Most people spend life trudging through a weary existence that’s often pretty meaningless, in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes, a moment arises in someone’s life where the choices made cause him to become part of real life legend. These are the people who stand in defiance for what they believe, or face seemingly insurmountable odds, risking everything in the process.
10. Alan Magee
Alan Magee defied death, free falling 22,000 feet without the aid of a parachute. He was an American Airman who decided to jump from his ironically-named B-17 Flying Fortress “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” while fighting in World War II, when his aircraft lived up to its name.
Magee, an Allied forces turret gunner, found himself in a unique position on a September morning in 1942. The Germans had not only succeeded in punching a gaping hole on the right exterior of the Boeing aircraft, but Magee found that his parachute had been rendered useless. Out of options, Magee chose to leap from the plane anyway.
At 20,000 feet above France, Magee lost consciousness due to hypoxia, and when he woke up he was informed that he was very much alive and the Saint Nazaire railway station had cushioned his fall after he had grown tired of hurtling the skies at 120 mph. Two of Magee’s crewmates from the “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” survived its destruction as they were more vigilant with their parachutes, and along with Magee were taken prisoner but returned home after the Germans surrendered. After his improbable survival, he was dubbed by some as “The Miracle of Saint Nazaire”.
9. George Rowe
George Rowe was not a particularly good man. He ran drugs, smuggled goods, and committed robberies before deciding to give it all up after witnessing the murder of his friend by members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club, a vicious gang of bikers that ran a criminal empire. For Rowe, payback became his prime motivation in life as he chose to become an informant for the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive), never wavering despite the massive risk of what would happen if his secret was discovered.
Rowe used the street cred that he had accumulated over the years cooking methamphetamine and smuggling goods to infiltrate the gang, slowly working his way up the biker corporate ladder over the course of three years while gathering enough evidence to indict the members of the Vagos MC.
This civilian’s story became something straight out of a movie, as he got promoted to a “full-patched” member, earning his brothers’ respect by standing up against Hell’s Angels – the club’s chief rival. His life as an outlaw came to a conclusion when the ATF decided the evidence Rowe had collected was enough to arrest 22 members of the biker gang. He entered the witness protection program and now lives a quiet life, and has written a book about his incredible experiences.
8. Vladimir Komarov
Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died while on a mission for the Soviet space program when the parachutes of his Soyuz-1 capsule failed to open. The Soyuz- 1 was a tragic attempt by the U.S.S.R to win the space race, and Komarov took on the mission despite knowing it was basically suicide. What truly makes him a hero is that he commanded the mission, on his own, to protect a close friend. Apparently, he had the opportunity to back out but pushed forward to save his friend from this death mission.
The friend? None other than Yuri Gagarin, the first human to fly into outer space. Gagarin and Komarov were inseparable, with Gagarin serving as second in command to Komarov for the Soyuz-1. He had written a letter to Russian officials raising concerns about the defective system and the safety of the mission, a plea that was, sadly, ignored. Komarov’s sacrifice didn’t keep Gagarin alive long, as his friend died in 1968 when the MiG-15 he was piloting crashed, almost a year after Komarov’s ill-fated journey.
7. Date Terumune
Born and brought up surrounded by strict honor codes and warring rival factions only instills a sense of courage and will in a samurai that is rare elsewhere. But often their stories and exploits are filled with myth and folklore, and it’s simply impossible to ascertain there credibility. Date Masamune is perhaps one of the most widely known samurai to have ever lived, his life and deeds fictionalized and immortalized by television and cinema. He was a widely regarded tactician, and his skill as a samurai and his bravery on the battlefield are the stuff of legend.
However, one day a man named Hatakeyama Yoshitsugu decided that Masamune’s scourge had to end and kidnapped his father, Date Terumune, as retaliation. Date Masamune rushed to his father’s rescue and with his eye for tactics, he ambushed the clan before Hatakeyama reached the safety of his castle. Hatakeyama began to bargain for his life with Masamune, holding his father at knife point, but Terumune had other plans. He ordered his son to chop both of them to regain his honor that was lost when Hatakeyama kidnapped him from his own palace, a stone cold, badass declaration that left Yoshitsugu without options and Terumune with an honorable, ballsy death that was probably accompanied by an awesome guitar riff.
6. Priyanshu Joshi
10-year-old Priyanshu Joshi and his older sister Priyanka were on their way to school when a leopard appeared out of nowhere and attacked Priyanka. Apparently, this is the kind of thing that happens in India. Priyanka was the closest thing Priyanshu had to a mother, and he was in no mood to let anything hurt her, not even a 250 pound leopard. He proceeded to attack the leopard with his bare hands, succeeding in turning its attention to himself. Priyanshu had grown up watching the Indian equivalents of Power Rangers and Naruto and mimicked their moves, using the closest thing he had to a weapon, his school bag. The leopard apparently mistook young Priyanshu for a demon in a school uniform and went on his way.
We weren’t kidding about this being something that’s prevalent in India, by the way. People find themselves the constant prey to marauding animals, especially elephants, tigers, and leopards. A staggering 80,000 people have been killed by animals in the last decade within the nation. The state of Uttarakhand have been the worst hit of all, with 388 killed and 500 injured.
