Historical Moments That Most People Wouldn’t Believe If They Weren’t Caught On Camera

Historical Moments That Most People Wouldn

Accidental invasions. Wives saving their husbands from certain death. Warring troops playing soccer on the battlefield. Scenes like these are often excluded from our textbooks, though that doesn’t make them any less significant in shaping the world today. Though it’s easy to focus only on the most earth-shattering events from history, it’s the smaller moments that truly define our shared human experience. These incredible photos and stories from history prove that even in the darkest of times, the light of humanity still shone through.

1. Imminent disaster

In the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, officials discovered that the No. 4 reactor’s molten core and the lava-like corium it created were at serious risk of coming in contact with the bubbler pools in the building’s basement. If this superheated material reached the water, it would create a massive steam explosion that would further contaminate Europe.

Igor Kostin / Laski Diffusion / Getty Images

Suicide mission?

And so, three engineers were tasked with wading into the radioactive waters below the reactor in order to drain the pools. Though it was widely reported that the men perished shortly after completing their mission, two of the three are still alive today (the third died in 2005 from heart failure), and all were awarded the Ukrainian Order For Courage in 2018.

Sky UK / HBO

2. Historic attack

The only Axis soldier to bomb the contiguous United States, Nobuo Fujita dropped multiple incendiary explosives onto the forests surrounding Brookings, Oregon, on September 9, 1942. Fortunately, it had rained the night before, and the fires were quickly extinguished.

Wikimedia Commons

Making amends

Twenty years later, Nobuo was invited back to Brookings, where he gifted the town his family’s 400-year-old katana as a show of friendship. He later sponsored three students from Brookings to study abroad in Japan, helped build the town’s library, and was even made an honorary citizen of the town several days before his death in 1997.

OPB / YouTube

3. Calling all boaters

As the events of 9/11 unfolded and the bridges and tunnels around Manhattan were closed, boats became the only way off the island. Despite the number of ferries servicing the city, the Coast Guard realized they’d need much more help. And so, they put out a call — to everyone.

U.S. Coast Guard / Public Domain

Lending a hand

In no time, hundreds of vessels ranging from tug boats to party yachts arrived at Governors Island to aid in the evacuation. Over the course of nine hours, these boats shuttled more than 500,000 people out of Manhattan, making it one of the largest sea evacuations in history.

Mikissh / YouTube

4. The Christmas truce

Christmas 1914 marked one of the most remarkable moments of World War I. Amidst all the violence and bloodshed, French, German, and British soldiers declared a series of unofficial truces so that they could celebrate the holiday together.

Robert Hunt / Windmill Books / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Humanity shines through

Crossing the trenches, soldiers from both sides joined together to talk, sing, and exchange food and souvenirs — some even ventured into no man’s land to play soccer. Though the practice was discontinued the following year, this brief respite showed that even in the face of war, there was still humanity.

Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

5. Standing in solidarity

In the wake of 9/11, Kimeli Naiyomah returned to his Kenyan village to find that his fellow Maasai people were having difficulty grasping the true scope of the tragedy. But after Kimeli relayed the horrors he had witnessed firsthand during his time studying in the US, the entire tribe felt it was their duty to show solidarity with the American people — through cows.

Library of Congress / YouTube

Cows for America

The Maasai blessed not one, but 14 cows to be gifted to the United States, though because of high shipping costs, the U.S. opted to keep the herd in Kenya and have a tribe care for them instead. As a show of thanks, the American government started a scholarship fund to help Maasai children attend local schools.

Wayne Hutchinson / Farm Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

6. Unexpected guests

On Christmas Eve 1944, Germans Fritz Vincken and his mother, Elisabeth, were sheltering in a small cabin in the Ardennes when three American soldiers knocked at their door. One of the men had been severely wounded in battle, and, despite their being the enemy, Elisabeth welcomed them inside. Then, the German soldiers arrived.

FORTEPAN / Teller Ferenc / Wikimedia Commons

Breaking bread

The four soldiers were in need of a place to stay after becoming separated from their unit, and Elisabeth obliged on two conditions: no guns, and they had to accept her American guests. That night, all seven soldiers shared Christmas Eve dinner together, and the Germans even helped tend to the wounded American.

