Here at Cracked, we take pride in our quest to chronicle the history of human badassery, from soldiers who make movie heroes look like cowards to people with the ability to survive pretty much whatever the world throws at them.
But there's a special kind of badass that doesn't get as much attention, and that's the kind that overcomes horrific violence with nothing but willpower, skill, bravery, and (to be totally fair) a somewhat stupid disregard for personal safety.
From his 1942 enlistment in the U.S. Army, Desmond Doss was a living contradiction. He was a Seventh Day Adventist pacifist there voluntarily, but even under direct orders, he refused to so much as hold a rifle. He did have the excuse that he was going to be serving as a field medic, but his commanding officer still tried unsuccessfully to get rid of him through Section 8. Doss also refused to work on Saturday, so he had to make up for it throughout the rest of the week.
The Army was not the gentle and accommodating organization we know and love today, and all of this being a special snowflake stuff did Doss basically no favors. While praying, his comrades would chide and throw shoes at him. One of his comrades even told him that when the troop went into battle, he would shoot Doss himself.
"Just not in the mustache."
Then came the May 1945 Battle of Okinawa. Doss and his group in the 307th Infantry were forced to climb a 400-foot cliff to attack entrenched Japanese troops. Once there, they received heavy resistance. This is where Doss went the pacifist version of totally berserk. According to his later citations, at one point Doss ran "through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces." Over the course of the next two days, Doss provided medical services and pulled soldiers to safety, and was credited with saving the lives of 75 wounded, including the soldier who had threatened to kill him.
"P.S. Sorry about that. It was war, you know?"
On the second day, one of those grenades finally got him and severely wounded his legs. Doss dressed the wounds himself and then waited five hours for someone to come and get him. When they did, en route to the field hospital under tank fire, Doss gave up his stretcher and told his bearers to carry another wounded soldier instead, which is about the point where you stop being a "war hero" and start being a "show off." The universe rewarded his willingness to abandon his cot by hitting him in the arm with a bullet when someone else tried to carry him from the field. Doss then broke his private vow to never pick up a rifle and tied one to his arm as a splint, thus becoming the world's only badass Mega Man Cosplayer, if one of the less accurate ones.
Doss crawled several hundred yards to the field hospital from there, and for his over-the-top heroism, he became one of only two conscientious objectors in American military history to win the Medal of Honor, which his tragically sincere religious conviction probably prevented him from using as a ninja throwing star.
However, the Bible doesn't say anything about chakrams.
The Washington Times / Getty
In the 1970s and '80s, you probably wouldn't have expected that Los Angeles area reverend Bennie Newton would go on to perform a badass nonviolent act. This was because prior to his arrest, Newton was an armed robber, a drug dealer, and a pimp.
He dropped the loth for the cloth.
But then he was arrested and reformed, creating the Light of Love Ministry, as well as a company to help fellow ex-convicts get their act together. That company happened to be a carpet cleaning service, because real life is not above using contrivances straight out of some shitty Lifetime movie. And then, the LA riots happened.
In 1992, Newton was on his way to a peace rally. The police officers accused of beating Rodney King had just been acquitted, spurring the week-long race riots that would result in more than 50 deaths and 2,000 injuries.
And a Sublime song.
Newton ran into a particularly bad mob that had taken Guatemalan immigrant Fidel Lopez from his truck and robbed him of $2,000. Lopez was then hit in the head with speakers that nearly tore his ear off, kicked, and stripped, and he endured his genitals being spray-painted black. On top of all that, he was doused with gasoline, presumably to be set on fire. In other words, it was ministerin' time.
The Bible-wielding Newton, calling on his theological training, threw himself onto the soon-to-be-set-alight Lopez and shouted "Kill him, and you'll have to kill me, too!" The crowd was unwilling to murder a reverend on top of an immigrant, because even mobs have standards. Newton escorted Lopez to his truck, and, when no ambulances would risk driving out through the riot-ridden streets, drove Lopez to the hospital.
"Jesus! Do I have to do everything around here?"
Lopez and Newton stayed in touch, and when Newton was suffering from leukemia, Lopez often visited him at his bedside. The reverend passed away a year later, so we guess you could say that the LA riots turned out to be the final act in Newton's comeback story ... and you have to admit, it's not bad.
Because you've seen Rambo, you're going to think you know where the story of American POW Dick Antrim is going. But his brand of badassery serves as proof that you can be a hero without mowing down an enemy platoon with a belt-fed machine gun.
Or a magazine-fed one, dick.
After his ship was sunk by the Japanese navy, First Lieutenant Antrim (serving as executive officer) and the rest of the ship's survivors were brought to a POW camp. While there, Antrim saw (and we're quoting from his Medal of Honor citation here) a fellow officer "subjected to a vicious clubbing by a frenzied Japanese guard venting his insane wrath upon the helpless prisoner."
That's probably pretty terrifying for most people, but Antrim had just finished having the living crap bombed out of his ship, organizing lifeboats and supplies so that all but one of his men survived, and keeping his crew together through three straight days of floating in the Pacific Ocean. After that, he must've thought the guard's attempt to kill one of his men was, at best, cute.
"Awwwww, wook at the widdle guard. Somebody forgot their big boy pants today!"
In spite of the fact that this prison was apparently staffed with prison guards from a Stephen King book, Antrim interrupted the guard's attack and told him (with sign language, since he didn't speak Japanese) that he would take the other prisoner's beating for him. By his account, the guards were so shocked at his audacity that they not only backed down, but also put Antrim in charge of digging trenches, making the guards "bipolar" in addition to "vicious," "insane," and "frenzied."
Although he had already looked death in the face and smirked, Antrim took things one step further with his new duty by organizing the trenches so that they spelled "U.S." from the sky. This had two effects: First, it notified Allied bombers that this was a POW camp (thereby saving hundreds of lives), and second, it guaranteed that if the plan was ever found out, Antrim would've been executed. He knew this, and he clearly didn't give a shit, because he had his men to look after.
Ten years after his death in 1969, they named a ship after him, because you're goddamn right they did.
It's really more a scale model of his wang.