With feats of courage, strength, and cunning wit, a great number of exceptionally tenacious individuals have made their mark throughout history. There is no standard template for these individuals either, as they range from short to large and male to female. Let's dive in.
1. Trumpet Victory
You don't always have to be violent to be intense. Illustrating the point is Ahmed Ademovic, who served as a Serbian soldier during the initial Balkan conflict. Ademovic was also a trumpeter, and so was responsible for carrying out signals of advance and retreat. At the Battle of Kumanovo, the Ottoman force surprised and overwhelmed the Serbian army. Desperately needing a way for his side to win, Ademovic snuck behind enemy lines and played the Ottoman retreat signal, then rode back to the Serbian side and played the attack signal. The heroic move caused utter chaos, which the Serbs capitalized on as they rode to victory.
2. The Unclad Warrior
A companion to the prophet Muhammad, Dhiraar bin Al-Azwar is Islam's most famous ancient warrior; he is famous for diving into battle without any clothing or armor on his upper body.
3. The Holdout
To Hiroo Onoda, WWII couldn’t end until he was relieved of duty by his commanding officer. Considering the Japanese surrendered in 1945, this should have been no problem. Wrong. Instead, Onoda was secluded on a Philippine island until 1974, continuing to believe the hostilities were ongoing, given his distrust of the news and pamphlets he encountered during the span of 29 years.
4. Man with the Iron Hand
Not many individuals from the ranks of armed forces stand above the Roman general Marcus Sergius. In only his second campaign, his right hand was chopped off. No big deal, Sergius simply had an iron hand forged for him to wield a shield when he went to battle.
5. Hannibal Run
Sergius fell into the eminent Hannibal's capture twice during the Second Punic conflict, not just once. Again, no big deal. He escaped each time.
6. No Hands, No Feet
The loss of his right hand wasn’t all Sergius suffered through. In fact, he fought the majority of his battles severely disabled. He was wounded 23 times over his first two campaigns, and had no use of either of his feet or hands. Instead, he rode horseback, and even when that horse was cut down, which happened twice, he kept on fighting.
7. How About That Arm?
Losing a hand is one thing, but an entire arm? Well, that didn’t stop Götz von Berlichingen, affectionately known as Götz of the Iron Hand, from achieving legendary warrior status. He had two prosthetic mechanical iron arms made for the stump of his arm, both of which are now on display at the Jagsthausen Castle in Germany.
8. Can’t You Stop Plundering?
Götz was notorious for taking up feuds with just about everyone, and even jumping in on other feuds from time to time. He had numerous Imperial bans placed on him, as well as various fines for his exploits against different towns and merchants.
9. Dirty Mouth
While being a formidable fighter, the spirit of Götz endures through his notorious curse, "Er kann mich im Arsche lecken," which essentially translates to "he can give me a good smacking!" The line was attributed to him by famed German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
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10. Beam Me Up
James Doohan, renowned for his role as Scotty in the original Star Trek series, also served as a Lieutenant in the Canadian armed forces and participated in WWII. The first battle action he saw was on D-Day, where he led a unit through a minefield. To demonstrate his intense resilience, he endured six rounds to the body during the battle and lost his middle finger. One projectile struck him in the chest, but was halted by a silver case, a present from his brother. He would go to be known as the “craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force" (even though he was never actually in the Air Force).
11. Strong Man Wei
Dian Wei was famous for his warrior strength, and rightfully so. His tools of choice were two Jis, each weighing over 40 pounds. In one confrontation, he brought a dozen of these massive long swords, hurling them at his adversaries until he almost single-handedly provoked the entire group to retreat. He was immortalized as a character in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and later in the video franchise Dynasty Warriors.
12. What’s in a Nickname
Zhuge Liang is one of China's most legendary strategists and defenders. How legendary you ask? So legendary, his nickname is the “Crouching Dragon".
13. Crazy-Eyed Killer
You only need one eye to shoot. This is what Leo Major argued after his right eye was damaged by a phosphorous grenade just days following his daring act of seizing an armored vehicle from German forces during D-Day. Believing he looked like a pirate, he battled on as a marksman and scout during WWII.
14. Declining Awards
At the Battle of the Scheldt, Major undertook a reconnaissance mission and returned with 93 prisoners from the German forces. A one-man wrecking crew, when he was to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions, he declined because he believed the General who would be presenting him with the medal was “incompetent".
15. Nothing Can Stop Him
In 1945, Major encountered a land mine and was transported to a hospital where he was informed he wouldn't be required to engage in the conflict any longer. That wasn’t good enough for him, so after a short period of recovery he fled the hospital, and after a month with a family in the Dutch countryside, he returned to his unit and didn’t receive punishment for being Absent Without Authority, probably because he was their biggest badass.
16. Another One
Leo Major wasn’t done after WWII. He also fought in the Korean conflict, where again he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In an effort to regain a strategic hill position, Major led a small team of long-range marksmen behind enemy lines and initiated an attack on the Chinese, who were thrown into panic amid the chaos. After the arrival of 14,000 Chinese reinforcements, Major was directed to withdraw. Did he? Nope, he kept on fighting through the night, demanding his Captain drop mortars at a closer proximity to him to take out his enemies. He would live until 2008, passing away at the ripe old age of 87.
Vasily Blokhin was the chief executioner for the Soviet Union’s NKVD, a precursor to the KBG, under Joseph Stalin. Previously a Major-General, Blokhin performed mass executions during WWII and the Great Purge. Although he was chief, he preferred to carry out the executions on his own, usually pulling the trigger himself.
18. World Record
In 2010, Blokhin was recognized as the "Most Prolific Executioner" by Guinness World Records, largely due to his participation in the tragic events at Katyn. Over the course of 28 days, Blokhin shot about 7,000 Polish prisoners. Mom would be so proud.
19. White End
A farmer standing at just over 5 feet, Simo Häyhä is a Finnish conflict hero who practically wiped out the Soviet army during the Winter Conflict of 1939-1940. That is hardly an overstatement, as he is acknowledged for at least 219 targeted long-distance eliminations, possibly more. And he liked to do it without a scope. The Soviets were so intensely frightened by him, they bestowed upon him the moniker "Belaya Smert," which translates to "White Reaper". You’re doing something badass if Russians are giving you a nickname like that.
20. Whichever Firearm Suits
Sniping wasn't Häyhä's only noted form of combat, as he also eliminated over 200 army personnel using his machine. He did this all over the course of fewer than 100 days.
21. Almost Doesn’t Count
The Soviets made it a priority to go after Häyhä, but for the most part, he evaded them. They nearly reached him once, however, when an exploding projectile struck him in the jaw. He survived the hit and emerged from a coma several days later. He would go on to live to 96, dying in 2002.
22. Hero of the Soviet Union
Ivan Sidorenko, having self-trained in precise targeting, augmented his expertise for enhanced effectiveness against adversaries. He became so good, the Soviets had him teach others how to snipe, and after being wounded several times in different battles, his government forced him to retire from battle and work only as a teacher.
23. Tank Destroyer
Sidorenko didn't need to battle throughout the entirety of WWII to become the most effective sharpshooter in the conflict, having secured 500 verified kills. During one combat operation, he also utilized incendiary bullets—indeed, they are precisely what they appear to be—to detonate three tractors along with a formidable tank.
24. Deadly Woman
As the most perilous female sharpshooter in world history, Lyudmila Pavlichenko volunteered to join the Red Army at 24 years old after the Nazis initiated their attack on the Soviet Union. In a span of two and a half months, she had 187 successful operations to her credit, and by the end of the conflict, 309. Out of these, 36 were rival marksmen.
25. Made to Shoot
After being injured in a conflict, Pavlichenko was dispatched to the United States to persuade President Franklin D. Roosevelt to send support personnel. While touring the country with the Roosevelts, she rallied support with phrases such as "I am 25 years old and have by now, eliminated 309 invaders who believe in authoritarian nationalism". Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”
26. All You Need Is One
Immortalized in the West by the always dreamy Jude Law in the 2001 film Enemy at the Gates, Vasily Zaytsev is one of the most formidable snipers of all time, hiding everywhere from underneath rubble to inside water pipes. During the Battle of Stalingrad alone, he eliminated 11 snipers and 225 combatants.
27. Only in the Movies
In the movie Enemy at the Gates, Zaytsev engages in a combat showdown with Erwin Konig, the Germans' top marksman. This clash is celebrated as one of the most pivotal in historical conflicts...except it probably never transpired. Though Zaytsev details the tense battle in his autobiography, there is no evidence of Konig ever existing.
28. Todger’s Charge
Sometimes all it takes is one act of valor to cement your legacy, which is the case for Thomas Alfred Jones. Known as "Todger," his momentous act of courage took place during the Battle of Morval when he embarked on a direct charge at a nearby sharpshooter who had his unit in his sights. He accomplished this without any protection, received a shot through his helmet and his coat, and immediately neutralized the marksman with retaliatory fire.
29. One Man Army
As if neutralizing the sharpshooter wasn't sufficient, Todger proceeded to confront two additional German adversaries who were covertly launching an attack on him, even while waving a white surrender flag. Yet, he was not finished, finally making it to the enemy's trench, where he made 102 combatants surrender themselves.
30. One Armed Army
George Albert Cairns served as a lieutenant in the British forces, and along with his squad, he found himself perilously near a Japanese encampment during combat in Myanmar. It didn’t take long for a melee to break out, and during the fighting Cairns had his arm chopped off by a Japanese swordsman. But you should have seen the other guys. With his left arm barely intact, held together by mere muscles, Cairns picked up the weapon of his downed adversary and neutralized several more Japanese combatants before he succumbed due to blood loss. Literally only his body running out of blood could stop him.
31. My Land Is My Land
Pier Donia was a Frisian soldier who also spent time as a pirate. Once, after capturing 300 enemies in Hindelopen, Donia forced his captives to recite a traditional Frisian shibboleth of “Butter, bread, and green cheese: if you can’t say that you’re not a real Frisian,” as a way to distinguish who the true natives of the land were and who were the infiltrators.
32. Freedom Fighting
Donia was a towering soldier who sought retribution for the brutal assault and demise of his wife. He stood seven feet tall, and it was rumored that he could eliminate multiple people with a single swing of his seven foot long sword. After the Habsburgs annihilated his family and razed his house to the ground, he engaged in a lifelong guerrilla resistance against them.