CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History

Khalid Elhassan - February 26, 2021

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Execution of an Ottoman royal by strangulation. Quora

15. The Ottoman Turks’ Extreme, Yet Effective, Solution to the Problem of Fratricidal Civil Wars

Many realms came to grief not at the hands of foreign enemies, but because of domestic strife and civil wars between members of the ruling family. In states where the rules and lines of succession were not well-established and clearly defined, a ruler’s death often triggered a scramble between his sons for power. When one of them finally wrested the crown, it frequently rested uneasily on his head, while rival siblings schemed and plotted to unseat and replace him on the throne.

The results were often civil wars that weakened the state and left it vulnerable. The Ottoman Turks came up with an extreme – yet ruthlessly effective – solution to the problem: no siblings, no rivalry. When a new Ottoman Sultan ascended the throne, he immediately executed all his brothers. The chances of deadly rivalries and civil wars were thus eliminated by eliminating all potential rivals. It began in 1389 when Sultan Bayezid I ascended the throne, and immediately had his younger brother strangled to death in order to nip a plot in the bud.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Sultan Mehmed II, by Gentile Bellini, 1480. Victoria and Albert Museum

14. Codifying the Tradition of Ottoman Fratricide

Sultan Bayezid I’s execution of his younger brother upon ascending the throne kicked off an Ottoman tradition that lasted for centuries. In what came to be known as Ottoman Fratricide, each new sultan started off his reign by ordering the execution of all his brothers, as well as other male relatives who might claim the throne. Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror (1432 – 1481) is credited with formalizing that tradition by codifying the practice of royal fratricide into Ottoman legislation.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
When Sultan Mehmed III ascended the throne in 1595, he kicked off his reign by executing his 19 brothers. The David Collection

He enacted a Law of Governance that stated in relevant part: “Any of my sons who ascends the throne, it is acceptable for him to kill his brothers for the common benefit of the people. The majority of the ulema [Muslim scholars] approve this; let action be taken accordingly“. Mehmed II’s successors heeded his advice to maintain the realm’s stability by preemptively executing their brothers upon ascending the throne. It was extreme and cruel, but it worked: for two centuries, the Ottoman Empire was remarkably stable and free of infighting and civil wars when compared to its contemporaries.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Tiny tombs of young Ottoman royals in the Sultan Mausoleum. Quora

13. A More Humane Alternative? Imprisoning Siblings, Instead of Murdering Them

The system of Ottoman Fratricide reduced civil wars and internal strife, but the consciences of many were troubled by the murder of innocent royal siblings at the start of each reign. Those misgivings reached a peak in 1595 when Sultan Mehmed III inaugurated his reign by ordering his nineteen brothers, some of them mere infants, strangled to death. It was said that “the Empire wept” as a long line of child-sized coffins exited the palace in a grand procession the next day. A reaction against such extreme measures became clear.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Ottoman royal brothers in the Kafes, or Cage. Imgur

As a result, a new tradition emerged: instead of new sultans outright murdering their siblings upon ascending the throne, they simply locked them up. Thus was born the system of the Ottoman Kafes, or “Cage”, whereby sultans set up a secluded part of their royal Harem as a detention center for their brothers. There, potential rivals were kept under house arrest, under surveillance by palace guards and isolated from the outside world to prevent intrigues and plots. It was a harsh existence that drove some of the imprisoned princes to madness. However, it was a more humane alternative to death.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Japanese soldiers laying down their weapons at war’s end. Pintrest

12. There is Stubbornness, and Then There is the Extreme Stubbornness of the Guy Who Kept Fighting World War II For Almost Three Decades After It Had Ended

The aftermath of World War II in the Pacific was marked by the phenomenon of Japanese holdouts: military personnel who refused to surrender and kept fighting after Japan had surrendered. Some were cut off from communications with their chain of command, did not receive official notice to surrender, and were thus ignorant of the fact that the war had ended. Others were deliberately obtuse, knew that the war had ended, but went to extreme lengths to pretend ignorance. The latter held out for a variety of reasons, ranging from fear, pride, shame at defeat, or sheer bloody-mindedness.

