How a Wrong Turn Started World War I

How a Wrong Turn Started World War I

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As the summer of 1914 approached, the balance of power in Europe looked shaky at best. It would take only a single crisis—the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie Chotek by a young Bosnian Serb nationalist in Sarajevo—to push the continent’s six major powers into World War I, which devastated the continent and killed some 17 million soldiers and civilians.

But for all its historic importance, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie’s deaths might not have happened at all, if it weren’t for an odd series of events and decisions—and a wrong turn—that placed the royal couple squarely in the path of their assassin’s gun.

Why was Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo?

In addition to being the heir to his uncle’s throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was also inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian Army, which had decided to hold its summer military exercises in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital.

Back in 1908, the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary had annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, a region that had previously been under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Home to a largely Slavic population, Bosnia and Herzegovina had nationalist ambitions of their own, but nearby Serbia wanted to incorporate them into a pan-Slavic empire.

Wary of Serbia’s ambitions for territorial expansion, Austria-Hungary had sought and received assurances from Germany that it would stand behind the dual monarchy in case of war with Serbia (and Serbia’s powerful ally, Russia). By choosing to hold its military exercises in Sarajevo in June 1914, and to send the heir to the throne to oversee them, Austria-Hungary intended to make a show of force to warn Serbia against any further expansion and aggression.

VIDEO: World War I Alliances

In the years leading up to WWI, a series of agreements between the powers of Europe helped determine where and when battlelines were drawn.

June 28 was a momentous date for Serbians.

June 28 was a particularly significant date for Serbia: It was St. Vitus’ Day, the anniversary of the Serbian defeat in Kosovo by Ottoman forces in 1389, and this would be the first celebration of the occasion since Serbia had won back Kosovo in the Second Balkan War.

For their part, Serbian nationalists saw the archduke’s visit to Sarajevo on this of all days as an unforgivable insult—and they sought to strike back.

Their first attempt at assassination failed.

Despite warnings of possible terrorist attacks during the visit to Bosnia, few official security precautions were taken. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie traveled in an open car, and the route their motorcade would take through Sarajevo had been made public well beforehand.

On the morning of June 28, seven young Bosnian Serbs with ties to a Serbian ultra-nationalist group called the Black Hand placed themselves along that route. They had strapped explosives to their bodies, carried loaded revolvers and were all equipped with cyanide so they could commit suicide rather than be caught.

As the motorcade rolled along the Appel Quay, a major street running through the center of Sarajevo, a Bosnian Serb named Nedeljko Čabrinović threw a bomb toward the archduke’s car. The driver managed to accelerate out of the way, but the bomb hit the vehicle behind, injuring several people, including the adjutant to General Oskar Potiorek, governor of Bosnia.

Though Čabrinović took his cyanide and threw himself into the nearby river, the poison didn’t work, and the river was too low for him to drown, so he was quickly arrested.

The Archduke wasn’t easily scared off.

“We’re entitled to ask ourselves why, at this point, the archduke didn’t simply call the visit off,” Christopher Clark, a professor of modern European history at the University of Cambridge and author of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War, told NPR’s All Things Considered in 2014.

“That was proposed by some members of his entourage,” said Clark, “but he hated being told what to do. He was a very irritable man, and he said ‘don’t be ridiculous.’”

Instead, the group continued on to Sarajevo’s city hall, where they met with dignitaries including the mayor, who failed to alter his prepared speech about the happy and “enthusiastic” greeting Sarajevo’s citizens were offering to the archduke.

As Clark recounted in his book, Franz Ferdinand furiously interrupted the mayor’s speech, exclaiming, “I come here as your guest and your people greet me with bombs!” before his wife Sophie was able to calm him down.

The Czech driver couldn’t understand the directions.

After Franz Ferdinand made his own speech and tended to some official business, he wanted to visit the injured adjutant in the hospital before leaving town.

For security reasons, it was decided that the motorcade should proceed out of the city via the Appel Quay, rather than take its planned route along Franz Joseph Street and into the narrow streets of Sarajevo’s bazaar district.

Unfortunately, the drivers didn’t pick up on this changed itinerary. “They’re talking about this in German, and the driver of the first car is Czech, and so is the driver of the second car,” Clark told NPR. “They don’t understand what this conversation’s about, and nobody bothers to translate for them.”

