Hoax Museum Blog: Military

Giant French Invasion Raft, circa 1798 — I think this prisoner may have been telling a bit of a tall tale.


"An Exact representation of a raft, and its apparatus, as invented by the French for their proposed invasion of England — from a drawing of a prisoner who has made his escape from France"

Source: Bibliotheque Nationale de France via Retronaut
Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2014.   Comments (1)

A German Officer Strolls Through London, 1941 — In April 1941, a London newspaper pulled off a minor hoax/publicity stunt. They dressed a young man in the uniform of a German officer — after having removed the Nazi cap badge, belt, and insignia of rank — and had him walk around through central London, directly past the Houses of Parliament. They claimed to be trying to prove that "Londoners wouldn't know a German soldier if they saw one."

Sure enough, the young man attracted no attention.


The photo of the "German officer" posing in Central London ran in a lot of papers, both in the UK and America. (For instance, the Lewiston Morning Tribune - Apr 29, 1941).

But I think the experiment would have been a lot more interesting if he had walked through London wearing a uniform with all the Nazi insignia still on it. That would probably have elicited a different reaction.
Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2013.   Comments ()

Secret Crosse and Blackwell Aircraft — Dan Townend, writing in the Express, discusses the surprising camaraderie that often existed between British and German soldiers during World War I. Prisoners of war were, many times, treated with great decency and compassion. Of course, this show of kindness could have ulterior motives. The Germans, for instance, liked to "soften up" their prisoners to get them to reveal military secrets. But the British prisoners weren't so easy to gull. Thanks to one British prisoner, the Germans seriously came to believe that the UK had a top-secret aircraft called the Crosse and Blackwell that had been developed by the engineers Huntley and Palmer. [Express]


Posted: Sun Aug 18, 2013.   Comments ()

Ukrainian Attack Dolphins — Word got out this week that the Ukrainian military had lost three dolphins in the Black Sea after the dolphins swam away from their trainers, apparently to search for mates. The problem: these were trained attack dolphins "equipped with firearms."


The source of the story was a document that appeared online that seemed to be a scan of a letter from the head of a Ukrainian military research institute to naval command warning of the dolphin escape. The story took off when it got picked up by RIA Novosti (the Russian International News Agency) and from there spread to the western media.


However, Ukraine's Defense Ministry has denied the story is true, pointing out that the scanned document wasn't on letterhead and lacked an official stamp. And, more importantly, it points out that Ukraine doesn't have a military dolphin program. The Soviets used to have one, but that ended long ago. [links: en.ria.ru, alaskadispatch.com
Posted: Fri Mar 15, 2013.   Comments ()


Iran’s new stealth fighter flies (with help from photoshop) — The Iranian news website Khouz News recently posted a picture of Iran's new stealth fighter, the Qaher F313.


But The Atlantic Wire points out that the photo is actually a composite. The background is a photo of Mount Damavand from a stock-image site. The jet fighter was cut-and-pasted from a photo of what is apparently a plastic jet fighter (because it seems to lack exterior bolts or rivets) on display indoors.


In Iran's defense, the photo could have been intended as a kind of mock-up of what the plane would look like while flying. But given the Iranian military's past history of photoshopping, no one is cutting them much slack.

The Guardian suggests that the purpose of the photo was not to fool skeptical westerners, but rather to pull the wool over the eyes of the Iranian people by leading them to believe that their country is more technologically advanced than it really is.
Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013.   Comments (1)

Fake WWI Spy Trees — An unusual example of military deception!

The Army's special branch: How bizarre fake spy trees appeared in no-man's land during WWI (and killed hundreds of soldiers)
Daily Mail

Artists in the Royal Engineers were tasked with meticulously selecting a real tree on the battlefield by measuring and photographing it extensively. The ideal tree was dead and often it was bomb blasted. The photographs and sketches were then sent to a workshop where artists constructed an artificial tree of hollow steel cylinders. It contained an internal scaffolding for reinforcement, to allow a sniper or observer to ascend within the structure. Then, under the cover of night, the team cut down the authentic tree and dug a hole in the place of its roots, in which they placed the O.P. Tree. When the sun rose over the battlefield, what looked like a tree was a tree no longer. Instead, it was an enemy lookout tower.



Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013.   Comments ()

Divining Rods for Bombs —
Despite major bombings that have rattled the nation, and fears of rising violence as American troops withdraw, Iraq’s security forces have been relying on a device to detect bombs and weapons that the United States military and technical experts say is useless.
The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod. Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each.
Link: NY Times

The high price is probably part of the marketing psychology that helps sell these things. Buyers figure that, at that price, they must work.
(Thanks, Bob!)
Posted: Wed Nov 04, 2009.   Comments (4)

Did Robert Capa fake the ‘falling soldier’ photo? — Robert Capa's photo of a soldier falling backward from the impact of a shot to his head is one of the most famous images in the history of photography. But for decades people have argued that Capa staged the shot. In the hoax photo archive I have a brief summary of the controversy. I come down on the side of those who feel the photo wasn't staged.

Adding new fuel to the controversy, a Catalan newspaper now claims to have found evidence that Capa staged the shot. From The Independent:

The so-called "falling soldier" was not photographed near Cerro Muriano in Andalusia, as has been claimed, but about 50km to the south-west, near the town of Espejo far from the frontline on a day when there was no military action, a Catalan newspaper claims.
"Capa photographed his soldier at a location where there was no fighting," wrote the daily El Periodico on Friday. The paper carried out a detailed study of Capa's pictures taken in September 1936, three months after the conflict broke out.
"The real location, some 10km from an inactive battle front, demonstrates that the death was not real," the paper says. The claim is backed with photos taken very recently on a hillside near Espejo that show a mountainous skyline that appears to match exactly that of Capa's photo.

I haven't seen El Periodico's evidence, but I'm skeptical of their argument. After all, hasn't the soldier in the photo been identified?
Posted: Tue Jul 21, 2009.   Comments (2)

Hello Kitty Taser — The Hello Kitty Taser raised the ire of Justin Yu at CNET who wrote:

The existence of this Hello Kitty taser gun makes me want to open it up and point it at my head. You have to question the intentions of these designers...is the gun supposed to make little girls less fearful about attacking their in-store competition? Maybe it's meant to fool criminals into thinking their victims are unarmed, only to be met with 50,000 volts of adorable electricity.

Only subsequently did he realize that it was simply "a Photoshopped picture of Taser's "Metallic Pink" version of the C2 gun."

Hello Kitty guns seem to be a popular meme.
Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009.   Comments (9)

Another case of a phony veteran — Jack Livesey claimed he was in the Parachute regiment of the British Army, did five tours of duty in Northern Ireland, and won a military medal. He was a guest of honor at the 25th anniversary commemorations of the Falklands War.

But the British Ministry of Defense says, "Jack Livesey (DOB 15/05/54) only served in the British Army in the Army Catering Corps from December 1971 until April 1974."

Livesey also claims he was a miltary adviser to Saving Private Ryan, though he wasn't paid a fee which is why, he says, there was never any public acknowledgment of his help. [BBC News]
Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2009.   Comments (4)

Richard Strandlof, phony veteran — Another case of a phony veteran. Rick Duncan claimed he survived the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon, that he survived a roadside bomb in Iraq, and that he had a metal plate in his head. None of it was true. Not even his name, which was really Richard Strandlof. He also says that he's not a pathological liar. But then, what else would a pathological liar say? link: CNN
Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009.   Comments (2)

Too Many Fake Soldiers — German politicians are upset by all the fake soldiers hanging around the Brandenburg Gate. The fake soldiers are there trying to make a buck from the tourists, who want their picture taken with someone in a Cold War-era uniform. But the politicians are worried that the Brandenburg gate is deteriorating into a miniature Disneyland and may go the route of Checkpoint Charlie which has become "a tacky tourist trap unworthy of its historical significance." I was in Berlin just a few months ago, and I can definitely confirm that appraisal of Checkpoint Charlie. [Spiegel]
Posted: Thu Apr 16, 2009.   Comments (2)

Dolphins vs. Pirates — China's official news agency, Xinhua, is claiming that thousands of dolphins spontaneously decided to protect a fleet of Chinese merchant ships that were being attacked by Somali pirates:
The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China’s fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China’s. The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness befor the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while.

