6 Impossible Escapes Using Impossibler Methods
As we never get tired of pointing out, when you combine desperation, perseverance, ingenuity and giant balls, wonderful things happen. This is proven by these tales of men who found themselves in hostile territory with no chance of escape ... and just fucking escaped anyway.
Eugeniusz Pieniazek Builds an Airplane in His Living Room
Eugeniusz Pieniazek was an aircraft designer in Communist Poland. In the early 70s, he was persecuted by the Secret Service for palling around with Swedish pilots. One day, Pieniazek had enough and decided to escape Poland ... by secretly building his own airplane. All by himself. In his apartment.
There was no way Pieniazek was going to get a passport, so building a plane from scratch seemed like the most reasonable option for him. This was a man who worked with airplanes every day, by the way. Presumably he could have stolen one from his flying club at any moment, but didn't do so because he wasn't comfortable with the idea. Or maybe he didn't think any of them looked badass enough for him.
Hell, it didn't even need flames painted down the side.
His self-made aircraft (appropriately named the "Cuckoo") was built from the discarded parts of four different gliders and planes. In lieu of a workshop, he used his 8-square-meter living room and then lowered the larger parts out through his apartment's window to assemble them on the airfield. We wonder what he told his neighbors all that time.
"This spice rack isn't coming off like I planned."
Pieniazek hid his home made creation in plain sight -- he actually had his escape vehicle registered and even used it to train pilots until he decided it was time to make a break for it. Finally, in 1971, on a day with the worst possible weather for the trip, Pieniazek took off in the middle of a thunderhead. Polish authorities logged him as missing. That was a very real possibility, by the way: Hitting the business end of a thunderstorm can rock far larger planes, and this was basically a flying homemade soapbox car. So, besides evading subsequent Polish, Czech, Hungarian and Yugoslav radar systems, Pieniazek and his massive balls also managed to slip right past Zeus.
The plane landed in Yugoslavia, where Pieniazek was finally able to enjoy his freedom ... for a few seconds anyway, before the Yugoslavs threw him in jail for seven months. Eventually they allowed him to sneak across the Austrian border, possibly because he threatened to build a jumbo jet out of the prison they were holding him in.
From there, Pieniazek made his way into Sweden and settled there. Except there was one bit of unfinished business: Two years after his escape, he returned to Yugoslavia to retrieve his damn plane. Not only did he have to tow it back to Sweden by himself, but he was also forced to pay a dubious "parking fee" that amounted to $1,200. This was a sound investment, though, because Pieniazek was still flying the Cuckoo as recently as 2005.
Lone Navy Seal Vs. The Taliban
In 2005, four Navy SEALs were in the middle of a recon mission in Afghanistan when they were discovered by three goat herders. Rather than killing them, the SEALs decided to let them go. The goat herders then repaid the SEALs' kindness by giving away their position to the Taliban, which in military terms is known as "a dick move."
The SEALs were encircled by somewhere between 50 to 200 Taliban fighters and had to decide whether to fight or surrender. After some careful consideration the leader of the patrol, Lt. Murphy, announced their decision: "Fuck surrender." During the ensuing battle, one Marcus Luttrell was knocked out by an RPG and fell down a ravine. Turns out he was the lucky one: all the other SEALs were killed.
One badass motherfucker.
His nose was broken, three vertebrae were cracked and he had been shot in the leg. Luttrell couldn't even call a rescue chopper on the radio, because that would have involved showing himself in the middle of hostile territory. Not so big on the idea of dying in a ditch, Luttrell started crawling through the mountains. At this point he was attacked by six Al Qaeda assassins, and because he was so wounded, he surrendered.
Just kidding -- he killed them all.
A business suit should make him look a little more -- nope. Still badass.
Luttrell made it seven miles through the mountains and was dehydrated to the point where he was licking his own sweat. He later fell off a ridge and was discovered by Afghan villagers, who took him in and cleaned his wounds. They also protected him from the Taliban -- by some incredible strike of luck, Luttrell had fallen into the lap of a village that was bound by tribal custom to defend their visitors to the death. When word got out that the villagers were openly sheltering an American soldier, the Taliban was forced to respect the age-old custom, in the sense that they tried to bribe the villagers, beat up their kids and threatened to kill entire families.
The villagers moved Luttrell back and forth to keep him away from the Taliban, who were lurking in the mountains. And then, after six hellish days of fighting the Taliban and dragging himself through the mountains, Luttrell was rescued by American forces. When Army Rangers found him, the first thing he did was apologize for dragging them out into the cold.
He then made them all some hot tea out of the bodies of his enemies.
