The 94 Most Badass Soldiers Who Ever Lived
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.
Commandos in Fake Boobs and Blackface
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.
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.
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.
Matt Hughes Curves the Bullet
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."
Napoleon's Officers Take a Bridge by Calmly Strolling Across It
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.
"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.
"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.
The Crying Guardsman
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.
Benjamin L. Salomon Destroys Cavities, Japanese Soldiers
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.
George Vujnovich Smuggles 500 People
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.
Charles Nungesser Doesn't Fear Your Bullets
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.
Bill Millin, Bagpipe Warrior
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."
Pavlov's Platoon Holds Off the Nazis. All of Them.
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 Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare
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.
Piru Singh Screams the Pakistani Army to Death
In 1947, the newly independent states of Pakistan and India began the first of many wars over the province of Kashmir, seeking control of the world's supply of sweaters and casual throws. In the summer of 1948, the AZN (the Pakistani army in Kashmir) attacked the village of Tithwal and surrounded the area with securely placed machine-gun nests.
Meanwhile, the Indian army had tactical berets.
Company Havildar (Sergeant) Major Singh was part of the Rajaputana Rifles, a troop ordered to retake the mountain ridges now occupied by the AZN. The Indian counteroffensive force soon realized the only route of attack was up a one-meter wide path, at the end of which were two AZN machine-gun nests, with sheer drops on either side to the valleys below. Which we assume were entirely filled with spikes and land sharks.
In order to attack, the Rifles would have to file directly into the death funnel, in plain view of not only the machine guns, but also dozens of grenade-lobbing infantrymen. And for half an hour, they tried it: The Indian infantry stormed up the path and was predictably cut to pieces. They suffered over 50 percent casualties.
Machine guns > Berets.
Singh picked up his submachine gun and charged up alone toward the AZN position. The rest of his section (10 or so men) provided covering fire. He miraculously made it all the way up the path while bellowing "Raja Ramchandra Ki Jai" without being killed -- despite having grenade blasts tear off most of his clothes and being the only (mostly naked, mustachioed, screaming) target on a one-man-wide path. At the top of the rocky escarpment, he jumped into a machine-gun nest and bayoneted all the occupants.
We are assuming the mustache acted as a sort of battering ram.
When Singh realized that all the men who had been covering him now lay dead or dying, he reached a plane of anger as yet unrecognized by our pitiful Western emotions. He was more filled with murder than ever, but tragically, he had just run out of bullets. And that gave him pause ... for all of a few seconds, before he started hurling grenades and charging into enemy trenches again. He bayoneted two more occupants before a grenade explosion tore off half his face, which he found mildly inconvenient at best: Not only did it not stop him, it actually seemed to egg him on.
Now bleeding from multiple shrapnel wounds and half blind with his own blood, he charged the second machine-gun nest and threw a grenade into it, just as a bullet struck him in the head and killed him. As he fell, the grenade exploded, taking out the nest and winning the battle. He died as he lived: a hero.
And a bloody, half-naked, Dali-mustachioed, screaming, faceless personification of rage.
But mostly a hero.
Thomas Alfred "Todger" Jones Doesn't Need Your Precious "Army"
"Todger" is an old-timey slang word for penis. You can speculate, if you like, about where exactly Private Thomas Alfred Jones got his nickname -- was it his enormous wang? Was he a dick to his fellow troops? Did he once kill a man with it, wielding it as a sort of makeshift flail? Sadly, we just don't know that story. But we do know a better one:
Thomas Alfred Jones, winner of the 1905 "Most British Grin" award.
Jones served in the British army during the Somme offensive, the single greatest loss of British life in the history of the Empire. On Sept 25, 1916, the British had captured the French village of Morval and were in the process of building trenches. Jones and the rest of his unit were digging in, still recovering from the battle they had only just finished fighting, when a sniper opened fire on them. Several men were wounded, but when one of the younger soldiers was shot through the head and killed, Jones finally reached his Hulk Quota.
They shouldn't have made him angry.
Jones waited until his commanding officer wasn't looking, picked up his rifle and sprinted off across the muddy, open ground toward the enemy position. He was in full view of the sniper, who put at least one bullet through Jones' jacket while another passed through his helmet, slid down the back of his shirt and burned him all the way down to the waistband. During his mad dash he stopped and shot the sniper ... as well as two members of the Kaiser's Elite 32nd Douche Brigade who fired on him despite simultaneously displaying a white flag. Jones remained unharmed on his journey across the field, still completely alone, until he eventually reached the other side. You know, the side with all the German trenches. Full of Germans.
And not these Germans.
Undeterred, Jones leaped down and, firing from the hip with his bolt-action rifle, killed several of the enemy soldiers. When he came to a dugout, he picked up a discarded stick grenade and flung it in. Three German soldiers came tumbling out and surrendered. Jones took one prisoner who could speak English and used him, along with a few more stick grenades, to get the rest of the Germans to surrender. All told, around 100 (officially 102) Germans came out, unarmed, with their hands in the air and their urine on their pants. One prisoner saw the disadvantage that Jones had (namely that he was only one pissed-off dude essentially fighting a war alone) and tried to make a run for it.
Jones turned and casually shot him dead.
Luckily for Jones, a rescue party had come to retrieve his body. They wound up helping him round up his many, many prisoners instead ... and presumably rigging up some sort of giant ball-supporting sling for the walk back to camp.
Hungarians Fight Soviet Tanks With Soap and Jelly
In 1956, living in Soviet-occupied Hungary was like living in a steaming pile of fresh dog poo. Ever since the commies took over, disposable income was slashed by 90 percent, food was running out, formerly free people were working as slaves on collective farms, and everything was a mess by any reasonable person's standards. Except, of course, the guys in charge. They probably thought everything was going great.
Hungarians disagreed. After 10 years of occupation, rebels gathered by the thousands to send the government a ballsy message. If Moscow wondered what their literally hungry Hungarians thought of them, they didn't need to look further than this Hungarian flag with the Communist coat of arms ripped out.
That sure is one defiant poncho.
And their rebellion worked -- for 10 days. In a surprise move that shocked no one but the rebels themselves, the Soviet Union rolled tanks into Budapest and squashed the revolt to a bloody pulp. But that didn't stop the Hungarians from coming up with some pretty innovative battle techniques before the whole thing was over.
The Cartoonish Plan:
In the absence of real weapons, the revolutionaries were forced to improvise their defense with whatever goods were laying around the house at the time. And what they had available was cooking oil, soap, jam, and soft fabric.
"Did I grab the wrong list? I thought I wrote down 'grenades.'"
Once the tanks started rolling into Budapest, they noticed something a little weird about the streets -- specifically, that they were on the slippery side. That's because the rebels had covered the roads in cooking oil and soap so the tanks couldn't get traction. At one point the tank drivers found themselves trying to drive over piles of silk that had been strewn across the streets. Have you ever tried to drive on silk? It's not only impossible, but kind of fabulous. Even more embarrassing, while the tanks were stuck on the world's most aggressive Slip 'n' Slide, kids would smear their windows with jelly.
Sadly, no amount of Smucker's was going to stop the Soviet machine from pouring into Hungary, and the rebellion was crushed. But at some point, maybe only briefly, a bunch of kids stopped 70-ton rolling death machines in their tracks using nothing but items you can find in your kitchen right now.
"Watch out! Snacks, 3 o'clock!"
Benjamin F. Wilson Takes on the Chinese With His Shovel
When the Korean War began, World War II veteran Lieutenant Benjamin F. Wilson ran down to the enlistment office to volunteer his services. However, the Army in the 1950s was a mere shadow of its World War II size and thus had no room for an extra officer. Wilson, however, was more interested in action than in rank, so this veteran shrugged and enlisted again, as a private. He was sent to Korea, rose quickly through the ranks and made first sergeant by the summer of 1951. So already you know this guy doesn't take no for an answer.
He was put in charge of men tasked with protecting a little place that would within days be known with the loving nickname of "Hell Hill."
Here is Limbo Dam, or Hell's Waiting Room.
As the first sergeant of his company, Wilson was both aware that a powerful Chinese attack was imminent and in position to remain in the background when shit would hit the fan. Instead, he wanted to be with his men. For his troubles, he received a nasty bullet wound in his leg when Hell Hill started earning its nickname. This, of course, did nothing to prevent him from launching into a determined lone-man charge where he single-handedly killed seven and wounded two enemy soldiers, sending the rest into panicked disarray.
"Maybe we've had enough war for a while."
At this point, most men opined that Wilson had done enough, what with the life-threatening wound in his leg and everything, and tried to get him to a nice, comfy M.A.S.H. station. They actually managed to place him down on the stretcher, but when stretcher bearers set him down to rest, he immediately escaped and limped right back up the hill to defend the peak. The only problem: At this point everyone else was retreating, so he was now pretty much the only U.S. soldier on the offense.
He didn't actually realize this because his helmet kept falling over his eyes.
As everyone knows, a real-life situation where a lone wounded soldier stands against overwhelming odds never ends well for the soldier.
Unless, of course, said soldier features in a Cracked article, in which case he promptly charges the enemy ranks with his rifle, kills three enemy soldiers and scares the shit out of the others. When the enemy physically wrestled the rifle from his hands, he took his goddamn entrenching shovel and annihilated four more enemies.
This is barely any use against zombies at the best of times.
At this point, the Chinese soldiers decided that Wilson could just keep the damn hill and retreated.
Wilson, in turn, finally allowed the medics to patch him up. Although he did rip his wounds open again the very next day, when he killed 33 enemy soldiers in another one-man assault. At that point, the Army actually had to remind Wilson's wildly medal-recommending superiors that no one is awarded more than one Medal of Honor.
George Cairns Captures a Hill Single-Handedly. Literally.
George Cairns was a member of the Chindits, tough-as-nails soldiers who were dropped behind Japanese lines in the mountains and jungles of Burma during WW II. In March 1944, the Chindits started Operation Thursday, a mission that involved sending gliders into the distant jungle and having their pilots quickly construct full-size landing strips so backups could land. In theory, this strategy would put the men well beyond the reach of the enemy while they constructed the means to bring in reinforcements. In practice, as the Chindits found out firsthand, it was more like holding off attacks from every side while simultaneously designing and building a goddamn airport.
This is Orde Wingate, founder and leader of the Chindits. And yes, he was completely mad.
See, when the Chindits flew in, the Japanese already had control of a hill near one of the landing strips called Henu Block, which they used to stage brutal assaults on the men. Cairns and his troop radioed headquarters and complained about the difficulties of practicing architecture while dodging machine-gun fire. Headquarters responded with an elegant solution: Just go up there and kill all of them, then shut up and get back to work. The Chindits were ordered to go and capture the hill back from the Japanese. And so they did. Much of the fighting was brutal, hand-to-hand combat, the British armed with bayonets and the Japanese with katana-style blades. In the melee, a Japanese soldier hacked off Cairns' left arm.
It can also cut through a potato in one swing.
After watching his own arm get lopped off, Cairns managed to kill the Japanese officer, retrieve the man's sword with his one remaining arm and, sustained solely by his righteous anger (and possibly a shitload of shock), storm right back up that goddamn hill to deal with that son of a bitch's friends. As Cairns advanced in front of the rest of the Chindits, still swinging that Katana at anything that moved, he killed and wounded several Japanese soldiers. He kept right on chopping until the blood loss from the hemorrhaging stump got the better of him and he collapsed and died.
The only reason he stopped killing ... was because he ran out of blood.
Or, as he called it, murder fuel.
But that wasn't the end: The rest of the Chindits were so inspired by the insane bravado of his attack that they all stormed forward in a similarly ferocious fashion. The Japanese turned and fled for their lives, probably believing, based on all the firsthand evidence gathered thus far, that British people keep all of their sanity in their left arms.
As well as their ridiculous hats.
Three Men and a Pommel Horse
One of the most absurdly complex and overall ludicrous prison escape attempts in history is thanks to a pair of British pilots named Oliver Philpot and Eric Williams, who wound up in a Nazi prison camp along with another British soldier named Richard Codner. Philpot and Williams had been shot down during a bombing run, but it isn't exactly clear how Codner wound up there. Though, from listening to the guy, it is quite possible he voluntarily entered the prison just to see if he could break out. In his own words, "I enjoyed myself when we were escaping. We were really living then. I think it's only when you're being hunted that you really live ... I liked being hunted ..."
It wasn't the guards, guard dogs, or barbwire fences at Stalag Luft III that were the biggest problem inmates faced: it was the dirt. On top was dusty grey, but not far underneath was sandy yellow. Any yellow dirt that turned up in the prison meant a tunnel was being dug. Tunnels, like the three used in the Great Escape were being dug all the time, but most of these were discovered because of the amount of time and yellow dirt required to dig from one of the prison buildings.
There had to be a way around it. Together, the three men built a really big pommel horse (the rail with a pair of handles, like gymnasts use), capable of holding up to three men uncomfortably inside. Then they convinced the guards that they, and many other inmates, just loved the hell out of gymnastics. To make it convincing, they practiced for hours each day, despite the fact their rations, while adequate, weren't exactly chalk full of protein.
The men took turns hiding inside the horse: Inmates carried it in and out to the yard, placing it in the same spot by the fence every day (closer to fence = less dirt). From inside, a digger took the top layer of grey dust and placed it in a box. Bowls were used for shovels. So as not to leave a gaping hole in the yard, a board was placed over the hole and covered with the grey dust from the box. Guards walked right over it, and didn't notice.
The yellow dirt, meanwhile, was brought inside the prison with the digger, where it was disposed of in gardens, rooftops, and the toilet, Shawshank-style. The noise from digging, which would be picked up by microphones placed along the fence line, was attributed to the gymnasts leaping around the yard.
Just me and my leotards, no digging going on here ...
Almost four months and many sweaty testicles later, the tunnel was ready. The three men punched through, assumed fake identities, and travelled across Europe, eventually making it to Britain via Sweden. As for the pommel horse and all those gymnasts back in the camp...we're sure they bear no hard feelings for leaving them there to rot.
Alexey Maresyev Kicks Ass (Without Legs)
In 1942, while flying his Polikarpov I-16 over Staraya, which was rife with Nazis at the time, Alexey was shot down. The blast and crash fell short of killing the Russian ace, but he was severely wounded and still in enemy territory. His legs in particular had been badly mangled, which all but eliminated the possibility of a Hollywood-like slow motion walk away from the impending explosions and danger.
Even a flailing girly panic sprint was impossible.
The Awesomeness That Followed:
You know that story grandpa used to tell you about how he would four miles through two-feet of snow everyday just so he could get to school? Well, your grandpa was a worthless pussy compared to Alexey Maresyev. After being shot down, Maresyev crawled through snow, with little food and Nazis around every corner... for 18 fucking days and nights.
Crawled! Suck it, grandpa! The pain was so severe that Alexey frequently passed out, only to awaken, grab death by the throat and shake it while laughing maniacally, and start crawling again.
Experts call this a Crazy Level Busey.
Eventually, he made it back to friendly turf, only to have doctors chop off his legs below the knees. The wounds had festered during his 18-day crawl and had to come off to save his life. We're assuming that, if he had known this in advance, he probably would have just torn them off himself using nothing more than his bare hands.
At this point, anyone would've called it a day, confident that two limbs is just about enough to give in service to their country. Alexey, on the other hand, was having no part of this girlish suggestion.
After recovering somewhat, he got to work figuring how to get around on crutches and fake legs with the intent of getting back into a plane. In order to prove he was capable, among other things, Alexey even danced for the certification commission sent to judge whether or not he was fit to return to battle.
This almost happened.
Realizing that he was both capable of flying a plane and almost certainly insane, they let him fly again and he was back in the air by 1943. In August of the same year, he shot down three German fighters in a dogfight. He went on to fly 86 combat missions and, by the end of his Nazi-killing days, had taken out no less than 11 enemy warplanes. For his trouble, Alexey received the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest and longest named award that any Russian person could ever hope to get.
Naturally, Maresyev's exploits made him a national hero in his native Russia, but far be it from him to accept the acclaim. "There is nothing extraordinary in what I did. The fact that I've been turned into a legend irritates me," he once said. To drive this sentiment home, he made it a point to die just moments before a national celebration commemorating his 85th birthday.
Benedict Arnold Was Actually a Badass
You Know Him As:
Benedict Arnold fought for the British during the American Revolution. Even worse, he did it despite being American. Attempting to use his position as a general in the Continental Army to gain control of West Point then surrender it to the British, he was discovered, thwarted and his name has since become synonymous with "English muffins topped with bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce." No, wait, "traitor," that's the one.
But in Reality:
Arnold actually did all that stuff. Switching sides, trying to surrender West Point, the whole shebang. But you know what? Considering the circumstances, it's hard to say we blame him.
This shameless display of unmitigated gall, however, is inexcusable.
When you look at pre-treachery Arnold, what you find is an almost comical beacon of good old-fashioned American virtue. After his mother died, he single-handedly supported his sister and suicidally alcoholic father; he enlisted to fight off a French invasion when he was 15; he grew up to be a successful capitalist and family man. If he'd fought a duel against somebody for using "Yankee" as an insult, he would've been the ultimate American. What, he did that? Never mind then.
Then there was his record during the revolution. He planned and led the famous siege of Fort Ticonderoga. Somewhere around here his wife died, but he soldiered on, masterminding the strategic invasion of Quebec, where he held position for weeks despite being cut off from the rest of the army and shot in the leg. He held back the British at Lake Champlain, he was instrumental in the Danbury raid, he was essential to the success of the Battle of Saratoga. If he fell off a bridge and died at this point, there would be a 50-foot tall statue of him in Connecticut, made of platinum and diamonds.
The army must have loved this guy, right? Surely by this stage he was being carried everywhere by a living throne of nubile young women. Wait, instead they repeatedly passed him over for promotion with younger, less experienced men? And other officers tried to take credit for his achievements? And he was investigated by congress on baseless accusations of corruption?
Basically, after all his bravery, sacrifice and bullet holes, America seemed to develop a great passion for kicking Arnold in the gut. It didn't help that at the same time they were creating an alliance with France, the bad guys from Arnold's teenage war adventures. Under those conditions, it's understandable that he'd quit the team.
People may have had more respect for him if, rather than being sneaky about it, he'd yelled "Fuck you all, I'm with England now" as he rode off giving everyone the rudest gesture of the times. It's the betrayal that irks people. But hey, America, you started it.
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.
World War II Conscientious Objectors Find (Insane) Ways to Get in on the Action
During World War II, American support for the war was through the roof (well, after Pearl Harbor, anyway). At the same time, a relatively new designation for citizens called "conscientious objectors" was coming into being. Some people who were strongly opposed to Axis powers taking lives naturally had an aversion to themselves taking lives, and they refused to fight.
"I'll pee on Hitler's shoes, but that's it."
Since Nazis weren't going to kill themselves, these objectors were not exactly highly thought of. It was very easy to see "conscientious objector" as a fancy term for "coward" in the eyes of those who saw the war as our only chance to stop world domination at the hands of psychotic supervillains. But the COs weren't just going to sit that shit out -- they found other ways to contribute that wound up putting their lives on the line. For instance, 500 of them volunteered for a vital mission: human experimentation.
For the men who'd rather shoot up unpatented drugs than shoot Nazis.
We aren't talking your typical "three of you take this placebo while three of you take this other thing that may give you an upset stomach" experiments. We're talking shit intended to find out what kills people in wartime conditions. We're talking being exposed to extreme heights, food deprivation, and life-threatening weather conditions. Many of these COs were injected with malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis, typhus, and other diseases that, in previous wars, took more lives than bullets. Some were covered with lice and sprayed with DDT.
But the ones who arguably had it the worst were the 36 COs who agreed to be starved nearly to death. Meaning they got half the minimum rations needed to sustain a human life while being expected to continue regular activities. The results of what these people allowed to be done to themselves were significant enough to influence the Marshall Plan, the program by which the nations devastated by the war were repaired.
