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by Alex Hanton
We all know that our governments are up to some nefarious, secret shenanigans. After all, what’s the point of even having power if you don’t get to visit Roswell and take a flying saucer out for a joyride?
But not every shady endeavor is as solid as the time the US hired the Muppets to fake the moon landing. Over the years, the world’s most elite spies and officials have come up with plans so divorced from reality that you can’t help but ask, “Wait, seriously?”
Driving Hitler Crazy By Bombing Him With Pornography
As America’s World War II spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services was the drunker, crazier predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the agency was only set up in 1942, it was basically run by enthusiastic amateurs who quickly became known for their wacky schemes. The “best” of which was their plot to drive Hitler insane by bombing his headquarters with pornography.
The plan was hatched by the OSS research department, known as the Choirboys (as opposed to the Cowboys, who carried out field operations). The Choirboys had developed an extensive psychological profile of Hitler and concluded that he was, like—either a complete prude or a sex-crazed maniac hungry for depravity. Either way, they figured that sudden, unexpected exposure to some steamy porno might push him into a complete breakdown.
“What, exactly, is this air-dropped affront to human decency?”
Look, we’re not saying it was a good plan, but the duck-brained insane-o-nauts at the OSS went with it. Researchers were tasked with assembling a veritable pornucopia of only the most hardcore German erotica. Which is probably not what they had in mind when they signed up to join America’s elite spy agency. But let’s hope they had a good cover story in place for questions from future generations like, “Grandpa, what did you do in the war?”
With their mountain of smut assembled, the Choirboys faced the problem of how to get it to Hitler. Since this was before internet spam, they thought the best option would be to drop it on his fortified headquarters from a plane. So an Air Force colonel was summoned to a top-secret meeting and listened in mounting horror as the porn-bomb plot was explained. The guy reportedly stormed out of the meeting shouting that they were complete lunatics to want to risk pilots on such nonsense. Suitably embarrassed, the Choirboys (who really should have been nicknamed the Hard Corps) canceled the plan.
Crippling The Nazi War Machine With Explosive Diarrhea
Late in World War II, British intelligence officials approached scientists with an urgent request. They wanted to develop a secret formula, a powerful new serum that could help win the war for the Allies. Unfortunately, the plan did not involve a sci-fi potion that would turn some random individual into Captain Britain. Instead, it would do something even ... better? Basically it made everyone crap their pants uncontrollably.
The British were aware that the German people were increasingly reluctant to support the Nazi war effort. Not so much because of the whole Nazi thing, but because the war was clearly lost, and nobody likes being shot at by the Red Army for no reason. But the Nazi leadership was determined to fight to the end, and they would execute any civilian who tried to avoid conscription or evacuation away from the approaching Allies. The German public were definitely starting to suspect that those Nazis were real jerks.
What?! No way.
That’s where the diarrhea came in. A number of Germans sought to fake illness to get out of fighting or being executed. And British intelligence decided to give them a helping hand by developing a powerful laxative that would leave anyone clearly incapable of dangerous war service, or any work that required leaving the latrine for more than two minutes. They turned to a substance called carbachol, “one gram of which could cause diarrhea of epic proportions among 200 people.”
The plan was to airdrop carbachol packets over Germany, along with pamphlets explaining “how diarrhea will help ... avoid evacuation, call-up, factory work, fighting or any other unattractive assignment.” The plan was dubbed Evacuation Against Evacuation, which, come on. But the war ended before it could be deployed, so thankfully, none of us ever had to read about it.
Well, until now.
North Koreans Hacked Games For Money For Their Government
It’s no secret that North Korea’s repressive government has some serious money problems, since turning your country into an international pariah state has a pretty negative effect on tax income. As a result, the dictatorship has resorted to some desperate schemes to earn hard currency. With their overseas restaurant chain not quite cutting it anymore, the government recently turned to a sure-fire money-maker: playing video games.
No, Kim Jong-Un isn’t becoming a Twitch streamer, because he would definitely be terrible at it. Or great at it, depending on your opinion of Twitch. Instead, North Korea has been deploying teams of hackers to collect virtual items in popular online games, then auction them off on South Korean gaming forums. Basically, they’d hack into the game servers and use the information gained to build automated programs that collected items without the need for pesky human involvement. They had warehouses full of unmanned computers playing video games and racking up valuable online points.
Or maybe child labor. Or both. Hey, it’s North Korea, so who knows?
Grinding for Juche is a great band name, but a pretty pathetic economic strategy, and the actual details are even worse. The programmers, who trained at North Korea’s top hacker academy, were based in China and required to send at least $500 per month back home, which sounds like less than the average subway panhandler. Five hundred bucks a month won’t even rent you a room in a major world city, and it’s definitely not going to fund a nuclear program. Although admittedly, it was North Korea’s only farming initiative that didn’t accidentally start a famine.
