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Someone once said that you’ll never achieve greatness by playing it safe. That certainly holds true for the men and women of this list. Enjoy these awesome facts about some awesome people in history.


20. Ching Shih

Madame Ching or Ching Shih was a Cantonese prostitute who was captured by pirates after her brothel was raided. In 1801, she married Cheng I, a notorious pirate.  The name she is best remembered by simply means “Cheng’s widow”. When her husband died she ascended to his leadership position and went on to terrorize the China Sea in the early 19th century.

The Chinese government sent out an armada to challenge her but she managed to capture many of their ships. At her peak, she personally commanded over 300 ships manned by 20,000 to 40,000 pirates—men, women, and even children. The rest of her fleet, commanded by her subordinates, had more than 1,500 vessels with a crew upwards of 180,000.  She entered into conflict with the existing empires of the time, such as the British, the Portuguese and the Qing dynasty. She was one of the few pirate captains in history to retire from piracy after China offered her amnesty. She is considered to be the most successful female pirate and one of the world’s most powerful pirates in history. In the third Pirates of the Caribbean film, Ching Shih was portrayed as the powerful pirate Mistress Ching, one of the nine Pirate Lords.

19. Jack Churchill

He was a WW2 Commando who served with distinction in a number of theaters, his exploits earned him the Distinguished Service Order as well as the Military Cross.

He was known as ‘Mad Jack’ by his men and his fellow officers for his ferociousness in combat. Unlike his more conventional peers his weapons of choice were not the traditional British fire arms of the period, instead he chose to rush in to combat with a long bow, a Scottish broadsword and his bag pipes.

In July 1943, as commanding officer, he led the 2 Commando from Sicily with his trademark Scottish broadsword around his waist, a longbow and arrows around his neck, and his bagpipes under his arm. Churchill was ordered to capture a German observation post outside of the town of Molina, controlling a pass leading down to the Salerno beach-head. He infiltrated the town and captured the post, taking 42 prisoners including a mortar squad.

After escorting the the wounded and prisoners back to the camp he went back to the observation post to retrieve his sword which he lost in hand to hand combat.   As far as he was concerned  “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed”

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18. Khutulun

This Mongolian Princess insisted that any man who wished to marry her must defeat her in wrestling, forfeiting horses to her if they lost. She eventually took a fall to one particularly desirable suitor at the request of her parents.

Khutulun was also would ride into battle alongside her father. Many Mongol women fought along side the men as they were expert mounted archers. Khutulun was known for charging straight at the enemy and literally plucking one of them and carrying them back as her prisoner. Marco Polo wrote she would ““make a dash at the host of the enemy, and seize some man thereout, as deftly as a hawk pounces on a bird, and carry him to her father; and this she did many a time”.

She was recently depicted in Netflix’s Marco Polo. 

khutulun

17. Roy P. Benavidez

On May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces patrol was surrounded by a NVA infantry battalion of about 1,000 men. Benavidez heard the radio appeal for help and boarded a helicopter to respond. Armed only with a knife, he jumped from the helicopter carrying his medical bag and ran to help the trapped patrol. At one point in the battle, an NVA soldier accosted him and stabbed him with his bayonet. Benavidez pulled it out, killed the NVA,  and kept going. After the battle, he was evacuated to the base camp, examined, and thought to be dead. As he was placed in a body bag among the other dead in body bags, he was suddenly recognized by a friend who called for help. A doctor came and examined him but believed Benavidez was dead. The doctor was about to zip up the body bag when Benavidez managed to spit in the doctor’s face, alerting the doctor that he was alive.

Sergeant Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

“Sergeant Benavidez’ gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.” – Medal of Honor citation

Roy P Benavidez

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