Although we already know a bit about the famous affairs that happened during the Cold War, that particular era spanned more than four decades—enough time for a lot of wackiness. Aside from learning about the slew of ridiculous government projects, let’s also get to know some of the other little-known, extremely strange events which took place in that period.
10. North Korea And The US Almost Went To War Over A Tree
This one arguably ranks somewhere among the most bizarre reasons to start a war. Known as the Poplar Tree Incident, the whole fiasco started on August 17, 1976. American soldiers tried to trim a huge poplar tree that had been obscuring visibility in the middle of the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone. Previously, the North Koreans had refused to allow the men to trim the tree. Now, they murdered two of the Americans and injured another nine.
In the aftermath, the US debated whether to strike back. Instead, they decided to cut down the tree while showcasing an overwhelming display of force against the North. On August 21, and in full view of their North Korean counterparts on the other side, a convoy of American and South Korean soldier-engineers drove up to the middle of the DMZ and cut the tree down. Dozens of helicopters and assorted aircraft also flew overhead as a deterrent to the hapless North Koreans who could only watch the event unfold.
While the incident triggered fears of a war, it instead led to North Korean President Kim Il-Sung conveying a message of “regret” to the families of those killed—a rare statement at the time.
9. The US Created A Ring Of Copper Around The Earth
At one point the Earth had its own man-made ring of metal—thanks to the approximately 500 million copper needles the US launched into space in 1963.
Known as Project West Ford, the operation resolved to cure a major American weakness against a perceived Soviet attack on its undersea cables, which would have disrupted its long-range communications system. To prevent this, the Americans looked to the ionosphere, which was beyond the reach of the Soviets but still at the mercy of unpredictable solar storms. Then sometime in 1958, Walter E. Morrow—a scientist from MIT’s Lincoln Labs in Boston—suggested placing a copper ring around the Earth, which would be immune to both Soviet attacks and solar disruptions.
After a first attempt failed in 1961, the US finally launched the copper needles in 1963 and also successfully tested it out. While most of the needles have since fallen back to Earth, it is estimated that thousands of clumped ones are still in orbit today.
8. The US Air Force Used Bears As Test Pilots
Think sending cats, dogs, and monkeys into space isn’t enough? How about using a sedated bear to test out the ejection capsule of a supersonic aircraft? We’re not kidding. The US Air Force regularly used black and Himalayan bears to test out the ejection capsule of its supersonic B-58 bomber in the ’50s and ’60s.
The premier intercontinental bomber of the Air Force, the B-58 Hustler, could reach Mach 2 and had been designed to carry nuclear bombs deep into Soviet territory. While superb in its design, the B-58’s poor-quality ejection capsule killed several crewmembers during one test flight. This particular incident forced the designers to design a better capsule, which they then tested on the ground using unemployed people. When it came time for live runs several thousand feet up in the air, however, the designers opted to useman-sized bears as test dummies.
After being sedated, these bears were strapped inside the ejection capsules and hurled out of the streaking aircraft before parachuting back down to be examined by its developers. While no deaths occurred during the tests, the animals did suffer major injuries, including broken bones and internal bleeding.
Read About the Remaining Seven Other Bizarre Tales at ListVerse