Any soldier or marine who has ever jumped on top of a grenade to shield his squad-mates.
On December 19, 1941 at the Battle of Hong Kong, Canadian Army Company Sergeant Major John Robert Osborn jumped on a grenade, sacrificing himself to save his men. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
In the same battle, a dog (a Newfoundland from Newfoundland) named Gander picked up a hand grenade with his mouth and rushed it back towards the enemy, saving the lives of the rest of the squad. Gander had been a family pet before, and was put in the military when he accidentally hurt a child by his owner to avoid having to put his pet down.
On November 7, 1943 at Bougainville, Marine Sergeant Herbert J. Thomas, Jr deliberately fell on a grenade, sacrificing himself protecting nearby Marines.
On September 1, 1950, near Yongsan, Korea, U.S. Army Private First Class David M. Smith noticed an enemy grenade lobbed into his company's emplacement. Pfc. Smith shouted a warning to his comrades and, fully aware of the odds against him, flung himself upon it. Although he was mortally wounded in this display of valor, his act saved 5 men from injury or death.
On February 23, 1971, a M35 2½ ton cargo truck was ambushed by a squad of NVA soldiers near An Khê. At one point during the firefight, an NVA soldier threw a fragmentation grenade into the truck's compartment. 21-year-old Specialist Four Larry G. Dahl was the only occupant who heard the grenade land into the truck. Realizing that there was not sufficient time to return it, he immediately threw himself on top of the grenade, saving his comrades' lives but at the cost of his own. Dahl was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
On April 14, 2004, near Husaybah, Iraq, Jason Dunham used his body and helmet to shield others from a grenade explosion - but died shortly afterward from his injuries.
On July 26, 2006, Roi Klein, during the Battle of Bint Jbeil jumped on a grenade thrown into the house where Klein and his unit were present and stopped the explosion with his body.
On Dec. 4, 2006 in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 19 year old U.S. Army Spc. Ross A. McGinnis was killed instantly when he used his body to smother a grenade, saving the lives of four nearby soldiers.
Two words: "Let's roll." After ten years this may need some context to make sense, and if not it's still worth telling the whole story. During the September 11th attacks, there were four hijacked planes: two hit the World Trade Center, one hit the Pentagon, and the fourth - United Flight 93 - crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. For a while it wasn't clear what had happened to United 93, but then recordings of several phone calls made by the passengers and flight crew were found. The most famous of those calls, made by passenger Todd Beamer, included the explanation that he and several others on board were planning to rush the hijackers and attempt to take back control of the plane. Beamer's call ended with the words (addressed to someone else aboard the plane) "Are you guys ready? Okay. Let's roll." No one aboard the plane survived, but thanks to the resistance the hijackers failed to reach their target (possibly the US Capitol Building or the White House) and many more lives were probably saved.
FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller got stuck in traffic in the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel on 9/11. In response he put on 60 pounds worth of his firefighting gear and ran over a mile and a half the rest of the way through the tunnel to the World Trade Center where he was killed. A race is now held every year through the same tunnel in his honor.
Werner Voss—German Ace Pilot in WWI, 48 kills to his credit. Voss was killed fighting at least 6 elite British pilots (by HIMSELF), among which were James McCudden and Arthur Rhys-Davids in an epic, 10-minute dogfight. He managed to put bullets into ALL of the other planes before he caught one through the lung. By the way, he was 20.
Athanasios Diakos, during the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821; the man led a group of 800 Greeks that were defending a bridge in Alamana, Greece, against the oncoming Turkish army. They eventually lost and he was executed by the Turks, but not before earning a badass exit from the world. His last words were, in verse: "Just look at the time when Death chose to call, now that the flowers come to bloom and the earth springs sweet grass."
After the USS Cumberland was rammed by a Confederate ironclad, her crew kept up heavy cannon fire while sinking. The ironclad was impervious to their fire, but still.
HMS Glowworm: when a duel against two German destroyers became the losing side of a Curb-Stomp Battle against the faster, more heavily armed heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, her captain, Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope VC RN, attempted to torpedo his opponent, playing what was a small ship's hole card against larger ones in those days. When this failed, he charged his burning ship in to ram. Glowworm was on fire from end to end, her guns knocked out, and her Action Stations klaxon stuck on due to a shorted-out wire connection. The Germans were being attacked by a flaming ghost ship that was screaming like a banshee and determined to ram them. It could only have one ending, but when it was over the German cruiser had had 130ft of armour plate and half its own torpedo tubes ripped off, while Glowworm carried Roope and 108 of his men to Valhalla. Captain Roope was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross - at the recommendation of the German cruiser's captain.
