As awful as war is, it has a way of bonding people. Once you've dragged a bleeding dude to safety or slowly walked away from an explosion together, well, nobody can take that away from you. We'd imagine that goes double for these guys, who found themselves having to pretty much fight the goddamned battle themselves.
#5. Two Guys Storm a Stronghold Full of Nazis
During the Battle of the Bulge, Company I of the 120th Infantry was moving through Petit-Coo, Belgium, on December 23, 1944, when they were suddenly pinned down by fire from a house bristling with Nazi guns. It was a bad situation that became balls-out terrible when they started getting pounded by mortar and tank fire as well.
Enter Staff Sgt. Paul L. Bolden and Tech. Sgt. Russell N. Snoad. Presumably worried that the cost of an airstrike on the house would come directly out of their own paychecks, Bolden and Snoad volunteered to take care of the pesky Nazi problem themselves. Their superiors apparently decided "Screw it, whatever" before giving them the green light, and the two men began crawling the length of two football fields through the hellstorm of enemy fire. It was two men against what would turn out to be 35 heavily armed Nazis.
The two men carried on, motivated by bravery, duty, and not wanting to look like pussies in front of their buddies.
When they reached the house, they took positions to prepare for their grossly ill-conceived assault. Bolden, after presumably losing a round of Rock Paper Scissors, set himself up directly underneath a window near the door of the house, while Snoad went across the street so he could provide covering fire. Bolden threw a frag grenade through the window, followed by a white phosphorus grenade. While the three dozen Nazis were trying to recover from the blasts, Bolden rushed to the door, threw it open, shouted the 1940s version of "SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!" and opened fire with his Tommy gun while Snoad covered him.
The duo was able to take out 20 of the 35 Nazis before the enemy was able to return a burst of fire, killing Snoad and severely wounding Bolden in the shoulder, chest, and stomach. He withdrew to a cover position and waited for the 15 surviving Nazi soldiers to come out and surrender. That last sentence was not a typo. And that's not us embellishing, either. All reports say that Bolden waited to see if the enemy would surrender. While outnumbered. While grievously wounded. While his one and only ally lay dead.
"By my calculations, if I attack again, y'all will owe me five more Nazis."
The Nazis didn't, and we can totally understand why. After all, even after having nearly two-thirds of their force wiped out in an instant by these two Americans, they did end up killing one and seriously jacking up the other, and the odds were still a cozy 15-1. Bolden presumably then glanced at his watch, shrugged his shoulders, and raised his Tommy gun as he calmly walked back into the house to finish the job.
By the time Bolden ran out of ammo, all 15 of the Nazi soldiers were dead, and the way was paved for his unit to continue on and eventually succeed in its mission.
Huntsville History Collection
Paul L. Bolden, balls pictured separately in a much larger portrait.
#4. Two Men Fight the Enemy While in a Burning Plane
First of all, when you're flying in a bomber over enemy territory, don't kid about crashing. That shit is bad karma.
On May 1, 1943, the 306th Bomber Group was returning from a successful and mostly uneventful mission over occupied Europe when pilot Lt. Lewis Johnson joked out loud that they should "ditch this plane just off the coast to make a dramatic story I can tell my children someday." The irony of those words were presumably not lost on Johnson when, shortly afterward, a hail of enemy fire ripped into their plane, exploding a fuel tank and turning the whole aircraft into a flying fireball. Johnson frantically tried to keep the craft airborne, with no idea if any of the five-man crew behind him had made it through unharmed.
"We all realize that you were joking and that this isn't your fault, but we're still blaming you."
One of them had: the squadron's resident screwup, Sgt. Maynard "Snuffy" Smith, a guy who was so disliked by his unit that he'd never flown a mission before this one. Realizing that the ball turret he was manning was now worthless, Smith climbed up into the burning body of the plane, which at this point must have looked like a pretty accurate representation of hell. He was just in time to see his radio man dash past him and jump out of the plane. One of the gunners had already done the same, and the second one was hung up in the gun hatch. Smith helped him out and, in a dickhead way that did his dickhead reputation justice, asked him if the heat was too much. It apparently was, and Smith politely helped him open the rear escape hatch and jump out.
While Johnson was up in the cockpit desperately trying to keep the shredded, flaming plane in the air, Smith wrapped a sweater over his own face to protect it from the smoke and grabbed a fire extinguisher in an attempt to get the fire under control. That was the moment the Germans chose to attack again. The aircraft, at this point broken and burning and in the hands of exactly two men, was being blasted into Swiss cheese by a swarm of German fighter planes.
