22 War Heroes And The Superhuman Stories That Put Them In The History Books

Published October 13, 2021
Updated November 11, 2021

From Desmond Doss to Audie Murphy, history's greatest war heroes gave everything for their country and embodied the meaning of bravery with their incredible acts of selflessness.

John Basilone War Heroes
War Hero Adrian Carton De Wiart War Heroes
Jacqueline Cochran
Desmond Doss War Heroes
22 War Heroes And The Superhuman Stories That Put Them In The History Books
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What defines history's greatest war heroes? The answer isn't always simple. The normal attributes ascribed to heroes — like bravery — sometimes don't apply in war, where every day might offer the terrifying possibility of losing your life.

As World War II veteran William Carpenter once said, "You show me a man who says he was brave [during World War II], and I'll show you a liar. Every one of us was afraid. Even the Germans were afraid."

Like bravery, we might think that skill with a weapon is a key element of war heroes. However, some of the most remarkable war heroes never even picked up a weapon. Take Desmond Doss, a "consciousness objector" who abhorred weapons and violence. Nevertheless, he saved between 50 and 100 men during World War II at the Battle of Okinawa. Doss never wielded a gun and instead used his skills as a medic.

War Hero Desmond Doss

Wikimedia CommonsDesmond Doss receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.

Then there are those who became war heroes only after changing their identities. Consider Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the Revolutionary War. Or the Irish-born Jennie Hodgers, who transformed themselves into a man named Albert Cashier and fought during the American Civil War.

Meanwhile, we have the soldiers who defied convention on their way to becoming war heroes. There's "Mad Jack" Churchill, who stormed into battle during World War II wielding a broadsword or a longbow, and or George Henry Thomas, a Southern general who fought for the Union Army.

Of course, there are controversial war heroes as well. John Rabe was a Nazi — an enthusiastic one — but he saved hundreds of thousands of Chinese people when the Japanese invaded Nanjing. And Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, who kept fighting World War II for three full decades after the war actually ended.

Some of the war heroes in the gallery above even operated in the shadows, like the spy Virginia Hall. Others proved their prowess in the sky, like "Ace of Aces" Richard Bong. They're all different. Yet, what all of these war heroes did was step up when they were called.

So, what makes a war hero? Look through the gallery above and learn about some of history's most interesting war heroes who fought, and sometimes died, for what they thought was right.

Enjoy this look at war heroes? Next, see some of the most powerful World War II photos ever taken. Then, discover the most important photos captured during the Civil War.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Cite This Article
Kelly, Erin. "22 War Heroes And The Superhuman Stories That Put Them In The History Books." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 13, 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/war-heroes. Accessed April 21, 2024.