Most anything can be overcome with a good, well-thought-out, reasonable plan.
But if you can’t think of anything good, just be like these guys and do something crazy. You’ll at least get a good story out of it.
1. The U.S. Coast Guard’s predecessor saved hundreds of sailors by herding reindeer to them
When eight whaling ships and 265 sailors were trapped by early Arctic ice in 1897, President William McKinley asked the Revenue Cutter Service if they had any way to get supplies to the ships.
The RCS, a predecessor to the Coast Guard, responded by forming a unit of volunteers who traveled 1,600 miles from Dec. 1897 to Mar. 1898, buying reindeer along the way and herding them to Alaska where the sailors were trapped. They arrived with 382 reindeer just in time for most of the survivors. Three people died of starvation, but the rest were rescued during the spring thaw.
2. Army PSYOPS troops pretended they were vampires
American psychological operations soldiers were sent to the Philippines in 1950 to help destroy a Communist rebellion in the country. When the commander learned that the local fighters were superstitious and believed in a shapeshifting vampire known as the “asuang,” he came up with a Scooby Doo-esque plan.
First, he had friendly locals spread a rumor that an asuang was living in the hills. Then, the Americans and their allies set up an ambush in the hills, waited for the last man in a patrol to pass them, and abducted him. They poked two holes in his neck, drained him of his blood, and put his body back on the trail. The rebels bought the ruse and fled the area, allowing government forces to reclaim it.
3. Four Royal Marines rode Apaches into a Taliban fort
Long story short, a British attack on the Taliban base of Jugroom Fort went bad quickly, and British forces quickly withdrew. But, they accidentally left wounded Royal Marine Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford behind. With the Taliban in the fort already on high alert, a daring plan was needed to recover him.
So, some Royal Marines volunteered to strap themselves to the outside of two Apaches, ride into the fort, recover Ford, and ride back out. The daring plan worked, but Ford had unfortunately been rendered brain dead at the time of injury.
4. The Air Force used actual bears to test ejection seats
The Air Force struggled in the late 50s and early 60s with a simple but challenging problem. Crew who had to eject from supersonic planes were subjected to extreme and sometimes lethal strain. So the Air Force began testing experimental ejection devices — on bears.
To be fair, the Air Force didn’t start with bears. It started with unemployed humans. But the public thought it was messed up for the government to conduct dangerous experiments on unemployed Americans, so the Air Force strapped bears into experimental ejection devices on the B-58 Hustler.
The pod was proven safe and nearly all of the test animals returned to the ground safely. Unfortunately, the Air Force needed to check for potentially hidden injuries and ordered autopsies on all animal subjects.
5. Union soldiers stole a train and wreaked havoc across Georgia and Tennessee
What’s the best way to cut off your enemy’s lines of communication? Apparently, in Apr. 1862 Georgia, the answer was to steal on train and go on a GTA: V-type crime spree with it. The operation was led by a civilian but was conducted with the help of 18 Union soldiers.
The party stole a train in Marietta, Georgia, and drove it towards Chattanooga, Tennessee, destroying track and telegraph lines as they went and evading a pursuing party of Confederate soldiers and the original train owner. The men didn’t quite make it to Chattanooga but did cause extensive damage to Confederate logistics and communication networks.
The men were eventually caught. Eight of them were executed and the rest lived out the war as POWs.
6. American troops used a payphone to call for air support in Grenada
During the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the American communication network was so bad that almost no one on the island could talk to any fighters from another branch. This led to the legend that U.S. troops called for fire support using a credit card and a payphone.
Vice President Dick Cheney heard the story while he was a Congressman and was told that an Army officer could see naval artillery out at sea but couldn’t get them on the radio. So he pulled out his credit card and used a payphone to call the Pentagon who relayed his request.
The Navy SEALs have their own version of the story that said the frogmen were holed up in the governor’s mansion and used a credit card to call the Pentagon and get help from an Air Force AC-130.
7. American and Nazi troops teamed up to defeat an SS attack during World War II
In the closing days of World War II, a group of American and German troops teamed up and fought side-by-side against a murderous SS battalion. The Americans had accepted the surrender of the Germans just before both sides saw the slightly drunk and very fanatical group of SS soldiers climbing the hill towards them.
The two groups quickly set aside their difference and conducted a joint defense of Itter Castle with some of the prisoners helping them out. The 150 SS troops outnumbered the defenders and fought until the allies were about to run out of ammunition when American reinforcements showed up. Many of the SS were captured and the freed prisoners were able to testify against the Nazis.