Royal Air Force
"The Americans are still trying to fly! What did I say, Hans? No class."
Smith dropped the fire extinguisher and hopped onto one of the two guns pointing out the side of the fuselage. Still surrounded by flames and smoke, he returned fire, switching to the other gun when the enemy planes passed to the other side. But soon the fire took priority over the Nazis, and Smith began throwing flaming bits of whatever wasn't nailed or melted down out of a ragged hole in the hull. The heat became so intense that it started setting off ammunition crates. Smith ran over to the exploding crates, carried them to the hole, and tossed them overboard as well. Then he hopped back on the guns to take on another enemy wave before returning to the fire, juggling these horrific tasks like a short order cook during lunch rush.
Smith desperately dumped the plane's water and urine buckets on the blaze before apparently becoming so angry at the fire's unwillingness to die out that he whipped out his dick in the middle of a burning airplane and rage-pissed on it. We're not joking. He pissed on the fire. He finally finished the fire off by beating it out with his hands and feet. All that was left after that was to hop on the guns a third time to repel yet another enemy fighter attack.
US Air Force
How many airplanes have you shot down with your dick hanging out?
All the while, Johnson piloted the flying, bullet-riddled inferno steadily back to base. Throughout the ordeal, the bomber sustained more than 3,500 fucking bullet and shrapnel holes. The propellers and flaps were destroyed, the radio room was a smoldering ruin, one gas tank was blown out, and the nose was smashed in. Everything about the bomber was so completely destroyed that when Johnson finally touched down, the stress of landing broke the goddamned plane in two.
Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism, although the honor did nothing to curb his overall reputation as a shitbag. When the Secretary of War showed up weeks later to award him the medal, Smith was found on kitchen duty as punishment for showing up late from a pass and missing out on a subsequent scheduled mission. Classic Snuffy!
Things did not improve when Snuffy referred to Secretary Stimson as a "creepy suit with a mustache."
And, incredibly, that is only the second-craziest bomber story we have ...
#3. Two Bomber Pilots Fly Their Aircraft After They Get Attacked Midair
It was New Year's Eve, 1944, and the United States was busy giving Germany a pounding they would never forget. Among the pilots assisting in the pyrotechnics display were Lt. Glenn Rojohn and his co-pilot, Lt. William Leek Jr., flying their B-17 Flying Fortress. When the lead aircraft was downed by German fighters, Rojohn and Leek began to maneuver their bomber into the lead position when they felt a large object smash into them.
Unbeknownst to them, another B-17 piloted by Lt. William MacNab had lazily drifted straight into their underbelly, causing the two aircraft to become stuck together like dragonflies getting it on. Thinking quickly, Rojohn and Leek shut off their aircraft's engines to avoid causing an explosion and let MacNab's B-17 engines (which were still miraculously running) keep them aloft from below. They also ordered their crew to bail out, and they happily obliged, along with the crew in the lower B-17.
Sgt. D.M. Smith/British Army Film and Photographic Unit
Just to be safe, crews from a few other B-17s bailed out as well.
Left alone to pilot the terrifying double-decker bomber, Rojohn and Leek had to put their feet up on the instrument panel and pull the yokes back with all of their strength, trying to use the flaps of one plane to keep two aircraft aloft. Rojohn, the senior officer, ordered Leek to bail out. However, with the knowledge that leaving would mean Rojohn's death (it was taking both of them to pull off the ridiculous maneuver), Leek's response, basically, was "fuck you."
Meanwhile, Germans on the ground believed that they were witnessing a brand-new American eight-engine super-bomber in flight. Yes, Leek and Rojohn were flying the connected bombers so well, the Germans thought it was actually designed that way.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-771-0366-02A / CC-BY-SA
Hitler, ever preoccupied with size, immediately started development on a triple-decker bomber.
With the yokes pressed all the way to their crotches, the two pilots kept the aircraft aloft for miles until gravity finally brought it down, basically splintering both aircraft on impact. When the Germans arrived at the site of the crash, they found Rojohn and Leek coolly leaning against their wreckage, preparing to smoke a cigarette before realizing they were standing in a pool of their own aircraft's gasoline. Yes, we're trying to tell you that bomber pilots were fucking insane.