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Military Hoaxes
The Filipino Monkey, 2008
In January 2008 five Iranian speedboats approached three U.S. Warships in the Persian Gulf. When the U.S. ships attempted to contact the Iranians by radio, they heard a voice reply, "I am coming to you... You will explode in... minutes." At first the warships assumed this message came from the Iranian speedboats, but it's since been determined that it probably came from a "Filipino Monkey", which is the name given to rogue radio operators who interject lewd jokes, threats, and obscenities into ship-to-ship radio communications conducted on VHF marine channels. Filipino Monkey radio pranksters have been active in the Persian Gulf since at least 1984. More…
Report From Iron Mountain, 1967
Front cover of Report From Iron Mountain. In 1967 the war in Vietnam was escalating and race riots were breaking out in many major U.S. cities. Popular distrust of the federal government was growing. It was in this context that on October 16 a book appeared titled Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. It was published by Dial Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. Leonard C. Lewin, a New York freelance writer, wrote the introduction to the book. He explained that the report had been compiled by 15 experts known as the Special Study Group (SSG) who had been brought together by the U.S. government. The SSG had... More…
The Flypaper Report, 1943
During World War II, the illustrator Hugh Troy was given a desk job stateside. He found it excruciatingly boring. So to amuse himself he began preparing Daily Flypaper Reports in the style of standard army regulations. These were counts, printed on official-looking paper, of all the flies trapped on flypaper in the mess hall during the last twenty-four hours. He analyzed the results according to wind direction, nearness to windows, nearness to the kitchen, length of the flypaper, etc. He then would mimeograph the report and slip it in among the other official forms submitted to headquarters each day. After keeping this up for a month, he... More…
Operation Mincemeat, 1943
In 1943 the body of a British officer, Major William Martin, was discovered off the coast of Spain, near Huelva. British diplomats strongly requested that all documents found with the body be returned to them, and the Spanish government eventually complied. But upon examination, it was obvious the documents had been opened and read before their return. This was exactly what the British had hoped would happen, because Major Martin did not exist. He was part of a military hoax, codenamed Operation Mincemeat, designed to fool the Germans. The British military had obtained a cadaver, chained a briefcase containing supposedly top-secret papers... More…
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942
On August 10, 1942 the U.S. Army's public-relations office issued a press release warning the public of "secret markers" that had been found on farm fields throughout the eastern United States. These markers were patterns formed by the arrangement of fertilizer sacks or the way a field had been tilled. From the ground they looked like nothing, but from the air they formed the shape of arrows, apparently created by Nazi sympathizers in order to guide enemy bombers toward military factories and airfields. The Army simultaneously released three pictures showing these markers. But a few days later it was discovered that the "secret markers" were... More…
The Veterans of Future Wars, 1936
Future veterans march to demand their bonuses In 1935 veterans of World War One lobbied Congress to pay them their war bonuses ten years early in order to ease the economic hardship they were experiencing during the Great Depression. Congress readily acquiesced and passed the Harrison Bonus Bill in January 1936. This pre-payment was a source of inspiration for Lewis Gorin, a senior at Princeton University. It seemed logical to him that if present-day veterans could get their war bonuses early, why shouldn't future veterans also receive their money up-front — before they had fought in a war. After all, given the global political... More…

Death in the Air, 1933
A book called Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot was published in 1933. It contained numerous pages of spectacular aerial photographs of World War One dogfights supposedly taken by a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Since very few photos of aerial fighting had been taken by the military, the photographs caused a great sensation. Interest in them grew even greater when they were exhibited at galleries in New York and Philadelphia. It wasn't until 1984 that the photos were discovered to be fake. More…
Oscar Daubmann, Last German Prisoner of War, 1932
Alfred Hummel as Oscar DaubmannIn the early 1930s the French government informed the German reich that it had discharged all the prisoners of war taken during World War I. All soldiers still missing had to be presumed dead. But in May 1932 this statement appeared to be contradicted when a soldier, Oscar Daubmann, returned to Germany, claiming he had spent the last sixteen years in a French prisoner-of-war camp. Daubmann told a dramatic tale of imprisonment and escape. He said he had been captured by the French in October 1916 at the Battle of the Somme and was placed in a prison camp. After killing a guard during an unsuccessful escape... More…
WWI Armistice Announced Early
By November 1918 it seemed that the four-year-long conflict between the Allied and Axis powers might finally be coming to an end. Word leaked to the president of the United Press, who was in Europe at the time, that an armistice had been signed on November 7. Excitedly he cabled the news to America, where it then appeared as front page news across the country and sparked nationwide celebrations. The only problem was that the armistice hadn’t actually been signed. Apparently a German agent had planted the false news in order to demonstrate that the public in the Allied countries would welcome peace rather than a continuation of the...