We're assuming Captain America fits in around this point.
So, yeah, these guys proved that being a conscientious objector wasn't about fearing for their own safety -- they appeared to not give a shit about that. They just wanted to be nuts in a way that didn't kill anybody else.
The Filthy Thirteen
The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:
The Dirty Dozen, a film that would probably not have been possible had the Filthy Thirteen not come out first.
The Badass True Story:
The Filthy Thirteen were a sub-unit within the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, better known as the "Screaming Eagles" who descended on Hitler's Fortress Europe with the 82nd Airborne during the wee-hours of D-Day for some early-morning foreplay. The Filthies were among the hardest-hitting, harder-drinking roughnecks in the U.S. Army, and got their name for their tendency to bathe and shave only once a week during training and rarely washing their uniforms, if ever. Hello, scabies!
Real heroes are disgusting and riddled with easily preventable diseases.
Their specialty was blowing the shit out of bridges and whatever else they figured could go "boom" if they strapped it to enough TNT, which caused a nightmare for the Germans as they tried in vain to fend off the Allied invasion. The jobs were as risky as a shore leave prostitute in Thailand, but the Filthy Thirteen were able to blow the shit out of Nazi-occupied France all the way from Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, all while smelling worse than, well, a goddamn shore leave prostitute in Thailand.
Their fearless leader, Jake McNiece was part Native-American, and his fellow Filthies chose to honor this by going into battle sporting mohawks like Travis Bickle, and freaking war-paint.
But before he even made it that far, McNiece had to enlist and, at the age of 23, was delivered this nugget of advice from the enlisting officer:
"You may just be 23. I don't know, but your face and your head looks like it's been used as practice for hand grenade tossing and wore out three bodies already."
If that's not some movie shit, we don't know what is. Wait, yes we do, this quote from fellow Filthy Thirteener Robert Cone regarding the D-Day mission:
"We landed near a hedgerow, from which the Germans were firing at us, and the guy I was with was killed. I got hit in the right shoulder, which broke my arm all the way down into the forearm. The bullet was lodged in there for a year. I was able to get away, though, but could not hold my rifle."
Unless crapping your pants and falling to the ground in a heap of blubbering womanliness somehow managed to become an escape tactic, there probably isn't a person reading this who would escape some something like that one-armed and unarmed.
And if none of that piques your interest, check this quote from Filthy Thirteen member Jack Womer regarding the time he met Winston Churchill, which we proudly present to you with absolutely no additional information to help you ascertain exactly how this came to pass:
"I thought to myself, 'Should I shoot this son of a gun? I don't care if he is prime minister, I don't want him urinating on me!'"
With someone who drank like Churchill, the possibilities are endless.
Pier Donia Is the Dutch Braveheart
In 1515, Dutch farmer Pier Donia was living a happy life with his wife and children in a small village in the Netherlands when a civil war broke out. Having no military experience to speak of, Donia came to the conclusion that he didn't give two twisted shits about the war and decided to continue farming whatever it is that Dutch people farm. So he was kind of like Mel Gibson at the beginning of Braveheart.
Tulips don't give a crap about your freedom.
Unfortunately for Donia, the resemblance would not end there.
When his village refused to pay dues to a notorious legion of soldiers loyal to the government known as the Black Band, the soldiers rolled through and burned everything to the ground, raping and killing Donia's wife and murdering his children. When Donia returned from the fields to see the carnage, he vowed revenge against the Habsburgs and their butt-loving faces.
Donia was about to go Braveheart on their asses.
They may take his life, but they'll never take his ability to take their lives.
Despite not knowing how a boat works or ever firing a gun in his life, he quickly formed a band of pirates and set sail for some assbeat. By the end of 1515, he had captured 28 Dutch navy boats and become an infamous rebel, earning the truly stunning nickname Grutte Pier ("Big Peter" in Dutch). By 1517, he had started taking over entire villages, and would ransom some of the higher class citizens before burning down their cities himself.
He may be going a bit far by now, but he does look fabulous.
Later that year, the Dutch ruler Charles V decided he'd had enough of Big Peter and dispatched an entire fleet to stop him. A man who, let us remind you, came into this with no training or experience.
Although he was defeated in the initial attack, Donia struck back by taking the entire fleet of 11 ships before crushing an army of 300 soldiers who showed up as reinforcements. In 1519, disillusioned that he was now becoming the very thing he'd set out to defeat, Donia retired and died of natural causes the next year. That's right -- he quit because he was kicking too much ass.
For his valiant efforts he got a rugby club named after him and ... this.
Rags the Terrier
Some soldiers are just blessed with luck, regardless of species. A prime example of this is a mongrel terrier in World War I-era Paris.
The dog was literally stumbled upon by James Donovan, an AWOL American soldier. When Donovan was confronted by the Military Police about running away from his unit, he saw the little ball of fur as his ticket away from court martial. He bullshitted the way back into his unit with the excuse that he'd been hunting the dog all along ... because it was their mascot. Somewhere along the line he named the dog Rags, using the time honored method of "its name is what it looks like."
The soldier's nickname was "Ears McFlophat."
The bluff worked, largely thanks to the dog, who turned out to be friendliness incarnate and quickly won over the MPs and the commanding officer of Donovan's unit, who promptly made Rags' mascot status official. Rags enjoyed his new gig thoroughly and thanked his new human friends the only way a dog can -- with googly eyes, a wagging tail and impromptu face-licking attacks. Also, by saving everyone's lives on a daily basis and becoming one of the unit's greatest heroes.
When Donovan was transferred to the frontline, he didn't want to risk Rags' life, so he left the little guy behind. The dog, however, wasn't having any of it, and tracked Donovan to the trenches. Realizing that the pup was good at finding his way around, Donovan adapted a secondary strategy: He taught Rags how to run messages between the command and the frontline.
"We'll just ... tuck this into your collar, shall we?"
Rags took his promotion incredibly well, regularly delivering important messages despite constant gunfire, explosions, distracting smells and other stuff custom made to lead a dog astray. He wasn't just doing his part, either -- he constantly watched and studied the things the soldiers around him did. When the men hit the dirt upon hearing a shell, Rags would mime their actions.
Then, one day, he started throwing himself to ground without any incoming noises at all. For a while, everyone around went "Awwww" and said "Look, he's trying to be human." Then, when the first explosions shook the trench, they quickly realized that dogs hear pretty well. Throughout his mimicking antics, Rags had been employing his Pavlovian powers. He now realized that the high-pitched incoming sounds equal explosions, and knew what to do. And so it came to be that the men of his unit soon found themselves imitating Rags.
They even replaced "Oh shit!" with a sort of yelping sound.
His new status as a lifesaver made Rags a celebrity. He capitalized on his fame by circling all the mess halls he could find, cashing in on his reputation for the finest wartime food available and never once returning to a hall if he felt he hadn't received a warm enough welcome there. His freewheeling antics were only limited after he got into a fight with Theodore Roosevelt Jr.'s cat, the survival of which was likely an achievement in itself.
In July of 1918, Rags was charged with delivering yet another important message. Rags was out in the open when the Germans launched a gas attack, catching him without his doggy gas mask. Undeterred, he took all that the Germans could hit him with, and delivered the message ... then passed away.
That is, passed away years later at the extremely respectable age of 20 (which is like 140 in dog years), as a happy, American family dog. He survived the shit out of war, and when old age finally took him, he was buried with full military honors and a gravestone that reads "War Hero."
They came this close to naming him King of Dogs.
The worst injury he ever took in life was a blind eye that resulted from being hit by a freaking car. Which we're pretty sure he ate immediately afterward.
Stephen "Turbo" Toboz
When someone who is not a cartoon character is called "Turbo," it is usually safe to start screaming bullshit. Not so with Stephen Toboz, who happens to back his nickname up by being a Navy SEAL. In fact, he got it during the inhumanly hard SEAL training, where some of the fittest soldiers in the world drop like flies from exhaustion. Toboz, however, was hyper throughout the training period, ran incredibly fast and actually thought the whole thing was great fun.
"Pushups in the sand? Fuck yeah I wanna do some pushups in the sand!"
He made it through the training, naturally, and became a full-fledged SEAL who eventually wound up fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. In March of 2002, Turbo was part of Operation Anaconda (we dare you not to think about G.I. Joe while reading that sentence), one of the first large-scale battles of the war in Afghanistan. He was part of a six-man team that had flown back into an enemy stronghold atop a mountain to rescue a captured teammate. Their helicopter was shot down but managed to land safely -- only to be immediately caught up in an ambush.
"Also, Steve spilled his Slurpee all over the dash."
As the team leader ordered them to withdraw, Turbo was hit by automatic weapon fire that somehow spiraled around his left leg, shattering bones and punching a hole the size of a fist in his calf.
Turbo crawled along with the team on all fours, barely visible in three feet of snow, fighting pain, blood loss and the -20 degree weather. Oh, and he fought the enemy, too. He actually provided cover for the rest of the unit all along, refusing to take any morphine for his near-incapacitating pain to be able to do so.
Winners don't do drugs! Not even when the medical professionals tell them to.
This went on for 18 fucking hours. All under a constant barrage of bullets and mortar fire.
In the end, they made it out alive. At that point Turbo had lost over three liters of blood and was only able to survive because the cold weather froze his wound shut. In the hospital, Toboz lived up to his nickname by getting annoyed at the slow pace at which his leg was healing. So he told the doctors to saw it the hell off and give him a bionic leg instead. They obliged, and Turbo rejoined his unit only nine months later. He still took part on active SEAL combat missions but soon started feeling bad that his new leg only gave him 95 percent ability (instead of his usual 800 percent).
"Is it just me, or is Turbo eating slightly fewer tanks lately?"
And thus ended Turbo's career as a badass SEAL warrior. He is now a badass SEAL trainer, bringing a new element of embarrassment for the recruits by running circles around them with just one good leg.
The Medic Who Delivered Plasma (While Delivering Bullets)
You might picture combat medics pulling off only the basics while on the battlefield -- applying bandages, giving CPR, the stuff you've seen in movies. But way back in 1945, 18-year-old medic Robert Bush wasn't just giving basic care at the Battle of Okinawa, he was doing the tough stuff -- like administering blood transfusions on the battlefield. If you have a hard time imagining what a blood transfusion looks like outside a sterile hospital setting, start with this picture of another World War II medic delivering plasma to a wounded private:
Civilian entertainment was notoriously difficult to come by during World War II.
But instead of barefoot Sicilian peasants, imagine the medic is surrounded by screaming Marines fighting off Japanese combatants. And picture a gaping chest and shoulder wound in the victim, one that required an immediate plasma delivery to aid in blood coagulation. Go ahead and just picture the fiery pits of the deepest hell while you're at it, because that's the scene we're trying to paint Bush in here.
Now, if you were a Japanese soldier fighting for the empire, maybe you'd give pause when coming upon a guy so almost-dead that he's getting a blood transfusion. Maybe you'd step over him and move on to the next American. If so, good for you, but that's not how things worked at Okinawa. Hospital Apprentice First Class Bush held his blood bag with one hand, drew his pistol with the other, and, after presumably snapping off some cool one-liner like, "The doctor will see you NOW, BITCHES!" began mowing down the charging Japanese.
Rarely do things ever work out for soldiers who fight for any "empire."
Bush maintained his position, emptying his pistol into the horde before scooping up the wounded officer's rifle to continue fighting against the onslaught. He continued protecting his "patient" even after a grenade blew up near him, destroying his right eye with shrapnel.
In his own words:
"They got me. The first grenade took my eye out, and I put my arm up to hold it off, and got some fragments in the other eye. Got a lot in my eye and shoulders. They hit me with three hand grenades in a matter of seconds. I was firing on them with [the lieutenant's] carbine. Every time I saw a Japanese head pop up, I could see the star on their helmets, I'd fire one round a foot below where I saw that head come up, because I knew I couldn't miss, I'd get 'em on the way down."
When in doubt, aim for the dick.
In the most badass display of bedside manner ever, Bush stayed right at the wounded man's side until the man was finally evacuated. Then he calmly made his way back to the battle aid station, where he promptly passed out.
A Pair of Dentists Go AWOL to Attack the Germans
What these next two guys did in no way turned the tide of the war, and as far as we know it didn't even result in any German casualties. Still, it has to go down as one of the most balls-out crazy things ever attempted in modern warfare. This is the story of the two guys who decided to single-handedly invade Nazi-occupied France.
First, we want you to imagine the most unintentionally hilarious job anyone could have, for any nation, in any war. Got it? Well, Sgt. Peter King and Pvt. Leslie Cuthbertson have you beat: They spent World War II in the British Army Dental Corps.
After trying several times to transfer to fighting units, they decided to take matters into their own hands. So, in April of 1942, King and Cuthbertson went AWOL. In an effort to prevent accusations of desertion, they wrote letters to Prime Minister Winston Churchill explaining the purpose behind their actions. Then these two dentists, who had no particular espionage or other special training to speak of, stole weapons and grenades from their camp, deciding they'd get proactive on that shit. They stole a motorboat and set out across the English Channel to France in what was to be the very first invasion of occupied territory of the war, unauthorized though it was.
The lengths some people will go to just to avoid latrine duty.
Once there, King and Cuthbertson, who were inspired by stories of raids conducted by the English Special Services, sought out something to raid. It came in the form of a German troop train. Armed with all their considerable dentist training, they waited for any German onlookers to go past them, then placed a grenade under one of the tracks and pulled the pin. The train successfully disrupted, the two men made the tactically sound decision to get the hell out of the area before they were cut down by enemy soldiers.
King and Cuthbertson stayed in Nazi-occupied France for a total of three days before deciding to return to England, somehow not getting killed in the process. They stole another motorboat and made their way across the English Channel. They miscalculated the amount of fuel the boat would need, though, and it wasn't long before they were stranded on the water, where they stayed for more than two weeks before being rescued by the Royal Navy.
"Captain, I've spotted the HMS Dumbass off the bow!"
They were immediately court-martialed, because it turns out most armies frown on this kind of thing. An intervention by Churchill prevented them from being tried for desertion, but they did end up losing rank. They were, however, allowed to leave the dental corps and transfer to the light infantry ... and over the years, King wound up winning two medals for valor. So, yeah, we're thinking the guy was kind of wasted as dentist.
Jimmy Stewart Took a Break from Acting to Bomb the Germans
Jimmy Stewart was America's Everyman, the Tom Hanks of his day. The star of It's a Wonderful Life garnered a reputation as a loveable scamp who always tried to do the right thing. His positive karma was such that President Harry Truman once declared, "If Bess and I had a son, we'd want him to be just like Jimmy Stewart."
"Though if he ever sported that goddamn cowlick, we'd disown him."
Though many of his later roles were darker in tone (he did several Hitchcock films and played a troubled trial lawyer in Anatomy of a Murder), the public's perception of him remained that of a swell guy who wouldn't have harmed a fly, mainly because he didn't have the strength to do so.
Except he did; Jimmy Stewart was an extremely decorated war hero, with a military career spanning three goddamned decades, from 1940 to 1968. That's right -- before Pearl Harbor made fighting Japan the cool thing to do, Stewart had made history as the first major American actor to join the war effort. And if you think this was just some PR stunt so he could get some easy street cred with middle America, think again.
Every time a bell rings, Jimmy kills another Nazi.
See, Stewart would have had an easy excuse to avoid any actual danger -- he actually failed the Army's height and weight requirements when he tried to enlist. But he was determined to fight for his country and decided to do so as a combat pilot. He swiftly gained 10 pounds, joined the Army Air Corps, and logged more than 300 hours of flight training, just to prove he could do it. Even then, he had to constantly fight to get anything but an instructor or desk job, both due to his age (he was in his 30s) and his superiors not wanting to risk a beloved celebrity getting blown to bits on their watch. But he kept pushing and eventually was deployed to active duty over England. He quickly established himself as his squadron's leader, due to equal parts bravado, expertise, and conveniently having more Oscars than anyone in the room.
Stewart led many bombing runs on Nazi factories and military production centers and led a squadron of bombers in the Battle of Berlin, which would later be referred to as "Black Thursday," due to the excessive number of American casualties suffered. All of this led to an impressive chest of medals by the time he was mustered out of active duty in 1946, due to the war ending and him being damn near 40.
"This commemorates your bravery, dedication, and how cool you were when I asked for an autograph for my niece; she totally loves you."
But Stewart didn't just win a war and then go home to play pretend for the rest of his life. No, he remained in the Air Force Reserve for an additional 22 years, worked on a military base during the Korean War, and even flew a non-combat mission in Vietnam. By the time Stewart finally retired, he had reached the rank of Brigadier (one-star) General. Ironically, he only appeared in a couple of war movies (The Mountain Road and Malaya) as he claimed they were "almost never realistic." Also, let's face it: After conquering the military for real, merely pretending to do so would've been too damn boring.
Warships Full of Cross-Dressing Sailors Pretending to Be on a Cruise
During WW2 German U-boats were wrecking most of the Allied merchant fleet. The British noticed that the subs stayed far away from any ships that could actually shoot back, so it made sense to disguise the warships as small merchant ships. They also noticed that the subs surfaced when they attacked, so the idea was that they could lure the Germans to what looked like an easy target, then blow them to smithereens when they broke the surface. This was not by itself a particularly crazy idea.
But this disguise had to be convincing, by golly! Historians have written entire books about the British "genius for deception." They had a reputation to uphold, so this is where things got downright weird. The sailors donned costumes, so they wouldn't look like military when viewed through a periscope. Some of them dressed as women and walked around on deck snuggling with other dudes. Some dressed with fake parrots, or in blackface.
"It looks great, man. No way this offends literally everyone in the future."
They even choreographed elaborate displays where once a U-boat was spotted, they would act like panicked civilians and begin to abandon ship while making a show of running into each other and tripping and falling. Some crews would even jump into the lifeboats and pretend to accidentally leave someone behind, and he would stand on the railing screaming for them to come back and get him.
Meanwhile, guns were hidden all over the ships, behind normal-looking hatches, inside shipping crates, under fake smokestacks, behind false walls and inside fake lifeboats. Once the unsuspecting U-boat surfaced for the easy kill, the captain pulled a lever, all the trapdoors would open and guns would point out the sides and blow the baffled Germans to hell. Or that's how they tell the story anyway. You know how war stories are.
"-- and then I cock-slapped the entire 4th Panzer division across the Rhine."
Oh, and apparently at least 70 German submarines actually fell for this, and 14 of them were sunk, making cross-dressing sailors the seventh leading cause of death for World War I German submariners.
And the second leading cause of questioned sexuality.
Richard Marcinko Was Too Badass for the Navy SEALs
Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko started his career just as badass as he left it. A Navy teletype operator in Italy, he made several requests to transfer to UDT (Underwater Demolitions Training) but was repeatedly denied. So he used the "Br'er Rabbit" method and simply punched someone in the face, for which he was naturally punished -- by being sent to UDT.
He looks like he could stop trains with his face.
During Marcinko's time with UDT and later as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam, he and his band of marauders became such a problem for the Vietcong in his area of operation that a 50,000 piaster reward was offered for his head. In a career that eerily resembles the Rambo franchise, he was highly decorated in Vietnam and then went looking for other conflicts to sort out in places like Cambodia. There is even a story about him body-surfing behind a military patrol boat while under enemy fire. Seriously, he really did that shit.
Kilgore was real.
Marcinko became so elite in the Navy SEALs that they started having to invent new, more elite teams just to find somewhere to put him. Eventually, he wound up commanding something called Red Cell -- his job was to fly around the world, attacking and infiltrating the U.S. military's own bases, in order to test their security and show how the military would cope if the enemy had somebody like Marcinko on its side.
How He Got Screwed:
Ironically, Red Cell was so good at what it was being paid to do that it embarrassed the shit out of a military that, as it turns out, couldn't cope at all against it. And Marcinko took his job dead seriously, kidnapping high-ranking personnel and even their families, "mildly torturing" them to get nuclear codes and wound up kidnapping one admiral twice.
