History is full of total military bad asses that many of us do not know about. Or maybe we do know about some of them, but it’s never a bad idea to honor these great, bad ass men and learn more about their bad assery. Below are some of the toughest and bad ass guys that ever set foot on a battlefield in the 20th century.
10. “Mad Jack” Churchill: World War I
‘Mad Jack’ Churchill was a bad ass for the British army during World War I. Churchill was such a bad ass that he fought the entire war with his longbow, arrows and sword. No firearms. He is quoted to have said: “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” Keep in mind that he was using a sword and bow against the Germans armed with machine guns and tanks. He was the sole soldier in WWI to kill the enemy with an arrow. He also liked to entertain fellow soldiers with bagpipe tunes before battle; he was a master bag piper.
Churchill is pictured at above right with the sword in his hand.
9. Dirk Vlug: World War II
Dirk Vlug was posted in the Philippines and was under Gen. Douglas McArthur. His job was pretty dull as a guard and all he had was a pistol and a rocket launcher with 6 rounds.
One day, two Japanese tanks came up the road to his base. Vlug didn’t go asking for back up. No, he walked into the middle of the road under machine gun fire and blasted one of the tanks with his rocket launcher. The crew in the second tank decided to climb out and beat the shit out of him. Vlug discouraged them by shooting one in the face with his pistol. The others ran back to the tank, which he then blew to hell with his rocket launcher. Three more Jap tanks came and Vlug turned them into smoldering wrecks.
Vlug received the Medal of Honor for his bad assery, and the permanent fear of the island of Japan.
8. Bhanbhagta Gurung: World War II
Gurung was a bad ass soldier from Nepal and his actions during one day of brutal combat during World War II earned him the Victoria Cross. This is the highest honor for British soldiers.
In Burma on March 5, 1945, Gurung’s company was pinned down by a Japanese sniper and they were getting shot to bits. Gurung could not fire from his prone position so he stood up in full exposure to enemy fire and killed the sniper calmly with his rifle.
Then it gets really crazy from there.
His company then advanced and came under murderous fire. Gurung did not wait for any orders, he attacked a fox hole alone and threw two grenades, killing 2 Japanese machine gunners. Then he went to the next fox hole and killed another soldier with bayonet. He went on to two more fox holes and cleared them with grenades and bayonet. He was under continuous machine gun fire during these acts. He STILL went forward alone and attacked the machine gun nest that was firing on him and his company. He was out of grenades so he threw 2 smoke grenades into the fox hole and killed the 2 soldiers who ran out with bayonet.
A truly legendary bad ass.
7. Simo Hayha: Soviet Invasion of Finland, 1939
Simo Hayha was a pretty regular guy in peace time. He was in the military for one mandatory year in the 1930s and then he turned to farming. But when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, he decided to become a one man wrecking machine to the Red Army.
Much of the fighting happened in the forests of Finland. So Hayha figured he could best help out by grabbing his rifle, some canned food and hide out in the forest sniping Russians all day. He did this in 5-6 feet of snow in the forest in temperatures as low as -40 degrees F.
The Red Army knew they were taking heavy casualties in those Finnish woods, but they figured, that’s the cost of war. Then they found out it was one hick farmer with a rifle. So they started to send out teams to kill ‘The White Death’ as he was known, because of his white camouflage suit.
The first team the Russians sent out, Hayha killed. The second team, a group of counter snipers, Hayha killed. Over 100 days, this bad ass killed 542 men with his farmer’s rifle. He killed another 150 with his submachine gun.
The Red Army started to carpet bomb everywhere they thought he could be. He did once get hit by bombs but the shrapnel didn’t hurt him.
He did finally get shot in the head on March 6, 1940, and half his head was gone. But he still did not die. He regained consciousness on the day the war with the Soviets ended.
By the way, this bad ass gets genius bonus points for putting snow in his mouth so his exhaled breaths were not visible in the subzero temperatures.
6. Alvin York: World War I
Alvin York came from a violent background and had drinking problem. But after years of fights and booze and watching his best friend get beaten to death, York sobered up and became a pacifist. However he was drafted into World War I and given a gun and told to go kill Germans. That he did, and then some.
During one battle he and his unit was pinned down by German machine guns. His superiors were dead or wounded, so York found himself in charge. York started to snipe the Germans from their machine gun nest, while calling out nicely for them to give up. The Germans replied by sending 8 soldiers with bayonet to waste him. He kindly drew his .45 and shot every last one of them.
He was being shot at with machine guns all through this. The German commander finally volunteered to surrender as he ran out of men to send to their deaths to try to kill York. He and his 7 remaining company members took 132 Germans prisoner.
York gets bonus bad ass points for going home and founding a high school.
5. Chesty Puller: Haiti, Nicaragua, World War II, Korean War
Chesty was such a bad ass he fought and led battles over more than 20 years. He fought Caco rebels in Haiti in 1919 and bandits in Nicaraugua in 1930. For three years during World War 2, he led his Marines to victories in the bloodiest battles in the Pacific. He and his men hacked their way through Japanese infantry, and Puller earned five Navy Crosses during that time.
