also gave Ruse a picture of himself to keep, which Ruse took with him upon his departure aboard the USS Rescue in September 1945. Ruse’s grandson Tim was backed by a non-profit to discover more about the boy who had saved his grandfather. The work enabled a Japanese man named Takeo Nishiwaki to be found, who explained that his brother, who died at age 30, had given a prisoner of war food at the age of 14 while working at a factory.

7. Hasan Jusovic and Aco Nenadic

One of the tragedies of war is that not only are spoils and brief moments of success at others’ expense commonly sought, but those in close proximity may be turned against each other. It is even more remarkable when wartime hostilities bring those who know each other into the dubious status of being legitimate enemies. When honor and loyalty prevail over politics and states of war, being saved by the enemy stands out as a remarkable twist in the annals of history. In the horrific conflicts between Bosniak and Serb forces in 1992 in former Yugoslavia, a 19-year-old Serbian man named Aco Nenadic, who was in the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), was part of a convoy that was violently attacked while in the process of withdrawing from Sarajevo.

The convoy’s attackers were Bosniak members of the Territorial Defence Force of Bosnia, or TO, which were reacting to what they viewed as a provocation aggression in the form of Yugoslav People’s Army takings of military supplies. In the midst of the violence, Aco Nenadic heard a voice that was most familiar to him urging him to keep quiet and offering safety and protection. The voice was that of his friend Hasan Jusovic, who had earlier urged him to leave his home due to mounting hostilities. Jusovic smuggled Nenadic to his home under pretense and, soon enough, a civilian disguise and cared for him for a month. He then arranged for him to get to his own family home. After the conflict, the men had lost touch but in later years, they reunited in friendship in 2009 with the assistance of a TV show called All for Love.

6. Wilhelm Hosenfeld, Leon Warm, and Wladislaw Szpilman

The German Wehrmacht was hardly the best friend to Jewish victims of National Socialist military and political aggression. As the German national army, the Wehrmacht was at the beck and call of Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich. Yet amongst the fairly uniform consensus of aiding, abetting or simply complying with aggression and anti-Jewish and anti-minority group human rights abuses, individuals existed who were sometimes willing to put the welfare of intended victims ahead of their own mandates or even personal safety. German Wehrmacht Officer Wilhelm Hosenfeld, born near Fulda, Hessen in 1895, grew up Catholic and was a German patriot. He became a soldier in World War One, survived, and became a teacher, marrying and then having five children.

Although initially a supporter of National Socialism, Hosenfeld became disturbed by the violence against persecuted identifiable groups and the hostile content of Mein Kampf. As a Wehrmacht officer stationed in Poland, he first saved Leon Warm by hiding him under a false identify and employed position after he escaped a Nazi train en route to Treblinka. He then rescued Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish musician, and gave him survival provisions in the final stages of World War II (as depicted toward the end of the film The Pianist). Things did not go so well for Hosenfeld, however. The Nazis did not get him, but in 1945 he was arrested and taken into Soviet captivity, remaining in prison until his 1952 death despite petitions from the two rescued Jewish men, Warm and Szpilman. In June 2009, Hosenfeld received posthumous honor and recognition as “Righteous Among Nations” in the Israeli Yad Vashim Holocaust Memorial for his work in saving, instead of persecuting, those labeled as targets by Nazi Germany.

5. Najah Aboud and Zahed Haftlang

The Iran-Iraq War lasting from September 1980 to August 1988 was characterized by innumerable human rights abuses and hostilities that pitted determined combatants on both sides, following the Iraqi invasion of Iran under the rule of Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein. Zahed Haftlang was an Iranian recruit into the paramilitary Basij forces that made the use of underage soldiers to take the brunt of battle confrontations and pave the way for experienced soldiers. Just 13 years of age when he signed up, Zahed was thrust into the ghoulish conflict that left 1.5 million people dead but managed to survive the chaos and violence, becoming a medic in time. He soon had the opportunity to save the life of an enemy soldier, Najah Aboud, an Iraqi fighter intent on being married but conscripted and thrown into the midst of hostilities as Saddam ordered the ill-fated invasion of Iran that led to a protracted struggle over territory, people, and politics.

Haftlang found a seriously injured Aboud and was under orders to kill, even being subjected to physical violence from a superior intended on driving the point home. But after finding a picture of the Iraqi man’s fiancée and baby, Haftlang put humanity over military aggression and did all he could to provide clandestine emergency medical care and save Aboud’s life until orders were changed to take Iraqi prisoners of war alive. Aboud spent 17 years in Iranian captivity, while Zahed ended up serving more than 2 years in Iraqi captivity. Then, 20 years later, a despairing Zahed was interrupted by a caring roommate in the middle of a suicide attempt in Canada, and ended up at the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture when he encountered Aboud, and the two reunited and remain close friends.

