History is full of warriors who get decorated with medals and make great sacrifices. And some beat what by all accounts are impossible odds.
These are 11 superhuman soldiers who were like a one-man army.
He is most remembered for his action in 1951 during the Korean War, when he led the mixed United Nations Army out of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, while surrounded by several Chinese Communist Armies of far greater strength. At the time, a reporter pointed out that he was surrounded, and asked him what he would do. He replied “The bastards aren’t going to get away this time” (words to that effect; the actual words spoken differ with the source). His “attack to the rear” successfully saved the UN Army from almost certain defeat.
His awards include the Navy Cross (5 awards), the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit (two awards, with Valor device), the Bronze Star (with V device), the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and numerous campaign and foreign awards. He was called “Chesty” not only for his bull chest, but also for his fearlessness and devotion to duty. Born in West Point, Virginia, he served over 37 years in the United States Marine Corps; most was spent overseas. In August 1918, he left the Virginia Military Institute at the end of his freshman year to enlist in the Marine Corps, but World War I was over before he could go to Europe. On June 16 1919, he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Marine Corps Reserves, but was released from active duty only ten days later during a reduction in post-war forces. He then joined the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, a Haitian military/police force made up of United States military leading Haitian soldiers.
After five years in Haiti fighting rebels, he rejoined the USMC in March 1924 as a 2nd Lieutenant. In December 1928, he was assigned to Nicaragua, where the United States government was again fighting rebels, and quickly won the first of five Navy Crosses for valor. After attending the Company Officer’s Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, he returned to Nicaragua and earned a second Navy Cross. In January 1933, he returned to the United States only to ship out to China one month later, where he commanded the famed China “Horse Marines.”
In June 1936 he was an instructor in the Basic Marine School in Philadelphia, and rejoined the “USS Augusta” as the Marine Detachment Commander in 1939. In 1940, he was in Shanghai, China, and returned to the United States in August 1941, where he took command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division at Camp Lejeune.
In September 1942, the unit went to Guadalcanal, where Puller earned his third Navy Cross. He won a fourth Navy Cross at Cape Gloucester in January 1944. In February 1944, he commanded the 1st Marine Regiment and led them to Peleliu, returning to the United States in January 1945 to command the Marine Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune.
In August 1946, he became director of the 8th Marine Reserve District at New Orleans, then commanded the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii until August 1950, when he became commander of the reestablished 1st Marine Regiment, to lead them at Inchon, Korea during the Korean War. In January 1951, after successful evacuation from the Chosin Reservoir, he was promoted to Brigadier General and eventually became commander of the 3rd Marine Division in January 1952.
Promoted to Major General in September 1953, he assumed command of the 2nd Marine Division in 1954. He was appointed Deputy Camp Commander of Camp Lejeune in February 1955, retiring a year later. In 1966, he requested a return to Active Duty for Vietnam, but was turned down due to his age. He died in Hampton, Virginia, after a long illness.
2. Corporal Dipprasad Pun
Pun is a Gurkha. And all you need to know about Gurkhas is that they are each like a smaller version of Rambo. When Pun was on tour in Afghanistan, the Taliban got the jump on him, or so they thought. Pun’s killer instincts kicked in and he made mincemeat out of 30 of them.
Then, when he was all out of ammo, Pun decided to throw his machine gun tripod at one of the terrorists, shouting “I will kill you” in his native language. That’s nobody to mess with.
3. Audie Murphy
The most decorated U.S. soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy returned home a hero and became an actor, starring in his own story, To Hell and Back.
Born in Texas on June 20, 1925, Audie Murphy eventually became the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II after having enlisted in the military only 10 days after his 18th birthday.
In February 1943, he left for North Africa, where he received extensive training.
A few months later, Murphy’s division moved to invade Sicily. His actions on the ground impressed his superior officers and they quickly promoted him to corporal. While fighting in the wet mountains of Italy, Murphy contracted malaria. Despite such setbacks, he continually distinguished himself in battle.
In August 1944, Murphy’s division moved to southern France as part of Operation Dragoon. It was there that his best friend, Lattie Tipton, was lured into the open and killed by a German soldier pretending to surrender. Enraged by this act, Murphy charged and killed the Germans that had just killed his friend. He then commandeered the German’s machine gun and grenades and attacked several more nearby positions, killing all of the German soldiers there. Murphy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.
