Word of warning: you will probably begin to question all of your life's accomplishments after reading this list.
Captain Richard Phillips was captured by Somali pirates and held hostage on the lifeboat of the Maersk Alabama. Navy SEALs came in and easily killed 3 of the 4 pirates and the 4th has since been jailed.
Suggested By: Brian, The Life of, Photo Credit: Getty Images
When in doubt, add more rockets. From DennyCraneDennyCraneDennyCrane:
"The basic idea: Strap a shit ton of JATO bottles on a C-130, fly into Iran below radar, use the JATO bottles to land and stop inside a soccer stadium, get the hostages on board, use more JATO bottles to take off, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Successfully completed several tests, until a failed test snapped the wings off the plane. The pilot hit the stop rockets too early, and it seems C-130s don't like falling 30 feet when they land.
The plane was dismantled, but there were other airframes being converted. The project was finally scrapped when the Iranians finally released the hostages, so I don't know if the testing counts as an "Attempt", but still absurdly audacious."
Suggested By: DennyCraneDennyCraneDennyCrane, Photo Credit: 1415w via YouTube
Ultimately a failed operation, but still a crazy one. A little under 150 people consisting of Special Forces soldiers and airmen attacked the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam in an attempt to rescue 61 American POWs. There was thought to be about 5,000 North Vietnam soldiers within a 5 mile radius of the camp, yet Americans escaped with minimal losses.
Unfortunately, the prisoners had already been moved.
In 1976 a group of Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France flight and flew it to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The Israeli Defense Forces went in and saved 103 hostages and killed all of the hijackers.
This one inspired the recent movie Argo. Steve Kuhn has the story.
"It was a rescue of six US diplomats hiding in Iran after the takeover of the American embassy building. In a joint operation Canada sent some people over posing as a film crew scouting locations for a new science fiction film, a generic Star Wars type ripoff, and with disguises and fake documents making them look like part of the crew the diplomats simply strolled through Tehran airport security, boarded a commercial flight, and got away."
Suggested By: Steve Kuhn, Photo Credit: Warner Brothers
While the reasons for carrying out the operation, as well as who exactly ordered the operation are still debated, its daring isn't. This 1944 Allied mission was an incredible attempt to free prisoners from a German camp by bombing its doors open (along with a couple walls and all of the guards) with tiny De Havilland Mosquitoes.
258 prisoners were freed, though about 2/3rds of them were recaptured after the raid.
Just give up now, you will never be as badass as Ernest Shackleton. Reader ninjagin will tell you why.
"Basically, the guy sailed the Endurance on a research journey down to Antarctica in the Antarctic summer and the boat got stuck and crushed by sea ice in the Weddell Sea at the start of the Antarctic winter (April). All 28 people on board managed to escape onto ice floes, hoarding as much supply off of the ship as they could, and get to Elephant island. Shackleton was all "Yo, sit tight, homies, I'll be right back." and takes six guys and one of the salvaged lifeboats and navigates 800 miles away to a whaling station he knows about on South Georgia island... a little speck in the freezing, dark winter out in the middle of some of the most dangerous seas on the planet. So he gets to South Georgia but his boat is prevented from landing at the station by a friggin' storm so he has to go around to the opposite side of the island to get ashore, but he's on the wrong side of the island. So he leaves a couple guys at the landing and treks off with the rest of the group on foot to cross the island, which nobody had ever done before, in the middle of the Antarctic winter. He gets to the station and is able to then fetch the guys he left on the other end of the island.
At the whaling station, he manages to rally support for a rescue mission and then tries four times over the span of four months of the Antarctic winter to get a boat out to Elephant Island, succeeding on the fourth attempt, in August. The other three times were blocked by the same sea ice that crushed the Endurance.
Anyhow, he picks up his men (which also included one stowaway) and everybody lived, though Shackleton ended up with 1) frostbitten fingers because he ended up giving his mittens to the expedition photographer who lost his when the Endurance was crushed, and 2) the biggest brass balls in the southern hemisphere and a wheelbarrow to carry them in."
This was one of the most important missions in WWII. Reader ttyymmnn will tell you about its huge scale:
"Operation Dynamo, the rescue of British, Belgian and French forces from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 after being surrounded and cut off by German forces. When military assets weren't sufficient to rescue the beleaguered soldiers, many were picked up by "the little ships of Dunkirk," a flotilla of 700 fishing boats, pleasure craft, and other civilian boats that made the perilous journey across the English Channel to rescue what soldiers they could. By the end of Operation Dynamo, over 338,000 soldiers had been plucked from the beaches and lived to fight another day."
I'll also let The English Man educate us as to why it was so important.
"Without Dynamo, England would've had a fraction of the military to fend off German invasion.
If England had fallen in 1940 (as scumbag US ambassador Joe Kennedy was arguing for), there would have been no D-Day after the US woke up after Pearl Harbor as there'd have been nowhere for the US to mass and launch from.
With no threat of D Day, more German troops could've been sent East. With no supplies making it to Russia through the North Atlantic, Russia would've fallen.
US losses would've been far worse in the Pacific with no Bletchley Park able to break everything the Japanese sent.
And there's the small issue of the war ending nukes. Yes, the Manhattan Project ultimately delivered. But it was built on British research. Without that, a nuke several years later would've made for a very different war.
Granted, there are several equally critical points where it came just that close. Focusing on British airfields, not switching to city bombing, is one - the RAF was RIGHT on the edge of collapse. Staying focused on Moscow/Leningrad, not turning South, was another.
But, regardless of other equally close moments... Dynamo really did make the difference to who one, the shape of the world today and the existence of entire races."
Suggested By: ttyymmnn, Photo Credit: Getty Images
They don't call it "great" for nothing. American forces as well as Fillipino Guerrillas led by General MacArthur liberated 552 America POWs from a Japanese camp suffering only a minimum of casualties.
Three men trekked across 1,500 miles of arctic Tundra to save 275 stranded men back in 1897. Yeah, I haven't really accomplished much in my life either.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day - our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
Top Photo Credit: British Pathé via YouTube