Phoebe Ann Moses, better known as Annie Oakley was a famous American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. She developed her skills as a marksman in her teenage years and supported her family by shooting game in the nearby woods and selling it to the Katzenberger brother’s grocery store in Greenville, Ohio. She was a talented hunter and even managed to pay the $200 mortgage for her mother’s house with the money she earned.
In 1875, when Annie was only 15-years-old, she entered a shooting match with touring champion Frank Butler and managed to beat him in the competition. Butler fell in love with her, and they married the following year. The couple started traveling across the country and performing feats of marksmanship on stage.
In 1885, Buffalo Bill hired Annie and her husband for his Wild West Show and toured with the show for sixteen years. They performed throughout the United States and eventually, across Europe. Annie was the star of the show, and Frank was working as her manager and assistant.
In 1890, Annie was performing in Berlin where among the audience was Friedrich Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. He was a great admirer of Oakley’s performances who previously had been to several runs of the show.
During the show, Annie asked a for a volunteer to accept risking his life by holding a cigarette in his mouth from which she would attempt to shoot the ashes. She did this regularly while performing, but until that day no one was brave enough to accept the challenge except for her husband who always stepped forward as her assistant.
However, there was a volunteer that time, and it was the Kaiser himself. He was the last person which Annie expected to volunteer for this dangerous shooting act, but she had no choice and invited him onto the stage. She knew that he was one of the most powerful men in Europe and that his life was in her hands. She raised her Colt .45 while Kaiser placed a cigar in his mouth and she pulled the trigger.
She blew away the ashes right off the Kaiser’s cigarette. Had the bullet hit him instead of the cigarette placed in his mouth, the event would have changed the course of the history. Later, the young Kaiser played a major role in launching World War I.
As reported by the BBC, the Kaiser was a strong believer in increasing the strength of the German armed forces, particularly the navy. He alienated Britain with his naval expansion and a policy of aggressive German colonial expansion, and also supported the Boers in their fight against the British. Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, Wilhelm encouraged the Austrians to adopt a firm line against Serbia, effectively writing them a ‘blank cheque’ for German support in the events of the war.
If Oakley killed the Kaiser that night in Berlin, maybe there would not have been a World War I and since that war was the primary cause of World War II, perhaps there would not have been a World War II either.
The New York Times reported that Annie later realized her mistake. After World War I began, she wrote to the Kaiser asking for a second shot. He did not respond.