#3. Saito Musashibo Benkei, 1189 AD
"Benkei stood there defiantly, naginata in hand, and so terrible did he look that none dared approach him."
- Stephen Turnbull, The Samurai: A Military History
The feudal Japanese shit-wrecker, Saito Musashibo Benkei, was a massive, ferocious behemoth of a man, known for being strong enough to pulverize your head into a disgusting grayish mush with his bare hands. If you made it past his reputation with control over your bowels, his hideously ugly and freakishly ogre-like appearance was there to cause opposing warriors to shit their armor.
Benkei was a Buddhist priest, but he wasn't the sort of Buddhist priest that spends all day in his sanctuary praying, thinking about peace and not going around smashing people in the groin with a bladed poleaxe until they cough up their prostate. He joined a monastery, but that was a little too tame for him, and he was eventually kicked out because of his recklessness and general balls-outitude. So instead, he went out and declared a Wookiee Life Debt to the only man capable of defeating him in single combat: the feudal samurai warlord, Minomoto no Yoshitsune.
Things were going pretty well for the pair re: kicking everyone's ass in Japan, until one day Yoshitune's brother decided he was going to take charge, seize power for himself and declare his brother a traitor. Yoshitsune, knowing that the end was near, decided that the only rational way of dealing with the dishonor was to ritualistically disembowel himself by committing seppuku. It takes a little bit of time to do the seppuku thing up right, though, so in his final act as a samurai lord Yoshitsune ordered our man Benkei to guard the castle. While "watching the door while I go kill myself" might not sound like the most sacred of duties, committing seppuku was like blowing oneself up in a cosmic game of Halo in order to deny an opponent the satisfaction of getting the final kill-shot.
It ain't easy to kill yourself with a gun like this.
Benkei went out to the drawbridge leading towards the castle, clenched his naginata in his hands and dared the army on the other side to fuck with him. When a few accepted, Benkei slapped the fail out of them with the blunt end of his bladed axe, knocking their brains out and sending crumpled remains splashing into the moat. The enemy army stood across from him, trying to figure out how the balls they were going to get past, and whenever some dumbshit managed to find the cojones required to step foot on the drawbridge Benkei made sure the last thing he saw was a foot-long hunk of razor sharp steel.
Realizing that any attempts of fighting Benkei like a man were going to result in an eviscerated brain pan, the opposing army just decided to shoot a bunch of arrows at him instead. Amazingly, this didn't even seem to faze him all that much--he just stood there, weapon at the ready, his armor bristling with a couple dozen arrows. It took them a while to realize that he was in fact dead. Legend has it that he died standing, though logic would suggest that some of the arrows he had sticking out of his body might have kept him upright. Either way, by the time anyone had the balls to realize the gatling gun barrage of arrows had killed him it was too late--the proud warrior had already completed the ritual and died with all the honor due a samurai of his stature, or alternately a really obnoxious Halo player.
De Benneville, James. Tales of the Wars of the Gempei. Bibliobazaar, 2001.
Murasaki Shikibu. Tale of the Heike. Trans. Helen Craig McCullough. Stanford Univ. Press, 1994.
Turnbull, Stephen R. The Samurai: A Military History. Routledge, 1996.
Turnbull, Stephen R. Warriors of Medieval Japan. Osprey, 2007.
#2. Frank Luke, 1918 AD
"Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called on him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound to the chest."
- Medal of Honor citation
Lieutenant Frank Luke of the United States Army Air Service had earned a reputation as a lights-out "balloon buster," which sounds kind of like a lame-ass Atari game but was actually pretty hardcore. Back before the days of UAVs, satellite imaging and Imperial Psykers, artillery spotting and intelligence gathering was usually just obtained by some dude standing around in a hot-air balloon with a pair of 'nocks and a radio. Taking one of these bastards out usually meant you were saving trenchloads of infantrymen. Since the tethered balloons were also relatively-stationary, high-priority targets, they were also usually escorted by fighter squadrons and surrounded by ground-based anti-aircraft batteries, making them pretty tough to get to. So, as lame as the name might be, the guy's job was basically the Death Star trench run at the end of Episode IV with the added bonus that you got to turn an enemy target into the Hindenburg.
Frank Luke: Earth's Luke Skywalker.
He was damn good at it, too--in just 17 days of combat he took out 18 enemy aircraft, including one battle where he shot down two balloons and three fighter planes in the span of 10 minutes. Another time he was on one of his trademark "lone wolf" missions and his gun jammed, so he climbed out, fixed it in mid-flight, turned BACK AROUND, hunted his target down and killed him.
