Any soldier has to be a tough guy just to fight. But then there are the guys who take it one step further. Here are 10 of the baddest asses in armies full of badasses.
Source: U.S. Marine Corps
By Dan Seitz
10. Brian Chontosh
Brian Chontosh, currently serving in the Marines, got the Navy Cross in 2003, which is hardcore, but not quite hardcore enough to make a top 10 list.
Now, being ambushed and driving your Humvee directly at the enemy's entrenched position, after which you leap into the trench, shoot terrorists until you run out of bullets for your Marine-issue guns, then take two AK-47s and kill some more terrorists, and then you find a rocket-propelled grenade and blow the hell out of even more terrorists? That's hardcore enough to make this list and then some. Chontosh killed twenty terrorists and seriously wounded several others, and probably ate three steaks and drank a keg of beer after, because he's ridiculously manly enough for that to be his lunch.
9. Craig Harrison
Source: Francis Flinch
It's very rare to set a world record in your field. And it's even rarer to break that record immediately after you set it. Unfortunately for two members of the Taliban, they were volunteered to secure Craig Harrison a place in the history books.
Harrison was a British sniper assigned to Afghanistan, and on this particular day, he had a Taliban fighter in his sights. One problem: they were almost two miles away. But it was perfect sniping weather, the air pressure was just right, and Craig was feeling lucky.
After nine shots to gauge the distance, he got his bearings, placed the target precisely on the Taliban fighter, and made him go away. Then Harrison noticed the friend of the guy he just wasted a little further back, and drilled him too. Two world record shots, and the record is currently set at 2707 yards. Modern Warfare players across the world are jealous.
8. Dirk Vlug
It takes a lot of balls to go up against a tank, even if you happen to have a rocket launcher. Dirk Vlug probably had three of them.
In 1944, Dirk Vlug and his balls were in the Philippines, helping General Douglas MacArthur settle a small disagreement over whether the Japanese were allowed to stay or be removed forcibly with dynamite. He had a fairly boring guard job, and just had a pistol and a rocket launcher with six rounds.
Then he saw two Japanese tanks coming up the road. Vlug, being a sane, rational man, quickly figured out that he had enough rockets to really ruin the Japanese's day, which he proceeded to do by marching out under machine gun and artillery fire, and blowing up one of those tanks one-handed with his rocket launcher. The second tank crew decided they were going to beat the crap out of him, something he promptly explained was a bad idea by shooting one of them in the face with his other weapon, a pistol. So they get back in the tank, which he promptly blew up before they could even get started.
Three more tanks show up, and make the serious mistake of irritating Dirk Vlug. By the time he's done, two are burning wrecks, one has been knocked off the road, and Vlug has earned the Medal of Honor...and the eternal fear of the Japanese.
7. Alvin York
Alvin York was a man who'd put violence behind him. After years of drinking and fights, his best friend had been beaten to death, and Alvin had sobered up and was flying right as a pacifist. Unfortunately, they don't really let you be a pacifist when you're drafted into the Army, so Alvin was packed off to World War I, given a gun, and told to kick some ass. So he kicked the absolute minimum needed.
Unfortunately for Germany, the minimum was pretty high.
York and his unit were trapped by German machine guns, and thanks to everybody else in charge being dead or wounded, York was running the unit. So York, not particularly enjoying the situation, began sniping the Germans out of their nest with his standard-issue rifle while politely asking them to surrender, kind of like a cross between Mr. Rogers and Dirty Harry. Instead they sent eight men with fixed bayonets to kill him, so he drew his pistol and drilled all eight.
Keep in mind, he was being shot at the entire time. With machine guns. From some increasingly scared and angry Germans. Finally, after the commander had emptied his pistol trying to kill York and realizing he was rapidly running out of men, volunteered to surrender. So York and the seven guys he had left wound up escorting 132 Germans back behind American lines, much to the shock of the Germans.
Then York went home and founded a high school. Seriously. Something to think about the next time you want to make fun of your principal.
6. Charles Upham
Source: Kurt Hutton/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Charles Upham is one of the few men who won the Victoria Cross, and then promptly found it so nice he did it twice.
The first time he was granted the highest award England can give a soldier because he took on a machine gun nest with a pistol and won, and then decided he really should rescue all those wounded. Keep in mind he did this while surrounded by Germans trying to kill him, and in the process put quite a few Germans into the ground.
For the second time, obviously the bar was raised higher. They don't just hand these things out in Crackerjack boxes. So he'd have to go really over the top to land a second VC, which he did handily by wasting a truck full of Germans with some grenades, getting wounded twice in the process. Deciding that medical attention was for wusses, and that he really liked what these grenades could do, he decided to lead the charge into battle, and managed to destroy a tank with grenades. Did we mention one of his injuries was a broken arm?
Later he was captured, and sent to Colditz, where he proceeded to bring new meaning to the term “pain in the ass” by repeatedly trying to escape. One of his escape attempts involved him jumping from a moving truck and getting 400 yards away on a freshly broken ankle.
5. Audie Murphy
Source: Horace Abrahams/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
If you want proof that being a short guy isn't going to stop somebody from being a powerful soldier, look no further than the most decorated soldier in World War II, Audie Murphy, who got every medal the Army could give him (literally) and a few from foreign countries as well.
Murphy, 5'5” and skinny to boot, first went into battle in 1943, where he gunned down two Italian officers. He then proceeded to pretty much tear the Axis powers new and spacious orifices wherever he went, consistently getting promoted after creatively handing some Germans or Italians what was left of their heads. But his greatest moment probably came at Holtzwihr.
