5 Other Surprise Attacks That Changed History

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The headline writers at USA Today put it this way: "9/11: How One Day Changed Our World." National Geographic observed that the attacks of Sept. 11 would "alter the course of history."

But the shocking assaults in 2001 on the World Trade towers, the Pentagon and the planned hit on the Capitol were not the first surprise attacks that changed the way humans do business.

Through the centuries, there have been unexpected strikes on civilian targets that occurred during wars — declared or not — and peacetime attacks that came completely out of the blue. The Sept. 11 attacks fall into the latter category.

Sudden assailments have toppled societies and shaken civilizations. The element of surprise can be a very potent change agent. And, perhaps, the most powerful weapon of all.

One of the earliest accounts of an epic surprise attack comes from Greek mythology: the Trojan Horse. The episode, explains George Dameron, a history professor at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vt., is associated with the 10-year war between Greeks and Trojans....

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