5. Daniel M’Mburugu
Kenyans are renowned for their ability to win marathons, but even that’s less impressive than what this 73-year-old Kenyan farmer achieved. Daniel M’Mburugu was tending to his crops armed with a panga (machete), when a passing leopard decided to challenge him to a duel. Not wanting harm the animal, the generally placid M’Mburugu dropped the machete but the leopard, who clearly had no time for honor, charged and pounced. Amazingly, M’MBurugu calmly stuck his hands into the mouth of this vicious carnivore, patted around, found the leopard’s tongue, and ripped it clean out of the cat’s mouth.
His method for combating the leopard, crazily enough, earned nods of approval from wildlife experts agree with this technique as wielding a sharp weapon against a leopard would only prove useless, considering the animals speed and extreme agility. M’Mburugu has become a local celebrity, because of course he has. He’s an old man who ripped out an attacking leopard’s tongue. And you thought your grandfather was cool.
4. Yusuf Alchagirov
If the story of a guy ripping a leopard’s tongue out isn’t badass enough for you, here’s a ridiculous account of an octogenarian who battled a giant bear. Yusuf Alchagirov, an 80-year-old shepherd from Russia, was picking raspberries for his favorite pie when he noticed a huge grizzly bear spying on him. His immediate instinct was to flee, but gave up that idea when he’d to come in terms with the fact that the bear showed no signs of letting him off that easy.
Alchagirov decided to stay and fight off the bear as it began to maul him with its 5-inch claws. He counter-attacked with a flurry of kicks, punches, and – we’re not making this up – head-butts. This only succeeded in further provoking the bear, which proceeded to toss him down a nearby cliff. A badly shaken and bleeding Alchagirov managed to survive the fall and limped back home after he regained consciousness. He was fully healed within a few days, enjoying his pies while regaling his grandchildren with tales of his epic battle.
3. Ivan Kalyayev
Meet Ivan Kalyayev: a poet, student activist, and – oh yeah – an assassin with a sense of morality. This 28-year-old member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party was arrested by the police after he assassinated the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and refused to flee the scene. His sense of right and wrong was further uncovered when the widow of the Grand Duke, Princess Elisabeth Fyodorovna paid him a visit in jail while he was awaiting the hangman. The mourning Grand Duchess pardoned her husband’s killer and agreed to support Kalyayev in his appeal against his execution, but shockingly, he respectfully refused the clemency from the lady that he recently made a widow, replying:
“I do not repent. I must die for my deed and I will… My death will be more useful to my cause than Sergei Alexandrovich’s death.”
A few days later Kalyayev was hanged for treason. To him, the double standards of the Kremlin and their opulence warranted the Grand Duke’s death sentence. He was also unpopular with his subjects and was held responsible for the Khodynka Tragedy, in which a thousand people perished in a stampede. Kalyayev’s unapologetic stance and actions inspired a generation of writers. Interestingly, there’s a belief that he had approached the Grand Duke few days prior to the assassination with similar intentions but dropped the mission once he noticed that his target was accompanied by the Grand Duchess and his young nephews.
2. Anthony Omari
Anthony Omari and his mother are the custodians of the Faraja Children home in Ngong, home of 35 orphans from the Kenyan streets. On top of caring for orphans and trying to make a living, Omari had to face another growing menace in the form of local bandits. Somehow, he succeeded in single-handedly foiling their robbery attempts every single time until things turned sour one night.
A gang of thieves scaled the building and gained entry one night, and awakened by loud noises, Omari crept silently behind the home invaders and bludgeoned one of them with a hammer. The robbers fled the scene, and Omari went back to sleep. The next night the thieves returned, wielding machetes in their hands and vengeance on their minds. Omari managed to fend off his attackers with his trusty hammer until the ruckus created woke up the orphans. Fearing for their safety, Omari let his guard down as he instructed his children to safety, and that was when one of the bandit struck him across the face with his machete. Bleeding profusely, and with his vision faltering, Omari still managed to regain his composure fought off the attackers.
It took 11 stitches to close his wound, but in a fortunate turn of events, a Penn State student named Ben Hardwick heard of the incident and posted a plea on Reddit for $2,000 in donations for Omari’s orphanage. The internet community managed to round up $80,000, which was more than enough to turn the ramshackle house into a decent facility.
1. Irom Sharmila
Social activist Irom Sharmila was 28-years-old when an incident gripped her community with fear. The Indian army had opened fire on a group of civilians waiting for a bus. This gruesome incident, which later came to be known as the “Malom massacre,” horrified Sharmila so much that she began a fast protesting against the Indian Government. She demanded anti-corruption acts and the immediate repealing of a government ordered act that granted the Indian army special powers in conflict ridden areas.
Local authorities were not impressed by the young lady’s display of extraordinary will, and tried to curb her revolt by having her arrested for attempting to commit suicide, an offense punishable under the Indian penal code with a fine and jail time of up to a year. Their plans only resulted in failure as Sharmila resisted force feeding. Today, Irom Sharmila is 42 and has been on a hunger strike for nearly 15 years. She’s kept alive by nasogastric intubation, still waiting for her demands to be met by the Indian government. Instead of acquiescing, they’ve instead continued to hold her under arrest all these years for her constant “attempts at suicide.”
The “Iron lady of Manipur” has even refused to see her mother over the course of her 15 year fast, fearing her tears are capable of breaking her indomitable strength and unparalleled determination. Amnesty International has recognized Sharmila’s actions as a social activist and have declared her as a “prisoner of conscience.”