We all understand that action movies are cheesy escapism. After all, could one commando really take out a whole compound full of bad guys?
Actually, yes. It turns out the history books are full of stories of soldiers doing things so badass they'd hesitate to put them into a film for fear of killing the realism. Like these five, for example.
Who Was He?
Simo Hayha had a fairly boring life in Finland. He served his one mandatory year in the military, and then became a farmer. But when the Soviet Union invaded his homeland in 1939, he decided he wanted to help his country.
Since the majority of fighting took place in the forest, he figured the best way to stop the invasion was to grab his trusty rifle, a couple of cans of food and hide in a tree all day shooting Russians. In six feet of snow. And 20-40 degrees below zero.
Can you spot Hayha? Neither could the Russians.
Of course when the Russians heard that dozens of their men were going down and that it was all one dude with a rifle, they got fucking scared. He became known as "The White Death" because of his white camouflage outfit, and they actually mounted whole missions just to kill that one guy.
They started by sending out a task force to find Hayha and take him out. He killed them all.
Then they tried getting together a team of counter-snipers (which are basically snipers that kill snipers) and sent them in to eliminate Hayha. He killed all of them, too.
Over the course of 100 days, Hayha killed 542 people with his rifle. He took out another 150 or so with his SMG, sending his credited kill-count up to 705.
Since everyone they had was either too dead or too scared to go anywhere near him, the Russians just carpet-bombed everywhere they thought he might be. Supposedly, they had the location right, and he actually got hit by a cloud of shrapnel that tore his coat up, but didn't actually hurt him, because he's the fucking White Death, damn it.
Finally on March 6th, 1940, some lucky bastard shot Hayha in the head with an exploding bullet. When some other soldiers found him and brought him back to base, he "had half his head missing." The White Death had finally been stopped...
...for about a week. In spite of having come down with a nasty case of shot-in-the-face syndrome, he was still very much alive, and regained consciousness on March 13, the very day the war ended.
The Best Hollywood Could Come Up With:
Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) from Shooter:
In Shooter, Mark Wahlberg plays a reclusive, worn-out ex-sniper trying to escape the ghosts of his past. Bob Lee is called in by the FBI who want to know if he (hypothetically) wanted to murder, let's say, the president, how would he (hypothetically) do it? They claim that he's "the best there is" because after years of training with long-distance shooting, he successfully killed 70 men in the desert with one of these:
Why it doesn't Compare:
Aside from the obvious fact that Hayha killed over 10 times as many men after only the most basic military training, he did it in 40-below weather, in the middle of the forest. And he did it all with one of these:
Yogendra Singh Yadav
Who Was He?
Yogendra Singh Yadav was a member of an Indian grenadier battalion during a conflict with Pakistan in 1999. Their mission was to climb "Tiger Hill" (actually a big-ass mountain), and neutralize the three enemy bunkers at the top. Unfortunately, this meant climbing up a sheer hundred-foot cliff-face of solid ice. Since they didn't want to all climb up one at a time with ice-axes, they decided they'd send one guy up, and he'd fasten the ropes to the cliff as he went, so everyone else could climb up the sissy way. Yadav, being awesome, volunteered.
Half way up the icy cliff-o'-doom, enemies stationed on an adjacent mountain opened fire, shooting them with an RPG, then spraying assault-rifle fire all over the cliff. Half his squad was killed, including the commander, and the rest were scattered and disorganized. Yadav, in spite of being shot three times, kept climbing.
When he reached the top, one of the target bunkers opened fire on him with machine guns. Yadav ran toward the hail of bullets, pitched a grenade in the window and killed everyone inside. By this point the second bunker had a clear shot and opened fire, so he ran at them, taking bullets while he did, and killed the four heavily-armed men inside with his bare hands.
Meanwhile, the remainder of his squad was standing at the top of the cliff staring at him saying, "dude, holy shit!" They then all went and took the third bunker with little trouble.
For his gallantry and sheer ballsiness, he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military award. Unlike the Medal of Honor, the Param Vir Chakra is only given for "rarest of the rare gallantry which is beyond the call of duty and which in normal life is considered impossible to do." That's right, you actually have to break the laws of reality just to be eligible.
And we imagine the medal looks like two, brass testicles.
It has only been awarded 21 times, and two thirds of the people who earned it died in the process. It was initially reported that Yadav had as well, but it turns out that they just mistook him for someone less badass. Or they just figured no real human being could survive a broken leg, shattered arm and 10-15 fresh bullet holes in one sitting.
The best Hollywood could come up with:
John McClane (Bruce Wilis) from Die Hard:
Why it Doesn't Compare:
McClane has a fairly impressive resume of badassery, climbing through elevator shafts and killing terrorists with his bare hands, much like Yadav, except Yadav took more bullets in 10 minutes than McClane did in the entire series without even slowing down. Plus, he was fucking 19-years-old! Try to imagine a high school Bruce Willis screaming, "yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!"
Who Was He?
An allied commander in WWII, and an avid fan of surfing, Captain Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill aka "Fighting Jack Churchill" aka "Mad Jack" was basically the craziest motherfucker in the whole damn war.
He volunteered for commando duty, not actually knowing what it entailed, but knowing that it sounded dangerous, and therefore fun. He is best known for saying that "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed" and, in following with this, for carrying a sword into battle. In WWII. And not one of those sissy ceremonial things the Marines have. No, Jack carried a fucking claymore. And he used it, too. He is credited with capturing a total of 42 Germans and a mortar squad in the middle of the night, using only his sword.
Churchill and his team were tasked with capturing a German fortification creatively called "Point 622." Churchill took the lead, charging ahead of the group into the dark through the barbed wire and mines, pitching grenades as he went. Although his unit did their best to catch up, all but six of them were lost to silly things like death. Of those six, half were wounded and all any of them had left were pistols. Then a mortar shell swung in and killed/mortally wounded everyone who wasn't Jack Churchill.
When the Germans found him, he was playing "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" on his bagpipes. Oh, we didn't mention that? He carried them right next to his big fucking sword.
After being sent to a concentration camp, he got bored and left. Just walked out. They caught him again, and sent him to a new camp. So he left again. After walking 150 miles with only a rusty can of onions for food, he was picked up by the Americans and sent back to Britain, where he demanded to be sent back into the field, only to find out (with great disappointment) the war had ended while he was on his way there. As he later said to his friends, "If it wasn't for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!"
The Best Hollywood Could Come Up With:
Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert DuVall) from Apocalypse Now, of "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" fame.
Why It Doesn't Compare:
Well, truth be told, they're pretty much the same person. They're both at home on the battlefield, they have the same philosophies of war and both of them seem to be immune to mortar fire and bullets. Churchill's basically a crazier, Scottish version of Kilgore. With a big fucking broadsword. Like if Kilgore was played by William Wallace from Braveheart on crystal meth.