War! You know what it is good for? Stories of unfathomable badassery, that's what. Over the years, we at Cracked have gathered a formidable collection of these stories, and we've put the very best of them here so that a whole new generation of readers can feel inadequate about their life choices. Read on and you'll learn all the military history too pants-burstingly awesome to make it into your history books.
What if you had to disguise some commandos who were going to be walking right past enemy guards? You'd have to come up with something amazing -- lives are at stake here.
Or, you could come up with something so stupid that the enemy finds it too awkward to make eye contact. Such was the thinking of Israeli special forces commandos who infiltrated Beirut in 1973 to kill three leaders of the PLO. To not arouse suspicion, they took several hulking special forces guys and dressed them up as women, complete with wigs, high heels and fake boobs.
"Uh, guys, the mission's been over for like a month ..."
Pairing up with men dressed as men, they walked along in each other's arms like they were on dates. They walked right past police, bodyguards, etc. without raising any questions, such as why that woman had a five o'clock shadow and an Adam's apple, or what that lump was that looked like an Uzi hidden under their clothes.
When they got to the Palestinian leaders' bedrooms, they kicked in the doors, whipped out their guns and killed everyone.
Oh, and lest you think this was a bad career move, one of the "women" was Ehud Barak, who later became Prime Minister of Israel and is currently Defense Minister.
Robert D. Ward
We repeat: People died because they mistook this man for a woman.
The Israelis hardly invented this technique, by the way. In 1943, 11 Australian commandos, all white, disguised themselves as Malay fishermen by dyeing their skin brown and boarding a fishing boat. They sailed through 2,000 miles of Japanese-controlled ocean from Australia to Singapore. At one point they even traveled right alongside a Japanese warship without them noticing anything strange (which was good, because none of the commandos could speak Malay). They then took canoes right into Singapore Harbor, where they blew up seven Japanese ships before escaping.
Australian War Memorial
So racism is OK as long as you have plenty of bombs and canoes.
But to top them all, Sarah Edmonds, a 21-year-old white woman working as a spy for the Union Army, infiltrated Confederate territory in Virginia disguised as a black man. Somehow, this totally worked, and she snagged the plans to a fort and the identities of some Confederate spies before "escaping" back to Union lines.
Yet neither of her identities were allowed to vote.
Welsh Royal Marine sniper Matt Hughes was participating in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, looking for a perfect occasion to shoot some dudes from really far away. He found it in two Iraqi troops who were holding up the offensive. Hughes was ordered to take them out. And not out to dinner, unless they both ordered a lead steak. A tiny one, shaped like a bullet.
"Sir, I understand you didn't like it, but you've already eaten most of it. I'll have to get a manager."
The problem was that the wind was blowing tremendously. See, this is something that doesn't come up in the movies -- when you're trying to shoot from far away with any kind of wind, you have almost no goddamned idea where the bullet will end up. Sniping isn't just holding the cross hairs steady on the tiny soldier in the scope; it's trying to predict gusts of wind that could push the bullet into some innocent tree trunk 50 feet away. And yes, that's how much of a difference wind can make. You can not only miss the guy, but miss the whole house he's standing in.
So that's what happened to all those road signs in the country!
Oh, and as if his fate were being written by the vengeful spirit of a vaudeville comedian, Hughes discovered that his targets were a little over a half mile away, which, powerful wind notwithstanding, was beyond the range of the rifle he was using. To make matters worse (and yes, there apparently was still room for them to get worse), the enemy soldier he was targeting was covered in a fortified position, with only a small portion of his head and torso exposed. Hughes would have only one chance, because if he took a shot and missed, the Iraqi would simply duck completely behind cover and never come back up. It'd be like if Luke Skywalker had been commanded to park his X-Wing at the beginning of the trench, and to lean out of the cockpit with a grenade wedged in his ass and try to power-shit it into the Death Star's exhaust port.
Cackling in the face of insurmountable odds, Hughes did his best to judge, based on the haze from the heat, how to aim the rifle to hit his target. His judgment led him to aim the shot 56 feet to the left and 38 feet high, which is another way of saying "Hughes pointed his gun in a totally unrelated goddamn direction."
