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Dick Winters
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"When he said 'Let's go,' he was right in the front.  He was never in the back.  A leader personified."

- Sgt. William "Wild Bill" Guarnere


I haven't really been super subtle about the fact that stumbling across the Band of Brothers miniseries on TV arouses an emotion on me that is probably not too dissimilar from the feeling an eight year-old girl might get while riding a pink fluffy unicorn under a double rainbow and eating a Rocky Road ice cream cone with sprinkles made from magical dolphin tears.  The epic tale of hardass American paratroopers doing stuff in Europe goes right up there with Starship Troopers and Dirty Harry on the list of towering cinematic masterpieces of awesomeness that I could watch on an endless loop every waking moment for the rest of my life and still die a happy man and totally not bored at all, and it's one of those things that I compulsively watch any time I see it on television.  (The book is incredibly powerful as well, of course, but since they don't run back-to-back book marathons on the History channel at three in the morning I don't usually delve into it as often as I do the miniseries.)

However, despite my intense love of all things Easy (heh heh), I've yet to do a write-up on the hero of the story, Major Richard "Dick" Winters – a man so unequivocally, ass-crushingly hard-as-fuck that mentioning him on a website about badasses seemed more like an inevitable formality than some wild, startling revelation uncovering the unsung heroes of American military history.  However, with the good Major's passing two weeks ago – and the subsequent electronic landslide of mail that coated my inbox shortly thereafter – I realize that I cannot in good conscience leave this man off the list any longer.  Major Dick Winters was an incredible war hero, and while I might not be able to do his story the same kind of justice that Stephen Ambrose did, I can at least make damn sure that he's included on a list of badass military skull-crushers.


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Dick Winters was born on January 21, 1918, in a small town outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In 1941, after it became pretty obvious to everybody on this side of the pond that we were going to need to take a little boat ride across the Atlantic and regulate on some Germans Nate Dogg style, Winters enlisted in the Army in 1941. As a man who never half-assed anything in his life, Winters asked to be put into the Airborne service – the most elite and hardcore troops the Army had – and after passing through jump school went immediately to Officer Candidate School, busted his ass, and took over as a Second Lieutenant in E Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He immediately proved himself as a natural leader to the men – he had the perfect blend of skills that meant he could be totally awesome without also putting up with any of their bullshit. Before this guy had even shipped out to the battlefield, Winters was promoted to First Lieutenant, and he was so beloved by the troops that when his dickhead commanding officer started shit with him the sergeants in the unit told the battalion commander that they would rather hand in their stripes than see Winters get dicked around by some incompetent douchebag company commander who was barely qualified to identify the difference between enfilade fire and a Jeep Wrangler full of drunk Utahraptors with sunglasses on their heads and Hawaiian leis around their necks. The battalion commander was happy to take the Sergeants' stripes away from them, surs, but he also booted Winters' CO out of the company as well. It was kind of a minor victory for everybody, except of course the deposed commander, but don't feel too badly for the guy – he was such a douchebag that they had to get David Schwimmer to play him in the movie of his life, and that should probably tell you all you need to know.

Easy Company's first combat operation was a pretty serious little skirmish called Operation Overlord, where a little over a million men from a dozen different countries stormed the beaches of Normandy and ran full-speed in the direction of an army of heavily-entrenched German machine gun nests manned my men with nothing better to do than rake the entire ocean with one continuous stream of heavy weapons fire. The night before the invasion, Winters' unit was flown over the beach head under the cover of darkness, where they got to jump out of the side of a cargo plane while enemy artillery launched as much shrapnel as possible into the sky. The operation didn't start out great for Lieutenant Winters. After getting pelted with flak for 10 miles and slowly floating down through a hail of pointy metal on a parachute, Winters landed in hostile territory to discover that he'd lost his gun during the drop and could only track down 13 men from his unit. Oh, and the company commander's plane had crashed, killing everyone on board, so Winters was now the new commander of the unit. Good luck with that, buddy.


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"Captain Clarence Hester turns to me and says:  'There's fire along that hedgerow there. Take care of it.'  That was it . There was no elaborate plan or briefing.  I didn't even know what was on the other side of the hedgerow.  All I had were my instructions, and I had to quickly develop a plan from there.  And as it turns out, I did."

No problem. Winters relied on his training and his instincts, and somehow managed to keep his cool, survive through the night, organize his men into a cohesive fighting force, battle a few patrols of Germans, and regroup with the main force of paratroopers. But there was no rest for the weary – upon reaching paratrooper command was immediately ordered to assault a group of artillery beyond a nearby hedgerow – four 150mm heavy guns that were causing quite a bit of trouble with all of their annoying "hey let's lob a ton of exploding shells half a foot in length onto the guys who are storming the beaches" business, and someone arbitrarily decided that Winters was just the guy to put those bastards out of everyone's misery. Despite still having only 13 men to attack 50 Germans in entrenched positions, Winters didn't even flinch. He had one squad lay down covering fire with machine guns while he and a second squad ran from trench to trench capping fuckers apart and punching people in the face with brass knuckles. Despite getting shot in the leg while leading the charge, Winters barely even slowed down in his mad rampage of German-dismantling carnage, pretty much tearing the guns apart with his bare hands and then using the bend-to-shit howtizer barrels to club Nazis until their heads popped off, rolled down a hill, and knocked down a series of bowling pins Winters had strategically placed at the bottom of the hill. Winters not only successfully took the guns with just 13 men (losing only one man in the process) and ended the artillery bombardment on Utah Beach, but his first coordinated military action against the enemy was so fucking mind-blowing that to this day the cadets at West Point study it as the perfect example of how to assault fixed point defenses. Oh, and he also captured a detailed map of the German defenses surrounding the beach, which was kind of a useful thing for the American commanders to have. Not a lot of officers out there are awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and a place in American military lore for actions performed during their first combat maneuver, but then again Dick Winters wasn't like a lot of officers out there.

After helping capture the Nazi-infested town of Carentan during the Normandy Campaign, Winters returned to England and was re-deployed during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Parachuting deep behind enemy lines, surrounded on all sides, and spread out over a ridiculous area still wasn't enough to make Winters feel anything remotely resembling fear or hesitation, and it was while he was re-decorating the windmills of Holland with the insides of Fascist infantrymen Dick Winters accomplished yet another towering act of military awesomeness. One day, while he was out doing some recon and assaulting a bunch of entrenched German machine gun nests, Winters accidentally came across a huge unit of battle-hardened SS infantry hiding behind a dike waiting to ambush the Allied flank. Despite only having 35 men with him and staring down over 300 of Germany's most elite soldiers, Winters once again set aside the numbers game and went completely balls-out – he got pumped up out of his fucking mind, charged on foot across a huge open field (at the head of his formation), got around beside the Germans, and opened fire on them from the flank, pinning them up against the dike and giving them no chance to escape. When he got bored of watching his men gun down the SS, Winters radioed in some artillery and blasted everything out of existence. He lost one man dead, 22 wounded (a 66% casualty rate for his platoon). He destroyed two full companies of German infantry – over 300 guys.


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"As I leap off and begin the charge I am pretty pumped up... I ran faster across the field separating us from the Germans than I have ever run in my life... When I got up to the road where the Germans were, there was a German in front of me, so I shot him.  I then turn to my right, and there I see a whole company of Germans.  I began firing into them... We had caught two companies of SS soldiers pinned to the dike, and as they retreated we poured fire into them, and then I called in artillery fire.  We destroyed those two companies."

Winters went on to serve as the battalion's executive officer during the Battle of the Bulge in December, where he dug in to the town of Bastogne (a crucial key point blocking the Germans from breaking through Allied lines) and helped inspire the badass men of the 101stAirborne to basically single-handedly withstand a coordinated attack from 15 German SS divisions during over a week of non-stop fighting in the freezing cold winter. After that, he led his men to capture Hitler's summer home – the Eagle's Nest, and it was kind of fitting that after he helped stick a fork in Hitler he went to Hitler's house and stole some of his silver forks. The war ended a few days later. During nearly a year of almost incessant combat, Easy Company sustained 150% casualties, but Dick Winters had managed to lead them from beginning to end.

After the war, Winters went back to PA, married his girlfriend, trained Army Rangers at Fort Dix during the Korean Conflict, and continued being awesome. When he wasn't running his own company or having his life story turned into an Emmy Award-winning miniseries, he gave guest lecturers at West Point during their bi-annually offered "How to Be Fucking Hardcore 101" class. He died on 2 January 2011 at the age of 93.


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"How do you get the respect of the men?  By living with them, being a part of it, being able to understand what they are going through and not to separate yourself from them.  You have to know your men.  You have to gain their confidence.  And the way to gain the confidence of anybody, whether it's in war or civilian life or whatever, you must be honest.  Be honest, be fair and be consistent.  You can't be honest and fair one day, and the next give your people the short end of the stick."

  • Thank You 6

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Badass of the Week.

SEAL Team Six

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Considering the fact that in one 24-hour period I received over a hundred emails regarding the events of last Sunday, I realize that it would be completely irresponsible of me as the operator of this website to not spend today writing about the most balls-out commando special black ops raid of our generation - a daring assault that took down the world's most universally-despised madman since Adolph Hitler.  And, since the details behind this utterly hardcore attack on the planet's most notorious terrorist might never fully be made available to the public, I figure it's about as good a week as any to talk more generaly about the elite group of American badasses that pretty much everyone is convinced carried this op out – SEAL Team Six, the elite counter-terrorism unit of the United States military, and a group of shit-kicking counter-terrorist hardasses who spend their nine-to-five day jobs training to be an ultra-efficient cross-breed between Jack Bauer, Colonel James Braddock, and Jason effing Bourne.

The now-legendary Team Six was formed in October 1980, in direct reaction to the clusterfuck of epic proportions that resulted when the Americans tried to rescue a group of civilians who had been taken hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Iran and failed so miserably that the Joint Chiefs decided, fuck it, we need to put together a team of guys whose only job is to kick terrorists in the scrotum until they cough up their marbles and then force-feed their own marbles back to them.  Team Six was actually just the third SEAL team formed by the U.S. Navy, but the Admirals gave them number six because it's a much cooler number than three, and also because it might confuse the Soviets into thinking that we had way more of these guys than we actually did.  Interestingly, the unit doesn't go by Team Six anymore, instead calling itself DevGroup or DEVGRU, which is short for "Development Group" or something equally boring and innocuous.  The rationale behind changing the name to something that sounds like a financial consulting firm or a team of overworked video game designers was basically just so that nowadays high-ranking Admirals can honestly stand in front of TV cameras and say shit like, "There's no such thing as SEAL Team Six," without lying.  While I can understand and appreciate the whole "plausible deniability" thing, I should also mention that I have absolutely no intention of referring to a company of terrorist-eviscerating asskickers as The Development Group for the purposes of this article.

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Fast-roping from a helicopter onto a speedboat, to most people, is "extreme sports".

To the SEALs, it's "a training exercise".

The general consensus is that we basically know about only a miniscule percentage of the badass operations Team Six has carried out in its career saving the world from terrorists, communists, vampire Nazis, and god-knows whatever the hell else out there is trying to kill us, but the shit we know about is pretty much totally fucking awesome.  Commanded in the early days by Richard Marcinko (a man I intend to cover in much more detail in a later Badass of the Week article), Six's first operation was to parachute into a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico in the middle of the night, attack a terrorist camp, and recover a portable nuclear device from the clutches of a group of madmen.  Now, if that's the sort of shit these guys were doing on their first mission, you can only imagine where it goes from there.  Like, for instance, in 1985 thirteen SEALs from Team Six rescued Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon when he and nine members of his staff were taken hostage in his mansion in Grenada.  Six briefly made tennis a badass sport, fast-roping down onto Scoon's tennis court from a helicopter while the Grenadan army shot machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons at them.  The operatives, completely unfazed by staring death in the face while suspended in mid air from a rope, charged ahead and freed the Queen's Representative on Grenada by storming the mansion and clearing it of enemy troops with a dickload of bullets and concussion grenades.  After securing the hostages, the SEALs, realizing they were cut off from extraction, then proceeded to hold the position against a full-on counter attack by basically the entire fucking Grenadan army.  These 13 dudes held the position, staring down tanks, APCs and grenade launchers with little more than sniper rifles and small arms.  Not only did Scoon get out safely, but all 13 SEAL team members survived, and none of the hostages were killed.

Their operational record only gets more impressive.  In 1989, Team Six worked with Delta Force to capture notorious criminal drug lord Manuel Noriega from the jungles of Panama.  In the days before Desert Storm they swam around in SCUBA gear disarming anti-ship mines in the Persian Gulf, and then when the war started they were fast-roping onto Kuwaiti oil platforms, wiping out the Iraqi defenders and re-taking the positions before the enemy could set fire to them.  In the late 90s ST6 searched for war criminals in Bosnia.  In 2009 they freed an American crew taken prisoner by Somali pirates in a manner so fucking badass that it belongs in an action movie:  A team of SEAL Team Six snipers simultaneously coordinated three long-range shots from the rocking deck of one ship to another – the first two popped the heads off a pair of pirates patrolling the upper decks, and the third shot went through a porthole window and drilled a pirate who was holding the American ship's captain at gunpoint with an AK-47, killing the scurvy scalawag before he could pull the trigger.

(As a weird side note, SEAL Team Six has also worked as a security force for every Olympic Games since 1984.  This seems like overkill, but hey, if you're going to station Colonel John Matrix as a mall security guard outside the fucking food court, you can be damn sure that's the safest Panda Express in the known universe.)

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"Excuse me, sir, if you don't have your ticket for the 100-meter freestyle

I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Another thing we know for certain about the SEALs in general – and particularly Team Six – is that their training process is fucking brutal.  To put this in perspective, 80% of the people privileged enough to be admitted to SEAL Training wash out before making it through.  If four out of every five of the toughest badasses in the U.S. military can't hack it, you can only assume that the demands this training put on you basically border on the inhuman.  A typical day might involve running a few dozen miles through wet sand, swimming an ungodly distance through the ocean during high tide, and then coming back to camp, sparring your classmates in underwater hand-to-hand combat training, and then, when you're beat to shit and so damned exhausted you can barely breathe, your instructors tie your legs together, tie your hands behind your back, and throw you in the deep end of the swimming pool as part of "underwater survival training".

If you're one of the 20% lucky enough to make it through SEAL School, you can look forward to an even more insane series of physical tortures designed to make you a Beast Mode killing machine capable of annihilating anything on two legs in the time it takes most people to chomp down a piece of the Colonel's Spicy Chicken.  Summers are spent parachuting into the Arizona desert and living off the land for a week.  Winters are in Kodiak Alaska, where you are deployed via submarine, swim a couple miles through freezing water, and then march a few hundred miles through sub-zero temperatures with nothing more than a compass and a combat knife to keep you warm. It's the sort of shit that would kill most normal people, but by the time it's all done you've got a hardcore team of motherfucking asskickers ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 4 hours for whatever ship-boarding, hostage-rescuing, amphibious-assaulting counter-terrorism operations even the most demented enemy of humanity could imagine.

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The big difference between "SEAL training" and "Attempted Homicide"

is that with an attempted homicide you don't expect the guy to survive and escape.

 

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"We all knew there was just one way to improve our odds for survival: train, train, train.

Sometimes, if your training is properly intense it will kill you.