Being such a balls-out deathmeister eventually caught up with Luke, however, and his last stand began in the skies above Murvaux, France in 1918. He was alone, deep behind enemy lines and intent on taking out a large cluster of enemy aircraft and balloons. He started with a low run that barely cleared the tree tops, but handily turned two German observation balloons in to raging airborne infernos. However, while dodging ground fire from anti-aircraft batteries and machine gun towers, a squadron of eight German fighters dove down from above and began pursuing him as well. It was beginning to seem like Frank Luke had gotten in over his head here.
Well, if you know shit about Luke, you know that he wasn't going to piss his pants just because a couple hundred German soldiers were filling the air with more bullets than a Gradius boss battle. Luke continued to press the attack, surrounded on all sides by gunfire, and managed to take out the third and final balloon stationed at this aerodrome.
By this point Luke had been hit by enough gunfire that his plane, and his body were both beginning to fail. Deciding there was time for one final run, and realizing there was nothing left in the sky for him to kill, he picked off six enemy infantrymen before crash-landing in an open field. Luke, never one to show any mercy or ask for quarter, now found himself surrounded on all sided by the heavily-armed German soldiers that were closing in on his position. Badly wounded and in hostile territory, Luke defied authority to the end. When the assembled enemy troops called for his surrender, he responded by unholstering his pistol and picking off a few more Germans. After he died from a chest wound, he became the first member of the USAS to ever receive the Medal of Honor.
Cooke, James G. United States Air Service in the Great War. Greenwood, 1996.
Guttman, Jon. USAS 1st Pursuit Group. Osprey, 2008.
Hudson, James J. Hostile Skies. Syracuse Univ. Press, 1997.
Roberts, Priscilla Mary. Encyclopedia of World War I. ABC-CLIO, 2005
#1. Thomas A. Baker, 1944 AD
"Another comrade, withdrawing, offered assistance. Sgt. Baker refused, insisting that he be left alone and be given a soldier's pistol with its remaining eight rounds of ammunition. When last seen alive, Sgt. Baker was propped against a tree, pistol in hand, calmly facing the foe. Later Sgt. Baker's body was found in the same position, gun empty, with eight Japanese lying dead before him. His deeds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army."
- Medal of Honor citation
Sergeant Baker was part of a combined Army and Marine Corps expedition to capture the Mariana Island of Saipan from the Japanese. In the days prior to his final stand, when his squad was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire, Baker grabbed a rocket launcher, ran within 100 yards of the Japanese bunker and turned it into cinder-block dust with one shot.
On the day he died, Baker found himself facing down an INSANE banzai charge of roughly 5,000 Japanese infantrymen flying bayonet-first out of the jungles and screaming, "Long Live the Emperor" Imperial Space Marine-style. Seeing the enemy closing in on three sides, Baker simply cracked his knuckles, swore under his breath and changed a clip into his weapon.
The initial wave left Baker seriously wounded by enemy rifle fire, but he refused to run or back down or show any emotion other than anger. He stood his ground, firing like crazy with any weapons he could get his hands on, sometimes from as close as point-blank range. When he ran out of bullets, he Hulked up (Banner or Hogan, your choice) and beat off the attack with his hands, an admittedly ballsy move that left him even more fucked up.
Why not both?
His weapon was smashed and he was bleeding profusely from a number of gaping wounds when some of his men came up and started carrying him from the battlefield. By this time the perimeter was buckling, the fight was lost and the Americans were falling back to regroup, but Baker didn't give a shit. He knew that dragging his half-dead ass along the ground was only slowing down the withdrawal, so he told his men to prop him up against a tree facing the enemy. He borrowed a Colt 1911, made sure that it had a full eight-round clip and told his men to get the fuck out of there while he bought them some time.
Standard issue Colt 1911. Not standard issue: being super hardcore.
When the final American advance pushed forward and captured Saipan later that same month, they found Sergeant Baker's body propped up against the tree, facing his enemies right where they'd left him. The eight rounds they'd left him with meanwhile, were now in the eight dead Japanese soldiers scattered before him.
Further Reading:Full Medal of Honor Citation
Goldberg, Harold J. D-Day in the Pacific. Indiana Univ. Press, 2007.
Sinton, Starr, and Robert Hargis. World War II Medal of Honor Recipients. Osprey, 2003.
Ben Thompson has spent the past five and a half years documenting some of the greatest warriors in history on his website, Badass of the Week. To promote the release of his new book BADASS, he's gone out and found the most insane stories of people who refused to back down right up until (and in some cases, after) their hearts stopped.