Last-minute Decisions That Changed The Course Of History

Do you ever wonder about all the “what ifs” in your life? You’ve probably had a few that would have changed the trajectory of your life. History has even more. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. almost didn’t give his “I have a dream speech.” A former president could’ve eliminated a certain someone before 9/11 took place. Those are only a few, so take a moment and find out the wildest last-minute decisions that changed the course of history. Prepare to pick your jaw up from off the ground.

If Only They Had Binoculars

smith and walter
Ralph White/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Ralph White/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Had the Titanic never hit the iceberg on that fateful night, perhaps over a thousand lives would’ve made it out alive. A second officer named David Blair was initially a member of the crew, but a last-minute decision kept him onshore.

Sadly, Blair departed from the giant ship with the key to the locker room where the binoculars were by accident. The man who was the lookout on the liner, Fred Fleet, said if he had the binoculars, he could’ve seen the danger earlier.

Saving More Of Japan

helped Japan
Contributor/Getty Images
Contributor/Getty Images

Not only wasn’t the attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not thoroughly planned, but it almost didn’t happen as well. America wasn’t sure if it wanted to use Nuclear tools until right before the event happened.

American politicians and Army men had an extensive list of cities to choose from, and Kokura was one of them. Crewman Kermit Beahan felt it was too cloudy to see all of Kokura, so he called the assault on that town off. Kokura misses out, but Nagasaki felt the pain.

Lincoln Decided To Go The Theater

lincoln is thinking
GraphicaArtis/Getty Images
GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

Former President Lincoln wanted to visit the theater in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865, to see Our American Cousin. His wife, Mary, Ulysses S. Grant, and his spouse Julia were all going to go with him, but the plans fell apart.

Julia didn’t want to go because she didn’t like Mary that much. Even after Lincoln’s bodyguard suggested not to go, Lincoln persisted because the public expected him. After a little tug-and-war, Mary and Lincoln made their way to the showing. In the end, John Wilkes Booth strolled in and we all know what happened.

Wanting Clean Clothes Was Fatal For Buddy Holly

holly on stage
Steve Oroz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Steve Oroz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

February 3, 1959, is “The Day the Music Died.” Sadly, that was when Buddy Holly, JP Richardson, and Richie Valens all passed away when their plane crashed in Iowa due to a rush.

While traveling, the group of musicians began running out of clean clothes. The plan was to take a bus to the next show, but Holly wanted clean clothes in a hurry, so he convinced the rest of the men to get on a plane so they could get to where they needed to go earlier and do some laundry. That decision turned out fatal.

A Thick Speech Saved Roosevelt

Roosevelt shaking hands
Contributor/Getty Images
Contributor/Getty Images

When Teddy Roosevelt made another run for president as the leader of the new political party (Progressives), he prepared a 50-page criticism to give to an audience. On his way there, Roosevelt chose to fold it up and put it in his breast pocket.

As Roosevelt addressed the crowd, someone shot at him, and the bullet hit his chest where the hunk of paper slowed it down. Being the fierce man that he was, Roosevelt still got on stage to give the speech!

A Wrong Turn Brought About WWI

ready to hurt
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Gavrilo Princip was a member of the Bosnian militant group looking to off the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That meant he had an issue with Archduke Franz Ferdinand, so on June 28, 1914, he and others made a plan to take out Ferdinand in his car.

They threw a bomb under his vehicle, but it had a delayed explosion, helping Ferdinand escape. Not too long later, Ferdinand wanted to pay a visit to the hospital where the victims were but told his driver to take a different route. The man driving took a wrong turn, and they ended up on the same street Princip was still at, and he shot Ferdinand, sparking WWI.

A Vacation Might’ve Caused D-Day

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

“Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel was one of the most highly recognized soldiers during the WWII era. D-Day was also one of the most vital moments during that time from an Allied perspective.

Since he was probably the most-skilled German tactician, Rommel was in charge of the defense at Normandy. On a whim, he decided to surprise his wife with a vacation, meaning he had to leave his post right before the Allies swarmed. Had he been there when things started to go down, the Third Reich would have been in better hands.

Laziness Brought Down The Berlin Wall

man behind the wall
GERARD MALIE/AFP via Getty Images
GERARD MALIE/AFP via Getty Images

In grade school, teachers tend to stress the importance of reading all the instructions. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 because Guenter Schabowski didn’t read everything during a press conference discussing the travel capabilities with the wall.

Right before the speaking event, Schabowski received an updated speech, but he didn’t go over the entire revision. Schabowski brought up the travel possibilities for every person, which caught everyone’s attention. A reporter asked when the changes would go live, and someone else shouted, “immediately?!” Confused and distracted, Schabowski said, “Immediately. Right Away.” That wasn’t the case, and the rest is history.

One Man Saved The World From A Nuclear Meltdown

preventing nuke battle
TOM PARFITT/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
TOM PARFITT/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Many might not know the name Stanislav Petrov, but he’s vital to history. He helped to prevent a nuclear battle between the Soviet Union and America on September 26, 1983.

During his job monitoring days, Petrov observed the Soviets’ early warning systems. When a few sensors went off indicating the U.S. sent missiles towards the Soviets, Petrov had to fire back. He didn’t because he felt something didn’t feel right, so he waited to tell his superiors. Soon enough, the alarms ended up being false, so Petrov’s choice to not strike prevented chaos.