More often -- much, much more often -- it will save your life."

 

- Richard Marcinko

Considering the fact that I went completely overboard with a couple-thousand-word background describing why these guys are easily one of the history's most over-the-top badass military organizations, you can understand why when it came time to go in after the FBI's most wanted terrorist these were the guys who got called in to do the job.

Now, I'm not going to completely go off on a tirade about Osama Bin Laden.  I think that there's something to be said for having a little respect for the recently deceased, even when the warm corpse in question is a man who made it his goal in life to utterly destroy you, your family, your dog, and everything you love.  Honestly, his career started off respectably enough, serving as a Mujahedeen freedom fighter battling against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, but after the Communists were beaten back, Osama quickly gear-shifted from "hey let's throw the invading Soviets out of our homeland Red Dawn style" to "hey fuck it let's have a complete jihad against everyone all the time," and everything went downhill from there.  Bin Laden joined up with radical terrorist groups (and I mean radical here as a synonym for "psycho extremist" and not "totally awesome"), where he went on to orchestrate a lot of totally not-badass things like truck bombings, suicide attacks, and assassinations of Egyptian parliamentarians, all with the aim of furthering his political agenda not through democratic means, but instead by killing innocent civilians until people decided to submit to his will.  This rarely works.  So, when his part in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center got him disowned by his family and stripped of his Saudi citizenship, Bin Laden went to Afghanistan, founded al-Qaeda, befriended the Taliban, and basically declared war on the U.S., Israel, and everything else in the world.  In 1998 he was behind bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, in 2000 a suicide bomber under his command killed 17 sailors aboard the USS Cole (something the SEALs probably didn't take lightly), and in 2001 he was the mastermind behind the greatest single loss of life on American soil since the Civil War.

This aggression would not stand, man.

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So, over the course of the last couple years, the CIA, Special Forces, Delta, and a guy named Admiral McRaven (perhaps the more badass, more accomplished cousin of Mayor McCheese?) tracked Bin Laden to Abbottabad, Pakistan – a quiet, middle-class neighborhood 75 miles from Islamabad and less than a mile from Pakistan's top military academy.  He was holed up in an acre-wide compound surrounded by walls 12 feet high and over a foot thick.  The compound's main structure was a two-story, fortified building with plenty of possible sniper perches and defensive positions.  Obama thought about ordering a bombing raid, but that was deemed too messy, too imprecise, and too potentially dangerous to the nearby civilian population.  This was going to have to be surgical.  This was going to need the delicate, loving touch that only SEAL Team Six could provide.

So, around 1am on May 1st, 2011, a couple black helicopters (possibly of some crazy Stealth variety nobody's ever heard of before, only further illustrating the fact that these guys get the coolest Batman-style shit out there) swooped in from a base in Afghanistan, and SEAL operators fast-roped down, possibly alongside an insane commando dog.  Nearby Twitter fiends heard a series of large explosions (possibly flashbang grenades), as the SEALs went over the twelve-foot wall and assaulted the lair of the world's foremost terrorist.

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"I am a person who loves death.  The Americans love life.

I will engage them and fight.  I will not surrender.

If I am to die, I would like to be killed by the bullet."

 

- Osama Bin Laden

It took forty minutes.  SEAL Team Six, in and out, all Tangos dead, no SEAL casualties, and the only civilian killed was a woman who was being used as a human shield by one of the terrorists.  Even technical problems didn't stop these guys from getting the hell out of there before the Pakistani security forces arrived – one of the SEAL helicopters went down in the attack, either from mechanical failure or some kind of aerodynamic weirdness, but these guy blew that shit up, loaded into the other chopper, and peeled ass out of there before anybody knew what the fuck was going on.

We probably won't ever know the truth about the men who performed this raid, the details of the mission, or any of the other insane black ops shit we're all dying to read about.  Aside from the whole "national security" thing, SEAL team operators are completely self-effacing, largely because revealing their identities might make them high-priority targets for terrorist attacks, but also because, like true badasses, they like to say they're just carrying out their orders.  It's a team effort, we all put work into it, we're just doing our jobs out there, blah blah blah. In the long run, however, this humility and mystery just serves to make these guys even more over-the-top hardcore.  It's like how Snake Eyes was always the coolest of the G.I. Joes because you didn't know dick about him except that he could disembowel tanks with a ninja sword and dual-wield Uzis, or like how everyone thought Boba Fett was a hell of a lot more awesome before we saw him running around as a pre-teen in the prequel trilogy.

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"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message:

No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."

 

- Barack Obama

Links:

 

TIME Magazine: On the Scene

 

TIME Magazine: Bin Laden Dead

 

Defense Briefing Transcript

 

NY Times: Finding Osama

 

Somali Pirate Rescue

Sources:

 

Bahmanyar, Mir.  US Navy Seals.  Osprey, 2005.

 

Fried-Perenchio, S., and Jennifer Walton.  SEAL: The Unspoken Sacrifice.  SFP Studio, 2009.

 

Lanning, Col. Michael Lee.  Blood Warriors.  Random House, 2002.

 

Marcinko, Richard.  Rogue Warrior.  Pocket, 1993.

 

Pushies, Fred J., et al.  U.S. Counter-Terrorist Forces.  Crestline, 2002.

 

Roberts, Craig and Charles W. Sasser.  Crosshairs on the Kill Zone.  Simon & Schuster, 2004.

  • Thank You 1

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Congrats to SEAL TEAM SIX
The most Badass Men walking the planet.............
 
 
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Jacqueline Cochran
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Jacqueline Cochran never shot down an enemy fighter in combat. She never engaged Luftwaffe bogies at twelve o'clock high, screamed over the treetops of North Vietnam while the tracer fire from Soviet MiGs zipped past her windshield, or told the Iceman that he could be her wingman any time. She did, however, do every other damn thing you can possibly do in an airplane, and she did it so fucking well that she's now recognized as one of the most badass women in aviation history. So, on the 58th anniversary of the date she became the first woman to break the sound barrier, here's her story.

While her later years would be spent obliterating all concepts of speed while rocking out in the cockpit of a wide variety of supersonic experimental jet aircraft, Cochran's early years were a lot less about torpedoing through the sky strapped to a rocket with wings and a lot more about chilling in the back woods living in extreme poverty. Jackie's father was a lumberjack living in rural Florida. Now, I had no idea that there were lumberjacks in the wilderness of Florida, but the only image that comes to mind when I think about that is some kind of ungodly mix between Paul Bunyan and those giant guys with tinted sunglasses who explode beer bottles on their foreheads at SEC football tailgating parties, and I can honestly say that this is the sort of man I hope I never have to encounter in an adversarial situation at any point in my life. Lumberjacking isn't really the sort of profession that requires a lot of academic background, and so, since her dad didn't really see the point, young Jackie got a total of two years of elementary school education before she was pulled out of grade school and put to work helping out around the home – a task that included stealing chickens from neighbors so that her family would have food on the table. When she was old enough (i.e. 12 years old or so), Cochran got a job working at a textile mill, doing whatever the hell women used to do in textile mills back in the early 1920s (I have a feeling it involves a shitload of hard work and is pretty light on the smoke breaks). By 14 she was married, by 15 she was a stay-at-home mother and housewife, and a few years after that her marriage inevitably fell apart and left her a single mom living on the outskirts of Pensacola, Florida.

Now, I'm certainly not going to talk shit about housewives, single moms, and/or Pensacola, but I also think most people can agree that this isn't exactly the sort of "she was abandoned in the woods and raised by wolves and then returned with a magical sword intent on slaying the evil king" origin story that you see with a lot of over-the-top badasses. Perhaps on some level, Jackie knew that. That's probably why, in 1929, with no real prospects and no education to speak of, the 23 year-old Cochran decided she wasn't going to sit around and put up with that bullshit any longer. She took her kid, moved from North Florida to New York City, changed her name from Bessie to Jacqueline, put herself through beauty school, and got a job working as a cosmetics girl in a prestigious department store on Fifth Avenue. While there, she fell in love and married a millionaire, which is a pretty awesome (if relatively easy) way to get out of a life of poverty I suppose, and just like that this unknown single mom from Florida had completely changed her entire life around in the span of like one calendar year. Immediately after seeing her first air show, Jackie went out and earned her pilot's license (a process that took her only 20 days), and started flying around the country selling a new line of cosmetics that she developed herself. Now that's a little more like it.


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Jackie's husband, by the way, was the CEO of something called the Atlas Corporation.
Whenever I read that, I just keep thinking about those talking vending machines in Borderlands.


Zipping from stop to stop in a biplane selling her shit was kind of a practical matter, but Cochran quickly determined that she totally fucking loved flying, and that she wanted to be seriously awesome at it. So she just started going out and trying a bunch of crazy-ass stunts in whatever aircraft she could get her hands on, including one time when she got a crappy little open-topped bi-plane up over 30,000 feet – well above the suggested ceiling for the aircraft she was piloting – and then had to think quick where her supplemental oxygen tube burst from the mad G's she was probably pulling and she suddenly found herself without a gas mask in altitudes where human beings really aren't supposed to be able to breathe.

Not only did something like "almost asphyxiating at 30,000 feet and then plummeting to earth like Wile E. Coyote" fail to slow her down, but this near-death experience actually got her even more pumped up to do insane shit in an airplane. Eventually she started entering flying in competitions, demonstrations, air shows, and races, going up against men and women alike in displays of speed, daring, and general balls-out-ery. Now the big race in the U.S. at this time was the Bendix Cross Country Air Race – an insane race that went from Los Angeles to Cleveland at speeds of over 250 miles an hour, but around this time the race was only open to men. Forget that. Jackie went out and worked with Amelia Earhart (who I've heard she totally hated, by the way... how's that for an awesome rivalry?) and these two now-prestigious aviatrixes (aviatrices?) convinced the organizers to open the race to women. The guys weren't happy about letting the girls play in the clubhouse, but in 1936 they finally relented and allowed women pilots to participate in the Bendix race, mostly for marketing and PR purposes. Two women won it the first year. Cochran won the race two years after that. She'd only been racing professionally for three years, and had only been flying a fucking airplane for a little over five.


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A few years later, some horrible shit started going down in Europe – namely, a little thing historians like to refer to as World War II. The Nazis overran Poland and France and were currently in the process of brutally hammering England with bombs, rockets, and aircraft, and even though the United States was still officially neutral in this whole business Jacqueline Cochran decided she wasn't going to just sit back like a chump and let a bunch of Fascist fucks shit a bunch of explosives and shrapnel on the good peeps of London. Cochran crossed the Atlantic and volunteered for the British Transport Auxiliary service, who was happy to have her, and she was immediately tasked with ferrying bomber planes across the Atlantic from their manufacturing plants in America to the front-line airfields of war-battered Britain. In 1941, Jackie became the first woman to fly a warplane across the ocean, taking a US-built Lockheed Hudson V from New York to London, passing over deadly waters crawling with U-Boats and dangerous airspace that at times potentially left her vulnerable to attack from German fighter patrols. When Cochran returned back to the United States, she immediately recruited twenty-five more women pilots to help ferry these warbirds across the pond and help the RAF in its desperate struggle. The British Transport Auxiliary was so stoked about this decision that they promoted her to the rank of Wing Commander in the British military.

For the next year, Cochran and her women ferried warplanes to British airfields, and when the United States finally officially declared "Ok, now you Axis suckers are all totally gonna die," Cochran wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt and received permission from the President to help put together the Women's Pilot Training Program. Working with a badass pilot named Robert Olds (the father of an incredibly tough dude named Robin Olds, who I absolutely intend to write about in the next couple months), Cochran helped create the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) – a team of nearly 1,000 experienced women pilots who flew newly-manufactured planes from 120 bases in the United States to the front lines of World War II. The WASPs not only provided valuable reinforcements and equipment to front-line bomber units, but they also freed up more male pilots to serve in front-line air combat duty. As Director of the WASPs, Cochran flew ships, oversaw the program, and ensured the successful operation of the program throughout the duration of the war. By the time the fighting was over, Cochran had received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the French Legion of Honor, and was a Captain in the British Transport Auxiliary and a Lieutenant-Colonel in the U.S. Army Air Force. She was also the first woman to enter Japan after the war, and she witnessed the Japanese surrender in the Philippines and the Nazi trials in Nuremburg.


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WASPs


Once those insanely-dangerous missions to the front lines of enemy territory were no longer available, the woman now affectionately known as "the Speed Queen" decided that the only rational way to risk her life and tempt death inside a cockpit was to work as a hardcore military test pilot. Testing out a few fresh-out-of-the-box F-86 Sabers beside her good friend Chuck Yeager, Cochran hopped into a bunch of hopefully-safe, super-powerful experimental jet aircraft, pushed them to the limits of what they were supposed to be able to accomplish, and casually hoped they didn't completely fucking explode into a cloud of vapor in the lower ionosphere. During her time test-flying out ultra-fast, wildly-unstable prototype technology for the U.S. military, Cochran would go on to set more records than any pilot in history, male or female – including one flight in 1962 when she broke nine different records over the course of one afternoon. That's especially impressive, considering that I don't think I can probably name nine aviation records. She would become the first woman to take off and land a plane on an aircraft carrier, the first woman to become President of the Federation Aeronautique International, and on May 18, 1953 she became the first woman to break the sound barrier. She won the International League of Aviators' award for the "World's Most Outstanding Woman Pilot" every year from 1938 to 1949 (11 years!), and then again in 1953 (when she broke the sound barrier) and 1961. At the age of 57 she became the first woman to break Mach 2. On one of her last flights as a professional test pilot, she broke the air speed record by screaming 1,429 miles an hour in an F-104 Starfighter jet. Basically, if something had wings, Jacqueline Cochrane was going to hop behind the controls, crank the throttle open, and see how many G's the thing could pull in a barrel roll before imploding on itself. No wait, check that, she also flew the fucking Good Year Blimp once, so apparently wings aren't necessarily required. I'm not sure what a loop-de-loop looks like in that thing, but I can only assume the answer is "totally fucking sweet". When she wasn't exploding glass with sonic booms, she was having dinner with Presidents and Prime Ministers, playing poker with Air Force Generals, and having audiences with the Pope.

Oh yeah, this barely-educated one-time Florida housewife also owned a bunch of salons across the country, made millions of dollars off her cosmetics line, and then used the funds to finance a program designed at training female astronauts for the Mercury Program. No biggie.

Jacqueline Cochran, the most accomplished female pilot in American history, died in 1980 at the age of 74. She became the first woman pilot with a permanent display at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman in the International Aviation Hall of Fame. Thanks in part to her, to this day brave female pilots are prominently serving in both combat and non-combat rolls across the U.S. Air Force.


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Cochran and Yager chillin'.


Links:

Wired.com

WASP Museum

U.S. Centennial of Flight

Florida International University

Wikipedia


Sources:

Cook, Bernard A.  Women and War.  ABC-CLIO, 2006.

Douglas, Deborah G., et al.  American Women and Flight Since 1940.  Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2004.

Duncan, Joyce.  Ahead of Their Time.  Greenwood, 2002.

Heinemann, Sue.  Timelines of American Women's History.  Penguin, 1996.

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Bass Reeves

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"He stepped out into the open, 500 yards away, and commenced shooting with his Winchester rifle… his first bullet cut a button off my coat, and [the] second cut my bridle reign in two. I shifted my six-shooter and grabbed my Winchester and shot twice. He dropped, and when I picked him up I found that my two bullets had hit within a half-inch of each other."