After returning stateside, Luttrell left the Navy and wrote Lone Survivor. He now lives in Texas, where he runs the Lone Survivor Foundation. He recently appeared in a country music video -- but you know what? We're not gonna make fun of that ... he's earned it.
Bernd Boettger Rides a Torpedo Across the Sea
It turns out building insane vehicles from scratch was a hugely popular method of defecting communist regimes back in the late 60s and early 70s. Take Bernd Boettger, an engineer who lived in East Germany and was not too happy about it. Boettger was an excellent swimmer, but he knew he couldn't just jump into the Baltic Sea and swim his way to freedom, because that would be nuts. So he went and built himself a machine to do it for him. Basically it was a little motor and propeller that he could hang onto while it dragged him along the surface of the water.
The first trial run in 1967 was an epic failure: A patrol boat picked up Boettger and his gadget and he was jailed for several months. He was eventually let go on because he was an indispensable professional. Indispensable professional that he was, he went right back to planning a way to escape the country instead of working. The new machine had to be quieter than the old one, pull him not above the surface but under the water and carry enough fuel for a 15-mile trip. In other words, a silent fucking long-distance torpedo.
Boettger spent a year building his personal torpedo, using a motor scooter's engine, a fiberglass tank, snorkeling gadgetry and a propeller. At this point, we wonder if Stasi agents who monitored him were too stupid to know something was going on, or if they were too curious to find out what the hell he was building.
In September 1968, Boettger went into the Baltic again, diving right past the patrol boats and into the open sea. After five hours of trying not to get his nose cut off by the propeller whirring right in front of him or letting the fucking thing break away and disappear into the darkness, he reached the Danish lightship he'd set his mind on more than a year earlier.
His escape gained worldwide acclaim, ending up in such esteemed publications as Sports Illustrated and Soldier of Fortune. All this recognition ultimately led Boettger to work on a lighter, prettier commercial version of his water scooter. You might recognize the final product as the creatively named AquaScooter.
And they say communism hasn't accomplished anything.
Slava Kurilov Jumps Off a Cruise Ship, Swims for Three Days
Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to flee an oppressive regime by sea is lucky enough to know how to build an AquaScooter. Some have to make do with their arms. Like Slava Kurilov, an oceanographer living in the USSR who, in 1974, jumped into the Pacific Ocean and became the only person insane enough to escape from behind the Iron Curtain by swimming.
A man so badass he gave that cigar cancer.
Kurilov had been denied a visa to make research trips outside the Soviet Union several times, the official reason being that Russians are dicks. In 1974, he saw an ad for a cruise ship sailing into the Pacific. The trip required no visa because it wasn't going to sail into a foreign harbor, or even go near one. It was the perfect opportunity for Kurilov to finally get to know some of the places he had been studying and relax a little. But the party was cut short when, about a hundred kilometers from shore, he fell overboard.
Did we say he fell? Actually, he fucking jumped. His plan: swim night and day until he reached the Philippines.
Hundreds of kilometers of open sea: better than living in the USSR.
We should note here that he had no clue where he was. The ship's course had been kept secret for security reasons, and he'd been given a chance to peek at a map exactly once. All he could do was guess when to jump -- as in, on which day -- and wing it.
Since Kurilov's plan was pretty much improvised, he had no raft, no lifesaver and not even a piece of wood to hang on to, let alone luxuries like a compass or a knife. He also had no drinking water and no food except what was circling around him.
We're pretty sure he could have made a campfire to roast it.
Kurilov says he possessed the mental power to keep swimming for three straight days thanks to the fact that he was also an advanced yogi. He studied the ocean for years, knew how to guide himself by looking at the stars and learned meditation techniques: It's like he was literally the only person on the planet who could pull off this plan.
And despite swimming way off course and at one point being dragged away from land by a treacherous current, Kurilov never gave up and eventually reached the Philippines ... where he was, of course, jailed for a few weeks, possibly after being mistaken for some sort of sea mutant. After all that, he still loved the sea. In his journal he reflects upon what he felt during his time drifting in the ocean -- honestly, it reads like three days of making sweet, albeit painful and demanding, love with the Pacific.
That's not sea foam behind me.
The Bethke Brothers Soar Over the Berlin Wall
The Bethke brothers hated being in East Germany almost as much as they loved risking their lives to get out of it. It all started with Ingo, the eldest brother, who in 1975 sneaked past minefields and watchtowers to cross the 650-foot-wide Elbe River in an inflatable mattress. Ingo's brothers back in East Germany were eager to be reunited with him, and also to undermine his accomplishment by doing something even more badass.
The second brother, Holger, got his turn in 1983, but he and his friend decided to take a more direct route: they jumped over the Berlin Wall with ropes, hooks and arrows.
All three brothers and their varying degrees of mustache.
