How Not to Take Over a Country: The Six Most Ridiculous Invasion Attempts in Military History

November 16, 2009

They say truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make some kind of sense whereas the truth can be just as ridiculous as it wants. The history books are filled with stories and anecdotes that most people would write off as sounding like something from a Monty Python skit if it weren’t for the evidence that it actually happened. With that in mind we present the six most ludicrous invasions in the history of warfare.

Source: PhillipC/Creative Commons

By Marc Russel

6. The Assault on Sark

The Invaders: Andre Gardes

The Home Team: Sark

The Setup:

Sark is a small island just south of Britain. It’s technically part of the U.K., but until recently, it was mostly autonomous, with most of the government consisting of a man named Michael Beaumont. They had no cars, although they had a few tractors, there were no laws on divorce or income tax. It was just a serene little island of simplicity and serenity in our busy modern time. Andres Gardes saw it as the perfect opportunity to get his own island.

What happened?

Gardes was an armed mad scientist bent on taking this island for his own and it was only through the effort of the entire Sark police force that Gardes was stopped.

Well, sort of.

Gardes was technically a mad scientist. After all, he was an unemployed nuclear physicist who wanted to take over an island. Unfortunately he made a few tactical errors in his island takeover. Chief among them, he not only announced the day before that he was invading the island the next day at noon, but he actually put up flyers to advertise the fact.

As previously mentioned, it did take the entire Sark police force to take Gardes down, because fortunately the entire Sark police force had just gotten back from his vacation. Yes, the Sark police force was composed of a single volunteer constable. On the morning of the invasion day, the constable found Gardes sitting on a bench loading bullets into his carbine, waiting for noon to roll around. The constable approached the scary, heavily-armed man, and complimented him on his gun. Gardes started showing the gun off to the constable, who tricked him into taking out the magazine, then punched him in the face and took the gun away.

There is something kind of depressing about a coup when the entire conflict consists of one guy knocking out another with his fists.


5. The Hostile Takeover of Sealand

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Source: Richard Lazenby

The Invaders: A few German businessmen

The Home Team: Sealand

The Setup:

Not to be confused with the park where you pay 50 bucks to watch a whale jump through a hoop, Sealand is a small tower in the middle of the ocean. The British government put it there in the second World War, and when the war ended they sort of forgot about it. This meant when a guy named Roy Bates moved in and declared it the Principality of Sealand, no one was able to say otherwise. When the British Navy tried to kick him out, he successfully sued them for trying to lay claim to his land. This made Sealand a desirable place for many shady individuals since it literally exists outside of any jurisdiction save that of international law, meaning as long as you don’t commit any war crimes, you can get away with almost anything.

What happened?

A few years after they had established their nation, a German businessman contacted Bates and his wife about a possible business deal. When they went to meet him in Britain, the German and a few Dutch associates stormed the tower and took their son hostage. Well, the German had forgotten to bring real firepower with them, figuring that "Prince Roy" would just give them the island.

Of course, Roy took his little country quite seriously and hired a group of actual hardcore mercenaries to charge in and beat the crap out of them. Holland asked that the Dutch men be returned since the Geneva Convention insists that all prisoners of war be returned after the war is over. The German, however, had already accepted a passport of Sealand making him a legal citizen, so they were able to charge him with treason. It’s worth noting that since they had eight prisoners and there were only about four real citizens, Sealand is the only country in the world to have had more POWs than actual bona fide residents at any one time.


4. The Children’s Crusade

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Source: Gustave Doré

The Invaders: Several hundred French kids and beggars

The Home Team: The City of Jerusalem, at the time controlled by the Muslims

The Setup:

Jerusalem is well known as one of the most hotly contested pieces of land in history, and has been so for a very long time. In the year 1212, a boy named Steven had a dream in which Jesus told him to go to King Philip II and command him to retake it in his name. As Steven traveled across the country, dozens of children and peasants joined him in his quest, until there were over a hundred. Eventually they reached the king and delivered their message. The king mulled it over, and told them all to go home. Steven decided that if the king wouldn’t invade Jerusalem, then he would. And so it came to be that several hundred peasants marched forth to take the Holy Land armed only with their innocence and led by a small child. Considering the last three or four well-trained and well-supplied armies to try this all got massacred, this may not have been a very good idea.

