Sometimes the image says it all; in the 1990s the United States military experimented with skateboards for urban warfare.
In World War I millions of troops sat in trenches for more than three and a half years. It was by turns terrifying and boring. To ignore one feeling and allay the other, they made art.
If you wanted to build a castle in medieval England, you needed permission from the king. They’re supposed to be for the defence of the realm, but sometimes you just want to fake out the neighbours.
Around 1200 BCE, almost every civilisation in the Eastern Mediterranean collapsed, or just barely survived. One possible culprit were invaders from across the sea: the Sea Peoples. No-one knows precisely who they were.
In 1976, North Korea, South Korea, and the United States almost went to war over a single tree.
Manuel Noriega was the CIA-funded dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989. When the United States invaded Panama, they drove him out with The Clash’s cover of I Fought the Law.
The humanitarian daily ration (HDR) is a small non-perishable package designed to provide one day’s food supply to anyone, regardless of religious dietary restrictions. Just don’t make it the same colour as a bomb when you airdrop it.
There’s an island fort in Manila Bay that’s shaped just like a battleship – a remnant of the American colonisation of the Philippines.
The Emeco 1006 Navy chair was originally designed to survive a torpedo hit. In continuous production since 1944, it has found a second life as the go-to chair for interrogation scenes in film.
In World War II, it was standard practice to add nonsense phrases to coded messages in transit, in order to thwart decryption efforts. One of those phrases accidentally changed the course of the largest naval battle in history.
World War II saw the first widespread use of inflatable tanks. The whole point of a tank is protective armour. Why would you want to make an inflatable one?
In the long history of war, there are almost no conflicts between cavalry and navy. But in 1795, there was. And the cavalry won.
In the early 17th century, the German artillery master Franz Helm suggested attaching a bomb to the back of a cat, in the hope that it would run into a fortified town and set it on fire. This sounds like a terrible idea.
Olivier Messiaen was one of the most prominent classical composers of the 20th century, and his most famous work – the Quartet for the End of Time – was first performed in a POW camp in Germany.
1866: the Irish invade Canada. The Irish independence cause spilled over to the rest of the world in interesting ways. In the Battle of Ridgeway, Irish republicans attempted to seize Canada to pressure the UK to leave Ireland.