50 Valiant Stories of People & Animals Who Were Awarded for Their Bravery

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1Silvestre Herrera

A Mexican citizen named Silvestre Herrera was a volunteer US soldier during World War 2 who received the Medal of Honor. He charged an enemy stronghold through a minefield, blowing off both of his feet. He continued fighting on his knees, pinning down the enemy and allowing his squad to capture it.


2. In 1986, a 22-year-old Indian air hostess named Neerja Bhanot helped hide 41 American passports aboard a hijacked plane. The plane was hijacked by 4 terrorists while the plane was on the ground in Pakistan during a scheduled stop. She died shielding three children from gunfire and was posthumously awarded bravery medals from India, Pakistan, and the United States.


3. In 2015, a guide dog named Figo in New York was awarded the ASPCA’s “Dog of the Year” award for running in front of an oncoming bus to protect his blind owner (Audrey Stone) and didn’t leave her side until she received medical attention even though he suffered a broken leg.


4. A 7-year-old boy named Zhenya Tabakov was posthumously awarded Russia’s Order of Courage. In 2008, he died defending his older sister from being assaulted by a criminal in their home. Zhenya stabbed him with a kitchen knife and he let his sister go. She ran for help. The criminal then stabbed Zhenya 8 times.


5. A B-17 gunner named Maynard Harrison Smith put out an ammunition fire during a battle by urinating on it while the plane was in air. He later earned a Medal of Honor for it.


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6Jacklyn Lucas

3 years after illegally joining the Marines at the age of 14, Jacklyn Lucas snuck onto a ship bound for Iwo Jima, stormed the beach without a rifle, and threw himself on top of two grenades to protect his team. He survived and earned the Medal of Honor at the age of 17.


7. Matvey Kuzmin, also known as the ‘Lone Wolf’ was the oldest person to be awarded Hero of the Soviet Union. During World War 2, a Nazi battalion paid him to lead them to the rear of Russian defenses. Instead, he led the battalion directly into an ambush. Realizing his betrayal, the Nazis killed him. He was 83 years old at that time.


8. A British bomb detection dog named Theo died from stress a few hours after seeing his handler get shot. The pair had set a record for bomb detection, and the dog was posthumously awarded an honor equivalent to the Victoria Cross.


9. Henry Lincoln Johnson who was a member of the Harlem Hellfighters earned the nickname of “Black Death.” During an ambush in Argonne Forest in 1918, he injured or killed 24 German soldiers, without a working gun. He was the first American soldier to win a Croix de Guerre, France’s highest award for bravery.


10. ‘All Alone’ was a war pigeon in World War 2 who parachuted with a spy into France, before being dispatched back with important information. She then flew more than 400 miles across the English Channel back to England in less than 24 hours. After the war, All Alone was awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry.


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11John Kelly

US Marine John Kelly was the last person to be awarded 2 Medals of Honor. He ran 100 yards in advance of the front line and attacked an enemy machine-gun nest, killed the gunner with a grenade, shot another man with his pistol, and returned with 8 prisoners. He was only 19 years old at that time.


12. On 8 September 2009, Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer disobeyed a direct order from a superior to pull back from his position so he could rescue wounded soldiers from a firefight a mile away. He ended up going back five times, saved the lives of 36 soldiers, and won the Medal of Honor.


13. In France in September 1944, a technician named Robert D. Maxwell threw himself on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. Though badly injured, he survived and was awarded the Medal of Honor.


14. Two guide dogs, Salty and Roselle, were awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry after leading their blind owners out of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. Roselle led a group of people including her blind owner down 78 flights of stairs before the North Tower collapsed. She only stopped to give kisses to a woman who was having a panic attack.


15. Ettore Boiardi, the Chef Boyardee of canned Ravioli fame was awarded both the Gold Star order of excellence from the US War Department and the Order of Lenin from Russia for supplying rations to allied troops during World War 2.


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16Milton Olive III

In 1965, Milton Olive III sacrificed his own life to save a group of soldiers by smothering a live grenade. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor award, becoming the first African American of the Vietnam War to do so.


17. Frederick Smith, the founder of FedEx served two tours of duty in Vietnam, observing procurement and delivery procedures, fine-tuning his dream for overnight delivery service. He was also awarded a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts.


18. World War 2 fighter pilot James Howard won the Medal of Honor for single-handedly taking on more than 30 German fighter planes all by himself to protect a group of American bomber planes.


19. Former Senator Daniel Inouye had his arm blown off in combat while throwing a grenade. He yelled to stay back, snatched the live grenade out of his blown off-hand, then used it and a Thompson sub-machinegun to mow down the remaining Germans. He wasn't awarded the Medal of Honor until the year 2000.


20. During World War 1, Dominic "Fats" McCarthy was awarded the Victoria Cross after he, virtually unaided, killed 22 Germans, captured 5 machine guns, 50 prisoners, and half a kilometer of the German front. When it was over even the prisoners he'd captured patted him on the back for what he'd done.


21John Smeaton

During the 2007 Glasgow Airport attack, an airport worker named John Smeaton kicked an attempted suicide bomber in the nuts. He was later awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.


22. A pigeon named Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre for its service during World War 1. Cher Ami delivered the S.O.S. message of a lost, encircled battalion despite being shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood, and with a leg hanging only by a tendon.


23. US Army dentist Ben L. Salomon was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for providing a rear-guard action during the Battle of Saipan. His body was found laying on his machine gun with 98 Japanese soldiers in front of him and 76 bullet wounds (and almost as many bayonet wounds) in him while he was still alive.


24. A 14-year old drummer boy named Orion P. Howe received the Medal of Honor during the American Civil War for volunteering to supply ammunition under heavy fire. After the war, he joined the Naval Academy because he was still too young for West Point. In his lifetime, he fought 14 battles.


25. Douglas Albert Munro was the only US Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor. Whilst providing cover for ground troops with his boat, Munro was fatally wounded. His last words he said were, “did they get off?” referring to the soldiers he'd saved. He was only 22 years old.

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