As a result, the first car turned onto Franz Joseph Street, followed by the second car, carrying Franz Ferdinand, Sophie and Potiorek. Amazingly, this wrong turn took them right to where 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip had stationed himself along the original published route for the motorcade, under the awning of a general store.

(It’s probably not true that Princip had stopped to get a sandwich, as one popular myth about the assassination goes.)

As Potiorek yelled at the driver that he had taken a wrong turn, the car slowed to a stop right in front of Princip, who fired two shots into the car, hitting Franz Ferdinand and his wife at point-blank range.

“If Princip had spent his entire life learning about human anatomy, he couldn’t have placed his shots better than he did,” Clark said. “They were both lethal.”

Who was Gavrilo Princip?

The son of a Bosnian farmer, Princip had tried to enlist as a Serb guerrilla in 1912, when the Serbs were fighting the Ottoman Empire, but he was rejected as too small and weak.

As a student in Belgrade in 1914, he and several other earnest young ultra-nationalists (including Čabrinović) decided to try and win a victory for their cause by assassinating the archduke during the planned visit to Sarajevo. Armed by connections in the Serbian military and the shadowy ultra-nationalist organization the Black Hand, Princip and his fellow assassins headed to the Bosnian capital.

In addition to Čabrinović and Princip, several of the other young terrorists had opportunities to act against the royal motorcade, but backed off.

“They were scarcely more than boys, really, very inexperienced,” Clarke said. “They simply froze with terror as the car approached. One of them ran away, another one just remained stock-still, unable to move.”

In the aftermath of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, Princip, Čabrinović and most of the other conspirators were arrested and tried in Sarajevo. Because he was under 20 years old, too young to be executed under Austro-Hungarian law, Princip received a sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.

In 1918, Princip would die of tuberculosis in Theresienstadt, a prison in northern Bohemia which, years later, would be used by the Nazis as a concentration camp in World War II.

After that fateful wrong turn, a young student’s two gunshots in Sarajevo provided the necessary spark that would upset the fragile balance of power in Europe and send the world to war. On July 28, 1914, one month after Franz Ferdinand’s death, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, beginning a chain reaction that would lead to four years of horrific conflict with millions of people dead.

Written by Charles Panati, this book is the supreme historical trivia lover's book. It provides the history and origin of over 500 everyday objects, customs, magazines, foods, and even superstitions. After reading this page-turner, you will know the origins of Tupperware, Yankee Doodle, and pajamas.

Written by Doris Flexner and Stuart Berg Flexner, this is a chronology of interesting blurbs about low points in history. For instance, a lot of focus is put on events such as earthquakes, massacres, disease, and war. As the tongue-in-cheek title suggests, this book is not for the optimist! Rather, it is pure catastrophe and chaos at its best.

The assassination that started World War I

The attack by Serbian extremists on the heirs to the Austrian throne on June 28, 1914 sparked what was called the "July Crisis" in Europe. A month later, World War I began.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863 – 1914) and his wife, Sophie (1868 – 1914) had just arrived in Sarajevo after a visit with German Emperor William II (1859 – 1941). They were invited to watch the maneuvers of the Austrian troops in Bosnia. On the way into the city, their procession of cars had to drive relatively slowly, which played into the hands of the attackers that lay in wait.

The young assassin whose shots set off World War I is taken by police to the police station in Sarajevo

The first assassination attempt failed due to the quick reaction of the Austrian heir-apparent. Out of the corner of his eye, Franz Ferdinand saw something black flying towards him and raised his hand in a protective gesture, thus knocking the hand grenade out of the car. It landed on the car behind him, injuring two of that car's passengers. The perpetrator tried to commit suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill, but as the pill was old, the poison failed to work and only made him sick. He was stopped by people on the street and arrested. The archduke's procession sped quickly to City Hall. There, it was decided that they would take a different route to the grounds of the military parade.

Not long after starting off for the grounds, the driver of one of the cars leading the procession noticed that they were going the wrong way. The cars had to slowly turn back. Meanwhile, a second conspirator had taken up position. He seized his opportunity, and fired his pistol twice into the car. Franz Ferdinand was shot in the neck Sophie in the abdomen. Their attacker also swallowed a cyanide pill, which also failed to work. While the second attacker was held by passersby, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie died in their car from their injuries.

