Even during the worst moments of human history, some people retained a semblance of humanity. From incredible displays of compassion and mercy, to showing solidarity with fellow troops at the toughest of times, these items prove that no matter how bleak things get, there is always hope.
- 168 VOTES
A Japanese Officer Defends An American Captain In Court
The sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945 by a Japanese submarine led to the death of all but 316 of the 1,195-man crew. Three hundred drowned as the ship sank, others succumbed to dehydration, and some were carried off by tiger sharks.
After the war the ship's captain, Charles McVay, was court-martialed in November 1945 for his part in the sinking. Testifying in McVay's defense was none other than the commander of the submarine that sank the Indianapolis, Mochitsura Hashimoto. McVay was acquitted but could never shake the feeling of guilt; he took his own life in 1968.
- 2121 VOTES
A Confederate Soldier Brings Water To Wounded Union Soldiers
The battle of Fredericksburg, VA was one of the largest and deadliest of the American Civil War. In December 1862, a Union army led by Ambrose Burnside attacked an entrenched Confederate force over open ground, resulting in thousands of casualties. Confederate General Robert E. Lee was sickened by the carnage and remarked to another commander:
It is well that war is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it.
Yet amid this terrible slaughter came an unlikely moment of mercy. A young Confederate soldier named Richard Kirkland gathered canteens and ventured out onto the open ground to tend the thousands of wounded soldiers of both sides. At first he was shot at, but once both sides realized the nature of his humanitarian mission, he was allowed to continue unharmed.
- 3154 VOTES
A Luftwaffe Pilot Spares The Lives Of An American Bomber Crew In 1943
The Allied bombing campaign over Germany was aimed at crippling German war production. British pilots flew nighttime raids and gave little heed to civilian casualties, while the US Army Air Forces (a separate air force was formed after the war) flew daytime missions and tried to be a little more precise in their targeting, avoiding civilian casualties.
This led to heavy losses in the skies above Germany, as flak and interceptors took down scores of bombers until the development of long-range fighters later in the war. In December 1943 it looked like bomber pilot Charles Brown and his crew were going to be another statistic. His plane was badly damaged when a German fighter piloted by Franz Stigler entered the area. Rather than finish off the bomber, Stigler showed mercy and escorted the B-17 out of German airspace.
The two men met years after the war and formed an unlikely friendship.
Robert Campbell was a British officer captured by the Germans early in World War I. While in a prisoner of war camp, he learned of his mother's critical condition and appealed to Kaiser Wilhelm II directly.
Incredibly, the emperor agreed to the request on the condition that Campbell returned to captivity after visiting his mother. More remarkable still was that Campbell did just that and spent the remainder of the conflict as a prisoner of war.
Of course, Campbell still tried to escape once he fulfilled his end of the bargain.