Red Cell, moments before ambushing President Ronald Reagan on vacation in the Hamptons.
It wasn't long before a bunch of bruised, disgruntled commanders decided to have Marcinko railroaded out of the military, if only so they could sleep a full night again without him swinging through their windows like Batman.
Naval Investigative Services spent a reported $60 million on an investigation to find something -- anything -- to pin on him. Their investigation fell flat, making fools of them yet again, so even after Marcinko retired, they kept going after him in an effort to find anything that would stick. The FBI eventually did convict him on trumped-up charges and sentenced him to a year in some minimum-security prison, but he used that time to write a No. 1 bestselling autobiography, Rogue Warrior, which embarrassed the hell out of the military again.
Some (read: all) of you are probably more familiar with the Xbox adaptation.
Demo Dick is currently forbidden by law from writing any more about the military, so he now exclusively writes popular "fiction" about the adventures of an elite badass who is totally not him embarrassing a bunch of pussies who are totally not the U.S. Navy.
Judy the Pointer
Judy was born in a Shanghai dog kennel in 1937 and presented to the British Royal Navy. She was assigned to the HMS Grasshopper for some good and proper naval life, which was cruelly interrupted by enemy torpedo fire and the ensuing sinking, increasingly wet feeling.
The crew barely managed to save themselves by making their way to an uninhabited island. They found Judy clinging to a piece of the broken ship, alive but exhausted. Despite the fact that they had little food and no water at all, they decided to nurse the dog back to health. This proved to be a good move, as Judy thanked her saviors by finding them a water source and saving the lives of every single survivor.
The refreshed soldiers attempted to reach an Allied-controlled area, only to be almost immediately taken prisoner. This was a crappy scenario for Judy, who the men managed to smuggle in the POW camp with them, as animals possess no wartime rights whatsoever. The camp provided everyone a whole lot of troubles of their own, so she was left to her own devices and would probably have perished ... if it wasn't for one Frank Williams.
Williams took a liking to the starving dog, shared his meager rations with her and looked after her. He also managed to get the enemy camp commandant to give her official POW status in order to protect her. We like to think that the officer took a long, hard look at Judy, who was nonchalantly eyeing the sky and doing her level best to whistle innocuously, and thought: "Eh, what's the worst that could happen?"
Spoiler: Judy. Judy was the worst that could happen.
"Murdock ... I'm coming to get you."
Judy went on to abuse the shit out of her new legal status. She saved the lives of numerous prisoners by actively attacking any and all guards attempting to deliver beatings. She nearly received retribution more than once, but each time Williams managed to talk the guards out of harming her. In exchange, Judy rarely left Williams' side, protecting him with all her might and warning him from impending danger, be it guards, snakes or scorpions.
When Williams was transferred to another camp, he smuggled Judy aboard the boat.
Which was promptly torpedoed and sank.
"Sit back and relax, buddy. I got this."
But this time, Judy was ready. She swam back and forth among the wrecked ship, helping survivors reach pieces of wreckage to hang on to, just like she had done. When everyone was suitably rescued, she disappeared -- only to emerge in the new camp, just in time to tackle the flabbergasted Williams, who had also survived and just arrived there.
With the confidence gained from beating the sea once again, Judy became a veritable wild animal in the new camp. Aside from her usual guard-terrorizing antics, she hunted local fauna, teasing tigers and fighting alligators until the camp was liberated in 1945.
Here, she saves Williams from the lethal jaws of marriage.
Judy and Williams remained inseparable for the rest of her long life, indulging in various adventures -- and you can bet your ass that no wild animal bothered them, nor did any ship dare to sink on them ever again.
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.
Paul L. Bolden, balls pictured separately in a much larger portrait.
Airey Neave: Master of Half-Assed Disguise
Airey Neave was a British soldier who was wounded and captured by the Germans in World War II. He immediately picked up escaping as a hobby and at his second prison camp, Stalag XX-A, he escaped with a friend and nearly made it into Russian territory in Poland before being picked up and turned over to the Gestapo, better known as the biggest assholes of the war. For his transgression, Neave was sent to where all problematic POWs go: Oflag IV-C, the castle of Colditz.
Hermann Goering, the second biggest douche in Germany in the 1940s, declared Colditz "escape proof." Several prisoners, including Neave, set out to prove him wrong using various batshit insane methods.
One prisoner was sewn into a mattress in order to be smuggled out. Two others built an entire glider out of scavenged wood. Tunnels were also popular, but like each of these attempts, ultimately big fat failures (to be fair, the glider just didn't get finished in time).
Neave, perhaps wisely, settled on a subtler concept of escape. Finagling a Polish army tunic and cap, he painted them to look more like the Germans' uniforms. Then he proceeded to walk out the front door. Unfortunately, search lights reacted with the paint he'd used, making it shine a bright green.
Failure did not deter him. He tried the exact same plan five months later, this time using cardboard, cloth, and some more paint to make a more authentic-looking uniform. He and another prisoner, Anthony Luteyn, who had his own costume, just needed an opportunity.
That opportunity came in the form of an all-inmate stage show that was being put on at the prison (no, really). The two slipped under the stage, into a room that connected to a corridor which lead, not to freedom, but to the one place no prisoner wants to wind up: the guardhouse.
Wearing British uniforms over fake German uniforms over civilian clothing, the two lowered themselves into the room, ditched the British uniforms, entered the guardhouse, and pretended like they owned the place. Nobody noticed.
Having rehearsed their exit, they paused at the door leading out of the prison, exchanged a few remarks in German, and even put on their gloves before calmly leaving. The guards were completely fooled into thinking Neave and Luteyn were visiting officers. After passing through the courtyard and through the moat, they ditched their "German" uniforms and became two Dutch workers with papers, which were also fakes that gave them permission to travel from Leipzig to Ulm.
When they tried to buy train tickets for somewhere else, the police arrested them, later bringing Neaves and Luteyn to the foreign workers office because they really thought they were Dutch workers who had gotten confused; the duo split the moment the nice policemen weren't looking. Even when the Hitler Youth stopped them, Neaves and Luteyn remained composed and told another lie: They were Germans, from the north, of course. After this, Neaves and Luteyn kept to the country and travelled on foot. Hungry and a little frostbitten, they made it into Switzerland.
Neaves would eventually get back to Britain, where he would work to reinforce escape lines in Europe for other POWs. Later, he joined the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where, in a freaking sweet turn of events, Neaves would personally serve Hermann Goering his indictment for being an absolute and total asshole.
Willy Coppens, Balloon Buster
Poor little Belgium, sandwiched between France and Germany and with all the natural defenses of a cabbage. Belgium did, however, manage to produce at least one genuine ass-kicking hero in World War I. Willy Coppens, despite being fobbed off with obsolete aircraft and inadequate supplies of ammunition, became the undisputed champion balloon buster of the war, with 34 kills to his credit. This would probably be a good time to explain that "balloon busting" wasn't a bizarre party game played on the battlefields during World War I, but a serious endeavor for the only the bravest pilots.
"That's gonna take one hell of a needle."
In the days before satellites and unmanned reconnaissance planes, armies would station observers in moored hot air balloons with wireless radios to report back on enemy action. And even though you'd think that taking pot shots at a giant bag of explosive gas would be child's play, it totally wasn't. Balloons were guarded by anti-aircraft batteries pumping wads of hot lead into the air, and they often had their own squadrons of fighter planes swirling around the area to protect them.
Get past all that, and you run into the mid-air booby traps the Germans set, which included surrounding the balloons with silk-covered kites attached to steel cables that were all but invisible to pilots until they noticed their airplanes being torn in two.
"Tee hee hee."
In other words, balloon busting was as foolhardy as setting up a mosh pit in a minefield. And Coppens was really good at it. In fact, Coppens' electric blue Hanriot airplane became such a pain in the ass for the Germans that they hatched a cunning plan to dispose of him. Basically, they took an ordinary observation balloon and jammed it so full of explosives that a single bullet would be enough to atomize anything within 500 feet of it. With Coppens regularly swooping in to attack from as close as 50 feet, he didn't stand a chance.
The Germans were so proud of their little plot that word of the scheme eventually got back to Coppens himself, who decided that after they went to all that expense and effort, it would be rude not to go have a look at this balloon.
In fairness, balloons kick ass.
When he got there, he discovered that the Germans had really made a day of it, with dozens of soldiers and staff officers standing around to watch the fireworks. The balloon itself was still being winched up and was, crucially, only at half its intended height. It was then that Coppens, demonstrating that fine line between bravery and just plain bat-shit insanity, said "Fuck it" and dove in shooting.
The resulting explosion sent his plane rocking through the sky like a kangaroo on a pogo stick, yet it remained intact. If the low height had saved Coppens, it proved disastrous for those below, with the resulting fireball killing and maiming dozens of the watchers on the ground. See, that's what you get for standing around watching a war.
Mel Brooks Fought Nazis Before Writing Songs About Them
You know Mel Brooks as the genius behind Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, and as one of the few guys who has actually achieved the elusive EGOT.
He also made this film, which some would argue was just as great an achievement.
If you were ever a fan of Mel Brooks the writer/producer/director/actor/songwriter, well, say hello to Corp. Melvin Kaminsky, the war hero.
The man behind Spaceballs: the Flame Thrower.
Brooks enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 to fight in World War II. His job? Combat engineer, which meant it was his duty to defuse landmines for the fucking coalition army behind him in a hurry to liberate Europe.
Starring Mel Brooks as himself.
As a Jewish guy battling the Nazis, Brooks found that taunting his enemies was just as cathartic as defusing their bombs. For example, after the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans set up loudspeakers to pump Nazi propaganda out to Allied soldiers. Brooks responded by setting up his own loudspeakers and performing Jewish singer Al Jolson's music for his enemies. Even though it may not have had the same punch as "Springtime for Hitler," coming from Mel Brooks ... burn.
Dirk J. Vlug Really Hates Tanks
A private first class in the U.S. Army serving in the Philippines during World War II.
The year was 1944. Dirk Vlug and his men were manning a roadblock when shit got serious, with Vlug's unit encountering a group of Japanese armored death machines (known in layman's terms as tanks). Immediately, Vlug dashed into the open, scooped up a rocket launcher and went to work. Alone, and under the metal hellstorm of machine gun fire, he loaded and aimed the launcher, snapped off an awesome one-liner (hopefully), and blew up the first tank and everyone inside it with one shot.
Tanks for smoking!
The crew of the second tank saw Vlug holding his newly emptied weapon and came to the hilariously inaccurate assumption that he was now helpless. Apparently forgetting that they were in a goddamn tank, they opened the hatch and started dismounting to attack him. Vlug drew his pistol and blasted the first guy away, sending the rest back into the supposed safety of their heavily armored vehicle. This also turned out to be a poor decision, which became deadly apparent once Vlug loaded his second rocket and destroyed the tank.
He then did it again, and again, and again, continuing to blast away enemy tanks as if they were ducks at a carnival shooting gallery. With his last rocket, Vlug even managed to blast the fifth tank down a steep embankment, just to give the crew inside it some extra seconds of sheer panic as they plummeted to their deaths in a gigantic steel coffin, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-style.
And Vlug didn't even have a horse.
Zinaida Portnova Murdered Nazis Before She Was 18
What Zinaida Portnova's story lacks in scope it makes up for in its perfect, almost cliche resemblance to an action movie.
In 1941, about the same time that guy above was blowing up his first Nazi in Greece, Germany decided to invade the Soviet Union. Zinaida Portnova, a 15-year-old girl away at Soviet summer camp (which was probably even less fun than it sounds), was caught by surprise and tried to get home to Leningrad, only to find the Nazis blocking her way and preparing to siege the city. With nowhere else to go, she joined the Belarus underground as part of a unit nicknamed the Young Avengers.
They did a lot of good before Iron Man confiscated their weapons and told their parents.
Being essentially kids, they started off small, distributing underground leaflets and occasionally sabotaging an enemy truck or motorcycle in their base region of Vitebsk. When Zina turned 17, she was promoted to scout, responsible for venturing out into the field to look for possible targets, and getting away with it because, let's face it, she was adorable.
"Awww ... go on, get out of here. Have a souvenir grenade."
However, in December 1943 she was finally caught scoping out a new target for the underground. She was taken to a nearby village and interrogated by the Gestapo. While being grilled by her captors for answers, she suddenly spotted an officer's pistol sitting on the table right next to her. Oh, yes, this happened.
Waaait for it ...
Taking a page from every spy movie that has ever existed, she snatched up the gun and blasted the interrogator and two armed soldiers, whose sole job in the entirety of World War II was to make sure this exact thing would not happen.
She managed to escape out the window, but ran into a few competent Nazis outside and was recaptured. While it didn't end happily for Zina (she was executed the next year), her story inspired future resistance fighters and she was eventually made a hero of the Soviet Union in 1958.
The Famous Five never did this.
Yogendra Singh Yadav, the Ice Soldier
Who Was He?
Yogendra Singh Yadav was a member of an Indian grenadier battalion during a conflict with Pakistan in 1999. Their mission was to climb "Tiger Hill" (actually a big-ass mountain), and neutralize the three enemy bunkers at the top. Unfortunately, this meant climbing up a sheer hundred-foot cliff-face of solid ice. Since they didn't want to all climb up one at a time with ice-axes, they decided they'd send one guy up, and he'd fasten the ropes to the cliff as he went, so everyone else could climb up the sissy way. Yadav, being awesome, volunteered.
Half way up the icy cliff-o'-doom, enemies stationed on an adjacent mountain opened fire, shooting them with an RPG, then spraying assault-rifle fire all over the cliff. Half his squad was killed, including the commander, and the rest were scattered and disorganized. Yadav, in spite of being shot three times, kept climbing.
When he reached the top, one of the target bunkers opened fire on him with machine guns. Yadav ran toward the hail of bullets, pitched a grenade in the window and killed everyone inside. By this point the second bunker had a clear shot and opened fire, so he ran at them, taking bullets while he did, and killed the four heavily-armed men inside with his bare hands.
Meanwhile, the remainder of his squad was standing at the top of the cliff staring at him saying, "Dude, holy shit!" They then all went and took the third bunker with little trouble.
For his gallantry and sheer ballsiness, he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military award. Unlike the Medal of Honor, the Param Vir Chakra is only given for "rarest of the rare gallantry which is beyond the call of duty and which in normal life is considered impossible to do." That's right, you actually have to break the laws of reality just to be eligible.
And we imagine the medal looks like two, brass testicles.
It has only been awarded 21 times, and two thirds of the people who earned it died in the process. It was initially reported that Yadav had as well, but it turns out that they just mistook him for someone less badass. Or they just figured no real human being could survive a broken leg, shattered arm and 10-15 fresh bullet holes in one sitting.
The best Hollywood Could Come Up With:
John McClane from Die Hard:
Why It Doesn't Compare:
McClane has a fairly impressive resume of badassery, climbing through elevator shafts and killing terrorists with his bare hands, much like Yadav, except Yadav took more bullets in 10 minutes than McClane did in the entire series without even slowing down. Plus, he was fucking 19-years-old! Try to imagine a high school Bruce Willis screaming, "yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!"
Gander the Newfoundland
With his large build and goofy, friendly demeanor, the Canadian Newfoundland dog Pal was loved by the local children. They would wrestle him and have him tow their sleds, until one day Pal accidentally gave one of the kids a scratch from his paw.
"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."
His owners feared that the authorities would take action against their beloved gentle giant, so they donated Pal to a local rifle regiment. The soldiers, who already knew Pal and recognized the potential of having a dog the size of a small car on the team, renamed him Gander, "promoted" him to sergeant and made him their official mascot.
Gander adapted to military life well enough, and the next thing he knew, the unit was sent overseas to assist in the battle for Hong Kong in 1941.
The soldiers are in the back because Gander goddamn said so.
In December 1941, the Japanese found that attacking a unit under the cover of night is only a good idea when the enemy doesn't happen to have a giant black hellhound guarding their camp. Gander noticed the impending sneak attack, decided to drop the silly puppy act and switched his Hound of the Baskervilles knob up to 11. And that's when things got fucking metal.
The first wave of the attack was stopped by a gaping, furiously barking maw followed by 170 pounds of pitch-black, furry battering ram, mowing down the terrified Japanese at thigh height.
After doing away with them, Gander roared down on a second Japanese unit he spotted advancing on a group of injured Royal Rifles, this time adding biting to his already impressive "invincible night demon" repertoire. Again, the enemy fled, because who wouldn't?
When Gander sat down to guard the injured soldiers, the Japanese finally collected themselves enough to remember that they were a fighting unit, with weaponry and all that jazz. So they opened fire and chucked a grenade at the terrified group.
Gander took a calm look at the grenade, seconds away from exploding. Then, almost nonchalantly, he picked the thing up and charged right the fuck again, at the terrified Japanese troops that had just enough time to realize how badly karma was about to bite their ass about that whole "kamikaze" thing.
Gander went out in an explosive blaze of glory, later receiving a posthumous medal for his unbelievable bravery and becoming the only nonhuman soldier whose name is included in the Hong Kong memorial wall in Ottawa. And while there are many reasons as to why Japan and Canada enjoy a healthy relationship based on mutual respect, we can't help thinking that the several thousand Newfoundlands drooling about in Canada don't exactly hurt Japan's motivation to stay on friendly terms.
William Barker Banzai Charged With a Plane
By October 1918, Canuck pilot William Barker had already survived three years in the Royal Flying Corps, and his official score of downed enemy aircraft stood at 46. So, on October 26, 1918, Barker was ordered home for a well-earned rest. While most people would skedaddle home in a heartbeat in war time, Barker elected to swing by the front lines. Sure enough, he quickly spotted a low-flying enemy two-seater observation plane, which he promptly shot down. But that was a mistake.
As was being alive in 1918.
Those sneaky Germans were using the two-seaters as bait while about 60 faster fighter planes lurked higher up, hidden in the clouds. Barker's first indication that all was not well was when an explosive bullet shattered his right thighbone, leaving the leg attached by the sinews.
Now able to make only left turns, Barker swung his plane around to discover an entire squadron of German fighter planes bearing down on him.
Bad odds ... for the Germans!
But instead of trying to flee like a normal person, Barker plowed through the middle of the squadron in a suicidal banzai charge, and he shot down both his original assailant and another luckless German who wandered into his sights. By now, the Germans had managed to get their shit together and began attacking him in a coordinated fashion, riddling his plane with over 300 bullets and wounding his left leg.
And that was when Barker fainted the first time.
Normally an occurrence only brought on by a quarter-gallon of trench gin.
His aircraft went into an uncontrolled spin for over 6,000 feet before he came to and discovered that the Germans had followed him down, shooting all the way. Having long since given up any hope of surviving, Barker began attempting to ram the enemy and even managed to shoot one more down -- taking his tally to four in the space of less than 10 minutes. Then his left elbow was shattered by another bullet.
And that was when Barker fainted the second time.
He didn't regain consciousness until he was almost at ground level. But, crucially, by this time he had crossed over the Allied lines. Given that he was half-delirious from blood loss and pain and only able to move his right wrist, it's not surprising that he made a bit of a mess of his landing. And by "mess," we mean that he plowed into the ground at 90 mph.
Barker was pulled from the wreckage blood-soaked, unconscious and with both legs held on by threads. He lay in a coma for 10 days, and two days after he woke up, the war ended. Not bad for a guy who twice fainted in the middle of a dogfight.
Michael J. Fitzmaurice Jumps on a Grenade, Keeps Fighting
A specialist fourth class (U.S. Army) who was tasked with guarding an airstrip at a Marine base in Khe Sanh, South Vietnam.
Michael Fitzmaurice had just returned from guard duty and was settling in to his bunker when the base came under heavy artillery and mortar fire. This was followed by the attack of charging North Vietnamese suicide bombers (or "sappers"), quickly turning the base into a pretty darn convincing imitation of Hell.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Fitzmaurice and his men had barely managed to fire off a few rounds at the enemy before the Vietnamese sappers threw three grenades into his bunker. Fitzmaurice grabbed two of the grenades and tossed them back outside, but knew he was running out of time on the third. So he jumped on it and covered it with his flak jacket. Yes, just like Captain America.