Within a few months, most holdouts saw sense and laid down their arms, or were tracked down and captured or killed by the victors. Some, however, were unable or unwilling to see sense and evaded death and capture for months, years, and in some cases, decades. The most extreme of them, by length of holdout, was Teruo Nakamura – an Imperial Japanese Army soldier who refused to surrender and managed to hide out in a tropical island for twenty-nine years after World War II had ended.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Teruo Nakamur’s unit, the Takasago Volunteers. Wikimedia

11. One of the Few Survivors of a Bloody Defeat

Teruo Nakamura was born in 1919 into an aboriginal tribe in Formosa – today’s Taiwan – which was a Japanese possession at the time. In 1943, he was conscripted into a colonial unit of the Imperial Japanese Army and was posted to Morotai Island in the Dutch East Indies – present-day Indonesia. Soon after his arrival in Morotai, American and Australian forces invaded that island successfully seized their objectives, and broke organized resistance while inflicting heavy losses on the Japanese defenders.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Invasion fleet landing Allied troops on Morotai Island. Wikimedia

The relatively few Japanese survivors fled into the jungle, where they endured diseases, hunger, starvation, and other extreme hardships as they hid from the victorious invaders. When World War II officially ended with the signing of Japan’s surrender on September 2nd, 1945, Nakamura was not among the Japanese survivors who surrendered to the Allies in Morotai. He was presumed dead, having perished during the Allied invasion of the island, and was officially declared so in 1945. However, Nakamura was very much alive.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Teruo Nakamura when he was captured, and after he cleaned up. Pintrest

10. An Extreme Holdout That Lasted Until the End of 1974

Teruo Nakamura’s unit had been ordered to disperse into the jungle and conduct guerrilla warfare. By the time Japan surrendered in 1945, He and his remaining comrades were deep in Morotai’s jungle, cut off from communications with Japanese authorities. They thus had no means of receiving official notice that the war was over. As with other extreme Japanese holdouts, they dismissed leaflets airdropped over the jungle, advising of war’s end, as enemy propaganda. Nakamura stayed with his steadily dwindling group until 1956, when he set off on his own.

He built himself a hut inside a small field that he hacked out of the rain forest, in which he grew tubers and bananas to supplement his meager diet. Because of his aboriginal tribal upbringing, he was self-sufficient and able to survive in the wild. He stayed in the jungle, isolated and alone, until he was spotted by a pilot in 1974. That led to an Indonesian military search mission, which eventually tracked down and arrested Nakamura on December 28th, 1974. Thus ended the longest-known Japanese holdout.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Teruo Nakamura. Alchetron

9. This Holdout’s Extreme Loyalty to Japan Was Met With Extreme Ingratitude

Teruo Nakamura exhibited extreme loyalty to Japan, with a nearly three-decades-long holdout in obedience to the last orders he had received from Japanese authorities. Unfortunately, Japan repaid his extreme loyalty with extreme ingratitude. Other famous holdouts such as Hiroo Onoda, whose holdout had ended a few months earlier, were celebrated as paragons of devotion to duty. By contrast, Nakamura attracted relatively little attention in Japan. For one thing, Onoda was an ethnic Japanese citizen, while Nakamura had been a colonial soldier from what, by 1974, had become the independent nation of Taiwan.

Although he wanted to be repatriated to Japan, Nakamura had no legal right to go there. So he was sent to Taiwan instead. As a member of a colonial unit rather of the Japanese Army, Nakamura was not entitled to a pension and back pay under Japanese law. Hiroo Onoda was awarded about U$160,000 by Japan, equivalent to roughly U$850,000 in 2021 dollars. By contrast, for his three-decades-long holdout in service to Japan, Nakamura was awarded only U$227 – equivalent to U$1200 in 2021. He returned to Taiwan, where he died of lung cancer five years later, in 1979.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
The Toronto Dominion Tower, center, where Garry Hoy worked. Wikimedia

8. A Lawyer’s Weird Dedication to Proving His Office Windows’ Strength

Canadian attorney Garry Hoy (1955 – 1993) was a respected senior partner at a Toronto law firm. Before going to law school, he had gotten a degree in engineering, and the robustness of modern building techniques fascinated him. He was especially proud of the tensile strength of the windows at his office in the Toronto Dominion Center, a downtown high rise. For some reason, he wanted everyone to know about the windows’ sturdiness, and got in the habit of proving it by body checking them.

As things turned out, and as Hoy discovered on July 9th, 1993, his extreme demonstrations were ill-advised. That evening, Hoy was at a welcoming party for incoming law student summer interns, in a conference room on the high rise’s 24th floor. Wishing to impress the interns with the office windows’ strength, he sought to demonstrate that they were unbreakable by throwing himself at a glass wall. He had done so many times before, and always ended up bouncing off harmlessly. Not this time.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Garry Hoy. Factionary

7. Extreme Demonstration Leads to Extremely Fatal Result

As a Toronto Police detective described how Garry Hoy’s last demonstration of his office windows’ sturdiness came to an unfortunate end: “At this Friday night party, Mr. Hoy did it again and bounced off the glass the first time. However, he did it a second time, and this time crashed right through the middle of the glass“. He fell to his death 24 floors below. He need not have died, if he had left window tensile strength testing to the experts.

