Who could ever forget Tank Man, that unknown man who stood in front of all those tanks at Tiananmen Square? As epic as that act of defiance was, there are other classic examples that are spun from the same material as Tank Man’s story. The amazing acts of defiance listed below are veritable legends and, as such, deserve their own rightful place in history.
10 Captured US Crewmen Flipped Off Their North Korean Captors
If you’re an enemy captured by the North Koreans, chances are you will be brutalized. That is exactly what happened in January 1968 when North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo and imprisoned its crewmen for almost a year. During their captivity, the men had to endure inhumane living conditions coupled with torture and forced indoctrinations. They also became unwilling propaganda tools and regularly appeared in photos as proof of North Korea’s superiority and benevolence.
Luckily, the men discovered a clever way to undermine all that propaganda. Upon finding out that the North Koreans didn’t understand the meaning of the middle finger, the men began showing the gesture during their photo shoots, explaining to their clueless captors that it was merely a good luck sign with Hawaiian origins. This went on for quite a while; after the North Koreans found out, they severely beat the men for a full week. Following the men’s release, the US did its own version of flipping North Korea off by retracting an earlier apology.
9 The Man Who Refused To Do The Nazi Salute
This awesome, not-so-subtle act of defiance should have been mentioned in our previous list of people who stuck it to Hitler. A photo taken in 1936 commemorating the launch of a new training ship in Hamburg showed how one man named August Landmesser refused to do the Nazi salute with his co-workers. Instead, he simply crossed his arms and looked smugly at the new ship.
Landmesser’s defiance stemmed from forbidden love. The Nazi Party expelled him from their ranks after they discovered that he had continued to live with his Jewish wife, a woman named Erma Eckler. Eventually, the Nazis forcibly separated the husband and wife for good. They had Eckler euthanized in 1942 and gave Landmesser a virtual death sentence by conscripting him to a penal battalion in 1944. Fortunately, the couple’s two daughters survived the war and have since made it their mission to spread the story of the brave man who dared to defy the Nazis.
8 Everything Emil Kapaun Did During The Korean War
Catholic priest and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient Emil Kapaun may have well been following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Maximilian Kolbe. As a chaplain during the Korean War, Kapaun performed many selfless acts of heroism. He tended to the wounded, carried them off the battlefield, and gave last rites to the dying. However, it was during his capture in November 1950 by Chinese forces that Kapaun really shone. After seeing a Chinese soldier about to summarily execute a wounded GI named Herbert Miller, Kapaun calmly walked to the scene,brushed the soldier aside, and carried Miller away on his back. Miraculously, the perplexed Chinese soldier did not fire.
Inside the POW camp, Kapaun became the beacon of hope for the other prisoners. Aside from bathing and feeding the weak, he also frequently stole food and other necessities from the Chinese, risking his own life in the process. He resisted attempts at indoctrination, and even defied communist protocols by holding an ecumenical service right inside the camp. By then, his captors had grown wary of him, yet feared that eliminating him would start a riot. Sadly, conditions at the camp gradually took their toll on Kapaun’s health; he died four months after his incarceration and was later buried in an unmarked grave. However, before passing on, he gave his fellow prisoners the most invaluable gift of all: the will to live.