If he was played by Mr. Belvedere.
You have to realize that no one dives on a live grenade with any expectation of life afterward, and Fitzmaurice was no exception. Incredibly, though, he did survive, although not unscathed (See: fucking grenade). The flak vest kept him from becoming a Jackson Pollock painting, but he still suffered severe shrapnel wounds, partial blindness, and partial deafness due to ruptured eardrums.
His immediate reaction to becoming violently deaf and blind was to have a word with the people responsible, and that word was the sound of enraged gunfire. Fitzmaurice jumped out of his hole and began firing on the enemy, aiming with the help of a nearby soldier who shouted target locations to him. He fired until the enemy threw yet another grenade at him.
If you kill him, you'll just make him mad!
The grenade, apparently not being made of Kryptonite, managed only to destroy Fitzmaurice's rifle. That was OK, though, because he still had his bare hands. After he murdered one armed enemy soldier with only his fists, the other attackers finally retreated and presumably drank themselves to death trying to forget the time they barely survived a Punisher storyline.
John Weir Foote: Action Chaplain!
In 1941, the Canadian army took part in the Dieppe Raid, the first major attempt to take troops across the English Channel. Cracked has covered how well the whole event went in general here, but let's focus more on the involvement of one individual, John Weir Foote, a Canadian chaplain who was badass before the shooting had even started.
Some people just can't turn it off.
Foote was not intended to take part in the raid, and when his commanding officer told him that he was going to sit this one out, Foote said that he'd have to be arrested to keep him away from the action, which means a bit more when you're speaking to someone with the power to arrest you. So he was assigned as a stretcher bearer.
During the Dieppe Raid, Foote pulled a Doss and helped carry 30 wounded soldiers to safety under fire, and provided them with morphine. During the retreat, Foote got a ride off the beach, which meant that he was being rescued from the Nazis, who weren't known for their powers of human empathy. But looking back at the surrendering soldiers, Doss changed his mind and disembarked, giving himself up.
"Can you take me to this Hitler fella? Maybe I can talk some sense into him."
He decided that the soldiers being taken to a Third Reich POW camp needed religious guidance more than a bunch of soldiers returning to base. Bear in mind, in August 1941, it was largely Great Britain against the Axis nations, and none of the great defeats that would eventually take the bad guys down had happened yet. So Foote was volunteering for an imprisonment that, as far he knew, could have been a life sentence. He did it anyway, because he thought that's where he was needed.
After three years' imprisonment with one serious escape attempt, Foote was released. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honor Her Majesty's Armies awarded. It was still way less than the honor he'd already provided them by joining.
Leo "Now You're Just Making It Up" Major
A private in the Regiment de la Chaudiere, Leo Major got his first taste of combat during the Normandy landings, where he single-handedly captured a German half-track and had his left eye burned out with white phosphorus. After successfully arguing that he shouldn't be sent back to Canada, since he only needed his right eye to look down the sights of his rifle (an argument as logically sound as it was existentially terrifying), he kept fighting across France, Belgium and Holland.
With a chin like that, how couldn't he?
In 1945, a Canadian army company was captured while patrolling near the German-held Dutch town of Zwolle. The Canadians decided to bring up the heavy guns and level the whole damn town, but first, they needed to know where the Germans were, and perhaps also to contact the Dutch resistance to see if they would terribly mind being exploded today. Major and a friend, Willie Arsenault, volunteered for the exceptionally dangerous scouting mission inside the town about to be blown to hell.
And then they thought: Fuck that. Why waste a perfectly good town? Wouldn't it be better if they just captured the damn thing themselves while they were down there? Seeing no problem with that plan, they each took a machine gun and waited until nightfall. Under cover of darkness, the two man crept toward the first outpost covering the approach to the town. Unfortunately (for the Germans), the sentry heard them coming and fired at the noise, killing Arsenault.
Bad idea, random Nazi.
Major took the gun out of his dead friend's hands and charged down the whole damn town. He shot the sentry and the guy next to him (and probably the horse they rode in on). The rest of the Germans in the bunker fled, leaving behind a small ammunition dump. Major strapped a captured German machine gun, Arsenault's leftover weapon and his own rifle to his back, then filled a sack with grenades and made his way toward the town center.
You call that "armed"?
He spent the rest of the night ambushing patrols in the town, most of which fled (understandably) from the guy swinging the grenade sack dressed in a jacket made out of machine guns. He found the local SS Headquarters, kicked down the front door and killed most of the death squad inside, then set fire to the Gestapo HQ and continued to hurl grenades at isolated groups of German soldiers until the entire force fled the town. Then Major spent the rest of the morning trying to convince everybody that it was safe to come out; the townsfolk were still all in hiding.
Probably not from the Germans.
"Is he gone?"
Meth Makes You a Highlander
In June 1986, during Namibia's war for independence from South Africa, two Namibian guerrillas were on a mission just north of the border inside Angola when they realized they were being followed. They split up. One man went north and made an easy getaway. The other began running south and made a less easy but far more drug-fueled and entertaining getaway.
His trail was picked up by South African Special Forces trackers who began chasing after him in Casspir armored personnel carriers. Despite the fact that the trackers had vehicles with engines, and he was just a dude with legs, he actually managed to increase the distance between himself and the people tracking him.
Yeah, we're not talking about vehicles that have trouble when you remove the road.
When faced with a man who could outrun automobiles, the trackers upped the ante and called some helicopters, but that didn't work either, somehow. It's like they were chasing some kind of unstoppable half man/half god.
Say, what makes regular people think they're living gods? Ooh, we know: It's drugs!
The South Africans following his tracks found no evidence that he ever stopped to sleep. What they did find, however, was a bunch of used syringes. See, it wasn't adrenaline or fear that allowed this uncatchable guerrilla to get away; it was good old-fashioned methamphetamines. The drugs were so effective in keeping his run toward safety going that the trackers actually found spots where he had collapsed from exhaustion, then gotten back up and started running again.
"Hey, sometimes it takes a few seconds to find the vein."
This went on for five days. Finally, the Special Forces tracked his path to a road and the trail went dead. The South Africans gave up the chase, probably out of pure respect.
The guy is really lucky that he just happened to be carrying enough drugs to fuel him for 230 miles holy shit that's a lot of meth! Jesus. What was his plan with all of that meth if he wasn't being chased by Special Forces? Suicide? The worst two-man bachelor party? We really just want to meet this guy, we have so many questions.
Dude, nobody is chasing you!
Horatio Nelson, aka 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte and the guy in the funny hat on top of that column in London, was an English naval officer who rose all the way to the rank of admiral. Some of you may remember him as the guy who kicked Napoleon's ass in 1805, stopping his victory streak once and for all and therefore being pretty much the reason that everyone in Europe doesn't speak French.
He was a huge fan of dandelions, apparently.
Eight years before that, newly promoted to rear admiral, Nelson was sent to the Canary Islands to take a small port town from the Spanish. He had already lost the use of an eye at that point, but hadn't let it bother him much -- he'd actually learned to use it to his advantage, disobeying orders to retreat by holding his telescope to his blind eye and innocently claiming he never saw no damned retreat signal.
After subordinates failed in their initial invasion attempt, Nelson called his commanders together and informed them he would personally lead the next invading force up the beach. As his ships were slowly rowed to shore, Nelson -- wearing his full uniform with all the bling because fuck you, inconspicuousness -- was unsurprisingly targeted and hit by Spanish snipers. A musket ball shattered a bone in his arm. He needed immediate medical attention. However, he didn't want to demoralize his men or alarm his new wife (who was watching the battle nearby) by signaling that he was injured.
"Guys, can you see if she's watching? Does she look impressed yet?"
So he ordered his boat to nonchalantly row back to his flagship, all the while making loud small talk about the weather like the battle around him wasn't happening at all. He even made his rowboat crew stop to pick up some drowning men from a British ship that happened to be sinking nearby, what with the bloody, raging battle that was all around them.
When Nelson's anxious crew finally got to the flagship, the wounded rear admiral of course refused help getting aboard the ship because, hey, he still had his legs and one good arm. Finally on board, he calmly told the surgeon to hurry up and cut off his arm already because there was a battle he needed to fight, goddamnit. The man never gave, you know, saving the arm a second thought.
"Can't we replace it with a cannon? What this battle needs is another cannon."
In the end, the British were unable to take the town, probably because their troops were too overwhelmed by their leader's testicular elephantiasis. Nelson himself was bitterly disappointed by the defeat and from that day saw his missing arm as little more than a daily reminder never to lose another battle.
He went on to rack up a great number of naval victories, always in the thick of the battle despite the whole "just one arm and eye" thing -- and a tendency to wear full parade uniform to the battle despite the whole "enemy snipers" thing.
Predictably, it didn't end well.
Napoleon Bonaparte: "If There Is One Among You Who Wishes to Kill His Emperor, Here I Am."
After managing to piss off the entire continent of Europe, Emperor Napoleon was exiled to Elba, an island off the coast of Italy that he insisted on running like it was a real country, because "ruling an island of 13,000 people" counts as punishment when you're an emperor. But after hearing that France wasn't super happy with the government that replaced him, Napoleon assembled an army of 600 dudes and launched a comeback tour, promising his men they'd take Paris.
Back in those days "taking Paris" was a legitimate accomplishment.
But the French king got wind of his plan, so six days after hitting France's shores, Napoleon's ragtag band of misfits was face to face with 8,000 well-armed French soldiers at the town of Grenoble.
Apparently deciding that banishment was worse than death (or maybe thinking that he was bound for the gallows anyway), the totally-normal-size Frenchman decided to rely on sheer balls: He walked out in front of the enemy troops, opened his shirt, proclaimed himself emperor, and dared them to blow him away. "If there is one among you who wishes to kill his emperor, here I am."
"Also, if one of you has a waxing kit, your emperor could use some help with his happy trail."
Remember the end of Platoon when a wounded Tom Berenger dares Charlie Sheen to shoot him, and Charlie totally does? The scene in that movie is more realistic than what happened here. The sight of their former emperor's nipples was too much for the French troops' resolve: They began cheering "Vive l'empereur!" and swarmed him like a bunch of crazed teeny boppers at a One Direction concert. The invasion force, now eight times as big and sporting some shiny new cannons, marched to Paris and made good on Napoleon's earlier promise by conquering the ever-loving shit out of it in two weeks.
They spent the first week retrieving the hats they'd merrily thrown in the air.
Napoleon's renewed rule lasted just over 100 days, setting a standard by which we judge our presidents' first 100 days in office, meaning that his legacy is to forever be compared to people who get to be in charge longer than he did. Still, he got in one last great quote, and what's a couple dozen (thousand) dead people next to an emperor's chance to sound rad as hell?
World War II Allies Treated Flying Bombs Like Harmless Turtles
Before there was such a thing as guided missiles, there was Germany's V-1 bomb, the world's first remotely launched flying bomb. So rather than simply dropping the bomb from a piloted plane, the weapons were launched from Axis-controlled pads in France. When the bastards strategically ran out of fuel, they fell to Earth at 350 mph and exploded, if everything went well.
... or at least as well as any "flying Nazi rocket bomb" scenario can go.
So on top of dealing with food rations, dying husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons, and pasty complexions, the women left on the English homefront were also left with the prospect that these howling death rockets were on their way, and by 1944, the V-1 bombs were launched at a rate of a freaking hundred per day.
The Cartoonish Plan:
In a moment of complete desperation/genius, the Royal Air Force figured out something crazy about the V-1 bombs. If you flipped them over, they were completely useless, like an upside down ladybug or a baby.
Sadly, that's the only intersection between "infant" and "rocketry."
So how do you flip a bomb? Very carefully. The move was called the coup de wing, and pilots performed it by flying right under the bomb itself. When the little stubby wings of the bomb were tipped, it lost its stability and plopped to the ground then and there, undetonated. So ideally, the maneuver was carried out over fields and water, rather than school buildings.
"You've just been ... wingtipped."
It had to have made for some harrowing moments, what with having to fly a plane so close to a 2,000-pound bomb that you're freaking touching it. We suspect the reason you don't see more scenes of bomb-tipping in old World War II movies is that the whole thing is kind of sad.
Hey, speaking of pilots being crazy people with no regard for personal safety ...
Carlos Hathcock Shoots a Dude Through His Scope
Carlos Hathcock was a U.S. Marine Corps sniper who had racked up a high enough kill count during his two tours in the Vietnam War to earn a bounty on his head for $30,000 from the North Vietnamese government. Inspired by the bounty, an unknown Vietnamese sniper set out to try and kill Hathcock, unaware that to do so would be like trying to sneak up on Batman and slap him in the penis.
"I'm gonna take on this next assassin drunk and blindfolded. It just isn't sporting otherwise."
Hathcock was drawn out of camp when the enemy sniper shot several of his fellow Marines, despite knowing that the man was simply trying to bait him. So it was sort of like Enemy at the Gates, only with fewer fake German accents. To avoid a hasty debraining via high-velocity bullet, Hathcock would have to move slowly and stay out of sight, so he crawled the distance between himself and the other sniper on his stomach, making sure to keep the sun behind him.
He kept going like this until he thought he saw a glint of light, like when the sun is reflected off a piece of glass during a boss battle in Metal Gear Solid 3.
"Ha! Found you!"
The experienced Hathcock fired at the glimmer, knowing it to be either his foe or a tiny mirror placed out in the jungle for no conceivable reason. As it turns out, it was the former, and Hathcock's bullet passed clean through the enemy sniper's scope from 500 yards away, threading the needle at close to one-third of a mile.
Bear in mind that the typical rifle scope is only a couple of inches wide at the very most, so Hathcock had to place his shot perfectly for the bullet to pass through it and not hit the sides of the device. Also, the enemy sniper had to have been facing him, with his gun more or less leveled directly toward Hathcock's position. So, in the span of the half-second he had to spare before his foe spotted him and erased him from time, Hathcock fired a round through a 2-inch circle he wasn't even positive was there, draped in dense jungle about three city blocks away.
"My unexploded face sense is tingling!"
Agis III of Sparta
"He ordered the rest to make their escape with all speed and to save themselves for the service of their country, but he himself armed and rising to his knees defended himself, killed some of the enemy and was himself slain by a javelin cast."
-Diodorus, Library of History
When Agis III succeeded his father as King of Sparta in 338 BC, Alexander the Great was off in Persia fighting Emperor Darius III. Figuring it was a good time to fuck some shit up, A3 as he was known in the underground hip-hop scene, rallied anti-Macedonian leaders to his cause, raised a decent army, invaded Crete and started pushing his way towards Athens.
Agis wasn't above petty vandalism to make his point.
Deciding this guy wasn't fucking around, Alexander sent his most battle hardened general and an army of 40,000 men to open a 10-gallon drum of thermonuclear whoop-ass on the Spartans. On the battlefield outside the city of Megalopolis (they just don't name cities like they used to) the two armies faced off in one of the largest battles ever fought between Greek armies in the Classical Age.
Despite being outnumbered roughly two-to-one, Agis wasn't going to back down from any opportunity to drench the tip of his spear in a few gallons of human plasma. Screaming the most horrible profanities they could think of as they went, A3 charged out in front of his men and fought like a goddamned madman, slashing people with his Spartan blades, before receiving a disturbing number of reciprocal wounds across his chest, head and legs.
Figuring he was dead, A3's guards recovered his severely-wounded body, laid him on his shield and began carrying him from the field. Remembering that he was a shit-wrecking King, A3 decided he wasn't going to let a few pesky mortal wounds keep him on the sideline while his army got destroyed. So he ordered his army to retreat while he held off the onslaught. By himself.
We're pretty sure this is what he really looked like.
Unable to stand and bleeding like a poorly wrapped package from the butcher shop, Agis got to his knees, gripped his blades and proceeded to hamstring enough charging enemy troops to buy his army time to withdrawal. The Macedonians backed off slowly, presumably because they'd just gotten owned by one dude on his knees. Realizing they didn't want to get anywhere near his swords, someone chucked a javelin through his torso, probably catching at least a bit of his enormous balls in the process.
James Robinson Ain't Scared of No Fire
The time: April 11, 1966.
The place: Viet-fuckin'-nam.
The plan: Use Robinson and 133 other men of Charlie Company to lure out a Viet Cong battalion of 400-plus men.
"Sounds like a fair fight."
The result was the Battle of Xa Cam My, where the plan went catastrophically wrong for Charlie Company. They were pounded by both their own artillery and the surrounding enemy forces, with no reinforcements on the horizon. Robinson, being generally just kind of awesome, ran around the battlefield killing snipers with a grenade launcher, rescuing wounded medics and soldiers (while suffering multiple gunshot wounds of his own), and distributing the dwindling supplies of water and ammunition. Then an enemy machine gun opened fire into the American defensive circle, causing heavy casualties.
"Hey, Jim? This whole 'war' thing kind of sucks ass, doesn't it?"
Despite his wounds and complete lack of ammunition, Robinson made a beeline for the Vietnamese machine-gunner with a grenade in each hand. Most of these stories involve an insane, lone charge against overwhelming odds and in spite of grievous, life-threatening wounds. And in that respect, Robinson's tale is no different, save for one key element: During his one-man suicide charge, Robinson was set on fucking fire.
Pictured: Fucking fire.
He was shot in the leg (again), except this time with a tracer round that somehow ignited his pants. Tearing off the burning garment, he continued to advance -- a pantsless, burning god of vengeance -- toward the Vietnamese machine-gunner. He was shot twice more in the chest (making that five bullet wounds, if you weren't keeping count) but marshaled his fleeting strength to hurl his explosives into the enemy, silencing the machine gun and saving dozens of American lives.
Damn. War sure seems to involve a lot more insanity, fire and man-nudity than the history books tell us.
300 was right!
Fighting Jack Churchill and His Sword
Who Was He?
An allied commander in World War II and an avid fan of surfing, Captain Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, aka "Fighting Jack Churchill," aka "Mad Jack," was basically the craziest motherfucker in the whole damn war.
He volunteered for commando duty, not actually knowing what it entailed, but knowing that it sounded dangerous, and therefore fun. He is best known for saying that "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed" and, in following with this, for carrying a sword into battle. In World War II. And not one of those sissy ceremonial things the Marines have. No, Jack carried a fucking claymore. And he used it, too. He is credited with capturing a total of 42 Germans and a mortar squad in the middle of the night, using only his sword.
Churchill and his team were tasked with capturing a German fortification creatively called "Point 622." Churchill took the lead, charging ahead of the group into the dark through the barbed wire and mines, pitching grenades as he went. Although his unit did their best to catch up, all but six of them were lost to silly things like death. Of those six, half were wounded and all any of them had left were pistols. Then a mortar shell swung in and killed/mortally wounded everyone who wasn't Jack Churchill.
When the Germans found him, he was playing "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" on his bagpipes. Oh, we didn't mention that? He carried them right next to his big fucking sword.
After being sent to a concentration camp, he got bored and left. Just walked out. They caught him again, and sent him to a new camp. So he left again. After walking 150 miles with only a rusty can of onions for food, he was picked up by the Americans and sent back to Britain, where he demanded to be sent back into the field, only to find out (with great disappointment) the war had ended while he was on his way there. As he later said to his friends, "If it wasn't for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!"
The Best Hollywood Could Come Up With:
Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) from Apocalypse Now, of "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" fame.
Why It Doesn't Compare:
Well, truth be told, they're pretty much the same person. They're both at home on the battlefield, they have the same philosophies of war and both of them seem to be immune to mortar fire and bullets. Churchill's basically a crazier, Scottish version of Kilgore. With a big fucking broadsword. Like if Kilgore was played by William Wallace from Braveheart on crystal meth.
