There are men and then there are men! You know the guys. They’re the type who can fix a car motor with some bubble gum and a straw. During war time they wade into an enemy trench with only a knife and come out none the worse for wear. We hear the stories, a friend of a friend who knows someone who was run over by a semi-truck and lived. They sound like fictional characters, but there’s truth in some of these tales. Some men have lived and nearly died in ways that we can only dream about. They’ve fought in wars, danced with death, performed acts of miraculous heroism and lived to tell the tale. Here are nine men and one woman who are more bad-ass than Rambo ever was.
10 Simo Hayha
He was nicknamed, “The White Death.” Simo was a Finnish sniper that pretty much made life a living hell for Soviet soldiers during World War II. During the Winter War of 1939-40 Simo helped repel Soviet invaders the only way he knew how – by shooting them from a great distance. Over the course of only 100 days Simo recorded 505 kills, all confirmed. The Russians, so flummoxed, sent in counter-snipers and shot artillery at Simo, but they couldn’t stop him. Eventually Simo was shot in the face by a Russian soldier. When they found him, Simo was comatose and half his cheek was missing, but he refused to die. He awoke and went on to live a full life breeding dogs and hunting moose. When he was asked how he got so good at shooting Simo delivered the biggest understatement in the history of mankind when he said, “practice.”
9 Samuel Whittemore
Whittemore was a true patriot, and like many he gladly fought for his freedom against the British during the Revolutionary War. They only difference between those men and Samuel was that Whittemore was 78 years old at the time. Prior to this Whittemore served as a private in King George’s War and aided in the capture of the Fort Louisburg in 1745. Some believe he also fought in the French and Indian War when he was 64. By the time most of us will be retired and living in Florida Whittemore was fighting in the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He also single-handedly killed three British soldiers in his fields with a rifle and his dueling pistols. For his efforts he was shot in the face, bayonetted, and left for dead. He refused to die, and in fact, fully recovered and lived until the ripe age of 98 when apparently God decided he couldn’t stand to see a 150-plus-year-old man fight in the Civil War.
8 “Mad Jack” Churchill
John Churchill had a motto, and that in itself is rather badass – because who has their own motto nowadays? Anyway, Churchill said, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” And “Mad Jack” lived up to his words. While lesser men used guns, “Mad Jack” used a bow and arrow and a sword to kill Nazis. That’s right he thought guns were for cowards. “Mad Jack” is the only soldier in World War II to have killed an enemy with a bow and arrow. Hell, the dude took his bagpipes into battle with him and once led a charge on an enemy position while playing them, and he was the only one to survive the effort! He also infiltrated Sicily and captured 42 dudes and a mortar team. While most wanted the war to end Churchill thought otherwise, saying, “If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another ten years.”
7 Bhanbhagta Gurung
The British awarded Bhanbhagta the Victorian Cross for his efforts in World War II. What did he do that was so special? Well, he saved his entire company from an enemy sniper by calmly standing up and shooting him while his unit was pinned down. Not finished, he then rushed an enemy foxhole to grenade it (without orders, and alone) then leaped over to the next foxhole (where we assume the two Japanese soldiers inside were in utter disbelief) and bayonetted them to death. Propelled on by his success, he continued on to two more foxholes killing enemies with grenades and bayonets. Oh, did we mention during all this there was a torrent of machine gun fire raining down on him and his comrades from a machine gun bunker? No problem, Bhanbhagta went from foxhole to bunker, leaping on the roof, throwing grenades into the bunker then rushing in and capturing the final Japanese soldier.
6 Agustina of Aragon
Agustina was en route to the fort to deliver apples to the Spanish soldiers during the Spanish War of Independence when she found them fleeing in the face of a French attack. She ran ahead and manned the cannons, shaming the soldiers so badly they must have felt compelled to return to the fight. With her assistance they drove off the French. She was eventually captured, but escaped and became a leader of a band of guerilla fighters. She even served as a battery commander in the Battle of Vitoria. They called her the Spanish Joan of Arc, and it was a well-deserved honor.
5 John Fairfax
When he was 9 years old John Fairfax settled a dispute – with a pistol. He was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for firing on another group with a firearm. At 13 he ran away to live like Tarzan in the Amazon jungle. When he was 20 he decided to commit suicide – by jaguar! He did bring a pistol with him in case he changed his mind, which he did, and he subsequently shot and skinned the animal. He spent three years as a pirate after trying to bike and hitchhike across South America. Then when it was all said and done he rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and later the Pacific in tandem with another.
4 Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto was a sword saint, a kensai warrior in Japan during the late 16th and early 17th century. He fought his first duel when he was 13 years old. Apparently he enjoyed it, because he spent his life wandering around the countryside fighting people. In the end he fought and won over 60 duels. He trained at the Yoshioka ryu school and later came back and destroyed it – because he could I guess. And he once fought a rather famous duel against Sasaki Kojiro – a renowned sword-master who used a two-handed sword. Apparently that didn’t intimidate Miyamoto because he beat Sasaki with a little wooden staff he carved on the way to the duel. Eventually Miyamoto became ill and retired to a cave, where he died. He was found kneeling with his sword across his lap.
3 Dr. Leonid Rogozov
Dr. Leonid Rogozov was serving on Antarctica in 1961 when he developed peritonitis. The next closest surgeon able to remove an appendix was over a thousand miles away, and a massive blizzard was en route. If the appendix didn’t come out soon he would die. With no other option he decided the best course of action would be to remove it himself. Rogozov used a mirror, some novocaine, a scaple and two untrained assistants and cut himself open. It took two hours, and balls of steel, but the appendectomy was successful. Rogozov was eventually awarded the Red Banner of Labour by the Soviet Union, because you have to give the guy something when he cuts himself open and takes out a major organ.
2 Adrian Carton de Wiart
You might think you’re tough, but compared to Adrain Carton de Wiart you’re a puddle of gooey man-flesh. Adrian fought in three wars, including the Boer War, World War I, and of course World War II. He survived two plane crashes and was shot in the head, face, stomach, ankle, hip, leg and ear. He was captured during World War II and managed five escape attempts from his POW camp. He was eventually successful when he tunneled out of prison and evaded capture for eight days by posing as an Italian peasant. Did we mention he was 61 years old, couldn’t speak Italian, and had an eye-patch and a missing arm? Oh, then there’s this whole business about the doctors refusing to amputate Adrain’s fingers so he did the logical thing – and bit them off. After World War I de Wiart wrote, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.” I would say so.
1 Hugh Glass
In 1823, while hunting game along the Grand River with his fellow trappers, Glass ran afoul with a mother grizzly bear and her cubs. Caught without his rifle in hand the bear shredded Glass to pieces, raking his face, chest, arms and back. Amazingly, Glass was able to fend her off with only his hunting knife. Unfortunately, they were in hostile Indian territory, and Glass was so wounded his fellow trappers could do nothing but cover his dying corpse and leave him behind. But Glass didn’t die. He regained consciousness, set his own broken leg, wrapped himself in a bear hide and began crawling along the river bank. Glass has his setbacks. At one point he had to collect maggots from a rotting log to eat at the dead flesh in his leg to ward off gangrene. He had to kill and eat snakes to sustain himself. But six weeks (six weeks!) later he reached civilization, alive and well.