War sucks dick. All the dicks, in fact. It cuts lives short, tears whole families apart, and it always seems to bring out the absolute worst in humanity. However, throughout history, there have been some people who've stared war's moral corruption right in the face and then punched its teeth out with the clenched fists of mercy and human courage.
#5. Charles Brown and Franz Stigler's Aerial Bromance
Charles Brown was a B-17 pilot during World War II tasked with dropping thousands of pounds of munitions on Nazi territories, or, in other words, not the most beloved man in Germany at the time. So in December 1943, after a sudden attack that wounded half of his crew and left their plane virtually defenseless over enemy terrain, it seemed like things couldn't get worse for the American airmen, which of course they immediately did.
"Good grief." -2nd Lt. Brown.
As Brown attempted to maintain control of the aircraft, he took a quick glance out the window. To his dismay, he saw a German Messerschmitt piloted by 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler, an ace fighter out on an extended revenge spree to avenge his brother August, who was killed early in the war by American pilots. Resigned to his fate, Brown looked his would-be-executioner in the eyes as he ... gave Brown a friendly nod and escorted his aircraft to safety. What the fuck?
The minute Franz Stigler heard the B-17 engine sputtering over his airbase, he had every vengeful intention of putting a million lead suppositories into its butthole, which would also round up his high score and earn him the German equivalent of the Medal of Honor. But when he maneuvered his plane for the kill shot, it became apparent that Brown and his crew were incapable of putting up any resistance. Their plane was riddled with holes, their gunner was dead and the survivors were all huddled in the flying steel coffin tending to their wounds.
Also, observed but unconfirmed: American airplane ghosts.
To Stigler, to kill them wouldn't only be unfair; it would be equal to murder, which was unacceptable for the German pilot who lived by the warrior code of honor. And so, he began to fly in formation with the bomber, tricking German anti-air crews below into thinking that it was one of their own captured B-17s. He did this until they reached the North Sea, at which point Stigler gave the grateful Americans one last salute and returned back to base. Brown eventually landed safely in Allied territory.
Forty years later, the two pilots were miraculously able to find each other and actually became the best of friends, calling each other brothers and even going on numerous fishing trips together. And all because in 1943, Stigler remembered the movie tagline-esque words of one of his commanding officers, who said, "You fight by rules to keep your humanity."
#4. A Japanese Imperial Army Officer Gives His Sports Hero a Reason to Live
Mario "Motts" Tonelli was a soldier in the U.S. Army during World War II and a former college football star who, in 1942, found himself on the losing side of the Battle of Bataan during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. After being taken prisoner, he and the rest of the captured American soldiers were forced into the infamous Bataan Death March, where they had to walk to POW camps while being beaten, starved, and tortured by the Japanese army.
They originally called it the "Batan Death March," but one "a" just didn't do it justice.
If that wasn't enough, during the march, a Japanese soldier spotted Tonelli's Notre Dame class ring and demanded he hand it over. At first he refused, as the ring symbolized his good ol' days when he played football for the Fighting Irish and in 1937 even made an awe-inspiring 70-yard run in the fourth quarter against USC to set his team up for the winning touchdown, which he also scored. But when one of his friends convinced him that his ring wasn't worth dying over, Tonelli reluctantly gave it up.
A few minutes later, however, Tonelli was surprised to see a Japanese officer walking toward him, ring in hand. The unnamed Japanese officer confirmed Tonelli's identity and then, in perfect English, went on to explain to him that he had attended USC and was an avid fan of American football. In fact, he had actually been present at the very same game during which Tonelli made his inspirational run because, dammit, this whole experience was so depressing, the least we could get out of it is a potential Hanks-Spielberg movie script.
Both men also met their wives at the game, probably.
Since the Japanese officer knew how much it meant to Tonelli and was so impressed by his feat of athleticism, he decided to give the ring back. He warned Tonelli to hide it though as it was unlikely he would be there the next time someone tried to take it from him. Tonelli understood and kept the ring well hidden in a soap dish, only taking it out when he felt like giving up hope. Though he never saw the Japanese officer again, the ring ended up being Tonelli's main motivation to survive the next three years of hell, after which he was finally rescued, due in no small part to one unexpected, star-struck football fan.
#3. Russians and Germans Go Wolf Hunting During World War I
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World War I is the hipster of global conflicts, having been a depressing window into the horrors of man's inhumanity to man decades before World War II and endless subsequent movies made it cool. So, logically, you'd assume that if you threw in a frozen, Eastern European wasteland and packs of hungry superwolves into the mix, you'd come out with a pretty decent first draft for a historical horror flick.
Observed but unconfirmed: Russian snow plain ghosts.
And yet, when the Imperial Russian and German troops fighting in the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk region found themselves at the mercy of starved-out wolves during the winter of 1916-17, they instead turned the whole ordeal into an after-school special about how neat-o it is to put aside your differences and work together.
The wolves in question were reportedly larger and stronger than any other such animal the Germans or Russians had ever seen and withstood all attempts at keeping them at bay, including grenades, poison, and even machine guns. Regardless of how many wolves the soldiers seemed to kill, a new pack of equally vicious beasts would take their spot and wreak havoc, almost as if they were some werewolf-cockroach crossbreed.
Russia had already killed all the weak wolves, for fun.
So when it got to the point when both sides couldn't accomplish the objectives set out by their commanders, the Russians and Germans were given permission to sign a truce during which all fighting ceased. Instead of killing each other, the two sides channeled their inner Liam Neeson and went to kick some wolf ass together on a giant, German-Russian wolf hunt.
Now that all of their efforts were put toward eradicating this menace, the soldiers made progress by working arm in arm with guys they had just tried to kill a little while back. By the time they were done, hundreds of wolves had been killed, and the few that remained hightailed it out of there as fast as their four legs would let them. Like all good things though, the truce eventually came to an end, proving that the only thing it will apparently take to bring humanity together is the threat of a common, unstoppable enemy. Man, where is a real-life alien invasion when you need one?