 A lone rider came to a leisurely halt along the side of the dusty trail. Standing in his path were three of the deadliest outlaws in the Indian Territory – the notorious Brunter brothers. These infamous murderers and thieves were the sort of cop-killing fugitive bastards who would just as soon have immolated you with a blowtorch as urinated on your burning corpse. The men, all looking like they'd just stepped off the set of the movie Tombstone, pointed a multi-flavored assortment of shotguns and revolvers at the interloper, gesturing for him to dismount from his horse. The rider complied.

Bass Reeves calmly took three steps towards the Brunter brothers, his grim face registering neither fear nor respect for these punk-ass bitches. He was an intimidating, serious-looking man, standing over six feet tall and solidly built. His clothes and equipment were nondescript, covered with the dust from several thousand miles of hard riding, hard fighting, and hard drinking. His beaten-up black hat and long black coat sported a variety of bullet holes and blood stains. The brass star proudly displayed on his lapel was tarnished with age.

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"What the hell are you doing out here, lawman?" the elder Brunter brother demanded.

Bass spit. "Well, I've come to arrest you," he said in the sort of nonchalant, matter-of-fact way that an evil mechanic tells you that you need a new transmission. "Got the warrant right here." He reached into his coat pocket, produced a worn, folded up piece of paper, and casually handed it to the elder brother.

The Brunters all looked at each other in disbelief. They couldn't believe the stupidity of the man standing before them to have admitted this fact as plainly as he had. Sure, they respected the fact he possessed what obviously must have been solid brass balls, but they were still definitely going to have to kill his ass.

The eldest brother unfolded the warrant, and jokingly showed his brothers the lengthy list of serious charges leveled against them. The moment their collective eyes looked down towards the page, Reeves' right hand twitched ever so slightly. Then, in a flash, he closed his fingers around the handle of the .45-caliber Colt Peacemaker strapped to his thigh, drew his weapon and fired two shots from the hip in rapid succession. Both bullets hit home, sending two Brunters spinning into a dance of death. The eldest brother pointed his gun at the lawman's head, but before he could fire it Bass Reeves was on him. Reeves grabbed the man's revolver with one hand, redirected the weapon so it was pointing up into the air, and then proceeded to pistol-whip the dude unconscious with his free hand. In the span of about twenty seconds, the toughest U.S. Marshal West of the Mississippi had just taken out three of the Indian Territory's deadliest criminals.

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A Colt Peacemaker

Starting his life out as a young, illiterate slave belonging to Confederate Colonel George Reeves, Bass was an unlikely candidate to become one of the most insane, over-the-top, jerky-chomping asskickers in the American West. Sure, he was big, tough, and strong, but for a lot of black slaves living in 1860s Texas there really wasn't a whole lot available in the way of social mobility. Growing up, all Bass really had to look forward to was a lifetime of servitude and bullcrap menial labor.

Well screw that. One day, Bass and Colonel Reeves were playing a nice friendly game of cards, when all of a sudden things became a little less than friendly. The Colonel was being a ten-gallon jackoff, so Bass leaned back and coldcocked the dude in the chops with a lights-out roundhouse punch. Colonel Reeves hit the deck like a sack of lead potatoes, TKOed by a solid George Foreman-esque right hook.

Realizing that he'd basically just signed his own death warrant, Bass decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. He fled the plantation and traveled several miles north, crossing the Red River into Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The law of the White Man had no sway there, and Bass was soon taken in by the Seminole Indian tribe of Oklahoma.

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While living with the Seminoles, Bass learned how to speak the languages of the Five Civilized Tribes, and trained himself in the arts of I'm far too lazy to make any kind of meaningful post, So I will just go ahead and post my 2523rd "SWEET" post here. badassitude. He enthusiastically took up shooting, becoming a deadly marksman with a rifle and an incredibly fast quick-draw with pistols. He was ambidextrous, could fire equally well with both hands, and could dual-wield pistols Chow Yun Fat-style. He became such a crack shot with a rifle that that he was actually forbidden from participating in all competitive turkey shoots in the Indian Territories.

After the Thirteenth Amendment made the south a little less suck-tastic for black people, Bass Reeves left his adoptive home with the Indians, bought a home in Arkansas, got married, had like ten kids, and lived for a while as a farmer and a horse breeder. That was cool and all, but Bass Reeves was the kind of guy who was always looking to serve up a nice warm knuckle sandwich to anything capable of feeling pain and he wasn't happy living the boring life of successful rancher. So when the infamous hardass "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker put out a call for U.S. Marshals in 1875, Bass was one of the first volunteers ready and willing to bring lethal hordes of armed-and-dangerous felons to justice. Thanks to his mammoth physical strength, tracking skills, intimate knowledge of the terrain, and language proficiency, he easily earned a spot on the force.

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Now back in the 1870s the Indian Territory was a sick nightmare from hell. The vast uncharted expanse – nearly seventy-five thousand miles of lawless terrain – was infested with fugitives, criminals, and escaped convicts, and was a horrible bitch that feasted on the broken dreams of wayward travelers and drank the blood of anyone foolhardy enough to cross her. It was up to guys like Bass Reeves and the U.S. Marshals to go into that dangerous territory, hunt down murderers, rapists, bank robbers, bootleggers, legbooters, and cattle rustlers, and bring some of the West's most dangerous outlaws in for some cowboy-style justice. Bass quickly proved that he was more than up to the task.

Going out on lone-wolf style missions deep into unknown territory, Reeves relied on his toughness and his wits to survive and bring his men to justice. He used tactics he had learned from the Seminoles to traverse vast distances quickly and leave no trace of his trail. He tracked his foes down, never backed away from a job no matter how many bounties or death threats were leveled at him, and never blinked in the face of extreme danger. In thirty years of service, Bass Reeves arrested over three thousand fugitives – including one trip to Comanche country when he single-handedly captured and brought in seventeen prisoners. He was also the man who took out the notorious bank robber and murderer Bob Dozier. Dozier had eluded capture from posses and lawmen for several years, but he wasn't quite as adept at eluding a gunshot wound to the brain from Bass effing Reeves.

Another famous Reeves arrest was Belle Starr, the "Bandit Queen of Dallas," who was a hard-drinkin', hard-ridin', hard-swearin', gunfightin' hardass who wore enjoyed gambling, wearing over-the-top outfits, sleeping around, and raking in cash hand-over-fist through an organized racket of horse thievery and stagecoach robbery. During her sixteen-year career as an outlaw, Bass Reeves was the only lawman to ever successfully apprehend her.

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Despite the fact that he spent much of his life drilling folks in the head with bullets, Reeves' service record was utterly stainless. He killed fourteen men in gunfights – more than Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, and Wild Bill Hickok - and wounded dozens more, but was never once convicted of unlawful use of force or murder or police brutality or any of that stupid crap. He couldn't be bribed or paid off, and one time he even hunted down and arrested his own son when the kid murdered Bass' daughter-in-law. Unbelievably, Bass Reeves was also apparently more bulletproof than a Steven Seagal movie, seeing as how he was never wounded once during his time on the force. He had his belt shot in two, his hat brim shot away, a button on his coat shot off, and his bridle reigns cut in half by bullets, but never felt the sting of a gunshot to any part of his body.

Bass Reeves served valiantly for three decades, and when his branch of the Marshals was disbanded in 1907, the seventy year-old lawman took a job as a police officer with the Muskogee Police Department, walking the beat with a cane and a revolver. He retired two years later and died in 1910, one of the most badass and obscure heroes of the American West and a man whose story is so over-the-top awesome that it pretty much generates its own gravitational field.

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Chris Kyle

 

"I signed up to protect this country. I do not choose the wars. It happens that I love to fight. But I do not choose which battles I go to. Y'all send me to them."

 

It should be a pretty well-established fact by now that if you go out and do something that threatens American lives, Navy SEALs will literally fall out of the sky and kill you in your sleep.

 

Chris Kyle is one of the men who made sure that happened. He's recently-retired SEAL who also happens to have the most confirmed sniper kills of any person in American history.

 

The man known who is now hatefully remembered by his enemies as "The Devil of Ramadi" grew up, ironically enough, as the son of a church deacon and a Sunday school teacher on a cattle ranch in some random rural part of Texas. Starting from age 8, Kyle hunted pheasant and quail with his father on the weekends, and worked hard on the ranch doing typical John Wayne cowboy shit like lassoing sheep, chewing rawhide, hog-tying things, and/or punching horses in the face (or, you know, whatever it is that cowboys actually do in real life). After high school he tried his hand at being a professional rodeo rider, doing that crazy shit where you desperately try to hang onto a the reins of super-pissed-as-hell bronco that wants nothing more than to hurl you teeth-first into the dirt and then trample your skull under its tremendous evil hooves of fury. When that stuff got too boring, the 24 year-old cowboy enlisted in the Navy, signing on in 1999 with the singular intent of being a badass-as-hell Navy SEAL sniper who rained death upon everything in front of him. Kyle quickly proved himself such a stone-cold marksman that he was sent off to sniper school. He almost failed out, but eventually got his shit together, passed a school with a 60-75% washout rate, and was assigned to Charlie Platoon of SEAL Team 3 – a unit so hardcore that they had the Punisher skull emblazoned on their helmets, body armor, and weapons. This is something I think we can pretty much all agree kicks ass.

 

 

 

As you probably noticed, things got significantly more insane on planet Earth after the United States simultaneously declared war on everyone in the world in 2001, and it wasn't long after this that Chris Kyle got orders for his first deployment -- a combat drop into Iraq in the opening hours of the 2003 Iraq War. It would be a pretty simple, straightforward mission – he was to sit in the gunner's seat of an armored truck and be dropped out of helicopter, landing behind enemy lines in the middle of the night while guys shot at him from a 360-degree field of fire, and then advance on an Iraqi-controlled oil refinery and capture it before the defenders could turn it into one of those annoying Kuwaiti oil field fires that pissed everyone off during Desert Storm. Welcome to the SEALs, buddy. Have fun out there. Don't forget to buckle your safety belt.

 

Well, as things tend to go when you're talking about insanely complicated military operations, it took about two minutes before everything totally went to shit. Almost immediately after the tires hit the ground, Kyle's truck got hopelessly stuck in the soft, oil-soaked sand, lodged in there like a giant million-dollar paperweight loaded up with enough ammunition to dent the Earth's crust. Since he wasn't all that interested in sitting there presenting a stationary target for the thousand or so automatic weapons currently trying to draw a bead on him, Kyle had to bail out of his relatively-protected gunnery position, hump it across the desert while assholes took potshots at him, and still somehow manage to get there before the enemy had time to pull out a matchbook and throw it in the refinery storage tanks. Kyle didn't flinch – he ripped the heavy machine gun off of his turret, ran across the field with his team, and together they somehow managed to capture the refinery intact, waxing the defenders in a short but bloody battle.

 

 

 

This is, of course, ridiculously hardcore, but Kyle's main claim to fame involves shooting lots of people with a sniper rifle. Kyle's first time using his signature weapon was during battle was when Team Three was tasked with helping Marines clear a small town on the road to Baghdad, when his Chief gave him a bolt-action .300 Winchester Magnum – basically a hunting rifle designed to take out North American big game, and not usually used in military service. Kyle quickly learned that he could use the weapon's massive muzzle velocity to regularly hit targets up to 1,800 yards out with insanely-deadly precision, and, since he wasn't one to fix things that ain't broken, would end up carrying that rifle through most of his career.

 

Kyle survived four deployments in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, fighting alongside some of the world's most hardcore elite special forces units – groups like the Polish GROM, the Special Air Service, and the US Marine Corps (not to mention his work in dedicated SEAL missions). The details of most of the stuff he saw are still mostly labeled "SUPER FUCKING CLASSIFIED" by the U.S. government, but we basically get the gist of it, and it amounts to taking point on dangerous missions, single-handedly sneaking into a hardened enemy fortresses by himself, staying undetected, finding an overwatch position on a rooftop somewhere, and then radioing in intelligence while Marines or soldiers move in to clear the area. If trouble presented itself, Kyle took it out, moking out enemy soldiers with the ruthless, detached precision required by his profession. From Fallujah to Baghdad to Sadr City, this guy capped fighters in some of the most difficult fighting the country has ever seen – a war where every single person in the city can potentially be an enemy, and the difference between life and death for your friends involves identifying the potential threats, waiting for them to show themselves as armed combatants, and then taking them down before they get the chance to pull the trigger and turn your buddy's wife into a widow. Crazy shit, like the time outside Sadr City, when Kyle had an eye on a dude acting a little suspiciously – Kyle kept an eye on him, then watched as the guy pulled out an RPG and lined up a rocket-propelled grenade round towards the windshield of an unsuspecting U.S. Army Humvee convoy. The would-be ambusher was 1.2 miles away (almost 2km), but Kyle dropped him with one shot. Say what you want, but that's fucking stone-cold.

 

 

"There is so much more to being a sniper than just being a monkey on a gun. You almost feel like a secret agent, because you get onto the battlefield before your guys do, and you give them live, up-to-the-minute intel about what’s happening. That keeps your guys safe. If you’re lucky, it could save their life."

 

But it wasn't just all spawncamping hax0rz for Chris Kyle – he also occasionally had to (or, in some cases, volunteered to) get down in the dirt and clear rooms himself. In the Battle of Fallujah alone, Chris Kyle recorded 40 kills, many of which involved house-to-house fighting alongside US Marines, including one instance where he braved heavy machine gun and RPG fire to rescue a team of Americans who had been pinned down in the middle of a street by a horde of unseen enemies attacking from every goddamned direction. In the battle of Ramadi, he resorted to fighting with his pistol and a captured AK after the battery died on his rifle sight, and still managed to kick so much ballsack that the Iraqis put a $20,000 bounty on his head and nicknamed him "The Devil".

 

Chris Kyle retired in 2009 at the age of 35, wrote a book about his life, and opened his own private military contractor. During his ten year career wreaking havoc across the battle-torn Iraq countryside, the "Devil of Ramadi" recorded 160 confirmed kills in battle, with an additional 100 unconfirmed – far outstripping the former record-holder, U.S. Army sniper Adelbert Waldron, who notched 109 confirmed in Vietnam (USMC super-sniper Carlos Hathcock, who I wrote about in BADASS recorded 93 confirmed, but his actual total is believed to be well over 300 – but, honestly, any time you're talking about taking the lives of over a hundred people, the actual body count becomes kind of a moot point). He received two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars for valor in combat – the citations of which are still classified by the Navy and thereby unpublished, but it's probably safe to assume they were for doing totally insane shit that most likely involved shooting a lot of people in the face and/or head from a long ways away, and saving American lives in the process. Kyle himself was shot twice, blown up six times by IEDs, and lost a couple good friends in battle. He also claims to have punched Jesse Ventura in the face in a Navy bar while on shore leave – Ventura denies it, and nobody's confirmed it one way or the other, but naturally any time you can be attributed to a story involving cold-cocking a former governor, SEAL, and professional wrestler in the grill, it's only going to help contribute to your legend.

 

 

"It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job."

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Neil Armstrong
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"There can be no great accomplishment without risk."


