Being deployed in the warzone is no joke at all. You fight natural enemies with real guns and grenades. All moves must be planned and mastered accordingly to ensure that the results would be favorable. However, some instances proved how these soldiers sometimes had to incorporate their prankster bones to gain an advantage over the enemies or maybe to annoy them (or even their allies). These were three instances.

Wood for Wood

Panzer-attrappen of Reichswehr ; German dummy tanks ; attrappen or Tankattrappen. (IWM, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

What else is left to do when you find your side losing in the raging battle that didn’t seem to have an ending but pretending to look more powerful than you already are in hopes of intimidating the enemy forces?

That was what the Germans did during World War II, in the heat of the war in Europe. Their ingenious solution was to set up fake airfields with planes made of plywood, wood, ropes, and canvas called Attrappen. This sounded like a stupid idea as one could differentiate a wooden, nonfunctional plane from real things. However, it would be so much different if the observer were from 30,000 feet above. As Lt. Col. Werner Thiel, who was a young Luftwaffe pilot back in 1943, recalled,

“At the end of October 1943, there was a general warning that we activated the light beacons and moved the aircraft from the fictitious airfield. We had a dozen fake planes made of wood, plywood, canvas and ropes. “

The Allied forces did not immediately realize the decoy, but when they did, their response to let them know that they were not fooling anyone was equally devastating.

They flew bombing raids over the German’s fake wooden airfields and dropped bombs of the same materials. The Germans hid for cover and waited for several minutes. When nothing happened, the Germans came from their hiding spots and inspected the “bombs” only to realize they were also made of wood. Many had the phrase “Wood for Wood” painted on them.

Some were skeptical about whether such an event happened or not, although it wasn’t the only instance that such a psychological approach was made. For example, before the Normandy Landings, the US Army formed a unit called the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops composed of artists and show business people to confuse the Germans.

Pranking the Marines

The rivalry between units on the same side is pretty rare. However, during World War II, there was an instance when the US Marines had a friendly rivalry with the elite group of Navy sailors known as the frogmen, who were the Navy SEALs of WWII.

During one mission to Guam, the two bragged that they would reach the beach first. Both confident, they set an informal race to prove themselves. And so the frogmen, with a reputation they took quite a bit of pride in, scurried up onto the beach and braved their way amidst the enemy bullets a night before the invasion to locate major gun emplacements and have them taken care of before the troops arrived. The task was daunting, as they were constantly exposed to enemy fire. But, regardless of the mission’s danger, the divers managed to swim across and erected a signboard that they planted in the sand while sniper bullets flew around them for reasons they deemed were worth the risk.

Welcome Marines signboard. Photo was taken on board the USS Kane. (Image courtesy of user: Frosty at

The next day, the Marines arrived at a hand-painted sign that said:


Letting them know who came first in the place where they would likely meet their end. An arrogant move as it seemed, but no one took offense, as these frogmen saved thousands of lives.

American Revolution Shenanigan

The soldiers of the American Revolution were a citizen army in a time of desperate need. While General Washington did everything he could think of to instill discipline and order among his troops, American colonists were hard to bring into line.  They were just too independent in spirit and they were volunteers, not men “pressed” into service like the British army. At times, the situation was not much different from a high school teacher trying to make his punk students sit up straight in their chairs. Like all wars, there is a lot of boredom between battles with troops having little to do but goof off.

One time, an order came down prohibiting the soldiers from firing their muskets unless given permission.  Powder and shot were in short supply and errant musket shots tended to raise alarms that the encampment was under attack. One soldier named Joseph Plumb Martin chaffed at the order and decided upon a plan to confuse and drive his officers nuts. So Martin and some others loaded their musket, found some string, and a perfect hiding place.

He loaded a musket with a string connected to the trigger before placing it inside an empty tent. He then pulled the string, triggering and discharged the musket.  Officers heard it and immediately and came running looking for the violator only to find an empty tent. Then another one fired, and then another, but they still couldn’t locate the culprit.

So it went the whole night with the officers chasing phantom musket shots in the dark from tent to tent.