The 50 Most Awesome Things Ever Done by Americans

#45. Andrew Jackson Beats an Assassin With His Cane

Via Wikipedia

Richard Lawrence blazed his own trail as the first person to attempt to kill a U.S. president while being crazier than a bag of agitated cobras injected with some sort of ... crazy serum. For cobras.

In his youth, Lawrence lived a quiet life as a painter. Then he quit his job, donned a fancy cape, grew a mustache, and told everyone who would listen that he was King Richard the Third of England.
"Hey, guys, I'm king now, OK? Here's a sketch I did of my sweet crown."

When folks started to question why a long-deceased British ruler was huffing paint on American soil, Lawrence gave a simple and logical explanation: The American government owed him a vast fortune that he couldn't claim the throne without. He hadn't received the fortune because of, you guessed it, President Andrew Jackson. Oh, and he believed that Jackson had killed his father in 1832 (truly an impressive feat, when you consider that Lawrence's father had never been to America and actually died in 1823).

That's right, a man so sinister that he could kill through space and time needed to be stopped, and ol' King Richard had the gumption to do it.

Time-traveling dad-slayer.

The Attempt:

When Jackson attended a funeral in 1835, Lawrence followed, hoping to kill him and presumably tug his mustache and disappear in a cloud of smoke. He approached Jackson from behind, drew a pistol, and fired into his back at near point-blank range. The gun misfired.

Naturally, being an undead British king warrants carrying two pistols. He quickly drew and fired his second weapon. Same result. By this point others in attendance caught wind of our caped crusader and wrestled him to the ground. President Jackson served up some justice with his hickory cane before actual legal justice was served. Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his life in a mental institution.

"I want my crown back!"

What Went Wrong:

Lawrence's pistols are believed to have misfired due to high humidity, and thus he was thwarted by bad weather. This means either he brought extra shitty pistols or wars back then had to be postponed every time it rained.

On top of that, Jackson was an avid duelist, so it can be assumed that he had long conquered his fear of guns, bullets, and people firing guns loaded with bullets in his general direction. This is not the type of man you try to assassinate on impulse. Not unless you like the feeling of a hickory cane on your ass.

#44. Neil Armstrong Piloted a Spaceship While Unconscious

The early '60s were a bad time to be an American rocket scientist. The Soviets were boasting a track record that kicked U.S. ass on all fronts, from Laika the Space Dog to Yuri Gagarin. Now both space powers had set their sights on the ultimate goal -- the moon. And the message from upstairs was clear: NASA damn well better not screw up this one.

"OK, so what if we launched a giant cube into space?"

The biggest problem with the moon leg of the space race wasn't getting there -- that was, more or less, just a matter of thrust. The problem lay in how to get there and back again in one piece. NASA had managed to figure out the best way to accomplish this: the lander system, which involves a light, spiderlike mini ship that leaves the spacecraft to handle the delicate landing business while the craft itself hangs around in orbit. Then the lander docks back in, and voila! Everything is parades, promotions, and propaganda victory.

That was the theory, anyway. It turned out that managing to connect two vessels traveling at thousands of miles an hour, in outer space, is far from easy. But the clock was ticking, so they got to practicing.

In 1966, NASA sent astronauts David Scott and Neil Armstrong (yes, that Neil Armstrong) on a mission called Gemini 8. Their objective: complete the first-ever space docking by joining with a previously launched unmanned craft called the Agena.

This is either a rendering of the docking sequence or space pornography.

The mission went swimmingly. Six hours after launch, Scott and Armstrong had successfully docked with Agena, and everything was going good.

That is, until the death roll started.

After 27 minutes of post-docking relaxation, Scott happened to glance out of the window and noticed that everything was spinning. A software glitch had caused Agena's thruster rockets to malfunction, and they were firing away like a drunken cowboy. Unimpressed by this potentially life-threatening problem, Armstrong calmly balanced Gemini's own thrusters to stop the roll until he could turn off Agena's.

Armstrong, seen here smiling at his old friend Certain Fiery Death.

This fixed the problem ... for a few seconds. The roll started again, more furiously than ever. Realizing that their spacecraft was in danger of breaking apart, Armstrong undocked and moved away from the troublemaking Agena, yet somehow the spinning only increased.

Shit like this happens in space travel every once in a while, and it's usually fixed with a quick "Houston, we have a problem." However, Gemini 8 was temporarily out of radio contact at the time, which prevented the control center from telling them the plot twist: It was the Gemini's thruster that was malfunctioning all along.

