What do you remember from your high school history class?
Probably a bunch of battles, dates, and old guys who said important stuff — even if you can't remember exactly what that important stuff was.
If you found your history class boring, chances are you just weren't told the right stories.(Or maybe you were, and you just weren't paying attention.) Luckily for you, a recent AskReddit thread asked a bunch of history buffs to share stories from history that might not have been covered in the typical high school curriculum. Something tells me that if these stories had been covered, I would have had a much better History grade.
The May Incident
via: GettyThe "May incident" in World War 2. American submarines were very good at getting away from Japanese surface ships. This was because the Japanese thought American submarines could only reach a much shallower depth than they actually could, and they never set their depth charges to these deeper depths. Congressman Andrew May decided it would be a good idea to hold a press conference announcing this fact. From then on, the Japanese set their depth charges to these deeper depths. Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, commander of the U.S. submarine fleet in the Pacific, estimated that May's security breach cost the United States Navy as many as ten submarines and 800 crewmen killed in action. Loose lips sink ships. –Rick2990
The *real* fall of the Roman empire.I wish more people realized how truly post-apocalyptic life after the collapse of the (western) Roman empire was. In Britain, we had large cities made of masonry, aqueducts, running water, lawyers and accountants, central heating, financial derivatives, a thriving civilization. After the collapse, we lost all of that. The plumbing and concrete broke down; nobody knew how to fix it. People built mud huts inside old stadiums and amphitheaters, using them as forts. It took centuries for the economy to recover to the point that currency was needed again, rather than bartering. –Dr_Heron
The secret library in Moscow.When Ivan III of Russia married Zoe/Sophia Palaiologina, niece of Dragases Palaiologos or Constantine XI, her uncle gifted them a library along with many other treasures. This library somehow survived the Burning of Moscow in 1493 and continued to be passed down to her son, Vasili III, and then on to her grandson, Ivan IV. During Ivan IV's reign of terror, he feared the library was too precious a treasure and worried it would be stolen. So he and a few men took the collection out of Moscow (what was most likely a 1-3 day horse ride) and buried the books (possibly in a vault?). To ensure the location of the library would never get out, he had the men killed. Ivan IV died before the location of the library was ever revealed. We have no idea what could have been in this library or if the contents have even survived. Though some historians have speculated that Plato's Hermocrates (the final dialogue pertaining to Atlantis) could have been part of the collection, there's no proof that this is true. –dahngrest
The unsanitary conditions of fur trading:
via: GettyVoyageurs who worked for fur trade companies lived gross lives. Since they spent most of their time in a canoe with limited supplies, they made do with what they had. They were often missing teeth so when they drank tea, they would shove a chunk of maple sugar in their teeth gaps and drink tea through it. When the tea was done, they would remove the sugar chunk, wrap it up and save it for later. The No. 1 cause of death for a Voyageur was complications of a hernia because they carried heavy cargo on their backs. They would tie their sashes as tight as possible around their stomach to keep all their internal organs in place. Since they tried to keep limited supplies so they could carry the most cargo, they would often use their toques as bowls. They would wax the yarn to waterproof the hats. So they would eat out of their hat that had hair, sweat, skin and probably bugs in it. –starlaluna This next story is about a double agent who cost the Germans millions of dollars.
Juan Pujol García
via: Wikimedia CommonsIn World War II, there was a Spanish spy named Joan Pujol Garcia who approached the Allies to work for them. When they refused, he approached the Nazis, and they accepted him (giving him the codename Arabel). Once he earned credentials working as a Nazi spy, he approached the Allies again, this time getting a job as a double agent (codenamed Garbo). This is where it gets unbelievable. He fed the Germans a combination of true but useless information and high-value information that always got to them just a little too late. He even started a spy network consisting of 27 sub-agents of his own. Keep in mind that not a single one of these sub-agents existed. They were completely imaginary, but regardless, he submitted expense reports for them and had the Nazis giving him money to pay their salaries. At one point, when he had to explain why some high-value information got to the Germans late, he told them that one of his spies had died. He actually got the Germans to pay the imaginary spy's imaginary wife a very real pension for her loss. Not only did his false information get the Nazis to waste millions of dollars, but he was also instrumental in convincing the Nazis that the attacks on D-Day were just a diversion, and the real attack was yet to come, keeping vital German resources away from the front lines. He is one of the only people to ever get an Iron Cross from the Germans (which required Hitler's personal authorization, since he wasn't a soldier) AND an MBE from King George VI. –whalemango
via: Wikimedia CommonsStarfish Prime. That time when a space nuke could be seen from Hawaii and the resulting EMP knocked out streetlights in Waikiki. Almost no one I know knows about this, and it wasn't in any school books we read. You'd think a space nuke (to see if we could blow up an asteroid belt) would make it into textbooks. Especially, when tens of thousands of people witnessed a sun in the sky at night time. –articulite
The lesser-known interests of Peter the Great
via: GettyPeter the Great often forced dwarves to get married, and he and his friends would get drunk and attend the wedding. He had a fascination with dwarves, and he once forced someone who had made him angry to marry a dwarf. –neildegrassebyeson
And the opposite interests of Frederick Wilhelm.
