One Man Army: Real Life

  • One of the highest combat kill scores in human history goes to Heinrich Severloh, the everyman German soldier assigned to man WN 62, the machinegun nest that the Americans optimistically codenamed "Easy Red." Firing over 12,000 shots from his machinegun and 400 shots from two rifles, he managed to rack up between 1500 and 2500 casualties in a single day's fighting, only retreating when all three of his guns failed due to heat warping. His testimony is, however, rather unreliable when one considers that he also claims that there were 30 men defending Omaha, when his own emplacement held 19... reliable figures aside, no-one doubts that he caused a 'lot' of casualties. When he was taken prisoner, he was afraid to speak about the battle for decades for fear of retaliation, and the American GIs and their families simply nicknamed the unknown enemy "the Beast of Omaha Beach."
    • However it is hard to say how many people Heinrich Severloh killed, but it was doubtless many, very many as he was a crack gunner and marksman and there were targets aplenty to shoot at.
  • 20-year old SS-Sturmmann Anti-Tank Gunner Fritz Christen, 3rd Waffen-SS Division Totenkopf, was left the lone survivor of his AT gun battery after a Soviet counter-attack with tanks and infantry wiped out the rest of the battery on September 24, 1941. He manned his gun for 3 days, fighting with his submachinegun when attacked by infantry, crawling among leftover guns to drag ammo boxes for his weapons, firing at Soviet tanks with his AT gun when they approached. When German reinforcements found him, they counted 13 destroyed tanks and about 100 dead Soviet soldiers.
  • During the 100 day Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union, Simo Häyhä of Finland (generally considered to be the greatest sniper the world has ever seen) made over 505 confirmed sniper kills, and is credited for around 200 other kills with a submachine gun, ranking up at least 705 kills to his name. He ended his part in the war after getting shot in the jaw (read: head) with an explosive round and surviving. After getting shot he was in a coma for a week. The day he woke up is the day the Russians retreated from Finland. Coincidence? He then lived to the age of 97 years old.
    • His nickname throughout the entire Russian Army was "The White Death." Their attempted solution to his problem: launch artillery at where they thought he was. And even that didn't bring him down completely.
      • Artillery strikes managed to tear up his jacket once - and that was about it. That was more effective than the commandos (all of whom he killed) and all but the last counter-sniper (who died like all the others, but did shoot Simo Häyhä in the face before being killed). Think about that: nothing short of being SHOT IN THE FACE even slowed this guy down, and he got better from that. He is reputed to have been disappointed about why he was refused a return to active duty when he woke up: that was the day the war ended.
  • That's compared to another of history's great snipers, Vasily Zaytsev, who while fighting against the Nazis, only managed to rack up a mere 242 confirmed kills to his name. Zaytsev was active on the front for the very short time, basically less than half a year. Remember, he wasn't an infantryman, he was a Marine, and he was transferred to Stalingrad from the Pacific Fleet only in Summer 1942. By the end of the summer, he was raking kills so quickly that the Soviet media made him a posterboy of all snipers in the army, despite his relatively average kill count. In the end, the brass realized that they couldn't risk him getting killed on the front due to the effect it would have on morale and recalled him to Moscow, where he helped organize sniper schools and served as an instructor. Soviet snipers in general, because of the desperate conditions they fought in and how long the brass kept them at the front, tended to rack up enormous kill counts far in excess of other Allied forces, who rotated their snipers through combat zones.
  • The first time the German Army encountered a T-34 tank during Operation Barbarossa near the Dniepr river, it was like nothing they had ever seen. A PaK 36 anti tank gun was brought up to engage it. It advanced through the gun's fire, ignoring it entirely, and crushed it underneath its treads. It then engaged and destroyed two Panzer IIs of the 17th Panzer Division before proceeding to carve a nine mile swath through the rest of the German forces sent to destroy it. Finally, the Germans managed to get a howitzer behind it and destroy it at close range. From the German report:
    Half a dozen anti-tank gun fire shells at him which sound like a drumroll. But he drives staunchly through our line like an impregnable prehistoric monster...