The NY Times is skeptical, though it concedes that the US military has been training dolphins for years, so maybe the Chinese have perfected the use of dolphins as an anti-piracy force.
Posted: Thu Apr 16, 2009.   Comments (4)

Fake soldiers guard base — To save money, a Taiwanese army base decided to use dummies in place of real soldiers to guard a base. Locals eventually noticed that the soldiers never moved, and as word spread the fake soldiers became a tourist attraction. (via Weird Asia News)

It's actually not as odd as it sounds. Ever since World War II armies have made extensive use of decoys, including fake tanks, aircraft, ships, and individual soldiers. A classic story about this phenomenon is that during WWII the Germans created an entire decoy airfield in North Africa. In response, the British sent out a single bomber who dropped a wooden bomb on it.


Posted: Tue Jul 29, 2008.   Comments (9)

Pukey sentimental hoax or real event? — Gill forwarded me the following email and wrote in the subject line, "pukey sentimental hoax (I hope it's not real)."

Will you give this to my Daddy?
Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia attending a conference. While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer. I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.
Moving thru the terminal was a group of soldiers in their camos. As they began heading to their gate, everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering.
When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and cheered for, it hit me. I'm not alone. I'm not the only red-blooded American who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families.
Of course I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and home without fear or reprisal.
Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women, a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old ran up to one of the male soldiers. He kneeled down and said 'hi.'
The little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her.
The young soldier, who didn't look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her daddy. Then suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.
The mother of the little girl, who said her daughter's name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Marine and had been in Iraq for 11 months now. As the mom was explaining how much her daughter Courtney missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up.
When this temporarily single mom was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second. Then one of the other service men pulled out a military-looking walkie-talkie. They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it.
After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, 'I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.' He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He finished by saying 'your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.'
The mom at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet, he saluted Courtney and her mom. I was standing no more than 6 feet away from this entire event.
As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause. As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own. That young soldier in one last act of selflessness, turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.
We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices. At the end of the day, it's good to be an American.

This one has been going around for a couple of years. Snopes covered it back in 2006, listing it as undetermined. They note that two additional versions of the story have been spotted in circulation -- one placing the touching scene in Trenton, Ontario, the other in Melbourne, Australia. Snopes suggests that the Atlanta version is probably the original, and this is almost certainly correct.

When I first read the email, I had the same reaction as Gill. It's over-the-top schmaltz. It's too corny to be real. But now I'm not so sure.

It turns out that the Atlanta airport has a tradition of applauding the troops. I don't know if it still happens, but as late as 2007 it definitely was. Youtube has plenty of videos of troops being applauded at the Atlanta airport. The description attached to one of these videos notes that, "Several times a day the Atlanta airport gives thanks to the troops that are protecting our freedom as they march through the terminal."

The Atlanta tradition even inspired the famous Anheuser-Busch "Applause" ad that aired during the 2005 Super Bowl and the 2005 Daytona 500.

So given that the part about applauding the troops at the Atlanta airport checks out, it's not that implausible that the Courtney scene might have occurred. Yeah, it could be the invention of someone who had seen the Anheuser-Busch ad, but I'd say the probability of the scene being real is pretty good. Of course, that makes it no less cloyingly sentimental.
Posted: Wed Jun 04, 2008.   Comments (37)

Space Pistols May Be Fake — Two hundred years ago General Ignacio Alvarez, commander of a South American region that would later become Argentina, sent James Madison a pair of duelling pistols forged from the iron of a meteorite. It was a pretty cool gift -- assuming the guns were real. But recent tests performed at the ISIS neutron source in the UK have revealed that the guns were cheap fakes. From BBC News:

The machine was used to compare Monroe's pistols to a fragment of a meteorite from the Campo del Cielo crater in Argentina; the supposed origin of the metals from which they were forged. The results were conclusive. "They were completely different," Dr Godfrey told BBC News. "There were differences in microstructures, there were differences in carbon content, there were differences in chemical composition. We can say for sure they weren't made from meteoritic iron."

Even worse, the silver handles of the pistols turned out to have been made from a cheap brass alloy. Researchers aren't sure whether General Alvarez knew the guns were fake, or if he himself was duped. In fact, researchers aren't even sure if the guns are the original ones given to Madison. It's possible someone at some point in time may have switched the real ones for fakes. (Thanks, Joe)
Posted: Mon Jun 02, 2008.   Comments (2)

The Puppy Over the Cliff Video — Many of you have probably already seen the "puppy being thrown over a cliff" video that's been all over the internet in the past week. If you haven't, here it is, but be warned. It's disturbing. The Honolulu Advertiser offers this description of it:

Two Marines are seen in combat gear smiling as one holds a white-and-black puppy by the scruff of its neck. The dog seems to be about 8 weeks old and is motionless as it is held.
"Cute little puppy, huh?" says one Marine as he smiles broadly.
"Oh so cute, so cute, little puppy," says another in a child-like voice.
The Marine holding the puppy is then seen throwing the animal overhand into a desert-like gully below. The animal yelps until it thuds to the ground at the bottom of the gully.
"That's mean," one Marine says afterward.