"If I can take out the sun, we'll kill the whole Iraqi army."
Either way, Hughes presumably prayed to the sniper gods and let off his first and only possible shot, not even remotely pointed toward his target, and watched as the arc of the bullet formed the shape of a giant banana and struck the enemy soldier directly in the chest. Needless to say, the Iraqi was killed, though we're fairly certain his last words were the equivalent of "Oh, no fucking way."
So you need to capture a crucial bridge, but force alone isn't going to do it, since such an action would destroy the bridge in the process. Only the power of bullshit can save you now.
It was 1805, and Napoleon was having trouble conquering the Austrians, who had adopted a strong defensive position on the east bank of the Danube. The French needed to get across, but the only bridge within marching distance was wired with explosives, and the Austrians had orders to blow it up the second France attacked. Knowing that trying to take the bridge by force would simply result in it getting blown to rubble, Napoleon's officers came up with a plan so stupid, it had to work.
Text them and ask nicely?
Two marshals named Lannes and Murat just casually strolled up to the bridge guards and started chatting about how glad they were that an armistice had finally been signed and that the fighting was now over (in case you're not following along, this was a blatant lie). The guards, being unaccustomed to idle banter with high-ranking enemy officers, remained unconvinced and kept them at gunpoint. Lannes and Murat didn't give a damn. They continued to saunter across, laughing off any attempts to stop them.
Meanwhile, an elite squadron of French grenadiers also started heading for the bridge. They had been ordered to behave as casually as possible -- their guns were slung across their backs and they walked instead of marching, laughing and joking among themselves as they slowly but surely advanced.
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Hey, guys. Where should we put the beer?"
When they reached the other side of the bridge, the two marshals noticed an Austrian sergeant preparing to light the fuse to blow the bridge. Lannes, displaying such huge balls that their gravity started attracting debutantes, snatched the match from his hand and angrily insisted that since a truce had been signed, the sergeant was destroying public property, and if he tried it again, Lannes would have him arrested, goddammit.
A nearby Austrian artillery force prepared to fire on the sauntering grenadiers, but the officers persuaded them to back down -- Lannes actually stopped a cannon from being fired by nonchalantly sitting on the barrel to light his pipe. When a particularly persistent sergeant insisted that the whole thing was clearly a trick, Murat demanded to know if the Austrian officers were going to let an enlisted man talk to them like that. At which point the humiliated Austrian officers ordered the man imprisoned.
Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images
"You can just stay there until you learn to trust the men we're actively warring against."
The fact that the French grenadiers crossed the bridge and seized said Austrian officers immediately after probably made for a very bittersweet "I told you so!" moment.
Wait, what is a sobbing man in goofy headgear doing on a list of badass images? He looks like a preteen girl watching The Notebook -- or any man on Earth watching a dog die in an action movie. What's his deal?
This is an Evzone, an elite Greek presidential guard, and this photograph was taken during a riot. So, what, he's crying to see what's become of his country? Nope! The Evzones are, in part, responsible for maintaining vigil over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Their duties are largely ceremonial, much like the famous Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace. In short, they are not to react to external stimuli unless it threatens the tomb, and they are not to be moved from their post under any circumstance. Even under penalty of chemical attack. That's important, see, because this particular Evzone is standing, absolutely immobile, inside a giant cloud of tear gas.
The photo of the crying guardsman was taken during a protest for the Parnitha forest held in Syntagma Square, which also just happens to house the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Riot police deployed tear gas on the protesters when they got out of hand (or more likely, just because they were bored), and the Evzone, caught in the crossfire, just stood there and took it without so much as a twitch. This feat is especially impressive when you consider two things: The Evzones dress like somebody making fun of a Keebler elf, and they are proud members of the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Also, this isn't any old riot: It's a Greek riot. And nobody riots like the Greeks. Look up "the Greek riots" in a Google Image search and it not only shows you a page of photos that looks like somebody made a scrapbook out of Michael Bay's soul, but also asks you to be more specific.
