The 5 Most Badass Tales of Wartime Survival

#2. David Sillito Walks 180 Miles Through the Sahara Desert

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David "Jack" Sillito was a British Special Air Service trooper in North Africa during World War II. When his unit was ambushed during a mission to bomb a German train in 1942, Sillito found himself left behind. At that point, he had three seemingly unique choices that all had one unifying theme that tied them together: Every option was awful. He could either surrender to the Germans, which was a terrible option in 1942 and would probably even suck today, as anyone who's ever eaten German food can confirm. He also had the option to walk along the coast and back to the safety of Allied lines, a great choice if you don't consider the fact that it was a 500-mile walk. So, he went with door number three, a 140-mile walk south to a cache of SAS supplies hidden at a wadi (valley). Unfortunately, this walk would take him right through the Sahara Desert. He only had a map and compass. No food, no water, and a shitload of desert.

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At this point you'd start considering fascism just for the sauerkraut.

He survived the first two days on a tiny bit of water he found in a dead man's canteen on an old battlefield, and on day three he found a blown-up tank that had a can of beef still inside. Just the phrase "can of beef" is enough to make most people retch, but when you're on the verge of death by starvation, "tin can of beef retrieved from a blown-up tank" sounds like a freakin' delicacy. Unfortunately, when you're also on the verge of death by dehydration, your mouth is so dry that chewing becomes impossible. So he tossed the beef and kept the can so he could use it to drink his own urine. It sounds horrible, but in all fairness ... nope. No fairness here. It sounds horrible, because it was horrible. No question about it.

On day six, he saw three jeeps off in the distance, but couldn't call out to them because his voice was gone, and they didn't see him when he waved or ran, or even when he took off his shirt and set it right the fuck on fire. They kept on driving.

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"I said, 'Can I get some?' He said, 'You can't get none.' I had a chance to run -- he pulled out his shotgun."

At this point, Sillito gave up. He lay down and picked up a rock and tried to smash his own head in with it. Sounds about right to us! But, as he said later, "I found I hadn't even the strength to commit suicide. I couldn't even give myself a headache." He then tried to bury himself in sand and die, but collapsed and fell asleep instead.

When he woke up, still alive, much to his dismay, he started walking again and, lo and behold, he found that wadi he had been looking for. Unfortunately, the supplies he was expecting to find weren't there. His only hope at that point was rain, which was unlikely. This is the Sahara Desert we're talking about; it often goes five years at a time without rain, so there's not much chance of that happening.

But not much chance clearly doesn't mean "no chance," because amazingly, at the point where he had given up all hope, it totally started raining. Sillito drank until he couldn't drink anymore and then fell asleep, waking up to the sounds of British troops rescuing his unspeakably lucky ass. He had survived eight days in the Sahara with no food and hardly any water, which is not even supposed to be scientifically possible. For his efforts, he was granted an honorable discharge and allowed to return home to his family.

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"OK, that's enough -- get off me."

Just joking, pussy. He recovered and was back in combat in less than a month.

#1. The Unnamed Catawba Indian Warrior

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In the early 1700s, the Catawba Indian tribe of South Carolina and the Seneca Indians of New York decided that they hated each other, and they weren't going to let the four states' worth of distance between them keep them from killing each other. Let's hear it for dedication!

Innumerable battles were fought between Catawba and Seneca war parties in North Carolina and Virginia. One of these battles gave rise to a warrior who might have been one of the biggest badasses in the history of warfare (but only because John Rambo isn't a real person).

This unnamed Catawba warrior was hunting alone with his rifle somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina (like it matters) when he was ambushed by a Seneca war party. He immediately took off running, but would turn back every now and then just to take in the scenery and such. Oh, and to shoot people. He shot and killed seven Senecas before they managed to surround and capture him.

Via Wikipedia
Catawba Indians in 1913, just daring someone to fuck with them.

The Senecas stripped him naked (we're sensing a theme here), tied him up and force-marched him back to New York. They paraded him through each Seneca town, allowing the townspeople to run out and whip him as he passed. (Take note, Macy's, because this, while barbaric, is literally the only way to make a parade interesting.)

His captors had planned to burn him alive once they reached their hometown, but there they made the fatal mistake of untying him. For some reason, they must have thought he was tired after being marched butt-naked for something like 500 miles. And he was tired -- tired of not being a badass! (He dashed off and dove into a nearby river.)

He hit the water with gusto and kept swimming, all the way across, without coming up for air one time. When he did pop up on the far bank, the Senecas had broken out rifles and were shooting at him, almost certainly having decided that the burning alive idea would fail with that much water now involved. Did our warrior run away? Of course not. According to the historian who recorded this story, "He first turned his backside toward them, and slapped it with his hand." Then he turned around again, let out a war whoop just to add to the insult and dashed off into the woods.

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Above: An artist's representation. (The artists aren't paid well.)

He ran so fast that he got a two-day head start on the Senecas, who were chasing after him, which, holy shit, how slow are you guys, Senecas? What normal people would do in this situation is "keep running." What our warrior did, though, was wait until nightfall and double back.

You see, the five Senecas chasing him had set up camp for the night and failed to post a guard. In their defense, they probably didn't expect one naked man running for his life to turn around and come back at them, but that's exactly what he did. He sneaked into the middle of their camp, picked up one of their tomahawks and killed all five of them in their sleep. And then he set off running again.

The next day, another party of Senecas came to the camp and was shocked to find their comrades cut up into little pieces. They held a council and decided that in order to do what he'd done, the escaping warrior must be a wizard. Since he was a wizard, they obviously couldn't catch him if they tried. So they decided to stop trying and go home, and no, we're not making the wizard part up.

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He also talked in a thick English accent and didn't take kindly to the uppity elves of Florida.

The warrior made it back home to South Carolina after running nonstop for several days. Oh, and before he went back home, he went back to the spot where he was first captured, dug up the bodies of the seven Senecas he had killed when he was caught and scalped them, too, because attention to detail is essential during times of battle.

The Seneca, on the other hand, were so totally freaked out by all of this that they abandoned the town he had escaped from and moved right the fuck out.

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"No, that's not why we did it! We just thought that town was totally stupid!"

And since this guy remains unknown, we're forced to agree with the Seneca on this one. Dude's totally a wizard and not to be fucked with.

For more badassery against the odds, check out The 6 Most Insane True Tales of Survival. Or allow Cracked to keep you alive with 7 Common Survival Tactics (That Will Get You Killed).

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