Top 7 people who decided to disobey orders and changed history

There are 3 people you should – in principle – never disobey: your mom, your dad, and your military superior. Only, in some cases, not listening to orders can be clever: when your mother asks you to put on a scarf when it’s 20 degrees outside, when your dad refuses to let you go to THE party of the year, or when your general asks you to launch a nuclear missile right at Moscow. Now let’s leave mom and dad aside and just focus on those who disobeyed military orders and changed history.

1. James Blunt avoided getting us into a big war with the Russians

Surely you know James Blunt’s songs and tweets (which are ass-kicking funny not only on the floor but also on vertical surfaces like walls), but did you know the guy was in the military? In 1999, when he was a NATO soldier, he refused to obey instructions from his superiors who ordered him to seize Pristina airport in Kosovo, held by Russian soldiers. James Blunt made it clear to his superiors that this attack risked starting a war with Russia, and therefore probably a 3rd World War. The general finally decided to just surround the airport, and the Russians surrendered a few days later without too much tension. We can say thank you to James for having changed history 3 years before launching into song.

2. Paris Wasn’t Burned ‘Thanks’ to German General Dietrich von Choltitz

In August 1944, the allies recaptured Paris from the Germans, and it obviously did not please Hitler, who ordered his men to burn the capital so as not to leave it in enemy hands. Basically, if he didn’t have it, no one would. But General Dietrich von Choltitz simply decided not to obey, believing that the order had absolutely no military value and that Hitler was mentally unstable. Other sources say that von Choltitz was mostly short of men to enforce orders and acted as if it was a real decision on his part to heal his reputation. Anyway, he chose not to burn Paris, and that’s still good.

Top 7 people who decided to disobey orders and changed
Photo credits (CC BY-SA 3.0): Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-2003-1112-500,_Dietrich_v._Choltitz-2.jpg: *Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-2003-1112-500,_Dietrich_v._Choltitz.jpg: UnknownUnknown

3. Albert Speer refused to destroy German civilian infrastructure

Less than a year after the order to burn Paris, Hitler issued another gruesome order. As the allies had just taken a strategic bridge over the Rhine in March 1945, the führer had ordered his minister and friend Albert Speer to destroy a large number of German infrastructures and industries so as not to leave them in enemy hands. Only, it would also have weakened Germany in the medium and long term and left a lot of civilians without jobs or infrastructure. Albert Speer therefore pretended to obey Hitler but sent encrypted orders to delay the operation (which ultimately never took place). He, too, felt that Hitler was unstable, and he was right. We will not give him a medal, but we can recognize that on this one he was clever.

4. Vasili Arkhipov stopped the Cuban Missile Crisis from escalating into World War III

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, tensions between the US and the USSR were at their peak. A trifle could have turned the Cold War into an Extremely Hot War. At that time, 4 Soviet submarines equipped with nuclear missiles were stationed in the Caribbean. They had orders to launch a missile if provoked by the Americans. However, there was indeed a provocation: the Marines dropped depth charges near the B-59, one of the Soviet submarines. The B-59 was to retaliate with a nuclear attack, but this attack could only be carried out if the two commanders of the submarine, Valentin Savitsky and Vasili Arkhipov, agreed. Savitsky was for the attack. Arkhipov no. He figured the Marines were just trying to pull the sub up without wanting to destroy it, and he was right. Thanks to him, we avoided a ridiculous escalation.

5. Stanislav Petrov chose not to retaliate following a missile alert

In 1983, Lieutenant-Colonel Stanislav Petrov was stationed in a bunker near Moscow when an alert went off indicating a ballistic missile entering Russian territory. Petrov should have, in this case, triggered a response, but he preferred to ignore the alert, telling himself that it was an error of his devices. As a result, it was indeed an error caused by the Sun reflecting in the clouds, and Petrov saved us from a nuclear war. Thanks Stan.

6. David Teich saved a company of soldiers by refusing to obey an order to retreat

During the Korean War, in 1951, the Chinese army launched the Spring Offensive, which consisted of sending nearly 300,000 soldiers against American lines. The tactic was successful as the Americans found themselves overrun by the Chinese attack, and they ordered a retreat. Only, a company of light infantry had found itself trapped and could no longer flee. She was doomed to be crushed by the enemy. This is where Lieutenant David Teich intervened: the guy refused to obey the order to retreat issued by his superiors and sent 4 tanks to save his buddies. What worked. Thanks to him, 65 soldiers escaped certain death.

7. Thomas Derrick took a Japanese stand by refusing to obey orders

In 1943, during the battle of Sattelberg in New Guinea, an Australian battalion had received an order to retreat from their commander since they could no longer make progress against the Japanese enemy. But Australian Lieutenant Thomas Derrick disagreed, and he made it known with a: “Fuck the Commander, give me 20 minutes and we’ll take this place”. In a very short time, he advanced through the jungle under cover and destroyed 10 enemy positions, enabling his company to accomplish its objective. Derrick received the Victoria Cross for that and he became a hero for Australia… before dying 2 years later, still against the Japanese.

Related Posts