And up there is an Evzone hanging out in the middle of a Greek riot, looking like a racist Christmas ornament and moving like a Monty Python sketch, just baaarely misting up after being blinded by tear gas. Man, if you didn't already feel like a pussy for crying at the end of The Iron Giant, you sure as hell do now.
In 1937, Benjamin L. Salomon became a dentist. He had a bright, if boring, career path in front of him. Then, in 1940, he was drafted into the Army. You can imagine his trepidation: Oh god, what is a mild-mannered dentist going to do against the friggin' Axis?! Luckily, by the time war was declared, Salomon was transferred over to the Army Dental Corps. He eventually reached the rank of Captain -- and all by staying behind the lines helping keep teeth clean. At this point in Salomon's life, the most badass thing he'd ever done was give a perfect root canal.
"And a handful of non-consensual cavity removals."
Then shit got real: Salomon was sent to Saipan in the Pacific Theater, where he served as an impromptu regimental surgeon to the troops. While treating the wounded, Japanese forces overwhelmed Salomon's field hospital. Four enemy soldiers stormed the tent, and when one of them bayoneted an American soldier Salomon had just pretty much finished saving, he channeled some of that infamous dentist rage.
"You haven't been flossing, have you? Have you?"
Salomon shot two of the soldiers outright, kicked a knife out of another's hands, and headbutted the last into submission. He then ordered all of the wounded out of the tent. But since his soldiers didn't have any cover fire, Salomon took up a machine gun and provided it. Just stop and imagine being a soldier in that tent: You're hurt. You know the end is near. The enemy is in your base, and there are no able-bodied guards -- just a single, solitary dentist ...
The wounded managed to make it out safely, and the last thing they saw of their camp was a meek, glasses-wearing dental technician, completely alone, mowing down wave after wave of enemies with a machine gun. When the Americans came back and retook the area the next day, they found Salomon dead. It was a tragic loss -- for the Japanese: They also found nearly 100 enemy troops dead in front of Salomon.
Cranky patients, bad breath, destroying platoons of Japanese soldiers; all in a day's work for Ben Salomon.
Salomon had been shot more than 70 times, most of which he shrugged off, because you can't down a dentist with anything less than an elephant gun -- everybody knows that. Salomon earned a posthumous Medal of Honor for taking out two entire platoons of enemy soldiers single-handedly. So here's to you, Benjamin Salomon: Thank you for scraping away the plaque of evil with the little ... scraper thing(?) of justice.
In the summer of 1944, the Allies undertook a series of missions to Romania to attack Hitler's oil fields, and the Nazis started playing a real-life game of Duck Hunt, except that instead of ducks, they were shooting down American bombers, and instead of a laughing dog, the surviving airmen were retrieved by a group of Serbian resistance fighters called the Chetniks.
They had the best flag of the whole war.
The Chetniks, although they hated Nazis too, weren't on very good terms with the Allied forces, so it came down to George Vujnovich, an American officer with Serbian roots, to contact the Chetniks and negotiate for the prisoners' release. He masterminded a huge operation codenamed "Halyard Mission," during which more than 500 airmen were escorted out of hostile territory by a militia of war-hardened Serbs. It was like that movie, Behind Enemy Lines, except 500 times that.
OSS Capt. George Vujnovich on the right with a group of saved airmen
How He Got Screwed:
As we've just mentioned, the Serbs and the Croats hate each other more than cats and dogs, and during World War II, the highest-profile Croat in the world was Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito. It just so happed that Tito and his communist regime were instrumental American allies, and the only thing he hated more than Nazis were those blasted Chetniks.
Who could hate these wacky, bearded misfits?
To maintain good relations with Tito, the American government classified the Halyard Mission, covering up the fact that they had collaborated with a bunch of filthy Serbs. The sad ending for the Chetniks is that, after the war, Tito hunted them down and executed their leader, Draza Mihailovich, while the American government looked at the sky and whistled complacently.
As for Vujnovich, he was awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts ... in October of 2010, because Tito has only been dead for, well, 30 years now.
We at Cracked believe that it's never too late to hate.
