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One reason we love war stories here at Cracked is because so often, what actually happens on the battlefield is way stranger than anything we got in cheesy 80s action movies. The real battlefield is chock full of heroics so badass that if you put them in respected war films like Saving Private Ryan or Universal Soldier, we'd all collectively groan, "Yeah, right."

Here are five groups of soldiers that prove that no matter how implausible the plot, some group of soldiers, somewhere, have topped it.

5
Pavlov's Platoon Holds Off the Nazis. All of Them.

The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:

Here's a story implausible enough it could only have come from the fantasy genre, specifically the Battle of Helm's Deep from Lord of the Rings. A bunch of under-equipped warriors find themselves holed up in a fortress, outnumbered 30 to one. Knowing that death is all but inevitable, they decide to fend off the vastly superior army for a miraculous stretch of time as a pure exercise in ball-flexing manliness, before being rescued by a wizard.


Also, the fat elf dies.

Topped by Real Life When:

Imagine if Helm's Deep had only been defended by two dozen guys and the enemy crossed the sheer overwhelming math of a zombie horde with the Empire's propensity for terrifying marshal efficiency.

That's what one Sergeant Yakov Pavlov's platoon found themselves facing down in September of 1942. The Nazis were pushing into Russia as part of the biggest military operation in the history of the human race, and everything was about to come to a head in the city of Stalingrad with a battle over a single bombed-out apartment building.


They called it the "Battle of Stalingrad" because "The Battle of That Building Where Sergei's Mom Used to Live" didn't sound quite as impressive.

Pavlov and his platoon was tasked with the thankless job of retaking the building after the Nazis had seized it. To get a snapshot of what their mindset was like heading in, it's helpful to know that the assignment was considered an extremely dangerous one by the Soviet Army, and that the Soviet Army's slogan at the time was "die for Russia."


Somehow, the slogan failed to raise morale.

Doing the quick math, Pavlov realized his only chance was to throw his whole platoon into the meat grinder, and hope that the speed with which they passed through left at least a few alive. He lost all but four men in the assault, but eventually his plan worked and they took the building. Had they known they were dealing with a man who considered four people surviving a success, the Nazis probably would have realized that they were in for some serious shit. Having barely enough survivors to outfit a respectable zombie movie, Pavlov could only station one soldier to each floor. However, the drop-dead gorgeous line of sight it offered was enough for them to unleash a mountain of unholy hell against all Fascist comers.


The last face many Nazis ever saw.

The building was subjected to relentless fire--as were the civilians huddled in its basement--but Pavlov's unit held out long enough to be reinforced by a still-tiny 25 men. Not a wizard, but it was all they needed. His men were given machine guns, rifles, mortars, barbed-wire, anti-tank mines, some body armor and a PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle which Pavlov personally used to snipe a dozen tanks from the rooftop. They basically used what little equipment they had to convert the apartment into a goddamn anti-Nazi death machine that could annihilate whatever came at it from a kilometer in every direction.

As long as everyone conserved their ammo and manned their posts, the only real danger posed to the building came from flamethrowers. Fortunately, with legendary snipers like 19-year-old Anatoly Chekhov on the top floor, this usually resulted in a Viking funeral for the Nazis.

Wave after wave of the German army hammered the building. And died.

Later, Pavlov's men could boast that they killed more Germans defending their one building than the French killed in the entire fall of Paris. And unfortunately for French egos, they were still alive to boast--by February 2 the next year, the Battle of Stalingrad was over. Pavlov was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, and the building he defended was made into a monument.

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4
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:

Hopefully you didn't see the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but did read the comics, which feature a band of legendary fictional characters such as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man and Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde, all coming together from separate fictional universes to save the world.

The Badass True Story:

What if we told you that there was a secret military unit during World War II which featured this guy:

And this guy:

...who operated out of Sherlock Holmes' headquarters and saved the world from nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Nazis?

