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Hollywood would lead us to believe that in the age of heroes, women mostly stood around swooning and being the love trophy that their men fought for. However, not only were some women fierce fighters, they were so mighty that they’d leave even the bravest man double checking his pants for fear streaks. Women like ...
Nakano Takeko was a samurai who fought during the fall of the last shogunate. Unfortunately, she was on the side without guns, which generally means a check in the loss column. That said, she and the women under her command held out against a siege by a force that was better armed and had more soldiers for over a week.
Held up in a castle, they decided to make a last stand against the forces outside the gates ... so they formed a suicide charge meant to bust a hole in the Imperial line so that supplies could get in from shogunate supporters.
It should not have worked, but it totally did.
Instead of going back into the castle once the battle was underway, she joined up with a cannon unit. Initially, the cannon commander didn't want to fight with them, because he was worried that Imperial forces would laugh at him and his men for fighting alongside women. So she did what anyone would do in that situation: she threatened to kill herself in front of him if he didn't allow it. Like every man she ever met, he could not win, and he agreed to let her forces join his.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Now get your wussy cannon out of my way."
Despite the heavy combat conditions, she lived for three more days, and even in the last fight, she took out a reported 5-6 men before she succumbed to her wounds. Keep in mind that this was recorded by guys who seemed to religiously believe women couldn't fight, so multiplying that number by 10 would probably get you a more accurate count. With her last breath, she asked her sister, a fellow samurai, to remove her head so the enemy could not use it as a trophy.
Jeanne de Clisson
Back in the day, France and England's favorite pastime was warring with each other. During one of their battles, Jeanne de Clisson’s husband, Oliver, was captured by England while defending a fort they wanted. We're assuming it wasn't the pillow kind.
He was exchanged for an English prisoner France had, but the French king suspected that Oliver didn’t give England enough grief in taking the fort, if you get my drift ... so he was summoned to the capital, secretly tried and executed. And just like how you don't hurt John Wick’s dog, you don't kill Jeanne de Clisson’s husband.
"Ever read Game of Thrones? You might want to brush up before I unleash Hell."
She immediately sold or let go of every possession that would have tied her to France, and with the help of a small army, began tearing up French castles and garrisons left and right, making sure to leave a few survivors to tell the tale. Eventually, property damage didn't feel like enough of a statement, so she bought three warships and used them to continue her war against France for 13 more years. She was never caught. Apparently, she just got tired of it and married an English nobleman. We’ve all been there.
The most prolific female sniper of her time, Lyudmila Pavlichenko served in World War II for the Soviets and racked up 309 confirmed kills. 36 of those were enemy snipers. It only took her a little over a year from the time she enlisted to reach that score before she was promoted and pulled from combat, presumably kicking and screaming.
This was in a time when women weren't really allowed to be in the military (outside of being nurses or secretaries), so she had to con and nag her way in. At one point, Army officers caved and gave her sort of an "audition" -- we're assuming that when they handed her a rifle and told her to pick off two Romanians who were working with the Germans, she would wet herself and run away screaming.
Instead, she calmly took out the two enemies, securing her place as a sniper in the military. When she was asked about the insane number of confirmed kills, she told reporters that she didn't count the two Romanians "because they were test shots."
The Night Witches
The awesomely named Night Witches were an all-female Russian pilot unit that dropped three kilotons of bombs and 26,000 incendiary shells on the Germans at night, using minimal equipment. When we say minimal, we're talking about talking biplanes made from wood frames with canvas stretched over the fuselage. You probably have something sturdier in your old toy box.
These things were so primitive compared to the German planes of WWII that the maximum speed of the Night Witches’ planes was slower than the stall speed of the German fighters. However, that slower speed also meant they were more maneuverable. Catching a Night Witch riding dirty was so difficult, any German soldier who downed one was automatically awarded an Iron Cross.
And the ones who didn't were awarded two middle fingers and a loud boom.
Flying in the dead of night with no radar and no radio, the unit would glide in with the engine idling and start dropping bombs, earning them their spooky nickname. The Germans likened the noise to what you'd hear if a witch was flying a broomstick, which was apparently something you heard often in mid-century Germany.
Princess Pingyang didn't start life as a princess at all but as the daughter of a general who decided in 617 CE that the emperor had to go. One of the general's first moves was to send for his daughter, Pingyang, and her husband, Chai Shao, because things were about to get nasty, as rebellions often do. On their way, the couple split up to take a different routes, knowing that as a woman, Pingyang would be largely ignored.
Her enemies would regret ignoring her. On the way to join her father, she casually raised a few hundred troops via hired mercenaries and then reached out to unite four rebel armies under her banner. She conquered a few nearby cities on the way, ultimately bringing her personal forces to about 70,000. At the time, it was customary to loot and rape once the military forces were eliminated from a place, but Pingyang refused to allow civilians to be harmed, earning her a dedicated band of loyalists.
"Oh, don't mind me. I'm just taking a stroll with 70,000 of my closest friends."
Once she and her army arrived at the family reunion, she was given charge of a wing of the combined forces as a full general in her father’s army. When he became emperor, he gave her the title of princess, and upon her death, she was given a full imperial military funeral to acknowledge her contributions in founding the new empire. She was the only woman to be given this honor.
Did we mention she was 20 when all this went down? Don't feel bad ... by age 20, we had barely accomplished getting through our fast food training videos.
Like this article? Check out "The 5 Most Badass Women In Spy History" and "5 People Who Transcended Gender And Made The World A Better Place".