For the record, the captain was Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmede-Roope VC RN.
HMS Rawalpindi: a converted merchant ship patrolling the North Sea, found itself pitted against German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in November, 1939. Despite being hopelessly outgunned, slower, and then some, its captain, a 60-year old reserve officer named Edward C. Kennedy, decided to fight instead of surrendering. (His supposed last words were "We’ll fight them both, they’ll sink us, and that will be that. Good-bye.").
HMS Jervis Bay: another converted merchant ship escorting a North Atlantic convoy during World War II, found itself confronted by German heavy cruiser (or, a pocket battleship) Admiral Scheer. Despite being heavily outgunned, the British captain fought the German cruiser so that the merchant ships he was escorting could escape—which most of them did. Captain Fegen of the Jervis Bay was awarded Victoria Cross posthumously for this battle.
Despite already having been wounded, Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean of the corvette HMAS Armidale elected to go down with his stricken ship, firing a 20mm cannon against attacking Japanese aircraft - shooting down one of them - in order to dissuade them from strafing his comrades as they evacuated. The truly awesome part? He continued firing even after he had become submerged.
The Australian Navy got a ship named HMAS Sheean. Her motto? "Fight On". Her type? Collins-clas Submarine.
When HMS Kelly was lost in 1941 during the evacuation from Crete, her gun turrets only ceased firing when the water level reached the muzzles. The gunlayers were doomed, but they kept fighting to the bitter end.
The Bismarck didn't go down quietly, and after being alone, bombarded, having her rudder torpedoed and stuck in a permanent circular motion, it took out the HMS Hood and stood quite well against a FLEET of enemy ships.
Point of order: The Bismarck sank the Hood on May 24, 1941 (Battle of the Denmark Strait). The Bismarck itself was hit by the crucial rudder-jamming torpedo in the night of May 26, and sunk on May 27 —three days after having sunk the Hood.
The Hood herself is believed by many to have had a dying moment of awesome; for context, the Bismarck's fatal shot blew up the Hood's ammunition magazine, breaking her keel and splitting her in half. While her bow was pointed straight up in the air and sinking, her forward turret fired off one last shot, remaining Defiant to the End.
Lesser known then the famed sinking of the Bismarck was the battle of the Northern Cape. The battleship Scharnhorst was the last serious threat to Arctic convoys to Russia. It took 1 battleship (HMS Duke of York), 1 heavy cruiser (HMS Jamaica), 3 light cruisers and 9 destroyers and 10 hours of pursuit, torpedoes and shelling to stop the lone battleship and sink her. Only 36 of a crew of 1,932 survived, compared to 11 dead and 11 wounded on the British side. The Commander of the detachment believed the only reason they got off relatively light was because the Scharnhorst's radar had been damaged in a convoy raid before the attack
"Gentlemen, the battle against the Scharnhorst has ended in victory for us. I hope that any of you who are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, will command your ship as gallantly as the Scharnhorst was commanded today." -Admiral Bruce Fraser
Catiline was a violent, power-mad traitor to the Roman Republic but he certainly earned one of these. During the final battle, when he saw that all was lost, he charged deep into the enemy lines. After the battle he was found lying far from his own lines, still barely breathing, surrounded by the corpses of his foes.
The chroniclers also noted that all wounds sustained were at his front, meaning that he went down fighting and did not run from his fate
Vespasian's exit was classy: aware that he was breathing his last, he got someone to help him out of bed - so that he could diestanding up.
Not only that, but he went off with some really snarkyFamous Last Words: "Oh, dammit — I think I'm becoming a god." (Ut puto, deus fio.) note To explain: Back in those days Roman emperors (beginning with Caesar, or Divus Julius, deified Julius as he was known by Romans after his death) were considered godly - but only after their death. His comment most likely puts a lampshade on the absurdity of this belief.
Constantine XI, arguably the last Roman emperor, qualifies. Despite a hopeless situation, he refused to surrender Constantinople to the Turks, despite the Turks offering to spare his life if he did so. When the Turks broke through the walls, he led a last hopeless charge against the invaders, stripping off his imperial clothes so that nothing would distinguish him from his soldiers. He died with them and is likely to have been buried in the same marked grave as they.
Enver Pasha the Turkish Nationalist. He almost certainly had some part in the Armenian Massacres. But he was charismatic, clever, and brave. He fled to Russia, and joined the anti-Red rebels in the Caucausus. When this was hopeless he made a last charge. Tales say he died close to the legendary birthplace of the Turkish race. Thus he died exactly as he should have. He was too wicked to die of old age and to much of a Magnificent Bastard to be hanged.