Murphy's unit was down to 19 men out of 128. They couldn't fight, they needed to rearm, and they needed somebody to hold the line. So Murphy stayed behind, shooting Germans until he ran out of ammo. Then, deciding he wasn't done killing Germans, he jumped onto a burning tank and starting using its .50 caliber machine gun. He even killed an entire squad of Germans trying to sneak up on him. Oh, and he did this for almost an hour, while wounded in the leg. And then his men showed up, and Murphy led them on a forward action. Translation: after spending an hour in the freezing cold on a burning tank spraying Germans with machine gun fire, he decided that wasn't enough and decided to get close and personal.
That was enough to land him the Medal of Honor, and a movie career. By the way, the movie of his life, starring the man himself, might make him seem like a bit less of a badass than he was. This is because it was toned down at the request of one Audie Murphy: he thought nobody would believe he'd actually done all that.
4. Peter Francisco
Peter Francisco grew up an orphan under the care of the uncle of Patrick Henry, so it was logical he'd join the American militia in the Revolutionary War. What made it especially logical was his being six-foot-six and 260 pounds of sheer muscle. He was so big, in fact, that he got the nickname “The Virginia Hercules” and needed a broadsword specially forged to suit his height. The guy was so strong he could, and often did, pull around half-ton cannons to get just the right aim.
Francisco is widely considered one of the greatest American soldiers ever, seeing action all up and down the Colonies, including Monmouth, Stony Point, Brandywine, and Guildford Courthouse, where he pretty much killed eleven enemy soldiers with his bare hands and a broadsword. At Guildford, he was severely wounded and sent home...which didn't stop him from coming across a British raiding party of eleven men.
Francisco was severely wounded by highly trained elite soldiers, but needless to say, they didn't stand a chance: Francisco killed one, wounded eight, and just to rub it in, stole all their horses and delivered them to the American army. Reports differ on whether he also gave them wedgies before he left, but we think it's pretty likely.
Before Cortez showed up and started slapping them around, there was nobody scarier on the North or South American continents than the Aztecs. This was mostly because the Aztecs' idea of Super Bowl Sunday were mass sacrifices to the gods, and they weren't shy about going out, beating other tribes senseless, and then wiping them out.
So to impress these guys, you have to kick an awful lot of ass. Which is what Tlahuicole proceeded to do, so much so that when he was captured, the Aztecs decided they couldn't sacrifice him. So instead they gave him honors and freed him.
Tlahuicole had other ideas. He was going to be sacrificed, but it was going to be by a guy who could take him in single combat, no doubt a cunning plan to kill every single Aztec warrior with his bare hands. The Aztecs looked nervously at each other, shoved one guy in front of him, and it was on. It took twenty-eight fights, eight of which were fatal to the other guy, before he was killed, and we're pretty sure they had to cheat to make that happen. Otherwise, Cortez would have shown up and there'd just be Tlahuicole, hanging out, asking “'Sup?”
2. Saito Musashibo Benkei
In feudal Japan, if you were tall, ugly, and strong as an ox, there weren't a lot of decent jobs available. One of them, fortunately, was Buddhist monk, which Saito Musashibo Benkei took up with great skill. Another thing he took up with great skill was the naginata, a spear as tall as he was with what amounted to a katana on the end. You see, monks were expected to have military skill, which is pretty weird for men of peace until you realize that feudal Japan was basically a hellhole, so it was either know how to kick ass or get your ass kicked repeatedly. Still, give a guy like Benkei that and it's like arming the Hulk. It's just not going to end well for whoever makes him angry.
Benkei posted himself at a bridge and started collecting swords, forcibly, possibly out of boredom. On the thousandth sword, he met the one guy who could beat him up, Minamoto Yoshitsune, who he followed for the rest of his life.
Which ended with Benkei, on a bridge, holding off soldiers while his boss committed seppuku. Benkei killed so many people, and withstood so much damage, that after he died standing up, it still took the soldiers hours to get up the testicular fortitude to get close enough to realize he was dead. That's respect, right there.
1. Baba Deep Singh
"Baba," despite the Western connotations of baby talk, is actually an honorific among the Sikhs, roughly “Respected Elder,” and from this you might assume Baba Deep Singh was a religious man, which he was, and a man of peace, which he was. But you don't get to be a martyr by being a wuss, and Baba Deep Singh was going to earn the title.
He'd earned the right to retire, having served with distinction as a soldier. Unfortunately, he'd managed to offend Ahmad Shah Durrani, mostly by going in and inconsiderately freeing all those people he'd enslaved and raiding his treasury. In retaliation, Durrani, not really one for half measures, found the sacred shrine Harimandir Sahib, descrated it, and blew it up.
Singh, no believer in half measures himself, swore to rebuild the shrine and prayed that his head would fall at the Sahib (this is important to remember). So he went with a few guys, and on his way managed to raise an army of five thousand, setting the stage for the Battle of Amritsar, a truly epic fight, in the course of which, Singh was nearly decapitated.
Not that this actually killed him right there, mind you. No, Baba Deep Singh actually supported his head to keep the wound closed until he could kick enough ass to reach the shrine and die there. The dude actually put his head back on because he wasn't done beating up the guys who destroyed his shrine. And that's how you get number one, kids....deciding instant death can just wait a minute because you're not finished.