At the trial of the two attackers, they admitted to being followers of the "Pan-Slavist" movement. With the support of Russia, this organization aimed for national unity for all Slavic people. As many Slavs lived in the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, the heir to the Austrian throne had long been identified as a potential assassination victim.

French troops in the trenches in Verdun during World War I

July Crisis in Europe

The attack wasn't handled as what it really was, namely an incident which weighed on diplomatic relations between Austria-Hungary and Serbia and which could potentially lead to domestic conflicts with several minority groups. The Austrian military instead acted as if it had been waiting for just such an opportunity to push Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830 – 1916) into an immediate military reprisal against Serbia. In this, he had the support of the German military command. German Imperial Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1856 – 1921) sent a missive to Vienna that was the equivalent of an open letter making the case for war against Serbia: his majesty, the German Emperor, stood "in accord with his federal duties and his old friendship" loyal and brave on the side of Austria, the letter read. William II's whisperings aside, there was still enough time to prevent Europe from being burnt in a large-scale fire. But the governments decided otherwise.

Seminal catastrophe of the 20th century

Bombing campaign on London, 1917

On July 23, 1914, Austria delivered a 48-hour ultimatum to Belgrade, demanding that Austrian investigators be appointed to pursue those behind the assassination. Even though the Serbian government fulfilled this request as well as various others, the response was not enough for the government in Vienna. Francis Joseph I also backed a declaration of war against Serbia. The chain of diplomatic and military reactions could no longer be halted.

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. The next day, Russia reacted, mobilizing its army. On July 31, 1914, the German Empire gave France an ultimatum: in the case of a war between Germany and Russia, France was to remain neutral. At the same time, Czar Nicholas II was requested – also per ultimatum – to halt the Russian mobilization. When this ultimatum was ignored and the Russian government did not recall its army, the German military issued a declaration of war against Russia. On August 1, 1914, Emperor William II signed the war declaration.

This day marked the beginning of what the American historian George F. Kennan (1904 – 2005) described as the 20th century's "seminal catastrophe" – World War I. As if gripped by madness, Europe's political leaders gave up the continent's relative wealth, stable political relations and cultural hegemony over large parts of the world in the summer of 1914. In what seemed to be some sort of secret pact, the crowned rulers of Europe transformed the continent into a battlefield of unimagined proportions, all because of an incident which was insignificant in comparison to its consequences. They were entranced by the prospect of what they stood to gain at the end of the war, and didn't hear the foreboding voices warning them of their own demise.

9. Heinrich Schliemann finds Troy, but destroys it

Archaeology was not always the rigorous field it is today as with many fields, for a long time it was rife with amateurs. Unfortunately, those amateurs tended to be less careful than their modern-day counterparts in finding and excavating their sites. Which brings us to Heinrich Schliemann and the discovery of Troy.

Schliemann was passionate about proving the truth of stories like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey , determined to prove that myths were facts, and the place he was most obsessed with locating was the city of Troy. By Schliemann’s time, the city was declared a mythical place, invented for stories. The good news is that Schliemann did almost certainly find the mythical Troy the bad news is that due to his excavation methods , the evidence of Troy was severely damaged. Archaeologists largely agree that he did find the right location: a site called Hisarlik, in the Anatolia region.

Schliemann, in his initial excavations, found that there was not just one set of ruins at the site, but instead that it was like a subterranean layer cake of older cities, one on top of the other. But which was Troy? Schliemann decided that Troy must be deep down in the pile, and used explosives to help clear out the more recent buildings and artifacts. Unfortunately, he’d guessed wrong surveys and assays of the various layers of the excavation site discovered that Troy was actually closer to the surface. Schliemann’s efforts had heavily damaged the remains and artifacts of the city, destroying a great deal of irreplaceable evidence. It’s still a rich site, of course but if Schliemann had been a little more patient, we might know much more about how much the stories match up to the real place — and what life was like there and then.

The Wrong Turn That Changed a Century -- and Still Haunts Us Today

This year is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, which cost the lives of 116,000 American soldiers. Even though the actual fighting in Europe began in August 1914, we should have a moment of silence on June 28. On that day in 1914, history passed through a moment on which everything hinged, a moment that changed tens of millions of lives, set the course of the bloody 2oth century, and even reverberates today, in events such as the radical Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. Awaiting the visiting royal couple were six Bosnian-born Serb terrorists, strung out along their route. They were seeking to avenge Austria’s recent annexation of Bosnia, which once, albeit six centuries earlier, had been part of the long-vanished Serbian Empire.