    • It says a lot when the highest-scoring Allied tank ace of the whole war, Dmitry Lavrinenko, scored his 52-58 kills over the course of the disastrous Autumn 1941, by exploiting the fact that T-34 was a Lightning Bruiser before the Lensman Arms Race took effect.
    • The Germans had an even nastier surprise when they met the Tonka Tough Kliment Voroshilov (KV) heavy tanks, especially the massive KV-2, which mounted an enormous 152mm anti-fortification howitzer and was nicknamed "Dreadnought". When the 6th Panzer Division established a bridgehead on the Dubsya River, one KV-2 held the entire division off for a day. It wasn't destroyed either - it retreated when it ran out of ammunition. (This event was the basis for the infamous Raisenai Heroes medal in World of Tanks)
    • Its more conventionally-armed (76 mm cannon) cousin, the KV-1, was no slouch either. Senior Lieutenant Kolobanov had five of them, and three roads to cover. He sent off the two pairs to cover the less risky ones, then dug in to guard the third by his lonesome, aided by the fact that the road was surrounded by swamps on either side. Then roughly 22 Panzers (likely Czech-made) showed up. The Soviets hit the leading tank and the rear tank, and then went to work on the sitting ducks... Mook Horror Show and Curb-Stomp Battle ensued, during which the Kliment Voroshilov tank no-selled, by various accounts, 135 to 156 direct hits. You may have heard of Kolobanov's Medal in the same game mentioned above.
  • Not so much a god of war, but they didn't call Masutatsu Oyama "The Godhand" for nothing. Able to kill a bull with one bare-handed strike (on the times he had to "settle for" two blows, he often chopped off one of their horns), he also engaged in 300 fights with the best students of his dojo in a row over the course of 3 days, stopped only because everyone else's asses were so thoroughly kicked that they couldn't or wouldn't continue.
  • Miyamoto Musashi gained his reputation after pulling one of these on the entire Yoshioka school. After he beat its two heirs in one-on-one combat, the entire school attacked him with bowmen, gunmen and swords. Musashi ambushed them, killed their figurehead leader and got away.
  • If the official record of the eight-hour Battle of Shewan, Afghanistan is to be believed, an individual U.S. Marine designated marksman (not a sniper) went 20 for 20 — 20 kills with 20 shots — while his platoon and three Afghan police squads was fighting off a company-sized Taliban ambush.
  • Audie Murphy. While still bandaged from an earlier wound, he was wounded by mortar fragments in two feet of snow at -14F. When the ammunition for his personal weapon ran out, he climbed on a burning tank destroyer, that could explode at any minute, and used the .50 caliber machine gun to continue to lay a withering fire at the enemy, while calling down highly accurate artillery fire against the enemy. He received a further leg wound during this phase of the battle, which LASTED OVER AN HOUR, under constant attack from, as the citation for his Medal of Honor reads, "6 tanks, supported by waves of infantry". When the survivors of his squad regrouped with reinforcements, he personally led a counter-attack that forced an enemy withdrawal. According to his citation, he personally killed more than 50 soldiers in that battle.
    • He also had malaria since the Italian campaign. Didn't get it cured until after the war was over.
    • In the film adaptation (called To Hell And Back) he played himself, and he asked for some parts of the film to be removed because "people wouldn't believe it". We're talking about a biographic movie.
  • Alvin York singlehandedly wiped out a German machine gun nest in WW I, making the leader of that nest (according to Cracked.com, 133 people) surrender to him.
    • This really doesn't do him justice. He took fire from 32 machine guns and slaughtered twenty of them before they gave up.
    • And they surrendered because he's an American. To quote, Germans at that times often thinks that Americans are the sissy ones compared to British gentlemen. So it was basically like: "If the Americans are like this, then how about the British? Fuck it, I'm outta here!"
    • And he was a pacifist.