Meet the Special Operations Executive, a super-secret branch of the UK military personally tasked by Winston Churchill to "set Europe ablaze." On the crew were James Bond-creator Ian Fleming (who would base Bond on his own experiences), as well as members who would be Fleming's inspirations for M, Q, Miss Moneypenny and the sultry Vesper Lynd. They were joined by the future Dracula/Saruman/Dooku Christopher Lee. They were stationed at Baker Street. Yep, the place where the fictional Sherlock Holmes solved his mysteries.

These "Baker Street Irregulars" were Churchill's go-to guys and girls for "ungentlemanly" warfare. If there was a bridge that needed busting or an Axis officer who needed seducing, you'd better believe the SOE had all the cloaks and daggers necessary to make sure Colonel Arschloch spent his last moments of WWII getting murdered in his bed anywhere from the English Channel to Southeast Asia.

The Ministry's greatest achievement, and perhaps the single finest act of sabotage in all of WWII, was Operation Gunnerside: a crossover between the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare and their cousins in the Norwegian Resistance. Their mission: train a crack commando unit of former-Vikings to join SOE on a secret mission to destroy a heavy water plant in Norway before the Nazis could build an atomic bomb with it. It's thanks to these unknown bastards of WWII that Hitler didn't have any nuclear-tipped V-2 rockets to turn the last months of the war into something akin to Judgment Day.


If only.

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3
Moffat's Squadron Takes Down a Floating Death Star

The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:

Luke's Red Squadron from Star Wars. If instead of fancy space technology, the Red Squadron used a flare gun and a slingshot to destroy the Death Star.

The Badass True Story:

Stretching at 825 feet and capable of displacing more than 50,000 metric tons, the Bismarck was the largest battleship in the world when it was launched. Seeing this bastard through a pair of binoculars, you'd have to think it was too big to be possible.

Not only did it boast eight 15-inch guns (if you're thinking that sounds tiny, understand the shells were 15 inches across) and five dozen smaller armaments, the ship's onboard targeting computer was so precise it blew away HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, with one freaking shot. The subsequent destruction of the HMS Hood and the loss of almost all its sailors was considered one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in all of WWII.

Fortunately, the battleship did have one fatal weakness: a small and vulnerable rudder, presumably located right below its thermal exhaust port. Enter Lieutenant Commander John Moffat of the Fleet Air Arm.

Just after nightfall on May 24, 1941, Moffat and his squad of biplane bombers assaulted the Bismarck from every direction, in most cases skimming just above the water-line to avoid the battleship's fire.

Although they were flying in the black of night likely using some old timey version of the Force, Moffat was able to fire a torpedo in a one-in-a-million shot that struck the Bismarck square on its rudder, the one vulnerable spot in 50 thousand tons of armor and bristling weaponry. The hit left the most feared battleship in the Kriegsmarine floating dead in the water. The Royal Navy promptly sailed in to finish the job.


Boy, those survivors sure are some sour krauts.

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2
The Filthy Thirteen

The Half Assed Hollywood Effort:

The Dirty Dozen, a film that would probably not have been possible had the Filthy Thirteen not come out first.

The Badass True Story:

The Filthy Thirteen were a sub-unit within the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, better known as the "Screaming Eagles" who descended on Hitler's Fortress Europe with the 82nd Airborne during the wee-hours of D-Day for some early-morning foreplay. The Filthies were among the hardest-hitting, harder-drinking roughnecks in the U.S. Army, and got their name for their tendency to bathe and shave only once a week during training and rarely washing their uniforms, if ever. Hello, scabies!


Real heroes are disgusting and riddled with easily preventable diseases.

Their specialty was blowing the shit out of bridges and whatever else they figured could go "boom" if they strapped it to enough TNT, which caused a nightmare for the Germans as they tried in vain to fend off the Allied invasion. The jobs were as risky as a shore leave prostitute in Thailand, but the Filthy Thirteen were able to blow the shit out of Nazi-occupied France all the way from Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, all while smelling worse than, well, a goddamn shore leave prostitute in Thailand.

Their fearless leader, Jake McNiece was part Native-American, and his fellow Filthies chose to honor this by going into battle sporting mohawks like Travis Bickle, and freaking war-paint.