A terrorist threw a hand grenade at the open car carrying the archduke and his wife, but the grenade only wounded members of the archduke’s entourage. The archduke, after complaining to the Austrian administration about the lack of security (“I come to Sarajevo on a friendly visit and someone throws a bomb at me? This is outrageous!”), decided to visit the wounded in the hospital. En route, the driver took a wrong turn and, in the course of backing out of the street, came to a stop in front of a sidewalk cafe where one of the frustrated assassins, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, was getting drunk.

Astonished at his opportunity, Princip stepped out of the crowd and fired two shots. The first severed the archduke’s carotid artery, and the second hit his wife’s abdomen. Both died within minutes.

The arrest of Gavrilo Princip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And thus began a tragic sequence of events without parallel in history. On July 5, Germany assured an outraged Austria that she had Germany’s “faithful support” in the crisis, even though it could hardly have been clear exactly what course of action Austria would be committing Germany to faithfully support. On July 23, Austria issued an ultimatum to Serbia, confident that its onerous terms would be rejected and thereby create an excuse to declare war. Serbia agreed to most of the demands in an act of such subservient submission that even the nervous German Kaiser admitted it “dissipates every reason for war.” Nonetheless on July 28, Austria, in the manner of an empire in an advance stage of senescence, declared war on Serbia anyway. Russia, an ally of Serbia, then mobilized to attack Austria. Germany declared war on Russia but also marched several of its armies through Belgium to attack France, Russia’s ally, even though France had not yet declared war on Germany. Great Britain, to defend Belgium’s neutrality, then declared war on Germany.

European rulers, none of whom apparently comprehended the damage that modern weapons would do to the bodies of their young men, thus set Europe on the path to becoming an abattoir. The war plans of France and Germany, designed to achieve a quick victory, failed within weeks. Instead, millions of men spent four years fighting from opposing trenches that stretched from the English Channel to the Swiss border. By the time the war ended, no country could really explain what national interest had justified the carnage.

The anonymous driver’s wrong turn on June 28 led to the deaths of 10 million soldiers and millions of civilians, destroyed most of the empires and dynasties of Europe, created the conditions for the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism, left a wounded German Army corporal named Adolf Hitler vowing revenge on those responsible for Germany’s defeat, brought America onto the world stage, and thus set the course for the rest of the 20th century, including another world war that killed many times more soldiers and civilians.

In 1918, Fate smiled at its clever inside joke when Princip, who was not executed, because of his youth, died in Theresienstadt, a prison that later became a concentration camp in the Second World War. Fate just recently smirked again at the sudden Sunni insurgency in Iraq, because World War I redrew the map of the Middle East, which penned up within Iraq’s borders millions of Sunnis, Shiites, and their centuries’ old feud over the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad.

Of course, history is not a controlled experiment. We can never know what would have happened if the Archduke’s driver hadn't made the wrong turn, the archduke wasn’t assassinated, Austria didn't declare war on Serbia, and on and on. But it’s hard to imagine how it could have turned out any worse.

So we should have a moment of silence on June 28 to reflect on the American soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War, mankind’s capacity for self-destructive folly, and how to limit the consequences of the unpredictable moments such as the archduke’s assassination, lest our destiny be decided by, to quote Shakespeare, the “furious fickle wheel” of fate.

7 Russia Selling Alaska To The United States

Following the outbreak of the Crimean War, Britain, France, and Turkey took a stance against Russia, making it difficult for the nation to defend or supply Alaska, as all sea routes were controlled by allied ships. While tensions mounted between Russia and London, the relationship between Russia and the US was stronger than ever. Both nations therefore came up with the idea of Russia selling Alaska to the United States.

While the decision was widely criticized by the press, public, and congress, both nations signed an agreement on March 30, 1867, to sell Alaska for $7.2 million, which was approximately two cents per acre. The sale was, however, a big mistake for Russia. By the 1880s and 1890s, gold mining had commenced in Alaska, providing America with hundreds of millions of dollars. [4] Alaska now produces more gold than any other US state except Nevada.