Marian Fisher, age 13, to the crazy man that would kill her and other Amish girls: "Shoot me first!"
James Connolly, signer of Poblacht na hEireann, and leader of Irish independence. He was badly wounded, and executed by the British, having to be tied to a chair as his wounds prevented him from standing. His death gained huge sympathy and support for the nascent Irish Republican movement, and also brought new members to the ranks of the IRA.
According to at least one story, it's even more of a CMOA - he is said to have whispered/mouthed "Fire" just before the firing squad opened up.
Nathan Hale, American martyr-spy of The American Revolution. As he was about to be hanged, he proclaimed, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Dian Wei, Cao Cao's bodyguard during the Three Kingdom wars, faced down a large amount of soldiers, and he took forever to die. When he was finally killed, the soldiers beheaded him, just to make sure he was dead, and STILL weren't sure he was dead.
Fu Tong was surrounded by Wu warriors and was asked to surrender during the retreat from Yi Ling. His reply:
Shall I, an esteemed General of Han, bow down to the curs of Wu? And then he charged into their lines (and died).
300 Spartans at Thermopylae went up against (accounts vary, but most estimates put it at) a couple hundred thousand Persians, knew they were going to die going in, and still considered it an honor to go. According to the records, they took some 20,000 Persians with them, including a good percentage of the legendary Immortals. That's a kill ratio of approximately 67:1 (There were about 5000 other Greeks, but most left before the very end, with the Spartans, their 900 non-combatant slaves and a party of 700 Thespians covering their escape.) Massively aided by terrain; the Greeks were holding a narrow pass, so despite the lopsided numbers overall the actual fighting was done by approximately equal forces, and when the Persians finally managed to flank them it was pretty much all over.
The Battle ofSaragarhi: 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment in British Indian Army were stationed at a remote and lightly fortified outpost on the northern Indian border. The outpost itself was primarily a signalling outpost, linking two larger British forts by line of sight to its east and west. On the 12th of September 1897, 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai tribesmen marched southward to take this outpost as a prelude to invade British India. The outpost's commanding officer, Ishar Singh gave his men a choice; to evacuate to one of the nearby British forts and fight the enemy there, or to stand and fight to the death. Knowing that they are probably all that stand between the enemy and the heartland of the British Raj, all 20 elected to stay. Though outnumbered roughly 500:1note Using modern estimates, the Greeks at Thermopylae were outnumbered roughly 200:1 during their last stand the Sikhs managed to hold off the tribesmen for the entire day. Some amazing feats of heroism include denying two attempts by the tribesmen to Zerg Rush the main gate, in an era where the machine-gun hadn't been invented, and Ishar Singh singlehandedly holding the breached outer walls in order to allow his men to fall back to the inner fortifications. He died valiantly in hand-to-hand combat against a horde of rifle-swinging tribesmen, armed only with a Kirpan dagger. We know this as the Sikh contingent's signalman, Gurmukh Singh, was reporting to the other fort the events of the battle blow by blow, while sniping enemy soldiers from the outpost's signal tower. Eventually, Gurmukh was the last of the 21 left alive by the end of the day. He continued to snipe tribesmen from the signal tower, which the enemy had set on fire in order to kill him. Once he ran out of ammunition, it is said that he fixed his bayonetand charged the enemy, yelling the regimental battle-cry "Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!!" note Translation: "He who cries 'God is Truth' is ever victorious!" He is personally credited with killing 20 of the enemy before succumbing. The number of tribesmen the Sikhs took with them range between 180 to 800. Thanks to their sacrifice, the tribesmen lost the element of surprise and were turned back when they tried to attack the next fort (which was able to receive reinforcements the day after the battle). When relief forces finally reclaimed the outpost, they found that not a single Sikh had an unexpended round of ammunition. The average soldier of the day carried 400 rounds each. When their story was brought before British Parliament, it was received with a standing ovation. Each Sikh posthumously received the Indian equivalent of the Victoria Cross, and to this day Sikhs around the world celebrate the 12th of September as Saragarhi Day, to commemorate their last stand.
The Battle of Wizna. 700 Poles versus 42,200 Nazis with 350 tanks and a bit over 600 pieces of artillery. The Polish commander, Władysław Raginis swore that he would not leave his post alive. The Polish army held out for three days.
They would have held out longer but Raginis, seeing that no help is coming, decided to save his soldiers by allowing them to surrender, but not before blowing himself up with a grenade, so as not to break the vow.
Decorations for valor in combat tend to be this. Among those that have earned the Medal of Honor (USA), more than half of them died while doing the deeds that earned them the medal.
Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, where he ended Napoleon's hopes to invade England. After being shot and having a lung pierced and his back broken by a French sniper, he was helped downstairs to the ship surgeon by two of his men but first stopped them so he could give advice to the man handling the tiller, and did his best through the whole trip to not give away how injured he was and cause his crew to lose morale. His last words upon being informed of the British victory: "Thank God, I have done my duty."
Boy Seaman 1st Class Jack Cornwell, the youngest posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross, got one of these at the Battle of Jutland whilst serving aboard the HMS Chester. On the morning of the battle, Chester was jumped by four Kaiserliche Marine cruisers. Cornwell stayed at his 5.5 inch gun, despite sustaining mortal wounds. He remained at his post, despite enormous steel shards through his chest, for fifteen minutes. His citation, from Admiral David Beatty, reads: "the instance of devotion to duty by Boy (1st Class) John Travers Cornwell who was mortally wounded early in the action, but nevertheless remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders till the end of the action, with the gun's crew dead and wounded around him. He was under 16½ years old. I regret that he has since died, but I recommend his case for special recognition in justice to his memory and as an acknowledgement of the high example set by him."
Casey Jones, who became a folk hero on the level of Davy Crockett after sacrificing himself trying to save his train from crashing into another. He saved the lives of everyone else on the train, becoming the incident's only fatality, and according to who you believe his hands were still tightly clutching the brake and whistle cord when his body was recovered.
At the Alamo, 200-odd soldiers defended the mission against Santa Anna's 2400-strong army for 11 days before being slaughtered.
Davy Crockett marshaled the Texan forces to a heroic stand after the commander, William Travis, was prematurely slain at the beginning of the battle. Though the Mexican forces took the fort, a lot of them fell in the process. Crockett was said to be among the last to fall; he and his party of adventurers from Tennessee dying holding a small hill within the fort.
William Barrett Travis, though he was killed very early having been shot in the head, he sat up in the dirt and saw a sword of a Mexican officer coming down at him. With the last of his strength, on his knees, he fenced with the Mexican officer and ran the man through before allowing himself to expire.
A somewhat confusing example is presented by US Admiral Daniel Callaghan, who led the US fleet during the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. On the one hand, he took on a much more powerful Japanese squadron and prevented the shelling of the Henderson Field and the landing of Japanese supplies and reinforcements, while having most of his fleet sunk or crippled and having himself killed. After action evaluation of the battle showed, however, that he made serious mistakes before and during the battle which contributed to the near-catastrophe of the battle for the US, which was prevented largely by the loss of nerve by the Japanese admiral who decided to pull out and abort his mission after the battle. Still, the aggressive (if faulty) actions by Callaghan did contribute to the Japanese decision and the man died in the battle to boot, so the negative evaluations were suppressed and the US admiral was publicly touted as a great hero.
Fabrizio Quattrocchi was an Italian security guard working in Iraq. In 2004, he was captured by terrorists who forced him to dig his own grave and kneel beside it wearing a hood as they prepared to film his death. He defied them by trying to pull off the hood and shouting: "I'll show you how an Italian dies!" right before he was shot.
Sikh martyrs Sahibzada Fateh Singh and his brother, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh. They were executed at ages 7 and 9 for refusing to convert to Islam during the era of persecution of non-Muslims by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Even during their execution (which consisted of them being bricked up alive within a city wall), they repeatedly defied orders from their executioner, saying they would rather face death than compromise their beliefs. The people who actually carried out the order seemed to feel for the two; instead of completely enclosing them within the wall, the wall was only built up to shoulder-height and the boys died by decapitation instead of what would have been. The person responsible was later killed for his crimes. This could also be an example of Face Death with Dignity.
We are talking about the man who, during the horror that was the retreat from Moscow, singlehandedly formed the rearguard at one point. He walked backwards out of Russia, picking up abandoned muskets and using them to hold off the Cossacks, and was the last survivor to enter a French garrison. He earned the right to die as he chose.
Chilean Colonel Badass Jose Miguel Carrera did exactly the same request when he was about to be executed in the same way. When denied, he merely said "It's all right, gentlemen. Then, please aim to the spot where I'll place my hand on". Then he put his hand over his own heart, and his wish was granted.
Another one of Napoleon's Marshals, Joachim Murat, was shot after a rushed trial as well; he commanded the fire as well, but told the firing squad to spare his face.
Even more awesome for what he did to earn that trial and execution: when Napoleon returned from his first exile, and before he could return to Paris and start his own last war, Murat led his Kingdom of Naples in an attempt at unifying Italy, conquering almost everything south of the Po before being stopped. Also preventing the Austrians from invading France from south... And laying the ground for the pro-unification insurrections and the Wars of Italian Independence.
