Historic Acts Of Epic Revenge
There's a reason most movies that feature "turning the other cheek" are porn. Revenge sells better than forgiveness. When a supervillain kills your spouse and banishes your children to the spider dimension, it doesn't make for a very good film if you just move to the forest and think about stuff quietly for a few years. Of course, in real life, few people are determined enough to actually draft insane, Tarantino-style revenge schemes and unleash them on the world.
Namely, these few people.
Mariya Oktyabrskaya Avenges Her Husband By Buying A Tank And Terrorizing Nazis
In 1943, Soviet housewife Mariya Oktyabrskaya got a letter from the military informing her that her husband had died in the Battle of Kiev two years earlier. Mariya didn't shed any tears over her loss. The only thing she wanted to shed was Nazi blood. So she sold all her belongings and contacted the military with an offer: She would honor her husband's memory by buying them a brand new T-34 tank to wreck Nazi shit.
She had one stipulation: She would be the one driving it.
It's a sitcom-worthy setup, but Mariya intended to be the only one laughing.
The State Committee of Defense smelled a juicy propaganda stunt and agreed. After a few months of training, 38-year-old Mariya rolled onto the battlefield in her personal tank, which she had named the Fighting Girlfriend.
Motto: "No, really, I'm fine."
Male officers initially suspected that her vagina would impair her tank skills. However, they soon learned never to express doubt in an angry woman controlling several tons of mechanized death, as they witnessed her tear through the Second Battle of Smolensk at the head of her unit, leaving a cloud of smoke and Nazi bits in her wake. She handled her tank like a veteran, driving headfirst into enemy fire and tearing through the opposition with ease. A few weeks later in another battle, a German shell broke her tank's tracks and the Fighting Girlfriend got separated from the rest of the unit. She and her crew jumped out of the tank and started repairing it in the middle of the battle, keeping the enemy at bay with their guns.
Meanwhile, you can't change your windshield wiper fluid.
Presumably, the Fighting Girlfriend would have singlehandedly won the war and would still be rampaging across Germany today, had an errant piece of shrapnel not knocked Mariya Oktyabrskaya down in the March of 1944 while she was once again fixing the tank in the middle of a battle. She succumbed to the wound two months later, and by October she was elevated to the status of Hero of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a pretty rough place; you generally don't survive the "hero-making" process.
Eliahu Itzkovitz Tracks Down And Befriends His Family's Killer, Then Executes Him
In Gangs Of New York, a young man tracks down his father's murderer, becomes friends with him, and eventually reveals his true intentions to kill the guy. It's not a far-flung idea: During World War II, young Eliahu Itzkovitz saw his entire family murdered by a Romanian guard in the Chisinau Ghetto, and later did much the same thing to said guard.
All Itzkovitz knew of his nemesis was his face and last name -- Stanescu. Yet he nursed his hatred for the better part of a decade, until fate finally recognized the makings of a good action movie. While serving in the Israeli Army in 1953, Itzkovitz learned that Stanescu had joined the French Foreign Legion and was somewhere in Indochina. Realizing this was his shot at revenge, Itzkovitz went into full Batman Mode. He arranged a transfer to the Israeli Navy, only to desert in Italy. He made his way to Algeria, joined the Legion, and went through their insanely rigorous training. Yes, he trekked through half the world and joined the goddamned Foreign Legion based on nothing but a vague rumor that Stanescu was there. That's dedication.
Calling ahead to confirm didn't gel with the whole "revenge quest" vibe.
Having completed his training (and gaining lots of handy murder skills in the process), Itzkovitz managed to get deployed in Vietnam, where he told his commanders that he should be stationed in Stanescu's unit because he had history with the man. The commanders failed to register the ominous thunderclap after those words, assumed they were friends, and accepted. And so Itzkovitz found himself sleeping in a tent next to the man who murdered his family.
"Eliahu must really care about his equipment. Every time I see him, he's outside my tent, sharpening a knife."
Stanescu didn't recognize Itzkovitz, which the latter used to his advantage by becoming one of his most trusted comrades. Soon, they were laughing, bonding, and volunteering for patrols together. Finally, during an ambush by Viet Minh forces one day, Itkovitz's chance came: They were separated from the rest of their squad, and took cover in the mud.
"Stanescu," Itzkovitz called out, "I'm one of the Jews from Chisinau!"
It's ... not the best vengeful one-liner, but we imagine it got the point across. If it didn't, the fact that Itzkovitz's followup action was to empty his Tommy gun into Stanescu's chest definitely did.
He thought speaking in bullets was better than a pun. We tend to agree.
Stanescu's death was pinned on the enemy. Itzkovitz served the remainder of his Foreign Legion stint and returned to Israel, where he was immediately slapped with a desertion charge. However, upon learning his story, the court gave him the lightest possible repercussions they could get away with (one year in prison), presumably because they didn't want to be the villains in the sequel.
Leonarda Emilia Was A Boob-Flashing Vengeance Vigilante
During the Franco-Mexican War, Leonarda Emilia, a simple girl from a small village in Queretaro, pulled a Romeo And Juliet by falling for a dashing French soldier. Unfortunately, the soldier was captured and sentenced to face the firing squad. Leonarda's desperate pleas for clemency went ignored.