6. Nikita Khrushchev

Another well-known historical misunderstanding came at the hands of communist leader Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev, the head of the Soviet Union, was attending a reception at the Polish Embassy in Moscow. It was at this party on November 18, 1956, that he addressed the Western ambassadors and said “My vas pokhoronim”. News reporters in America immediately began to release the statement but unfortunately mistranslated what he said to mean “we will bury you”. Given the extreme tensions from the Cold War and nuclear arms race, one can understand that Americans believed Khrushchev was threatening the United States. By this time the level of fear over the Cold War was at an all-time high, so it’s not hard to recognize that this comment must have horrified the West. It is known now that this was a misunderstanding, and if anybody would have bothered to delve deeper into the matter they would have found that Khrushchev was actually using a common Russian idiom. A more appropriate translation would have been “I feel bad about your ignorance, but it’s your funeral not mine”, and although that is still scary, it is not threatening. This misunderstanding turned the dial on the Cold War from bad to worse. Fortunately it was only six years later that the West learned Khrushchev didn’t actually intend on starting a nuclear war. It was John F. Kennedy that went horns first (yes horns not glow) and threatened the Soviets that if they didn’t remove their nuclear missiles from Cuba he would personally press the button on the end of the world.

10 Of The Biggest Mistakes Ever Made In History

One look at the past and we will find that history is filled with many stumbling blocks. The path walked by our forefathers was not always smooth. They had their fair share of mistakes and blunders. Some of these blunders started as tiny mistakes, but with time they grew to be big enough to change the course of history. Let’s take a look at the biggest mistakes ever made in history.

1. A faulty repair of a Japanese Boeing 747 resulted in 520 deaths, resignation of Japan Airlines then President, the suicide of an inspection engineer, a guilt-stricken maintenance manager, and a one-third drop in air travel in Japan.

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On August 12, 1985, Japanese Airlines Flight 123 was scheduled to travel from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Osaka International Airport, Japan. Twelve minutes after the takeoff, the Boeing’s aft pressure bulkhead burst open. As a result, the aircraft suffered an explosive decompression which allowed unpressurized air to rush into the cabin. The ceiling around the rear laboratory started collapsing. The pilots somehow managed to keep the plane in the air for next 32 minutes after which it crashed in between the ridges of Mount Takamagahara.

Out of the 509 passengers, only four survived the crash. The 15 crew members too lost their lives in this incident. The cause of the aircraft crash was later revealed to the public following an official inspection. Seven years ago in 1978, the aircraft was involved in a tailstrike incident which damaged the rear pressure bulkhead. When the bulkhead was repaired, the technicians did not use the approved repair method. The faulty repair reduced the metal fatigue resistance of the bulkhead which led to the Boeing’s crash seven years later.(1,2)

2. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin approached Excite CEO George Bell in 1999, to sell their search engine at $1 million. After rejecting the initial offering, the pair went down to $750,000, but Bell still rejected it. Today, Google is valued at around $498 billion.

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Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in January 1996 when they were both Ph.D. students at Stanford University. In the beginning, they called it “BackRub.” Later it was changed to Google.

In 1999, Page and Larry went to Excite CEO George Bell to sell Google. They offered to sell it for $1 million, but Bell rejected the offer. Vinod Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures who was also one of Excite’s venture capitalists, talked to both Page and Larry. He convinced them to bring down the price to $750,000, but Bell rejected it again. Had Bell accepted the duo’s offer, he could have been the owner of the current $498 billion conglomerate.(1,2,3)

3. During Mao’s China in 1958, thousands of sparrows were killed because they were believed to be pests. As the sparrows decreased, locusts and other insects increased and ravaged crops in China. This led to the Great Chinese Famine which killed 20-45 million people.

In 1958, Chinese ruler Mao Zedong introduced a campaign called the “Four Pests.” in to eradicate four pests: mosquitoes, rodents, airborne flies, and sparrows. Among the sparrows, the Eurasian tree sparrow was specifically targeted as it ate grain, seed, and fruits. People started shooting sparrows, breaking their eggs, destroying their nests, and killing the young chicks. Also, the citizens started banging pots and pans which would create noise and wouldn’t let the sensitive birds rest. As a result, hundreds of sparrows died from exhaustion. Within a year, about 220,000,000 sparrows were killed.

4. Before they went on to become an international star, the Beatles auditioned for Decca Records on 1 January 1962. Committing one of the biggest mistakes in musical history, Decca rejected the band stating that: “The Beatles have no future in show business.”