The Unnamed Catawba Indian Warrior
In the early 1700s, the Catawba Indian tribe of South Carolina and the Seneca Indians of New York decided that they hated each other, and they weren't going to let the four states' worth of distance between them keep them from killing each other. Let's hear it for dedication!
Innumerable battles were fought between Catawba and Seneca war parties in North Carolina and Virginia. One of these battles gave rise to a warrior who might have been one of the biggest badasses in the history of warfare (but only because John Rambo isn't a real person).
This unnamed Catawba warrior was hunting alone with his rifle somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina (like it matters) when he was ambushed by a Seneca war party. He immediately took off running, but would turn back every now and then just to take in the scenery and such. Oh, and to shoot people. He shot and killed seven Senecas before they managed to surround and capture him.
Catawba Indians in 1913, just daring someone to fuck with them.
The Senecas stripped him naked (we're sensing a theme here), tied him up and force-marched him back to New York. They paraded him through each Seneca town, allowing the townspeople to run out and whip him as he passed. (Take note, Macy's, because this, while barbaric, is literally the only way to make a parade interesting.)
His captors had planned to burn him alive once they reached their hometown, but there they made the fatal mistake of untying him. For some reason, they must have thought he was tired after being marched butt-naked for something like 500 miles. And he was tired -- tired of not being a badass! (He dashed off and dove into a nearby river.)
He hit the water with gusto and kept swimming, all the way across, without coming up for air one time. When he did pop up on the far bank, the Senecas had broken out rifles and were shooting at him, almost certainly having decided that the burning alive idea would fail with that much water now involved. Did our warrior run away? Of course not. According to the historian who recorded this story, "He first turned his backside toward them, and slapped it with his hand." Then he turned around again, let out a war whoop just to add to the insult and dashed off into the woods.
Above: An artist's representation. (The artists aren't paid well.)
He ran so fast that he got a two-day head start on the Senecas, who were chasing after him, which, holy shit, how slow are you guys, Senecas? What normal people would do in this situation is "keep running." What our warrior did, though, was wait until nightfall and double back.
You see, the five Senecas chasing him had set up camp for the night and failed to post a guard. In their defense, they probably didn't expect one naked man running for his life to turn around and come back at them, but that's exactly what he did. He sneaked into the middle of their camp, picked up one of their tomahawks and killed all five of them in their sleep. And then he set off running again.
The next day, another party of Senecas came to the camp and was shocked to find their comrades cut up into little pieces. They held a council and decided that in order to do what he'd done, the escaping warrior must be a wizard. Since he was a wizard, they obviously couldn't catch him if they tried. So they decided to stop trying and go home, and no, we're not making the wizard part up.
He also talked in a thick English accent and didn't take kindly to the uppity elves of Florida.
The warrior made it back home to South Carolina after running nonstop for several days. Oh, and before he went back home, he went back to the spot where he was first captured, dug up the bodies of the seven Senecas he had killed when he was caught and scalped them, too, because attention to detail is essential during times of battle.
The Seneca, on the other hand, were so totally freaked out by all of this that they abandoned the town he had escaped from and moved right the fuck out.
"No, that's not why we did it! We just thought that town was totally stupid!"
And since this guy remains unknown, we're forced to agree with the Seneca on this one. Dude's totally a wizard and not to be fucked with.
The Soldier Who Faced Death With a "Yo Gramma" Joke
For those of you unfamiliar with Colonel Eduardo Abaroa Hidalgo, picture Tony Montana from Scarface dressed like a Johnny Depp character.
The background is just an extreme closeup of Helena Bonham Carter.
Abaroa was a Bolivian superhero during the War of the Pacific between Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. After a standoff with Chile at the Battle of Topater, an injured and outnumbered Abaroa was asked to surrender. According to the Bolivians' story, he was out of ammo and nearly dead, but still refused to give up the fight. Abaroa responded, "Surrender? Your grandmother should surrender, you bastard!" And no, that phrase isn't gaining something in translation. Even in Spanish, it means exactly what you think. Abaroa was surrounded and facing certain death, and with his last words he screamed, "Your mother!"
He died a martyr to his country and was commemorated with federal buildings, a national holiday and some seriously inappropriate stamps to put on your letters to grandma.
"Guess where I'm sticking this musket!"
Matt L. Urban Earns a Badass Nickname From the Enemy
A U.S. Army officer who in 1989 was named the most decorated soldier in U.S. history.
Among his awards: Most Likely to Be Mistaken for Vincent Price.
Matt Urban was nicknamed "The Ghost" by his German enemies during World War II for his quirky habit of coming back from shit that would kill 10 normal men. We could end this article right here and let your imagination fill in the details, but you probably wouldn't even come close to the insane truth.
His campaign of carnage began in June 1944 in France, when his company came up against a German unit with machine guns and tanks. But where his men probably saw panzer death tractors with cannons mounted on them, Urban saw some odds he really liked. Snatching up a bazooka, he dodged roughly a million bullets and blew up two of the tanks. Later, while still in the fight, Urban unfortunately took a 37mm tank-gun round to the leg. However, shrugging that shit off, he continued leading his men through to the next day, when, in a different attack, he suffered a second wound and was evacuated ... but only briefly.
"Wait, this isn't the way to Berlin!"
For you see, while recovering from his wounds in an English hospital, Urban learned that his unit had suffered severe casualties in Normandy. So he left the hospital and hitchhiked/limped back to rejoin his men. By the time he'd reached them, they were under heavy enemy fire with two of their tanks destroyed and a third left unmanned. Literally having to support himself with a cane due to his badly injured legs, Urban manned a machine gun (completely exposing himself to the enemy) and covered his men as they climbed into the tank and rained fire and death on the Germans.
Days later, possibly worrying that his reputation as an immortal was in danger, Urban strategically took a bunch of shrapnel to the chest and survived. Unfortunately, the unbreakable captain finally ran out of luck when he got shot in the fucking neck and- Wait, what? He actually survived that, and despite losing his voice, led his men to victory, survived the war, and lived for another 51 years?!
Urban explaining to President Carter that the hug is over when he says it's over.
Well, that's all well and good for him, but what about all of those mentally scarred Germans who probably kept checking under their bed for The Ghost well into their nineties?
Manfred von Richthofen Had All of the Balls
Manfred von Richthofen was the first world war's ace of aces, with a score of 80 confirmed victories. As an utterly remorseless killing machine, Richthofen's greatest passion in life was hunting -- before the war it was boars, during the war it was men. Basically, the guy just really, really loved sneaking up on things and shooting them in the head.
He's standing behind you right now.
Richthofen quickly became Germany's leading ace and was awarded command of his own elite squadron, Jasta 11, which eventually became known as the Flying Circus because of the wild colors they painted their machines and their habit of traveling from one hot spot to another along the front with caravans and trailers.
In the camouflaged world of khaki and field gray that was the first world war, Richthofen's decision to paint his plane entirely red was a bold declaration of confidence bordering on arrogance.
Otherwise known as "peacocking."
By the April 1917, the British were so obsessed with finding the famous "Red Baron" that they coordinated a massive aerial raid on his home. And even though German intelligence alerted him to the coming onslaught hours ahead of time, Richthofen stayed put, allegedly hosting a lavish dinner for his officers in his dugout shelter. Not only did the Allied bombers attack and not kill the Baron, but he ended the month with 20 more kills added to his tally.
But it wasn't until after his death a year later that everyone really appreciated what an impact Richthofen had made on the fledgling German and British air forces. Because when the Baron was finally shot down in his last dogfight, the RAF ended up treating him like their own royalty. The Australian infantry that held the area he landed in stripped the plane for souvenirs, the British carried his flower-covered body to a hangar, where hundreds of soldiers filed past to pay their respects, and the next day, his former enemies buried him with full military honors.
And a fine line of frozen pizzas.
Hiroo Onoda Fought World War Until the '70s
To win World War II ... in the '70s.
In 1941, Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda was sent to a small U.S.-occupied island in the Philippines to mess with Uncle Sam's shit. Within the first month, all but he and three other guys were dead or captured. In spite of having all odds against them, they were determined to press on.
In 1945, the enemy began air-dropping pamphlets claiming that the war was over. Being well trained soldiers, Onoda and his men knew the Japanese would never surrender, and it was obviously a foolish attempt by Allied forces to destroy their morale. They also found cleverly planted newspapers in the farms they raided that claimed the Americans had built a bomb that could level cities, but that was obvious bullshit too, right?
But Should Have Quit Before ...
World War Two ended. Over the course of the 30-some years that followed, the rest of his troop either defected or were killed by locals during attacks on enemy food supplies. When the locals found the body of his recently deceased comrade complete with his World War II-era uniform, they called the Japanese government who dug up the old file on his mission, and put a notice out to the press that there might be some crazy ass Japanese soldier trying to kill Allied soldiers out in the woods.
Eventually a backpacker ran into Onoda and told him the war was over, but Onoda still wouldn't hear of it, and insisted he was simply waiting to be relieved of his post. When the kid returned with Onoda's former commander, who was long retired and now worked in a library, he finally decided that maybe he should reconsider his stance on the war.
The Warrior Who Out-Game of Thrones'd George R.R. Martin
In 634, the Eastern Roman Empire met with soldiers from the Rashidun Caliphate. Among them was Zarrar Ibn al-Azwar, a man whose name can only be pronounced properly with a mouthful of blood and rage-froth. Despite having the uninspiring job title of "tax collector," whenever a war broke out, Azwar was there -- charging out on the battlefield to ruin other human beings in a slightly more merciful manner than auditing. He was so damn war-crazy, in fact, that he often went into battle without armor, hence his nickname, "the half-naked warrior."
There's nothing you can do to make us imagine him any other way.
During the Battle of Ajnadayn, the Muslims were outmatched tactically, and came up with an idea as stupid as it was entirely effective: kill every one of them, one at a goddamn time. The Muslims instigated a series of duels against Byzantine officers, whose vanity would not permit them to turn down challenges, even after hearing Azwar taunting his enemies like Lord freaking Humongous: "I am the death of the Pale Faces, I am the killer of Romans, I am the scourge sent upon you, I am Zarrar Ibn al-Azwar!"
"U mad, bro?"
Azwar killed two governors and every other champion the Romans threw at him at Ajnadayn, which left the Byzantine army sorely lacking in experienced command officers. Because of this, the battle soon swung in the Caliphate's favor, eventually resulting in their full conquest of Syria and Palestine. Judging by how long those two territories remained in their hands, Zarrar Ibn al-Azwar's message is as clear today as it was 1,400 years ago: Do not mess with the Rashidun IRS.
The Free French Army
After the French government fell to Germany in World War II, the biggest problem for the French resistance was scraping together enough soldiers to build a halfway effective army. When it became clear that the actual French weren't interested in making too much of a fuss, Gen. de Gaulle decided to reach further afield, bringing in fighters from the French territories in Africa.
He loved two things in life: tiny mustaches and giant microphones.
These were some pretty hardcore colonial fighters who earned their stripes fighting various insurgencies throughout Africa, and with a mix of African, Arab, Tahitian and white French officers, the army was like a kill-happy United Colors of Beneton.
All you need is love. And Nazis to fight.
De Gaulle's new Free French Army kicked an epic scale of ass that you don't usually associate with the French. And that's really not so shocking when you consider that up to 65 percent of the French army were "French" only in so far as whatever African province they came from had been conquered by the French Empire. Even so, they laid down their lives for a chance to march straight into Paris and kick Hitler in the balls.
How They Got Screwed:
The Free French Army fought victory after bloody victory right up to Paris' doorstep, and they were ready and willing to march in and liberate the capital, with a little help from their American and British allies. Unfortunately, their allies said, "Hell no. Not with all those darkies."
This was a time in history where blacks and whites were still segregated in the American military and forbidden from fighting together. The Allies had an image to uphold, after all -- better for the people to watch Paris liberated by square-jawed, chiseled Aryan superheroes than a ragtag bunch of African natives and Muslims. Before de Gaulle was granted permission by America to take back his own country, he had to scramble to find enough white people to replace anyone in his army who failed the melanin test.
Whoa now. Can't have this guy in battle-scarred Nazi-held Paris.
Of course, that had been de Gaulle's entire problem in the first place. His ultimate solution was to borrow a whole bunch of Spanish soldiers, dress them in berets and pencil mustaches and hope nobody would notice. In the meantime, the Africans were sent home without any of the glory, but at least they enjoyed the benefits of having served -- that is, until 1959, when the French inexplicably cut off their military pensions and tried to cover up their role in the war.
Gotz von Berlichingen, aka Gotz of the Iron Hand
An Imperial Knight of Germany during the 16th century, before going solo and forming his own band of mercenaries.
After four years of successfully playing soldier for hire, shit got real when at the siege of Landshut, cannon fire forced Gotz's own sword against his right hand, taking it and some of his arm off. Holy shit, wouldn't it be awesome if he built a new hand out of metal?!
The Awesomeness That Followed:
Guess what? He did build a new hand out of metal!
If we could have done this whole list on Guys Who Lost Their Hands and Then Made Metal Ones and Then Killed People With Them, we would have done that. Then we would have shut down the site and declared mission accomplished.
It should be noted that Berlichingen, aided by centuries of innovation, was able to do way more with his metal hand than hold a shield. The fingers could be adjusted and moved to hold both small and large objects--anything from a playing card to, more importantly, a sword. Plus, like any good steel hand, it was excellent for knocking people senseless and fulfilling any robot hand job fantasies that a person may have. (**Editor's note: Robot hand job fantasies were all but nonexistent in the 16th century, please remove this sentence before publishing.**) The hand was hundreds of years ahead of its time, and became the basis for much of modern prosthetics.
With his new steel hand in place, Gotz went on a decades-long ass-kicking bender. For at least 20 years, the iron handed maniac fought for the highest bidders, ransomed people and even robbed merchants when he had spare time for shits and giggles.
Detailed in this biographical album.
Using his ill-gotten gains, Gotz eventually bought a castle known as the Hornberg which, for the most part, still stands today. Never really considering himself the retirement type, Gotz was still in the warring business in his 60s, giving new meaning to the famous phrase "If you have a huge steel hand, you can whoop ass well into your 60s."
The U.S. Army Distracts the Japanese With a Kickass Air Show
Finding yourself in enemy territory as a war is winding down is like finding yourself at your ex-wife's father's house after you screwed his other daughter. And his wife. And mom. Nothing good is going to happen while you're there.
... nothing but an extra memorable Thanksgiving.
Which is why, during the last year of World War II, the Allies knew their chances of rescuing POWs held in Japanese internment camps in the Philippines were zero, give or take. For one thing, the Japanese already had a track record of seeing surrendered enemies as subhuman and had no problem executing them on a whim. Any attempted rescue could mean freeing a bunch of corpses. They needed a plan. A ridiculous one.
The Cartoonish Plan:
How do you penetrate a camp surrounded by an open field without being seen? The answer is by creating a distraction in the air and hoping that the guards look to the sky long enough for you to belly crawl your way into the camp. In the absence of a Pink Floyd laser show, they figured some sick airplane maneuvers just might do the trick.
Tragically, "Danger Zone" wouldn't be written for another 41 years.
On January 30, 1945, Captain Kenneth Schrieber and First Lieutenant Bonnie Rucks flew their P-61 into what was quite possibly the most moronic mission they had ever attempted. Flying in low, they backfired their aircraft several times while performing aerobatic maneuvers. They continued doing this for 20 minutes, and every Japanese guard watched, waiting for Schrieber and Rucks to crash.
Basically, it was the monster truck rally of the Pacific Theater.
While that was going on, several hundred U.S. soldiers and Filipino guerrillas sneaked up to the camp walls, completely unopposed and unhindered. When the order finally came to unleash hell, every single Japanese tower and pillbox was obliterated in less than 15 seconds. The Americans quickly liberated the camp and the 500 POWs located there. All because somewhere along the line, someone figured that the Japanese guards would be just as impressed by rolling airplanes as the rest of us.
Dian Wei and His 40-Pound Axes
"The surrounding area littered with many casualties and dead. Dian Wei received over ten cuts, yet he continued to fight despite lacking troops. Dian Wei held onto two traitors underneath his arms, killing them. The remaining traitors dared not to advance any further."
-Chen Shou, Records of the Three Kingdoms
Dian Wei was a monstrous cruise missile of manslaughter, which is something you'd kind of have to be if you were a guy that had a name that was a homophone for "Diane." His skill as a peerless purveyor of battle-raging carnage helped him rise through the ranks of the military of the Kingdom of Wei, until eventually he was hand-selected by the Wei King, a guy named Cao Cao, to serve as his personal bodyguard and the most badass bouncer in Imperial China.
Dian's Last Stand took place during the Battle of Wancheng in A.D. 197, when he essentially curbstomped an entire army into submission by himself. Apparently, some local governor had gotten a little pissed off when Cao Cao banged the dude's aunt, and launched a surprise nighttime sneak attack on the Wei King's camp. When the hordes of oncoming warriors approached the gates they found his personal bodyguard standing at the entrance brandishing a hulking pair of 40-pound axes.
Failing to appraise just how ready he was to make them look like the losing end of a bear attack, the would-be assassins charged, and Dian commenced spraying the countryside with distasteful amounts of high-impact blood spatter. After playing giant-axe-whack-a-mole with the unfortunate bastards who reached him first, Wei got super pissed and started cracking spines with his bare hands. He killed at least 20 enemies, perhaps more, before another group of assassins that had entered the building from a different direction attacked him from behind, and he was finally brought down by a rain of blows from every direction.
Dian had achieved his goal however -- Cao Cao escaped to fight another day, and ended up almost single-handedly conquering all of China and eventually bringing the Three Kingdoms period to a close.
Robert Baden-Powell Gives Boers a Crash Course in Bullshit
Longtime Cracked readers may remember Lord Robert Baden-Powell as the slightly creepy eccentric who started the Boy Scouts to stop kids from masturbating. However, Baden-Powell was also something of a living legend in army circles for his heroic and somewhat hilarious defense of the town of Mafeking during the Second Boer War.
Baden-Powell's orders were to secure Mafeking for the British. The problem was that the Brits and the Boers were still at the "diplomats shouting at each other" stage and the war hadn't been declared yet. He couldn't just force his way into the town -- because manners -- and they'd never give his troops permission to enter. So Baden-Powell asked the townspeople for official permission to move a guard into the town in order to protect his supplies there. The second he got the permit, he marched his entire army in. When people complained, he simply pointed out that the size of the guard had never been specified and his supplies need a lot of protectin'.
"Can you see the supplies? Absolutely, they're right here."
Now Baden-Powell had Mafeking, but how could he keep it from an incoming Boer force five times stronger?
With shenanigans, that's how! Baden-Powell's men started burying mysterious boxes around the town's perimeter. When questioned about them, Baden-Powell announced that they were powerful landmines from England, specifically designed to wreck Boer shit. He proved this by blowing up a couple, making sure that enemy sympathizers saw the massive explosions and managed to slip out of town to warn the Boers. Of course, there were no mines. The boxes Baden-Powell had detonated were filled with dynamite from his extremely limited supply. The rest were full of sand.
"Don't you worry your pretty little head about it none."
Baden-Powell's other problem was that he didn't have barbed wire, or facilities to make any -- a key tool in stopping the advance of ground troops. What he had was a bunch of wooden posts of the kind barbed wire is strung on, and he knew that barbed wire was really hard to see from a distance. So, he hammered the posts in a massive circle around the town, and whenever his men came near the posts, they would hurl themselves to the ground and inch along as if trying to crawl under barbed wire. To an enemy with binoculars, it totally looked like the city was now guarded from all sides with barbed wire, in addition to the supermines.
The Boers decided that attacking Baden-Powell would be suicide and, after some obligatory warring, the siege situation settled to an almost amiable stalemate. In the end, Baden-Powell held Mafeking for 217 days, due to what he himself called "largely a piece of bluff."
And then added, "So suck it. All of it."