Over the course of World War II, Murphy witnessed the deaths of hundreds of fellow and enemy soldiers. Endowed with great courage in the face of these horrors, he was awarded 33 U.S. military medals, including three Purple Hearts and one Medal of Honor.
Though he was only 21 years old at the end of the war, he had killed 240 German soldiers, had been wounded three times, and had earned 33 awards and medals. After the war, he appeared in more than 40 films. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder throughout his life.
In June 1945, Murphy returned home from Europe a hero and was greeted with parades and elaborate banquets. LIFE magazine honored the brave, baby-faced soldier by putting him on the cover of its July 16, 1945 issue. That photograph inspired actor James Cagney to call Murphy and invite him to Hollywood to begin an acting career.
4. Joe Medicine Crow
Crow is a 100-year-old World II veteran, war-chief, and part of the Crow tribe. Back in his more youthful years, he helped invade Normandy. During one incident, his commanding officer asked him to take out a heavily fortified area of bunkers and artillery. The chances of the mission succeeding were slim, but Crow took seven men and managed to survive, all while blasting a hole in the enemy’s line. And not one of his men was lost.
In addition, Crow had one encounter with a Nazi who lacked his rifle, but he refused to shoot an unarmed man. So he took him to the ground and wrapped his hands around his throat until the Nazi was calling out for his mother, and made him a prisoner of war.
4. Navy Lieutenant Mark. L Donald
First off, Donald is a SEAL, which already makes him something like a superman. When Donald was in Afghanistan, he came under enemy fire which was wounding his buddies and Afghan soldiers. Then, Donald put his medical skills to use and helped patch up the wounded, while somehow remarkably continuing to engage his attackers.
The Military Times reported on how “bullets ripped through his clothing” as he provided medical care. As more soldiers were requiring medical attention, Donald did his best to see that they were evacuated. After all of that, he still was able to order the Afghan soldiers to thwart the ambush.
5. Navy S.E.A.L, Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle
Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL and most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 “confirmed” kills out of 255 claimed kills. Kyle’s claims are based on individual shooter logs. U.S. Special Operations Command treats sniper kill counts as “unofficial”.
Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. He received two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He was awarded the Grateful Nation Award by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Kyle claimed that Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and placed a $100,000 bounty for his head. He was wounded twice, and was involved in six IED attacks.
Kyle was honorably discharged from the US Navy in 2009. He remained in the spotlight after leaving the Navy and wrote a New York Times bestselling autobiography, American Sniper. Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range on February 2, 2013, near Chalk Mountain, Texas.
6. Army Master Sergeant John F. Baker
As a kid, Baker had the dream of being a Marine, but when he attempted to join they said he didn’t meet the height requirement. Fortunately, Baker’s dreams didn’t die as the Army snatched him up, and it was a move they would never regret.
When Baker was a private in Vietnam on a rescue mission, he and 200 other soldiers ran up against 3,000 Viet Cong. When Baker’s company commander ended up being killed, he had to act fast. Baker took out four snipers and six machine gun bunkers, saving several of his fellow soldiers in the process. In an interview later, Baker said “my uniform was solid blood.”
Luttrell joined the United States Navy in March 1999. He began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training with Class 226 in Coronado, California. He graduated with Class 228 after suffering a fractured femur early in his training. Marcus graduated 18 Delta in 2001, making him a team Medic.
On June 28, 2005, Luttrell and SEAL Team 10 were assigned to a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah (nom de guerre Mohammad Ismail), a high-ranking Taliban leader responsible for killings in eastern Afghanistan and the Hindu-Kush mountains.
The SEAL team was made up of Luttrell, Michael P. Murphy, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson. Luttrell and Axelson were the team’s snipers; Dietz was in charge of communications and Murphy the team leader. A group of goat herders stumbled upon the SEALs, the four SEALs immediately took control of the situation and discussed what to do with the herders. After taking a vote and basing their decision on ROE, Michael Murphy made the final decision to let them go. The herders were subsequently released and disappeared over the mountain ridge. Luttrell believed they immediately betrayed the team’s location to local Taliban forces and within an hour, the SEALs were engaged in an intense gun battle. In the ensuing battle, the rest of the SEAL team members were killed. Team leader Michael P. Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle. Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson, and Marcus were awarded the Navy Cross. An MH-47 Chinook helicopter was dispatched with a force consisting of SEALs and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment “Nightstalkers” to rescue the team, but the helicopter was shot down by an RPG. All 16 men on the Chinook were killed.
