Insane Times Miscommunication Had Awful Consequences

Much like the telephone game, all it takes is one person to mess things up. Next thing you know, explosives are going off and people are tearing each other apart without even fully understanding why. It’s only after the dust settles that both parties realize the error of their ways and the price that came with it. Be it due to a language barrier or high-running emotions, here are some of the most insane times that miscommunication led to awful consequences.

1. The Atomic Bomb

A simple error in translation—and maybe a bruised ego—led to the death of some 150,000 to 250,000 Japanese citizens. It all began when President Truman asked Japan if they would surrender, with their response being “mokusatsu.” This meant “we withhold comment – pending discussion,” but was instead mistranslated as “we are treating your message with contempt.” Naturally everyone went into a frenzy and the media’s reckless reporting didn’t help one bit either. And you already know how this ended—with the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” in Japan. 

2. Hemophilia

Instead of hundreds of thousands of people losing their lives, the victim in this case was just one person, a Norwegian student in Copenhagen, Denmark. After being wounded during a bar fight, the student made his way to the emergency room for treatment. In his case, he needed more than just stitches, but also treatment for his hemophilia, a condition that affects his body’s blood clotting ability. He tried relaying this crucial information to the doctor who instead misheard “homofil” meaning gay. The doctor brushed this off and sent him home;  the poor student was eventually found deceased —two days later.

3. War of the Stray Dog

Although the Second Balkan War finally came to an end in 1913, the Greeks and Bulgarians were still at each other’s throats. With all that hate and aggression building up, it was hardly a surprise when the two found themselves in yet another war, this time in 1925. All because a Greek soldier was shot after he attempted to retrieve his dog after it crossed the Bulgarian border. The Greeks instantly retaliated and continued to do so until the League of Nations stepped in. But by then it was too late as some 50 Bulgarians had already lost their lives.

4. Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

A simple wrong turn led to the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, which snowballed into, you guessed it, World War I. It all began when the Archduke, while attending a motorcade in Bosnia, survived an assassination attempt by The Black Hand, a secret Serbian terrorist society. The grenade, which was meant for him, hit the wrong car. A few days later, on his way to visit one of the victims, Ferdinand’s driver, who was unfamiliar with the roads, turned onto the wrong street. And they just so happened to stumble across a Black Hand member who wasted no time completing the job.

5. Battle of Antietam

On one hand, this simple error led to one of the deadliest battles in American history, with over 22,000 casualties. On the other, it led to the Emancipation Proclamation that finally put an end to slavery. And it was by sheer luck that somehow, General Robert E. Lee’s battle plans were left behind their campsite, only to be found by an enemy Union soldier who passed it up to his top commander, George McClellan. Having the upper hand, the Union army snuck up on the Confederates, devastating their army.

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