As a structural engineer told the Toronto Star: “I don’t know of any building code in the world that would allow a 160 pound man to run up against a glass window and withstand it“. Hoy’s auto-defenestration made the obscure lawyer a greater celebrity in death than he had ever been in life. His unusual demise became the basis for urban legends that were actually based on a true factual foundation. His death was featured in episodes of the TV shows Mythbusters and 1000 Ways to Die, garnered him entries in Snopes and Wikipedia, and earned him a 1996 Darwin Award.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Mongols battling Rus. Ancient Origins

6. Extreme Victory Celebrations, Mongol Style

After Genghis Khan crushed the Khwarezmian Empire in 1223, he sent a Mongol expedition of about 20,000 men to raid into the Caucuses and southern Russia. Led by generals Subutai and Jebe, the force defeated all in its path, including the Cumans, allies of the Kievan Rus. The Rus came to the Cumans’ aid, and a vast army set out after the raiders. The Mongols retreated, and their foes followed. For nine days, Subutai and Jebe led their pursuers on a merry chase across the Steppe.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Mongols feasting atop live captives. Pintrest

As the Cumans and Rus rushed headlong after the seemingly scared Mongols, their army was transformed from a compact body and into a collection of separated units. Then suddenly, on the ninth day of the pursuit, the “fleeing” Mongols suddenly turned on their by-then strung out enemies at the banks of the Kalka River. In the ensuing battle, fought on May 31st, 1223, the Mongols annihilated their erstwhile pursuers. Things went from bad to worse for the captured enemy commanders, when the Mongols opted for an extreme victory celebration: by dining atop their captives.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Mongols dining atop the live bodies of defeated enemy commanders after the Battle of the Kalka River, by Richard Hook. Quora

5. The Tradition of Dining Over Defeated Foes

The Mongols enjoyed making examples out of vanquished foes. After their victory at the Battle of Kalka River, captured enemy commanders were laid on the ground, then a huge board was laid over their bodies. The victors then sat over the board to eat, drink, and celebrate their triumph, while slowly crushing and suffocating the defeated men beneath to death. However, the Mongols’ feasting over the bodies of defeated commanders was not the first time that vanquished leaders had faced such a fate.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Al Saffah getting acknowledged as the first Abbasid Caliph. Wikimedia

Such ghoulish celebrations seem to have been pioneered by the first Abbasid Caliph Abul Abbas (722 – 754), nicknamed Al Saffah (“Spiller of Blood” – a well earned nickname). He initiated a revolt against the Ummayad Dynasty of Caliphs, and crushed them in a climactic battle in 750. He then tracked down and killed as many members of the defeated dynasty as he could. In 751, Al Saffah declared an amnesty, and 80 surviving Ummayad princes emerged from hiding to receive their pardons at a banquet. He had them seized, stabbed, covered their quivering bodies with leather rugs, and bade the other guests to sit down and dine atop them.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
The US and USSR accumulated a massive pile of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Wikimedia

4. The Extreme Saber Rattling of the Cold War

The Cold War might have been the most dangerous stretch in the history of humanity, as two superpowers with enough nukes between them to exterminate mankind many times neared the brink more than once. When not fighting each other through proxies, the US and USSR often engaged in macho threat displays, like angry dogs growling at each other, or tomcats engaged in a hissing match. Some of the threat displays were subtle, while others were as subtle as a punch to the face.

The machismo got weird at times. As in extreme levels of weird. As in nuking the Moon weird – something that the United States considered doing in the 1950s. In the early Cold War years, despite the Red Scare and anticommunist hysteria, most Americans felt safe at home from foreign attack. Even after the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb in 1949, few doubted America’s nuclear superiority. Nor did we doubt the superiority of the US Air Force and its bombers’ ability to nuke Russia, while its fighters kept Russian bombers from nuking us back. That changed in the blink of an eye.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Sputnik 1. International Association of Astronomical Artists

3. The Small Satellite That Shattered America’s Sense of Invulnerability, and Stirred Up a Hornets’ Nest of Crazy

In 1957, Americans’ sense of security at home was shattered when the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite. That terrified America. Sputnik itself was harmless, but Soviet rockets powerful enough to launch it into space were powerful enough to launch atomic weapons at the US. America’s sense of invulnerability evaporated. To restore national confidence, many ideas were bounced back and forth, quite a few of them extreme and weird. However, few of them were as extreme or as weird as the idea of nuking the Moon.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
A Soviet R-7 rocket of the type that launched Sputnik into space – and that could have launched a nuclear warhead at the US. Universe Today

