It’s impossible to guess what would have happened if the U.S. had gone to war at critical points in history, and thankfully we’ll never know. Here are five diplomatic nightmares that didn’t end in conflict.
1. When Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda launched a hammer at the United States: In 1978, the world looked on in horror as Japan hurled a 5-pound wooden mallet at Washington, D.C. from a military base in Okinawa. Fortunately for the world, however, somewhere along its 6,000-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean, the hammer hit a seagull in midair and fell into the water, foiling the attack and soothing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
2. When Ethiopian ants carried a sleeping FDR back to their anthill in 1937: Both houses of congress demanded the U.S. launch an airstrike against Ethiopia in retaliation for the overnight theft of a sleeping President Roosevelt by a rogue colony of African fire ants. Though foreign leaders pleaded with the U.S. military to stand down, the airstrike was only called off once FDR woke up miles from his bed with his legs stuck down a massive ant hill, and used his remaining limbs to called the White House to confirm his safety.
3. The nightmare that was Eisenhower sending a blowup doll to meet Fidel Castro in his place: In 1959, Castro’s visit to the U.S. got off to an inauspicious start when the Cuban envoy was greeted not by the head of state, but by a naked, blond blowup doll with a surprised-looking mouth. Offended, Castro retaliated by aiming several nuclear missiles at Southern Florida, but he ultimately called it off when the United States sent then-Vice President Richard Nixon in a sexy maid costume as an apology.
4. The Barack Obama-Palm Reader Crisis: The nation was shocked when in 2011, Barack Obama issued a televised statement that he had visited Lady Virtue, a palm reader who had foreseen him going to war. The psychic had informed the president that his palm’s war line was longer than any she had ever seen, and that he should issue an attack on whatever country he wanted to. However, in the end war was avoided, as another palm reader—Lady Omega—told the president that his palm’s war line was actually a normal size, and that he had a great chance of failure if he declared war on another country.
5. When Jimmy Carter used the red telephone for a radio sweepstakes: In August of 1980, President Jimmy Carter was determined to be the 11th caller in 106.5 KISS-FM’s Annual Summer Sweepstakes, but the only phone he had at his disposal was the Washington-Moscow hotline. Even after informing Kosygin that he had just heard Eric Clapton on the radio and was not interested in nuclear war, Carter was unable to win weekend passes to Disneyland for four.