William Perry Kept His Mouth Shut To Prevent A Brawl

perry bit his tongue
HECTOR MATA/AFP via Getty Images
HECTOR MATA/AFP via Getty Images

Under the former administration in 1994, the United States almost got into a deadly battle with North Korea as they gathered the means for nuclear warfare. Defense Secretary William Perry came up with different ideas that he thought would help stop North Korea, and that included a strategic bombing.

Perry came to his senses and decided not to brief the President on that plan as he figured it would lead to an all-out rumble. A few days later, they reached a peaceful settlement.

Losing The American Revolution Over A Poker Game

Johann Rall
Al Barry/Three Lions/Getty Images
Al Barry/Three Lions/Getty Images

Many don’t know Johann Rall, a German Colonel who led the Hessian troops aiding the British during the American Revolution. Rall received vital intel revealing Washington’s crossing of Delaware the night before it went down.

The note was in English, which he didn’t read, and poker or chess was his main interest when he got the message. Instead of acting, he stuffed the intelligence in his pocket for another time, but there was no later for Rall after heading into battle and dying.

King’s Monumental Improvision

Los Angeles
Martin Mills/Getty Images
Martin Mills/Getty Images

One of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most quoted phrases is “I have a dream.” It’s what many people recite when speaking about the late civil leader, but he almost didn’t speak those words during his speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

King had what he wanted to say already written, but when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled out, “Tell ’em about the dream,” King chose to speak from the heart. It turned into one of the most crucial public speaking moments in history.

Marie-Antoinette Wanted A Different Carriage Which Led To Her Death

sitting down -113495072
Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

As history has it, Marie-Antoinette either did or didn’t say “let them eat cake,” during the French Revolution. History doesn’t paint a perfect picture for the former queen, and her beheading story doesn’t help.

The royal family had a plan to flee the country, but Marie-Antoinette made an interesting decision based on keeping the family together while the fled. She wanted them in a fancier carriage, opposed to the original they had ready for her, which was faster and smaller. The fancy option was way slower, which ultimately played a part in their capture.

Hannibal Barca Could’ve Taken Over Rome

riding an elephant -919807876
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Famed Carthaginian military leader, Hannibal Barca, has a legacy of leading combat elephants over the Alps into Rome. He didn’t have much success in his attempts to overtake Rome, but that would’ve changed had he not made one mistake.

During his trek over the Alps, a heavy snowfall slowed him and his troops down. Hannibal wanted to prove the ground they journeyed over was still solid, so he hit a snowdrift with his cane. An avalanche took out a chunk of his army.

Marita Lorenz Couldn’t End Fidel Castro Because Of This…

fidel castro
Sabine Simon/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Sabine Simon/ullstein bild via Getty Images

America devised many plans to try and finish off Fidel Castro, but they were all insane. For example, one idea was to lace his favorite ice cream with poison. They finally settled on hiring a woman to seduce him, then kill Castro.

The CIA chose Marita Lorenz to do the job and gave her poisonous pills to complete the mission. When she met him, the two made love instead and Castro even handed her a weapon. She couldn’t do it.

Misplacing Plans Of Attack During The American Civil War

robert lee
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general during the American Civil War focused on leading an expedition into Maryland. This would end up becoming a pivotal battle in the war, Antietam. Thankfully, Lee drew up a detailed plan to help land a victory.

Sadly, Lee gave a draft of the plans to a subordinate, Major General D.H. Hill. Hill would end up placing those plans inside of a cigar box and misplacing the whole thing. A Unionist found it and used the intel to help win the Battle of Antietam.

The Timing For The Cuban Attack Was Off

group of people by boat
Graf/Getty Images
Graf/Getty Images

Not only did America find it difficult to kill Fidel Castro, but they also found Cuba’s presence troublesome. That’s why they came up with a plan to invade Cuba on April 17, 1961, by landing at the Bay of Pigs.

While the landing went right, the second half of the plan didn’t pan out the way they wanted it to happen. The air support didn’t arrive until an hour later because someone forgot to make sure the ground and aerial troops were on the same page. The invasion wasn’t successful.

Dr. Alexander Fleming Accidentally Discovers THIS

dirty dishes
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

In August 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming needed to take his annual vacation. During his last day before departure, he had Petri dishes with different samples stacked up in his laboratory. Fleming’s wasn’t very tidy, so he decided to leave them where they were.

When he returned after his trip, he took a closer look at the dishes he left sitting there. Upon closer examination, he noticed mold formed and killed much of the bacteria. He had just discovered penicillin and would eventually win the Nobel Prize.

Sparing A German Leader Without Knowing It

shaking hands
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Imagine you were a soldier and had a clean shot at the leader of the Axis, would you take it? Private Henry Tandey was a courageous man during the first World War, earning the Victoria Cross in 1918. That’s Britain’s most senior military award for showing bravery.

He had many acts that helped him land this prestigious honor, but he missed out on becoming even more respected. On the day he won the Victoria Cross, he spotted a wounded soldier through the sights of his rifle. Since the person showed no signs of aggression, he chose to spare them, not knowing it was Adolf Hitler.

The Act That Stopped World War III From Happening

general mike jackson
STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP via Getty Images
STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP via Getty Images

In 1999, the world was possibly on the brink of World War III. Russian forces had taken control of an airport that NATO peacekeeping forces were nearing. The confrontation likely would have led to a big enough conflict to incite World War III.

The British commander of the NATO forces, Mike Jackson, was ordered to forcibly take the airport. He refused, telling higher-ups he was, “not going to start World War III for you.”