Here's a fun fact: As Neil Armstrong was descending the Lunar Module towards the surface of the Moon, hurtling 50,000 feet towards the rocky surface of an alien landscape at a little over 60 miles an hour, the entire instrumentation panel failed on him. And by "failed", I mean it didn't just die, I mean it flipped it's shit and went totally insane HAL 9000-style, screaming at the Apollo 11 mission commander with alarms and klaxons and warnings about how there was too much telemetric data coming in for the state-of-the-art Lunar Module computer to process and holy shit pork chop sandwiches oh my god WTF we're all gonna die. Undeterred by the ominous beacons of his impending fiery mutilation, Neil Armstrong did what pretty much nobody in their right minds would have done.

He turned the computer off.

So here was Neil Armstrong, harnessed into a cramped little aluminum coffin packed with all the technological computing power of a TI-85 solar-powered calculator, fighting the controls trying to manually place a two-passenger missile packed with jet fuel on the surface of an interstellar object nobody has ever attempted to land on before, and to do it delicately enough that it doesn't crash, fall over, explode, or otherwise bring about the brutally-violent deaths of everyone inside. The Lunar Module had just twenty seconds of fuel left in the tank, and only had one control – Activate Thruster – meaning Armstrong's job was like playing Atari Moon Lander on an Etch-a-Sketch while inside the trunk of a car doing 270 down the Autobahn where any slight fuck-up sends you catapulting through a steel wall and subsequently ripped apart by the vacuum of space like those guys in Event Horizon.

It was an impossible task, only marginally possible for the greatest pilots and video game enthusiasts the world has to offer. He'd have one shot at it -- and his actions would either make world history or bring about his terrible premature death.

We, of course, all know how the story ended:


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Bam.


The first man to set foot on any celestial object other than Earth was born Captain Kirk style on a small farm in middle America. Born in Ohio in August 1930 and growing up during the Great Depression will teach a man some shit about himself, and Neil Armstrong learned values like the importance of hard work, busting his ass for 40 cents an hour as a stock clerk in a pharmacy before and after school. When this guy wasn't smoking Math tests like Cuban cigars or playing baritone in a presumably-awesome jazz band called the Mississippi Moonshiners, he became an Eagle Scout, helped work the farm, and got so fucking pumped about aircraft that he built a homemade wind tunnel out of shit he found around town so he could test out custom model airplane designs he made by combining multiple kits together into some badass Frankenstein aircraft shit. He earned his pilot's license on his 16th birthday, and before this kid could even legally drive he was working a day job test-flying 65-horsepower two-seater prop planes that had just been repaired – taking these formerly-busted little wooden planes out on joyrides to see if they could be piloted without falling apart and crashing back down to earth. He'd got the job by default because nobody else wanted it, and ended up logging so many hours as a teenage test pilot that the Navy offered him a scholarship to study Aeronautical Engineering at Purdue (provided he commit to spending a couple years as a naval aviator when he was done).

Neil Armstrong did two years at Purdue, then transferred to NAS Pensacola, earning his wings at the age of 20 and shipping off to the Korean War, where he was the youngest kid in his squadron. He flew 78 combat missions in a Grumman F9F Panther, an early model jet fighter, where he earned three Air Medals, evaded capture and was rescued after being shot down behind enemy lines, and survived an emergency crash-landing on the deck of the USS Essex. When all that was done, he said fuck it, I'll go back and finish my degree and marry a beauty queen sorority girl because WTF else do I have going on.


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Like he owns the place.


While the military thing wasn't really doing it for him, flying was in Neil Armstrong's blood. After school he went to Edwards Air Force Base outside Los Angeles and spent the next seven years working as a research test pilot – which is basically the exact same thing he was doing when he was 16, only instead of flying rickety wooden propeller planes he was hurtling through the stratosphere at three times the speed of sound in the cockpit of an experimental test fighter that was packed with enough rocket fuel to vaporize sheet metal. As a research test pilot, this self-proclaimed "white-sock, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer" (he hated working out and once said, "I believe that every human being has a finite number of heartbeats, and I don't plan to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.") not only had the exciting/terrifying job of testing out wildly-unstable jets capable of shredding the sound barrier like a cheese grater dismembering a tomato, but then when he was done he got to write a report about what was awesome about the plane and what needed to be fixed.

Neil Armstrong logged over 3,000 hours at the controls of over 200 aircraft ranging from canvas gliders that only used a dashboard compass for navigation to supersonic experimental jet fighters with gigantic rocket engines grafted onto the fuselage, piloting anything, any time, anywhere, regardless of how likely it was to blow up in his face and kill him. When this dude wasn't ripping off hellaciously-righteous loop-de-loops in Chuck Yeager's X-1B, streaking through the stratosphere at Mach 5.7 at an altitude of 207,000 feet in the cockpit of an X-15 hypersonic rocket-powered suborbital jet fighter, or testing out aircraft that ended up being the basis for fighters like the F-14 and the F-18, he was flying as the "chase plane", following some other nutcase in a human-propelled death-missile and making notes about whether or not he thought that poor bastard in front of him was about to explode in a cloud of jet fuel and awesomeness due to some minor technical oversight in the structural design of the machine he was piloting.


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Yes, that is a very interesting point.
But, in my defense, fuck you, I'm Neil Armstrong.


Armstrong's interesting skillset as both a hardcore twitch-reflex hotshot pilot and a ultimate mega-engineering nerd got him tapped in 1962 to become the first civilian to join the American astronaut program. With his fat salary of $27,000 a year, Armstrong underwent intense training to prepare him for what he was about to face.

In 1966 Neil Armstrong became the first U.S. civilian in space when he commanded the Gemini 8 mission – a mission that would attempt the first-ever spaceship-to-spaceship docking operation. Armstrong masterfully maneuvered the Gemini 8 capsule alongside some random unmanned rocket in orbit around the earth, linked the two vessels up, then almost became mildly annoyed when suddenly one of Gemini's thrusters activated, sending the two linked spaceships into an out-of-control spiraling series of endless space barrel rolls. Armstrong, never one to panic no matter how insanely the mission is going down in flames, simply flipped a switch, undocked with the space junk, turned on his re-entry controls (while still in space!), righted the roll, calmly informed Houston that the mission was coming home early, and masterfully dropped his tiny capsule from outer space into the Pacific Ocean.

He wore sunglasses while doing this. He was just that fucking cool.


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You had to try really hard to throw something at Neil Armstrong that would generate any kind of emotional response. I don't really remember where I saw this, but my favorite Neil Armstrong story goes like this: One morning, Buzz Aldrin or Michael Collins (I can't remember which) came into the office to get started on work. Neil was sitting at his desk, working on some paperwork, and just looked up for a second to say "good morning" before going back to his writing. Buzz/Michael went to the NASA shift lead to ask what was going on that day, and was told by the NASA techs that the missions were scrapped today because about an hour ago Neil Armstrong was running a test flight on the Lunar Landing Module when it's equipment failed and it plummeted to the earth and exploded in a giant fireball. Neil had almost died, but had somehow managed to eject a mere 200 feet from the ground and parachuted to safety with only minor injuries. When Buzz/Michael protested that he'd just seen Neil two seconds ago, the NASA guy was like, "Oh, yeah… he's filling out the after-mission report."

So you can see why he was pretty much the perfect man to be sitting at the controls of the Lunar Module (yes, the fully-realized version of the vehicle that had almost blown him into blood vapor in the previous paragraph) as it attempted the first-ever human descent to the Moon. In July, 1969, the 38-year old Armstrong was selected as mission commander on Apollo 11, strapped to a ridiculously-gigantic Saturn V rocket, and catapulted into space by a massive controlled explosion that propelled him from 0 to 243,000 miles an hour in two seconds. He spent ten days in space, landed the Lunar Module on Manual mode, and spent two and a half hours bouncing around on the moon collecting rocks and shit while one-fifth of the world's population watched slack-jawed on their TV sets. While they were out there, Neil and Buzz Aldrin planted a U.S. flag, a plaque commemorating international peace, and a monument to dead U.S. and Soviet astronauts/cosmonauts, talked to Richard Nixon on a radiophone, and planted a reflector dish in the Sea of Tranquility that allowed some nerds in Austin Texas to shoot a laser into space and measure the exact distance from the Earth to the Moon, mostly so that people throughout the world would know that this dude traveled 232,271 miles FOR SCIENCE.



"The landing approach was, by far, the most difficult and challenging part of the flight. Walking on the lunar surface was very interesting, but it was something we looked on as reasonably safe and predictable… Pilots take no special joy in walking: pilots like flying. Pilots generally take pride in a good landing, not in getting out of the vehicle."

Neil and Buzz got the LM back off the ground, rejoined the Command Module, hurtled through the Earth's atmosphere at 35,000 feet per second, and returned home to a massive parade in their honor. Armstrong met the Queen, the Pope, the President, and the Shah of Iran (there's an interesting urban legend that Armstrong heard the Muslim call to prayer while in space and immediately converted to Islam, but he repeatedly denied this story), received medals of honor from 17 different countries, and also had a couple airports, streets, and even a piece of the Moon's geography named after him.

Fairly certain that he was never gonna top that, Neil Armstrong retired from astronauting a year later and bought a farm in Ohio. That was going well for a while, but in 1979 he got his wedding ring stuck in the gears of a grain tractor (Neil Armstrong was still working a farm!) and had the thing rip his entire finger off, but in true Neil Friggin' Armstrong fashion he just calmly walked over, picked up the finger, put it on ice, and drove to the hospital to get it re-attached. He went on to work as a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, was an administrator at NASA, ran his own aerospace tech company, and once sued his barber for selling a lock of his hair on eBay for $3,000 (Armstrong told him to either return the hair or donate the $3k to charity… the guy donated).

Any time anyone ever asked him about him being the first human to ever set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong would just say that it was the culmination of over a decade of hard work by over 400,000 people and leave it at that.

He died last Sunday, August 25, 2012, at the age of 82.


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TNRabbit ...thx for this site. I just stumbled on it and am humbled by the stories if uncommon courage in the face of sure death of the soldiers you've highlighted so far. Humbling indeed!
 
- David

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TNRabbit ...thx for this site. I just stumbled on it and am humbled by the stories if uncommon courage in the face of sure death of the soldiers you've highlighted so far. Humbling indeed!
 
- David
Hello David...

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TNRabbit ...thx for this site. I just stumbled on it and am humbled by the stories if uncommon courage in the face of sure death of the soldiers you've highlighted so far. Humbling indeed!
- David

 

You are quite welcome!

 

I love the author's writing style~

 

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Jacklyn H. Lucas

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Everyone with half a functioning brain knows that diving on a live hand grenade to save your friends is one of the single most selfless, balls-out heroic acts of valor that any human being can perform. It takes a special, rare kind of person to come face-to-face with their own destruction, resist every natural impulse of self-preservation, and unhesitatingly give themselves up in a final, purely-selfless feat of bravery, trading in the most precious thing a human has to offer – their life – so that others might live. It's such a paragon of ultimate selfless human sacrifice that nowadays it's the standard go-to analogy for everything from taking all the blame for a team-wide corporate fuck-up to unselfishly talking up the homeliest girl at the bar while your buddy tries to hook up with her best friend (who is invariably about a thousand times hotter than him and wouldn’t spit on him if he were melting in a pool of Hydrochloric acid some twisted bizarro alternate universe where tan silicone-augmented vat-grown bar-hopping college chicks are irresistibly attracted to sweaty neckbeards). It's such a heroic testament to the will of the human spirit that more Medals of Honor and Victoria Crosses have been handed out for this single act than for any other deed in the history of combat.

Unfortunately, despite this being a universally-acknowledged feat of righteous heroic awesomeness, the fact that the entire action is over in three to five seconds combine with some horrifically-tragic consequences for the hero to make grenade-hopping a pretty tough subject to write a Badass of the Week article about.

Unless, of course, we're talking about Jack Lucas of the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines.

Because Jack Lucas jumped on not one but two grenades to save his friends.

And lived.

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Your typical grenade explosion.

Jacklyn H. Lucas was born on Valentine's Day, 1928, in some rural town in North Carolina with a population so tiny that if everyone in the entire county showed up at UNC for a basketball game they probably couldn't sell out one section of the Dean Smith Center. Cursed with one of the most terrible first names in history, Jacklyn did the Boy Named Sue thing and spent his entire life training to be so ungodly hardcore that anyone who referred to him by any name other than Jack would end up forcibly swallowing their own genitalia, eventually enlisting as a cadet at Edwards Military Institute in Salemburg, NC.

Things were going fine for a while, but Jack's life changed pretty dramatically on December 7, 1941, when he got news that a super-secret ninja sneak-attack of Japanese fighter-bombers had just craterized the American battleship fleet at Pearl Harbor into a towering inferno of twisted metal.

He kind of took it personally.

So while Lucas' 13 year-old idiot classmates were all hanging around their school doing dipshit teenage boy stuff like slam-dunking M80s into public toilets and superglueing their friends' lockers shut, Lucas just got pissed. Like, super pissed. Like King Kong stopping by on the way home from work after a miserable day at the office only to find that the badass frozen yogurt place down the street is totally out of banana sherbet so he just snorts a line of PCP and goes Falling Down on everyone pissed. He stormed out of his military school (the first of many times he'd be listed AWOL in his professional career), went across the border to Virginia, bribed some notary public to swear he was 17, then hitched a ride to the nearest Marine Corps Recruiting Station, marched his hefty 5'8", 200-pound frame through the front door like he owned the place, forged his Mom's signature on enlistment paperwork, and shipped out to Parris Island for US Marine Corps Boot Camp.

At thirteen.

Lucas made it through the most intense basic training the United States military has to offer, was made a Marine at 14, and was subsequently assigned to work a crappy manual labor job as part of the Training Battalion on Parris Island.

Jack Lucas responded to this unsatisfactory posting by abandoning his station, hitching a ride to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, grabbing the first USMC officer he could find, and telling him there was a clerical error and he was supposed to be stationed on the front lines in a combat arms role.

They made him a truck driver at the Marine Corps base on Pearl Harbor.

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Unsatisfied by his current status of "not blowing the shit out of the enemy at all corners wherever he could find them", and denied in all of his requests to transfer to a front-line infantry unit, Jack Lucas spend the next couple of years raising hell across Honolulu. He was arrested for starting a drunken bar fight. He was disciplined for going AWOL so he could head into town and meet girls. He was busted by a Military Policeman for walking through the barracks with a case of beer, then was subsequently arrested for punching that same Military Policeman in the face when that power-tripping asshole tried to take the beer away from him.

Tired of spending his nights in the brig and worried that the war was going to end without him every hoisting a rifle in battle, Lucas finally decided, fuck it, I'm going to go to war and I don't give a shit who wants to stop me. He went down to the docks, snuck aboard a military transport ship headed for the front lines, then spent a month living off crumbs hiding from the crew because he was worried if they discovered him they'd ship his ass back to Hawaii for a court-martial.

Of the 40,000 Marines who hit the beach at Iwo Jima on or around February 20th, 1945, 17-year-old Private Jack Lucas of the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division was one of the only infantrymen who assaulted the beachhead without a weapon. He changed that pretty quickly. He grabbed one off a dead man in the surf, racked the slide, and charged into battle.

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Rushing through the brutal, endless curtains of strafing machine gun and artillery fire that raked the beach, Lucas grabbed his newly-acquired weapon and charged ahead, undaunted by the explosions and bullets zipping all around. He ran ahead, reached the relative safety of the treeline, and fell in with a four-man fireteam that had already started working their way through the dense jungle, trying to clear out one of the most tenacious and ferociously-hardcore enemies the United States ever faced.