What happened?

Well, it turns out there are several thousand miles of Mediterranean Sea between France and Jerusalem.

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Source: Schumi4ever/Creative Commons

Oh yeah. That thing.

Most of the plan for getting to Jerusalem hinged on divine intervention parting the sea for them so they could just walk along the ocean floor. Needless to say, it didn’t. They managed to hitch a ride with a few merchant vessels that were heading that way anyway, but halfway there a storm rose up and tore the boats to pieces, killing all those on board. So much for divine intervention.



3. The Roman Army Goes to Scotland

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Source: Victoria Snowber/Taxi/Getty Images

The Invaders: The Roman Empire

The Home Team: Scotland

The Setup:

After successfully invading Britain in about 55 BC, and holding it for about 140 years after that, the Romans decided to push north and secure more land for their ever-expanding empire. They headed into what is now Scotland and started trying to take over the native residents.

What happened?

Scotland is a badass country. They’re mostly descended from Vikings, their national sport involves picking up a goddamn tree, and throwing it as far as you can, and most of their cuisine sounds like it was made up for a medieval version of Fear Factor.

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Source: stevehdc/Creative Commons

The Caber Toss: Because javelins are for sissies.

What’s frightening to imagine is that they actually used to be even more badass.  You see, before it became Scotland, it was called Caledonia, and was inhabited by several indigenous tribes. Chief among them were the Picts, who were quite possibly some of the scariest people to ever walk the Earth. They would carve elaborate designs into their skin, paint themselves blue, and bleach their hair with lime, one of the most caustic substances known to man at the time. They would then use boiled pig fat to mold their hair into long pointed spikes. And you thought modern fashion was scary.

The main reason why the Roman invasion didn’t go very well was that the fighting style of the Roman army was significantly different than that of the natives. The Romans would link their shields together to form an impenetrable wall, and march forward into battle. This was an extremely effective strategy if you were fighting in a wide-open space like a field. In the Scottish forests though, it was pretty useless and they were left trudging through the woods with no real organization. The Picts, on the other hand, were all about the forest combat. They’d hide in the trees, naked as the day they were born, until the enemy was right below them, and drop down screaming and throwing hand-axes, which they carried by the bag, into the faces of their enemies. The Romans, who were having a hard enough time trying to keep formation in the trees had a wee bit of trouble keeping it together when deranged, naked, hatchet-wielding, fire-eyed, blue imps started dropping out of the sky.

The Romans tried to invade Scotland three times, and the longest they held it was for 10 years before being pushed out again. Of course, the locals wouldn’t let them get away from them that easy. The Romans built two walls trying to keep the bastards out, with little success. Eventually, they pulled out of Britain after throwing up their hands and saying “screw this, you're on your own.”

2. The “Bayou of Pigs” Incident

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Source: Robb Kendrick/Aurora/Getty Images

The Invaders: A group of white supremacist Canadian and American mercenaries led by a man named Mike Perdue.

The Home Team: The small Caribbean island of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic)

The Setup:

1979 was a rough year for the island of Dominica. Their Prime Minister Patrick John had just been deposed from office and replaced, but most of the country’s army still swore allegiance to him alone and refused to take orders from his replacement. Many of his outraged supporters were members of “The Dreads”, a group of radical fundamental Rastafarians who roamed the countryside, often naked, accosting and murdering people, and who consumed more marijuana on a daily basis than they did food. As if all this wasn’t enough, they had just been hit by a Category 5 hurricane, which ravaged the country and destroyed their banana crop.