4. Major Josef Gangl, the Americans, and the Prisoners

One of the most remarkably complicated instances of being saved by the enemy is the case of Itter Castle in Austria. The castle was being used as a prison by the Nazi regime for high profile prisoners including French political and military leaders and cultural icons, apparently intended to be used as hostages for negotiation purposes if needed. Among the ranks of prisoners were no less than Marie-Agnes Cailliau, sister of General Charles De Gaulle, and former French Prime Ministers Paul Reynaud and Edouard Daladier. However, as the Nazis began losing the war in an increasingly obvious way, the prisoners were abandoned in the castle, but could not escape as the area was full of Nazi personnel. Heinrich Himmler’s SS intended to seize control of the castle and put the prisoners to death.

French prisoners sent out scouts on bicycles, only to have them encounter German Major Josef Gangl. Major Gangl opted to save the French, but he and his men could not do so alone. Major Gangl strategically surrendered to American forces, and then joined forces with them to fight the SS and save the prisoners. The castle was captured and the prisoners freed, but sadly Gangl himself was killed in the fighting that followed, shot in the head by an SS combatant. If the prisoners had not been rescued, saved by the joint forces of their official enemy and the Americans to whom their enemy surrendered, French figures who played a great role in rebuilding France would have been killed and never able to make their vital contributions.

3. Hoichi “Bob” Kubo and the Japanese Standoff

In the history of World War II, the fact that the United States and Canada were immigrant countries — and some racially and ethnically based policies were still in place in both countries — meant that at times, there could be a conflict between one’s ethnic background and perceived loyalty in the wartime environment. In the case of Japanese Americans for example, there were widespread detentions and concerns about their suitability for US armed forces service against Japan. Yet Japanese American serviceman Hoichi “Bob” Kubo was determined to serve the US, seeing a cultural parallel to a Japanese story about a conflict between family loyalty and Imperial loyalty and served with conviction.

In July 1944, an incident in the Battle of Saipan materialized where 130 Japanese soldiers and civilians were hiding in a cave, the civilians standing around the soldiers. Previously, the bloody conflict had been defined by a number of mass deaths to suicide by civilians and soldiers who saw surrender as dishonorable. Kubo, however, volunteered to address the tense situation in hopes of saving lives. He talked the 130 Japanese out of killing themselves and into surrendering. So, all these Japanese people were saved from suicide or from being killed in a fight with American forces by one man, who was their enemy by nationality but was ethnically Japanese, using his culture bridging skill to bring a solution to a potentially horrific and bloody impasse.

2. Gino Farnetti-Bragaglia and the Canadian Trio

Encountering Canadian soldiers or other Allied forces would not be the best fate for combatants fighting for fascist Italian forces in World War II. Many civilians were unfortunately killed by Allied air raids or as a result of collateral damage in the course of ground based battles. In both the Kingdom of Italy under fascist rule, and the puppet state the Italian Social Republic established following the surrender of the Kingdom of Italy and a switching of sides to join the Allies in 1943, a great number of lives were lost on both the Allied and Axis sides. For the young Italian war orphan Gino Farnetti-Bragaglia, however, a group of Canadian soldiers saved him from near certain death in the Italian province of Frosinone in June 1944.

After finding him in bad shape and alone following the death of his parents in the war and separation from his brother, the boy was cared for by three Canadian soldiers named Lloyd “Red” Oliver, Paul Hagen, and Mert Massey. He referred to the men as his “Guardian Angels” and stayed in touch after he was left in Italy, following the departure of the soldiers for Western Europe in February 1945 and his being placed in the care of a family in the region. It was agreed that he would be able to remain in contact and he did throughout his life until the death of the last soldier, “Red” Oliver, in 2012. Immensely thankful for being rescued by the Canadian soldiers, the rescued Gino Farnetti-Bragaglia traveled to Canada upon invitation to recognize the soldiers who saved him.

1. Gerhard Kurzbach and Yisrael Fruman

The World War II era mass murder of Jewish people wantonly taken as prisoners and refugees stands out starkly among global war crimes. Yet amongst the ghastly happenings, the actions of German Wehrmacht commander Gerhard Kurzbach stand out so strongly that his picture hangs on the wall of a Jewish Holocaust survivor in Israel, as well as having been recognized as “Righteous Among Nations” for his lifesaving good deeds amongst the overwhelming horror and treachery that defined the worst moments of World War II. The clever, most honorably devious Kurzbach used his strategic position as the person in charge of a military vehicle repair shop making sure vehicles used by Nazi forces were in good working order.

Kurzbach is a classic example of one who might seem to protest too much, for he ranted and yelled abuse at Jewish prisoners and seemed to be just a little too die hard in spilling hate speech. In fact, the truth to which no one caught on before enough time had passed for hundreds of Jewish prisoners to be saved from deportation, was that Kurzbach was pretending to persecute Jews and then hiding them in the workshop before arranging escapes. One survivor, Israeli citizen Yisrael Fruman (pictured above), may be one of the few Holocaust survivors to have a World War II German officer’s portrait displayed in honor upon his wall. Fruman acknowledged the good Kurzbach in a letter to his family and has been preparing to meet the German Sergeant’s grandson. Tragically, it appears Kurzbach paid for his actions with his life, being arrested by Nazi fanatics at gunpoint in 1942, and remains presumed dead.