The 5 Most Badass Medics in the History of War

#2. The 21-Year-Old Air Rescue Superman

U.S. Air Force

William Pitsenbarger wasn't just a medic and an airman, he was a member of the Air Force's Pararescue team, the guys who fly down from the sky to save military asses. By age 21, Bill, or "Pits" as he was known to his friends, had flown almost 300 rescue missions in Vietnam. Just compare that to the one thing you'd done at least 300 times by age 21 (yes, "masturbating" is the answer).

Dejan Ristovski/iStock/Getty Images
We also would have accepted "posting racist comments on YouTube."

On April 11, 1966, Pits and his crew were dispatched to an area just east of Saigon where a small platoon of American troops had just been ambushed. His mission was to extract wounded infantry and provide medical assistance to the 20 or so who were left fighting. Since the fighting was taking place in the jungle, there was no place for the helicopters to land, so Pits lowered himself down into the bullet storm via a casualty basket and began getting shit done. He quickly tended to the nine wounded, patching them up the best he could, chucking them in the basket, and raising them up into the chopper. When it came time for him to go up himself, Pits refused to hop in, deciding that the extra space in the helicopter could be better used to cram in more wounded.

When the choppers came back to get him, one of them was damaged by small-arms fire as it was lowering a cable down. The engine immediately began losing power, and Pits, after presumably weighing the risks of dangling from a rope under a several-ton, sputtering, rotary-winged bullet magnet, decided to take his chances in the middle of the raging battle and, for the second time, waved the chopper away.

U.S. Air Force
"If I wanted a vehicle that was full of holes, I'd go see After Earth again!"

Over the next couple of hours, Pits tended to the wounded, and when medical supplies began to run short, he got creative. Did a soldier have a broken arm? Pits splinted him up with some snarled vines. Did somebody need a stretcher? Pits hacked up saplings and used them to spirit the incapacitated men to safety.

Unfortunately, he was killed in action by sniper fire in the night. When his body was found the next morning, he was clutching a rifle in one hand and a medical kit in the other.

#1. The Medic Who Walked into Hell

Chris Hondros/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Louis Richard Rocco, like everyone else on this list, was used to doing his job under conditions that would reduce the rest of us to a puddle of tears and urine. And when he volunteered to help evacuate wounded Vietnamese allies by helicopter, he knew the mission wouldn't be all sunshine and cupcakes. He probably also knew there was a chance his helicopter would come under fire from the enemy, which it did. Rocco, drawing on all his years of medical training and experience, hopped on the chopper's machine gun and began laying down accurate, deadly fire around the landing zone. But it was too late, the aircraft was destined for a crash landing. Thank God there was a medic on board!

After the crash, Rocco looked around. The pilot was shot in the leg, the co-pilot's arm was hanging off, the other survivors were unconscious, and the helicopter was on fire. Oh, and Rocco himself had a fractured wrist, broken hip, and fucked-up back. And they had crash landed within range of enemy fire. These are the kinds of challenges most of us do not have to overcome during an average work day.

So Rocco got to work. He figured providing medical attention would be pretty impossible post cremation, so the first order of business was getting everyone out of the flaming helicopter. Rocco snatched up the pilot and dragged him to the relative safety of a fallen tree about 20 yards away. Then the Forrest Gump inside of him flared up and he ran back through the hail of enemy gunfire to the helicopter, picked up the co-pilot, and carried him to the tree as well. The call of Bubba echoing in his soul, he made the hellacious trip two more times, despite suffering severe burns on his hands and face from the burning chopper, carrying the crew chief and the other medic across open ground to safety before they burned alive.

After every member of the crew was out of immediate danger, Rocco finally gave his body permission to pass out from the burns, broken bones, and sheer heroin-like high of his own adrenaline. He not only lived through the nightmare, but was awarded a Medal of Honor for his trouble.

U.S. Army via Wikipedia
If you thought the ladies loved the Medal of Honor and wartime heroics, just wait till they find out you're in a Cracked article.

Related Reading: Why not kick this premise up a notch with these aggressively badass pacifists? Private Desmond Ross was half-Rudy, half-Rambo and non-violent. For a look at the ways medicine itself is about to get more badass, click here. Memory deletion is coming. Keep your Awesome Quotient high by reading these movie-worthy lines from soldiers facing death.

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