Petronius Arbiter, Nero's sometime style-consultant, was eventually ordered to commit suicide. Where most people included the Emperor in their will in the hopes that he would leave their actual heirs something, Petronius included an addendum detailing all of Nero's sexual perversions. The fashionable thing to do was to do a full-blown Socrates imitation, complete with high-minded conversation and hemlock. What did Petronius do? Throw a party for his closest friends, drink, sing bawdy songs, smash his most valuable possessions to keep them out of the hands of Nero, and, as the night wore on, let his blood out little by little.
A cruel subversion happened in the case of the Columbine shootings. Misty Bernall believed that her daughter Cassie, one of the victims, stood up to one of the boys and when he asked her if she believed in God, she said "Yes" - she even wrote a book about her daughter and her last moments. However, it was later proved that poor Cassie never said that; her actual last words were "Dear God. Dear God. Why is this happening? I just want to go home.". Another girl, Valeen Schnurr, saying "oh God, don't let me die", was asked if she believed in God and said she did; when asked why, she said because that was the way she was raised. Her assailant walked away; she survived.
An example on a whole other scale: The Wari Civilization of pre-Columbian South America, apparently believing in the credo of 'Make Love, Not War', decided to let their ENTIRE CULTURE go out with awesome. They built the most advanced brewery the world had seen to that day, churning out 1000 liters of high-proof alcohol per day, and then proceeded to throw the most outrageous party the world had ever seen - dancing, feasting, and drinking themselves into a stupor. Finally, they set fire to the brewery, tossed their cups into the inferno, and walked away in a dozen different directions, marking the disappearance of the Wari People into the annals of history.
It's a stereotype to say that the Balinese make an art out of practically everything... and mass ritual suicide should not be seen as beautiful, but the puputan of the ancient Balinese royal courts belongs on this page. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Dutch Colonial Empire moved in to take control of the island. On September 14, 1906, three Dutch battalions landed on the beaches of South Bali and advanced toward the villages, finding them deserted and in flames. For two years, the Balinese fought back. Princes and their courts chose death rather than surrender. At Badung, the royal family came out in procession, stopping a hundred yards from the Dutch, whereupon the King signaled his high priest to stab him to death, while his family did the same. When the Dutch blew up Klungklung, the last and greatest palace, the King and his entire court, dressed in their most elegant garments, purposefully marched into the gunfire. Those who were not shot stabbed themselves on the spot. Women disdainfully hurled jewels at their assassins, cheating the enemy of any sense of victory. Another royal court left their palace and paraded, singing, off the edge of a cliff.
The American actor Vic Morrow (father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh), during the filming of the Twilight Zone movie, died while trying to save a bunch of child actors when a stunt helicopter crashed near to them. Two of the kids died with him, the three beheaded by the helicopter blades, but the others were safely retrieved thanks to Morrow's efforts.
The reason that Haiti, unlike most Latin American countries, is almost entirely black rather than mixed white, black and native, is that the indigenous inhabitants fought to the last man, and when it became clear that the whites were going to win, the surviving women, children and elderly men committed mass suicide rather than be enslaved.
Oliver Reed. Aged 61, he ended a lifetime of hellraising by drinking three bottles of rum and beating five sailors at arm wrestling in a bar in Malta, then had a heart attack and died. Which, one suspects, is exactly the way he would have wanted to go.
Giles Corey was a farmer accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. When he was tried, he refused to plead in regard to his guilt. The court didn't take this well, and had him strip naked while they slowly crushed him to death. As they were crushing him, they kept asking about his guilt and if he could name others who were possible witches (if he confessed, they would have confiscated his lands and left his family with nothing, and if he had pled his innocence, he would have been officially stripped of his Christianity, which would also leave his family with nothing). His response? "More weight!"
It goes beyond that. If he'd confessed, his life would've been spared, but he would've forfeited his property as he would no longer be considered a Christian. Denying the charges would have resulted in his conviction and execution because the system was a Kangaroo Court, but his property would still be confiscated. Dying under interrogation, on the other hand, meant he was still considered a Christian and his sons could inherit his property. So by refusing to enter any plea at all, he saved his family from poverty at the cost of his own life.