U.S. Army / Wikimedia Commons

7. The Battle of Castle Itter

In the European Theater during the waning days of World War II, a group of high-profile French prisoners held in Castle Itter in Austria managed to drive out their Nazi captors, who regrouped for a planned assault on the fortress. In need of backup, the prisoners managed to recruit a group of anti-Hitler German soldiers to aid them, though they knew they still required more help.

Steve J. Morgan / Wikimedia Commons

Joining forces

And so, under a white flag, the Germans managed to make contact with an American armored reconnaissance unit, who agreed to join in the fight. Together, 14 American soldiers, 10 Germans, the French prisoners, and a tank crew managed to repel over 100 SS troops, marking the only recorded instance of Americans and Germans fighting together during the war.

William Poulson / Keystone / Getty Images

8. Howe’s lost dog

On October 6, 1777, British troops led by General William Howe launched a surprise attack on Germantown, Pennsylvania, during which the general’s fox terrier, Lila, was lost. As the American army withdrew from the town following the battle, a group of soldiers discovered the dog and brought her to their commanding officer, George Washington.

Stock Montage / Getty Images

Washington’s kindness

After discovering Howe’s name engraved on the terrier’s collar, Washington ordered Lila be returned to the general. He also included a note with the dog: “General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. He does himself the pleasure to return him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe.”

Deputy Dogs – Pets On Patrol / Facebook

9. Accidental invasion

Apparently, it’s possible to invade a country completely by accident. During a nighttime training exercise in 2007, 170 Swiss soldiers got disoriented and accidentally marched a mile into neighboring Liechtenstein before realizing their blunder.

Bettmann / Getty Images

Didn’t even notice

Hoping to avoid an international incident, Swiss officials contacted Liechtenstein and apologized profusely for the blunder. Fortunately, Liechtenstein was pretty cool about the whole thing — they hadn’t even noticed that the Swiss troops were there.

aslu / ullstein bild via Getty Images

10. Preemptive measures

During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, neutral Liechtenstein feared an attack at the hands of Prussian-allied Italians due to their close political ties to Austria. To be safe, the independent state sent 80 troops to guard the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy.

Photo12 / UIG / Getty Images

Returning with a friend

After several weeks of drinking, smoking, and seeing zero combat at the pass, the troops got word that the war had ended at the Battle of Königgrätz and headed home. They returned to Liechtenstein with 81 men — apparently, they’d picked up an Austrian liaison on the way!

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

11. Honoring the dead

Since the 1950s, anthropologists have uncovered a number of Neanderthal remains in the Shanidar cave in the Kurdistan area of northern Iraq. Evidently, the Neanderthals placed some special significance on the cave and frequently returned there to bury their dead.

Hardscarf / Wikimedia Commons

Leaving flowers

Along with the remains, anthropologists discovered ancient pollen samples in the cave’s sediment, implying that the Neanderthals also left flowers with those they buried. Even 40,000 years ago, humanoids mourned the loss of their loved ones.

Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

12. Conrad III’s decree

During the 12th-century war for the Holy Roman throne between the royal houses of Welf and Hohenstaufen, Conrad III besieged the Welf city of Weinsberg and forced its surrender. Per his orders, the city’s women were permitted to leave Weinsberg unharmed with only what they could carry on their shoulders.

Icas94 / De Agostini via Getty Images

Finding a loophole

Taking these words literally, the women left their possessions behind and instead fled the city with their husbands on their shoulders! Conrad III was so impressed by the women’s cunning that he decided to keep his word.

Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

13. Fortunate flight change

In 2014, Dutch cyclist Maarten de Jonge dodged the biggest bullet of his life — or so he thought — when he changed his flight to an earlier option. His original plane turned out to be Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, an aircraft missing to this day.

Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick / Wikimedia Commons

Another near miss

However, lightning struck twice later that year when Maarten switched flights again, this time in order to save money. The plane he was supposed to get on ended up crash-landing in Ukraine!