Lucas and his men were making their way through a ravine, fighting every step of the way, when suddenly some bad shit started to go down. It turned out that the Japanese had dug this ridiculously-intricate series of caverns and secret passages that ran through the entire island, so just as Lucas and his buddies thought they were going to launch their final assault on a Japanese machine gun nest, they came to the horrible realization that all 11 men in that pillbox had gone into a tunnel, crawled underneath them, and popped up directly behind the Marines.

The Marines turned to fire, and in Jack Lucas' much-awaited first moments of real battle his first round went through the helmet of an enemy soldier, killing him on the spot.

His second round jammed in the rifle. I guess that's what happens with rifles you pick up in ankle-deep water on blood-soaked sandy beaches.

It was at this point that Jack Lucas saw the live hand grenade that had just landed at his feet. He threw his body on it without hesitation, screaming for the other Marines to take cover.

When a second enemy grenade landed within arms' reach, Lucas grabbed it and jammed it under his body as well.

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The Type 97 Fragmentation Grenade is a 16-ounce metal ball stuffed with 65 grams of TNT and a 5 second timed-detonation mechanism. Now, a common misconception about hand grenades is that they create some huge fiery explosion that blows people into the next area code like they were launched out of a flaming death-catapult, then they proceed to ignite everything in the general vicinity up to and including the Earth's atmosphere. But, while the explosive power unleashed by a frag grenade is certainly not the sort of thing you want to wake up to every morning, what kills the majority of people isn't the bomb but the flying bits of shrapnel. Basically, the explosion is just a catalyst that shatters the metal outside of the grenade and sends tens of thousands of tiny, razor-sharp metal splinters hurtling through the air in every direction, shredding anything in their wake, and killing or maiming anyone or anything within 100 to 150 feet. You ever wonder why some grenades look like pineapples? It's because when the bomb goes off each little section of the pineapple morphs into a bullet firing off into some random direction. It ain't pretty.

And Jack Lucas just had two of those little bastards blow up straight into his torso. Sure, his friends survived thanks to his heroism, but all that metal has to go somewhere, and where it went was straight into Lucas' body.

The rest of the Marine fire team, pumped-up by Lucas' bravery and the fact that they weren't currently all dead, proceeded to fight like demons and push the Japanese back, driving them from the position and capturing that sector.

When they came back to take the dog tags off of their fallen brother, they noticed that not only was Lucas alive, he was actually still conscious.

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I don't want to go on the cart.

The true unsung heroes of Iwo Jima – the Navy Corpsmen – were called in on the spot, hauling the severely-fucked-up Lucas out of there on a stretcher while simultaneously using their .45 pistols to fight off a Japanese banzai counter-attack. They fought through the warzone, got Lucas to a hospital ship, and it took 21 surgeries for them to remove 250 pieces of shrapnel from every major organ in his body.

Seven months later, Jack Lucas personally walked up to Harry S. Truman and received his Medal of Honor in person. He'd already made a complete recovery.

He was six days past his seventeenth birthday – the youngest Marine to ever receive the award.

After the war, Lucas went home and fulfilled his promise to his mother to finish school, attending his first day of Ninth Grade with his Medal of Honor around his neck. He finished college, went on a USO speaking tour, was married three times, survived his second wife's attempt to hire a hitman to murder him (she hadn't got the message from the Japanese that this guy was impervious to conventional weapons), and then, at age 40, decided to get over his fear of heights by enlisting in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper. On his first training jump, both parachutes failed to open. As his team leader astutely pointed out, "Jack was the last one out of the plane and the first one on the ground."

He fell 3,500 feet through the air without a parachute. He attempted a badass commando roll just as he was about to splat on the earth Wile E. Coyote style.

He not only lived, he walked away unscathed.

Two weeks later, he was back in the plane on his second training jump. That one went better. Four years later he finished his tour as a Captain in the 82nd Airborne Division.

His adventures in miraculously surviving death now complete, ran a successful business selling beef to people outside Washington, DC, wrote an appropriately-named autobiography titled Indestructible, met every president from Truman to Clinton, had his original Medal of Honor citation laid out in the hull of the USS Iwo Jima, and died in 2008 at the age of 80. From cancer, of all things.

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Robin Olds
"The deliberately planned fighter sweep went just as we'd hoped. The MiGs came up. The MiGs were aggressive. We tangled. They lost."
One of the most kickass and rewarding parts of writing a web page about violence and destruction and explosions and semi-historical dick jokes about the Roman Empire is when I get email from active-duty service members telling me how much they're digging the site. Sure, I'm not exactly performing life-saving brain surgery on underprivileged third-world orphans or improving the quality of human life by brewing endless shots of life-saving espresso at the local Starbucks, but nothing makes me feel quite as awesome as receiving email from badass fighter pilots telling me that they pin my stories on their squadron boards or that their air tactical wing has "Badass Wednesdays" where the C.O. reads stories out loud to his units to pump them up. One thing that sticks out to me, however, is this – in roughly every email I have ever received from airmen and pilots of the United States Air Force, one name appears front and center in gigantic italicized red text: Colonel Robin Olds. A three-time ace across two wars so balls-out that his moustache has its own chapter on his Wikipedia page, Robin Olds was an old-school blood-and-guts fighter pilot who pulled more Gs on his way to the bathroom than most mortal men ever dared to experience in their entire lives, and he could dogfight his way out of everything from a swirling flak-covered World War II air battle to the virtually-impossible final level of Ikaruga, then go home and sleep with his supermodel pin-up girl wife. This was a charismatic, hardcore air warrior who knew the importance of keeping his interviews short, his inverted barrel rolls tight, and his machine gun bursts controlled, accurate, and as fatal as a mouthful of napalm. olds1.jpg Born in Honolulu and raised in Virginia, Robin Olds was the son of a well-known American General who had trained combat pilots to blast the hell out of German Fokkers in the skies above the battlefields of World War I, so basically you might say that he never really had a prayer of being anything other than a hardcore dogfighting maniac. He flew in his first plane – a badass open-cockpit WWI-style biplane – at the age of 8, and by the time he was 17 he was already running across the border to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force to fight the Germans during the earliest days of World War II. Dad pulled some strings and got Robin's RAF paperwork ripped up, because seriously what the hell, so instead of shipping to England in 1939 Robin Olds enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point and became an All-American Defensive Tackle for their then-still-wildly-successful football team. Never one to half-ass anything in his life, Olds earned a reputation for being virtually indescribable during the 1940 Army-Navy Game, when he got several teeth busted out of his head while trying to make a tackle, refused to be taken out of the game, and played the entire second half spewing blood out of his mouth like a jacked-up cross between Jack Lambert and one of the zombies from The Walking Dead. Well steamrolling running backs and busting out hilarious sack dances overtop of de-cleated opposing QBs was great and all, but even though Olds played well enough to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (an honor he received in 1985), his true passion in life at this time was blowing up Nazis aircraft and sending their pilots hurtling back towards the Vaterland like flaming meteors. So after he was done with West Point Olds shipped out to England, got familiar with the cockpit of the badass P-38 Lightning fighter plane, and started flying missions over occupied Europe to help support the D-Day operations in Normandy. olds2.jpgFact: The P-38 is one of the sweetest-looking fighter planes ever.Olds scored his first kill on August 14, 1944, when he turned a Focke-Wulf 190 into a fiery German-filled inferno, but it was on a particularly balls-out mission 11 days later that Captain Robin Olds truly made a name for himself as a man that needed to have a special flight suit constructed just to contain his ridiculously-oversized steel testicles. On that particular mission, Olds's squadron was assigned to escort a flight of B-17s on a bombing run deep inside Germany when suddenly his fighter group came upon a massive formation of over 50 ultra-hardcore German Me-109 fighter aircraft. Undeterred by staring his own bloody, gruesome death straight in the face, Olds ordered his four-plane element to advance on the German formation, despite the notable problem that he was outnumbered roughly 15-to-1 and . When the Three and Four man in his formation reported in with "engine trouble" and couldn't get up enough speed to engage the enemy, Robin Olds naturally looked over at his wingman and said, "Ok, you take the 25 on the left, I'll take the 25 on the right." He throttled up to combat speed, dropped fuel tanks, and prepared to charge head-first into an aerial engagement that would make the Battle of Endor look like a couple of Hello Kitty kites harmlessly bumping into each other on a sunny day in the park. Unfortunately, when he dropped his fuel tanks, Robin Olds got a little too excited about the killing and forgot to switch over to internal fuel. Both engines stalled and died.He pulled the trigger anyways.The P-38's quad-linked .50 cals and 20mm cannon barked fire like the Queen of Hell, shredding the fuselage of the lead Me-109 and sending it hurtling into a death spiral. Olds credits himself as being the only man to ever record a confirmed kill while in glide mode. olds3.png "I know it sounds ridiculous for two guys to attack that many airplanes, but I ask anybody who's listening, put yourself in one of those German airplanes. One of your people screams that he's been hit, he's bailing out. Every man in that huge gaggle was wondering if there was someone right behind them."The two P-38s accelerated, diving into the 50-plane formation, firing in every direction like wildmen. Olds's wingman capped two more aircraft while Olds got his engines back on-line and dove down at the enemy. However, during the fight, Olds took one dive a little too steep, his controls locked up on him, and he only narrowly avoided crashing nose-first into a wheat field by cranking a hard-ass turn so ridiculously-dangerous that the G-force of the turn shattered the cockpit window out of his aircraft. This lack of a windshield of course didn't stop him from shooting down another Me-109 – some asshole dove down to finish Olds off, but he banked left hard, slammed on the air brakes, let the German shoot past him, then rammed a 20mm cannon round up his tailpipe. This would be his fifth kill of the war, making Captain Olds the first fighter ace from his squadron. He'd fly dozens more missions in P-38s and P-51, spending the later years of the war shooting down Me-109s, taking his propeller plane up against Me-262 jet fighters, and performing dangerous strafing runs on German airfields. He'd finish the war with 12 air-to-air kills, making him a two-time fighter ace, and an additional 11.5 fighters destroyed on the ground. olds4.jpgDespite his unquestioned badassitude as a combat pilot, a series of mustache-related problems with authority and repeated insubordination kept Olds's jackass superiors from sending him out to blow the shit out of Commies in the Korean War, so when his numerous requests to transfer to combat duty were denied Robin Olds joined the air demonstration team, serving as a stunt pilot to help promote the USAF, and went on a joint NATO mission that resulted in him becoming the first foreigner to ever command an RAF unit in peacetime.He also went out and married Ella Raines, the famous pin-up girl and Hollywood actress who used to co-star in movies with guys like John Wayne. olds5.jpg Finally, 23 years after kicking ass in World War II, Robin Olds got to return to combat duty, this time in the skies above the canopy jungle of North Vietnam. As one of the only USAF pilots with live-fire dogfighting experience, Colonel Olds was assigned to command the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. He instantly became beloved by his men, not only because he taught them badass shit like how to shove missiles down the throats of Commie bastards, but by assigning flight leaders by skill rather than rank. In fact, despite being the Commanding Officer of the entire Wing, Olds himself wore a rankless flight suit and routinely flew as the Number Two man and allowed a subordinate officer to command the mission. img]<br  alt=
Well at the time Robin showed up, the USAF had a bit of a problem. They'd been sending F-105s and other heavy fighter-bombers into North Vietnam to blow up the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but those suckers were getting eaten alive by hardcore, ultra-fast Soviet-built MiG-21 fighters that routinely popped up from the cloud cover, smoked the American planes with well-placed air-to-air missiles, then ducked back below the clouds before anybody knew what the hell just ballknocked them. If the Americans were going to stop taking heavy losses to Vietnamese fighters, they needed to do something about it.

And Colonel Olds had a plan.

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Olds's plan was known as Operation Bolo, named after a badass Filipino fighting knife. The idea was simple – you take a team of F-4 Phantom jet fighters, have them fly in the same formation and the same speed as the slower, less-maneuverable F-105s, and try to trick the MiGs into picking on someone their own size. Olds set up his men with the same radio frequencies and callsigns, flew the same bombing run the F-105s were running, and basically tried to walk straight-on into a Vietnamese ambush in the hopes that he might somehow survive and take a couple of the enemy with him.

What resulted was the biggest air battle of the Vietnam War.

On January 2, 1967, Olds and three other F-4s made their fake run, and were greeted by a swarm of MiG-21s flying up out of the clouds after them, missiles armed and locked. With the enemy trying desperately to get a lock on him, Olds climbed and banked hard, buying his wingman time to drop behind the MiGs and open fire with air-to-air sidewinder missiles. Suddenly aware that they were facing fighters instead of bombers, the Vietnamese scrambled more MiGs from the airfield, and they dove into the fray just as the second element of Olds's ambush arrived on the scene and throttled headlong into the raging battlefield.

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So in the skies just outside Hanoi, North Vietnam, dozens of MiG-21s and F-4s dove in and out of the clouds, with the world's two most advanced fighter jets ripping missiles and cannons at each other in a furious frenzy of air-to-air combat. During the carnage Robin Olds personally took out one of the enemy by executing a ridiculously-tough loop-de-loop vector roll, pulling crazy Gs, dropping in right behind the enemy bandit and blowing him out of the sky with a Sidewinder missile. With surface-to-air missiles the size of telephone poles rocketing up through the cloud cover at him, Olds banked and dove through the fray, wasting everything in sight as the Americans took advantage of their surprise and cut a trail of explosions through the NVA Air Force. In just thirteen minutes of combat, seven MiGs were killed – roughly half of North Vietnam's MiG-21 fleet – and the Americans hauled back to their base in Thailand with zero casualties. For his actions in the skies, and his planning of the mission, Olds received his third Silver Star. He'd go on to fly 100 combat missions in 'Nam, recording three more MiG kills in the process, bringing his career total to 17.

After the war, this three-time ace served with the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon, telling them to drop the nuclear strategic bombing thing and adapt the surgical strike air superiority strategy the U.S. employs today, then served as Commandant of the Air Force Academy for four years. He retired in 1973, continued to be active in Air Force operations, and passed away in 2007.

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"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!" -Eleanor Roosevelt

June 18, 2010 had already started out pretty miserably for Corporal Clifford Wooldridge of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.  Not five minutes after leaving the secure Coalition-held perimeter into enemy territory, he’d had his Humvee blown out from under him by a Taliban IED.  Slightly annoyed by this, he’d re-loaded his squad into another vehicle, which was of course then subsequently blown up by another IED (jeez, and you think you’re having a rough Friday!), and now, even though he was leading a convoy of four vehicles through a particularly Taliban-infested valley where enemy ambush was about as common as hipster mustaches at trendy downtown "dive" bars, Corporal Wooldridge was basically just happy not to have to pick twisted pieces of his vehicle's chassis out of the soles of his combat boots.

Saying that the Marine occupation of Musa Qala hadn't really gone as planned would be kind of like saying that being mauled to death by a rabid T-Rex would kind of suck ass.  Located in the middle of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Musa Qala was prime poppy-growing country, and since the Taliban make most of their coin off of illegal heroin and opium sales, they weren't exactly excited about the idea of a bunch of American and Afghan soldiers rolling in there and setting fire to their favorite cash crop.  The Marines had been sent in to talk with the townspeople in the valley, assess the situation, and try to persuade the local leadership to ally with the Afghan government and stop providing aid to the Taliban.