In 1993 during the Battle of Mogadishu (which was dramatized in Black Hawk Down) Delta Force snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart voluntarily dropped into a dangerous combat zone to protect the wounded crewmen of a downed Blackhawk helicopter. Gordon and Shughart, using only their personal weapons and training, fought their way to the crash site and defended it against Somalis who were intent on capturing or killing the helicopter crew. They successfully held off the attackers until they ran out of ammo, after which the two of them were overrun and killed by the attacking Somalis. Before their sacrifice, Gordon and Shughart managed to kill 24 enemy combatants and severely wounded many more (several of whom would later die of their injuries). Both men would posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor.
They are credited with saving the life of Pilot Mike Durant.
It does however somewhat also count as a Senseless Sacrifice as Mike Durant was captured by the Somali millitia anyway.
"Mexicans! I die for a noble and just cause: the independence and liberty of Mexico. May my blood put an end to the disgraces of my new fatherland. ¡Viva Mexico!" -Maximilian of Hapsburg before he was executed. Prior to that he paid every man who was on the firing squad a golden Imperial (Mexican Empire) coin (as was tradition according to the Hapsburgs) and told them to shoot him in the heart so his mother could recognize him in Heaven. His wish was granted.
Yoni Netanyahunote for those wondering, yes, he was the older brother of later Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu was a Lt. Commander in the Israeli army when a group of terrorists hijacked a plane headed to Israel, flew it to Entebbe, Uganda, and released everyone but the Israelis (and the French pilot, who refused to leave while some of his passengers were still prisoners, thus earning his own CMOA) and made their demands. The IDF decided to attempt a rescue. Now, let's be clear a rescue mission of this type and magnitude had never been pulled off successfully by anyone. Ever. A team of commandos, led by Netanyahu, planned, practiced, and carried out the rescue within a week. Of the 106 captives, all but four were rescued. Only one commando died during the mission—Yoni Netanyahu.
The Battle Off Samar, one of several actions that made up the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf. October 25th 1944, Commander Ernest E. Evans of the destroyer USS Johnston, who already had a well-deserved reputation as a Badass captain commanding a Badass Crew on a badass ship that always charged straight into a fight, attacked a Japanese battleship fleet alone, to protect Taffy 3, his battle group. Johnston ryshed at the overwhelming enemy fleet, torpedoed a cruiser, set several others on fire, but took severe damage in the process and had to pull back. They immediately encountered Taffy 3's other destroyers and destroyer escorts making their own torpedo run on the Japanese heavies. Despite Johnston having suffered critical damage (so bad that lookouts aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts could only recognize her by the hull number on her bow), Captain Evans immediately gave the order to reverse course and join the new attack. When a 15-inch shell from a battleship blew up Johnston's bridge, Evans carried wounded men to relative safety, ignored his own wounds (and the fact that all of his clothes had been torn/burned off by the blast, including his skivvies) and moved to the auxiliary conn, continuing to drive and fight his ship. When another shell wrecked the auxiliary conn, the naked, burned, and bleeding Evans moved to the quarterdeck and shouted instructions down a hatch to sailors who were turning the rudder by hand. When it was clear that USS Johnston was going down, he gave the order to abandon ship, and was last seen accounting for each of his men as they jumped over the side, still buck-naked and bleeding, telling them that they kicked ass and he was proud to be their Captain. It is unclear if he got off the ship or not. Johnston had inflicted so much damage on the enemy fleet that a Japanese destroyer was order to shell her at point-blank range just to make sure. That destroyer's captain mustered his own crew at the rail and saluted USS ''Johnston'' as her burning wreckage slipped beneath the waves. Evans was never seen again, and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously (no one knows how, where, or when he died, but his body was never found regardless).
Likewise, the even smaller destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts sank in the same battle, but not before earning the title of "the destroyer escort that fought like a battleship." It dealt heavy damage to two cruisers: ships it had no business fighting at all.
Individually, Gunner's Mate 1st Class Paul Carr, the Gun Captain of Samuel B. Roberts's aft 5-inch gun mount had his own. The ship was on fire, sinking, out of torpedoes, and critically short of ammunition. Gun crews were shooting phosphorus illumination shells, inert practice rounds, anything. The ship's fire control platform had just received word from the magazines that their last two 5-inch high-explosive warshots had been sent to Carr's mount when a malfunction in Gun 52 caused one of them to cook off in the breech. Other sailors immediately braved incoming shells and a raging fire inside the turret to find the whole gun crew dead except GM1 Carr. He was disemboweled, had lost both of his legs, and was still clutching the ship's last 5-inch warshot. Despite his horrific injuries, Carr refused to be removed from the shattered, burning turret and instead begged them to help him load the gun. The Navy would later name a ship, USS Carr, FFG-52, after him.