Taro Taylor / Wikimedia Commons

14. JFK-Lincoln similarities

Two of America’s most revered presidents, Lincoln and Kennedy, share a number of eerie similarities. Both were assassinated by bullet wounds to the head on a Friday right before a holiday, and each death occurred in the company of their wives…

Anefo / Wikimedia Commons

Inside circles

But there’s more. The two presidents also each had a vice president named Johnson and a friend named Billy Graham. Perhaps JFK was a reincarnated Lincoln — the world may never know.

Abbie Rowe / Wikimedia Commons

15. Bad luck

Violet Jessop had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially when it came to ships. Serving as ocean liner stewardess in her youth, Jessop miraculously survived the sinking of both the RMS Titanic as well as the HMHS Britannic.

Wikimedia Commons

16. Like father, like son

In 1858, a man named Robert Fallon was shot dead for cheating at poker and was replaced at the table by a younger man who immediately won big. Unbeknownst to the group, the younger man was Fallon’s son, who hadn’t seen his father in decades.

Lauren P. Arfman / Flickr

17. Titanic novel

Fourteen years before the sinking of the Titanic, Morgan Robertson penned The Wreck of Titan: Or, Futility, a novel that could’ve been a play-by-play of the infamous 1912 shipwreck. The sinking of Titan is nearly identical to that of the Titanic!

Paramount Pictures

18. Baum’s jacket

While searching for a costume for Frank Morgan’s Professor Marvel character in The Wizard of Oz, the crew discovered a tattered jacket in a thrift store. After purchasing it for use in the production, they noticed a name stitched in the pocket: L. Frank Baum, the original author of the Oz novels.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

19. The Dean curse

Following James Dean’s tragic car crash, those who handled the vehicle fell victim to a series of unusual events. The car crushed one mechanic’s legs as he tried to tow it, set fire to the garage it was being stored in, and killed a racecar driver who had installed its engine in his own vehicle.

Bettmann / Getty Images

20. Falling babies

In 1937, street sweeper Joseph Figlock was clearing an alleyway when a baby fell from a fourth-story window and landed on him, injuring itself and Figlock (both survived). A year later, Figlock was sweeping out another alleyway when yet another child fell on him from a fourth-story window.

Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

21. Twain’s prediction

Mark Twain once wrote that because he had been born on the day of Halley’s Comet’s passing in 1835, his life would likely end during its next visit to Earth 75 years later. Sure enough, Twain passed away in 1910.

Bettmann / Getty Images

22. What’s in a name?

On February 13, 1746, a Frenchman named Jean Marie Dubarry was beheaded for murdering his father. Exactly 100 years later, another man by the name of Jean Marie Dubarry was executed for the exact same crime.

Warner Bros.

23. Hoover deaths

On December 20, 1921, a worker named J.G. Tierney died while constructing the Hoover Dam, making him one of the first casualties of the project. Fourteen years later to the day, the project suffered its final casualty: Patrick Tierney, J.G.’s only son.

The B1M / YouTube

24. Returned book

While perusing a Paris book store, author Anne Parrish discovered a copy of Jack Frost and Other Stories, an old book she loved as a child. She opened it, and on the inside cover she found her name and her childhood address — the book was her own!

Insider / YouTube

25. Skyline change

After forgetting to include the Twin Towers in the New York skyline, the creators of the video game Deus Ex justified it by claiming they were destroyed during a terrorist attack within the game. Deus Ex was released on June 23, 2000, more than a year before the events of 9/11.

Itachou / Wiki Fandom

26. Double crash

17-year-old Neville Ebbin was riding his moped in Hamilton, Bermuda, when he was struck and killed by a passing cab. A year later, Neville’s 17-year-old brother Erskine was struck and killed by the same cab, carrying the same passenger, on the same street, while riding the same moped.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

27. Twins reunited

Separated at birth and reunited 39 years later, twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springer developed nearly identical lives despite never knowing one another. They both worked security jobs, married women named Betty, and gave their sons similar names — one James Alan, the other James Allan.

IMDb

28. Prophetic Simpsons

The Simpsons has demonstrated an uncanny ability to know the future. Not only did the show accurately predict the presidency of Donald Trump, but it also predicted Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, the invention of smart watches, and even Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime performance.

Gracie Films