When they reached the valley, they found every townsperson had (perhaps wisely) fled their homes in fear of the insanity that was about to go down, and instead of walking into a delicious dinner with the locals the 125-man detachment of 3/7 Marines rolled up on 250 well-trained, well-equipped, battle-hardened Taliban fighters entrenched in ambush-friendly mountain bunkers with dozens more troops streaming across the Pakistani border every day.

 
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Helmand Province, Afghanistan

 
It was about a week into the Marine offensive when Corporal Woolridge led his four-vehicle mounted patrol on a mission to circle around and capture a critical hill that would be necessary for controlling the region.  Obviously, the Taliban weren't interested in handing it over.  They opened fire from positions in the mountains to the front and the abandoned village to the side, hammering the Marine convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons while the Humvee turret gunners returned the favor with a heavy-handed helping of hot lead from their .50 caliber machine guns.

While the gunners laid down fire, Wooldridge bailed out of his vehicle, grabbed his M-249 SAW (a squad light machine gun), told his fire team to hang tight, and prepared to do something really really insane.

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Correctly realizing that in previous fights the Taliban would attack, fire all their RPG ammo, then fade back into the mountains to hide and wait for the next ambush, Corporal Wooldridge (seen at the top of this article holding a cigarette in his mouth and looking admittedly badass while doing so) decided that, naturally, the best course of action wouldn't be to return fire, fight for his life, and try not to put himself in a position where he could easily be killed by bullets, but instead to charge across an open field firing his machine gun at the enemy in an effort to flank them and cut off their escape route.

So that's of course exactly what he did.

The 23 year-old from Port Angeles, Washington charged across an open field, gun blazing, hit the treeline, drilled a guy with a white-hot burst of 5.56mm NATO death, then hit the deck and laid down suppressing fire while the rest of his fire team raced across the field to join him.

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With his four-man squad now assembled in a position behind the flank of the enemy, Wooldridge spotted a team of at least 15 enemy troops armed with heavy weapons and RPGs hiding in the abandoned village preparing to ambush the Marine Humvees.  Not about to let that sort of aggression abide, Wooldridge rallied his team and led them on a daring charge straight across open ground once again, firing his machine gun straight into the crowd of unsuspecting Taliban.  His attack shredded the enemy weapons team, killing 8 of the enemy (including the RPG operator) and sending the rest of them scattering into the village, but as Wooldridge's team prepared to secure the area the Marine Corporal stopped them cold in their tracks.

He'd heard something.  Voices.  And they were close.

Wooldridge was certain they were hostiles – Taliban prepping a counter-attack – and that the voices were coming from behind a nearby wall.  He told his men to hold tight, gripped his weapon, and charged balls-out around the side of the wall.

He came face-to-face with four heavily-equipped Taliban fighters carrying AK-47s, RPGs, and a Soviet-built PKM 7.62-caliber heavy machine gun – and they were all standing within 10 feet of him.

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Now, the Taliban are definitely – definitely – not a bunch of pussies.  I know I write a lot of stuff on this site about Americans and British and Gurkhas or whoever defeating them in combat, but that's mostly because the uncontrollable Captain America jingo tendencies in me make it excruciatingly difficult to glorify people who shoot at Americans on a daily basis.  But look – these are battle-hardened, well-trained, unquestionably-devoted warriors who live in brutal mountain conditions and descend from men that have successfully fought off everyone from Cyrus the Great to Alexander the Great to Queen Victoria to the entirety of the Soviet Union.  At a range of ten feet, any one of these guys is capable of squeezing a trigger and blowing away even the toughest United States Marine.

Not that this stopped Corporal Clifford Wooldridge from doing this.

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Semi-related note:  GO SEE THE NEW G.I. JOE MOVIE.

 
That's right.  Staring four men down Old West Wyatt Earp-style, Corporal Wooldridge hoisted his SAW, hammered down the trigger, and didn't let go until he'd fired every last round remaining in the weapon.

Unfortunately, this wasn't enough bullets to kill all four enemy fighters.

Wooldridge smoked the first three guys in the span of roughly a split second, but when he swung the weapon to the fourth enemy soldier – the one packing the PKM heavy machine gun – his mag had run dry.  Wooldridge tried to bluff him, motioning for the dude to drop his weapon, but he wasn't buying it.  The guy raised his gun and fired off a burst, but not before Wooldridge dove back behind the wall, taking cover as bullets ripped the wall up around him.

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Now, as anyone who likes Call of Duty 4: Modern Xtreme 2 Black Ops 4 Warfare Hyper Championship Special Edition can probably tell you, reloading an M249 SAW isn't exactly a simple operation.  You aren't swapping out battery packs in an Xbox controller, you're securing and then manually feeding a 100-round box of ammunition into a weapon that weighs the same as a fully-grown adult beagle.  Wooldridge threw his back against the wall and went to work trying to reload his weapon, but when he saw the barrel of the PKM slowly peeking around the side of the wall, he knew he was going to have to act fast.

So he dropped his gun, ran over, and grabbed the barrel of the Taliban dude's machine gun.

Huh?

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Kind of like this, only marginally more intense.

 
Wooldridge grabbed the gun and the dude was like, "uh let go," but Wooldridge was like, "no way", and instead of giving the guy his weapon back he slammed the Taliban fighter up against the wall and before long both men hit the ground still holding the gun.  Now, I'm not sure how big this Taliban guy was, but Clifford Wooldridge was a high school football-playing diesel mechanic who used to repair those things lumberjacks use to chop down forests in the Pacific Northwest, and before long Wooldridge was kind of kicking the crap out of the other guy.  The Taliban warrior, locked in hand-to-hand fist-fight old-school combat with a dude who was obviously beating the hell out of him, decided that if he was going down the Marine was coming with him, and he took one hand off his machine gun and reached up to pull the pin on one of the hand grenades strapped to the outside of Wooldridge's tactical vest.

That was the opening Wooldridge needed.  He ripped the PKM out of the guy's hands and then proceeded to beat the dude to death with his own machine gun.  Which is pretty badass.

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By the time the rest of the Marines rounded the corner and found Wooldridge standing there amid a pile of dead enemy soldiers, the enemy ambush had been thwarted and the coast was clear.   In the battle Corporal Clifford Wooldridge had personally taken out 13 enemy troops, flanked their position, and, perhaps more importantly, broke their fighting spirit – Afghan interpreters would later relay to American commanders in the region that the story of Wooldridge's hand-to-hand action effectively crushed the morale of the region's defenders.

For his actions in the battle, Clifford Wooldridge would receive the Navy Cross – the second-highest award for valor available to Marines – and was selected the USO Marine of the Year for 2012.

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attachment.php?attachmentid=2021&stc=1                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
"This army can't retreat. Gentlemen, I know of no better place to die than right here."
                                                    
                                                                                                                                                           
                                            

His friends labeled him a traitor. His home state forbade him from ever returning. His superior officers doubted his loyalty. His own family disowned him.

Nobody would have expected a Virginia General to be the man to save the Union Army from annihilation in the second-largest battle of the Civil War.

georgehthomas9.jpg
Born on a decently-baller-sized plantation in Southampton County, Virginia in July 1816, George Henry Thomas was just 15 years old when an understandably-pissed-off local slave named Nat Turner banded together with other disgruntled slaves, grabbed whatever face-stabbing farm implements they could find, killed their masters, and began an ultraviolent rebellion that left over 60 people dead in a brutal 48 hours of vengeful carnage.
In the opening hours of the rebellion, as Turner and his men were going house to house in Southampton County killing white families with everything from machetes to fence posts and freeing their black slaves in an effort to incite a widespread uprising, the teenaged Thomas sprung into action. First, being the only man in his house, he got his widowed mother and his sisters to a safe hiding place in the forest, then grabbed his coat, hopped on a horse, and bravely went on a wild Mr. Toad's midnight ride to warn his neighbors of the impending danger. Not only did he and his family survive, but he probably saved the lives of a couple dozen other families as well.

georgehthomas1.jpg
A tough farmboy with a passion for kicking ass in the name of his country, Thomas was appointed to West Point in 1840 (where he was roommates with William Tecumseh Sherman), and enlisted in the U.S. Army as an artillerist immediately out of school. He served the United States with honor for fifteen years, doing ferocious hand-to-hand battle with Seminole warriors in the knee-deep swamps of Florida, battling blood-raged tomahawk-slinging Apache in Texas, and directing grapeshot-packed artillery fire against Mexican Army soldiers at the Battles of Buena Vista and Monterey during the Mexican-American War. After a 4-year stint as a Professor of Artillery at West Point, Thomas decided that desk job crap was too boring so he went back into the field, serving as a Major in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, where he was third-in-command behind Lieutenant-Colonel Robert E. Lee and Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston and not only survived taking an arrow wound to the face while battling Native Americans in 1860, but somehow went right back to work as soon as his massive head trauma had healed because crap like that didn't even BEGIN to affect his adventuring career.

georgehthomas10.jpg
When the Civil War broke out a year later, George Henry Thomas had a decision to make. His home state of Virginia had seceded from the Union in open revolt against the government. His two commanding officers, both southerners as well, declared their loyalty for their states, resigned their commissions, and now held high posts in the new Confederate Army. The rebel government offered Thomas a post as overall commander of all Rebel artillery across both fronts. Meanwhile, his own Federal government was calling for troops to battle the rebellion, and needed experienced men to lead them.
Choosing the North would be a betrayal of his state, his people, his family, and everyone he grew up with, and would put him in a position where he would need to fight and kill men who had once been his friends and neighbors. Choosing the South would be treason against his beloved country, a disgrace to the blue uniform he'd proudly worn for 15 years, and a violation of the oath he'd taken to defend his country "against all enemies foreign and domestic."
Thomas chose his country, his uniform, and his duty as an officer in the United States Army. His sisters never spoke to him again.

georgehthomas2.jpg
Even though his superiors doubted this Virginian's loyalty to the Union cause they were hard up for experienced commanders, and Thomas was put in charge of a Pennsylvania Infantry Brigade at the Battle of First Manassas in 1861. He was then transferred out West, where he defeated his former boss Albert Sydney Johnston at the Battle of Mill Springs in 1862 before repeatedly proving his allegiance to the cause with stalwart defensive fighting at Shiloh, Perryville, and a half-dozen other battlefields ranging from Kentucky to Tennessee. At the Battle of Stone's River, after Confederate assaults wiped out the Union and threatened to completely tear his Corps into bite-sized morsels, Thomas assembled every one of his subordinate officers, looked each one in the eyes, and told them that this Army was going to hold the line or die where they stood. Pumped up by Thomas's fearlessness, the Yankees dug into the freezing-cold December snow, clinging to their position in a cedar forest against countless attacks by enemy forces, somehow keeping the Union Army from being split in half despite overwhelming enemy pressure.
But this was all just the beginning. The heroic stand that gave Thomas his nickname ultimately came in September 1863, when, surrounded on three sides and backed up against a river, he single-handedly took on the entire 65,000-man Confederate Army with just a few thousand guys and somehow managed to prevent them from utterly annihilating the entire Union Army of the Cumberland.

georgehthomas3.jpg
The Battle of Chickamauga was a last-ditch Confederate effort to make up for back-breaking losses at Vicksburg and Gettysburg and turn the tables back against the North. With their sights set on re-taking Chattanooga, the South concentrated everything they had on attacking and destroying the Army of the Cumberland under William S. Rosecrans, launching a colossal onslaught on the Union Army in the second-biggest engagement of the entire war. The South had enough soldiers to sell out the Georgia Dome. The North had enough men to pack Soldier Field to the rafters. By the time they were finished shooting, there were enough dead bodies to fill Fenway Park to capacity.
George Henry Thomas's Corps found themselves in the middle of the action, defending the Union center, fighting off everything from a daylight assault by Nathan Bedford Forrest's dismounted cavalry to a ferocious night attack led by Patrick Cleburne, an Irish-born British Army vet and part-time lawyer who once survived a street fight in Helena, Arkansas by taking a bullet in the back, drawing his revolver, turning around, and killing the man who'd just shot him. Cleburne's men, who were just as tough as he was, charged through the dense Georgia woods at dusk and continued their attack after dark, their shadowy figures backlit by the raging fires of the forest, the battlefield illuminated only by the muzzle flashes of musketry and artillery. Still, the Union line held, its defenders firing their rifles into the darkness before them.

georgehthomas4.jpg
The next morning the Confederates picked up where they left off the night before, launching a ferocious series of assaults against Thomas's position. Cleburne, who already had four teeth knocked out after being shot in the face at the Battle of Richmond, once again launched a series of charges uphill straight-on towards Thomas, while a separate Division under command of John C. Breckenridge – the former Vice President of the United States and a man who just received one-third of the popular vote in the 1860 Presidential Election that put Abraham Lincoln in power – tried to sweep around Thomas's left and attack him from the side. Thomas, masterfully positioning his troops despite being hammered from two directions at once, somehow held the line, throwing back the rebels by counterattacking them every time they broke through his lines, his men barely clinging to their trenches by their fingernails.
Then things got worse. Elsewhere on the battlefield, 23,000 shrieking Confederate soldiers under the command of General James Longstreet, fresh off a train from Northern Virginia, broke through the Union right, opening a black hole of misery that sent half the Union army – including overall Army commander William Rosecrans – running for their lives. Now all that remained of the Union Army of the Cumberland was George Henry Thomas and the 19,000 men of XIV Corps, surrounded by Rebel forces before him and on both his flanks, outnumbered three-to-one against a foe that could smell victory like it was a Thanksgiving turkey.

georgehthomas5.png
Clinging to his position with a rag-tag band of exhausted Union soldiers pieced together from units that had already been annihilated, Thomas repositioned his decimated forces. When gaps opened across his lines, he ordered his few remaining reserve troops to charge bayonets-first into breaches before they were flooded with a seemingly-endless horde of Southerners who would stop at nothing to destroy his entire command. His brave troops, running on 48 hours without sleep and having sustained the brunt of the destruction for two full days, still refused to budge. They resolved to fight as long as they could and buy the fleeing Union Army time to get out of there and regroup. Thomas was going to hold this ground until someone buried him underneath it.
Somehow, incredibly, despite defending a hill against the entire Rebel Army of Tennessee, George Henry Thomas held his position throughout the day, finally slipping his wounded, exhausted, men out of there under the cover of darkness and marching them back to Chattanooga. For saving the Union Army from complete destruction, Northern newspapers would forever refer to him after this as "The Rock of Chickamauga," which sounds much more pimp if you sing it to the tune of "Bow chicka bow-wow."

georgehthomas6.jpg
When Thomas fell back to Chattanooga he was given command of the Army of the Cumberland, because that Rosecrans guy was worthless, and Thomas soon found himself besieged by the Confederates shortly thereafter. He held out for a while until he could be reinforced by Grant and Sherman, who then ordered Thomas's depleted Corps to launch a limited assault on the Confederate center to test their defenses. Grant figured Thomas's men were demoralized and exhausted, and didn't expect much.
They failed to appreciate how righteously pissed-off Thomas and his men were, and how eagerly they wanted retribution for the horror they'd withstood at Chickamauga. Instead of some bullcrap holding action, George Henry Thomas personally led 23,000 men in a full-scale attack charging up a 45-degree incline into Confederate trenches packed with tens of thousands of riflemen and over a hundred cannons. Grant and Sherman, watching the battle from the nearby heights, watched in disbelief as Thomas's warriors raced up the hill. As their commanders stared open-mouthed, the Army of the Cumberland swept across the rebel trenches, forced the enemy off the hill with the points of their bayonets, , took their cannons, turned the guns around, and advanced the Stars and Stripes all the way to the other side of the mountain in a sea of blue-coated retribution. The Rebel Army broke and ran for it. They never returned.

georgehthomas7.jpg
After Chattanooga, George Henry Thomas was given command of half of Sherman's forces during the Atlanta Campaign, then squared off against his former West Point student John Bell Hood when the Confederates once again attempted to reverse the tide of war, first at the Battle of Franklin, when Thomas turned back an assault that was twice the size of Pickett's Charge, and then counter-attacking with a savagery that effectively blasted the Confederate Army in the West out of existence for the rest of the war.
George Henry Thomas survived the Civil War and was revered as a hero by the Northern media. He spent his later years commanding Federal forces in California, where he died in 1870. The State of Virginia refused to allow him to be buried there, so he was laid to rest with his wife's family in New York.
georgehthomas8.jpg
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Yusuf Alchagirov
11.08.2013 9634649523 label.jpg

"I got off easy. If I had chickened out and not fought, the animal would have immediately torn me apart and I would not be sitting with you."


