5 Nobodies Who Stumbled into Wars and Kicked Everyone's Ass
Wars are fought by elite, highly trained, barrel-chested soldiers with steely eyes and jawlines you could open a can of tuna with. At least that's what the movies would have us believe. No one pictures their sweet grandma strafing the border with an AK-47 in one hand and a Molotov cocktail in the other, raining down death and destruction as epic as her homemade apple pie. But it does happen ...
The Churchill Club: Rebels, Nazi Fighters, Teenagers
In 1941, a small band of ragtag misfits led by Knud Pedersen, a teenager with no experience in arms or fighting, became the very first Danish Resistance group. The Winston Churchill-inspired Churchill Club took out dozens of Nazi vehicles, stole loads of Nazi weapons, spread anti-Nazi propaganda, and just generally made the Nazis feel about as wanted as that kid on the bus who wore way too much Axe body spray.
Or the Danish school bus equivalent. Say, the kid with too many tulips.
The Nazis were crotchety old Mr. Wilson, and the Churchill Club was their Dennis the Menace. Through a series of wacky shenanigans, the club built up an arsenal of stolen weapons ... which they gave to the adults to use. Because stopping the war machine is no excuse for underage unsupervised gun use. No joke: Their motto was "If the adults won't do something, we will!"
Ooh, those little rascals.
The Churchill Club kept right on spitting in those Nazi cornflakes until they were finally busted in 1942 ... after they set an entire freight train full of munitions on fire. Dang, those youthful shenanigans escalated quickly. Some members later established more formal resistance, while Pedersen himself went on to a life of helping young artists make a name for themselves in the Copenhagen area. Without his help, we might not have the works of Arthur Kopcke or ... Yoko Ono.
Hell, we almost forgive him for it.
Three Medical Students Ambush a Nazi Death Train
Youra Livchitz, Robert Maistriau, and Jean Franklemon were medical students dissatisfied with a career of saving lives one at a time, so they decided to operate in bulk. The friends set up a plan to ambush the XXth Convoy to Auschwitz -- the train line that transferred Jewish captives to their deaths at the Nazis' most infamous concentration camp.
The Nazis died out. The train lived on.
Yep: Three untrained civilians essentially set up the great Nazi train robbery.
On April 19, 1943, the XXth Convoy was carrying 1,631 prisoners to their likely demise, and three students were all that stood between them and the worst shower this side of a dorm. Armed with a hurricane lamp, red tissue paper, a pair of pliers, a pistol, and balls the size of planetoids, the students set about stopping the train to Auschwitz. They knew that engineers would slow the train if they saw an emergency signal on the track, so they glued the red tissue paper around a hurricane lamp, placed it on a bend in the track, and forced the train to a halt.
Livchitz volunteered to stop it with his bare hands, but the others just really loved lamps.
Step 1 complete! Now, on to Step 2: Dealing with the 15 trained soldiers and their commander, who were guarding the prisoners.
Clearly, this operation had a rather steep difficulty curve.
So the plan was for Livchitz to take on any Nazi soldiers with just a pistol, while Maistriau and Franklemon used the pliers to get the transport car doors open? How bloody improbable does that sound? Toss a mohawked black dude into that mix, and you've got one of the less believable episodes of The A-Team. And yet the three students managed to get 115 people off of that train, and to freedom. You gotta love it when a plan comes together.
Hugh O'Flaherty, the Priest Who Was Born Without the Ability to Give a Damn
Despite the Germans bombing Dublin every now and again, Ireland managed to stay neutral for the duration of World War II. Too bad nobody told Irish priest Hugh O'Flaherty, who set about transforming his life into a giant middle finger pointed right at the Third Reich.
Nazi trolling was his favorite hobby, other than golf.
While priests from Axis countries had to evacuate the Vatican after the entire country was surrounded by an Axis power, priests from neutral countries were allowed to remain hassle-free. However, after Italy surrendered in 1943, things started to get messy. Allied POWs in POW camps were now technically free, but stranded -- and it looked like the German forces were marching in to take them back. They needed someone to help them -- someone with shining moral character, a heart of solid steel, a haircut some would describe as "a drunken cloud," and a bitchin' orange silk cloak. Someone who could possibly be described as "the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican."
O'Flaherty sprang into action, accepting every POW (over 4,000 of them!) who came to the doors of the Vatican. From there, he began smuggling them out of Rome using his gigantic network of contacts, helpers, and disguised safe houses.
