History is a funny thing, while it is something that can be studied and scrutinized for accuracy, it can also just as easily be modified after the fact. You’ve likely heard that the victor writes the history books, but popular culture just as easily grabs hold of interesting facts and twists them until they no longer represent reality. Here are 5 interesting misconceptions rooted in (often military) history.

5. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time.

This is an interesting claim made by the infamous dictator Benito Mussolini. According to Mussolini, the railway system was extremely inefficient before the fascist regime of his making came to power. After some efficient tune ups spearheaded by Mussolini, the Italian railways were considered among the best in Europe, or so the story goes.

However, reality, as is often the case, suggests otherwise. While it is true that during WWI the rail system was in quite bad shape, most of the fixes and repairs on the Italian railway were made before Benito Mussolini and the fascist party came to power in 1922. As is common societies were the government has complete control over the media, Mussolini simply used this “improvement” because it was convenient to highlight the obvious superiority of fascism.

Also, those who lived in the era later attested to the fact that the legendary time-schedule was as much fiction as the repairs made by Mussolini. Go figure.

4. Christopher Columbus didn’t need to convince everyone that the Earth was round in order to get financing.

The story goes something like this: At the time, because no one believed the the Earth was round, most everyone thought that any money invested in Christopher Columbus’ voyage would be wasted when he would undoubtedly fall off the edge of the Earth. Therefore, Columbus had to search for years for a financier before he could embark on his world changing voyage that almost didn’t happen because people from long ago were ignorant.

While interesting and dramatic, this is a mix of truth and supposition. While it was difficult for Columbus to secure financing, it wasn’t because they thought he would fall off the edge. In fact, the majority of learned people knew Earth was round. The fancy navigational systems for sailing were heavily based on longitude and latitude, the assumption of a spherical Earth was built in. Therefore, it is silly to imagine that they would deny Columbus his backing because of something they knew to be true.

However, they did take issue with his estimation of the distance to from Europe to India, his destination. And rightly so, he was completely wrong! He ended up finding the America’s, a lucky accident.

3. It is unlikely that Marie Antoinette was who said “Let them eat cake”.

There is no doubt that Marie Antoinette is one of the most famous of all Queens from France, and likely, Europe. The popular quote “Let them eat cake” is definitely her primary claim to fame. The story goes something like this: When informed that the peasants of France had no more bread on which to survive, Marie Antoinette thusly replied “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, or roughly translated, “Let them eat cake”.

However eloquent it may sound, it is unlikely she ever uttered those words. There is no evidence or first hand accounts anywhere except by political philosopher Jean-Jacques Roussea. However, Roussea attributes it to an unamed lady of nobility at a time when Antoinette was merely 10.

The phrase “Let the eat cake” was undoubtedly uttered by some noble lady, but the likely source will probably remain lost to history, if not to the average quoter.

2. Cinco De Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day and is not as significant as one might think.

Cinco De Mayo is a favorite amond Margarita fans as an excuse to indulge in the Tequila powered drink and celebrate an alternative culture. Most people believe this to be the Mexican equivilant to the United States Forth of July celebration. For as much excitement that it generates, it has to be true.

The truth is, Cinco de Mayo is only a regional celebration in Puebla and commemorates the Mexican victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. While interesting, Cinco de Mayo is not as important as the bars make it out to be is it?

1. Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t so short.

While it has become a short of joke to mention how this powerful general was so short, the truth is that he wasn’t as small as you’d think. The first part of this misconception that many believe is a dead giveaway was his nickname of “le petit caporal“. Petit seems to mean small to us English speaking folk, but in French, it is merely an affectionate term.

The next part of the myth is that he was only 5′ 2″. Anyone would agree that that is quite short. However, that was in French feet, a slightly different measurement system that modern international feet where he would be more like 5′ 6″. Compare this to the average height of a Frenchman in the 19th century and he was a bit taller than average. Go figure.

Although, as a condolence, he did surround himself with extremely tall French guards, perhaps making him appear small than he really was. Regardless, this is likely the most popular misconception.

The Great Depression began in 1929, eleven years after the end of WWI. At the conclusion of WWI veterans came home to flourishing economy. As their future seemed much brighter than their past, veterans of WWI supported a bill in 1924 which would postpone delivery of their much deserved wartime bonus pay until 1945. The pay was then to be issued with interest. There seemed to be no reason to defeat the bill, until 5 years later. As the stock market came crashing down fear built up. The Depression waged a war of its own and many people became homeless. They lived in camps on the edge of towns. These camps were known as “Hoovervilles”. Many of these homeless were veterans and their families.

