3POWs Freed by a Near-Suicidal Bombing Run
When the Nazis occupied Northern France, they rounded up hundreds of French resistance fighters and detained them at Amiens Prison. For France, this was not going to end well, since those French fighters were facing an inevitable date with a German firing squad.
So it's no surprise that those brave French were willing to go along with any plan that resulted in them not dying at the hands of the Nazis. But we have to think that they were at least a little bit concerned when word came down that the Allies did indeed have a plan ... they were going to bomb the shit out of the prison they were in.
"Hey, in for a penny, in for a glorious explosive death."
The Insane Rescue:
Keep in mind this was decades before anything resembling precision bombing techniques were invented. Before smart bombs, the Allies' usual procedure was "Here is a small factory we want to destroy, let's just carpet bomb the whole city. Surely one or two of the thousands of bombs we drop will hit the target." Back then, "collateral damage" meant everyone in a 50-mile radius.
Conscious of this fact, the rescue planners sought to bomb the prison from such a low altitude you'd think the plan was to decapitate Nazis using airplane wings. But the real plan was no less insane. Basically, they were hoping to drop the bombs in such a way that only the walls of the prison would be destroyed, and not the building where the prisoners were being held. It would be kind of like trying to free a man by shooting off his handcuffs with a shotgun.
While you sprint toward him at breakneck speed.
Accordingly, the French Underground and Allies had such little faith in the plan that they decided that if the bombs failed to knock a hole in the wall, a second bombing run would just carpet bomb the whole prison to rubble. The prisoners themselves were on board with that, saying they would rather die at the hands of the Allies than reveal anything to the Nazis under torture. So much for the French being pussies, yeah?
That act bumped them up to at least the 56th least surrendery country in the world.
When the operation got underway, its poor odds didn't improve, as only a portion of the bombers made it to the target due to weather and mechanical difficulties. Those that avoided the German AA defenses and planes quickly got to work on the French jail and through skill and luck were able to smash a hole into the wall by swooping down low. Way low, as in, lower than the prison building.
As a bonus, they also destroyed the guard house where most of the German staff were having their meal. All the while, the whole rescue was broadcast live by the BBC via a British reporter who hitched a ride on one of the planes. Damn! War coverage used to be awesome.
2Rescued by Way of Mundane Golf Stats
On April 2, 1972, Iceal "Gene" Hambleton, an intelligence analyst, was aboard a plane used to jam North Vietnamese Communist Army (NVA) radar. While over enemy territory, anti-aircraft missiles knocked his plane out of the sky. Luckily, Hambleton was able to bail out before the craft exploded. Less luckily, his bailout landed him in front of a huge army of NVA regulars in the process of launching one of the biggest North Vietnamese offensives into South Vietnam.
And they were coming for him -- the enemy found out he was an intelligence analyst, which meant he'd be a very high value POW. Fortunately for Hambleton, he had pretty extensive knowledge of something else ... the game of golf.
"On second thought, we don't want him any more."
The Insane Rescue:
A SEAL team sent in on foot to rescue Hambleton quickly realized that Vietnamese intelligence was listening to their radio communications. You can immediately see the problem this would cause with staging a rescue -- telling Hambleton where to wait for a chopper would mean half the North Vietnamese army would also be waiting in that spot.
"Surprise! Tank party!"
On the fly, the Special Forces developed what must have been the most boring special code ever with Hambleton, based on his extensive knowledge of golf courses. That's right, all that useless bullshit you have stuffed in your head could save your life some day!
Nah, we're totally kidding; algebra is useless.
Transmissions would use golf terms and Hambleton's encyclopedic knowledge of distances to the green from famous courses. An example transmission would read, "You're going to play 18 holes and you're going to get in the Swanee and make like Esther Williams and Charlie the Tuna. The round starts on No. 1 at Tucson National." How did the NVA not figure that out?
For six more days, Hambleton scrambled around the NVA-infected jungle, moving from "green" to "green." Although he mostly escaped detection, at one point he came upon a surprised Vietnamese man who attacked him with a knife. Hambleton was able to "neutralize" his attacker. So you could say that fate gave Hambleton ... a mulligan. Man, this golf code shit is easy.
"There's one ball in play and one in the bunker. Also, I may need an ambulance."
The rescue of Iceal "Gene" Hambleton (Call sign Bat 21 Bravo) from behind enemy lines was the largest, longest and most complex search-and-rescue operation during the entire Vietnam War, and it was all possible because of one man's Rain Man-like knowledge of golf.