Just like other bands, Beatles too struggled a lot before their success. They faced many rejections including one from the Decca Records. On the New Year’s Eve in 1961, the Beatles drove for ten hours to reach the Decca Studios located in north London. On 1 January 1962, the band auditioned for the Decca staff. They performed on fifteen different songs in just an hour. The songs were recorded, but eventually, Decca Records rejected them, saying: “The Beatles have no future in show business” and “Guitar groups are on the way out.” Instead, they chose Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, who were a local band and would require less travel expense.

But rejecting the Beatles turned out to be a big mistake. That’s because just after their rejection from Decca Records, the popularity of the Beatles began to rise in London, and after that, they became an international sensation.(source)

5. Gavrilo Princip, who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, got the chance to assassinate him because the archduke’s driver made a wrong turn. Had the driver gone the right way, World War I might not have happened, and the history of the 20th century could have been completely different.

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Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, were visiting the capital of Bosnia on June 28, 1914. At the same time, six Bosnian-born Serb terrorists were waiting along the route of archduke’s entourage. They wanted to avenge the 1908 annexation of Bosnia by the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. When one of the terrorists got the opportunity, he threw a hand grenade at the archduke’s car. But the archduke and his wife escaped the attack, and the grenade only wounded other members of the entourage.

The angry archduke arrived at the town hall reception, but instead of going to the museum, the royal party decided to visit the wounded in hospital. But while driving towards the hospital, the driver took a wrong turn. The driver put the car into reverse and coincidentally stopped just five feet away from 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip. Astonished at the opportunity, Princip fired twice and killed both the archduke and his wife.

Their death led to a series of events. The Astro-Hungarian empire declared war on Serbia. Russia joined Serbia to defend it. France and Germany too declared war in support of their ally Austro-Hungary. At first, Britain was not interested in the war, but when Germany’s war plan involved an attack on Belgium and France, Britain was obliged to honor its treaties to defend both these countries. Hence, World War I began, and the world’s history changed forever.(1,2)

6. In 1988, due to a communication gap and shift change, the staff on the Piper Bravo Oil Rig were not aware of the lack of a safety valve in one of the pumps. As a result, gas started leaking out leading to a huge explosion killing 167 people and $3.4 billion in damages.

Image Source: Crown Copyright via

Pier Alpha was an oil and gas production platform located in the North Sea. At one time it was Britain’s largest single oil and gas producing platform. The explosion on the rig occurred during a series of construction and upgrading work. On 6 July 1988 at 12 in the afternoon, the pressure safety valve of one of the pumps was removed for routine maintenance. Since the work could not be completed before the shift ended, it was temporarily sealed, but the safety valve was not set in place.

During the shift change, a lack of communication occurred and the staff of next shift was not aware of the lack of safety valve. At 9:55 pm the pump lacking the safety valve was turned on. Soon gas began leaking out and ignited. The firewalls on the oil platform failed to control the fire causing an explosion which killed 167 people.(1,2)

7. English soldier Henry Tandey came face to face with young Adolf Hitler on a French battlefield during WWI but decided to spare the wounded soldier’s life. Had Tandey shot Hitler that day, the world would have been saved from one of the most reviled dictators and mass murderer of all time.

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In 1938, a British war hero of First World War, Henry Tandey, received a phone call from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The Prime Minister had just returned from Germany after a fruitless meeting with Hitler to persuade him not to start another war. In Germany, Chamberlain was invited to Bavaria, Hitler’s hilltop retreat, where he was shown a reproduction of the famous painting “The Menin Crossroads.” The painting depicted a soldier carrying his wounded comrade on his back at the Battle of Ypres in 1914. The man carrying the wounded soldier was Henry Tandey.

During the phone conversation, Chamberlain told Tandey that Hitler has recognized him as the man who had spared his life in a battlefield twenty years ago. According to Hitler, on September 28, 1918, Private Henry Tandey was serving near a French village where he encountered a wounded German soldier. But instead of shooting him, Tandey let him go. The then 29-year-old soldier was Adolf Hitler.(1,2)

8. The biggest fire in California history, the Cedar Fire, was caused by a hunter while he was putting out flares but ended up in spreading the fires over 270,000 hectares costing the lives of 15 people and an estimated loss of $1.5 Billion.