Drummer Boys Were More Badass Than You'll Ever Be
Among the many, many problems of serving in combat in a pre-walkie-talkie era was communication. In the chaos of battle, soldiers couldn't hear commanding officers or one another. It was all pretty much screaming and flapping your arms.
Not at all dissimilar from your band in high school.
So, it wasn't long before someone figured out that a drummer could serve several purposes: One, he could boost morale, because who doesn't love a good back beat? And two, he could give commands. Each drum roll represented different orders, plus the steady beat kept marchers in line and coordinated (this was back when armies lined up all gentleman-like to face each other). So, all in all, drummers were extremely useful and awesome in every way, bravely thumping away while musket balls whizzed past their heads.
Though it's less awesome when you realize they probably should have been attending elementary school instead.
Pictured: a combat veteran.
Kids as young as 8 years old accompanied soldiers into battle during the Civil War. The picture above is of one of the most famous drummer boys of the Civil War, Johnny Clem. Little Johnny ran away from home at the age of 11 and blustered his way into the Union army after they rejected him twice for his small size. Eventually they relented, realizing that A) they couldn't get rid of him, and B) he just looked so darn cute in his tiny uniform.
Kids like Johnny served as semi-mascots for their units, but all the affection in the world didn't stop grown- ass men from sending this boy and others like him into battle unarmed. Johnny was lucky; he eventually got a teeny-tiny musket custom-trimmed just for him, but most drummer boys had nothing but a funky-ass drumbeat to protect them from enemy fire. Johnny himself was taken as a prisoner of war at the age of 12.
Even though there were drummer boys before and after the Civil War, it was the War Between the States that really made the best use of prepubescent boys as communication systems. Numbers are sketchy on both sides, but it is agreed that so many kids were involved in the Civil War that the conflict earned the nickname of The Boys' War.
Lt. Colonel Mustafa Kemal: "I'm Not Ordering You to Attack! I'm Ordering You to Die!"
The battle of Gallipoli from World War I is most known for the 1981 Australian film starring Mel Gibson (that is, not very well known), which avoids telling the more interesting story in exchange for telling one that involved people who spoke English. Which is a shame, especially for Mel Gibson, because if he'd been cast as Turkish Lt. Colonel Mustafa Kemal, this legendary quote would probably overshadow aboouuuuuuuut 36 percent more of the insane shit he's done.
Kemal's hat would overshadow 36 percent of his insane face.
At 6:30 a.m., April 25, 1915, Kemal learned that British soldiers were advancing on Battleship Hill -- a key defensive position near the ocean. He ordered his men to march to the coast and then rode out ahead of them to scout out the battlefield. When he arrived three hours later, he saw Allied warships closing in, transport ships making landfall, and a group of Turkish soldiers running toward him, away from the fight.
When he asked them why they were running, they pointed at the massive advancing army and said, "Sir, the enemy!" (presumably suppressing the urge to add "duh!"). Kemal responded by telling them they couldn't run from the enemy, so they stopped, because Kemal's not the kind of guy you disagree with. When the men said they had no ammunition, Kemal told them to use their bayonets. And then when it came time to attack, he told them, "I'm not ordering you to attack! I'm ordering you to die!"
He borrowed this line from bayonet expert Auric Goldfinger.
That's nowhere near as defeatist as it sounds. For the Turks, retreat wasn't an option because they believed that if they lost that day, there wouldn't be a home to retreat to. And this helped them win: Their reckless disregard for anything resembling respect for their squishy corporeal forms stopped the Allied advance long enough for reinforcements to arrive. And then their enemy withdrew, turning the battle of Gallipoli into the kind of pointless mass bloodshed that was so hip during World War I.
As for Kemal, he went on to become president of the Turkish Republic and stay in office for 15 years, extensively reforming, among other things, the education and legal systems. Because once you've told men to "go over there and die" and they listen, pretty much every other form of leadership is a cakewalk.
The Viking at Stamford Bridge
"But there was one of the Norwegians who withstood the English folk, so that they could not pass over the bridge, nor complete the victory."
-The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
In 1066, the Vikings took a break from wrecking shit, and got ambushed at a place called Stamford Bridge. The Vikings didn't even have a chance to get their armor on before they noticed a tremendous army of Saxons ready to kick some ass and possibly take names (which they would probably mispronounce).
Only one of the Norsemen was ready for combat -- an insane, nameless berserker conjured up from some nightmarish backwater asshole of Hell.
The Saxons, seeing victory was just one frothing-at-the-mouth berserker away, charged forward to dislodge him. This proved to be a mistake.
In the horrific carnage that ensued, countless Saxon soldiers were transformed into a continuous fountain of gore, his mighty ax blows cleaving shields and helmets like they were made out of deliciously melty butter. Arrows, spears and swords were useless against him. He seemed incapable of feeling pain, or really any sensation other than an unstoppable mad desire to kill every single person on Earth.
Eventually, one enterprising Saxon warrior figured out that, like any good video game boss, the Viking hero had a weak point. The Saxon went upstream, floated a barrel into the river, jumped in and drifted down towards the bridge. As soon as he was below the scene of the battle, this cowardly douche canoe thrust his spear up between the planks, striking the Viking juggernaut in his lone weak point: the ball sack.
The Viking champion dropped down to his knees, as is to be expected from a guy who just took a piercing blow to the nads, and was subsequently cut down and probably used as firewood.
Alvin York Captured a Whole Army
Who Was He?
Born to a family of redneck farmers from Tennessee, Alvin York spent much of his youth getting piss drunk in bars and getting into crazy barfights. When his friend got killed in one of the aforementioned barfights, he swore off the liquor, and became a pacifist. When he received his draft notice in 1917, York filed as a "conscientious objector" but was denied. They shipped his ass out to basic training.
About a year later, he was one of 17 men designated to sneak around and take out a fortified machine-gun encampment guarding a German railroad. As they were approaching, the gunners spotted them and opened fire, tearing nine of the men to pieces.
What's left of York's troupe.
The few survivors that didn't have enormous balls of steel ran away, leaving York standing there taking fire from 32 heavy machine gunners. As he said in his diary:
"I didn't have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn't even have time to kneel or lie down. I had no time no how to do nothing but watch them-there German machine gunners and give them the best I had. Every time I seed a German I just touched him off. At first I was shooting from a prone position; that is lying down; just like we often shoot at the targets in the shooting matches in the mountains of Tennessee; and it was just about the same distance. But the targets here were bigger. I just couldn't miss a German's head or body at that distance. And I didn't."
After he killed the first 20 men or so, a German lieutenant got five guys together to try to take this guy from the side. York pulled out his Colt .45 (which only had eight bullets) and killed all of them with it, a practice he likened to "shoot[ing] wild turkeys back home."
At this point lieutenant Paul Jurgen Vollmer yelled out over the noise asking if York was English. See, in World War I, no one really took the Americans very seriously, and everyone thought of them as the rookies. Vollmer figured this crazy/awesome/ballsy soldier must be some kind of English superman who was showing these sissy Americans how it was done. When York said he was American, Vollmer replied "Good Lord! If you won't shoot any more I will make them give up."
Ten minutes later, 133 men came walking towards the remains of York's battalion. Lieutenant Woods, York's superior at first thought it was a German counter-attack until he saw York, who saluted and said "Corporal York reports with prisoners, sir." When the stunned officer asked how many, York replied "Honest, Lieutenant, I don't know."
The Best Hollywood Could Come Up With:
John Rambo from Rambo.
Why It Doesn't Compare:
Sure, Rambo takes on a huge chunk of the Vietnamese soldiers guarding a POW camp and slaughters them all. But that was a good 10 years after the war ended. It's not like they were expecting some guy to come charging into the camp, mowing everybody down.
York pulled his badassery off in the middle of a war, while outnumbered every bit as badly as Rambo was. And York's the one who was a pacifist.
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.
"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.
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 ...
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.
Yevgeny Khaldei, Combat Photographer Extraordinaire
Yevgeny Khaldei grew up in Ukraine during the Russian Revolution, and as a result saw more than his fair share of horrors. He discovered photography after building his own camera at age 12, and by age 18 he found work with the TASS news agency, where in 1939 he was attached to the Red Army as a combat photographer.
And occasional bear portrait artist.
On the outbreak of war with Germany in 1941, Khaldei was commissioned a lieutenant in the Red Army and sent to Murmansk, where he captured astonishing images like this:
Reindeer were the USSR's 497th line of defense, after Yakov Smirnoff.
He operated more or less in the frontlines for the entire war, snapping images of Russian marines at Sevastopol, the Black Sea Fleet, the Red Air Force and street fighting in Budapest. He soon found himself in Berlin, where he captured one of the most iconic images in history:
Well, this would have been good if it wasn't for the damn Soviet flag getting in the way.
In the course of the war, Khaldei lost almost his entire extended family to the Nazis (he was Jewish), so naturally he held a grudge that eventually came to a head at the Nuremberg Trials, where the Nazis were being tried for war crimes.
Khaldei attended the trials as a frontline photographer, and made every effort to make the rest of Hermann Goering's life as utterly unpleasant as possible. Goering hated him. After all, he was a Ukrainian Communist Jew who wore his Soviet Naval uniform everywhere, and that just ticked every one of Goering's prejudicial hate boxes. Khaldei would constantly hang around Goering and even had an American security officer club him with his baton, resulting in this image:
That's Goering in visible discomfort caused by Khaldei's mere presence.
After the war, Khaldei was constantly dicked over by the Soviets because of his Jewish ancestry. He lived much of the rest of his life in obscurity until the fall of Communism, when his work was finally given some well-deserved recognition.
Chuko Liang and the Lute of Death
Chuko "Sleeping Dragon" Liang was a brilliant Chinese strategist and possessor of one of the top 10 awesomest nicknames in history. A chancellor of Shu Han during the third century, his cunning is widely so celebrated that in China his name is synonymous with intelligence and tactics, which is way better than General Tso, who only wound up with a Chinese restaurant dish named after him.
"No, General Tso, it is your chicken that is weak and lacking in discipline."
Chuko was a master of the mindfuck. But he was still capable of making mistakes and it was his greatest miscalculation that required him to draw upon his greatest of mindfuck powers.
According to historians, during the War of the Three Kingdoms, accompanied by a consort of just 100 soldiers and the rest of his army miles away, Chuko saw an opposing army with over 100,000 men marching towards him. The opposing general, Sima Yi, was a veteran who had fought Chuko in multiple battles. Familiar with the Sleeping Dragon's clever ways and, deciding to take no chances, he led the massive army to capture Chuko.
Ordering his few men into hiding, Chuko commanded that the town gates be left wide open and, positioning himself atop the city wall, he proceeded to play the lute as the massive enemy army approached. Upon his arrival at the town gates, Sima Yi, who had fallen victim to many a Chuko-led ambush, halted his army and studied Chuko's calm manner as he ripped a solo on the chords.
Convinced it was a trap he could not yet comprehend, Sima commanded a hasty retreat, more than 100,000 soldiers pulling back from one man and his musical instrument. Chuko thus earned an entire wing in the Bullshitter's Hall of Fame.
Eric James Brindley Nicolson Keeps Flying -- and Fighting -- While on Fire
In 1940, World War II was going badly for the British. They stood alone against Hitler, and Winston Churchill used every bit of his oratory talent to keep his people going. Famously, in his "This Was Their Finest Hour" speech, he swore the nation would fight to the last breath, if necessary, against the impending Nazi invasion.
"I've discovered fascism's lone weakness: alcoholic courage."
Royal Air Force fighter pilot Eric J. B. Nicolson listened to every word, and boy did he take the advice to heart.
On August 16, 1940, Nicolson was part of an attack against German bombers that were trying their level best to relocate British soil into British atmosphere.
While swooping in on a formation of Nazi planes, he was suddenly strafed by a Messerschmitt fighter. The hail of cannon fire ripped up his Hurricane and wounded his legs.
Also, his cockpit was now on fire.
That isn't a euphemism, but it probably should be.
In pain, blinded by the blood from a gash in his forehead, and guided only by survival instinct (and probably also by the fact that the glass on his control panel instruments was starting to pop from the intense heat) Nicolson scrambled out of the cockpit to a section in the back of the plane where it was safe to bail out.
Then, just as he was about to jump to safety with his parachute, he saw the German plane that had hit him and remembered Churchill. Wounded and bleeding profusely, he climbed right back into the burning cockpit, brought the plane under control and went on the attack.
"Burning alive ain't nothin' but a thing."
He gave fiery chase to the German plane, and shot it down. While wounded. And while his own body was engulfed in flame (we really feel can't mention that part enough).
Only when he saw the German fighter crashing to the ground did Nicolson (who was now also on fire) have the presence of mind to bail out of his plane (on fire) and jump (on fire).
As he floated to the ground, the British ground forces took a look at him and reasoned that this flaming sky-creature could only be some kind of Nazi hellbeast. So they opened fire on him.
Then the commander spilled his coffee, so really the whole thing was a total disaster.
But he made it to the ground alive, somehow, where he was extinguished by the suitably embarrassed ground troops. Nicolson realized that the day's collection of wounds had been increased by some pretty serious burns and a couple of friendly fire bullet holes, and also holy shit the glass of his wrist watch had actually melted in the intense heat. Did any of this matter? Hell no, he had just shot down a German!
Nicolson shrugged away his various life-threatening injuries in less than a year and was right back in the action in the fall of 1941, one Victoria Cross and a hell of a lot of bragging rights richer.
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.
"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.
However, the Bible doesn't say anything about chakrams.
Shalom Yoran Is a Natural Born (Nazi) Killer
Born Selim Sznycer in a small town in Poland in 1925, Shalom Yoran's story is pretty much like if Red Dawn had freedom sex with Inglorious Basterds.
"I'll get the Commies, and Patrick Swayze can explode Hitler."
Yoran and his family fled Poland when the Nazis took over and kept moving through Eastern Europe until the Germans finally caught up with them in Lithuania in 1941. There, they spent a year living in a Jewish ghetto until the Nazis started dragging them off. Only Yoran, his brother and a few others managed to hide, and as his parents were taken away by soldiers they told him, "Avenge our death and tell the world what happened."
It's the "Do well in school and don't get a girl pregnant" of the 1940s.
Yoran and his brother eventually made it into the woods with some other Jewish survivors and spent the winter living off the land, using survival techniques from a copy of Robinson Crusoe they had brought along. By spring of 1943, the diminished group of 50 came to the conclusion that living in the forest was bullshit and decided to fight back.
"Forests are even worse than Nazis."
After trying several times to join local resistance groups, one commander finally let them in on the condition that they blow up a nearby heavily guarded munitions factory. To be clear, Yoran and his brother had no idea what they were doing -- the resistance fighters sent them believing it was a suicide mission. Imagine their surprise when Yoran returned, the munitions plant in ruins, saying, "Alrighty, that's done."
The commander, who we suspect was a dick, told them he wouldn't have sent them if he'd known they'd actually do it, and said he still had no intention of letting any Jews join his ranks.
"We're fighting Nazis. I don't expect you two to understand."
Yoran and his crew finally decided to form their own group. Operating out of a swamp, they managed to get weapons by ambushing German troops and started fighting back. Their numbers swelled to over 200 Jews. And, while they wouldn't get a chance to shoot Hitler at a theater, the climax of their movie would be at Stalingrad, where Yoran's band of misfits would join the Soviets in giving hell to retreating German troops, blowing up bridges and taking out railroads.
Oh, and the guy is still alive, by the way. He wrote a book about the whole thing.
A strangely reserved title about explosions.
Sir David Grahame Donald Flew His Plane from the Wing
Right off the bat, you're going to call bullshit on this story. We weren't there, all we can say is that the pilot himself spent 55 years insisting it was true.
Sir Grahame Donald started out like a lot of RAF pilots: young, brave and parachute-less. Which is often a problem when you're flying a machine held together by twine and good intentions. The official reason why the Allied forces didn't issue parachutes to pilots was not that they hadn't been invented yet, because they totally had, but that they feared pilots would abandon their planes as soon as they were hit rather than try to save them.
"It's not that the planes are worth more than your life, but ... well, they are."
So with that in mind, Donald was 6,000 feet in the air when he discovered that his safety belt wasn't of the highest quality. Specifically, he discovered this tiny fact as he was hanging upside down in the middle of a looping maneuver and the belt snapped. Donald fell nearly 2,000 feet before BAM!
He landed on the top wing of his own goddamned airplane, which had continued on its loop without him.
Which is not a situation they teach you how to handle in pilot school. Probably. None of us are pilots.
Grahame Donald was now frantically holding on to the edge of the wing, trying to stop himself from slipping into a whirling propeller while his plane hurtled toward the ground at 140 mph. His first attempt to reach his joystick sent the plane into a violent spin that nearly flung him off. Finally, he was able to hook the stick with his foot and bring the plane back under control, eventually slipping back into the cockpit with a whole 800 feet to spare. In a later interview, the pilot took the whole experience in stride:
"The first 2,000 feet passed very quickly and terra firma looked damnably 'firma'. As I fell I began to hear my faithful little Camel somewhere nearby. Suddenly I fell back onto her."
You know what? The man is a knight, and we're taking his word for it. Even though we haven't even been able to replicate that stunt in the Grand Theft Auto universe.
Witold Pilecki Breaks in and Out of Concentration Camps Like It Ain't No Thing
When mysterious "concentration camps" started appearing in Poland during World War II, one agent of the Polish resistance, Witold Pilecki, thought it would be wise to find out what the hell was going on. Despite the opinion of his superiors that he was "balls insane," Pilecki decided to investigate personally, by deliberately getting himself arrested by the Nazis. The camp he wanted to infiltrate was called "Auschwitz."
Yes, that Auschwitz.
They needed to set up an entire second camp for his balls.
For the next two and a half years, Pilecki smuggled intelligence out of the Germans' all-time most notorious death camp, stoically reporting on the horrors of Auschwitz like he was reporting the goddamn weather:
"We were slightly sprinkled by cold water. I got a blow in my jaw with a heavy rod. I spat out my two teeth. Bleeding began. From that moment we became mere numbers -- I wore the number 4859."
Pictures of Auschwitz don't really belong on a comedy site. Here's Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose instead.
After realizing that the Allies were just sitting on their hands about the whole Nazi death camp situation, Pilecki escaped the camp in 1943. But although infiltrating and escaping Auschwitz both individually qualified him as the most badass person in Europe, Pilecki went back to go another round with the Gestapo, fighting in the Warsaw Uprising, after which the Nazis threw him right back into another concentration camp.
How He Got Screwed:
Like many countries in Europe, Poland was so scarred and horrified by their run-in with fascism that it overcompensated after the war and went full communist. You'd think Pilecki would have earned major brownie points for the work he did fighting the Soviet Union's mortal nemesis, but the problem was that Pilecki was not a socialist sympathizer, suspecting that the only difference between Hitler and Stalin was mustache-width.
Marxism gives hair more body!
So he went right back to Poland to continue his hobby of infiltrating and researching horrific, murderous regimes. The Polish Soviet government decided that this was especially not cool, and they swiftly arrested their greatest war hero and gave him three death sentences, we imagine because they rightly suspected that killing him once would not be enough to stop Witold Pilecki.
Right up until the Soviet Union collapsed in the '90s, even mentioning the name of the guy who exposed the Nazis' villainy was enough to get you shot in Poland. They've recently repealed this policy and named a street after him, though we think they probably should go ahead and rename the whole country "Pileckiland."
The Medic Who Hulked Out on the Enemy
For 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound Idaho farm boy David Bleak, the U.S. intervention in the Korean War wasn't just a chance to get off the potato farm and see the world, it was an opportunity to demonstrate the fact that he was secretly goddamned Captain America (or Sergeant America, whatever).
