Field medic David B. Bleak was by all accounts a quiet and humble man, but on one night in 1952 while on a mission during the Korean War, he turned into a superhero. After his patrol came under fire, he jumped into a trench and killed two Chinese soldiers with his bare hands before finishing off a third with his knife. Despite a serious leg wound, he continued to care for his injured comrades and even picked up a soldier and began to carry him to safety. While carrying the wounded soldier, he was confronted by two more enemy soldiers, so he did what any superhero would do and stopped them by BASHING THEIR HEADS TOGETHER. For his actions, he received the Medal of Honor.
How do you make your own legacy when your father is Teddy Roosevelt? Well, for Theodore Roosevelt Jr (technically Theodore Roosevelt III), it involves being the highest ranking officer to land by sea on D-Day. At the time, Brigadier General Roosevelt was 56, walked with a cane and suffered from WWI injuries and heart problems. Despite this, he repeatedly requested to actually land with the troops at Normandy. Eventually, his request was granted and Roosevelt personally coordinated the troop landings and inspired confidence in the GIs, despite enemy fire landing around them. Tragically, this American hero died a few days later from a heart attack.
Lt. Col. Matthew Urban was the most decorated soldier in World War II and for good reason. Near Renouf, France, he single handedly destroyed two tanks with a bazooka and effectively led his men until his wounds required an evacuation to England. While still recovering from his wounds, he voluntarily checked himself out of the hospital and hitchhiked back to his battalion, where he fearlessly led his men and refused further evacuation due to injuries on numerous occasions. Among his many, many awards are 2 Silver Stars, 7 Purple Hearts and a Medal of Honor.
Like many great superheroes, Peter Francisco's origins are shrouded in mystery. Five-year-old Peter was found on a Virginia dock, dressed in fine clothes and speaking no English. It's believed that he was possibly the child of wealthy Portuguese aristocrat and was either sent away for safety or kidnapped. Regardless, Peter grew to be a 6'8" giant, and was fiercely loyal to his adopted country. During the Revolutionary War, he committed many acts of strength and bravery, including taking on 9 British soldiers at once and carrying a 1,000 lb cannon by himself!
Taking on five soldiers at once is daunting, but Pvt. Dirk Vlug received the Medal of Honor for taking on five TANKS at once! Armed with a rocket launcher and a pistol, Vlug succeeded in single-handedly destroying five Japanese tanks during World War II, receiving the Medal of Honor for this incredible act.
Audie Murphy's accomplishments during World War II could fill up an entire book. He received every military combat award available for valor, including the Medal of Honor. He then went on to a successful film career, before dying in a plane crash at the age of 45.
Joe Rollino had strength that could only be described as "superhuman." During World War II, he was said to have rescued his fellow soldiers by putting two under each arm and carrying them out of danger. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.
Carlos Hathcock was a legendary sniper in the Vietnam War. He was so deadly that the North Vietnamese Army placed a $30,000 bounty on his head and he held the record for the longest sniper kill for thirty-five years. He was not just known for his aim, however. He was awarded the Silver Star after saving seven marines from a burning vehicle, despite suffering his own severe injures.
After US Navy Lt. Edouardo Izac was captured in WWI, his fluency in German enabled him to overhear important, enemy, tactical information. He became determined to get back to the allies with the info, no matter the cost. He attempted numerous escapes, including jumping from a speeding train, before he finally was able to break free by cutting through barbed-wire, traversing through the Alps and swimming across the Rhine. For this, he received the Medal of Honor.
Many great superheroes have alter egos and Deborah Sampson was no exception. During the Revolutionary War, she dressed herself up as a man so that she could fight against the British. She distinguished herself in battle and even tended to her own wounds to maintain her identity. Eventually, she was discovered when she had to be treated due to fever, and she was discharged with full military honors.
Normally, being shot through the stomach would take you out of a battle. This wasn't the case for Lt. Daniel Inouye during WWII. After this initial wound, Inouye proceeded to take out two German machine gun nests on his own. As he was heading to the third nest, a grenade launcher nearly took off his entire right arm. Most men would have given up then, but Inouye used his left arm to grab a grenade still clutched in the remains of his hand and destroyed the nest. Then, machine gun in hand, he charged, taking out as many Germans as he could, until he was shot again. He somehow survivedand went on to an extremely distinguished political career, becoming the second longest serving US senator in history.
Desmond Doss stands out as being the only pacifist on this list. A Seventh Day Adventist, Doss refused to kill or carry a weapon and so when he was drafted in WWII, he became a medic. Throughout the war, he undertook many feats of incredible valor, including single-handedly dragging 75 wounded soldiers to safety, crawling 200 yards through enemy fire to save a soldier and tirelessly assisting the injured, despite being wounded 3 times himself. For his accomplishments, he received the Medal of Honor.
Henry Johnson took on 12 Germans by himself...and won. When Pvt. (later Sgt.) Johnson and his fellow sentry, Pvt. Needham Roberts, were ambushed by a group of Germans. Roberts was quickly injured and Johnson had to fend off the invaders with grenades, followed by his rifle until it ran out of ammo, then the butt of his rifle until it shattered and finally, his bolo knife. By the time reinforcements had arrived, he had sustained 21 injuries, but had prevented the Germans from advancing or capturing Roberts. For this he received the the French Croix de Guerre (war cross) and in 2015, he posthumously received a long-overdue Medal of Honor.
What do you do if you're surround by the enemy and have a Nazi's gun poking you in the stomach? Well, if you're Leonard Funk Jr., you unleash hell. After capturing the town of Holzheim without a single casualty, Funk found himself on the business end of a German officer's pistol. The Germans had ambushed the town, Funk's men were captured and Funk was surrounded. Instead of surrendering, Funk whipped around his submachine gun and riddled the officer with gunfire. He then proceeded to attack the rest of the enemy soldiers, all the while screaming for his men to get up and attack. By the end of the battle, 21 hostiles were dead and the rest were captured.
Samuel Whittemore was the oldest combatant in the Revolutionary War. At 78 years old (the marker is two years off), he managed to kill three British soldiers near his property before being shot in the face, bayoneted, beaten and left for dead. When the American forces found him, he was still alive and trying to reload his musket.
Teddy Roosevelt, despite having no authority to do so, helped prepare the United States for the Spanish-American War. In 1898, the future-president was Assistant Secretary of the Navy and when he found the Secretary of the Navy out of the office, he decided to use his powers as "Acting Secretary" to have the Admirals prepare for war, ordering more weapons and supplies and even went to Congress to request more troops. Then, a few months later, he resigned from his job and formed the famous "Rough Riders," a regiment of army volunteers who were instrumental in the Spanish defeat.
Sgt. Alvin York is one of the most famous soldiers of World War I and for good reason. On October 8, 1918, then Cpl. York found all of his commanding officers dead and was facing thirty machine guns. York didn't surrender, but instead saved the surviving Americans by hunkering into a bunker and single-handedly taking out 28 Germans. After York picked off six Germans rushing him with bayonets, the German commander and his 128 men surrendered.
If you look at this picture closely, you'll see not one, but TWO Medals of Honor hanging around Daniel Daly's neck. He got the first during the Boxer Rebellion in China, single-handedly defending the US Embassy from over 200 assailants. The second came during America's occupation of Haiti, when Daly helped coordinate a marine victory over staggering forces. He wasn't finished yet, however. Throughout World War I, Daly, now in his 40s, distinguished himself time and time again, famously rallying his fellow marines by shouting out, "For Christ's sake, come on! Do you want to live forever?"