7 Truly Epic Fails in Human History

The higher they climb, the harder they fail.

If Facebook mis-posts and Engrish just don’t cut it for you anymore, please sit back and enjoy seven truly epic fails in human history.

1. The H-Bomb

On May 22, 1957, a B-36 bomber flying 1,700 feet over New Mexico accidentally dropped its cargo just outside of Kirtland Air Force Base, leaving a 12-foot-deep, 25-foot-wide crater in the desert.

The dropped item? A 42,000-pound hydrogen bomb called Mark 17.

Three things to keep in mind:

1) as if dropping an atomic bomb on your own country weren’t bad enough, the hydrogen bomb is the worst kind of atomic bomb there is

2) the Mark 17 had a 10-megaton explosive yield, making it hundreds of times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima

3) some believe the Mark 17 to have been the most powerful bomb in the US at the time.

In case you’re wondering how we’re all still around to read this, you should also keep in mind that 4) atomic bombs are incredibly tricky to detonate properly. Only the non-nuclear explosives surrounding the Mark 17’s nuclear core went off upon impact, quite possibly making this the most epic fail/win in American history.

2. Man On Fire

Grigori Rasputin, the “mad monk” who specialized in hypnotherapy, was already the stuff of legend in his own lifetime.

When a prostitute stabbed but failed to kill him in 1914, it only solidified his reputation as a man of unusual powers. We won’t even get into the whole poisoning/stabbing/bludgeoning/drowning assassination debacle.

So when Rasputin’s body was disinterred after the Russian Revolution, somebody should have thought not to burn it.

As it turns out, withered human tendons shrink at high temperatures, meaning that if you happen to be cremating the body of someone you believe to have supernatural powers, it could possibly look an awful lot like he’s trying to sit up from amidst the flames.

Probably so that he can eat your family.

Rasputin, see you at the zombie apocalypse.

3. Walk (Around) the Line

In the wake of the devastation they suffered during WWI, the French decided to construct thousands of miles’ worth of military fortifications along their borders as a defense against future invaders.

Ten years and several billion francs later, France had its very own “Maginot Line.”

Not an actual wall, the Line was a huge series of fortresses and outposts. To make the design more feasible, the French incorporated existing military fortifications and even patches of rough terrain into the overall structure.

For example, fortifications along the border with Belgium, an ally, were kept porous, and because the Ardennes were considered to be impenetrable, the area was more or less ignored.

Two guesses as to where Germany invaded in 1940.

If you chose “through Belgium” and “through the Ardennes,” give yourself a gold star.

4. Thanks, But No Thanks

In 1962, Decca Records rejected The Beatles, saying that “guitar groups are on the way out.”

Is there really anything more we need to say?

This is like if Harry Potter were rejected by a string of publishing companies before finally getting picked up by Bloomsbury.

Or if Susan Boyle were openly mocked on My Kind of People before gaining recognition on Britain’s Got Talent.

Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened.

Guess Frank Sinatra was right when he said that “the best revenge is massive success.”

5. Puff Piece

In 1977, former President Richard Nixon had a strange relationship with the American public: despite resigning in scandal, he’d been granted a full pardon by President Ford and had never formally admitted to any wrongdoing.

So when David Frost, a British variety show host in the decline of his career, offered Nixon $600,000 for a series of interviews, Nixon saw it as an opportunity to rebuild his image while making a little cash.

What nobody saw coming is the fact that Frost used his journalistic savvy to ask actual, you know, questions. Combined with the fact that the interviews were unrehearsed and unformatted, Nixon was completely caught off guard, famously slipping up with the line: “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

That’s right: the closest America ever came to getting a Watergate confession was when Tricky Dick, who could stonewall even the most skilled interviewers, went toe-to-toe with a British TV personality.

6. Operation Do-Your-Homework

In December of 1940, Nazi Germany decided it’d be a good idea to invade its ally the Soviet Union. “Operation Barbarossa” began in June of 1941 and continued through early December.

Things went well at first, but the Soviets eventually made a spectacular comeback that forced the Germans out of their territory. You may have already picked up on this when you saw the words “early December.”

Like Napoleon in 1812, the Crusaders in 1242, or just about anyone else who has ever tried to battle through a Russian winter, German troops found themselves totally unprepared to endure the progression of rain, mud, ice, and snow that met them on their way to Moscow.

And, of course, once they retreated, there was that whole issue of having to fight a land war on either side of them. (Spoiler alert! The other guys won.)

7. You Sunk My Battleships

By the late thirteenth century, the Mongol Empire stretched from Korea to Eastern Europe, making it the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen. In fact, Mongols are the only people in history ever to have successfully pulled off a winter invasion of Russia. Basically, these guys are the rockstars of the military world.

So when it came time to invade Japan, only two things could stop them:

1)    A typhoon

2)    Another typhoon

In November of 1274, Kublai Khan sent a fleet of an estimated 600 ships into Hakata Bay. They were devastated by a typhoon after only one day of fighting. Dismayed but not defeated, Kublai Khan spent the next seven years regrouping for a bigger, stronger attack.

In August of 1281, the Mongols sent an estimated 900 ships into Hakata Bay – only to be destroyed by a second, much larger typhoon. Just to be clear, although typhoons are common in Japan, the first one happened well after typhoon season and the second was a kind that’s estimated to occur only once every few hundred years.

Convinced of a divine intervention, the Japanese called the two storms “kamikaze,” or divine winds. Kublai Khan was inclined to agree: the Mongols never tried to invade Japan again.

4 thoughts on “7 Truly Epic Fails in Human History

  1. pandorical says:

    Oh god, the Rasputin thing killed me.
    It’s a good thing my mother knows I’m also researching on Shmoop, otherwise she would have wondered if I was instead laughing at a Youtube video.

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