Frenchman Charles Nungesser was a character straight out of a Hemingway novel. Before the war he was an amateur boxer, race car driver and pilot. During the war he managed to score 45 victories between drinking and banging everything he could get his hands on in Paris. He even found time to regularly nail the legendary spy Mata Hari (well aware of her activities, he cheerfully fed her bullshit stories that she dutifully reported back to her German controllers).
She was hypnotized by his glittering chest.
His list of war time injuries reads like a recitation of everything that could go wrong on a body, ever, including but not limited to a skull fracture, a brain concussion, fractures of the upper and lower jaw, dislocation of both knees, bullet wounds in the mouth and ear AND SO ON.
So one day a German plane came flying low over Nungesser's airfield and challenged him to single combat at a specific time and place the next day. Despite his friends' attempts to point out the whole Germans + War = Dicks equation to him, Nungesser was unable to resist the challenge and duly set off to meet the enemy.
Note the skull and crossbones wearing a steak-hat and twirling canes.
It turned out his friends were right. The moment Nungesser reached the designated rendezvous, six German fighter planes came swooping out of the clouds in a coordinated attack.
Nungesser responded to this shocking turn of events by blowing one of the German planes out of the sky. Then another.
Getting cocky works.
At this point, with the odds whittled down to a much more reasonable 4-1, he broke off the engagement, presumably to run home and pick up more bullets. The remaining four Germans, no doubt in a state of shock and feeling like right dicks, simply watched him go.
A badass to the very end, Nungesser survived the war only to disappear mysteriously, presumably lost at sea as he attempted to fly from France to America just two weeks before Charles Lindbergh accomplished the feat traveling in the opposite direction.
His co-pilot's lack of depth perception may have played a role.
In the olden days of war, it was traditional for the parts of the British Army that came from Scotland and Ireland to fight accompanied by a guy playing the bagpipes. By World War II, the bagpipes were restricted to rear areas, and even then it was to be limited to when nobody was doing anything of great significance or when a member of the royal family arrived somewhere. However, Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, decided that those rules were for the English, and since he was Scottish (and at least slightly crazy), they didn't apply to him.
They knew not to argue unless they wanted a broken Scotch bottle in their face.
So, he ordered his piper, Bill Millin, to go ashore on one of the main landing points for the invasion of Normandy and wail on a set of bagpipes. Once on the beach, Millin calmly walked up and down at the water's edge, playing while carnage exploded and people died all around him.
"The only way to break their lines is a stirring rendition of 'Danny Boy'."
After he had finished one tune, Lord Lovat (who was dressed in a monogrammed turtleneck sweater and armed with his grandfather's hunting rifle -- did we say he was insane already?) actually called out a request for another song, which Millin then played. After the beach was secured, Lord Lovat once again ordered Millin to play for the commandos inland so they could assault even more German positions to the sound of the pipes.
"Funny ... the way you're playing that sounds like a high-pitched scream."
With other soldiers frantically gesturing at him to find some cover and just really having a war all over the place, Millin walked slowly and bolt upright, playing "Blue Bonnets Over the Border." Millin later talked to some of the Germans who had been captured to ask why they never shot him, and discovered it was because they thought he had gone mad.
War is hell.
And if anyone's harboring any ill thoughts toward Lord Lovat for basically risking his own man's life for what were ostensibly the most fuck-stupid reasons imaginable, it's probably important to note that Millin played the pipes at the Lord's funeral after his death in 1995. So clearly he was OK with the way things went. For some reason.
"It was the greatest damn gig I ever did."
The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:
Here's a story implausible enough it could only have come from the fantasy genre, specifically the Battle of Helm's Deep from Lord of the Rings. A bunch of under-equipped warriors find themselves holed up in a fortress, outnumbered 30 to one. Knowing that death is all but inevitable, they decide to fend off the vastly superior army for a miraculous stretch of time as a pure exercise in ball-flexing manliness, before being rescued by a wizard.
Also, the fat elf dies.
Topped by Real Life When:
Imagine if Helm's Deep had only been defended by two dozen guys and the enemy crossed the sheer overwhelming math of a zombie horde with the Empire's propensity for terrifying marshal efficiency.
