Over the years, America has put out some really tough soldiers. Those movies like Rambo and Die Hard come from some of the real-life actions of men that actually lived. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and even Chuck Norris have nothing on these guys. Ironically, none of them have real heroic names, but don’t judge the men by their names! These men were the toughest and the best of what America has to offer.
Audie Murphy (1926-1971)
Audie Murphy was a 110 pound sixteen year old when he joined the army in WW2. He wasn’t very good at soldiering and the Army tried to make him a cook, but he insisted on wanting to kill Germans. He turned out to be a halfway decent shot with a rifle, but was suffering with malaria most of his time while fighting. In southern France he came across a machine gun nest. The Germans pretended to surrender, but then killed a close buddy (Lattie Tipton) of Murphy’s. That only ticked off the little hero and he rushed the nest killing everyone in his way. He then turned the gun on the Germans and started killing every bad guy in sight. It didn’t stop there. The guy who was suffering from malaria was fighting in the Battle of Holtzwihr where his unit went from 128 men to only 19. The men had some anti-tank rounds and not much else. The Germans attacked with six tanks and a whole bunch of men. The Americans took out the tanks, but were about to be overrun by the German infantry. Murphy sent his men to the rear and he charged the Germans alone! He jumped on top of a burning tank, grabbed the .50 caliber machine gun on the turret and started mowing down the enemy! He was wounded in the leg as he single-handedly fought a company of German soldiers and only quit when his communication lines were cut and he ran out of ammunition. He then walked back to his men and was awarded more than 30 medals for his actions. After the war, he wrote a book called, “To Hell And Back”. They made a movie out of it and only Audie Murphy was good enough to play the part of himself. He was one tough guy.
Alvin York (1887-1964)
Picture a backwoods conscientious objector being the star of your action film? Not very realistic, is it? Well, it actually happened during World War One. Alvin York was born in the rural Tennessee and hated violence. He didn’t want to go to war, but he did his patriotic duty and went when his country called him. His claim to fame occurred when his company was besieged by machine gun nests. York and sixteen other men were ordered to go and take out the machine guns. On the way up the hill, they were spotted and nine of the crew were immediately cut down in a hail of bullets. Of the remaining eight men, all but York took off running. York was alone, standing against 32 heavy machine guns. Instinct took over as he jumped to the ground, took aim and started shooting Germans. The Germans didn’t know what was going on. Obviously, a large force was attacking them with deadly accuracy. By the time they realized it was only one man, they sent a patrol of five men to kill York. He took them all down with his Colt .45 sidearm. When the smoke cleared, York had single-handedly killed 28 German soldiers, captured 32 machine guns and had 132 Germans surrender to him. Walking back to his lines, his commanding officer originally thought the Germans were launching a counter-attack. York went down in history as a hero.
Lewis Wetzel (1763-1808?)
Wetzel was a frontiersman and Indian fighter during the French-Indian War. This guy didn’t fight Indians – he hunted them. Wetzel was a woodsman and an expert with an axe and long rifle. He was so adept with the rifle that he could reload his weapon at a full run through the woods, turn and shoot it, then reload it again while being chased. At the age of fourteen, he and his brother were captured by Indians. The Indians tied them up in their camp and took their shoes. Wetzel overpowered the guard, got his brother to safety, then went back to get their shoes. Another time, he was being chased by Indians and ended up in a cave. When the Indians would come close, he would shoot at them. The back of the cave was full of water and Wetzel spent three days in water over his chest with his hands above his head to keep his rifle and gunpowder dry. Eventually, the Indians thought he was dead, so they left! He killed so many Indians that they had a nickname for him – “Deathwind”.
Jacklyn H. Lucas (1928-2008)
Don’t let his name fool you. When Jack Lucas was a gangly 14 years old he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, lying that he was 17 years old. He was an expert shot and fearless and is the youngest recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was placed in a reserve unit, but was so eager to fight the Japanese during World War Two that he left his unit – being determined a deserter – and stowed away on a ship headed for Iwo Jima. On the island, he was with a patrol of four when two enemy hand grenades were thrown into his trench. To save his buddies, he jumped on top of both grenades. They were sure he was dead, but he survived the explosions with serious injuries. He was evacuated from Iwo Jima and eventually had to undergo 21 surgeries for his wounds. Till his dying day, he still had over 200 pieces of metal in his body.
Smedley Butler (1860-1940)
Known as “Ol’ Gimlet Eye”, Butler was a Major General in the Marine Corps and at the time of his death, the most decorated marine – ever. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice, turned a third one down, and was considered for a fourth! He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1898 at the breakout of the Spanish-American War at the age of 16 (you might see a pattern here with American heroes). His time in the service led him to fight in the Boxer Rebellion, the Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, Haiti and in WW1. During his time in Haiti, he and 44 of his men were attacked by a huge force of 400 Haitians. Throughout the night, Butler and his men kept the Haitians at bay, shooting at them whenever they attacked their perimeter. While the Americans were deciding whether to bomb the attackers, Butler led a small group right into their ranks. They ended up killing over 200 of the enemy while only one American was wounded. In later life, a strange turn of events led Butler to be asked to hold a coup against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934. Known as the Business Plot, the conspirators wanted Butler to lead a group of 500,000 veterans to march on Washington DC and depose the government. Smedley Butler, being the true American he was, reported the incident to the government.
There have been American heroes in each of our wars. If you know of an American hero that you feel should be mentioned here, please feel free to add him to our list and if we get enough, we’ll create another top five to add them in.