The Angel of Mons
On August 22 and 23, 1914 the British Expeditionary Force near Mons was struggling to retreat from the German Army. They were almost surrounded and badly outnumbered. But just when all hope seemed to have been lost, a shimmering angelic apparation appeared in the fog and smoke that hung over the battle field. The British troops staggered towards the figure and discovered that it had shown them an escape route. This remarkable story quickly spread throughout Britain and was widely taken as evidence of divine support for their troops. But in time skeptics began to insist that the entire story was a hoax. The writer Arthur Machen claimed that a...
The Dreadnought Hoax, 1910
"The Emperor of Abyssinia" and his suiteFrom left to right: Virginia Stephen (Virginia Woolf), Duncan Grant, Horace Cole, Anthony Buxton (seated), Adrian Stephen, Guy Ridley. On February 7, 1910 the Prince of Abyssinia and his entourage were received with full ceremonial pomp on the deck of the H.M.S. Dreadnought, the British Navy's most powerful battleship. Although the Commander-in-Chief of the Dreadnought had only received a last-minute warning of the Prince's arrival, he had the sailors standing at attention when the Prince arrived. The Abyssinian party acknowledged the greeting with bows as they shuffled onto the ship, dressed in their... More…
The Captain of Köpenick, 1906
On October 16, 1906, an out-of-work German shoemaker named Wilhelm Voigt donned a second-hand military captain's uniform he had bought in a store, walked out into the street, and assumed control of a company of soldiers marching past. He led them to the town hall of Köpenick, a small suburb of Berlin, arrested the mayor and the treasurer on charges of embezzlement, and took possession of 4,000 marks from the town treasury. He then disappeared with the money. The incident became famous as a symbol of the blind obedience of German soldiers to authority — even fake authority. The police tracked him down nine days later, and he was... More…
Hearst’s War, 1897
William Randolph Hearst, owner of the New York Journal, had a reputation for never letting truth get in the way of a good story. According to one famous tale, when hostilities broke out between the Spanish and the Cubans, Hearst sent the illustrator Frederic Remington to Cuba to draw pictures of the conflict. Finding that not much was happening, Remington cabled Hearst in January 1897: "Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return." Supposedly Hearst cabled back: "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." It is doubtful Hearst ever sent such a telegram. The first report of... More…
The Case of the Miraculous Bullet, 1874
In November 1874 an unusual article appeared in the introductory volume of The American Medical Weekly, a Louisville medical journal. It was written by Dr. LeGrand G. Capers and was titled, "Attention Gynaecologists!—Notes from the Diary of a Field and Hospital Surgeon, C.S.A." In the article Dr. Capers recounted an unusual case of artificial insemination he had witnessed on a Civil War battlefield in Mississippi, in which a bullet had passed through a soldier's testicles, and then traveled on before hitting a woman and impregnating her. The event was said to have occurred on May 12, 1863 at around 3 p.m. at the "battle of R." (battle of... More…
John Howe, British Spy
In 1827 a Massachusetts printer named Luther Roby published The Journal Kept by Mr. John Howe while He Was Employed as a British Spy. It told the story of John Howe, a man said to have been a British spy during the Revolutionary war before switching sides to become an American soldier, then a settler, a frontier trader, an Indian preacher, and finally a smuggler. Howe was long accepted as an actual historical figure. As late as 1976, the historian Robert Gross referred to Howe in The Minutemen and Their World as a "quick-thinking English civilian-spy." The 1983 biographical dictionary American Writers Before 1800 contained an entry about... More…
The Supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle
In 1782 a shocking letter was printed in the Supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle. It alleged that Indian warriors were sending hundreds of American scalps as war trophies to British royalty and Members of Parliament. The scalps included those of women, as well as young girls and boys. Soon the letter had crossed the Atlantic and began to circulate throughout Europe, where it shocked European public opinion. But in fact, the British had not received scalps from any Indians. The Supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle was a fake newspaper which Benjamin Franklin had printed and distributed to his friends. Franklin intended... More…
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