With feats of courage, strength, and cunning wit, there have been many hardcore soldiers throughout history. There is no standard template for these soldiers either, as they range from short to large and male to female. Let’s dive in.
32. Trumpet Victory
You don’t always have to be violent to be hardcore. Case in point: Ahmed Ademovic, a Serbian soldier during the First Balkan War. 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.
31. The Naked 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.
30. The Holdout
To Hiroo Onoda, World War II 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 isolated on a Philippine island until 1974 and still believed the war was going on, as he distrusted the news and pamphlets he came across over the course of the 29 years.
29. Man with the Iron Hand
Not many soldiers rank 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.
28. Hannibal Run
Sergius was captured by the illustrious Hannibal during the Second Punic War not once but twice. Again, no big deal. He escaped each time.
27. 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.
26. 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.
25. 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.
24. Dirty Mouth
While a badass fighter, the spirit of Götz lives on through his famous curse, “Er kann mich im Arsche lecken,” which of course means “he can lick me in the arse!” The line was attributed to him by famed German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
23. Beam Me Up
Hugely famous for playing Scotty in the early Star Trek, James Doohan was also a Lieutenant in the Canadian military and fought in World War II. The first battle action he saw was on D-Day, where he led a unit through a minefield. To prove how hardcore he was, during the battle he took six rounds to the body and lost his middle finger. One bullet hit him in the chest but was stopped by a silver cigarette case gifted to him by 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).
22. Strong Man Wei
Dian Wei was famous for his warrior strength, and rightfully so. His weapons of choice were two Jis weighing over 40 pounds each. In one battle, he carried in a dozen of these massive long swords and flung them at enemy soldiers until he almost single-handedly made the entire army retreat. He was immortalized as a character in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and later in the video franchise Dynasty Warriors.
21. What’s in a Nickname
Zhuge Liang is one of China’s most legendary military men. How legendary you ask? So legendary, his nickname is the “Crouching Dragon.”
20. Crazy-Eyed Killer
You only need one eye to shoot. This is what Leo Major argued after having his right eye blown out by a phosphorous grenade just days after stealing an armored Nazi vehicle during D-Day. Believing he looked like a pirate, he fought on as a sniper and scout during World War II.
19. Declining Awards
At the Battle of the Scheldt, Major went on a reconnaissance mission and came back with 93 Nazi prisoners. 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.”
18. Nothing Can Stop Him
In 1945, Major hit a land mine and was brought to a hospital where he was told he would no longer have to fight in the war. 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.
17. Another One
Leo Major wasn’t done after World War II. He also fought in the Korean War, where again he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In an attempt to recapture a strategic hill position, Major led a small sniper team behind enemy lines and opened fire on the Chinese, who panicked at the confusion. After Chinese reinforcements arrived (14,000 soldiers), Major was ordered to retreat. 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 World War II and the Great Purge. Although he was chief, he preferred to carry out the executions on his own, usually pulling the trigger himself.
15. World Record
In 2010, Blokhin was named the “Most Prolific Executioner” by Guinness World Records, mainly due to his role in the Katyn massacre. Over the course of 28 days, Blokhin shot about 7,000 Polish prisoners. Mom would be so proud.
14. White Death
A farmer standing at just over 5 feet, Simo Häyhä is a Finnish war hero who practically wiped out the Soviet army during the Winter War of 1939-1940. That is barely an exaggeration, as he is credited with at least 219 sniper kills, likely more. And he liked to do it without a scope. The Soviets were so scared of him, they gave him the nickname of “Belaya Smert,” which means “White Death.” You’re doing something badass if Russians are giving you a nickname like that.
13. Whichever Gun Fits
Sniping wasn’t the only form of combat Häyhä was noted for, as he also killed over 200 soldiers with his machine gun. He did this all over the course of fewer than 100 days.
12. Almost Doesn’t Count
The Soviets made it a priority to go after Häyhä, but for the most part, he evaded them. They almost got to him once, though, when he was shot in the jaw with an exploding bullet. He survived the hit and emerged from a coma several days later. He would go on to live to 96, dying in 2002.
11. Hero of the Soviet Union
A self-taught sniper, Ivan Sidorenko added the skill to his arsenal in order to better hunt enemies. 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.
10. Tank Destroyer
Sidorenko didn’t have to even fight the entire Second World War in order to be the most successful sniper of the war, as he had 500 confirmed kills. On one military excursion, he also used incendiary bullets—yep, they are exactly what they sound like—to explode three tractors and a damn tank.
9. Deadly Woman
As the most dangerous woman sniper in world history, Lyudmila Pavlichenko volunteered to join the Red Army at 24 years old after the Nazis launched their invasion on the Soviet Union. Within two and a half months she had 187 kills to her name, and by the end of the war 309. 36 of those were enemy snipers.
8. Made to Shoot
After being wounded in battle, Pavlichenko was sent to the United States to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to send troops in support. While touring the country with the Roosevelts, she inspired support with lines like “I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”
7. 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 hardcore snipers of all time, hiding everywhere from underneath rubble to inside water pipes. During the Battle of Stalingrad alone, he killed 11 snipers and 225 soldiers.
6. Only in the Movies
In the film Enemy at the Gates, Zaytsev fights in a duel with the Germans’ best sniper, Erwin Konig. This battle is known as one of the greatest battles in war history…except it probably never happened. Though Zaytsev details the tense battle in his autobiography, there is no evidence of Konig ever existing.
5. 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 great feat of bravery occurred during the Battle of Morval when he charged directly at a nearby sniper who was eyeing his unit. He did this without cover, took a bullet through his helmet and his coat, and promptly killed the sniper with return fire.
4. One Man Army
As if killing the sniper wasn’t enough, Todger continued on and killed two more German soldiers who were sneakily shooting straight at him while holding up a white surrender flag. But he still wasn’t done, and eventually reached the enemy’s trench, where he then forced 102 soldiers to disarm themselves.
3. One Armed Army
George Albert Cairns was lieutenant in the British army, and found himself and his unit dangerously close to a Japanese military camp while fighting 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 hanging by a few muscles, Cairns picked up the sword of his fallen enemy and killed several more Japanese soldiers before running out of blood. Literally only his body running out of blood could stop him.
2. 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.
1. Freedom Fighting
Donia was a giant of a soldier who fought to avenge the rape and murder of his wife. He stood seven feet tall, and was said to have been able to kill multiple people with a single swing of his seven foot long sword. After the Habsburgs killed his family and burned his house to the ground, he waged a lifelong guerrilla war against them.
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