"Our best estimate is that you are between 95 percent and completely fucked."

The barrel roll got faster and faster, to the point where they were going at one revolution per second. It was more than fast enough to cause Scott and Armstrong to get dizzy and lose track of the location of Earth. This is widely thought to be the worst thing you can lose track of as an astronaut.

At that point, Neil Armstrong decided he'd had enough of space's shit. His vision blurred and, at the brink of going unconscious, Armstrong somehow managed to shrug off the effects of the insanity carousel enough to figure out the real problem and fix it like a boss. He turned off the malfunctioning thrusters and initiated early re-entry, which brought the aircraft back under control and allowed the astronauts to regain their bearings. One relatively uneventful emergency landing later, the battered and bruised spacemen were safe and sound -- and Command Pilot Neil A. Armstrong had added a good 10 inches to his Space Dong.

This didn't hurt him later in life.

#43. Gloria Richardson Doesn't Give a Damn About Bayonets


In 1963, Gloria Richardson lived in Cambridge, Maryland, a town so divided that a street called Race Street literally kept blacks on one side and whites on the other. No word on where everyone else lived, but we're guessing it was "Not White Lane" or the alley behind Hooker Town. Even though Cambridge had a terrible record at race relations, it was held up as a model of "separate but (winky eye) equal" to the rest of the country. Which was weird for local African-Americans when they couldn't get hospital care, jobs, or representation in government.

Norbert Schafer/Radius Images/Getty Images
"Whaddya gonna do about it?"

Gloria Richardson led the Cambridge protests to make things right. The thing to remember here is that in 1963, lots of cities around the country were fighting for desegregated restaurants and theaters and tree forts. Participating in a sit-in was as common as changing your Facebook avatar to support favorite causes today, only you were actually leaving the safety of your private home and using your own physical body as the symbol for progress while men with guns arrested and beat you. So it wasn't the same at all, really. Sorry I made the analogy.

What was different about Richardson was that when the white establishment reached out to her to find a nice, safe middle ground between the blacks and the whites, she said "No thanks" and kept going with the protests. Robert "Effing" Kennedy himself summoned her to the White House to hash things out with white leaders of the town, and she ended up refusing to vote on the proposal they wrote together. Basic rights weren't up for a vote, in her eyes. What's next, voting on whether or not people could marry? Crazy, right? She put it this way:

"A first-class citizen does not plead to the white power structure to give him something that the whites have no power to give or take away. Human rights are human rights, not white rights."

Long story short, the protests continued and the National Guard/Bayonet Brigade was deployed to Cambridge. And that's when we got this picture of Richardson treating Fatty Buttbuckle's bayonet like it's got an invisible dirty diaper at the end of it, and she's the only one who can see it.

Worst superpower ever.

#42. Richard and Angela Moyer Wrestle a Bear in Their Living Room

Jupiterimages/ Images

Richard Moyer of Perry County, Pennsylvania, was letting his dog back in the house at 3 a.m. when a bear plowed right through his patio door and tackled him.

Ronalds … ulcs/iStock/Getty Images
Maybe the bear had once given him an expired coupon.

To reiterate: He wasn't out hunting furry threshers to prove his manliness, or camping in bear-village, or even taking the highway to the Grizzly Zone. He was standing in his home, his place of safety, sleepily calling for his dog to finish pooping, and then he was under a bear.

Hearing the commotion, Angela Moyer walked out, presumably to see what that damn dog was doing now, and found her husband trying to put a headlock on a super predator. Angela, whom we officially proclaim the undisputed queen of rolling with it, distracted the bear and got it off her husband. Unfortunately, bears are generally distracted from a meal only by other, more insistent meals -- so it immediately tackled Angela instead, and dragged her outside.

"Dammit, Angie, I said I've got it!"

Richard did not want to start dating again. Ugh, paying for all those dinners, and that first date nervousness, and now there's, like, texting protocol and stuff to deal with, right? No thank you to all that; he'd rather chase a bear into his yard and keep the fight on. Eventually, even the bear couldn't believe this shit was happening and checked out of that mess. In the end, Richard and Angela survived despite suffering serious wounds.

Oh, and because we know our audience, here's the most important bit: The dog made it out OK too.

apixel/iStock/Getty Images
"Oh man, you guys gotta check this out! I was over there pooping and I found this -- Jesus, what the hell happened to you two?"

#41. Private Desmond Doss: Half Rudy, Half Rambo, All Pacifist


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.

Via Wikipedia
"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.

Via Wikipedia
However, the Bible doesn't say anything about chakrams.

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