But before he even made it that far, McNiece had to enlist and, at the age of 23, was delivered this nugget of advice from the enlisting officer:

"You may just be 23. I don't know, but your face and your head looks like it's been used as practice for hand grenade tossing and wore out three bodies already."

If that's not some movie shit, we don't know what is. Wait, yes we do, this quote from fellow Filthy Thirteener Robert Cone regarding the D-Day mission:

"We landed near a hedgerow, from which the Germans were firing at us, and the guy I was with was killed. I got hit in the right shoulder, which broke my arm all the way down into the forearm. The bullet was lodged in there for a year. I was able to get away, though, but could not hold my rifle."

Unless crapping your pants and falling to the ground in a heap of blubbering womanliness somehow managed to become an escape tactic, there probably isn't a person reading this who would escape some something like that one-armed and unarmed.

And if none of that piques your interest, check this quote from Filthy Thirteen member Jack Womer regarding the time he met Winston Churchill, which we proudly present to you with absolutely no additional information to help you ascertain exactly how this came to pass:

"I thought to myself, 'Should I shoot this son of a gun? I don't care if he is Prime Minister, I don't want him urinating on me!'"


With someone who drank like Churchill, the possibilities are endless.

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1
The 22nd Artillery Supply Company and Private Wojtek

The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:

The Inglourious Basterds, and only because they spent half the damn movie trying to convince us that Eli Roth was a "bear" without so much as a bear-suit, never mind one day of acting lessons.

The Badass True Story:

If you ever thought the Inglourious Basterds were hardcore because they had Sergeant Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz in their ranks, well... hold on to your ass and prepare to enter a whole new world of awesome. The real world.

Within the blitzkrieg-hardened ranks of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, was the 22nd Artillery Supply Company. The 22nd's most famous regular, one Private Wojtek, was universally known throughout the Polish Underground as "He Who Enjoys War," "Smiling Warrior" or simply "the Bear." During the epic Battle of Monte Cassino, Private Wojtek and the 22nd ran ammo for their Polish brothers-in-arms to help tip the scales in their favor. Once the bloody battle was over a Polish flag was raised high atop the bombed-out Monte Cassino, thanks in large part to the presence of the single most beloved soldier in the entire Polish Army on the battlefield:

That's right... the 22nd Artillery Supply Company didn't bullshit around like Tarantino. During WWII, these bastards had a real bear in their unit (not a Jewish one, though). Wojtek was a Syrian Brown Bear adopted by the 22nd while they were stationed in Persia. Wojtek proved to be the ultimate office pet for these war-weathered Poles, eating with them, drinking booze with them, sleeping in their barracks and trekking with them all the way from Persia to Palestine. Once the 22nd was ready to ship for Italy, Wojtek had two options: go home, or get a job. Sure enough, young Wojtek answered his call of duty, and officially enlisted in the Polish Army as a Private.


Incredibly, this is not his last living photo.

Wojtek worked hard for his pay (yes, pay) by helping transport heavy munitions to the front lines, which was made a bit easier for the 22nd on account of Wojtek being a freaking bear. Wojtek was a hard drinker, a diligent marcher (as demonstrated in this adorable war-footage), a charmer with the ladies and... well, did we mention that he weighed several hundred kilos, ran faster than a horse, smelled blood from a horizon away and could scalp a Nazi with one swipe on his bear-mitts on account of him being a goddamned bear?

Just look at their freaking emblem:

How the 22nd Artillery Supply Company wasn't immediately transferred to combat duty once Wojtek enlisted is beyond us. You don't need to be freaking Eisenhower to figure that if Wojtek was given some extra stripes, he could have trained an entire corps of Nazi-eating soldier-bears using bear-speak to plow a road from Italy to Berlin that would have ended WWII in the form of Wojtek personally eating Hitler.

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For more kick-ass soldiers, check out 5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy. Or check out some other animals that could've won wars on their own, in The 6 Most Adorable Animals (To Ever Go On a Bloody Rampage).

And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 06.02.10) to see David Wong's epic battle against the people of Estonia.

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