  • A Two Man Army example: American sniper Carlos Hathcock and spotter Johnny Burke were on a mission behind enemy lines in the Vietnam War when they encountered a company of NVA soldiers (about 80 men) marching across a rice field. Hathcock and Burke each shot one of the officers, and the NVA soldiers, instead of running for the nearest forest, tried to hide behind a small embankment about 1000 meters from any more good cover. The two Americans picked off the NVA soldiers at long range for five days before calling in an artillery strike on the few remaining NVA soldiers. Only one Vietnamese soldier survived.
  • Older example: The real Cyrano de Bergerac (the scene appears in the play as well) once fought a hundred armed men at once and won, killing so many the rest turned and ran. This was with a sword and no armor.
  • Zhao Yun is probably unknown to most of the Western World, apart from Dynasty Warriors. In China, though (and most of Asia, for that matter), his name literally defines this concept. At the Battle of ChangBanPo he was tasked with finding and protecting his master's family, who had gotten lost in a retreat from an overwhelmingly superior force, and ended up fighting his way out of the entire army single-handedly. In the process, he killed about 50 officers and hundreds of soldiers, all the while cradling a baby boy in front of his chest. Rather hilariously, when Zhao Yun presented Liu Bei's baby to him after returning, Liu Bei slapped him, saying "I can have many more children, but there is only one Zhao Yun."
    • Zhao Yun pales to Xiang Yu in the Chu-Han contention. Apparently, only he can kill himself —- despite facing an entire army.
    • Zhang Fei also belongs here: when Liu Bei, his friend, had to retreat from a city about to be attacked by Cao Cao's army, Zhang Fei went to the only bridge leading to the city, planted his staff, and dared the army to attack him. There was very obviously no one backing him up, but the army, rather than face him, turned and ran.
  • William Marshall definitely qualifies and is one of the most Bad Ass of people ever. A medieval knight with a record of 500 tournaments with no losses (and these were in the 12th-13th centuries before full-plate, when they were extremely dangerous), he had such a great reputation that other fighters used to gang-up on him to try to take him down. He was once so battered that they had to delay the award ceremony while a blacksmith hammered his helmet back into shape so he could get it off. Not only was he a brilliant tourney fighter, but also a great battlefield leader and warrior. At the age of 75, he led the charge at the Battle of Lincoln and personally killed the Count of Perche, the French leader and a man some 40 years his junior.
  • Cathal Brugha was one of the only rebel leaders to survive the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. And why's that? When defending his post, he took a whole platoon of British soldiers alone. He ended up in coma for a while and was not thought to survive, but he pulled through (though he was later shot down by his former comrades during the Civil War).
  • This is actually not a military example, but it still qualifies. In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson said this about his political arch-nemesis:
    Hamilton is really a colossus to the anti-republican party [i.e., the Federalists]. Without numbers, he is an host within himself. [Emphasis added.]
  • Ancient Greek king Pyrrhus of Epirus qualifies for this. Known primarily for his battles against the Romans, in which he won, but at such cost as it made the campaign untenable, Plutarch's Life of Pyrrhus is full of heroic deeds, such as:
    • Winning a duel against a Macedonian officer, which impressed his army and enabled his conquest of Macedon
    • Engaging in a competition with his own Elephants to break the Roman line at the Battle of Asculum
    • Conquering the Carthaginian fortress of Eryx, Sicily by being the first man over the walls and cutting down all who approached him without taking a wound
    • Scaring off an entire Mamertine (the Sons of Mars) army that harrassed his army's retreat from Sicily by cutting their biggest warrior in half with one blow
    • Leading the assault on Sparta
    • Going into an utter frenzy in another battle against the Spartans in which his son died, getting knocked from his horse and then proceeding to slay all the 'picked band' of Spartans sent to capture his son's body
    • Finally being killed because he was paralysed from behind, because he was too much raw badass to actually kill in face-to-face combat
  • German WWI commander Erich Ludendorff called August 8th 1918 the "Black Day" for Germany when it was reported to him entire German units were finding individual British soldiers they could surrender to.
  • Not a one-man army but a one-tank army, the Whippet tank Musical Box, which engaged in a bloody nine-hour rampage behind German lines during the Battle of Amiens, 1918. It couldn't last forever, and understandably the Germans were very upset with the crew when they finally bailed out of their burning tank (one at least was shot and killed, and a German officer had to intervene to save the others from being butchered by his men), but it remains quite the exploit to this day.