The destroyers HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent engaged the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off the coast of Norway on June 8, 1940. Both ships were sunk with only a single crewmember from each survivingnote More actually survived the sinking, but died from exposure due to Royal Navy's failure to mount a timely rescue operation, but not before causing severe damage to Scharnhorst, causing her to turn back and ensuring the safe evacuation of Allied soldiers from Norway. As the destroyers sank, the crew of Gneisenau lowered their flag to half mast to salute the bravery of the destroyers' crew.
Operation: Red Wings was a SEAL operation in Afghanistan that went horribly wrong. It was the deadliest day for the U.S Navy SEALs since Vietnam, and the second deadliest day in their entire history, when three SEALs were killed in an ambush and eight others in a MH-47 that was shot down along with the eight crewmen. But the ambushed SEALs went down fighting. Lieutenant Michael Murphy knowingly left cover to get a clear message out to headquarters, ran back to cover and died fighting, for which he earned the Medal of Honor. Petty Officer Second Class Matthew Axelson was found to have fought to his last magazine, despite being injured by an RPG blast. Gunner's Mate Second Class Danny Dietz fought on despite being wounded until he was killed. Averted with Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell. Despite being shot several times, then blown up with an RPG right off of a cliff, he survived.
Master-at-Arms Second Class Michael A Monsoor; recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor:
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army sniper overwatch element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent-held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element's position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy's initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor's chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
Like Seaman Sheean above, Master-at-Arms Monsoor's badassery will be commemorated by the naming of the second ship of the Zumwalt-class of Guided Missile Destroyers after him.
Many stars inevitably die this way: while red dwarfs, the smallest type of star will simply fade away into black dwarfs, Sunlike stars will puff out their outer layers to create a planetary nebula, leaving behind a white dwarf (this will happen to our own Sun in about 5 billion years); and the most massive stars explode into supernovae, leaving behind either a neutron star or a black hole depending on how big the supernova was.
And then there are the pair-instability hypernovae. These deaths are reserved for stars greater than a hundred solar masses. They are so huge that they depend on the pressure of their radiation to avoid collapsing. Eventually, their cores get so hot that the radiation pressure tapers off because it starts producing electron-positron pairs, causing the star to collapse. Since the star is still almost entirely hydrogen and helium, the result is the universe's biggest thermonuclear explosion, as the star burns through its entire supply of fuel in a matter of seconds, halting its collapse and then exploding, leaving nothing behind except a glowing cloud of nickel slowly decaying into iron. No white dwarf, no neutron star, no black hole, just a huge cloud expanding out into the universe from where the star used to be.
And then there are Gamma Ray Bursts. Similar to the above, but when some stars begin to collapse into black holes, they do so with such force that external material is pressed outward into a spinning disk. When that disk collapses and the star explodes, it releases concentrated beams of plasma and gamma radiation out from its rotational poles at the speed of light. At that moment, they release more energy in a few seconds than our sun will ever produce in its entire lifetime. Some gamma ray bursts can outshine entire galaxies.
Ian Bazalgette during WW2, was a Lancaster pilot and was very accurate during bombing raids. In his final mission, he was flying with a more experienced pilot to spot for the bombers. His partner was almost immediately killed from Anti-Air guns. His gunner was also injured in the fire and he lost all the engines on the right side of the plane and it also caught fire. Bazalgette successfully navigated through the barrage and spotted the bombing. After this, he lost one of the engines in the left side of the plane as the fire spread. He ordered his men to jump out and save themselves while he tried to land it. Everyone bailed except for his injured gunner. At this point, he lost his last engine and glided the Lancaster into a smooth landing outside the city. He picked up his gunner and tried to get him out of the plane. Just as he was about to get out of the plane, it exploded, killing him instantly.
Among the Aztecs of Mexico, one way of sacrificing brave enemy warriors was to put them into gladiatorial combats where they, armed with mock weapons, would face veteran Jaguar and Eagle Knights in single combat until they finally fell. This blew up in the Aztecs' faces when they tried it on a Tlaxcaltec warleader named Tlahuicol. He slew no less than eight Jaguar and Eagle Knights with a bladeless sword and his bare hands before the Aztecs offered him a noble rank and high command in their own army. He scornfully responded that if what he'd seen was the best the Aztecs could do, he'd rather go to Huitzilopochtli than command cowards like these. After that he was finally, ultimately slain. If Aztecs went to Valhalla, that man got a seat up next to Odin himself.
