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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.
Categories: Animals, Military
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 16, 2009
Comments (4)
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.

Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 29, 2008
Comments (9)
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.
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 04, 2008
Comments (37)
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)
Categories: History, Military
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 02, 2008
Comments (2)
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)
Categories: Animals, Gross, Military, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 04, 2008
Comments (40)
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!"
Categories: Military, Pranks, Radio
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 15, 2008
Comments (9)
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.
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 11, 2008
Comments (4)
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.

Categories: Military, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 17, 2007
Comments (8)
image Bullet Proof Baby is an online store that claims to sell "all sorts of light weight heavily tested military standard body armor for babys and toddlers." For instance, it offers bullet-proof strollers, bullet-proof cribs, infants 'my first' gas mask, baby bomb blankets, toddler tasers, baby riot helmets, and ultra light kiddie riot shields. Here's the description for the baby flak jacket.
Smart multi-role protection for your baby in a style that is duplicated throughout the world. Velcro adjustable shoulders and side closures which allow a smooth comfortable fit for babies of any age. Bullet proof baby armor will protect your child from Ballistics, Knife, Spike, Syringe & Slash as well as bomb blasts to 400 m/s.

It's all a thinly disguised promotional site for the new Clive Owen movie, Shoot 'Em Up, as evidenced by the numerous ads for the movie throughout the site. If you actually try to order anything, you discover that it's all out of stock.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (3)
Posters for Camp Okutta have recently been appearing in various Canadian cities. Camp Okutta is described as an adventure camp for kids. But in addition to normal activities such as hiking and games, kids also get a summer of "throwing grenades, shooting AK-47 assault rifles, and receiving minefield training — all for children aged eight through 12."

Some people have been so outraged by the signs that they've ripped them down. Sarah Heywood is one of these people. She told CBC News that, "I immediately thought, wow, this is real, this is happening, people are now actually providing these kinds of services and opportunities for people who actually allow their children to go and experience something like that here in Canada."

Actually, the posters are a marketing hoax designed by War Child Canada. The intention is to raise awareness about camps around the world training child soldiers.

Below is a video ad, posted on YouTube, for Camp Okutta. Also check out Camp Okutta's website.

This reminds me of an earlier (and still ongoing) ad campaign in a similar vein: The Coalition to Promote the Use of Child Soldiers.

Categories: Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (10)
On the heels of the "American troops eat babies" myth comes the story of the Giant, Man-eating Badgers of Basra:

Ferocious British badgers an urban myth in Iraq
Categories: Animals, Cryptozoology, Mass Delusion, Military, Urban Legends
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Sat Jul 14, 2007
Comments (7)
Among the many difficulties American troops are encountering in Iraq (I won't get all political here by listing them), one is a little bit more bizarre than others. It seems that some Iraqis believe that American soldiers carry poison-tipped bullets and eat babies. Kinda tough to win hearts and minds when you're dealing with people who think you dine on infants, I would imagine. I wondered if this story itself was a hoax until I followed the link I found and saw that it lead to Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. Army. Again, I'm not being political here, I'm just saying that I think Stars and Stripes is a more credible source for something like this than, say, Ananova. Anyway, it's a weird one for sure.

American troops eat babies?
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Hate Crimes/Terror, Mass Delusion, Military, Urban Legends
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Tue Jul 10, 2007
Comments (17)
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