When Mike Perdue, a gay mercenary/conman from Texas, heard about the unstable and unprotected state the country was in, he began to think about just how easy it would be to get some funds, some men, and some weapons together, and help Patrick John get back into power. In return, they would convince Patrick John to let them build themselves a criminal paradise on his island. Perdue and his friend Wolfgang Droege got into contact with the former PM, and he agreed to their terms. They would get their own casino, a share in all marijuana growing and exporting operations, and possibly even start their own cocaine plantation. The men started drawing up their plans.

What happened?

We can’t even begin to fathom why anyone would think that the KKK are the people to call if you’re a gay mercenary trying to overthrow a right-wing government to replace them with a group of crazy Rastafarians, but apparently Mike Perdue did. Mostly he got them to join by convincing them that the operation was backed by the CIA, and that the current Dominican government was allied with the communists. Unfortunately Dominica was actually allied with the U.S. against the commies, and the U.S. wanted to keep them in power. And since almost everyone in the entire operation was connected with a known radical group (they even had a former IRA member), and were all on government watch lists, the planned coup came separately to the attention of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. State Department, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When Perdue hired a boat to take them to Dominica, the captain was working for the ATF. The ATF was absolutely ecstatic that they had been handed the operation, because they really never get to do anything cool compared to any of the other departments.

When the day of the invasion came, the captain and some of his “business associates” met the mercenaries in a pre-decided area just off Highway 90 in Louisiana. They had the mercenaries load all their guns into a van, then had all the mercenaries climb into the back of another truck. They then locked the door, and drove them off to jail before anyone in the back knew what had happened.

1. The "Battle" of Karánsebes

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Source: Anton von Maron

The Invaders: The Austrian Empire

The Home Team: The Ottoman Empire

The Setup:

In 1787 the Austrian Emperor Joseph II declared war on Turkey. One of the first battles of their campaign was the Battle of Karánsebes, which was less of a battle than a colossal embarrassment.

What happened?

The invasion of Karánsebes began on September 17, 1788. The invasion force was 100,000 strong and led by the emperor himself. After setting up camp, the Austrians sent a small group of hussars (guys with funny hats on horseback) to scout the area for the Turkish Army. The scouts didn’t find any Turks. What they did find, however, were Gypsies. Gypsies who were selling schnapps.

A few hours later, base camp started worrying where their scouts had gotten to, so they sent some infantry men to go look for them. When the infantry found the hussars, the hussars were proper s**tfaced. Being disciplined military men, the infantrymen’s immediate collective response was “Hey, give us some.” The hussars told them to screw off and get their own. When the infantrymen were insistent, the hussars set up barricades. Try to imagine some of your drunken friends horsing around, except all armed to the teeth, and you get an idea of why this is bad.

Inevitably, one of the guys had forgotten to put his safety on (on account of safety’s not being invented yet) and a shot was fired. One of the infantrymen heard the shot and, assuming they were under attack shouted, “Oh s**! The Turks” to which the hussars replied (in a scene straight out of Abbott and Costello) “The Turks?? Where??” and assuming the infantrymen had seen the Turks behind them, ran in the opposite direction, towards the infantry. The infantry saw them running and assumed that they had seen the Turkish army advancing and were running away. The entire group then ran all the way back to base screaming like little girls.

One of the Austrian officers started screaming at them to halt as the got closer to the base. Unfortunately he was speaking German, and since the watchman on duty couldn’t speak German, he thought it was some kind of Turkish war cry, and that the mob of screaming, shouting men was a Turkish attack force, so he ordered the guardsmen to fire the artillery.

At this point, the situation can only really be described by the term “Massive Clusterf**k”. The hussars who weren’t killed in the cannon fire charged straight past the guards and into the camp in what must have looked like some kind of a ridiculous version of the Blitzkrieg. The entire camp had woken up by this point, and, realizing the time of battle was at hand, scattered in every direction, shooting everything that moved. After 10% of their army was lost in the firefight, they regrouped a ways away from the city, and fled back to Austria from the terrible might of the imaginary Turkish onslaught.

Two days later the actual Turks showed up and found 10,000 dead enemy soldiers. And a barrel of schnapps.

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