In 1952, Bleak volunteered to be a part of a 20-member reconnaissance team with the mission of capturing a Chinese prisoner of war for interrogation. Little did anyone in the group know that they were walking into Ambush Mountain, which would have been really helpful information in retrospect. After the patrol's first ambush, Bleak did his job as a medic -- tending wounds, tying tourniquets, casting healing spells, all that. His team pressed on, only to find a second ambush waiting in the trenches. And it was during that second ambush when something snapped. It was almost like he said, "Ambush us once, I'll tend wounds and do my job. Ambush us twice, I'll FUCKING RIP YOUR THROATS OUT THROUGH YOUR EAR HOLES."
That's the sort of realistic nuance you just don't get from reruns of M*A*S*H.
Bleak went full berserker mode. The enemy troops watched the American medic jump into the trench and go on a rampage with his bare hands, breaking the neck of one guy and crushing the windpipe of another. Then he fully secured his place in the nightmares of any enemy onlookers by plunging his one weapon, a trench knife, in the chest of a third. And he wasn't done.
After sending three enemies to that great trench in the sky, Bleak's Spidey senses told him a grenade was on its way. Did he run? No. Did he attempt to meet it in the air so he could throw it into outer space? Probably. But when that didn't work, he simply used his own hulking monster truck of a body to shield his closest comrade.
Bleak, seen here taking a break from deflecting grenades by flexing his abs.
Still alive, somehow, his blood-rage temporarily satisfied, Bleak transformed back into a medic and continued patching up the wounded, even ignoring his own bullet wound while taking care of buddies. And for him, "caring for the wounded" meant shoulder-hauling a fellow soldier who was too injured to walk. Remember, this was an Idaho boy who was not only high on adrenaline but probably excited about carrying something that felt a little like a sack of potatoes.
It was at this point that two dumbasses attacked Bleak with fixed bayonets. Bleak grabbed them both and smacked their heads together, Three Stooges-style. Hey, we weren't there -- this is what witnesses swear happened, and we won't doubt them. Mainly because we don't want this guy's ghost to come back and beat the shit out of us.
James Nicholas "Nick" Rowe Survives Viet Cong, Hippies
Nick Roe was a legendary Green Beret of the Vietnam War, who invented the SERE army course, which entails survival, evasion, resistance, and escape in POW situations.
During the war, Rowe and his team fell into an ambush and were captured, after some heavy fighting, by the Viet Cong. Rowe and his comrades were separated, taken to a camp, and placed in wooden cages smaller than your closet. For the next five years, they would endure torture, disease, malnutrition, humiliation, and the very constant threat of death.
Aside from being in one of the worst places imaginable, Rowe had another problem. He was the intelligence officer for his unit, which meant he knew important stuff like the location and numbers of America's soldiers. Wisely, Rowe told the Viet Cong that he was only an engineer who'd been drafted and didn't know shit about the war. To "verify" the story, the Viet Cong doled out some torture.
When Rowe wouldn't break, they gave him an engineering problem to solve, which, being awesome, he did. He was in the clear until some hippies decided they'd save the world by visiting North Vietnam.
The activists were on a mission to visit POWs so they could tell America the North Vietnamese took good care of prisoners (and therefore the war should end?). They handed over a list of the soldiers they wanted to see and Rowe was among them. Why this list also included the fact that Nick was part of the Special Forces, and an intelligence officer to boot, is anyone's guess.
Thanks for that ...
The Viet Cong were pissed. All of the info Rowe had was now way out of date and therefore useless. And he still wouldn't tell them anything anyway! In retaliation, he was staked out in a swamp, naked, where mosquitoes feasted on every inch of his body for days. Rowe's repeated escape attempts weren't winning him any points either. He'd even gotten away at one point, but returned when Viet Cong, shouting into the jungle, said they would kill one of Rowe's comrades.
Finally, his captors scheduled an execution date. Away from the camp, in the forest, the execution was about to take place when several American helicopters flew by. Using the small distraction, Nick beat down his armed guards with a flying 360 spin kick (probably), and ran into a nearby clearing, where one of the helicopter pilots overhead noticed him and landed for the rescue.
He went home to a well-earned retirement, or would have if he wasn't Colonel James Nicholas Rowe. This Green Beret stayed with the army, trained others to survive the POW experience, and fought terrorism till his last breath.
Just looking at his picture makes you more of a man.
The Right Way to Deal With Being Surrounded
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was one of the nastiest conflicts of the Korean War, particularly since it wrapped the full might of the Chinese military around U.N. forces like an enormous red condom. Forced into these unfortunate circumstances was Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, the most decorated U.S. Marine in history. Chesty calmly surveyed the hopeless situation and said, "They're on our right, they're on our left, they're in front of us, they're behind us; they can't get away from us this time."
OK, so the exact wording is still under debate, but there's one thing nobody disputes: When outnumbered and completely surrounded, Chesty Puller put on his killin' smile and said a quiet prayer of thanks that all his enemies had the decency to come straight to him, on account of he was sick of walking all the way over there to shoot them.
That's him in 1931, angry that he had to stop thinking of ways to kill people long enough to pose for a photo.
The U.N. forces broke through the Chinese blockade, not only freeing themselves from the siege but inflicting heavy casualties along the way. And perhaps more dire a consequence: Chesty's love for war was cemented even further. Seriously, his Wikipedia page reads like a Captain America comic, and his quotes section alone makes the Spartans look like romantic poets. Our favorite: Upon seeing a flamethrower for the first time, Puller reportedly asked, "Where do you put the bayonet?"
"I mean, I can figure out how to explode him myself, but how do you stab the guy once you light him on fire?"
The 22nd Artillery Supply Company and Private Wojtek
The Half-Assed Hollywood Effort:
The Inglourious Basterds, and only because they spent half the damn movie trying to convince us that Eli Roth was a "bear" without so much as a bear-suit, never mind one day of acting lessons.
The Badass True Story:
If you ever thought the Inglourious Basterds were hardcore because they had Sergeant Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz in their ranks, well ... hold on to your ass and prepare to enter a whole new world of awesome. The real world.
Within the blitzkrieg-hardened ranks of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, was the 22nd Artillery Supply Company. The 22nd's most famous regular, one Private Wojtek, was universally known throughout the Polish Underground as "He Who Enjoys War," "Smiling Warrior" or simply "the Bear." During the epic Battle of Monte Cassino, Private Wojtek and the 22nd ran ammo for their Polish brothers-in-arms to help tip the scales in their favor. Once the bloody battle was over a Polish flag was raised high atop the bombed-out Monte Cassino, thanks in large part to the presence of the single most beloved soldier in the entire Polish Army on the battlefield:
That's right ... the 22nd Artillery Supply Company didn't bullshit around like Tarantino. During World War II, these bastards had a real bear in their unit (not a Jewish one, though). Wojtek was a Syrian Brown Bear adopted by the 22nd while they were stationed in Persia. Wojtek proved to be the ultimate office pet for these war-weathered Poles, eating with them, drinking booze with them, sleeping in their barracks and trekking with them all the way from Persia to Palestine. Once the 22nd was ready to ship for Italy, Wojtek had two options: go home, or get a job. Sure enough, young Wojtek answered his call of duty, and officially enlisted in the Polish Army as a Private.
Incredibly, this is not his last living photo.
Wojtek worked hard for his pay (yes, pay) by helping transport heavy munitions to the front lines, which was made a bit easier for the 22nd on account of Wojtek being a freaking bear. Wojtek was a hard drinker, a diligent marcher (as demonstrated in this adorable war footage), a charmer with the ladies and ... well, did we mention that he weighed several hundred kilos, ran faster than a horse, smelled blood from a horizon away and could scalp a Nazi with one swipe on his bear-mitts on account of him being a goddamned bear?
Just look at their freaking emblem:
How the 22nd Artillery Supply Company wasn't immediately transferred to combat duty once Wojtek enlisted is beyond us. You don't need to be freaking Eisenhower to figure that if Wojtek was given some extra stripes, he could have trained an entire corps of Nazi-eating soldier-bears using bear-speak to plow a road from Italy to Berlin that would have ended World War II in the form of Wojtek personally eating Hitler.
Sergeant Baker Was the Picasso of Killing People
"Another comrade, withdrawing, offered assistance. Sgt. Baker refused, insisting that he be left alone and be given a soldier's pistol with its remaining eight rounds of ammunition. When last seen alive, Sgt. Baker was propped against a tree, pistol in hand, calmly facing the foe. Later Sgt. Baker's body was found in the same position, gun empty, with eight Japanese lying dead before him. His deeds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army."
-Medal of Honor citation
Sergeant Baker was part of a combined Army and Marine Corps expedition to capture the Mariana Island of Saipan from the Japanese. In the days prior to his final stand, when his squad was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire, Baker grabbed a rocket launcher, ran within 100 yards of the Japanese bunker and turned it into cinder-block dust with one shot.
On the day he died, Baker found himself facing down an INSANE banzai charge of roughly 5,000 Japanese infantrymen flying bayonet-first out of the jungles and screaming, "Long Live the Emperor" Imperial Space Marine-style. Seeing the enemy closing in on three sides, Baker simply cracked his knuckles, swore under his breath and changed a clip into his weapon.
The initial wave left Baker seriously wounded by enemy rifle fire, but he refused to run or back down or show any emotion other than anger. He stood his ground, firing like crazy with any weapons he could get his hands on, sometimes from as close as point-blank range. When he ran out of bullets, he Hulked up (Banner or Hogan, your choice) and beat off the attack with his hands, an admittedly ballsy move that left him even more fucked up.
Why not both?
His weapon was smashed and he was bleeding profusely from a number of gaping wounds when some of his men came up and started carrying him from the battlefield. By this time the perimeter was buckling, the fight was lost and the Americans were falling back to regroup, but Baker didn't give a shit. He knew that dragging his half-dead ass along the ground was only slowing down the withdrawal, so he told his men to prop him up against a tree facing the enemy. He borrowed a Colt 1911, made sure that it had a full eight-round clip and told his men to get the fuck out of there while he bought them some time.
Standard issue Colt 1911. Not standard issue: being super hardcore.
When the final American advance pushed forward and captured Saipan later that same month, they found Sergeant Baker's body propped up against the tree, facing his enemies right where they'd left him. The eight rounds they'd left him with meanwhile, were now in the eight dead Japanese soldiers scattered before him.
Richard Antrim Plays the Hero POW Without Firing a Shot
Because you've seen Rambo, you're going to think you know where the story of American POW Dick Antrim is going. But his brand of badassery serves as proof that you can be a hero without mowing down an enemy platoon with a belt-fed machine gun.
Or a magazine-fed one, dick.
After his ship was sunk by the Japanese navy, First Lieutenant Antrim (serving as executive officer) and the rest of the ship's survivors were brought to a POW camp. While there, Antrim saw (and we're quoting from his Medal of Honor citation here) a fellow officer "subjected to a vicious clubbing by a frenzied Japanese guard venting his insane wrath upon the helpless prisoner."
That's probably pretty terrifying for most people, but Antrim had just finished having the living crap bombed out of his ship, organizing lifeboats and supplies so that all but one of his men survived, and keeping his crew together through three straight days of floating in the Pacific Ocean. After that, he must've thought the guard's attempt to kill one of his men was, at best, cute.
"Awwwww, wook at the widdle guard. Somebody forgot their big boy pants today!"
In spite of the fact that this prison was apparently staffed with prison guards from a Stephen King book, Antrim interrupted the guard's attack and told him (with sign language, since he didn't speak Japanese) that he would take the other prisoner's beating for him. By his account, the guards were so shocked at his audacity that they not only backed down, but also put Antrim in charge of digging trenches, making the guards "bipolar" in addition to "vicious," "insane," and "frenzied."
Although he had already looked death in the face and smirked, Antrim took things one step further with his new duty by organizing the trenches so that they spelled "U.S." from the sky. This had two effects: First, it notified Allied bombers that this was a POW camp (thereby saving hundreds of lives), and second, it guaranteed that if the plan was ever found out, Antrim would've been executed. He knew this, and he clearly didn't give a shit, because he had his men to look after.
Ten years after his death in 1969, they named a ship after him, because you're goddamn right they did.
The Great Locomotive Chase
The Confederate-held town of Chattanooga, Tennessee, relied on its rail link for more than just jaunty swing music: it was the sole route for supplies and reinforcements from the Confederate stronghold at Atlanta. Union Major General Ormsby Mitchel knew this, so when a Union spy called James J. Andrews approached him with his amazingly insane plan to hijack a train and go on a path of rampant destruction along the length of the track, Mitchel was all like, "Yeah, sure, go for it."
His demeanor says business. His hair says party.
On the morning of April 12, 1862, Andrews and about 20 volunteers from the Union Army, dressed in civilian clothes, boarded a steam train bound for Chattanooga. When the train stopped for breakfast, Andrews and the rest of the men seized the opportunity and hijacked the train, separating the engine, the coal tender and three box cars from the passenger cars. They took off like a bat out of hell, which in the 1860s meant a good 15 or maybe even 20 miles an hour. The train's conductor, William Allen Fuller, and two other men gave chase, initially on foot, then in a handcar, and then in another train that had been traveling in the opposite direction. Then on foot again. And then on another train.
We assume they did it to the tune of Yakety Sax.
Meanwhile, the men on the hijacked train started ruining as much shit as they could. As they barreled along, they tore up track, set shit on fire and cut telegraph cables.
Now here's the really crazy thing: The raiders stuck to the train's timetable, going the predetermined speed and making all the stops (yes, just like Kramer in that Seinfeld episode where he commandeered the bus). There was a solid reason for this: they had to wait for trains going the other way to pass before they could continue their rampage. But this meant they also had to bullshit their way through refueling stops and Confederate train stations.
Remember, no one in the aftermath of the destruction had any means of calling ahead to warn others in their path -- the hijackers had cut the telegraph cables. The Confederates were unaware anything out of the ordinary was going on.
"Pardon me boy, is that the Chattan- OH GOD THEY'RE BURNING EVERYTHING."
All this time Fuller was only a few miles behind and pursuing them with the resilience of a Terminator. After riding for almost a hundred miles through enemy territory, the raiders' train ran out of fuel a few miles south of Chattanooga, and the men scattered into the woods.
All of them were captured, and eight were hanged as spies, including Andrews. But, 19 of the original 24 men would eventually be awarded the Medal of Honor and have their remains re-interred in hero's graves.
Krystyna Skarbek Knew the Jedi Mind Trick
There is no more powerful weapon of war than bullshit.
At the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland, a Polish countess named Krystyna Skarbek fled from her home and found work with the British Secret Intelligence Service (the same one James Bond works for). She was sent to Hungary, where she operated in a spy ring that smuggled intelligence reports and even a top secret Polish anti-tank rifle from Europe. In short, she was living as different a life from that of a countess as you can get.
Although she could sure win a lot of polo matches with this thing.
In January 1941, Skarbek and fellow spy Andrzej Kowerski were arrested by the Gestapo. Skarbek bullshitted the Germans into letting them go by biting her tongue until it bled and then convincing them she had pulmonary tuberculosis (or was insane -- either way, probably best to not have her hanging around anymore).
Clearly, this woman had a gift.
A frothing, blood-flecked gift, but a gift nonetheless.
In 1944, Skarbek was sent to France in preparation for the liberation of Europe. Upon her arrival, she proceeded to wipe out entire battalions at a time. Not with sabotage or guiding bombers to their position, but by convincing them to disable their guns and desert their stations. What did she say to them? Who knows? The woman could talk the shit back into a bear. One story claims that a German patrol sent a guard dog after her, and she convinced the dog to stay with her instead. Seriously.
She persuaded this kitten to breach the Siegfried Line.
Later, prior to the little-known Allied landings in the South of France known as Operation Dragoon, three Allied spies were captured and were going to be executed. Skarbek swung into action. She met with two Gestapo officers named Albert Schenk and Max Waem, and in three hours she convinced them that she was a British radio operator. She went on to say that she was the wife of one of the captured men, she was the niece of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (the British Army officer who planned D-Day) and that she had the power to have Waem executed for war crimes after the war or to guarantee his safety if he let the men go. Terrified, Waem let them go, though he was mysteriously murdered not long afterward.
Her "Deception" medal is the one disguised as a giraffe.
Her story and personality reportedly would later serve as the inspiration for two James Bond characters: Vesper Lynd and Tatiana Romonova. So Hollywood interpreted "most persuasive soldier ever who happened to be a woman" as "woman who must have had great boobs."
The Medic Who Walked into Hell
Louis Richard Rocco was used to doing his job under conditions that would reduce the rest of us to a puddle of tears and urine. And when he volunteered to help evacuate wounded Vietnamese allies by helicopter, he knew the mission wouldn't be all sunshine and cupcakes. He probably also knew there was a chance his helicopter would come under fire from the enemy, which it did. Rocco, drawing on all his years of medical training and experience, hopped on the chopper's machine gun and began laying down accurate, deadly fire around the landing zone. But it was too late, the aircraft was destined for a crash landing. Thank God there was a medic on board!
After the crash, Rocco looked around. The pilot was shot in the leg, the co-pilot's arm was hanging off, the other survivors were unconscious, and the helicopter was on fire. Oh, and Rocco himself had a fractured wrist, broken hip, and fucked-up back. And they had crash landed within range of enemy fire. These are the kinds of challenges most of us do not have to overcome during an average work day.
So Rocco got to work. He figured providing medical attention would be pretty impossible post cremation, so the first order of business was getting everyone out of the flaming helicopter. Rocco snatched up the pilot and dragged him to the relative safety of a fallen tree about 20 yards away. Then the Forrest Gump inside of him flared up and he ran back through the hail of enemy gunfire to the helicopter, picked up the co-pilot, and carried him to the tree as well. The call of Bubba echoing in his soul, he made the hellacious trip two more times, despite suffering severe burns on his hands and face from the burning chopper, carrying the crew chief and the other medic across open ground to safety before they burned alive.
After every member of the crew was out of immediate danger, Rocco finally gave his body permission to pass out from the burns, broken bones, and sheer heroin-like high of his own adrenaline. He not only lived through the nightmare, but was awarded a Medal of Honor for his trouble.
If you thought the ladies loved the Medal of Honor and wartime heroics, just wait till they find out you're in a Cracked article.
Lachhiman Garung Fights Off 200 Soldiers With One Arm
A member of the British-Indian Army, during World War II.
Two hundred Japanese soldiers attacked the trench Lachhiman Garung was defending and, for their opening act, tossed in a few grenades. Seeing the grenades rolling in, one by one, Lachhiman had the bright idea of throwing them back before they exploded -- an incredible idea provided you have three hands to throw with.
Garung, unfortunately, only had two hands, so that third grenade did what grenades do in those situations and exploded while he was holding it. His fingers were obliterated, his arm peeled like a banana, and his right leg, face and body in general were all badly injured.
The two soldiers with him at the time were also hit and killed. Lachhiman was alone, one armed and bleeding profusely, and there were still 200 Japanese out there, getting ready to resume the attack. Awkward!
We at Cracked call this getting "Murphy'd."
The Awesomeness That Followed:
Realizing he wasn't quite dead yet, Lachhiman drew his gurkha knife and stuck it in the ground in front of him. "No one will pass here today!" he called out before loading his rifle. The enemy soldiers approached, and Lachhiman calmly dealt with the majority of oncoming enemies at point blank range, just waiting for them to arrive.
He did this for four fucking hours. With only his left arm.
The only other example of this is fictional, and this fucker still has both arms.
That's pretty amazing and all, but Christ, did none his foes have a gun? How about approaching two at a time? Dude only had one arm, somebody would have to be able to get a decent shot off, right?
Nevertheless, attack after attack was mounted by the Japanese in an attempt to advance, but none were successful. How Lacchiman managed to endure and survive his wounds is anyone's guess, but by the end of the day, when someone finally came to check and see how he was doing, 31 Japanese soldiers lay dead in front of his trench. He is said to have complained then about the flies bothering his stump. That's right. Flies. Not the fact that he had a brand new stump. Flies.
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.
Neall Ellis Trolls Sierra Leone Rebels to Defeat
Neall Ellis had a successful career as a military pilot behind him and an easygoing civilian life to look forward to. There was just one problem: He was immensely bored with living like a regular guy.
