Here are some of the individuals who emerged as heroes of the Second World War – a mix of diplomats, soldiers and even enemies who chose to do what is right during the trying times.
To these WWII heroes and to those who have done great things during this great war but want relatively unknown through history, kudos!
10. Douglas MacArthur
Well-known in Philippine History for his famous one-liner “I shall return!”, General Douglas MacArthur played a vital role in fighting off Japanese troops from the Philippine shores and defeating them. Both he and his father, General Arthur MacArthur, were recipients of the Medal and Honor, the first father and son tandem to do so. He was also one of the only five men who rose to the rank of General of the Army in the US Army and the only man who became field marshal in the Philippine Army.
9. Jack Churchill
Known in WWII history as Fighting Jack Churchill and Mad Jack, this British trooper was known for his eccentricity in the war. He fought WWII armed with a longbow, arrows and a Scottish broadsword without any guns or other ammunition. His popular motto was “any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly armed.”
8. Simo Hayha
Finnish sniper Hayha was known among the Red Army as “White Deaath” during the Winter War. He has the highest confirmed numbers of sniper kills in any major wars numbering to 505 using a modified Mosint-Nagant. Winter War is the Soviet-Finnish skirmish at the start of WWII. He was struck on the jaw by a Soviet counter sniper but managed to live through it.
7. Henry Slawik
A Polish politician, Slawik saved about 30,000 refugees from Poland including 5,000 Hungarian Jews by issuing them fake Polish passports Catholic designation. When the Nazis uncovered his deed, he was arrested and sent to Mauthausen concentration camp where he was executed on August 26, 1944.
6. Ernst Werner Techow
Techow was a German right-wing assassin, one of the men who killed German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau. However, American journalist George W. Herald wrote a story about him entitled My Favorite Assassin where he stated he met a French foreign legion captain by the name of Tessier in 1940 who, according to Herald, had helped saved numbers of Jews in Marseilles in 1941. Herald further claimed Tessier was actually Techow, reformed, changed and had denounced antisemitism. However, Herald’s narrative was proven to be unfounded later on.
5. Witold Pilecki
An officer of the Polish cavalry, Pilecki was the first soldier to gather an extensive report about the whereabouts in the Nazis’ deadliest concentration camp – Auschwitz. This report is known as Witold’s Report. He was able to do this by taking in a false identity and posing as one of the Auschwitz prisoners. While there, he managed to establish an intelligence network that allowed the military forces outside know what was happening inside the concentration camp. However, despite of his courageous exploits, Pilecki was assassinated in 1948.
4. Dimitar Peshev
Peshev held a high position in the Bulgarian cabinet before WWII broke. However, when Bulgaria’s King Boris decided to have an agreement with German dictator Adolf Hitler and agreed to his anti-semitic leanings, he rebelled against him and majority of the cabinet and prevented the deportation of about 48,000 Jews in the country. As a result he was stripped of his position.
3. Matt Urban
Recognized by Guinness Book of World Records in 1989 as “United States Army’s most combat decorated soldier of World War II”, Matt Louis Urban was a prominent figure in the WWII operations within the Mediterranean and European theaters. He charged, led soldiers and did heroic combat even when he was wounded. He was also the recipient of the Medal of Honor – just one of the many decorations America had bestowed on him for his WWII heroism.
2. Audie Murphy
US soldier Audie Leon Murphy is another well-known and very decorated American soldier due to his heroic exploits during the World War II where he served in Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations. He was only 19 years old when he was presented the Medal of Honor for his defense against German troops on January 1945. He lied about his age just so he could enlist and get drafted in the army during the war.
1. Irena Sendler
The only woman in this list of WWII heroes, the actions of this Polish social worker who took on the identity of a nurse with an ID to match benefited countless of Jewish children during the Holocaust. Sendler worked with the Polish Underground and was able to successfully save about 2,500 Jewish children by providing for their needs including false documents for their safety. When the Nazis learned about what she was doing, they captured her, tortured and sentenced her to death but she managed to escape and lived through WWII.