In April of 1938, representatives from the USSR approached the Finnish government and expressed a concern that Nazi Germany could attempt to invade Russia, and such an attack might come through parts of Finland. The Finns replied that they were officially neutral, but any Nazi incursion on Finland’s borders would be resisted. This did not mollify the Soviets. Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf, was published thirteen years previous with specific note that the Nazis would need to invade the Soviet Union. The Red Army was determined to “advance to meet the enemy” and refused to accept promises from the smaller country. As negotiations continued, the Soviets tried to coax Finland into leasing or ceding some area to serve as a buffer to Leningrad. In November 1939, however, all negotiations ceased, and on 30 November 1939 the Soviet Red Army invaded Finland.
In the municipality of Rautjärvi near the Soviet/Finnish border, 34-year-old Simo Häyhä was a farmer and hunter leading a flagrantly unexciting life. Upon news of the hostilities, he gathered up food, plain white camouflage, and his iron-sighted SAKO M/28-30—a variant of the Soviet Mosin-Nagant rifle—and went to defend his country. Before the four-month war ended, humble Häyhä would gain infamy among the Russian invaders, and come to be known as the “White Death.”
On the morning of 15 September 1952, Captain James Robinson Risner sat in the cockpit of an F-86A Sabre and scrutinized the clear azure skies. He was leader of a flight of four Sabres tasked to escort F-84 Thunderjets to bomb the kimchi out of a North Korean chemical factory on the Yuan River. His squinty perseverance paid off when he spotted a flight of enemy jet fighters— MiG-15s—making a run for his Thunderjets. CPTN Risner’s opening salvo hit one MiG so hard it took the canopy off and sent the other 3 MiGs running, but Risner didn’t let it end there. The injured enemy took it low, flying hard and dirty along a dry riverbed to escape. Risner and his wingman gave chase, eating the dust and rocks kicked up by the MiG’s wash. Risner told “Aces in Combat”:
“He was not in very good shape, but he was a great pilot – and he was fighting like a cornered rat!
He chopped the throttle and threw his speed brakes out. I coasted up, afraid that I’d overshoot him. I did a roll over the top of him, and when I came down on the other side, I was right on his wing tip. We were both at Idle with our speed brakes out, just coasting.
He looked over at me, raised his hand, and shook his fist. I thought ‘This is like a movie. This can’t be happening!’ He had on a leather helmet and I could see the stitching in it.”
The wily chase took the trio into Chinese airspace. Low altitude and high speed conspired to keep the US pilots from seeing an airfield until they were right on top of it. The MiG pilot must have radioed ahead, however, because the field’s anti-aircraft guns were manned and firing.
The MiG darted, desperate to make a landing. Risner waited for his moment and hammered him with the last of his 50 CAL rounds. The MiG slammed into the tarmac and burst into flame. As they turned to hurry out of China and back into compliance with official US policy, the wingman, 1st Lieutenant Joe Logan, took a flak shell to the underside of his plane. The Sabre held together and stayed airborne, but her fuel tank was gutted, and her hydraulic fluid was bleeding out.
Bailing the crippled craft guaranteed Logan’s capture, but there was no hope of making it 60 miles over anti-aircraft gun infested territory to the nearest rescue detachment. Risner couldn’t desert his friend, so instead he did the only possible thing: he attempted the craziest and most daring rescue maneuver in aviation history.
Marvin Heemeyer of Granby, Colorado was a profoundly frustrated muffler repair man. In the late 1990s—after years of protests, petitions, and town meetings—it became obvious to the 52-year-old that he was entwined in a gross miscarriage of justice. His business was ruined by some shady zoning changes, and Heemeyer contended that mayor and city council were corrupt. Even as he was forced to give up his legal fight and sell his land, he hatched one last plan to secretly retool his muffler shop to serve a single malevolent purpose: to construct a machine that would allow him to exact his revenge upon those who had wronged him.