So Ellis decided to become a soldier for hire. Specifically, he started taking work as a private mercenary helicopter pilot, securing his first contract fighting for Bosnia in the Yugoslav wars. After that, he spent some time in Angola. Finally, in the late '90s, his duties took him to Sierra Leone.
Um, that's probably a welcoming rocket launcher.
The Revolutionary United Front, a rebel faction fighting the UN-supported government of Sierra Leone, was winning in 1999. They were knocking on the door of the nation's capital, Freetown, and the situation was in fact so hopeless that British forces were abandoning the area just as Ellis arrived.
"The beer's in the fridge. Don't get killed too much!"
Ellis and his team, however, were unshaken by the fact that they were pretty much the only foreigners still in the game. They stayed and fought, presumably for their own amusement, flying missions with Ellis' gunship helicopter and messing with the rebels any way they could. The RUF got so enraged by him that they soon sent him a message:
"If we ever catch you, we'll cut out your heart and eat it."
Ellis responded by stocking his gunship full of weapons (in case he should ever be shot down) and hovering over RUF strongholds, showered them with leaflets saying:
"RUF: This time we've dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57 mm rockets, or 23 mm guns, or 30 mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!"
"I'll probably throw myself out, and then you'll be sorry."
After a while, the government of Sierra Leone stopped paying Ellis, because they were forced to abandon the Freetown area, too. Ellis, however, enjoyed the little flame war he got going so much that he kept flying missions for another year, pro bono. During that time, in addition to his usual antics, Ellis single-handedly stopped the RUF from advancing into Freetown -- without a co-pilot, in the middle of the night and without any night vision.
The first time they forgot the grenades, and everyone knows you get your whole war free if that happens.
At some point, the Brits realized that the ragtag bunch of madmen they'd left behind were actually winning, so they skulked ashamedly back into the fight by financing Ellis and offering assistance.
Ellis and his helicopter stuck with Sierra Leone all the way up to the RUF's defeat in 2002. What does he think of the war-torn country he's spent years fighting in, with a significant portion of its denizens wanting to eat his heart? He loves it. So much, in fact, that he's going to move there when he retires.
"No other country will let me keep my helicopter and my missiles."
Audie Murphy Shoots Everyone
Who Was He?
When Audie Murphy applied to the Marines in 1942 at the tender age of 16, he was 5 foot 5 inches and weighed 110 pounds. They laughed in his face. So he applied to the Air Force, and they also laughed in his face. Then he applied for the Army, and they figured they could always use another grunt to absorb gunfire, so they let him in. He wasn't particularly good at it, and they actually tried to get him transferred to be a cook after he passed out halfway through training. He insisted that he wanted to fight though, so they sent him into the maelstrom.
During the invasion of Italy he was promoted to corporal for his awesome shooting skills, and at the same time contracted malaria, which he had for almost the entire war. Try to remember that.
He was sent into southern France in 1944. He encountered a German machine gun crew who pretended they were surrendering, then shot his best buddy. Murphy completely hulked out, killed everyone in the gun nest, then used their weaponry to kill every baddie in a 100-yard radius, including two more machine gun nests and a bunch of snipers. They gave him a Distiguished Service Cross, and made him platoon commander while everyone apologized profusely for calling him "Shorty."
About half a year later, his company was given the job of defending the Colmar Pocket, a critical region in France, even though all they had left was 19 guys (out of the original 128) and a couple of M-10 Tank Destroyers.
The Germans showed up with a shitload of guys and half a dozen tanks. Since reinforcements weren't coming for a while, Murphy and his men hid in a trench and sent the M-10s to go do the heavy lifting. They got ripped to shreds.
Then, this five-and-a-half-foot-tall kid with malaria ran up to one of the crippled M-10s, hopped in behind the .50 caliber machine gun, and started killing everything in sight. Understand that the M-10 was on fire, had a full tank of gas and was basically a death-trap.
He is a seriously tiny man.
He kept going for almost an hour until he was out of bullets, then walked back to his bewildered men as the M-10 exploded in the background Mad Max style. They gave him literally every medal they could (33 in all, although he had doubles of a few, plus five from France and one from Belgium), including the Medal of Honor.
After the war, he came down with Shell-Shock, and was prescribed the antidepressant placidyl. When he became addicted to the drug, rather than enter a program like some kind of sissy, he went cold-turkey, locked himself in a motel room for a week and got over it. He wrote an autobiography entitled To Hell and Back, and later became an actor.
The Best Hollywood Could Come Up With:
Audie Murphy (Audie Murphy) from To Hell and Back:
He is a seriously tiny man.
In To Hell and Back, Audie Murphy plays Audie Murphy, a badass war hero who proves his worth on the battlefield with his awesome badassery. The movie was the highest-grossing film Universal made, a record it held for 20 years until the making of Jaws. That's right, they actually needed a movie about a giant, man-eating, shark to top Audie Murphy's awesomeness.
Why It Doesn't Compare:
When some Hollywood producer wanted to make a movie based on Murphy's autobiography, he was determined to have Murphy play himself in the film. Murphy was afraid people would see the complete insane awesomeness the story had to offer, and think he was embellishing or trying to cash in on his fame, so he actually had them take parts out for fear that they wouldn't be believable to a Hollywood audience. Seriously.
Carl Gustav von Rosen and the Biafra Baby Fleet
Some guys just really, really like war.
Take Swedish count Carl Gustav von Rosen. Oh, his career started off normally enough. He started his flying career doing small plane stunts in an aerial circus, then got his first taste of military conflict when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1936, at which point he apparently said, "I want to do nothing but this, from now on. Find me a war!"
Wow, Germany, that's surprisingly generous!
So, when World War II broke out, he immediately volunteered in the Finnish Air Force to combat the Soviet Union. There, he gained notoriety as a bomber -- literally. Unable to score a bomber plane that satisfied his needs, he opted for physically pelting the Soviet troops with bombs, throwing them by hand at the terrified Reds from the open cargo door of a civilian airliner.
"Adequate arm room, helpful air hostesses, effective destruction. Would fly again."
This is when von Rosen started to run out of militaries willing to let him fly for them. He applied to the RAF but was rejected due to his family's Nazi connections. As a backup plan, he went back to flying commercial flights, and after the war became a special UN pilot. After narrowly avoiding death when the United Nations aircraft he was supposed to be piloting was blown up over the Congo, von Rosen decided to take some time off in 1969. And by "time off" we mean he scoured the globe looking for another war to join.
For some reason the wars always erupted a few days after he left their protected airspace.
He decided to head to Biafra, to help them in their civil war against Nigeria. Why? Because life just wasn't worth living unless he was flying in an aircraft that other people were shooting at.
Upon arrival, von Rosen noticed some imbalance between the warring parties' aerial capacities. Namely, the Nigerian Air Force consisted of powerful Soviet MiG-17 fighters and large bombers, whereas the Biafran counterpart consisted of paper airplanes that the generals made and threw into the sky.
The Soviet NERF-gun 3000.
So he set out to improve their fleet -- the von Rosen way. He bought five of the tiniest, least intimidating planes he could find. Then, he turned these propeller-driven training planes into makeshift war machines by ... well, strapping some rockets onto their wings and giving them a green paint job. That's it, really.
The Pimp My Ride of the aviation world.
Still, beggars can't be choosers, and a fleet of tiny, overloaded almost-planes is better than nothing as far as the Biafrans were concerned. So von Rosen was allowed to lead his "Biafran Babies" to battle. And boy, did they kick some serious ass.
Somehow, von Rosen's fleet managed to destroy air bases, troop formations, power plants and a good chunk of the superior-on-paper Nigerian Air Force. Despite being under heavy anti-aircraft fire roughly 100 percent of the time and returning from many of their missions riddled with bullet holes, not one Biafran Baby was ever shot down.
It would be like hitting a mosquito with a house.
Eventually, the Biafrans did lose the war -- but we imagine the old Nigerian war veterans piss themselves to this day whenever they hear the squeaky buzz of a toy plane.
Antonis Vratsanos Fucking Hates Trains
Like many Greek men in the 1930s, Antonis Vratsanos enlisted in the Greek Army because of the impending threat of the Axis powers. Unfortunately, Vratsanos was rejected from service for being a filthy, filthy communist, which in the eyes of the creators of democracy was almost as bad as being Hitler himself.
However, when Germany (and to a lesser extent Italy) invaded Greece in 1941, Vratsanos decided to prove his government wrong and immediately went into the Greek Resistance.
That guy in the back has something missing, but we just can't put our finger on it.
Once in, Vratsanos -- a random, non-military dude off the street -- formed a sabotage squad called Olympus. They quickly secured a reputation as the go-to mad bombers against the Axis powers.
Despite Vratsanos himself not having a clue on how to make or rig bombs, in three short years Olympus blew up 36 bridges, 47 railroad depots, 32 trains, and over 3,000 Axis soldiers.
And only some of them were on purpose.
But most impressive were his actions in February 1944. Working completely alone, Vratsanos scouted a German train, rigged it with explosives and blew it right the hell up, walking calmly away with his back to the inferno.
"I think my beret's on fire."
The train bombing turned out to be the biggest sabotage by any non-military unit in the war, killing 300 soldiers, 150 officers and even a general. After the war, Vratsanos finally joined the Democratic Army of Greece, although as it turns out their initial reluctance to accept him was well-placed -- he tried to overthrow the government in the late 1940s and install a communist regime, presumably using exploding trains.
"The theory of communism may be summed up in the single sentence: I hate goddamn trains."
Ernest E. Evans
Ernest Edwin Evans was the commander of the Fletcher class destroyer USS Johnston, which he used to play a Bronze Star's worth of merry hell on the Japanese. He was also, as will soon become apparent, completely oblivious to the concept of "odds."
"A kamikaze attack? Good, that's one bastard down."
The Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944 was the largest naval battle in World War II, and was on the verge of being an utter disaster for the American ships. There were a bunch of unarmed troop transports carrying General Douglas MacArthur's invasion fleet toward the Philippines being guarded by other American ships. But the Japanese navy managed to trick the vast majority of the ships into following a decoy fleet. This left a shitload of defenseless American troops as sitting ducks in their transport ships, ready to be blown to bits by the approaching real Japanese fleet.
All that was standing between the enemy and the ships full of troops was Taffy 3, a task force of a few shoddy destroyers, near-defenseless escort carriers and planes that were good at bombing submarines and absolutely useless at everything else.
Except being on fire.
Luckily, one of the destroyers happened to be Ernest Evans' very own USS Johnston. And Evans was insane.
Evans reacted to the impossible situation with the glee of the biggest kid in class who has just heard there's a fight behind the corner. He immediately took his ship -- affectionately nicknamed "Tin Can," as it was practically unarmored -- into a direct attack on the Japanese. That is, he attacked the whole goddamn fleet.
"Before we serve together, men, you should know I have a death wish. If anyone's got a problem with that, well, you know where to find me. In my quarters, sleeping with a basket of live hand grenades outside my unlocked door."
What followed would go down in history as one of the greatest mismatches in naval warfare. USS Johnston zigzagged up and down, performing needle attacks on the enemy like a crazed mosquito. Evans scored numerous sneaky hits on enemy ships, engaged in several happy duels with much larger Japanese vessels and generally behaved like a gremlin in a toy store.
Eventually, though, his ammo was all gone and the Japanese were able to return the favor by landing a direct hit on the bridge of the ship, where Evans was positioned. The impact wounded him, singed his hair and blew away his clothes.
While most men would at least take five after that, Evans actually told the ship doctor rushing to his aid to piss off and stop bothering him. Then he started shouting steering orders through an open hatch to men below decks, telling them how to steer the ship's freaking rudder by hand.
Sailors on the other ships stared with their mouths open as the Johnston continued getting shelled and Evans, butt naked, bloodied and smoke rising from his singed hair, continued to bark orders to his crew as if nothing was happening. He was still steering the Johnston at the enemy as it disappeared below the waves. Even the Japanese saluted the man and his crew as the ship went down.
"Well, that's decent. I wish we could do something for them."
Evans' relentless attack, supported by other ships of Taffy 3, actually managed to convince the Japanese that the American force was way stronger than the laughably few ships that they actually had at hand -- the logic behind this being that there's no way anyone would pull a stunt like that if they didn't have some serious backup.
So the Japanese commander got cold feet and called off his fleet. And that, friends, is how General MacArthur's troop transport ships were kept afloat because of one naked captain and his ragtag group of unarmored tin cans.
Marcus Sergius Loses a Hand, Makes an Iron Replacement
A Roman general from 218-201 BC.
We're going to tell you something that may surprise you: Sword fighting puts your hands at severe risk of injury. In his second year of military service, Marcus Sergius had his right hand lopped clean the fuck off. That's a pretty fucking serious thing to have happen now, so imagine what it was like in an era with no painkillers and where the only disinfectants were leeches and piss.
But he survived, and over the course of a few more battles, he sustained no fewer than 23 injuries that left both of his hands and feet rather useless.
Of course, back then getting a heinous injury didn't mean you got out of the war, to be shipped off to Walter Reed to be treated like sin by an uncaring government until someone filmed a documentary about your plight using hidden cameras. It was actually worse than that. You just rubbed some dirt on it and got back in the fight.
The Awesomeness That Followed:
Rather than return to battle all gimp handed and such, Marcus did the kind of thing that most of us only dream of doing: He fashioned a lump of iron into a fist capable of holding a shield and cracking skulls like you wouldn't believe.
He proceeded to take 12 enemy camps in Gallia, broke a siege at Cremona and saved Placentia, probably with the aid of enemies who stood in awestruck silence of the huge ball of badass iron that doubled as a hand.
He was also twice captured by Hannibal and managed to escape both times despite apparently being kept in chains and shackles for the whole of 20 months. No one is sure how he managed to escape, but we're fairly certain it involved a plot that began with Marcus nodding to his captors and saying, "Hey, wanna wear my iron hand for a second?"
Star Trek's James Doohan Got Shot Six Times on D-Day
James Doohan was an actor so typecast, it probably would've been easier on him to just legally change his name to "Scotty." Doohan was the lovably-beleaguered engineer from Star Trek, and virtually nothing else. He found very little work outside of being Scotty, and his "Ah'm givin' 'er uhl sheh's gut, Cap'n!" is about the only thing people remember, aside from his being the most stereotypically Scottish character in history aside from Groundskeeper Willie.
"Oh, because I'm Scottish you automatically assume I can play the bagpipes?! God, just give them here."
It's really too bad that Doohan was seen as a sci-fi engineer and nothing else, because he had so much more to offer. You don't command, fight in, and survive D-Day by being a talentless hack, after all. Doohan was a member of the Canadian Air Force around the time of World War II and was so good at what he did that he could afford to risk his life purely for shits and giggles. At one point, somebody dared him to hop in his plane and slalom between a series of telephone poles, and he successfully did just that. That stunt earned him the painfully uncatchy title of "Craziest Pilot in the Canadian Air Force." It also earned him severe reprimands from his superiors. Still, totally worth it, bro.
In World War II, "severe reprimand" just meant that you had to buy everyone's drinks.
Doohan wasn't just stunts and insanity though; he was an artillery captain, leading his men to battle during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Doohan survived, but took one for the team. Actually, he took six for the team, as he was shot that many times in the legs and hands, ultimately leading to the amputation of his right middle finger.
Now, chances are you didn't ever see a nine-fingered Scotty while watching Star Trek. That's because, instead of giving the character an origin tale where his fuck-you finger was shot off in a tragic Phaser accident back at the Academy, Doohan chose to hide the amputation. You rarely saw his hands close up and, when you did, they weren't his, but rather a stunt double. Of course, sometimes a stunt double wasn't an option, and we got this as a result:
"Live long and ... oh, right."
Milunka Savic Pretends to Be a Man, Out-Badasses Them All
A Serbian farmer born in the late 19th century who was pretty much a European Mulan. After her brother was drafted at the onset of World War I, she disguised herself as a man and took his place in the Serbian army.
Her brother, meanwhile, sat at the kids table.
Milunka Savic's first act of total badassery came at the Battle of Kolubara, where she ran through no-man's land between the fronts throwing hand grenades, jumped into the Austrian trenches with a bayonet, and -- still alone -- captured 20 soldiers. The fact that they'd just been captured by a woman must have really hurt the Austrian soldiers' pride, but they got off easily because at least they weren't taken prisoner by Savic during her toilet break. That happened during the Battle of Crna Reka, when Savic went to the nearby forest to do her business, but then mistakenly returned to the wrong trench. She realized that she was among 23 Bulgarian soldiers including officers, and she decided to do the most rational thing in that situation: just capture them all. Which she did. Again, you can imagine their confusion.
It's important to point out that by then Savic's superiors already knew she had lady parts. But she had previously managed to fight through the whole First Balkan War and attain the rank of corporal without anyone discovering she was a woman (only after she was wounded in the chest and taken to a field hospital did her secret come out).
"You need to go do some pushups or something because your pecs are flabby as hell."
Now, at the time, this was as monocle-droppingly unorthodox as you could get, so it was quickly decided that Savic must leave the army and become a nurse. Deciding that that would really cut into her Enemy Stabbin' time, she refused the offer and stubbornly waited in front of her superiors' building until they let her fight. They caved in about an hour later, allowing Savic to eventually become the most-decorated female combatant in the entire history of warfare.
In her career Savic was wounded a total of nine times -- everything from bullet wounds to shrapnel to the head -- and earned top military decorations from France, Russia, the U.K., and Serbia. Oh, and after the war she also managed to raise a daughter and three war orphans.
And survived 10 months in a Nazi concentration camp.
The Sniperest Sniper to Ever Snipe
Who Was He?
Simo Hayha had a fairly boring life in Finland. He served his one mandatory year in the military, and then became a farmer. But when the Soviet Union invaded his homeland in 1939, he decided he wanted to help his country.
Since the majority of fighting took place in the forest, he figured the best way to stop the invasion was to grab his trusty rifle, a couple of cans of food and hide in a tree all day shooting Russians. In six feet of snow. And 20 to 40 degrees below zero.
Can you spot Hayha? Neither could the Russians.
Of course when the Russians heard that dozens of their men were going down and that it was all one dude with a rifle, they got fucking scared. He became known as "The White Death" because of his white camouflage outfit, and they actually mounted whole missions just to kill that one guy.
They started by sending out a task force to find Hayha and take him out. He killed them all.
Then they tried getting together a team of counter-snipers (which are basically snipers that kill snipers) and sent them in to eliminate Hayha. He killed all of them, too.
Over the course of 100 days, Hayha killed 542 people with his rifle. He took out another 150 or so with his SMG, sending his credited kill-count up to 705.
Since everyone they had was either too dead or too scared to go anywhere near him, the Russians just carpet-bombed everywhere they thought he might be. Supposedly, they had the location right, and he actually got hit by a cloud of shrapnel that tore his coat up, but didn't actually hurt him, because he's the fucking White Death, damn it.
Finally on March 6, 1940, some lucky bastard shot Hayha in the head with an exploding bullet. When some other soldiers found him and brought him back to base, he "had half his head missing." The White Death had finally been stopped ...
... for about a week. In spite of having come down with a nasty case of shot-in-the-face syndrome, he was still very much alive, and regained consciousness on March 13, the very day the war ended.
The Best Hollywood Could Come Up With:
Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) from Shooter:
In Shooter, Mark Wahlberg plays a reclusive, worn-out ex-sniper trying to escape the ghosts of his past. Bob Lee is called in by the FBI who want to know if he (hypothetically) wanted to murder, let's say, the president, how would he (hypothetically) do it? They claim that he's "the best there is" because after years of training with long-distance shooting, he successfully killed 70 men in the desert with one of these:
Why It Doesn't Compare:
Aside from the obvious fact that Hayha killed over 10 times as many men after only the most basic military training, he did it in 40-below weather, in the middle of the forest. And he did it all with one of these: