#3. Gotz von Berlichingen aka Gotz of the Iron Hand
An Imperial Knight of Germany during the 16th century, before going solo and forming his own band of mercenaries.
After four years of successfully playing soldier for hire, shit got real when at the siege of Landshut, cannon fire forced Gotz's own sword against his right hand, taking it and some of his arm off. Holy shit, wouldn't it be awesome if he did like that Marcus Sergius guy and built a new hand out of metal?!
The Awesomeness That Followed:
Guess what? He did build a new hand out of metal!
If we could have done this whole list on Guys Who Lost Their Hands and Then Made Metal Ones and Then Killed People With Them, we would have done that. Then we would have shut down the site and declared mission accomplished.
It should be noted that Berlichingen, aided by centuries of innovation, was able to do way more with his metal hand than hold a shield. The fingers could be adjusted and moved to hold both small and large objects--anything from a playing card to, more importantly, a sword. Plus, like any good steel hand, it was excellent for knocking people senseless and fulfilling any robot handjob fantasies that a person may have. (**Editors note: robot handjob fantasies were all but nonexistent in the 16th century, please remove this sentence before publishing.**) The hand was hundreds of years ahead of its time, and became the basis for much of modern prosthetics.
With his new steel hand in place, Gotz went on a decades-long ass-kicking bender. For at least 20 years, the iron handed maniac fought for the highest bidders, ransomed people and even robbed merchants when he had spare time for shits and giggles.
Detailed in this biographical album.
Using his ill gotten gains, Gotz eventually bought a castle known as the Hornberg which, for the most part, still stands today. Never really considering himself the retirement type, Gotz was still in the warring business in his 60s, giving new meaning to the famous phrase "If you have a huge steel hand, you can whoop ass well into your 60s."
#2. Jan Baalsrud Survives the Nazis, the Cold and Self Surgery
An instrument maker turned commando during WWII.
In 1943, Jan Baalsrud and some fellow commandos went to Norway on the very specific mission of destroying an air traffic control tower with a fishing boat. Fearing that a fishing boat alone may not be sufficient, they also filled it to the tits with explosives.
You knew this was coming.
Unfortunately, the Germans caught wind of Operation Fishing Boat Bang Bang Explody Pow and were lying in wait. Jan and the others, seeing how fucked they were, lit the fuse on the explosives and tried to escape in a smaller boat; a plan which resulted in them having exactly zero remaining boats (approximately one less than the recommended amount for seafaring adventures).
Jan and his buddies were now in freezing waters and being shot to pieces. They all swam for the coast, but only Jan got away. Because his luck hadn't been shitty enough up to this point, he was immediately shot in the foot upon reaching land. Caught between freezing to death and bleeding to death, Jan also had the Germans behind him. Capture seemed imminent and, quite frankly, preferable.
An otherwise perfect vacation destination ruined by Nazis.
The Awesomeness That Followed:
Recalling the adventurous spirit that had given him the nerve to stuff a fishing boat full of explosives, Jan drew his pistol. When the Germans came within sight, he fired, killing a Gestapo officer leading the chase. Down a boot, shot in the foot, hypothermic and bleeding, he set off on a dead sprint for Sweden (so to speak).
After finding food and temporary shelter from friendly locals, Jan decided to have a gander at his hideous feet. Surprisingly, things didn't look too bad, other than whatever he saw that caused him to slice his own foot open to drain excess blood in a completely ridiculous attempt to stave off infection. Shockingly, carving up his skin with a dirty piece of steel didn't help much.
Surprisingly, this is not the same as a sterilized scalpel.
Sometime later during his escape, Jan had to hide from patrols with what was basically a snow fort for shelter. There he had 18 goddamn frigid days to consider the popsicles his feet had become. At some point, possibly out of sheer boredom, he made the fateful decision to operate with his pocket knife again. This time, however, he started cutting off toes, taking off every digit save one.
Miraculously, this second pocket knife surgery ended up stopping the gangrene threatening to consume Jan's feet, effectively saving them and maybe his life and Jan eventually made it back to Norway. For his self amputation filled efforts, Norway awarded him the St. Olav's Medal, the SIXTH highest honor a Norwegian can receive. Sixth! Real fucking nice.
#1. Alexey Maresyev Kicks Ass (Without Legs)
In 1942, while flying his Polikarpov I-16 over Staraya, which was rife with Nazis at the time, Alexey was shot down. The blast and crash fell short of killing the Russian ace, but he was severely wounded and still in enemy territory. His legs in particular had been badly mangled, which all but eliminated the possibility of a Hollywood-like slow motion walk away from the impending explosions and danger.
Even a flailing girly panic sprint was impossible.
The Awesomeness That Followed:
You know that story grandpa used to tell you about how he would four miles through two-feet of snow everyday just so he could get to school? Well, your grandpa was a worthless pussy compared to Alexey Maresyev. After being shot down, Maresyev crawled through snow, with little food and Nazis around every corner... for 18 fucking days and nights.
Crawled! Suck it, grandpa! The pain was so severe that Alexey frequently passed out, only to awaken, grab death by the throat and shake it while laughing maniacally, and start crawling again.
Experts call this a Crazy Level Busey.
Eventually, he made it back to friendly turf, only to have doctors chop off his legs below the knees. The wounds had festered during his 18-day crawl and had to come off to save his life. We're assuming that, if he had known this in advance, he probably would have just torn them off himself using nothing more than his bare hands.
At this point, anyone would've called it a day, confident that two limbs is just about enough to give in service to their country. Alexey, on the other hand, was having no part of this girlish suggestion.
After recovering somewhat, he got to work figuring how to get around on crutches and fake legs with the intent of getting back into a plane. In order to prove he was capable, among other things, Alexey even danced for the certification commission sent to judge whether or not he was fit to return to battle.
This almost happened.
Realizing that he was both capable of flying a plane and almost certainly insane, they let him fly again and he was back in the air by 1943. In August of the same year, he shot down three German fighters in a dogfight. He went on to fly 86 combat missions and, by the end of his Nazi killing days, had taken out no less than 11 enemy warplanes. For his trouble, Alexey received the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest and longest named award that any Russian person could ever hope to get.
Naturally, Maresyev's exploits made him a national hero in his native Russia, but far be it from him to accept the acclaim. "There is nothing extraordinary in what I did. The fact that I've been turned into a legend irritates me," he once said. To drive this sentiment home, he made it a point to die just moments before a national celebration commemorating his 85th birthday.
Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated today! Shit!) because you might as well read about some more badasses.