These Last Minute Decisions Completely Altered the Course of History

These Last Minute Decisions Completely Altered the Course of History
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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

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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

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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

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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.

Calculus Set Back Centuries by a Monk

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When it comes to calculus, you either loved it or despised it in school. However, many of today’s advancements throughout the world would never have happened without it. And guess what? Our technology could be way more advanced today if a 13th-century monk hadn’t interfered. Historians discovered that this monk couldn’t find fresh paper to write his prayers on, so he erased the contents of an ancient text that was written by Archimedes, a Greek mathematician. It was determined that text actually laid out the foundations for modern calculus. Way to go nameless monk. We could have had flying cars by now.

Hannibal Lost the War Due to a Random Action

Image: The National Interest

Hannibal Barca was a Carthaginian general who had an elaborate plan to capture Rome. He led his army across the perilous Alps with the hopes of taking the city by surprise from the north. However, a really stupid mistake cost him everything. The snowfall in the mountains was much heavier than anticipated, which slowed down the army and triggered calls to turn back. In an attempt to show that the snow was passable, Hannibal shoved his walking stick into the ice…accidentally triggering an avalanche. This would ultimately cost him Rome.

Time Zone Confusion & America’s Relationship with Cuba

National Review

In the spring of 1961, the CIA had a plan ready to execute that would utilize Cuban exiles to attack the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s socialist government. The air strike ultimately failed and President Kennedy sent six American fighter planes to assist. Unfortunately, the pilots didn’t sync their watches to Cuba’s time zone and arrived an hour too late. Since then, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has yet to be repaired.

The Note That Cost the Confederacy

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Confederate General Robert E. Lee worked hard on drafting Special Order 191, which outlined the moves of the Army in the preparation for the Battle of Antietam. This took place during the invasion of Maryland in 1862. Unfortunately, a copy of the order was left in a box on the ground by a careless general, which found its way into the hands of Union troops. This gave the Union the upper hand, and they were able to fend off the South, which was a turning point in the Civil War.

President Roosevelt Avoided Assassination Due to a Speech

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You may not be aware of this, but on October 14, 1912, someone shot President Theodore Roosevelt point blank in the chest outside of the Hotel Gilpatrick in Wisconsin. Thankfully, Roosevelt had written an extra long speech he couldn’t fully memorize. He had folded the manuscript and placed it in his breast pocket, which would wind up stopping the bullet and saving his life. And best of all, he still gave the speech after the incident!

A Key Mishap Contributed to the Titanic Disaster

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The night the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912, the watchman in the crow’s nest was unable to get to the binoculars because they were locked inside a locker and the key was nowhere to be found. Apparently, right before the ship left port, the cruise company made a last-minute decision to replace the second officer, who in his rush off the boat didn’t hand over the keys. One has to wonder if they saw the iceberg if the ship could have turned in time.

The Berlin Wall Came Down Due to an Information Slip

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The end of the Cold War was signaled upon the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. However, this important moment in history was actually announced by mistake. During a press conference announcing that Germans could now travel from East Germany to the west without any travel restrictions, Gunther Schabowski stated that the new rules would go into effect immediately. However, it wasn’t meant to be announced until the following day. The information slip led to the collapse of the wall that very night.

Four Words That Changed Everything

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Did you know that Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was actually improvised? He intended to use notes for his speech after spending the previous evening perfecting it, but during its delivery, something wasn’t landing right. At that moment, a singer named Mahalia Jackson shouted, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” And the rest is history…

D-Day Victory

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The invasion of Normandy is known for being a turning point in World War II and was a successful win for the Allies on June 6, 1944. However, things could have turned out much differently. German general Erwin Rommel had been assigned to defend Normandy but left his post a few days before the invasion to attend his wife’s birthday party. His absence contributed to the German’s inability to hold Normandy and eventually impacted the war’s final outcome.

James Blunt Stops World War III

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Back in 1999, James Blunt was a captain in the military and received orders to attack the Russian army. Realizing this could risk the beginning of World War III, he refused to follow through the order. If he had attacked the Russian army that had been defending Serbian forces, things could have turned out very bad for the United States.

A Misplaced Decimal Point & Spinach

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Did you know that spinach only became a superfood due to an error with a misplaced decimal point? In 1870, a German chemist recorded the amount of iron in spinach as 35mg instead of 3.5 mg. When Popeye became popular in the 1930s, no one corrected the mistake. Although the scientific community has tried to dispel the myth, nutritionists and fitness experts still believe that spinach contains way more iron than it actually does.

The Unlocked Gate Constantinople

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The Fall of Constantinople is one of history’s most unexpected events. The city had survived attacks from the Arabs, Bulgarians, and even Attila the Hun! However, thanks to a gate that was left unlocked, Mehmed II and his army of 200,000 men were able to stroll right in and take the city. Talk about an unlucky break!

Mars Orbiter Lost

Image: The Planetary Society

The Mars Climate Orbiter had been designed to orbit Mars and collect data on the climate. However, on September 23, 1999, the orbiter lost contact with NASA and crashed. Apparently, a calculation error triggered the disaster due to the technician using the imperial system rather than the metric system. Talk about a $125 million mistake. Yikes.