Sometimes he disguised refugees as priests. Or cattle.
When the local German forces began to suspect O'Flaherty, did he abandon his hasty life of heroism? Oh no, he kept right on, wandering Rome in disguise, dodging assassination attempts -- he even had the balls to walk POWs right down the stairs of the Vatican in full view of the SS battalion watching from just outside the border. The last one, unsurprisingly, got him a bounty on his head. Despite being in the cross hairs of the SS and apparently priest-hatin' bounty hunters, O'Flaherty still managed to get every last one of the POWs who came to him to safety. When the war was over, O'Flaherty visited the very man who ordered him killed, Colonel Herbert Kappler, in prison. After what we have to assume were more than a few awkward conversations full of hateful pauses, O'Flaherty converted Kappler to Catholicism.
We're not even sure how that's a burn, but we are sure it's a pretty friggin' sweet one.
Berthe Fraser, Housewife/Mastermind of the Resistance
Berthe Emilie Vicogne-Fraser was born French, but married a British dude, because really, who could resist all those thinly veiled innuendos and polite misunderstandings? Then World War II broke out, Germany invaded France, and Fraser dropped the terrible British dinner she'd been preparing for her husband and instead opted to prepare a little blood pudding for the Krauts.
Served without spotted dick.
Fraser organized an underground network that channeled British soldiers and spies to the coast, where she would hide them until they could be transported back to England. By day, Fraser was known as an ordinary housewife, but by night, she was the mastermind behind the underground network of the French Resistance. She plotted hidden paths and trails for British agents, devised distractions and cover stories -- hell, the woman once shuffled a man out of France in a hearse. We're pretty sure we saw that in a Bond movie.
In 1941, Fraser was betrayed and sent to a Belgian prison for 15 months, but she wasn't just playing at war hero hausfrau. She wasn't about to be dissuaded by a paltry year and change in a brutal enemy prison. Upon release, she went right back to organizing her network. She spent another three years saving numerous lives until she was betrayed again in 1944.
By one of the agents she had just saved.
Turns out he wasn't a coffin fan.
She spent six months in solitary confinement at Loos. There, she was tortured every day -- flogged, stripped, and beaten -- but would not talk. Eventually, she was condemned to die, but Fraser's life really was scripted by a Hollywood screenwriter: On September 1, right before her scheduled execution, Allied forces stormed the prison and rescued her, to which she coolly replied: "Thank you, boys, you are just in time."
Presumably followed by an embarrassing cheek pinch and some hot cocoa.
Rukhsana Kausar, 18-Year-Old Female Indian Rambo
In 2009, 18-year-old Rukhsana Kausar was spending time with her family in Jammu, India. Located in the Kashmir region that both India and Pakistan claim ownership of, Jammu is basically the island from Lost: there's a lot of drama and a lot of death, and if you try to make sense out of it all, you're only going to end up disappointed.
Not to mention a nearby, unexplained tundra base.
Her mother was presumably just about to start passive-aggressively asking about babies, as all mothers do, when Pakistani militants rushed into Kausar's village. Four guards posted up outside of her house, while three gunmen went in and beat Kausar's parents and uncle in front of her and her siblings. Luckily for Kausar, her parents had stuffed her under a bed before they came in.
But after her parents fell to the ground in front of her, she found she could take no more. Kausar leaped up behind one of the gunmen (who was also armed with an ax), grabbed him by the hair, bashed his head into the wall, and threw him down. She clocked the floored invader with his own ax, seized his rifle, and blasted commander Abu "I feel like my name was made up by racists" Osama into pieces.
A pretty definitive way of rejecting his marriage proposal.
She tagged another as he fled, and started a pitched battle with the rest of the militants that lasted for hours. After seeing their commander smoked by a teenage girl, then trying to take her out for half a day with only injuries on their side, the rest of the militants decided they'd rather not risk getting made fun of quite so hard in hell, so they packed up and fled. Kausar's family and village were safe ... for now.
But watch out for Kausar: First Blood Part 2, coming to a hotly contested valley near you.
Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't playing David Bowie's Heroes while researching kickass people, he can be found on Facebook. Be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line. Matt Moffitt has a blog here and Twitter account here. Also, he thanks George L. for his input on writing this article.
Related Reading: For more civilians taking on armies, click here and read about the real-life answer to the Inglorious Basterds. For creepy war stories, click here and get a load of this Nazi baby factory. Oh, and also the CIA faked vampire attacks.
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