Often, it’s not so much what you do but what you say. Here are a few examples of historical figures, some well-known, some not so much, who went faced with total disaster and even death, had the presence of mind to let loose with a verbal “Screw You” just to let the world know who was running things.
A female member of the Dutch resistance during World War II, Hannie had the bad luck to be captured less than a month before the German surrender. And since the Germans usually treated captured resistance fighters all the same way, torture followed by a swift execution, Hannie was resigned to her fate. On April 17, 1945 she was led by two men (one of whom was Karl Silberbauer, a Dutch SS staff sergeant who helped in the capture of Anne Frank and her family, ensuring him a special suite in hell) to a field for her execution. Both men fired their pistols and Hannie fell to the ground, and started laughing her ass off as she was only wounded. It was at this point she said to her executioners:
“I shoot better.”
just prior to their second attempt, which was more successful. To this day their stands a memorial to Hannie Schaft near where she was killed. Legend says it includes the shriveled testicles of her killers.
Harry S. Truman
The 33rd President of the United States was one of the last politicians who wasn’t very “political” in the way he talked. A WW I combat veteran and big time player in the rough and tumble world of Missouri politics, old Harry wasn’t afraid to let the world know how he felt. When asked how to make friends in Washington he stated simply:
“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”
And remember this was a man who once threatened, while serving as President mind you, to beat the crap out of Washington Post’s music critic Paul Hume who panned a piano recital by his daughter Margaret in a letter with the passage: “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”
Robert the Bruce
In the summer of 1314, Scottish King Robert the Bruce faced a dilemma. An English army under King Edward II, which outnumbered Bruce and the Scots anywhere from 2 to 3 to 1, was headed his way to relieve the siege of Stirling Castle. On the ensuing battle of Bannockburn’s first day, an English knight, Henry de Bohun spotted Bruce out ahead of his army and seeing the chance to win the battle singlehandedly, charged.
Bruce, who had not had the chance to don his armor, grabbed an axe and mounted the nearest horse to meet Henry’s challenge. As Henry drew closer and lowered his lance, Bruce stood his ground. At the moment of contact, Bruce deftly dodged Henry, stood in his stirrups and brought down his axe with such force it penetrated Henry’s helmet, split his skull and broke the handle in half. Returning to his lines Bruce complained:
“I have broken the haft of my good battle axe.”
With all the coolness and concern of someone who broke his pencil filling out his taxes, not someone who just cleaved a man’s head in half.
Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller
Often considered the Marines Marine, Colonel “Chesty” Puller, commanding the 1st Marine Regiment, found himself and his men virtually surrounded at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir by 3 Chinese Army Corps in December of 1950 during the Korean War. In weather so cold soldiers had to urinate on their weapons to unfreeze them, Puller was asked why he was retreating to which he replied:
“Retreat hell! We’re attacking in another direction!”
Which they did indeed. In five days almost all 103,000 US and UN troops broke out of Chosin, and evacuated from the port of Hungnam with all their dead, wounded and heavy equipment and mauled the Chinese so badly that they removed 3 full divisions from their order of battle.
Attempting to recapture the Presidency in 1912, Teddy Roosevelt, running on the Bull Moose ticket, stopped to make a campaign speech in Milwaukee on October 14. Before he could speak, a disgruntled saloon keeper named John Schrank shot him a point blank range. The bullet hit Roosevelt’s eyeglass case, penetrated the written text of his speech before lodging under a rib. Undeterred, Roosevelt initially refused medical attention and insisted on giving his speech which started with the off the cuff remark:
“Now, I would not speak to you insincerely within five minutes of being shot. I am telling you the literal truth when I say my concern is for many other things. It is not in the least for my own life…. “
He then went on to say, “I don’t know who the man was who shot me to-night…. He shot to kill me. He shot the bullet. I am just going to show you…” and then he lifted up his showed the astonished crowd his blood stained wound. He then went on to speak for an hour before going to the hospital to have the frightened bullet removed.
“Tonight the American Flag floats from yonder hill or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”
He failed to mention that “yonder Hill” was occupied by 1,000 British and Hessian troops, but in the end it didn’t really matter. By days end Stark and his men did indeed float the flag on yonder hill wiping out almost half of the enemy in the process. And dear Molly got the chance to never be a widow as she died 7 years before old John who hung on till age 93.
Working as a security contractor in Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2004, Fabrizio Quattrocchi probably knew he was in for a potentially rough time. Sadly his fears were realized shortly after he and three other Italian contractors were taken hostage by Islamic militants. As was often the practice of such groups they prepared Quattrocchi and his comrades for execution by videotaping their last words. Hoping to see them beg for their lives, Quattrocchi gravely disappointed them by staring straight in to the camera and saying:
“Vi faccio vedere come muore un Italiano!” – “I’ll show you how an Italian dies!”
Two years after his death the Italian government posthumously awarded his family two Gold Medals for Civilian Valor, one in honor of him and one in honor of his gigantic balls.