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5 Times Miscommunication Had Awful Consequences

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With all the different ways for people to speak to each other, it should come as no surprise that some situations would have miscommunication. At times we can laugh at the situation and tell a funny story later. Other times, the consequences of the miscommunication might have triggered something drastic to happen.

Have you ever done or said something that led to a terrible outcome? Here’s a list of situations where a simple miscommunication led to something awful:

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1. Atomic Bomb

It was a group of scientists dubbed the “Manhattan Project” that developed Fat Man and Little Boy, the bombs that the Enola Gay dropped on two major industrial cities, vaporizing millions of people.

The dropping of these two objects was because of a simple miscommunication. At one point during World War II, during the Potsdam Conference, the Allies asked for Japan’s unconditional surrender. For the longest time, Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki issued no comment to the Allies’ conditions.

When Suzuki finally issued a statement, it was a single word in Japanese: “mokutsatsu.” In Japanese, this word is meant to be taken as “no comment.” Unfortunately, when translated to English, the Allies were given the phrase “not worthy of comment; held in silent contempt.” A simple mistranslation led one of history’s worst human tragedies.

2. Salem Witch Trials

From 1692 to 1693, they took place in Massachusetts during colonial times. To this day, the events of the trials are studies in universities everywhere. All the events that transpired were caused by the misunderstood behavior of three teenage girls.

They displayed seizure symptoms like throwing objects, making strange noises, eyes rolling back in their head. Doctors at the time were unable to give a name to what they were afflicted with.

The country at the time consisted of many devout believers who were constantly warned of the devil’s influence and his ability to bestow unnatural gifts. According to Salem’s colonial community, communion with the devil was the only explanation for why these girls behaved this way, which led to the beginning of the trials.

By 1693, one person had been put to death by rock crushing, 19 individuals were hanged, and over 200 were accused of worshiping the devil.

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3. Battle of Antietam

Considered one of the most recognized battles in the United States history, it was fought on September 17, 1862 in Sharpsburg, Maryland near the Antietam Creek. Why things went down the way they did is largely unknown.

During the war, Confederate general Lee sent movement orders to all his generals. His rear guard, D.H. Hill left his orders behind because of a small misunderstanding. After Hill moved his trip, a union soldier found Lee’s orders and they made their way top Union commander George McClellan.

With the Union aware of what the Confederacy planned to do, they proceeded to attack Lee’s troops at the Battle of Antietam. The misunderstanding led to a battle result is more than 22,000 casualties making it one of the bloodiest days in the country’s history.

4. Mars Meteorology Mission

Exploring space is an important endeavor that benefits humankind as a whole. So when calculating all the numbers correctly for a mission is extremely important. A miscommunication in the numbers can have disastrous consequences.

In 1999, NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter made it to Mars to begin its mission to survey the planet’s weather. But the Orbiter ended up burning to dust in the planet’s atmosphere.

For the longest time, the space agency had no idea what had taken place. It wasn’t until 2010 that looking back, scientists who failed to convert units from the imperial (inches) measurement system to metric. It was a small miscommunication that cost the agency $125 million.
“It was pretty clear that morning, within half-an-hour, that the spacecraft had more or less hit the top of the atmosphere and burned up,” recalled Richard Cook, an engineer at the time of the orbiter’s launch.

5. Dead Miners Reported Missing

It is always a harrowing time when you cannot find your family or even fathom where they might be. When it comes to reporting missing people, the numbers can sometimes get slightly fuzzy, leading to great news that isn’t actually that great.

In 2006, Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia had announced that 11 of the 12 miners trapped by an explosion were alive and well. For three hours, the town celebrated that most of their people were alive.

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It turned out that only one person had survived, earning the ire of the families who suffered losses.

The miscommunication appeared to happen because the one relaying information to command had worn a miner’s mask, obstructing what he was saying.

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