When I first saw the video I felt it confirmed that there are some pretty sick people out there. But I didn't see anything that would make me suspect the video was fake. Nevertheless, a lot of people have been arguing that it's not real. For instance, see this youtube video. And more here.

The skeptics are suggesting that the puppy was already dead, and that the sounds of it yelping were dubbed in. But I think this is a case of being overly skeptical. That puppy looks alive to me. It's not making any noise initially because it's being held by the scruff of its neck. If you scruff a cat or dog it's going to become very quiet and submissive. It's an instinctive behavior.

The Honolulu Advertiser reports that the Marine Corps is investigating the video. The Marines have released a statement: "The video is shocking and deplorable and is contrary to the high standards we expect of every Marine... We do not tolerate this type of behavior and will take appropriate action." (Thanks, Nettie)
Posted: Tue Mar 04, 2008.   Comments (40)

The Filipino Monkey — Following up on last week's post about the confrontation between US and Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, the mysterious threat that the U.S. ships received -- the one in which they heard someone say "I am coming to you... You will explode after... minutes" -- is now being attributed to the "Filipino Monkey."

The Filipino Monkey is apparently a prankster who interjects obscenities and threats into ship-to-ship radio communications in the Persian Gulf. Or rather, it's many pranksters. The name "Filipino Monkey" now serves as a generic term for rogue radio operators in the Middle East.

I became intrigued by the Filipino Monkey phenomenon, so I did some research into it and posted what I found in a brief article in the Hoaxipedia.

Apparently the "Filipino Monkey" dates back to around 1984 during the Iran-Iraq War. It was probably originally one person, but he soon spawned many imitators.

It's a surreal prank, to say the least. You have heavily armed military ships engaging in tense standoffs, and during these very serious situations you suddenly have an idiot bursting on the radio with exclamations such as, "Come and get my ba-NAAAAAAN-a!"
Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2008.   Comments (9)

Gulf of Tonkin vs. Persian Gulf — In 1964 North Vietnamese forces supposedly attacked a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson used this incident to obtain approval for the Vietnam War from Congress.

But on Tuesday the National Security Agency declassified documents revealing -- to almost no one's surprise -- that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.

Also on Tuesday, by an odd coincidence, the US military released video of an incident in a different Gulf... the Persian one.

The video shows Iranian speedboats approaching US warships. Then (separately) a heavily accented voice says over the radio, in English, “I am coming to you. … You will explode after … minutes.” (The video is on youtube)

The incident inflamed tensions between the two countries, but now it's looking like there are problems interpreting exactly what was happening in the Persian Gulf video.

As the US military admits, the audio and video weren't recorded together. And skeptics have been wondering why, if the audio did come from the Iranian speedboats (as the military implied) there was no sound of wind or water in the background.

It's starting to look more like the threatening audio was from some random guy with a radio on land.

Iran, for its part, is saying that the incident was just "a routine contact which happens all the time in the crowded waters of the Gulf." Not that I find anything the Iranian government says to be very credible. It's hard to know what to believe.
Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008.   Comments (4)

Suicidal Teens Welcome — An image showing a "suicidal teens welcome" sign in the window of an armed forces career center has recently been circulating again.



The image is at least six months old. And no, it's not real. The sign is a reference to an episode of The Simpsons in which a similar sign was shown in the window of an army recruiting center.

The only question is whether the image is photoshopped, or did someone surreptitiously stick the sign in the window of the recruiting center and then snap the picture?

I would say it's definitely photoshopped. The hoaxer probably created an image of the sign, pasted it into the image of the armed forces center, and then decreased the opacity of the sign so that it blended into the window. Using this technique, it took me about 10 seconds to add the Museum of Hoaxes banner beneath the "Suicidal Teens Welcome" sign.


Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2007.   Comments (8)

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