Action heroes aren't real. In real life, hostages stay hostages, trapped people stay trapped and there's no Bruce Willis to come crashing through a window in an undershirt.
Well, usually. Even in real life, every once in a while, the good guys pull off a rescue that would seem grossly implausible by Hollywood standards. Like ...
#5. Escaping the Nazis With Cross-Dressing
Flying a glider during World War II wasn't for the faint of heart. Shit, flying a glider at any time isn't for the faint of heart. But during WWII, when a glider was an engineless craft with all the aerodynamics of a brick, it was especially treacherous. The glider was towed behind another plane and then cut loose in the hopes that it would safely crash in a way that didn't kill everyone on board.
Yeah, but tank-planes!
While flying a mission over Holland during World War II, glider pilot George F. Brennan was being towed to his target when German anti-aircraft guns attacked. Brennan was first hit with a bullet in his hand. Next, an AA shell fragmented near the plane, showering him with flak in the chest, leg, arm and ass. A few minutes later, another bullet went the spoof-comedy route and hit the gas line of a jeep strapped down in the back of the plane, igniting a gas fire. The flames spread to the pilots, burning them before other passengers were able to put it out. So, you know, it was a pretty bad flight. And did we mention that all of this happened before the glider was even released from the plane that was towing it?
"Don't worry, gravity is a Nazi invention, and we're having no truck with it."
As if being burned, shot and riddled with shrapnel wasn't enough, another shrapnel round exploded before the glider could make its way to the ground, lodging burning pieces of metal into Brennan's jaw.
The Insane Rescue:
The first part of the rescue came off with no problem -- after crashing, Brennan was rescued by the Dutch resistance, who took him to a hospital.
But that's when things got complicated: That hospital was currently occupied by the German military. The Nazis had taken over the first floor and Brennan was on the second, a few feet and one floor above Colonel Klink's head. So how in the hell do the Dutch hide an injured pilot in plain sight of the enemy? Here's where you have to ask: What would a slapstick '80s sitcom do?
It was a question that haunted Hitler every day.
So, in a move right out of Tom Hanks' greatest role to date, the buddy sitcom romp Bosom Buddies, the Dutch decided the best course of action was to stuff a pillow down Brennan's shirt, disguise him as a pregnant woman and let him recover in the maternity ward.
There he sat for weeks, slowly recovering a flight of stairs up from the Nazis, nodding in polite conversation whenever the Dutch women in his ward would talk about cheeseburger crotch and pregnancy "tumors." He was able to stay hidden until the frontline reached the hospital.
And then he gave birth to a plane.
#4. Escaping the Jungle in a Slingshot Hang Glider
On May 13, 1945, 24 passengers took off in a comfortingly named "Gremlin Special plane" to fly over the jungles of New Guinea, which at the time was nothing more than a gigantic, unexplored land mass. It was a tour that was only supposed to take three hours, but ended up taking much longer due to an unfortunate mishap. It's exactly like the premise of the beloved television comedy Gilligan's Island, except for the part where 21 of the 24 passengers tragically died when the plane ended up slamming into a mountain.
After hours of walking through the jungle, the survivors were able to make their way to a clearing and flag a search-and-rescue plane to let them know they were alive. In turn, the jungle let those planes know that there was no chance they could land on account of all the trees and such.
"Send lumberjacks. Repeat: Send lumberjacks."
To make matters worse, as the planes were uselessly flying overhead searching in vain for a place to land, the survivors noticed a tribe of natives standing at the edge of the clearing. But the bad news didn't stop there. Somehow, word came down that those natives were possibly cannibals. Oh no! But it was cool, because they were the silly kind of natives who once had a prophecy that white-skinned ghosts would fall from the sky, so nobody got immediately eaten.
But beliefs in space ghosts didn't change the fact that, due to the remoteness of the area, a rescue party couldn't walk in (because they didn't fall from the sky, they probably would've been eaten anyway), and again, dense jungle prevented planes from landing.
Early attempts at claiming the country had involved trained birds and tiny American flags.
The Insane Rescue:
Somehow, the proposed and enacted solution to this was to just keep dropping more people into the area in the hopes that a larger group of people would miraculously be able to escape a space so tightly packed that three people couldn't do the same. This, for some reason, went on for two months, with more men and supplies being dropped into a jungle that there was no escape from. It was quite the debacle, and there was but one solution.
Enter the Fanless Faggot.
"Move to the left a bit more ... there. Now our descendants don't think we're terrible people."
That was the actual, real name of a build-it-yourself hang glider. The big idea was to drop the necessary parts to construct a Fanless Faggot (we'll never get used to typing that) into the jungle clearing and, just like that, everyone could get the hell out of there. But wait, you say, how is a hang glider useful if you're trapped on the ground in a dense jungle?
Stop asking stupid questions. Obviously, they planned to attach a giant rubber bungee cord to the back of the glider so a plane towing a hook behind it could fly overhead and slingshot the Fanless Faggot and its ever-growing crew of stranded jungle dwellers into the air and back to relative safety.
"You know, we could probably just get used to cannibals and parasitic worms."
If that plan sounds totally insane, it's probably because you haven't been living in the jungle for an extended period of time with angry natives who at any moment could simultaneously realize you aren't a fallen ghost and remember that they are hungry cannibals. Until you've been through that, don't tell us shit about how crazy a slingshot airplane sounds.
With everyone loaded onto a glider and the bungee system set up, the lifting plane swooped down and successfully caught the FF, launching it into the air. The plan, as wacky as it sounds, totally worked, and everyone was rescued.
And even had horribly uncomfortable friendships with some of the natives.
#3. POWs 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.