The existence of the game-hacking program was exposed in 2011, when South Korea arrested five local collaborators. Since it was quite successful by North Korea’s low, low standards, something exactly like it could still be ongoing. So if you’re gaming online and another player is acting oddly, don’t worry about it; they’re probably just a computer, blankly collecting swamp rat pelts to fund the triumph of international communism.
America Plotted A Fake Apocalypse To Get Cubans To Turn On Castro
Back in the 1960s, the Kennedy administration was determined to get rid of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The CIA famously made numerous attempts to assassinate him, each more ludicrous than the last. When your best plan to kill someone is planting an exploding conch shell and hoping they pick it up while scuba diving, maybe it’s time to admit you’re not cut out for the whole “professional assassin” thing. With the CIA floundering, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy realized that discrediting communism in Cuba would require thinking outside the box. So he turned to America’s craziest maniac: General Edward Lansdale.
Lansdale was a glowing-eyed loon who had made a name for himself with extremely creative counter-insurgency tactics in Southeast Asia. And when we say “creative,” we mean “absolute lunacy.” His strategy for dealing with communist insurgents in the Philippines involved faking a vampire attack. He actually abducted a rebel soldier, drained him of blood, and left his corpse lying in the jungle with two puncture holes in his neck. It was supposed to frighten the other insurgents ... which it did.
In 1961, Lansdale was asked to bring his unusual brand of problem-solving to the Cuba operation. He quickly came up with an astonishing 33 plans to undermine the Cuban government, every one of which sounded like something a man in a tin-foil hat would scream at you on the bus. A highlight was his suggestion to flood the country with cut-price marijuana, presumably to foment the most mellow revolution in history. But his personal favorite was a very reasonable plan to stage the end of the world.
Are you sure this is going to work?
Lansdale wanted to run a propaganda campaign suggesting that the Second Coming of Jesus was at hand and that He was pissed at the godless commies. With religious Cubans in an uproar over the approach of Armageddon, a secret US submarine would surface off the coast of Havana and fire phosphorescent star shells, signaling the coming of Christ, with the hopes that the whole charade would cause the panicked residents to riot and get rid of Castro before the Old Testament God showed up.
The plan was dubbed “elimination by illumination,” because of course it was. But that doesn’t disguise the fact that this plan was objectively terrible. It was inexplicably given serious consideration, but ultimately never implemented, and the US went back to trying to make Castro’s beard fall out with poison.
The US Army Pretended To Be Ghosts In Vietnam
Before his work on Cuba, Ed Lansdale spent years running propaganda operations in Vietnam and his influence can clearly be seen in the operation dubbed “Wandering Soul,” which saw the US Army pretend to be ghosts in the hope of frightening the Viet Cong, which you may recognize as the exact same strategy of every Scooby Doo villain trying to scare away those meddling kids.
Wandering Soul was based on an old Vietnamese folk belief, which held that the soul of somebody buried far from home would be doomed to wander the Earth, suffering endlessly but never finding rest. When the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion heard about the myth, they immediately decided to weaponize it. The Battalion’s engineers (sadly the term “imagineers” had yet to be invented) spent several weeks recording every spooky sound they could find, before editing them together into a genuinely terrifying tape.
Aside from the eerie background noise, the tape features the ghost of a Viet Cong guerrilla shrieking a warning about his terrible life choices. Here’s some sample dialogue:
“My friends, I come back to let you know that I am dead ... I am dead. It’s Hell ... just Hell. It was a senseless death. How senseless ... how senseless. But when I realized the truth, it was too late ... too late. Friends ... while you are still alive ... there is still a chance that you can be reunited with your loved ones. Do you hear what I say? Go home ... Go home friends. Hurry ... If not, you will end up like me. Go home my friends before it is too late. Go home! ... Go home friends!”
Seriously, what did we just listen to?
It’s subtle, but if you read between the lines, you might detect that the tape wants the listener to go home. The plan was to play it from the trees and convince frightened communist guerrillas to desert. There’s not much evidence that it actually worked, since the Vietnamese weren’t from the stone age and were aware of recorded sound. An Army PsyOps newsletter actually admitted that it wasn’t convincing anyone, but insisted that it would at least “get a Communist soldier to think about where his soul would rest.”
Meanwhile the helicopter pilots who were supposed to play the tape from the air found that it just made the Viet Cong start shooting at them. So Wandering Soul didn’t really work, but it was probably still quite freaky to hear the ghostly howls echoing through the forest while you felt the constant danger of being horribly murdered.
Or it was just annoying. Yeah, we assume it was probably that one.
Like this article? Check out “Hilariously Stupid Weapons Someone Thought Would Actually Work In Battle” and “5 Laughably Stupid (But Real) Details From Famous Historical Moments”.