via: GettyFrederick Wilhelm of Prussia, the father of Frederick the Great, was obsessed with giants, to the point that he would: Accept unusually tall soldiers as state gifts. Form a regiment comprised of only the tallest soldiers, and have them parade through his bedroom when he was ill to boost his spirits. Start his own "breeding" programme, marrying off pairs of "giants" in the hopes of them producing even more unusually sized children. Abduct exceptionally tall people from other countries. –Sigismund716
The Battle of Attu.
via: GettyThe Battle of Attu was the only battle of World War II fought on U.S. soil. Attu is an island in the Aleutians. The Japanese invaded it intending to...who the hell knows! It was far too remote to serve as a staging for an invasion of the mainland. The American soldiers who were sent there had originally been slated to go to North Africa, they were sent to the Arctic, in the spring, with gear meant for fighting in the desert. They lost more men to the elements than to the Japanese. I am a nurse, and a few years ago I had a resident who was in this battle. To his dying day, he was reluctant to talk about it, even 70 years later. What I shared here is all he would tell me. –Eroe777 This next historical fact is about...diarrhea.
Diarrhea.Diarrhea was so widespread and common in the 19th century that people would develop opium habits because opium makes you constipated. –steviesmum
The Bloody BendersThe story of "The Bloody Benders." They were a family of serial killers in southeast Kansas in the 1870s. They let travelers stay and eat at their home (for a fee, of course), and would kill them during dinner, steal anything of value that the travelers had with them, and bury the bodies in the yard. It makes sense why the Benders aren't included in textbooks, but other famous criminals are often included and even become folk heroes. (Jesse James is a prime example.) –twothirtysevenam
via: GettyThe story of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to carry slaves from Africa to the U.S. The importation of slaves into the U.S. had been outlawed by the Federal government in 1808, but the international slave trade was still active. In 1859, the captain of the ship bet a rich man that he could import some slaves from Africa. He sailed that year and made it back, smuggled them into port at night, took them up the river and then transferred them to a steamship and burnt the Clotilda. The slaves were split according to the people who fronted the money for the captain to sail, were enslaved alongside the American-born slaves, and were freed after the Civil War. The captain was tried, but not convicted. The slaves settled on recovered land and founded a town called Africatown that's still there. –marisachan
via: Wikimedia CommonsI really like the story of Léo Major Léo was a Canadian soldier serving in WW2. He was assigned to the division in charge of liberating the Netherlands. One day in the summer of 1944, he was alone on reconnaissance duty when he saw 2 German soldiers walking nearby. He killed one and captured the other, then captured their commanding officer and an entire German garrison after killing a couple more. He came under fire from other German soldiers and just kept walking. He single-handedly captured 93 German soldiers. In February of 1945, a truck Léo was in hit a landmine. He broke his back, a few ribs, and both ankles, and was told he would be discharged. A week later he snuck out of the field hospital he was in and stayed with a Dutch family. After getting better, he made it back into his battalion and volunteered to do reconnaissance of the city of Zwolle. Once he departed, he decided to take the city himself. He convinced a German soldier to relay a message back to the German army. Then through the night ran around the town making all the noise he could. He shot bullets, threw grenades, captured German soldiers, burned down the Gestapo, and cleaned out the SS building in Zwolle. His tactics were so effective he convinced the German army that the entire Canadian army was invading the town, so by the morning the town was free of Germans, and the Canadian army just marched in. –walt02cl
The lion of Gripsholm castle.
via: ImgurThe lion of Gripsholm castle. As a part of some diplomatic back and forths, Fredrik the First of Sweden received a lion from the ruler of Algeria. It was now up to the royal taxidermist to make sure the lion was restored to its former glory. During the 1730s however, not a great deal of Swedes had ever actually seen a lion. –Rattplats The result was, well, really bad. That's it in the picture! This next story is truly touching.