That's what one Sergeant Yakov Pavlov's platoon found themselves facing down in September of 1942. The Nazis were pushing into Russia as part of the biggest military operation in the history of the human race, and everything was about to come to a head in the city of Stalingrad with a battle over a single bombed-out apartment building.
They called it the "Battle of Stalingrad" because "The Battle of That Building Where Sergei's Mom Used to Live" didn't sound quite as impressive.
Pavlov and his platoon was tasked with the thankless job of retaking the building after the Nazis had seized it. To get a snapshot of what their mindset was like heading in, it's helpful to know that the assignment was considered an extremely dangerous one by the Soviet Army, and that the Soviet Army's slogan at the time was "die for Russia."
Somehow, the slogan failed to raise morale.
Doing the quick math, Pavlov realized his only chance was to throw his whole platoon into the meat grinder, and hope that the speed with which they passed through left at least a few alive. He lost all but four men in the assault, but eventually his plan worked and they took the building. Had they known they were dealing with a man who considered four people surviving a success, the Nazis probably would have realized that they were in for some serious shit. Having barely enough survivors to outfit a respectable zombie movie, Pavlov could only station one soldier to each floor. However, the drop-dead gorgeous line of sight it offered was enough for them to unleash a mountain of unholy hell against all Fascist comers.
The last face many Nazis ever saw.
The building was subjected to relentless fire--as were the civilians huddled in its basement--but Pavlov's unit held out long enough to be reinforced by a still-tiny 25 men. Not a wizard, but it was all they needed. His men were given machine guns, rifles, mortars, barbed-wire, anti-tank mines, some body armor and a PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle which Pavlov personally used to snipe a dozen tanks from the rooftop. They basically used what little equipment they had to convert the apartment into a goddamn anti-Nazi death machine that could annihilate whatever came at it from a kilometer in every direction.
As long as everyone conserved their ammo and manned their posts, the only real danger posed to the building came from flamethrowers. Fortunately, with legendary snipers like 19-year-old Anatoly Chekhov on the top floor, this usually resulted in a Viking funeral for the Nazis.
Wave after wave of the German army hammered the building. And died.
Later, Pavlov's men could boast that they killed more Germans defending their one building than the French killed in the entire fall of Paris. And unfortunately for French egos, they were still alive to boast--by February 2 the next year, the Battle of Stalingrad was over. Pavlov was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, and the building he defended was made into a monument.
The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:
Hopefully you didn't see the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but did read the comics, which feature a band of legendary fictional characters such as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man and Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde, all coming together from separate fictional universes to save the world.
The Badass True Story:
What if we told you that there was a secret military unit during World War II which featured this guy:
And this guy:
... who operated out of Sherlock Holmes' headquarters and saved the world from nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Nazis?
Meet the Special Operations Executive, a super-secret branch of the U.K. military personally tasked by Winston Churchill to "set Europe ablaze." On the crew were James Bond-creator Ian Fleming (who would base Bond on his own experiences), as well as members who would be Fleming's inspirations for M, Q, Miss Moneypenny and the sultry Vesper Lynd. They were joined by the future Dracula/Saruman/Dooku Christopher Lee. They were stationed at Baker Street. Yep, the place where the fictional Sherlock Holmes solved his mysteries.
These "Baker Street Irregulars" were Churchill's go-to guys and girls for "ungentlemanly" warfare. If there was a bridge that needed busting or an Axis officer who needed seducing, you'd better believe the SOE had all the cloaks and daggers necessary to make sure Colonel Arschloch spent his last moments of World War II getting murdered in his bed anywhere from the English Channel to Southeast Asia.
The ministry's greatest achievement, and perhaps the single finest act of sabotage in all of World War II, was Operation Gunnerside: a crossover between the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare and their cousins in the Norwegian Resistance. Their mission: train a crack commando unit of former-Vikings to join SOE on a secret mission to destroy a heavy water plant in Norway before the Nazis could build an atomic bomb with it. It's thanks to these unknown bastards of World War II that Hitler didn't have any nuclear-tipped V-2 rockets to turn the last months of the war into something akin to Judgment Day.