Image Credit: K.C. Alfred via

The story of Cedar Fire began on 25 October 2003. Sergio Martinez, a hunter from West Covina, was lost in the Cedar Creek Falls of Cleveland National Forest after being separated from his partner. As the sun started going down, Martinez lit a signal flare and sent it high into the sky to mark his location. By then, his partner had called for help on a cell phone. As help was approaching, a person who resided near the forest noticed smoke. When he called 911, he was told that it’s nothing and the police already know about it.

The fire signal sent by Martinez on 25 October started the Cedar fire burning 280,278 acres of land, destroying 2,820 buildings, and killing 15 people before being finally contained on 4 November 2003. It still remains one of the largest wildfires in California history.(1,2,3)

9. German war general Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was at home celebrating his wife’s birthday when Allies launched the D-day attack. Left without their finest tactician, the German soldiers could not launch an effective counter-attack leading to the Allied victory on the Western Front.

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The Normandy landing on 6 June 1944 was the largest seaborne invasion and marked the beginning of the Allied victory on the Western Front. The successful invasion of D-day is credited to two things: the weak weather forecasting system of Nazis and the birthday of Mrs. Rommel.

According to the Allied forecasters, the weather would improve sufficiently on June 6 to allow landing. But the German forecasters failed to predict the improvement in the weather. Believing that the weather was too bad to make an attack, Rommel went home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. On the same day, many senior commanders of The Seventh Army, which was in charge of the defense of Normandy, went away to Rennes for a war game. Thus, when the Allied force landed in Normandy on June 6, the Nazis were caught off-guard.

Rommel received the information of the landing on the morning of June 6. He started back immediately but couldn’t reach Normandy before evening. By that time the Allies had successfully established themselves on all five major landing areas which later proved to be the most important factor in their victory.(1,2,3)

10. As it was very difficult for the Russian empire to maintain its territory in Alaska, they sold it to America for $7.2 million. About 20 years later, huge oil and natural gas reserves were discovered underneath. Alaska is now worth billions and billions of dollars more than the price at which it was purchased.

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According to historians, the first Russian settlement in Alaska began in the 17th century. Since then, Alaska remained a part of Russian territory until the late 19th century. During this time, the Russian Empire was finding it hard to maintain its foothold in Alaska due to the constant threat of a war with its enemy, the British Empire. So, Russia negotiated with the US and sold Alaska on March 30, 1867, for 7.2 million dollars.

When Russia sold Alaska, it was believed that there was not much which could be gained from this piece of land. But that notion turned out to be false after the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968. Since then, huge reserves of oil have increased the value of Alaska several times more than the initial price for which the US purchased it. Recently, in 2017, about 1.2 billion barrels of oil have been discovered and is considered as the biggest onshore discovery in the US in three decades.(1,2,3)

If not for a wrong turn, the first World War could have been prevented

World wars are events that have changed the course of history and every generation alive in our world. WW1 helped to shape the world and fuel the second and largest of any war in history&mdashWorld War 2.

Troops in action during the World Wars (Photo Credits:

WW1 might have been destined to happen, as there were various factors to it. However, it can all be traced back to one event that, if altered, could have changed the course of history. That was the wrong turn and the stalling of a car&mdasha car carrying The Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand .

On June 14th, 1914, Franz&rsquos car was attacked by a grenade, which missed his car, instead, injuring the passengers of a car travelling behind him. Later that day, Franz decided to visit the injured who had been wounded by the blast. Along the way, his driver took a wrong turn and his car stalled in front of a shop where a member of the same terrorist group, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian , happened to be buying a sandwich . Without missing his chance, he took the shot, murdering the Archduke and his wife.

The &ldquowrong turn&rdquo that started it all

If not for that wrong turn, the Archduke and his wife would not have been killed, Austria and Hungary would not have declared war on the assassins&rsquo home country of Serbia, causing Germany to declare war on Russia, followed by France and Belgium. This caused the U.K. to declare war on Germany, thus starting World War 1. All of these events were an outcome of the chain reaction launched by a wrong turn.

Of course, you might argue that another, more devastating war might have broken out even if the assassination didn&rsquot take place. However, if WW1 had somehow been averted, there wouldn&rsquot have been a WW2, no Hitler rising to power, and those 70 million lives would not have been lost. Fast forward to the present day, and there might not be rising tensions in the Middle East, terrorist groups would not have been born, and the world might be a better place.