Saito no Musashibo Benkei was a warrior-monk in feudal Japan famous for his ogre like size (over 6'6") and for winning nearly 1000 duels before meeting his better. He met his end guarding the only bridge to the main gate of his lord's castle, while his lord committed seppuku to deny his traitorous brother the privilege of killing him. Despite having an army to deal with a single monk, the approaching army was wary of charging Benkei. Their trepidation was soon justified as Benkei easily drove off the first wave of attackers. Seeing that he would not be easily removed, the assaulting general had his archers fire upon the stationary monk. Benkei just stood in a ready stance, apparently unfazed by the arrows. So, not sure what else to do, they charged again, repeating the cycle several times, with Benkei singlehandedly killing over 300 soldiers and becoming something of a human pincushion of arrows. Eventually in one of the lulls between waves, it was noticed that Benkei was awfully still, more so than normal. Approaching, they found him dead on his feetnote Benkei is the Ur-Example of Died Standing Up by the way, finally having succumbed to his injuries. By the time they got to Benkei's lord, he had long since carried out his ritual suicide.
Lyricist Howard Ashman worked hard to help start the Disney Renaissance while battling AIDS. He worked from home when he got weaker, and eventually succumbed in 1991. He was commemorated in the credits of Beauty and the Beast: "He gave a Mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul."
In 1997, Randy California of the band Spirit was swimming in Hawai'i with his son, when they got caught in a rip current. California pushed his son toward the shore. His son survived, but California was swept out to sea. His body was never found. note Tragically this is somewhat subverted. Rip currents are scary but easily survivable if you remain calm and know how to deal with them. E.g. you should swim parallel to the shore to get out of the current whereas fighting it will just tire you out and get you killed.
Three years later, singer Kirsty MacColl, on holiday in Mexico with her family, sacrificed herself by swimming towards a speeding powerboat to push her son out of the way.
John the Blind, king of Bohemia, charged in the battle of Crécy against the English, while being blind for nearly a decade, with words: "Let it never be the case that a Bohemian king runs from a fight."
Aitazaz Hassan Bangash, a ninth-grader in Pakistan, grappled with a suicide bomber trying to enter his school, saving the hundreds of students and faculty who had gathered for an assembly.
Captain Ted Thompson and First Officer William Tansky from Alaska Airlines Flight 261 count as such. On January 31, 2000, their MD-83's horizontal stabilizer suffered a catastrophic failure of its jackscrew. The failure put the jet in a nose down position and inverted the plane. Both Thompson and Tansky fought to the end to recover the aircraft, even attempting to fly the airliner inverted. Sadly, it wasn't enough to save the plane or its 88 passengers and crew, though they did specifically fly out over the bay, despite the difficulties in controlling the aircraft as they tried to correct the problem so that they wouldn't kill anyone on the ground if the plane could not be saved.
Louis Vierne had mentioned a few times that he wanted to die doing what he loved, playing the organ. He was born with cataracts (he would be legally blind nowadays) and later was run over by a carriage, severely injuring his leg and taking a year to recover full function, but managed to become one of France's premier organists and composers. On June 2nd 1937, he was finishing a recital on the organ of Notre Dame de Paris, when he collapsed, either from a heart attack or stroke. His foot slipped and landed on the Low E pedal, the organ bellowing through the cathedral as he breathed his last.
Richard. The. Third. He was the last English king to die in battle (Bosworth, if you're wondering), and he went down fighting. He got very close to killing Henry Tudor and actually managed to take down one of Henry Tudor's six-foot-two bodyguards even though he was only five-foot-eight and suffered from scoliosis (an extremely painful condition that causes curvature of the spine.)
At El Alamein Montgomery came very close to annihilate the Axis forces in North Africa. He failed because five Italian divisionsnote 132nd and 133rd armoured Ariete and Littorio, 102nd motorized Trento, 17th infantry Pavia and the 185th airborne Folgore fought four separate rear-guard actions (Pavia and Folgore fighting together) to the last round, holding the Eight Army long enough for the rest of the Italian troops and the majority of the Afrika Korps to retreat.
The final 18 months of David Bowie's life were marked by a struggle with cancer. It was kept a private matter and in the final weeks of his life he not only saw a stage musical he co-wrote, Lazarus, have an off-Broadway world premiere, but released Blackstar, an album he specifically wrote and recorded to serve as a Grand Finale for his career. It arrived in stores on January 8, 2016 (his 69th birthday). He died two days later.
Nearly a decade before the aforementioned moment with Liviu Librescu and the Virginia Tech shooting, there was homeroom teacher, Shannon Wright, who sacrificed her own life in the 1998 Westside Middle School shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas by protecting a student by shielding her with her own body. Making her death all the more tragic is that she was set to retire the previous year to be a stay-at-home mother to her young son, only to stay one more year because of how much she loved teaching.