A Missed Switch & the New York City Riots

image: Mashable

During the summer of 1977, New York City was plunged into darkness due to an unexpected blackout. This led to rioting and looting throughout the city. What some people may not know is the entire thing could have been avoided…someone accidentally flipped the wrong switch, which resulted in the citywide electrical outage. We’re guessing they were fired.

Printing Error & the Wicked Bible

Image: Reader’s Digest

A printing error in 1631 resulted in the King James version of the Bible to be printed with the verse “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The error caused quite the scandal and the Bible became known as the “Wicked Bible.” All copies of the Bible were burned although some survived and have appeared at auctions in recent years. The printers who caused the scandal were fined heavily and lost their license. Imagine if this version of the Bible had gone into wide circulation? Religion as we know it could be quite different!

The Burning of the Great Library

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When Ceasar invaded Egypt in 48 BC, he never intended for the Library of Alexandria, one of the largest and most significant libraries in the world to be destroyed. However, due to the decision of some of his officers to set fire to the city, the library was consumed by flames when the blaze spread too fast. This would result in the loss of irreplaceable texts. Imagine if the library had survived. The knowledge could have changed our perspective on the ancient world.

Gandhi’s Trip to South Africa

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Gandhi is known for his works of aiding the people of South Africa and helping the natives and their struggle for freedom. Gandhi would go on to relocate to London and then South Africa before returning to India to help fight for his people against the British. If Gandhi had never made his trip to South Africa, the Indian Freedom movement may have never happened.

Mayflower Only Landed at Plymouth Rock for Beer

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While history books dictate that the pilgrims landed at Plymouth so they could practice their religious freedom, the truth is they actually had run out of beer and provisions. Originally, they were supposed to settle in the area that is now New York, but due to the beer stock going dry they made a stop in Plymouth. Of course, bad weather also contributed to the early landing, but due to lack of water and beer not needing to be boiled, they felt it was important to get off of the sea sooner rather than later.

Buddy Holly’s Deadly Laundry Mistake

Image: Famous Singers

Buddy Holly was one of the most popular musicians of his time with songs like “Peggy Sue” and “Maybe Baby” playing a huge role in his legacy. Unfortunately, he only made three albums due to his untimely death and it all came to a last-minute laundry run. While on tour with his band in 1959, he chartered a plan to take him to his next concert so he could take a break. Unfortunately, the plane crashed and killed the 22-year-old singer…all because he wanted clean clothes.

A Cloudy Day Saved Kokura from an Atomic Bomb

Image: Science Struck

Kokura could be considered Japan’s luckiest city because it was originally the location where the U.S. was going to drop the atomic bomb. However, the morning of the bomb drop cloud cover was too thick in the area, so the United States opted to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead. Apparently, U.S. forces didn’t want to wait and hoped to draw World War II to a conclusion as fast as possible.

A Wrong Turn Started World War I

Image: The Independent

Who would have thought that one wrong turn would have led to the start of the first World War? It’s widely believed that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie triggered the war in 1914. However, what you may not know is that the driver made a wrong turn up a street where one of the assassins happened to be standing. It only took two fatal shots to kill Ferdinand and his wife, and a month later World War I began. Talk about your bad luck.

Kennedy’s Assassination Almost Avoided

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The day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a great wound for America, but it could have turned out very differently. On November 22, 1963, the original plan was to have Kennedy in a different vehicle without the top down. However, his campaign managers believed having the top down would maximize his exposure with the American people. Unfortunately, this led to some security oversight and ended in Kennedy being fatally shot. You have to wonder how history would have changed if the shooter wasn’t able to hit Kennedy.

Abraham Lincoln Almost Avoided Assassination

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You may be shocked to discover that Abraham Lincoln’s night at the theater that led to his death almost didn’t happen. On April 14, 1865, he was going to see a play with his wife Mary, as well as Ulysses Grant and his wife Julia. However, Julia was not particularly fond of Mary and refused to attend the event. Lincoln’s bodyguard suggested that he cancel, but Lincoln refused since had already committed to going. That night he would be shot dead by John Wilkes Booth. Maybe he should have taken his bodyguard’s advice.

Rosa Parks and the Wrong Seat

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Rosa Parks is an icon of the American Civil Rights movement. It was on December 1, 1955, that she was heading home from work when she boarded a bus and happened to sit in a seat for “colored” folks that was right behind the white-only seats. When the bus began to fill up, the driver demanded that Parks move to the back of the bus and she refused. This led to her arrest and an important moment in the equal rights for African Americans. However, if she had chosen to sit at the back of the bus, to begin with…her brave action would have never happened.

Private Tandy Almost Took Out Hitler in 1918

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A courageous soldier that fought during World War I, Private Henry Tandey won the Victoria Cross in 1918 due to his bravery. However, Tandey could have been known for so much more. On the day he won his military award, he spotted a wounded German soldier in the sights of his rifle. He could have shot him on the spot, but Tandey let him live…that soldier ended up being Adolf Hitler. If he had killed him, World War II would have never happened.

The Dirty Dish Miracle of Alexander Fleming

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You may not realize this, but the discovery of penicillin actually derived from a mistake. Alexander Fleming decided to leave his Petri dishes in a sink without washing them before leaving for a month’s long vacation. When he returned he noticed something very strange growing in the dishes. It would later be revealed this growth had antibiotic properties and eventually would be used to help treat gangrene and septicemia during World War II.

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