Start and Causes of World War I for Kids

There's an old saying: There are two sides to everything. This was true during World War I. There were two sides - the Central Powers and the Allies. Here's what happened:

To Germany, it seemed like Britain and France were taking over huge sections of the Earth by force. Britain and France had established colonies in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central America, and had taken over most of the Caribbean islands. To protect themselves, Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary signed a secret treaty. This treaty was defensive. Basically, they agreed if someone attacks you, we'll help. History refers to this group (in red on the map below) as the Triple Alliance.

Britain, France, and Russia also agreed to help each other by secret treaty. History refers to this group (in blue on the map below) as the Triple Entente.

Here's how Europe looked prior to World War I:

There was a small country in the Balkan region of Europe in 1914 called Serbia (in brown on the map, right under Austria-Hungary. and below in gray to the west of Bosnia.) Serbia had gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. But many Serbs were still in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Like Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina were once part of the Ottoman Empire, but were annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908. The Serbs in this region wanted the region to become part of the newly independent Serbia. But Austria-Hungary would not allow this. They did, however, allow the Bosnian people to elect a parliament, but this parliament had no real power. Anything this parliament decided could be overruled or vetoed by government officials in Vienna or Budapest (Austria-Hungary.) This infuriated Serbian nationals in Bosnia. By 1914, there was great unrest in the region.

June 1914, the Archduke of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife, visited Bosnia to inspect Austrian troops stationed there. While they were traveling, someone threw a bomb at their car. It rolled off the back of the car and injured an Austrian officer and some bystanders. Later, the archduke and his wife rode in their limousine, this time with more guards and in procession, to visit the injured officer. But their car took a wrong turn. There was a young Serbian national, a teenager, loitering on the sidewalk. He recognized the archduke. This young man had a gun. He shot the archduke and his wife, who later died of these wounds. He tried to turn his gun on himself, but bystanders jumped him and prevented this.

There is no evidence that the government of Serbia assisted in this assassination. But, Austria-Hungary wanted to use this assassination as an excuse to attack Serbia to add Serbia under Austria-Hungary control. They waited until they received assurance from Germany that if Russia stepped up to protect Serbia, possibly bringing her allies Great Britain and France with her, that Germany would step in to help Austria-Hungary. Less than a month later, after receiving assurance from Germany that they would assist her, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. As expected, Russia stepped in. By August 1914, France and Great Britain had joined Russia in a war against Germany and Austria-Hungry. Peace between the great powers of Europe had come to an end. The Great War had begun.

Why did so many countries join the war effort? In 1914, there was an alliance system in place between various countries around the world, a system of secret treaties. As a result, other countries began to join one side or the other in this war based on their secret treaties and/or which side they believed would benefit them the most. Some were not even countries they were colonies. The link below has a list of all participants in World War I. It's a long list. But here are the main ones:

The Central Powers: Germany and Austria-Hungary were joined by Turkey and Bulgaria.

The Allies: Britain, France, and Russia were joined by Greece, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Italy, Japan, and Northern Africa including Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and later in 1917 by the United States.

Some of the countries that remained neutral included Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Albania, Switzerland.

You might think that a series of secret treaties was the reason the great powers of Europe went to war. Certainly, the treaties contributed. But what actually caused the Great War was money. Germany was an industrial country. Nearly all the countries in Europe were industrial countries. Britain could sell their goods to their colonies. Britain controlled India. That was really the only colony they needed. They could sell all their goods there. Britain also controlled a huge portion of Africa and had other colonies in the Caribbean. France also had many colonies. Both Britain and France did not allow other countries to freely trade with their colonies without their permission. Germany needed an international marketplace to maintain their economy. Germany had almost no colonies. By 1914, the once great empire of Austria-Hungary had almost no colonies. Germany and Austria-Hungary needed a place to sell their goods. Britain and France was making it difficult for them to do that.

It's no coincidence that when US President Wilson presented his 14 Point Plan to Congress, as a blueprint for world peace at the end of World War I, among first points he listed were two new international laws. One law eliminated secret treaties forever. The other established for all time freedom of trade across borders. Unfortunately, these laws were not built into the Treaty of Versailles, the treaty that ended WWI.

Watch the video: Germanys Brutal Invasion And Mistreatment Of Belgium. First World War EP2. Timeline (July 2022).


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