  • Those that earn the title of an Ace Pilot are a one-man Air Force. They only need five kills to gain this status, but it's a lot harder than it sounds (even if there are rarely World War II-scale air battles these days).
  • Canadian Léo Major in World War 2. He started his career on D Day, capturing a German half track. Then, he went on to capture 93 German soldiers during the Battle of the Scheldt, and then single-handedly liberated the Dutch town of Zwolle. During a whole night he stormed the city, firing a machine gun and throwing grenades, making the Germans believe a whole detachment of the Canadian Army was attacking, causing them to retreat.
  • American Tony Stein from World War II is famous for two things: his improvised Browning M1919 rifle and how he received the Medal Of Honor for taking out immense amounts of Japanese forces with it, while running all over the battlefield, barefoot, and carrying back the wounded soldiers.
  • Hans Rudel, Stuka dive bomber pilot of the Luftwaffe, is probably responsible for the single-handed destruction of more stuff than any other person in history. He destroyed over 2000 targets, including, but not limited to, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, a destroyer, two cruisers and a battleship. Reading the achievements section of his Wikipedia article indicates he was pretty badass. Quite good looking, too.
  • Pretty much everyone on this list.
  • On one side: forty armed thieves, robbing, pillaging, and raping on a Nepalese train. On the other side: one retired Gurkha with a kukri. They shoulda brought more thieves.
  • Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard successfully defended a bridge against 200 Spaniards.
  • Zvika Greengold, an Israeli tank commander during the Yom Kippur War. Commanded a ragtag group of four tanks in the Golan Heights he dubbed the 'Zvika Force' while Israel was still reeling from the surprise attack. Later fought with his own tank, changing vehicles half a dozen times and continuing to fight despite injuries such as burns and exhaustion. He fooled the Syrian army (and, unintentionally) his own commanders) into believing that he alone was a brigade-sized force of tanks and was credited with 40 tank kills over the course of a full day's fighting.
  • Captain Benjamin L. Salomon earned a posthumous Medal of Honor during the Battle of Saipan. Among other things, he took on four Japanese soldiers at once, and as his citation stated, he "kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, and bayoneted a third. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier in the stomach and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier." Later on, he took over a machine gun whose crew had been killed to cover the withdrawl of wounded Americans. When his body was found after the battle, almost 100 enemy soldiers were in front of his machine gun.
    • He had been shot fifty times.
    • Oh, and by the way, he was a dentist.
  • The Viking at Stamford Bridge. This was a huge, nameless warrior clad in chain mail, a helmet with a nose guard and an axe who stepped up to cover regrouping of Harald Hardrada's forces after they were ambushed without their armor and pushed into retreat by King Harold Godwinson, the Saxon king during the time. The Norsemen fled across a bridge (later dubbed Stamford Bridge although a bridge by that name didn't exist at the time) to provide a choke point so the English army wouldn't be able to surround them with their metaphorical pants down. Then this man volunteered to stand alone on a bridge wide enough for three men to cross, facing an army thousands strong and held. He stood alone for hours, fighting back against the Saxon horde, killing 40 men and wounding untold numbers. Presumably the Vikings were too busy standing in awe of him to realize they should be using this opportunity to run, because they were still there when the Saxons finally broke through. Oh, and the kicker? he was brought down (according to legend) by an intrepid Saxon soldier who hopped in the river, floated under the bridge and stabbed him in the groin (which based on his exploits presumably provided a pretty damn big target).
  • Now for a one plane army, Old 666, a B-17E Bomber. For short, we'll only give you its most infamous mission, a mapping mission of Bougain Island. With 22 minutes still on the clock and no fighter escort, Old 666 got ambushed by at the very least 17 Japanese fighters (15 A6M Zeroes and 2 Ki-46 Dinahs). Old 666 then proceeded to dogfight them for said 22 minutes. Let me say this again, a heavy bomber in a dogfight with 17 Japanese fighters. Until they ran out of fuel and/or ammo, having taken down many of them in the ensuing dogfight. Bombers aren't even meant to dogfight (though American ones where usually bristling with flexibly-mounted Browning .50s to fire everywhere at once) and this one takes 17 fighters on.
