These Last Minute Decisions Completely Altered the Course of History

A Poker Game Lost the Revolutionary War

Image: NPR

During the Revolutionary War, German officer Johann Rall was leading a detachment of Hessian soldiers in America, fighting for the British. On Christmas Eve he was engaged in a game of poker and was handed a note by a loyalist spy that detailed George Washington’s plans. Rall didn’t look at the note and shoved it in his pocket. The next day Washington attacked Trenton, New Jersey, and Rall was killed. The note was later discovered to reveal all of Washington’s plans. If Rall had read it, he may have changed the course of American history.


Nuclear War Averted

Image: Vox

Many people may not recognize the name, Stanislav Petrov, but what you should know is he singlehandedly avoided a nuclear war that could have wiped out life as we know it. Working an overnight shift in 1983 for the Soviet Union Air Defense Force, Petrov noticed five U.S. missiles were headed toward the country. Despite the danger, he chose not to report the missiles, knowing the retaliation would lead to an all-out nuclear war. Plus, he noticed something wasn’t right about the U.S. only sending five missiles. After checking the computer, he discovered it was a malfunction and the crisis was averted. Can you imagine what would have happened if he reported it?


Marie Antoinette’s Poor Last Minute Decisions

Image: Stuff You Missed

Marie Antoinette wasn’t known for her smart decisions. She may have been good at selecting clothes and spending money, but when it came to ruling France…she was terrible. In fact, it was a last minute decision by Marie Antoinette that led to her entire family’s execution. When Marie and her husband, King Louis XVI planned to flee Paris, the family was originally expected to take two carriages. However, Marie wanted the family to travel together in a more ornate carriage, which was identified by villagers that led to their capture. Not the best decision-making skills, Marie.

William Perry Avoided War with North Korea

Image: CBC

Did you know that in 1999, the U.S. almost went to war with Noth Korea? It was under the Clinton administration, and the country was concerned about the North Korea developing nuclear weapons. William Perry, the Secretary of Defense, presented several options to the president but held his tongue on one that would have proven a success. This approach was to bomb the country’s nuclear facility, one he knew would lead to an all-out war. If he had presented it, the country (and the world) could look quite different today.