Heartbroken and frankly pissed off, Leonarda decided to lash back at the society that had taken away her true love by transforming herself into an outlaw vigilante called La Carambada -- "The Amazing Lady." It was a bold name, but she had the moves to back it up: she was great on horseback, she could use guns, and she was skilled with a machete. And while she wore baggy men's clothing for work, she was not above rubbing extra salt in her victim's wounds by showing some boob and pointing out that not only had the victim been robbed, the deed was done by a woman. As insults go in a 19th-century macho culture, it was probably a pretty effective one.
"Keep 'em to yourselves, ladies. Fool me twice, shame on me."
However, flashing-themed highway robbery may have been just one part of La Carambada's agenda to get back at the system. Some say that she even managed to get back at the very government by poisoning governor Benito Zenea and president Benito Suarez, both of whom had ignored her appeals to save her man's life -- and both of whom unexpectedly died within a short span of time in 1872.
La Carambada is seen as a Robin Hood figure who robbed the rich, killed the corrupt, and exchanged more gunfire with government forces than a war movie. Sadly, her actual story ended in 1873. After three years in the bandit business, she was tracked down to the state of Guanajuato, where a shootout erupted. La Carambada was wounded, and died in custody after confessing her story to a priest, who somehow resisted the urge to turn it into a bitchin' comic book.
Way to drop the ball, padre. Nolan could be halfway through the Dark Bandita trilogy by now.
Henry Berry Lowry Becomes An Anti-Racist Robin Hood
Being a nonwhite person in North Carolina circa the mid-1800s was no picnic. Despite being fairly well off, members of Henry Berry Lowry's family, who were Lumbees, were familiar with this. James Brantly Harris, a notoriously rowdy Confederate Home Guard officer, got fresh with the Lumbee ladies and wound up dead, courtesy of Henry and his friends. Henry and his gang fled into the swamps, so Harris' cohorts executed Henry's father and brother instead. Henry watched the shooting from his hideout, seething with grief and rage. Now an outlaw with nothing left to lose, Henry was determined to answer the various injustices he and his kin had suffered with ... war.
Which was sort of the style in North Carolina at the time.
Gathering an ethnically-diverse Benetton ad of a gang around him, Henry spent the next seven years waging guerrilla war on ... racism, basically. Given that this was Civil-War-era North Carolina, this gave him plenty of targets. He fought, robbed, and killed plantation owners and notables. He openly warred against the Ku Klux Klan, and gave a spirited shot at killing every lawman trying to arrest him. What's more, Henry both took from the rich and gave to the poor. This made him a popular, if polarizing figure: Republicans, poor whites, and invariably poor nonwhites painted him as Robin Hood, Rambo, and Jesus combined. Meanwhile, the Democrats and the wealthy saw Lowry more like the bastard son of Anton Chigurh and Hitler.
Except with much, much better hair choices.
For years, Lowry's swamp outlaws made front page news across the country. Then, in 1872, he disappeared after robbing a local sheriff's office. Despite the massive bounty on his head, no one ever found him. Some say he's still out there, beating up people who practice unfair hiring practices and distributing their 401ks to the needy.
What? We say that. We count as "some."
Real Inglourious Basterds Crews Used To Hunt Nazi War Criminals
Inglourious Basterds was actually based on true events (uh, minus the whole Hitler-killing part), and there was a real Nazi-hunting special force running around at the end of World War II. They operated until 1960 and eliminated hundreds of escaped Nazis. Somewhere, Quentin Tarantino is high-fiving the coke hallucination that give hims all his ideas.
It was about time his muse coughed up something besides samurai swords and skinny black ties.
As the war ended, a number of Jews realized that a huge number of Nazi war criminals would be left unpunished. So a bunch of them started delivering their own brand of justice, Avengers-style. No, seriously, they called themselves "Avengers." They devoted themselves to tracking down unpunished Nazis, especially high-ranking SS officers who were never prosecuted for their crimes.
Masquerading as military police, small crews of Avengers "arrested" these targets from their hideouts, only to take them to a secure location and, uh, finish the job. Their methods varied from the common strangling, hanging, and hit-and-runs to the occasional kerosene injection. In 1946, they even managed to make 1,900 former SS in a POW camp violently sick by lacing their bread with arsenic, while taking care not to poison their guards.
Point: That's not exactly legal treatment of POWs. Counterpoint: Fuck Nazis.
Unfortunately, just like their Marvel counterparts, the Avengers had their internal conflicts. In 1946, Avenger Abba Kovner went rogue and formed a plan to poison German water reservoirs, wanting to kill six million Germans for the six million Jews that perished in the Holocaust. The British military caught him, and it's likely Kovner's own crew tipped them off. The old "eye for an eye" adage starts to sound kind of insane when it's "twelve million eyes for twelve million eyes."
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For more things that aren't new, check out The 6 Most Hilariously Creative Acts Of Revenge and 6 Historic Acts Of Revenge That Put 'Kill Bill' To Shame.
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