    • Ironically, the bomber didn't really kill that many of the fighters (One Dinah and atleast 3 of the Zeros), but, what makes her famous is that the ENTIRE crew got at least the Distinguished Flying Cross, while the Pilot (Jay Zeemer), and the Bombardier (Joe Sarnoski) were both awarded the Medal of Honor note .
    • The bomber itself was also one-plane-air-force for the other missions it flew. It bristled with seven extra .50cals compared to a standard B-17E at the time. While adding extra guns was common practice, one of those guns was wired to the pilots control yoke... so Jay Zeemer had a gun to shoot with. These were all added because the crew wanted to take on the missions no one else would fly. These included a Skip bombing mission on a carrier note , a low-altitude raid on Rabaul Island, and a diving attack on Japanese search-lights during a night raid... all these were things that the B-17s smaller cousins like the B-25 Mitchel were used for, and yet, this crew did them any way.
  • Lachhiman Gurung. He's credited with a mere 31 kills, but considering he racked those up with a bolt-action rifle, firing one-handed, immediately after losing an eye and an arm to a hand grenade...
  • Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa, an American bomber pilot during the Second World War; took down three Japanese Zeroes whilst flying a Dauntless - one of which tried to ram him. He would then go on to shoot down another seven planes whilst flying a Wildcat in the Battle of Santa Cruz.
  • Pretty much anyone else on this list, too. To name just half a dozen;
    • The four Luftwaffe pilots that all made Triple Ace in a day (15+ kills over any number of sorties within a single day) - Emil Lang, Hans-Joachim Marseille, August Lambert, and Hubert Strassl. Closely followed by Erich Rudorffer, who managed 13 kills within a single sortie.
    • "Hans Wind of H Le Lv 24, Finnish Air Force, scored five kills in a day five separate times during the Soviet Summer Offensive 1944, a total of 30 kills in 12 days, of his final tally of 75."
    • "Finnish top scoring fighter ace, Warrant Officer Ilmari Juutilainen, shot down six Soviet planes on 30 June 1944. His final score was 94."
  • If you talked to any gangster in Chicago or New York during the 1920s, they'd tell you that the Thompson M1921/M1928 could instantly turn one man into a man with the firepower of an entire army.
  • The final charge of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth certainly qualifies. Backed up only by a few mounted knights from his personal household, Richard charged straight into the highly-defended lines of Henry Tudor's personal guard, killing Tudor's standard bearer with his lance and then using the broken end to unhorse the famed giant (over 6'2") and renowned jousting champion John Cheney before proceeding to cut a swath through the men and coming within a sword's-length of Tudor himself before reinforcements arrived in the form of Lord Stanley's entire army (usually believed to have numbered around 6,000 men). Even that, though, couldn't take Richard down (even his being unhorsed is usually believed to have had more to do with the fact that the area was marshy than any action on the part of Stanley's men), with him proceeding to kick the collective asses of the entire army and taking at least six or seven wounds to the head (plus an unknown number of soft-tissue or blunt-trauma injuries which cannot be discerned from the skeleton) while (very loudly) proclaiming his enemies' blatant treason at their faces apparently for no other reason than that he felt like it. In between this and stabbing people in the faces, he also was calling for someone to fetch him a horse so that he could charge right back into the rather large army defending Henry Tudor in order to personally take down the "Welsh bastard" who dared to challenge his right to rule, only being taken out by a halberd shaving off the back of his skull. This incident was apparently impressive enough that despite the Tudors doing pretty much everything they could to discredit Richard in order to legitimize their own reigns, the tale of "King Richard's badass death" survives in every single record from that time period. Did we mention that all of the above was accomplished by someone who was more-or-less universally known as being rather small and frail (even for that time period) and who had scoliosis with a curve of up to eighty degrees that, had he lived in modern times, would have qualified him for the Paralympics?