Some of History's Most Unexpected Plot Twists | History
Some of History’s Most Unexpected Plot Twists

Some of History’s Most Unexpected Plot Twists

Khalid Elhassan - February 22, 2021

Some of History’s Most Unexpected Plot Twists
Gavrilo Princip. Sarajevo Times

2. The Man Who Started World War I Lived Until Its Final Year

Gavrilo Princip (1894 – 1918) was a Serb from Bosnia-Herzegovina, then a territory ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a teenager, he was radicalized by Serbian nationalists who called for a country that unified all southern Slavs (“Yugoslavia”). So he joined an organization dedicated to freeing Slavs from Austria-Hungary’s control. Violent activism got him expelled from school in 1912, so he walked 170 miles to the Serbian capital, Belgrade, to become a guerrilla and raid across the border into Austro-Hungarian territory.

Some of History’s Most Unexpected Plot Twists
Gavrilo Princip, first row, center, and other members of his terrorist group in court, as they stand trial in December, 1914, for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Historical Archive of Sarajevo

He was soon recruited by the Serbian Black Hand. They equipped and trained Princep and other terrorists, then sent them to assassinate Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June, 1914. Princip fired the fatal shots, then swallowed a cyanide pill immediately after. However, it had expired, and he was captured. He was tried and convicted, but was only nineteen years old at the time – twenty-seven days short of the twenty-year-old minimum age under Austro-Hungarian law for the death penalty. So he received the maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. Gavrilo Princip contracted tuberculosis in prison and died on April 28, 1918, three years and ten months after sparking World War I.

Some of History’s Most Unexpected Plot Twists
Serbian Black Hand leader Dragutin Dimitrijevic, AKA Apis. Zvornik Danas

1. The End of History’s Most Impactful Terrorist Group

The Serbian Black Hand’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand kicked off a global war in which over 70 million men were mobilized, and 10 million were killed. Four empires vanished, and the global center of power shifted from the Old World to the New. A staid age of aristocracy and traditional forms of government came to an end. It was replaced by a new fervent and fast-paced era of democracies, juxtaposed with radical ideologies and totalitarianism. The Black Hand’s bullets in Sarajevo had irrevocably changed the world.

Some of History’s Most Unexpected Plot Twists
German soldiers marching through Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, during WWI. Pintrest

Serbia paid a high price. It stood off an initial Austrian onslaught, but in 1915 the Germans joined and helped the Austrians overrun Serbia. One-fifth of Serbia’s population perished during the war – the highest casualty percentage suffered by any country in World War I. Serbia’s prime minister finally had enough of the Black Hand, which had grown too powerful and too meddlesome. In 1917, its leaders, including Apis, were arrested and tried on trumped-up charges for conspiracy to murder the Prince Regent. They were convicted, sentenced to death, and executed, and the group was outlawed.

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

All That’s Interesting – Gavrilo Princip: The Serbian Nationalist Who Assassinated Franz Ferdinand

Antietam on the Web – Special Order 191: Perhaps the Greatest ‘What If’ of American Military History

Burns, Patrick – American Working Terriers (2006)

Catton, Bruce – The Civil War, Three Volumes in One (1984)

Cracked – When Washington Called a Ceasefire Over a Dog

Encyclopedia Britannica – Battle of Trenton

Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia – Trenton and Princeton Campaign (Washington’s Crossing)

Glantz, David – Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War (1998)

Glantz, David – When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler (1995)

Haldeen, Braddy – The Cock of the Walk: Qui-qui-ri-qui! The Legend of Pancho Villa (1955)

History Extra, November 1st, 2013 – Where the Pulverized Bones of Soldiers and Horses Who Died at the Battle of Waterloo Sold as Soil Fertilizer?

Inc. – What Tootsie Rolls and the Korean War Can Teach Us About Innovation on Veterans Day

Mount Vernon – Soldier, Statesman, Dog Lover: George Washington‘s Pups

Parshall, Jonathan, and Tully, Anthony – Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway (2005)

We Are the Mighty – Marines Were Once Saved by Candy From the Sky

Wikipedia – Siege of Detroit

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