Monday, October 25, 2010

last but not least. Japan's Divine Wind

Everyone loves a good case of "divine intervention" that can easily be explained away by basic meteorology.

Preferably on Channel Ocho.
For instance, Russia was invaded by Hitler and Napoleon, and they were stopped respectively by a snowstorm and a snowstorm. Wow, big surprise. They didn't finish their invasions during the 72 hours it's not snowing in Russia.
But then, you have the ones that make you wonder. For instance, the Brits burned Washington, D.C., in 1814, and out of nowhere came the first recorded tornado in D.C. history. It trashed the living shit out of the British army and conveniently put out all their fires on the federal buildings.

After ensuring a conveniently sweet remodeling for the White House.
But even that pales next to the most famous example of meteorological deus ex machina: a weather phenomenon that came to be known as the Kamikaze, long before that word symbolized suicidal fighter pilots.

Where it Gets Weird:
The first Mongol invasion of Japan took place in November 1274 and consisted of 23,000 men and 700 to 800 ships. They were at sea for two weeks, made fantastic time and even managed to establish a beachhead on Hakata Bay, Japan. When the Battle of Bun'ei broke out on Nov. 19, Japan was so weak it looked like they should have started scouting out other islands to move to.

This was before Tommy Lee Jones came to straighten them out.
And everything went swimmingly for the Mongols ... that is, until a typhoon came in and wrecked their fleet like a blast from Poseidon's own shotgun. The Mongols suffered horrendous losses and retreated after only one day of fighting, which is saying something when you consider that these are the same folks who conquered everything from Korea to Austria.
But no matter -- they weren't the type to give up. They simply came back with a second, larger invasion in 1281. This force consisted of 140,000 soldiers, 4,000 ships and a two-pronged invasion via China and Korea. It was pretty much the size of six or seven of the previous invasion force. It was the best the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty could muster, and you can bet the Mongol leader, Kublai Khan, expected to conquer Japan this second time around.
By mid-August, the enormous Mongol fleet met the Japanese at the very same Hakata Bay where they had squared off seven years earlier. And, once again, this fleet was destroyed ... by a typhoon.
Where it Gets Even Weirder:
If you're now picturing Japan as a powerful typhoon magnet where you have to carefully slip in during narrow windows between storms, stop. Storms almost never hit the Hakata Bay, and one of the invasions wasn't even in typhoon season (they tend to hit in the summer, and the first attack was in November).
So exactly how low were the odds of the Mongols getting trashed at Hakata Bay? According to Japanese sources, a typhoon like the one that hit the Mongols during the second invasion occurs "once a hundred years or once a few hundred years." Or, as was the case with Mongolians, every time they invaded Japan.

All their cunning was useless.
Two storms, in seven years, both right when the Mongols were attacking, and in the spot where their fleet was located.
The Mongols never tried to invade Japan again.