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Did you know one man killed 25 German soldiers and captured 132 more during World War I?

Marcos Hernandez Truman by David McCullough

In October 1918, Alvin York was part of a group of seventeen soldiers sent to attack a post of German machine guns. Six of the men were killed and three more wounded after they captured a group of German soldiers, leaving York as the highest ranking officer of the remaining eight men. The seven soldiers beneath him took cover, guarding the prisoners and tending to the wounded, while York advanced on the German machine guns alone. 

With his M1917 Enfield Rifle Sergeant York picked off 18 German soldiers while the machine guns fired on his position. When the remaining Germans realized there was only one man to kill six of them charged with bayonets. At this point York had run out of ammo for his rifle so he drew his pistol and shot all six before they could reach him. 

During the shooting the German First Lieutenant in charge of the position was trying to shoot York with his pistol but miraculously missed with every shot. Seeing the losses he had incurred he then offered to surrender. 

When York and his seven men returned from the engagement they brought with them 132 captured German soldiers.

Did you know members of the U.S. 77th Division, surrounded by German troops during World War I, were saved from friendly fire by a carrier pigeon?

Marcos Hernandez Truman by David McCullough

In October 1918, in the Argonne Forest of France, the U.S. 77th division attacked the German line under the belief they had support on both their left and right flanks. In reality both their sides were left exposed after the German forces stopped the progress of these support units. Nine companies of the 77th, approximately 554 men, continued to advacnce well past their line and found themselves surrounded by German forces. These men have come to be known as the “Lost Battalion.”

In order to communicate with the rest of the allied forces the leader of the men sent out messengers but after these men were all lost the only effective means of communication was to use carrier pigeons. One of the pigeons sent out the wrong location of their group and as a result the men who were trapped behind enemy lines were subjected to friendly fire. It was only after another carrier pigeon was sent out with the correct coordinates that the lost battalion was saved.

In the end only 194 of the original 554 men were rescued but their presence, and the fact that they stood their ground under intense fighting, allowed for the Allied forces to break through the German lines.

Did you know NASA used a communication system known as the PCM to determine the makeup of astronaut teams?

Marcos Hernandez Brendan Kane, Finding Mastery Podcast

The Process Communication Model (PCM) was developed by the psychologist Dr. Taibi Kahler in 1972. The model states that each and every person has six types of personality: Thinker, Persister, Harmoniser, Rebel, Imaginer, and Promoter. The key to this model is that people possess each of these traits in varying amounts, the combination of which drives their behaviors and reactions to distress. An individual will have one dominant personality type but it is possible to go through phases of time when another is the primary.

NASA, in an attempt to bring together teams of astronauts who would be able to work in harmony in close quarters, determined which personality type their candidate’s would display while under stress and used this information to create compatible teams. They tended to prefer Persisters and Thinkers and stayed away from playfulness (Rebel), shyness (Dreamer), persuasiveness (Promoter), and sensitivity (Reactor).

Bill Clinton is said to have the PCM in order to improve the quality of his communication and to increase his ability to negotiate.

Did you know a student of Socrates developed tactics of retreat so effective he was able to lead an army two thousand miles through hostile territory?

Marcos Hernandez The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

Xenophon was born in 430 BC in Athens, Greece, and is known for leading a two thousand mile retreat, roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Chicago.

As a member of the Ten Thousand, a mercenary force, Xenophon joined the Persian prince Cyrus in a campaign to take the Persian throne from Cyrus’s older brother. The Ten Thousand met the Persian king’s army and Cyrus was killed in battle. The remaing leaders of the Ten Thousand were murdered at a peace conference with the Persians and the mercenaries elected Xenophon as one of their new leaders. They were deep in hositle territory and needed to get back to Greece.

When his army was pinned between a large Persian force and a wide river, he ordered all livestock be slaughtered, stuffed with hay, sewn together, and covered with dirt. His men were able to cross safely to the other side.

When his men faced the Carduchians in Southeastern Turkey, the opposing force was entrenched in a narrow mountain pass. He had 8,000 of his men feint at the enemy from the front while he sent 2,000 through another pass that was revealed to him by a prisoner. When the smaller force blew trumpets from flank of the Carduchians, the main force advanced and were able to push the enemy from their position

His men needed supplies and they targeted a castle known to be well-stocked. They would appear on the road, force the defenders of the castle to fire, and dodge the incoing projectiles. This continued until the defenders exhausted their ammunition and the Ten Thousand could storm the castle.

Xenophon is said to be the greatest Greek General before Alexander the Great. The two share an interesting similarity in that both men were tutored by famous Greek philosophers, Xenophon by Socrates and Alexander by Aristotle. In the lineage of Greek philosphy, Socrates taught Plato and Plato taught Aristotle.

Did you know Wisconsin is home to an architectural oddity called “The House on the Rock?”

Marcos Hernandez Big Think Podcast, Michelle Thaller

The House on the Rock was designed as a tourist attraction by Alex Jordan and was first opened to the public in 1959. Built atop a column of rock close to the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate, rumor has it that Alex Jordan began to build the House on the Rock after Wright said he wouldn’t hire Jordan to design a “chicken coop” for him.

“House” is bit of a misnomer because the attraction is more of a complex. Each room is distinct and houses various collections. Visitors are led along a set path and encounter rooms filled with toys, automated musical instruments, and the “world’s largest indoor carousel.” There’s a Wildlife Room, an Oriental Art Room, and an Organ Room.

