The WWII Battle Where Potatoes Were Used As Projectiles

In times of need, the potato remains the ultimate form of sustenance. It grows in excess without fertile soil or sunshine, it fills you up with no hassle, and it's a versatile base for just about any meal. What we didn't know is that they can also double as weapons. The sturdiness of the potato makes it a perfect object to throw if you're in a pinch and don't have any rocks. This is what the U.S. Navy discovered while patrolling the Pacific front during World War II (WW2).

At the beginning of the war, the Japanese naval forces dominated the Pacific Theater, occupying territory as far east as the Solomon Islands. It wasn't until May 1942 that the Allies finally saw some victory on the ocean at the Battle of Midway (via the National WWII Museum). After a year of playing the defense, the U.S. Navy was now on its way to intercept Japanese ships and submarines that occupied the waters surrounding the Solomon Islands. Months into their advancement on Japanese ships, Destroyer Squadron 21 returned from a successful campaign when they noticed an oblivious Japanese submarine nearby (per the Destroyer History Foundation).

Potatoes were the weapon of choice

Upon spotting the Japanese submarine, USS O'Bannon, a Fletcher-class destroyer (per the Destroyer History Foundation), was ready to attack. One would guess that a ship of the iconic Destroyer Squadron 21 would be decked out in advanced military technology like missiles. O'Bannon had impressive artillery, including state-of-the-art anti-aircraft guns, deck guns, and torpedo tubes, per We Are the Mighty. However, after pulling up next to the sleeping submarine, the crew suddenly believed it to be a mine layer. This led them to an awkward situation. The sub's crew was stirred awake by a menacing U.S. destroyer that was a bit too close to lower its weapons. The answer to this conundrum? The barrels of potatoes on the deck of O'Bannon.

Both crews on the deck lacked firearms and so began a frenzied game of hot potato. The Japanese unwittingly believed these tubers to be grenades and threw them right back onto the deck of O'Bannon. Meanwhile, Commander Donald J. MacDonald, commanding officer of O'Bannon (per Americans in WWII), ordered the ship's crew to steer O'Bannon away from the submarine to the right distance for them to plunder it. This strategy worked. The potatoes themselves proved to be an excellent weapon of choice: Sturdy, heavy balls flying through the open air, wreaking havoc on the decks of the enemy. In 1945, the Potato Growers of Maine gave O'Bannon a commemorative plaque for the heroic deeds of the potatoes (per The Bangor Daily News).