In Korea, Puller led the 1st Marine Regiment and he received the Silver Star for bravery in combat. Puller and his men were surrounded by Chinese and North Korean infantry at Chosin Reservoir, when he uttered one of the great bad ass lines of all time: “They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us, they can’t get away this time.”
Puller was the most decorated Marine in history, and he was one bad ass.
4. Charles Upham – World War I
Charles Upham was one of the select few men to win Great Britain’s Victoria Cross. Then he won it again!
The first time, he assaulted a machine gun nest in France with a pistol and won. Then he went on to rescue the many wounded. He did all of this while surrounded by murderous Germans, and he killed many of them.
For his second act, he killed a truckful of Germans with hand grenades while he was wounded twice. He refused medical attention and led his men into battle, and he killed a tank with grenades. He had a broken arm while doing this.
3. David Bleak: Korean War
This great Korean War bad ass in the 40th Division of the US Army got a Medal of Honor for bashing skulls, taking bullets, saving the wounded and killing the enemy, sometimes with his bare hands.
Did we mention that he was a member of the medical corps?
This medical corps bad ass volunteered to go on a reconnaissance patrol that was to attack the enemy and capture a prisoner. This group was blasted with machine gun fire and several men were shot. After he cared for his wounded, he advanced with the group. He came under fire while helping the wounded. He found the enemy in a trench and he closed in. This mild-mannered medical corpsman killed two Koreans with his bare hands and another with his trench knife. Next, he provided himself as a shield to a concussion grenade and was hit by enemy fire. Still, he worked to evacuate the wounded. As he carried away a wounded man, he was attacked by two of the enemy with bayonet. He grabbed the two by the head and slammed them together and and helped his wounded man to safey.
2. John Basilone: World War II
The Americans and the Japanese met on Guadalcanal a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Marines were determined to hold Henderson Field, which was a key to holding the entire island.
At Luna Ridge near the field, the Marines were exhausted defending the area due to the endless rain, mud and constant barrages of Japanese soldiers. Around midnight, hundreds of Japs came screaming from the jungle. They threw themselves on the barbed wire-ringed foxholes of the Marines, so that the Japs behind them could move forward.
One of the leaders in those foxholes was Sgt. John Basilone. He knew his water cooled machine guns inside and out. He knew he had to keep them firing nonstop to keep the position. All night with grenades and bullets going off around him, Basilone stayed with his men. He had to repair guns and switch barrels in total darkness. He also had to run for ammo several times. Japanese bodies were so highly piled in front of the machine guns that he had to reset the guns so they could fire over the bodies. This continued all night. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Basilone volunteered to go back to the Pacific on Iwo Jima in 1945 where he was killed leading his company. A great, great bad ass.
And our #1, Wolf-In-Newspaper-Delivery-Boy’s-Clothing, Bad Ass of the 20th Century….
1. Audie Murphy: World War II
When Audie Murphy applied to the Marines in 1942, he was 16 years-old and was 5 foot, 5 inches tall. He weighed 110 pounds soaking wet. He looked like a newspaper delivery boy. You wouldn’t have been sure he was old enough to trust to babysit your cat for the weekend.
The Marines laughed at the short and skinny, baby-faced Murphy and sent him on his way. He applied to the Air Force and they laughed even harder at him and sent him on his way. Then he applied to the Army. They needed bodies for the meat grinder of Europe, so they took him. He didn’t do well in training and the Army wanted to make him a cook. He even passed out a few times in training. He would not give up though so they sent him into war.
During the Italy campaign, Murphy was made a corporal for his fantastic shooting abilities. He shot two Italian officers in 1943. He got malaria during this time, so keep in mind he was sick all through the war.
He went into France in 1944. He and his team ran into a Nazi machine gun nest and they pretended to surrender, but shot Murphy’s friend. Well, Murphy went ape shit. He wasted everyone in the nest, and used their guns to slaughter every German within 100 yards. He also took out two machine gun nests nearby and several snipers. Murphy got a Distinguished Service Cross and was made platoon commander. And he got lots of apologies from people who used to call him Shorty.
Murphy was nowhere near done. Six months later, his company was ordered to defend the Colmar Pocket, which is a very important part of France. He only had 19 men left out of 128 and two M-10 tank destroyers. The Germans came in with several hundred men and 6 tanks. Murphy sent the M-10s in to deal with the threat. They got blown to bits.
So Murphy, this tiny kid with malaria, ran to one of the M-10s on fire, and got behind the .50 caliber machine gun and just shot the Germans to bits. He took out an entire squad of Germans trying to flank his tank and dozens of others. He was wounded in the leg. The M-10 was in flames and full of gas and could blow at any second. He continued to blast away for an hour, and the M-10 finally blew up as he was walking away, Mad Max style. He then led his men on an assault on the German forward positions.
The Army gave him every medal in the arsenal, including the Medal of Honor. Murphy went on to star as himself in a movie of his amazing exploits. But it was toned down in the Hollywood version because Murphy did not want to seem to be exaggerating or prideful.
Murphy gets massive bad ass bonus points for doing all this incredibly brave fighting as sick as a dog, and for looking like a newspaper delivery boy. He most deservedly is our #1 Bad Ass.