Do you believe in luck by chance? We won’t be surprised to hear a no from you because neither we believe in it. But certain instances in life make us want to think about it.
Like this 11 random people featured in this post who became a part of history by coincidence. Scroll down to know about them.
Yang Kyoungjong was a Korean man in the 20th century, which meant he didn’t exactly live a peaceful life. At the outbreak of World War II, Yang was captured by invading Japanese troops and forced to serve in their army. This took him to the mainland, where he went up against the Soviets, only to be captured again and forced into service for their army, too. This took him all the way across the continent, where he faced off against the Nazis, and, at this point unsurprisingly, he was once again captured and forced into service for the Germans, completing every space on his “Evil Armies” punch card. Finally, Yang was captured by the Americans, who decided he’d had enough fighting and sent him to a detention camp instead.
Timothy Dexter is the historical figure who best matches Forrest Gump’s “idiot savant” genre of story. Dexter was a self-made success who made nonsensical decision after nonsensical decision, invariably lucking into a financial windfall due to circumstances outside of his control. He married rich, and sought to multiply his wealth by purchasing mass quantities of the now-worthless Continental currency, which had been abandoned in the wake of the American Revolution. This insane business plan paid off when it was decided that such currency could be traded in for 1% of its original value, leading to a massive payoff for Dexter that he could not have foreseen.
Most of his attempts went thusly. On one occasion, some cruel tricksters convinced him to purchase and send bed-warming pans to the sweltering Caribbean, where they would have no use. Instead, the warming pans were repurposed as sugar and molasses ladles and sold like hot cakes. Such was the life of Timothy Dexter.
Surviving one of the two nuclear bombings in history is a stroke of good luck. Living through both of them brings the claim of luck into question, however. On the one hand, it’s undeniably fortunate to survive two nukes. On the other, it’s not very lucky to be in both of the targeted cities during the only two uses of that deadly weapon. Such was the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi. He was in Hiroshima when the first bomb struck and survived by leaping into a ditch. He returned to his family in Nagasaki, probably thinking he’d had his worst day ever. Somehow, this trooper still went to work the next day, despite feeling ill, and had his life saved from the second bomb by the reinforced stairwell in his office. His family thankfully survived, too, and Tsutomu lived to the age of 93.
Francisco de Miranda
The 18th century was a ripe time to be a revolutionary. Country-changing campaigns were fought on multiple continents, and several men and women got the chance to earn their spot in their countries’ heroic stories. Some got more of an opportunity than others. Francisco de Miranda, through sheer circumstance, happened to be around for and fight in three major revolutions. He served in both the American and French Revolutions on the side of the revolutionaries, before using his training to play an important role in the Venezuelan war of independence under Simon Bolivar. He ultimately became the dictator of Venezuela, before finally being ousted. He was also a prolific writer, whose journal chronicling his exploits ran to 63 volumes.
Johnny Cash has a legitimate claim at being the most interesting person to ever live. Much of that came down to blind luck, but a fair share was just his own natural swagger. This likely came from a downright tragic childhood, which saw Cash witness his brother’s death and have to bury him, a year that also saw Cash begin smoking. Other circumstantial events from his life include just so happening to have Roy Orbison for a neighbor and having his future wife write a song about how bad she wanted him, which she then sold to him. Worst of all was the decimating forest fire Cash started in a California National Forest, which he sparked by flicking a cigarette into the woods. This fire destroyed much of the remaining habitat of the endangered California condor. How many musical legends can also claim to have nearly made an entire species extinct, to have reported the death of Joseph Stalin, or to have had Muhammad Ali write them a poem?
Lynn “Buck” Compton
The sheer breadth of the career of Lynn “Buck” Compton is impressive. He started out his working life as a star footballer at UCLA, where he also played baseball with Jackie Robinson. Sports weren’t exciting enough for Buck, who enlisted in time for WWII and dropped into France on D-Day as a paratrooper. This was enough to inspire a dramatic depiction of himself on HBO’s Band Of Brothers. After all of this, Compton settled down to a life of practicing law, leading him to eventually serve as the prosecution in the murder of Robert Kennedy. Step aside, Kevin Bacon, we should all be playing Six Degrees of Buck Compton.
George Robert Twelves Hewes
George Robert Twelves Hewes lived a life that is equally as interesting as his name. Hewes just sort of happened to be around for a lot of important events early in his life, but by the time he got his feet under him he was directly influencing the course of American history. Hewes was present for the Boston Massacre, and got himself injured in the chaos. He accidentally instigated the famous tar-and-feathering of John Malcolm, when he discovered Malcolm caning a boy and insisted he stop. Hewes then became more active, leading a boat to dump tea into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. He fought in the Revolutionary War and obviously loved it, because he later tried to sign up for the War of 1812 at the age of 70.
Just because Teddy Roosevelt is the single most badass human being to ever live doesn’t mean he didn’t have a lot in common with Forrest Gump. Roosevelt, like Gump, had countless diverse accolades throughout his long career, including war hero, president, and Nobel Prize winner. In another parallel, both Gump and Roosevelt had to overcome health issues as children, although Roosevelt’s nearly killed him. Speaking of childhood, even the young version of Roosevelt managed to insert himself into historical events, as he had a front row seat for Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession. Finally, Teddy lent his name to a cultural icon, the teddy bear, just like Gump supposedly invented the smiley face.
Harrison Ford might not seem like a historical figure, but he’s been at the center of some of history’s greatest film franchises. Best of all, he put himself into those prominent roles with little more than luck and competent carpentry. Ford was only half-interested in acting and made his money installing kitchens and the like. He got a gig putting in some cabinets for a guy named George Lucas, who suggested Ford audition for his next film, American Graffiti. This obviously led Lucas to later consider the actor for a role in Star Wars, and the rest is history. In the interim, Ford got a job enlarging the office of Francis Ford Coppola, who liked him enough to put him in an Oscar-nominated film The Conversation.
Nicholas Lawson might just be the most influential historical figure that the average person has never heard of. Lawson was born in Norway but eventually ended up in England. He began a whirlwind career at sea, fighting for the British all over the world, being captured by pirates, and eventually settling in Canada. He later uprooted and moved to a more oceanic setting in Valparaiso, and from there moved to a little-known location called the Galapagos Islands. While there, Lawson’s storied career made him a close friend of the governor of the newly-annexed region, which made him the best point of contact when Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle came to visit. Lawson mentioned to Darwin that the tortoises on each island looked different, which Darwin thought was worth looking into. And no one ever argued about evolution ever again!
Sometimes, being a part of history is all about location, location, location. Such was the case for Wilmer McLean, who had the ignominious distinction of having the American Civil War both start and end at his house. When war broke out in Virginia 1861, the first action occurred right near McLean’s home, which was damaged in the fighting. After warfare scoured the area, McLean and his family moved 120 miles to the other side of Virginia. Through sheer coincidence, his new house ended up being the place chosen for General Robert E. Lee to sign his surrender and end the Civil War.