That task is actually even harder than it sounds. First, an arrow fired by Holger from the top of a five-story building brought a piece of rope to a roof on the other side of the wall, where Ingo was waiting. This rope was then used to string a length of steel wire across the two buildings. The plan was for Holger to travel across the wire using a pulley wheel, but at one point the pulley got stuck ... so he crossed the final stretch by holding on to it with his hands and feet while below the searchlights gleamed.
Also, this bullshit.
He made it. Two down, one to go.
If Ingo was the low-budget original and Holger was the critically acclaimed sequel, Egbert, the youngest brother, was the high-profile third act with the implausible plot and spectacular visuals. In order to finance his brother's rescue, Ingo sold his pub in 1989 and bought two ultralight planes to fly right across the border and back. Why two? One to pick up Egbert, and another just so their brother could follow them with a camera rolling. Here's the original footage, starting at 2:57:
Of course, neither of them knew how to fly a plane, so Ingo took a crash course in aviation and taught Holger himself. On the day of the rescue they dressed in military uniforms, painted the planes green and stuck Russian stars on them, figuring that the guards would think twice before attacking what looked like Russian planes.
The plan was simple: cross the border in the small hours, touch down in a park, grab Egbert and haul ass. However, on approaching the pickup zone, they found that someone had pitched a fucking circus tent on their prospective landing ground. There was just enough space left next to it, so one plane landed anyway. Egbert hopped on ... and then they got the hell away from East Berlin as fast as possible, right? Actually, no. They flew along the border for a few extra miles just to enjoy the view, and also because fuck those AK-47s.
Footage from the plane, moments prior to raining shit onto the wall.
The end of the clip shows West Berlin cops puzzling over the two abandoned Russian-looking planes while the brothers are long gone, celebrating in a bar. Later they quipped, "if we'd known that the wall would fall that same year we'd have done it anyway." Of course, that doesn't take into consideration the strong possibility that the Soviets called it quits purely out of shame for not being able to contain the Bethke brothers.
Jumpin' Joe Beyrle Kicks Ass Through Europe
Getting the nickname "Jumpin'" when you're in the 101st Airborne's "Screaming Eagles" division and everyone's job is to jump out of planes has to be an achievement in itself. Not satisfied with that, Jumpin' Joe Beyrle also went on to become the only American soldier to serve in both the U.S. Army and the Soviet Army in World War II ... but not before having to go through hell and back. Just looking at his face before and after his ordeal should tell you the whole story:
In June 1944, Beyrle was supposed to take part in D-Day, but his Normandy jump went a little wrong -- by which we mean his plane burst into flames with him still in it. He was forced to jump off the plane before it crashed, landing on the roof of a church. Despite being all alone and slightly singed from the explosion, he still managed to evade capture for 24 hours, in which time he kept busy by blowing up a power station (oh, and a few German soldiers as well) before being captured and dragged into the heart of the Reich.
After being beaten, starved and generally treated in a manner not necessarily conforming to the Geneva Conventions, Beyrle found himself as a POW in what is now Western Poland, less than 100 miles from the Russian Front. He would later find out that the American government had pronounced him dead months ago and a funeral mass had been held in his hometown. No one was coming to get him.
And so, in January 1945, despite various wounds (including a fresh bullet hole in his left arm), Beyrle attempted the last of several escapes. Fleeing in a hail of bullets (which killed the two other prisoners who tried to go with him), he headed east, hoping to run into the Red Army.
After three days of wading through icy streams by night and hiding in barns by day, Beyrle made it to the Russian Front, where the American waved down a T-34 shouting, "Amerikansky tovarishch!" He convinced the female tank commander that he, in his own words, "wanted to join them and go to Berlin with them and kill Nazis." They handed him a paybook and a machine gun and, that was it: This member of the 101st Airborne was now in the Red Army.
Several days of constant fighting later, he went back to his old POW camp and helped liberate his friends. Taking three suitcases full of liberated currency and his own POW record file as a souvenir, he rejoined the Soviets and kept on fighting ... until a German bomber blew him up. He woke up in a Russian hospital, where he met with the most decorated military leader in the history of Russia and the Soviet Union: Georgy Zhukov.
When they shook hands, four people caught on fire.
With the Field Marshal's help, Beyrle traveled to the American Embassy in the Soviet Capital ... where he was arrested because he misplaced all his identification on the Moscow subway. Beyrle was held under armed guard until his identity was confirmed, attacking a guard for no reason in the meantime, and he was returned to America. He came back to his hometown of Muskegon, Michigan, in 1946, where he got married in the same church and with the same priest that had held his funeral two years earlier.
For more incredible escapes, check out The 5 Most Badass Prison Escapes in the History of War and 6 Insane Prison Escapes That Actually Happened.
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