In the 1920’s the people of Europe feared the future as a dark, despairing place. Despite the loss of over five million Europeans in the Great War, the region was still plagued with the social maladies which had led to the conflict. The humans were maladjusted to the Industrial Age and the changes in labor which it spawned. To make matters worse, both scholars and soothsayers of the day postulated that world’s fluxing economies would congeal into two economic blobs: the Americas would unify into a wealthy super-state in the west, while the east colluded to become an enormous pan-Asian power. Europe would be left economically isolated, with a limited range of climates for farming and fewer resources at hand. Nowhere was the gloom thicker than in Germany where the terms of the Treaty of Versailles led to poverty and hunger for much of the population. It was in the midst of that dark time that an architect named Herman Sörgel devised a plan to preserve Europe through this daunting new worldscape.
Sörgel spent years promoting his scheme to save Europe: the construction of vast hydroelectric dams spanning the Mediterranean. The massive turbines would furnish a surplus of power, and the re-engineered sea would turn the life-hostile Sahara desert into a fertile wetland. In an era when it seemed technology could do no wrong, a considerable segment of the population supported Sörgel’s ambitious plan.
A cool breeze blew over the lush Indian forest. Jim Corbett was being hunted. The tigress that stalked him was already credited with at least sixty-four human kills, and Corbett hoped that he was targeted to be next. Jim leaned against the rocky slope of a nearby hill and lit a cigarette. The Chowgrath Tigress had already sneaked up on him once in this grove, and he tried to give her the chance to do so again. As the afternoon waned, however, Corbett decided that she was too canny to try the same trick twice.
He opted to lay one last trap for his adversary before the sunlight failed. He led a buffalo into the grove, and tied it up securely as it grazed. If the tigress took the bait she would be able to kill the animal, but would be unable to drag it off. His intent was to circle behind the nearby hill, climb to the top, and give watch to the grove below. It would be a shot of over two hundred yards, but over the years he had felled many a beast from such distances. Even if his long-range shot only managed to wound the man-eating tigress, he would at least be left with a blood-trail to track, and therefore end his months-long hunt.
He set off at a quick pace, anticipating that the tigress would observe his departure and take the opportunity to prey upon the buffalo. As he rounded the hill in a dry riverbed his pace wasn’t so hard as to shut out all distraction: in a shallow depression there rested a pair of Rock-jay eggs. As an amateur oölogist, or egg collector, Corbett could not pass up these unusual specimens. He used some moss to wrap them up, and carried the eggs delicately against his belly with his rifle crossed over his chest. He continued briskly along the sand, hoping to make it to the hilltop before the tigress finished her buffalo feast. As he squeezed past a large boulder which blocked most of the riverbed, something in his peripheral vision gave him pause: something orange and black, with a predator’s eyes, poised behind the boulder and ready to pounce. In that instant he knew he had been outmaneuvered. With his hands full of Rock-jay eggs, and his rifle hugged against his body, there wasn’t much he could do to deflect the imminent attack. He turned his step into an anti-clockwise spin, set the rifle butt against his hip, and managed to fire a single shot.
Life is a tenuous thing. Earth is just within Sol’s habitable zone, and constantly pelted with solar radiation and cosmic rays. Rocky scraps of cosmic afterbirth constantly cross Earth’s orbit, threatening to eradicate all terrestrial life. In point of fact, it is almost certain that countless Extinction-Level Events would have sterilized the surface of our plucky planet had it not been for our constant companion and benefactor; a body which unwittingly wards away many of the ills that could befall us: the moon.
Luna is unique among the observed celestial bodies; there is no other satellite closer in size and composition to its mother-planet (if one discounts the dwarf-planet Pluto), and the Earth/moon system is the only tidally locked pair. Furthermore, it also happens to be the only moon in the solar system which is circling an intelligent civilization— a factor which may not be a mere coincidence.
It has long been observed— though not scientifically— that women seem to show a vague preference for men who are already spoken for. This observation is known as the wedding ring effect, and there are numerous competing theories as to why it may be. Some suggest that the wedding ring is a cue that a man is “safe,” a passing opportunity for empty flirting; while others theorize that the female psyche sees the ring as an indication that another woman has deemed him worthy. There is also the possibility that the increase in feminine attention is purely imagined, a way for a married man to reassure himself that he’s still got “it” (or for that matter, that he ever had “it” to begin with).
It is weighty philosophical matters like these which have plagued civilization since its inception, but like so many of the great riddles, the answer may be found in a fish—in this case in a little matter called guppy syndrome.