• Weird History

Plot Holes In History That Actually Happened

Movie plot holes annoy and confuse audiences when filmmakers abandon storylines, characters suddenly gain superhuman powers, or the good guys storm in at the last minute to save the day. Occasionally, history does the same thing. While these instances aren't plot holes per se - especially since you can't edit reality like a story - real life can feature weird coincidences.

Since life always goes on - though history sometimes repeats itself - these historical plot holes are only observable after they've occurred. History consistently proves cliches: a savior appears at the last minute, underdogs come out on top, life evolves rapidly without warning, and a chain of coincidences causes a significant event. One Redditor asked other users about which parts of history serve as plot holes if seen in a movie; their answers proved the truth is often stranger than fiction.

  • Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-209-0091-11/Nägele / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

    A Single Russian Tank Held Off German Troops For An Entire Day During World War II

    From Redditor /u/bustead:

    A lone Soviet tank holding an entire German division for one day in the Battle of Raseiniai in 1941.

    What Actually Happened:

    In June 1941, as German troops advanced toward the Soviet Union in a campaign known as Operation Barbarossa, the Battle of Raseiniai erupted in Lithuania over local river crossings. Soviet KV tanks had walls too thick for average German bullets to pierce. On June 24, German troops spotted a single Soviet tank on their territory. Locals said the tank had appeared the night before; they believed it indicated the beginning of an attack, but the tank sat silently until it fired at an approaching German supply convoy.

    Though the Soviet soldiers in the tank needed supplies and treatment for injuries, they remained inside, occasionally firing at the German troops. Germany used a howitzer and an anti-aircraft turret against the Soviets, but the tank destroyed their weapons. Similarly, soldiers approached the tank at night to plant bombs, but the Soviets thwarted them with machine guns.

    The tank resisted the Germans for a full day; however, one German soldier destroyed the tank by throwing a grenade into a hole made by an anti-aircraft shell. It killed the entire tank crew. Impressed by the efforts of the Soviets, the Germans buried the bodies out of respect.

  • Photo: Aero Icarus / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    The Gimli Glider Ran Out Of Fuel Midflight, But Landed Safely On An Active Drag-Racing Strip

    From Redditor /u/SmoreOfBabylon:

    I don't know who wrote the script to the Gimli Glider, but the whole deal was just contrived as hell. Kinda like if they'd made a Speed 3, or if The Asylum ripped off Sully.

    What Actually Happened:

    The story of the Gimli Glider is reminiscent of a disaster movie with weak explanations for the problem's existence. On July 23, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143 planned to fly from Montreal to Edmonton, with an in-between stop in Ottawa. Before the Boeing 767 took off, maintenance employees discovered the defective fuel gauge, which calculates the fuel needed for a successful trip. Instead of grounding the aircraft, the crew determined the fuel math manually.

    As Canada had recently adopted the metric system, and the crew forgot to use metric measurements. Consequently, the plane ran out of fuel 41,000 feet above Ontario. Warning lights flashed and an engine halted, taking power and electricity along with it.

    Skilled at flying gliders, pilot Robert Pearson regained control of the falling plane. Aware of a Royal Canadian Air Force base in nearby Gimli, he steered the craft in its direction. Unfortunately, the base had closed and became a drag-racing strip, which hosted a go-cart race at the time. Pearson landed safely with all passengers alive.

  • Photo: Kikuchi Yoosai, Tokyo National Museum / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Typhoons Stopped Two Separate Mongol Invasions Of Japan

    From Redditor /u/Cannibal808:

    Not strictly a plot hole, but I'd probably choose the two Mongol invasions of Japan that were stopped both times by typhoons. Can't think of a more deus ex machina moment than that. And to top it off, it happened twice.

    What Actually Happened:

    Genghis Khan's grandson Kublai tried to invade Japan twice while carrying out his grandfather's legacy. According to Japanese legend, the younger Khan and his troops approached Kyushu by boat in 1274 and 1281, but typhoons prevented them from landing both times. During World War II, Emperor Hirohito retold this story as he sent pilots to crash their airplanes into enemy ships, calling them kamikaze - "divine winds" - after the legendary typhoons.

    Historians believed these two storms were mere folktales, especially since typhoons weren't typical for western Japan. They also didn't want to discount the efforts of soldiers defending their land from Khan. Scientists later tested the sediment from coastal lake bottoms, discovering metals and rocks formed into bigger rocks and excess salt.

    They speculated typhoons might have deposited this sediment there, and since carbon samples date it to around the time of Khan, the stories could be true. In the 1980s, researchers also found ancient Chinese artifacts in sunken ships, supposedly part of Khan's armada, in Imari Bay.

  • Photo: Verisimilus / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Compared To The Slow Timeline Of Earth, The Cambrian Explosion Seemed To Happen Overnight

    From Redditor /u/Sodium100mg:

    The Cambrian Explosion. We have a perfect fossil record of nothing but algae, then one day the fossil record includes fully evolved animal life.

    What Actually Happened:

    According to modern scientific theory, until about 600 million years ago, life on Earth consisted of algae, plankton, and bacteria. Fossil records indicate life began evolving around this time, creating predecessors for types of currently existing and extinct species. About 30 million years later, life quickly progressed during the Cambrian Explosion. 

    Scientists have different explanations for why life advanced rapidly - one theory credits an increase of oxygen allowing nature to thrive. It's also possible a period of extinction occurred before the explosion, creating gaps in nature filled by creatures adapting. Additionally, genetic factors - such as having increased lifespans due to adaptation - were crucial in the Cambrian Explosion. These observations derive from the fossil record, however, so certain creatures might not have left behind fossils - the explosion could have been larger than initially thought.