At the time, America’s space program was on the ropes, while the Soviets scooped us by successfully launching satellites – and demonstrating the power of their rockets. So the Eisenhower administration came up with a secret project, “A Study of Lunar Research Flights”. The project’s innocuous title masked its true purpose: detonating a nuke on the Moon. The former Armour Research Foundation, now part of the Illinois Institute of Technology, was tasked with the research. Among the researchers was a then-young graduate student, Carl Sagan, who would go on to become a global celebrity for popularizing science and astronomy on TV.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Mr. Moon would not have liked getting nuked. Sputnik News

2. The Mild Mannered Carl Sagan Once Researched Nuking the Moon

A young Carl Sagan contributed to the Moon-nuking project with research and calculations. He focused mostly on the expected behavior of the dust and gas caused by a nuclear detonation on the lunar surface. As the project envisioned, an American missile carrying a nuclear bomb would launch from Earth, travel 238,000 miles to the Moon, and detonate upon impact. As an official involved in the project recounted decades later: “Now it seems ridiculous and unthinkable. But things were remarkably tense then“.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Carl Sagan. Comunidade Cultura e Arte

The Eisenhower administration hoped that seeing the nuclear flash on the Moon from Earth would restore American confidence after the launch of Sputnik. Simultaneously, it would intimidate the Soviets by demonstrating that the US had an effective nuclear deterrent. The plan could have been carried out by 1959 when the US Air Force began deploying ICBMs. However, the weird project was abandoned because of the risk to people on Earth in case of failure, and because scientists raised concerns about contaminating the Moon with radiation.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anthony Eden, when they were still on speaking terms. Imgur

1. The Extreme British Plan to Punish a Troublesome Egyptian Ruler by Blocking the Nile

Egypt was a British client state and protectorate from 1882 to 1952, and Britain-based troops there to protect her interests. Most important of those interests was safeguarding the Suez Canal, of which the British government was a majority shareholder. Then in 1952, nationalist Egyptian officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew Egypt’s pro-British king. The new government demanded that British troops leave Egypt, and in 1956, nationalized the Suez Canal. Nasser infuriated British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who was determined to put the Egyptian upstart in his place. So secret plans were drawn for an extreme solution: cut off the Nile’s flow of water.

CBS Funded Invasions to Televise and Other Extreme Lengths in History
The Owen Falls Dam in Uganda. Pintrest

Britain controlled Uganda, where the Owen Falls Dam lay astride the White Nile, a main source of the river flowing into Egypt. The idea was cut off the flow in Uganda, thus reducing the Nile’s water volume by seven eighths by the time it reached Egypt. The plan was ultimately rejected because it would deprive other countries between Uganda and Egypt of water, would take too long, and would produce a PR nightmare. Instead, Eden opted for a direct military intervention. The result was the 1956 Suez Crisis, which ended with Britain forced into a humiliating climb down, and the wrecking of Anthony Eden’s political career.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Ceilan, Cynthia – Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed (2007)

Cracked – 6 Times the News Went Totally Overboard Chasing a Story

Daily Sabah, August 6th, 2015 – The History of Fratricide in the Ottoman Empire

Encyclopedia Britannica – Al Hakim, Fatimid Caliph

Gabriel, Richard – Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan’s Greatest General (2004)

Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe III: From the Rise of Arabia to the Renaissance (2002)

Guardian, The, May 14th, 2000 – US Planned One Big Nuclear Blast for Mankind

Guardian, The, December 1st, 2006 – Lawyers Warned Eden That Suez Invasion Was Illegal

How Stuff Works – Japanese Holdouts

Los Angeles Times, May 18th, 2000 – US Weighed A-Blast on Moon in 1950s

Mason, Phil – Hitler’s Secret Jewish Psychic and Other Strange and Obscure History (2014)

Mike Dash History – Final Straggler: The Japanese Soldier Who Outlasted Hiroo Onoda

Motherboard, April 25th, 2013 – The Soviet Scientist Who Dreamed of Melting the Arctic With a 55 Mile Dam

National Archives, UK – Operation Unthinkable

Raphael, Chad – Investigated Reporting: Muckrakers, Regulators, and the Struggle Over Television Documentary (2005)

Smithsonian Magazine, September 4th, 2018 – When the US Government Tried to Make it Rain by Exploding Dynamite in the Sky

Snopes – Did a Man Die Demonstrating a Window’s Strength?

Stewart, Desmond – Great Cairo: Mother of the World (1981)

Wikipedia – Inland Customs Line

Williams, John Alden, ed. – The History of Al-Tabari, Volume XXVII: The Abbasid Revolution, AD 743-750 (1985)

Yorkshire Post, November 30th, 2006 – Britain Hatched Plot to Cut Off River Nile Amid Crisis Over Suez