via: Wikimedia CommonsDuring World War II, the Japanese outfitted special planes with enough range to reach the west coast of the United States. The goal was to use incendiary bombs to start wildfires in the forests of the pacific northwest. One pilot, Nobuo Fujita, successfully dropped his bombs over the forest near Brookings, Oregon. Fortunately, a storm the night before had dampened the forest, and the fire started by Fujita's bomb was quickly controlled by the Forest Service. Eighteen years later, in 1962, Fujita returned to Brookings. He brought with him his family's heirloom, a katana that was over 400 years old. Fujita apologized to the townspeople for his actions during the war and revealed that if the townspeople demanded it, he would ceremoniously kill himself (commit seppuku) with the sword to make reparations for his actions. The townspeople would have none of it. Fujita was made an honorary citizen of the town and returned to visit it several times during his life, including one trip to plant trees in the forest he had bombed decades before. After his death in 1997, his daughter returned to Brookings and scattered some of his ashes there. The Fujita family katana is on display in Brookings, after being given to the town by Fujita as a token of friendship. –MightyCaseyStruckOut
Just how intimidating George Washington was in person.
via: GettyGeorge Washington was an amazing man, but very proper and stern and revered by all. But one guy thought it was perhaps overblown and was talking smack that George wasn't all that awe-inspiring in person. Gouverneur Morris thought that it couldn't be that intimidating meeting George Washington, so Alexander Hamilton made him a bet. If he would, upon meeting the general, clap him on the shoulder and say “My dear General, how happy I am to see you look so well!" which would be the modern equivalent of saying "Hey Georgie boy, how they hanging?" Hamilton would buy an expensive dinner for him and twelve of his friends. Well, Governor Morris did and won the bet. But. "Washington immediately removed Morris’s hand from his shoulder, stepped away, and ﬁxed Morris with an angry frown until the trespasser retreated in confusion. Hamilton paid up, yet at the dinner, Morris declared, ‘I have won the bet but paid dearly for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it.'" –bakerton
King Louis XIV's Fistula:
via: GettyIn early 1685, King Louis XIV of France developed a fistula: a small channel near his anus, resulting in great pain. Eventually, the pain got so bad that he couldn't ride a horse, sit for long periods (which is kind of important when you're a king) or even make a bowel movement without regretting it immensely. Louis decided, "You know what? F--k it. Let's go down the surgical route." Unfortunately for Louis, at the time there was no surgical route. He hired a surgeon-barber named Charles-François Felix and asked him to fix him. And it worked! Within three months, the king was riding his horse as if nothing had happened, and Felix was the talk of the town. People were desperate to emulate the king so badly that some who were entirely healthy would pay Felix to perform the surgery on them. And those less willing to suffer (or at least, less willing to pay) would fake having the surgery, wearing bandages known as "le royale" to mimic the king and pretend that they too were cool and with it... even though 'with it' meant suffering from a painful condition of the anus. –Portarossa
The town of Gander, Newfoundland:
via: GettyIt's a bit more recent, but I love the story of Gander. After 9/11 all the planes were grounded. Almost 7,000 people, which was about 66 percent of the local population, were forced to land in this tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland. The whole town worked together to make sure all the passengers would have everything they needed. The local ice rink was filled with frozen food that people donated. You couldn't find a closed door in town for stranded people to take a shower or just talk. Once the grounding of planes was lifted those passengers pooled their money together and created a scholarship for the people of Gander to use. This is one of the greatest acts of kindness that I can view in history. To this day, Gander is the only place outside the United States where they have a piece of the World Trade Center. –firedog1235
Robert Liston's infamous surgery:
via: GettyRobert Liston was a surgeon. In fact, he was described as “the fastest knife in the West End" and could amputate a leg in 2.5 minutes (the faster the surgery, the more likely the recovery) — though during this particular amputation he went so quickly he also removed his patient’s testicles. However, he also amputated a man’s leg (in less than 2.5 minutes), who would later die of gangrene. In his haste, Liston accidentally cut off his assistant’s fingers. The assistant later died from gangrene. Liston also (apparently) cut through the coattails of a surgical spectator, who was so scared he died of fright. Thus, becoming the only surgery with a 300 percent mortality rate. –AvidReader182 Share this with your favorite history buff!