Luttrell was the only survivor. Badly wounded, he managed to walk and crawl seven miles to evade capture. He was given shelter by an Afghan tribe, who alerted the Americans of his presence, and American forces finally rescued him six days after the gun battle.
Following his physical recovery from Operation Redwing, Marcus went back and completed one more tour before being medically retired. He then wrote the book, Lone Survivor, to share the amazing story of his brothers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
8. Army Colonel Robert Howard
Howard enlisted in the United States Army at seventeen. He served five tours in Vietnam, in which he was wounded fourteen times, and received eight Purple Hearts. And to be honest, his exploits alone could create some awesome Hollywood action films.
Howard, who was a Green Beret, was made from the stuff of heroes. In Vietnam, while eating, an insurgent on a bike threw a grenade at Howard and his fellow soldiers. Everyone leaped for cover but Howard, who grabbed a M-16 from security personnel, shot the would-be insurgent, and then pursued him half a mile down the road to finish the job.
In addition, in Laos, Howard’s recon team was severely injured. He waited until nightfall, checking heartbeats and running his fingers up bodies for anything recognizable. When his touch felt a pair of brimmed glasses one of his team members wore, Howard pulled him to safety. He can be seen grimacing on the left like Clint Eastwood.
9. U.S.M.C. Sergeant Dakota Meyer
Meyer served two tours, one in Iraq and the other Afghanistan. And it was his bravery in Afghanistan that put Meyer’s name on the heroic wall of fame.
In 2009, then-Corporal Meyer heard the sounds of an ambush over the radio: his brothers in arms were taking fire from all sides. He made a quick decision, to do everything within his power to stop the enemy. Meyer asked Staff Sergeant Juan Rodriguez to drive the Humvee, while he manned the gun. All while enemy fire was whizzing past his head, Meyer came to save the day. He went back five times for his brothers. A few didn’t make it, but he saved 36 of them. Not to mention, the third time he went back he was doing the rescuing with shrapnel in his arm.
10. Army Medic Desmond Doss
When Doss joined the military during World War II, he refused to carry a rifle during basic training due to his strong religious beliefs, so he carried a Bible instead.
In boot camp, Doss was extremely unpopular due to such exemptions as not pulling KP on the Sabbath of Saturday, and one fellow soldier even told him, “When we go into combat, Doss, I’m gonna shoot you myself.”
Doss served in the Pacific theater and what he did on the island of Okinawa is nothing short of a miracle. Doss and his company were severely outgunned and outnumbered by the advancing Japanese. As his brothers were dying by his side, it looked like it might be the end for Doss.
However, in a moment of inspiration Doss remembered his training back home and the way he had saved flood victims. He used a rope and a stump, and for five hours lowered the wounded down a cliff while bullets were flying by him.
When all was said and done, Doss saved 75 of his brothers. He said of his remarkable feat, “What I did was a service of love.”
11. Lieutenant Michael Murphy
Chances are you’ve heard the name Michael Murphy before, because of the Hollywood blockbuster Lone Survivor. Murphy was a Navy SEAL and a man of the highest caliber.
In 2005, Murphy and his SEAL team were on a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan, when they were spotted by some local villagers. The villagers reported their encounter to the Taliban. Next, Murphy and his team were being pursued by 50 fighters. Everyone on Murphy’s team had been shot, and there wasn’t an area to signal for help unless you exposed yourself to the enemy.
Caring more about the lives of his brothers then his own, Murphy went out into the open and managed to get a call in to Bagram Air Base. He was shot several times by the Taliban while doing so, but the call for help was received. Oh, by the way, the Taliban force experienced thirty five casualties of its own.
Only one person survived in Murphy’s team – Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell – but it was Murphy’s sacrifice that led to saving Luttrell’s life.
Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty. Their unparalleled bravery and selfless sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Honorable Mention – General James “Mad Dog” Mattis