Military Blunders That Were So Unintentionally Amusing They Became the Stuff of Legend
In the end, everyone makes mistakes, including militaries. Often, these errors turn into tragedies, resulting in the loss of life and limb. However, that isn’t always the case, as some blunders only amount to an embarrassing or amusing story. At times, they did include significant property damage, but they ultimately became the stuff of legend for their sheer ridiculousness.
The Tootsie Roll Air Drop
During the Korean War, mortar shells were often referred to by the codename “Tootsie Rolls.”
In 1950, the 1st Marine Division, a group of 15,000 men, was maintaining a defensive position in the Chosin mountain reservoir, pushing back against the incoming Chinese force, which numbered near 120,000.
With temperatures falling below freezing, leading their rations to become frozen, a call was put out for “Tootsie Rolls.” While the intention was to have mortar shells brought in, the person who filled the order took the request literally. Soon, the division began airdropping crates filled with candies instead of artillery.
While obviously a mistake, there was a positive side to the blunder. Since the candies could be warmed with body heat, they served as replacements for the rations, giving the Marines a source of food that ultimately sustained them during the battle. In fact, many who were present that day credited the error with saving their lives.
The Great Emu War in Australia
After the end of World War I, over 5,000 Australian soldiers were provided with money as well as deeds to farmland in the western part of the country. While the move could easily have been praised early on, an invading force of 20,000 emus, large birds native to the continent, descended on the farms, destroying crops and creating havoc.
While the farmers, predominately former military, initially tried to handle the issue themselves, they were unsuccessful. According to a report by Task and Purpose, the nation’s Prime Minister ordered Maj. G.P.W. Meredith, commander of the Royal Australian Artillery’s Seventh Heavy Battery, to lead a charge against the emus.
However, the Australian military forces were ultimately ineffective, and Parliament eventually conceded, announcing that they were essentially defeated by the birds.
The German Submarine That Was Taken Down by a Toilet Flush
On April 14, 1945, U-1206, a German submarine, was sunk when Capt. Karl-Adolf Schlitt flushed an onboard toilet incorrectly during its maiden voyage.
Instead of launching the waste out of the vessel, an engineer turned the wrong valve. This allowed sewage to be released into the compartment, ultimately reaching the sub’s internal batteries that were stored below the bathroom.
A chemical reaction led to the production of chlorine gas, and the vessel had to surface to allow everyone to escape the poisonous vapor. Schlitt allowed the submarine to sink, and the crew was ultimately captured by nearby Scottish forces.