Less than a week ago, 80-year-old Russian shepherd Yusuf Alchagirov was minding his own business, not pissing anyone off, just working his farm in the ultra-rural, super-hilly backwater province of Kabardino-Balkaria along the Russia-Georgia border.  He's lived a quiet life with his wife, family, and fellow villagers, working these fields since the days of Joseph Stalin, going through the daily-grind of sheepherding and farming presumably without ever having to literally headbutt any predatory wildlife unconscious in a life-or-death struggle for his own survival.

But November 1, 2013 would be unlike any of the previous 29,200+ days of Yusuf Alchagirov's life.

Today he was going to find himself locked in hand-to-hand combat with a pissed-off 1,000-pound Grizzly Bear armed with razor-sharp six-inch claws the size of kitchen knives and teeth specifically designed for crunching bone and disemboweling the meaty parts of organic life forms.

 

alchagirov1.jpg

 

You see, it was on this day that Yusuf, who didn't have access to badass ATVs and shit and was still manually running down his sheep down on foot Cliff Young style despite literally being older than the Luftwaffe, found himself trotting through an old raspberry field near his farm and directly into a crude trap laid for him by one of nature's most gigantic and cold-blooded killers. 

I guess the story goes that Alchagirov's dumbass sheep ran off like a bunch of assholes and wandered into the fields, but right as our old man hero was about to round them up and send them back to their pens he looked behind a nearby raspberry tree and saw a gigantic-ass brown bear sitting there, crouched in attack position, just waiting for this geezer to show up, rub a bunch of delicious berries on his head to season himself up, and then leap directly into the bear's open jaws like a Salmon during spawning season.

 

alchagirov2.jpg
GET IN MAH BELLAY

 

Now, it's important to mention that Russia is basically getting fucked up right now by some kind of crazy Bearmageddon.  Apparently there's been a lot of flooding recently, meaning that a bunch of bear food has been destroyed in the northern parts of the country, and now brown bears are rampaging across the countryside devouring everything they can find.  Their favorite food is Geologists, having eaten three of them in the last calendar year, but in addition to hating scientists they also like to break into homes and steal borscht from peasants because they are total dicks and have no respect for oppressive Capitalist concepts like private property or the freedom from not being eaten by bears while you're trying to take a piss in the wilderness.

Yusuf Alchagirov had already had enough of this bear bullshit.  The 80 year-old man froze for a second, staring unblinkinglyto the predatory eyes of a voracious, man-eating, half-ton killing machine that was preparing to massacre and devour him in a flurry of spikes and gore.  Only one thought passed through his mind:

I'm going to fuck this thing up and wear his balls as a hat.

 

alchagirov3.jpg

 

The bear charged.  Yusuf acted fast – he pulled off his jacket, threw it over the bear's head, and then fucking punched the bear in the fucking face as hard as he could.  But the old "bag over the head punch in the face" thing just pissed the bear off more, and the thing threw the coat off its head and chomped down with its ridiculously-massive jaws, locking them onto Yusuf's arm, ripping into bone and flesh with its slathering fangs. 

Yusuf Alchagirov did exactly what you or I would have done in that situation – he grabbed the fucking bear's lower jaw, wrenched it off his arm, and didn't let go.

Oh yeah, and by "what you and I would have done in that situation", I meant to say "the exact opposite of what you and I would have done in that situation."

 

alchagirov4.jpg

 

Wrenching the bear's head with one arm, Alchagirov dug in his pocket for a knife, pulled it out, and prepared to face-shank the bear.  The bear, prepared for such a move and extraordinarily livid that he was getting his ass kicked by an 80 year-old man, slapped that shit right out of the old shepard's hand, ripped its jaw free, and grabbed the shepherd up in a badass 1000-pound bear hug, lifting Yusuf three feet off the ground.

Yusuf Alchagirov, his feet dangling like that dude being choked out by Darth Vader at the beginning of the first Star Wars movie,

He HEADBUTTED THE FUCKING BEAR IN THE FACE WITH HIS FOREHEAD.

 

alchagirov5.gif

 

Let's think about this for a moment.  Bears have big teeth.  Their mouths open wide enough to fit a man's head inside, and their jaws are powerful enough to decapitate you.  But this guy smashed the bear so hard in the nose with his head that it not only stunned the bear, it made it drop him. 

Then he kicked it in the balls.  A lot.

I am not joking.

 

alchagirov6.jpg

 

The two warriors went at it, octogenarian vs. bear, for a few more minutes. 

Here's roughly how I picture the battle going down.

 

alchagirov7a.jpg

alchagirov7b.jpg

alchagirov7c.jpg

alchagirov7d.jpg

alchagirov7e.jpg

alchagirov7f.jpg

alchagirov7g.jpg

 

 The bear, having enough of the headbutting dick-kicking action of Yusuf Alchagirov, suddenly remembered it was a FUCKING BEAR and decided to put an end to this epic battle once and for all.

It grabbed the 80 year-old man, lifted him once again, and threw him off a cliff.  He plummeted dozens of feet, slammed into the rock below, and fell unconscious.  The bear, still seething with fury, dusted himself off and casually walked away in search of other human life to snuff out with his teeth.

 

alchagirov8.jpg

 

But Yusuf Alchagirov, bloodied from being punched, clawed, and bitten by a 1,000-pound Brown Bear and then thrown off a cliff, didn't die.  He woke up seven hours later, picked himself up, and walked back home.  On the way there he found a team of villagers that had been sent to find out why he'd missed dinner.  He'd broken four ribs, had a couple bite wounds and bruises, but was otherwise OK.  Yeah, he'd lost the fight by TKO, but it was like the Jamaican Bobsled Team of Kicking Bears in the Dick.

When he got home his loving wife made him three traditional pies as a "Congratulations for Not Dying" present.

He ate them all. 

Three pies.

Because that's how he rolls.

 

alchagirov9.jpg

- See more at: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=9634649523#sthash.gFaaramo.dpuf'>http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=9634649523#sthash.gFaaramo.dpuf
Yusuf Alchagirov
11.08.2013 9634649523 label.jpg

"I got off easy. If I had chickened out and not fought, the animal would have immediately torn me apart and I would not be sitting with you."


Less than a week ago, 80-year-old Russian shepherd Yusuf Alchagirov was minding his own business, not pissing anyone off, just working his farm in the ultra-rural, super-hilly backwater province of Kabardino-Balkaria along the Russia-Georgia border.  He's lived a quiet life with his wife, family, and fellow villagers, working these fields since the days of Joseph Stalin, going through the daily-grind of sheepherding and farming presumably without ever having to literally headbutt any predatory wildlife unconscious in a life-or-death struggle for his own survival.

But November 1, 2013 would be unlike any of the previous 29,200+ days of Yusuf Alchagirov's life.

Today he was going to find himself locked in hand-to-hand combat with a pissed-off 1,000-pound Grizzly Bear armed with razor-sharp six-inch claws the size of kitchen knives and teeth specifically designed for crunching bone and disemboweling the meaty parts of organic life forms.

 

alchagirov1.jpg

 

You see, it was on this day that Yusuf, who didn't have access to badass ATVs and shit and was still manually running down his sheep down on foot Cliff Young style despite literally being older than the Luftwaffe, found himself trotting through an old raspberry field near his farm and directly into a crude trap laid for him by one of nature's most gigantic and cold-blooded killers. 

I guess the story goes that Alchagirov's dumbass sheep ran off like a bunch of assholes and wandered into the fields, but right as our old man hero was about to round them up and send them back to their pens he looked behind a nearby raspberry tree and saw a gigantic-ass brown bear sitting there, crouched in attack position, just waiting for this geezer to show up, rub a bunch of delicious berries on his head to season himself up, and then leap directly into the bear's open jaws like a Salmon during spawning season.

 

alchagirov2.jpg
GET IN MAH BELLAY

 

Now, it's important to mention that Russia is basically getting fucked up right now by some kind of crazy Bearmageddon.  Apparently there's been a lot of flooding recently, meaning that a bunch of bear food has been destroyed in the northern parts of the country, and now brown bears are rampaging across the countryside devouring everything they can find.  Their favorite food is Geologists, having eaten three of them in the last calendar year, but in addition to hating scientists they also like to break into homes and steal borscht from peasants because they are total dicks and have no respect for oppressive Capitalist concepts like private property or the freedom from not being eaten by bears while you're trying to take a piss in the wilderness.

Yusuf Alchagirov had already had enough of this bear bullshit.  The 80 year-old man froze for a second, staring unblinkinglyto the predatory eyes of a voracious, man-eating, half-ton killing machine that was preparing to massacre and devour him in a flurry of spikes and gore.  Only one thought passed through his mind:

I'm going to fuck this thing up and wear his balls as a hat.

 

alchagirov3.jpg

 

The bear charged.  Yusuf acted fast – he pulled off his jacket, threw it over the bear's head, and then fucking punched the bear in the fucking face as hard as he could.  But the old "bag over the head punch in the face" thing just pissed the bear off more, and the thing threw the coat off its head and chomped down with its ridiculously-massive jaws, locking them onto Yusuf's arm, ripping into bone and flesh with its slathering fangs. 

Yusuf Alchagirov did exactly what you or I would have done in that situation – he grabbed the fucking bear's lower jaw, wrenched it off his arm, and didn't let go.

Oh yeah, and by "what you and I would have done in that situation", I meant to say "the exact opposite of what you and I would have done in that situation."

 

alchagirov4.jpg

 

Wrenching the bear's head with one arm, Alchagirov dug in his pocket for a knife, pulled it out, and prepared to face-shank the bear.  The bear, prepared for such a move and extraordinarily livid that he was getting his ass kicked by an 80 year-old man, slapped that shit right out of the old shepard's hand, ripped its jaw free, and grabbed the shepherd up in a badass 1000-pound bear hug, lifting Yusuf three feet off the ground.

Yusuf Alchagirov, his feet dangling like that dude being choked out by Darth Vader at the beginning of the first Star Wars movie,

He HEADBUTTED THE FUCKING BEAR IN THE FACE WITH HIS FOREHEAD.

 

alchagirov5.gif

 

Let's think about this for a moment.  Bears have big teeth.  Their mouths open wide enough to fit a man's head inside, and their jaws are powerful enough to decapitate you.  But this guy smashed the bear so hard in the nose with his head that it not only stunned the bear, it made it drop him. 

Then he kicked it in the balls.  A lot.

I am not joking.

 

alchagirov6.jpg

 

The two warriors went at it, octogenarian vs. bear, for a few more minutes. 

Here's roughly how I picture the battle going down.

 

alchagirov7a.jpg

alchagirov7b.jpg

alchagirov7c.jpg

alchagirov7d.jpg

alchagirov7e.jpg

alchagirov7f.jpg

alchagirov7g.jpg

 

 The bear, having enough of the headbutting dick-kicking action of Yusuf Alchagirov, suddenly remembered it was a FUCKING BEAR and decided to put an end to this epic battle once and for all.

It grabbed the 80 year-old man, lifted him once again, and threw him off a cliff.  He plummeted dozens of feet, slammed into the rock below, and fell unconscious.  The bear, still seething with fury, dusted himself off and casually walked away in search of other human life to snuff out with his teeth.

 

alchagirov8.jpg

 

But Yusuf Alchagirov, bloodied from being punched, clawed, and bitten by a 1,000-pound Brown Bear and then thrown off a cliff, didn't die.  He woke up seven hours later, picked himself up, and walked back home.  On the way there he found a team of villagers that had been sent to find out why he'd missed dinner.  He'd broken four ribs, had a couple bite wounds and bruises, but was otherwise OK.  Yeah, he'd lost the fight by TKO, but it was like the Jamaican Bobsled Team of Kicking Bears in the Dick.

When he got home his loving wife made him three traditional pies as a "Congratulations for Not Dying" present.

He ate them all. 

Three pies.

Because that's how he rolls.

 

alchagirov9.jpg

- See more at: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=9634649523#sthash.gFaaramo.dpuf
Yusuf Alchagirov
 11.08.2013                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
"I got off easy. If I had chickened out and not fought, the animal would have immediately torn me apart and I would not be sitting with you."
                                                    


Less than a week ago, 80-year-old Russian shepherd Yusuf Alchagirov was minding his own business, not pissing anyone off, just working his farm in the ultra-rural, super-hilly backwater province of Kabardino-Balkaria along the Russia-Georgia border. He's lived a quiet life with his wife, family, and fellow villagers, working these fields since the days of Joseph Stalin, going through the daily-grind of sheepherding and farming presumably without ever having to literally headbutt any predatory wildlife unconscious in a life-or-death struggle for his own survival.

But November 1, 2013 would be unlike any of the previous 29,200+ days of Yusuf Alchagirov's life.
Today he was going to find himself locked in hand-to-hand combat with a pissed-off 1,000-pound Grizzly Bear armed with razor-sharp six-inch claws the size of kitchen knives and teeth specifically designed for crunching bone and disemboweling the meaty parts of organic life forms.

alchagirov1.jpg
You see, it was on this day that Yusuf, who didn't have access to badass ATVs and shit and was still manually running down his sheep down on foot Cliff Young style despite literally being older than the Luftwaffe, found himself trotting through an old raspberry field near his farm and directly into a crude trap laid for him by one of nature's most gigantic and cold-blooded killers.

