Take a log, paint it black, and make sure your enemy can see it. The “quaker guns” were a key piece of strategic deception in the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
In 1946 a modified V-2 rocket took the first picture of our planet from outer space.
In 1950 Leo Szilard warned the world that a single device capable of annihilating all life on Earth was theoretically possible.
The inventor of the diesel engine died at sea under mysterious and still unexplained circumstances.
Vidal Sassoon was an icon of 20th century fashion – and also beat up fascists in post-WWII London.
Thomas Selfridge was a passenger in one of the Wright brothers’ early planes when it crashed in 1908; he was the first person to die in a plane crash.
In 1687 Ottoman-controlled Athens, the Venetians blew up the Parthenon. The Ottomans built a mosque from its ruins.
In World War I, phenol was a key ingredient in aspirin, explosives, and phonograph records. German agents secretly redirected Thomas Edison’s excess phenol supply to prevent it being used for British bombs.
In 1968 a North Korean black ops assassination team got within 100 metres of the South Korean president’s house. South Korea formed a team of petty criminals and teenagers to return the favour, but after three years of training they mutinied.
Underneath Beijing is a vast network of tunnels built during the Cold War to shelter three million people during a nuclear attack.
In 1987 the army of Chad won a war against a more powerful Libyan force. The Libyans had tanks and aircraft; Chad had a fleet of Toyota pickup trucks.
In 1962 the United States detonated a nuclear bomb in outer space over Hawai’i. It caused an artificial aurora in the sky over Honolulu – and another one over Samoa, more than four thousand kilometres away.
In 1859 a dispute over a single pig led to a military standoff between the United States and the United Kingdom. The conflict would eventually draw in George Pickett (of Pickett’s Charge), Henry Robert (of Robert’s Rules of Order) and Kaiser Wilhelm I.
When British suffragettes were released from prison, they got medals.
When a samurai received a new katana, the sharpness of the sword could be tested by attacking a random civilian or (after that was banned) by slicing a criminal or corpse.
Winston Churchill invented an adult romper suit and then wore it everywhere during World War II.