Towards the end of 1931, infrequent rallies, and even riots, began to occur throughout the nation. Frustration and fear permeated the country. WWI Veterans began to see their wartime bonus pay as the only way to keep their families from starving to death. Representative John Wright Patman, of Texas, penned a bill calling for the early release of the bonus pay. In May of 1932 300 Veterans, organized by Walter W. Walters, set out from Oregon to Washington DC to lobby for the bill. Many Veterans joined them as they traveled.  They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force.

Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur was concerned that the group was a communist attempt to undermine the government. In actuality, it was merely hungry veterans, many of them accompanied by their families.

As these were military families order was easily maintained. Walters organized them in camps. He also organized a military police force of 300 men, to keep peace within his “ranks” and to keep the communists out.

In order to keep peace in his district, chief of police Pelham D. Glassford, a WWI veteran himself, offered the group four abandoned buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue. The buildings would only be available until October, however, as they were scheduled for demolition.  Despite the use of the building the growing number of veterans, approximately 22,000, needed more space. “Hoovervilles” were set up throughout the city including on Washington Mall. Homes were built out of tin cans or crates; many decorated with American flags.

The residents of Washington were sympathetic to the Veterans; baker’s, meat distributors and others, donated food for the Bonus Army, as they were know.  The area’s doctor’s and dentist’s provided care for all.

The House of Representatives passed Patman’s veteran’s bill on June 15, 1932. However, the bill was defeated in the Senate on June 17. The Veterans did not riot. They simply sang “America the Beautiful” on the Capitol steps and returned to their “homes” even more determined to stay until the help they felt they deserved was delivered.

President Herbert Hoover was uncomfortable with the attention the veterans were drawing to his administration and city officials worried about riots. Glassford was ordered to evict the veterans by July 28. Glassford persuaded some veterans to leave the city but he would not use force against the national heroes.  Thus, the President ordered General Douglas MacArthur to clear the area, immediately.  MacArthur gathered cavalry, infantry, a machine gun squadron, and tanks and proceeded up Pennsylvania Avenue. MacArthur was joined by Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton Jr. The cavalry advanced with swords drawn. The militia destroyed the make shift homes of the veterans, often with fire.  The veterans were driven across the bridge to the opposite side of the Anacostia River, where another encampment was destroyed by fire. No one was certain how that fire started.

The Veterans bill was finally passed in 1936. The bill required an override of a Presidential veto. This time the President was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Bernard Montgomery was an outstanding British field marshal in WWII. He was known for being a thorough and cautious strategist. This often tested the patience of other Allied commanders; however, his successes earned him tremendous respect from troops and other commanders alike.

Bernard Montgomery was born on November 17, 1887, in London, England, the son of a clergyman. He attended St. Paul’s School in London, and then the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.  He graduated from the Academy in 1908. Upon graduation Montgomery received a commission in the infantry.  He served in France and Belgium in WWI, where he was injured twice. By the completion of WWI, Montgomery had reached the rank of Major General.

Early in World War II, Major General Montgomery led a division in France, and, subsequently, he commanded the southeastern section of England awaiting a German invasion. In August of 1942, the British army had been suffering great losses at the hands of the Germans in Egypt. At this time Prime Minister Winston Churchill appointed Major General Montgomery to command the British Eighth Army in North Africa. There Montgomery defeated German field marshal Erwin Rommel at the Battle of El-Alamein in October 1942. In this act, he became the first General to defeat the Germans; a significant accomplishment and a turning point in Rommel’s career. Montgomery was knighted for his actions and promoted to full General . Throughout the rest of 1942 and through May of 1943, General Montgomery and the Eighth Army continued to relentlessly attack the Germans in North Africa. In May 1943, the Germans surrendered to the British in North Africa at Tunisia.

Working under United States General Dwight D Eisenhower, General Montgomery played a major role in the Allies invasion of Sicily in 1943. The invasion was successful and Montgomery continued to  lead the  Eighth Army methodically up the east coast of Italy.

Montgomery was called home to lead the Allied armies into France in 1944. On June 6, 1944, again under Untied States General Eisenhower, Montgomery headed the ground forces in the initial stages of the invasion of Normandy. Beginning August 1, 1944 the now field marshal Montgomery led his troops victoriously across northern France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and into northern Germany. The Allied forces had successfully worked together to defeat the Nazi’s.