I guess the story goes that Alchagirov's dumbass sheep ran off like a bunch of assholes and wandered into the fields, but right as our old man hero was about to round them up and send them back to their pens he looked behind a nearby raspberry tree and saw a gigantic-ass brown bear sitting there, crouched in attack position, just waiting for this geezer to show up, rub a bunch of delicious berries on his head to season himself up, and then leap directly into the bear's open jaws like a Salmon during spawning season.

alchagirov2.jpg
GET IN MAH BELLAY

Now, it's important to mention that Russia is basically getting fucked up right now by some kind of crazy Bearmageddon. Apparently there's been a lot of flooding recently, meaning that a bunch of bear food has been destroyed in the northern parts of the country, and now brown bears are rampaging across the countryside devouring everything they can find. Their favorite food is Geologists, having eaten three of them in the last calendar year, but in addition to hating scientists they also like to break into homes and steal borscht from peasants because they are total dicks and have no respect for oppressive Capitalist concepts like private property or the freedom from not being eaten by bears while you're trying to take a piss in the wilderness.
Yusuf Alchagirov had already had enough of this bear bullshit. The 80 year-old man froze for a second, staring unblinkinglyto the predatory eyes of a voracious, man-eating, half-ton killing machine that was preparing to massacre and devour him in a flurry of spikes and gore. Only one thought passed through his mind:
I'm going to fuck this thing up and wear his balls as a hat.

alchagirov3.jpg

The bear charged. Yusuf acted fast – he pulled off his jacket, threw it over the bear's head, and then fucking punched the bear in the fucking face as hard as he could. But the old "bag over the head punch in the face" thing just pissed the bear off more, and the thing threw the coat off its head and chomped down with its ridiculously-massive jaws, locking them onto Yusuf's arm, ripping into bone and flesh with its slathering fangs.

Yusuf Alchagirov did exactly what you or I would have done in that situation – he grabbed the fucking bear's lower jaw, wrenched it off his arm, and didn't let go.

Oh yeah, and by "what you and I would have done in that situation", I meant to say "the exact opposite of what you and I would have done in that situation."

alchagirov4.jpg

Wrenching the bear's head with one arm, Alchagirov dug in his pocket for a knife, pulled it out, and prepared to face-shank the bear. The bear, prepared for such a move and extraordinarily livid that he was getting his ass kicked by an 80 year-old man, slapped that shit right out of the old shepard's hand, ripped its jaw free, and grabbed the shepherd up in a badass 1000-pound bear hug, lifting Yusuf three feet off the ground.

Yusuf Alchagirov, his feet dangling like that dude being choked out by Darth Vader at the beginning of the first Star Wars movie,
He HEADBUTTED THE FUCKING BEAR IN THE FACE WITH HIS FOREHEAD.

alchagirov5.gif
Let's think about this for a moment. Bears have big teeth. Their mouths open wide enough to fit a man's head inside, and their jaws are powerful enough to decapitate you. But this guy smashed the bear so hard in the nose with his head that it not only stunned the bear, it made it drop him.

Then he kicked it in the balls. A lot.

I am not joking.

alchagirov6.jpg

The two warriors went at it, octogenarian vs. bear, for a few more minutes.

Here's roughly how I picture the battle going down.

alchagirov7a.jpg
alchagirov7b.jpg
alchagirov7c.jpg
alchagirov7d.jpg
alchagirov7e.jpg
alchagirov7f.jpg
alchagirov7g.jpg

The bear, having enough of the headbutting dick-kicking action of Yusuf Alchagirov, suddenly remembered it was a FUCKING BEAR and decided to put an end to this epic battle once and for all.

It grabbed the 80 year-old man, lifted him once again, and threw him off a cliff. He plummeted dozens of feet, slammed into the rock below, and fell unconscious. The bear, still seething with fury, dusted himself off and casually walked away in search of other human life to snuff out with his teeth.


alchagirov8.jpg

But Yusuf Alchagirov, bloodied from being punched, clawed, and bitten by a 1,000-pound Brown Bear and then thrown off a cliff, didn't die. He woke up seven hours later, picked himself up, and walked back home. On the way there he found a team of villagers that had been sent to find out why he'd missed dinner. He'd broken four ribs, had a couple bite wounds and bruises, but was otherwise OK. Yeah, he'd lost the fight by TKO, but it was like the Jamaican Bobsled Team of Kicking Bears in the Dick.

When he got home his loving wife made him three traditional pies as a "Congratulations for Not Dying" present.

He ate them all.

Three pies.

Because that's how he rolls.

alchagirov9.jpg


- See more at: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=9634649523#sthash.gFaaramo.dpuf
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                                                               wartooth.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                  
        
   
Harald Wartooth

         
"Clad in a red cloak, his hair held by a band tricked out with gold, he advanced on the enemy, quietly trusting to the knowledge of his luck rather than weapons – so much that he seemed dressed for a party, not war. But his mind was unlike his outfit, for unarmored, wearing only his royal insignia, he went before the armed battalions and gave the raging dangers of war a chance. Yet the spears flung at him could no more harm him then if their blades pointed backwards. When others saw this fighter's woundlessness, they were taken aback and shame spurred them to attack him still more fiercely. Harald, unwounded, killed them with his sword or sent them fleeing."
                                                    



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Harald Wartooth was a gigantic fucking Viking Berserker King who, in addition to running into battle completely unarmored and having spears and axes and other bullshit bounce off his fucking skin like his ridiculously-calloused, potentially-cyborged-out hide was constructed out of the titanium plating hand-shredded off the chassis of planet-vaporizing robots, was famous for being one of the first motherfuckers to ever unite all the frozen lands of Scandinavia under the banner of Viking Badassitude, conquering armies from England to Finland with tactics he'd been taught from the Norse Gods themselves, charging head-long into battle during the Viking version of the Battle of Troy despite the notable setback that he was like so fucking old he couldn't see past his epic white beard, and then having his skull gloriously clubbed into explosive shards by Odin while he was standing in a pile of human corpses he'd created with a pair of swords and his own furious death stare.

The Viking equivalent of King Arthur or Tupac Shakur, Harald Wartooth is one of these dudes we like to call "semi-legendary kings", which is a fancy, pseudo-academic way for smartypants tightwads to say, "This dude was almost certainly a real person at one time in history but shit got out of control over the last couple years and now we're pretty sure he didn't actually lop off heads with liquid metal blade arms, transform into Bear Mode at will, hang out with a dude who could transform men into frogs, or project his life essence into the Astral Plane and transfer his existence into hologram form", without sounding like a psychotic dumbass. We are like 90% sure Harald Wartooth was a real person, and if he wasn't, he was at least based on a real guy, because he's mentioned in a couple different places from a couple different Nordic civilizations. We know he lived around the 8th century, probably in the early 700s AD. We know he united the Viking Kingdoms. And we know he KICKED THE FUCKING SHIT OUT OF EVERYONE, because even 1,300 years after the WARTOOTHPOCALYPSE went down we have the bones and wreckage to prove it. Most historians just aren't exactly convinced that he communicated directly with the Norse God Odin, or that he lived to be 150 years old, or that he allowed himself to die simply because he was really fucking old and wanted to go to Valhalla rather than die a coward's death alone in his bed like a chump.

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According to the tale of notable 13th-century Viking historian Saxo Grammaticus (the guy responsible for writing the original version of Hamlet that Bill Shakespeare re-made into a play a few centuries later), Harald Wartooth first came into prominence when his grandfather, a Viking explorer/pillager/badass/nobleman/maniac named Ivar the Wide-Grasping, accidentally killed himself while trying to fight a mythical sea monster that, by definition, could only be killed by the Norse God Thor. Ivar, who I'm pretty sure gets his wide-grasping epithet because he was literally able to grope TWO BOOBS AT THE SAME TIME, was like some super-old bastard who got into a Walter Matheau – Jack Lemmon-caliber argument with some other old geezer over something asinine like how to interpret a weird dream, and the way they decided to resolve the conflict was by jumping off a pier into the freezing-fucking-cold North Sea and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the Midgard Serpent, a sea monster so intensely tremendor that it's body circled the entire earth, and a fearsome beast with fangs the size of skyscrapers that were poisonous enough to kill the Gods Themselves. Ivar and his buddy both drowned like dumbshits almost immediately, so 15-year-old Harald, the only surviving male from his family (and a member of the royalty both through Ivar and because his mom was a princess or some bullshit), walked into Denmark and told everyone he was in charge now so you n00b chumps better start getting used to the idea. The assembled Viking beards saw this teenage punk coming in and were all like, "Yeah OK cool story bro that sounds great but how about rather than pay tribute to your dumb ass we SHOVE AN AXEHANDLE UP YOUR URETHRA AND BEAT YOUR MOTHER TO DEATH BY SWINGING YOUR IMPALED-PENISED CORPSE AROUND LIKE A MEAT SLEDGEHAMMER INSTEAD??!?!?!?!11111"

Harald Wartooth, who at this point was just going by Harald, stood there, his expression unchanging. He nodded understandingly, did a couple surreptitious finger-stretching exercises, calmly looked around at everyone before him, and casually unsheathed the Danish two-handed longaxe from the holster that slung it across his back.

Then he DESTROYED THEM ALL UTTERLY.

Parasailing through Northern Europe on a fire-nado of human carnage and tempered-steel implements of , the unstoppable Viking warlord conquered every territory in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, crushed armies and cut huge swaths of territory out for himself in Northern Germany and Eastern England, installed his own kinsmen as jarls of the devastated territories, and forced everyone he'd subjugated to pay tribute to him so that they never, ever forgot who had the biggest nutsack in the North Sea. They agreed.

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Harald was famous for being a hardcore Berserker, meaning that he became so psychotically pissed and filled with the furious rage of Odin's killbonerrific spirit that he transcended anything mortal humans should be capable of and became an unflinching, unstoppable murder machine capable of grinding entire battalions of enemy warriors into mulch with a frenzy of blood-soaked deathstrokes. A young, impetuous, hardcore fighter, Harald always led his armies personally, screaming into battle like a madman and refusing to wear armor of any kind because he claimed Odin Himself would blind his foes and blunt their spears against him. When he was in full-on PCP Berserker Beast Mode, mostly naked and slathered in human blood and cream cheese, Harald was allegedly immune to fire and steel, incapable of feeling pain, and utterly unstoppable in combat. He wielded heavy oak clubs most of the time because he was notorious for hitting his enemies so hard that he would break his sword, once gave proof of his bravery by allowing the enemy to stab him with spears just to prove he could take it, and got his nickname, "Wartooth", supposedly from losing two teeth to an enemy sword and then having two brand new teeth SPONTANEOUSLY FUCKING GROW TO REPLACE THEM. I envision this going down in slow-motion with a super-extreme-close-up as he grows huge fangs to replace his busted teeth while a flaming 80s guitar solo wails in the background and the sound effect of a wolf howling at the moon blows the speakers on your TV into screaming shards of superheated shrapnel that embed themselves into your shitty couch and CATCH YOUR FUCKING APARTMENT ON FUCKING FIRE BECAUSE HE'S HARALD WARTOOTH NOW.

In addition to granting secret mutant powers of superhuman carnage-creation, Odin also supposedly personally came to Harald before battles and told him how to win. Typically this involved forming his men in a wedge and having them run straight ahead into the middle of the enemy forces screaming and swinging their axes and spears like their lives depended on it, which seems like a pretty straightforward tactic but apparently wasn't super common at the time because only one person ever used that strategy back against Harald. All the Lord of Valhalla asked in return was for Harald Wartooth to brutally sacrifice all captured Prisoners of War to Odin by hand-cleaving out their screaming guts on a stone altar with a sharp rock and pulling out their entrails. Harald was happy to oblige.

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Unsurprisingly, after conquering his foes to shreds, Harald Wartooth ruled unopposed for over 50 years. The only action his warriors saw was when they went on their infamous raids throughout the North Sea and the Mediterranean.

Well one day, when Harald was allegedly 150 years old (this seems unlikely), his nephew, a guy named Sigurd Hring who was related to Harald through Harald's mother's second marriage to a guy named Radbeard (seriously!), decided he was sick of paying tribute and bullshit to the Wartooth. Sigurd Hring had been put in charge of the Swedes and the Goths, and he was getting all butthurt about not being the King of Denmark so he told Wartooth they should fucking fight it out in search of the One True Hring. Wartooth, who was old as hell and just survived an assassination attempt where a couple dumbasses tried to kill him while he was taking a bath, was happy to have the opportunity to die a Warrior's Death, and was also more than willing to take his uppity nephew, turn him inside-out and SHOVE HIM UP HIS OWN FUCKING ASS.

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The two Kings assembled every fighting man in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. They recruited mercenaries from Saxony, Germany, England, Russia, and Eastern Europe. Harald Wartooth chopped down two entire forests to build a fleet of dragon ships so massive that if you laid them all out next to each other you could have walked from Denmark to Sweden without stepping on the water.

What went down would be the biggest inter-Viking battle ever recorded, either in history or in the sagas. It's the Norse version of Troy or the Mahabarta. The language used for the battle by Norse skalds closely resembles that of the description of Ragnarok, the battle at the End of the World. And Harald Wartooth plays the starring role.

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The two opposing armies stood across from each other. When Harald Wartooth noticed Sigurd Hring had positioned his men in a wedge as well, Harald got a little worried. This did not stop him from wedging up his men, and going point-to-point to hump his foes into submission.

The battle that followed is worthy of the greatest epics in literary history. Harald's warriors, Are the One-Eyed, Dag the Fat, Hothbodd the Indomitable, and many other awesomely-named motherfuckers cleaved their way through the greatest warriors Hring had to offer. Wartooth's greatest champion, Ubbe from Friesland, waded into the meat of the action, covered in blood up to his shoulders, killing 22 men and wounding 11 more "warriors of note" (Saxo differentiates "warriors of note" from "nameless jobber nobodies") with a gigantic waraxe before being gloriously massacred to death by four sword cuts and two dozen arrow wounds. Wartooth's warrior-babe Veborg, a tough-as-shit chick who commanded a battalion of 300 hardass shieldmaidens, sliced Hring's greatest warriors so hard that she bifurcated his face at the jaw and the guy ran off carrying his beard around like a loaf of bread, then double-killed Thorkell the Stubborn after "many wounds and much verbal arguing."

Despite these acts of towering badassitude, the battle was turning against Wartooth, and, rather than sit back and let all his lieutenants have all the fun, the old-as-fuck, half-blind Berserker King decided, fuck it, I'm getting in on this bullshit. Seated in his Royal Chariot, the ancient king pulled himself up onto his knees, drew an iron sword in each hand, spurred his horses ahead, and kneeboarded straight-on in the center of the action, ready to kick fucking asses and then senile-y forget the names.

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"When Harald saw the great slaughter among his troops,
he threw himself on his knees on his chariot, being unable to stand,
and took a short sword in each hand; he then caused the chariot
to be driven into the thickest of the fight, hewing and striking on both sides,
in this manner killing many, and he was considered very valiant,
and to have done mighty deeds for his great age."

After eviscerating a swath through the enemy army with an epic drive-by cleaving, Harald Wartooth, the greatest of the Viking Kings, was mortally wounded when, according to the story, Odin Himself clubbed him in the back of the head with an axe, knocking him out of the chariot. When Sigurd Hring saw the empty royal chariot scream past him, he immediately ordered a cease-fire. Both armies stopped in their tracks, and spend the rest of the morning searching for the body of the fallen king to prove the Wartooth was no more. They found him, covered in blood, lying dead under a stack of corpses that were piled so high you couldn't drive a wagon in there because the bodies were stacked higher than the wagon's axle.

That night, a huge funeral pyre was built for the fallen king, and every man and woman on the field threw one item onto the blaze to honor their dead king. Sigurd would take over as King of Denmark. His son, Ragnar Hairy-Breeches, is the guy that History Channel Vikings show is about, and Sigurd's grandson, Ivar the Boneless, is the man responsible for conquering the rest of England in the 9th century.

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According to the tale of notable 13th




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