The “Infinity Room” opened in 1985. This room juts out from the rock the rest of the building sits upon into open air over 200ft above ground.

Hard to believe such a strange complex exists in Wisconsin of all places but if given the opportunity it seems to be a place necessary to experience, even if just for the stories.

Did you know an Italian noblewoman is rumored to have flashed her genitals when the lives of her children were threatened by a rival family?

Marcos Hernandez The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

The incident occurred after the Orsi family killed Caterina Sforza’s husband and took her family as prisoners in the Italian city of Forlí, of which her husband was Count and Caterina was Countess.

One of the city’s fortresses refused to submit to the attackers and Sforza left her children with the captors and entered the fortress in what she claimed was an attempt to convince the last holdouts to surrender. Once inside, she stood on the fort’s walls and began to curse at the attackers. When they threatened to kill her children she exposed her genitals and claimed that she had what she needed to make more! An alternative version of the events are that Sforza claimed to be pregnant which would make her unborn child the rightful heir to the city.

The attackers were so shocked they didn’t touch the children, an action Sforza counted on. All she had to do was wait inside the fortress until reinforcements arrived and rescued the Countess and her entire family.

Did you know an American psychiatrist discovered the power of nonverbal communication when he was paralyzed?

Marcos Hernandez The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

In 1918 doctors believed Milton Erickson would die at the age of 17 after he was so severely paralyzed from polio that he couldn’t move. Once it became clear he would survive it fell upon the shoulders of his family to nurse him back to health while he was bedridden and unable to speak. During this time he began to focus on his sister’s body language and tone of voice and found another language hidden beneath their words.

He realized that while his sister’s performed their nursing duties they were also repulsed by his semi-vegetative state.

He overheard one sister offer another sister an apple only because it was the right thing to do, not because she wanted to share.

He would watch them say “yes” and mean “no,” eventually tuning his skills to such a degree that the true intentions of those around him were obvious regardless of what was said.

Erickson was paralyzed until he learned to focus on the memories of how his body used to move after watching one of his younger sisters (still a baby) graduate from crawling to standing up. Once he regained his motor control he went on to medical school, studied psychology, and became a psychiatrist where his self-education in the power of the unconscious mind led him to develop many unconventional but effective approaches to psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.

Did you know that an Antarctic explorer lost his boat when it go trapped in ice?

Marcos Hernandez The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

Ernest Shackleton was a British explorer who’s known for exploring Antarctica. His third expedition began in 1914 and was intended to be the first time a group of men crossed the Antarctic continent, through the south pole, on foot. Their plans included two ships, one called the Endurancewhich carried Shackleton and the explorers who were to trek across land, and a second called the Aurora, which would lay supply depots down for the traveling men in advance of their arrival.

Soon after the Endurancebegan to navigate the southern seas, the boat got lodged in ice. The crew was forced to wait nine months for spring to arrive and thaw the ice but when the ice began to melt the changing application of force caused the ship’s hull to crack. Water began to enter the ship and within a month the ship had sunk. Five months after the ship sank below the water’s surface the large block of ice the stranded party were camped on split into two and the men were forced to navigate to nearby Elephant Island.

Once on Elephant Island Shackleton knew there was little chance of rescue. The only way his men would survive would be for him to take one of the lifeboats on a month long journey to the whaling stations on South Georgia Island. They made the journey to land in less than a month but the whaling stations were on the other side of the island. Instead of risking more time on the water, Shackleton and two other men traveled over dangerous mountain terrain for 36 hours and when they got to the whaling station were able to rescue the rest of the expedition still stranded on Elephant Island.

Did you know that Athens lost to Sparta in the first phase of the Peloponnesian War because of a plague?

Marcos Hernandez The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

The Peloponnesian War began when Sparta made demands which Athens had no intentions of executing, fearing initial concessions would lead to further demands. In response, Athens made its own demands, which Sparta rejected. The nature of demands isn’t important, what is important is the two sides chose to go to war.

Pericles, one of the most respected members of Athenian society, convinced the rest of his city-state to abandon the outlying territories. His plan required all of Athens’s citizens take refuge behind the city’s walls and not engage the Spartans on land. There was no denying the Spartan’s strength on land but the Athenians were masters of the sea. His plan was to take refuge in the city, resupply and feed the citizens through the ports, and continue foreign trade to support the people. The though was that if they could hold out long enough the Spartans would be unable to continue their attack and Athens would emerge without having lost unnecessary lives.

The plan proposed by Pericles was followed until a plague broke out in the packed city within a few years. With so many people in such close quarters the plague spread like wildfire and eventually killed over thirty thousand Athenians, including Pericles.

When Pericles died so did the more conservative approach to the war with Sparta. Athens began to go on the offensive and by the end of the war (almost thirty years later) Athens went from being the most powerful of the Greek city-states to being under Spartan rule.

Did you know the magical term “Hocus Pocus” can trace its origins to the Catholic Church?

Marcos Hernandez 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Traditional Catholic Mass includes the rite of communion, a practice when worshippers consume the metaphorical body and blood of Jesus Christ. The priest blesses bread and wine which, according to the ritual, turns the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood.

All masses were conducted in Latin before Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation in 1517. In Latin, the phrase which transforms the bread into the body is “hoc est corpus.” Translation: this is the body. A bastardization of this phrase by non-Latin speaking worshippers turned into the phrase “hocus pocus” known today.