Monday, April 14, 2014
Badass of the Week: Leo Major
During his adventures ripping the hedgerows of Normandy into sawdust, Leo Majors became not just the only Canuck to receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal (the second-highest award for bravery offered by the Royal government) twice, but the only person from any Commonwealth country to win it for actions in two separate wars.
Of course, being a total head-smashing badass isn't just about kicking in teeth, confiscating enemy ballsacks, and then standing there while some high-ranking self-important douchebag pins a small chunk of tin on your chest. Much like many of the bizarre contests that we are watching on television during this Olympic cylce with equal parts respect and WTF confusion, there are style points involved, and holy shitballs did Private Leo Major of the Chaudiere Regiment of the Canadian Army bring his A-game to Europe back when Hitler needed a good bit of iron-fisted cock-punching justice.
Major kicked things off by landing on Normandy along with the rest of the Canadian military, and I'd wager that anybody who's ever played any of the ten billion World War II-themed video games on the market today can tell you that running across a beach while Nazis shoot machine guns at your face is no picnic. Well not only did Majors miraculously manage to somehow not die nose-down in the surf, but on his first day in the lovely French countryside he went out and single-handedly captured one of these bad boys:
I don't need to say that he captured a real one, and not a plastic model, right?
Leo Major, a scout and sniper by trade, charged out in broad daylight, popped an entire squad of Nazis, stole their ride, and then impressed all his superiors when they discovered that the jacked truck was loaded up with communications gear that would prove invaluable in terms of intercepting and deciphering German messages during the Normandy Campaign. For those of you out there who aren't experts in military tactics and strategy, being able to know what your enemy is going to do before he does it is kind of a good thing if you enjoy not losing wars, and that's a benefit that the Allies had in no small part to Leo Major's raging iron ballsack.
Helping out the intel cause one bullet at a time was great and all, so about a week later Major went out and pissed off a squad of battle-hardened badass SS soldiers. Sure, the SS were the most elite force the Nazis could field, but Major still smoked all eight of them. Unfortunately right as the last guy was getting ready to eat it he chucked a phosphorous grenade that blew up in Leo's face, covering him with a very unpleasant coating of burning-hot liquid. Major lost all vision in his right eye, but when the Allied docs told him to pack up and head home, this German-smiting asskicker demanded to stay on the front. He argued, in true badass fashion, that as long as he had one eye to look into the scope of his rifle he was still capable of serving his country. From that point on, Leo Major went into battle with an eyepatch on his right eye, which is a detail that is so awesome I think I may have just crapped. Oh, and just in case Nazi-killing pirate snipers still aren't tough enough for you somehow, Major also refused evacuation a few years later when his APC drove over a landmine and he broke his back in a couple places. Even something as ridiculous as a fractured spine didn't stop this maniac from finishing out the war, going out to fight in another one, and winning bravery medals in both.
Major's first larger-than-life action came during the Battle of the Scheldt in the Netherlands in late 1944. Major and his best friend (a lumberjack named Willy, because when you're a hardcore Canadian you're more or less obligated to be best friends with a lumberjack commando) went out to scout a town and figure out what the hell happened to a company of Canadian infantry that had failed to return from a reconnaissance mission. Major went into the town, discovered that the company had been captured, and then single-handedly captured the entire enemy garrison by running up and down guard posts jamming his rifle in peoples' faces and screaming at them. He returned to the Allied camp with 93 German prisoners in tow. Because this was so insane, the British high command offered him a Distinguished Conduct Medal, but Leo told them to get bent and shove the medal up their asses. In Major's opinion, Allied High Command General Bernard Montgomery was such an incompetent dickbrain that he wasn't qualified to be giving medals out to anyone, and any award issued by him was about as worthless as he was. Try to keep in mind, now, that this is a Private talking about the most senior officer in his army. Say what you'd like about maintaining respect for the chain of command, but this takes some giant balls.
Luckily for Democracy, the Canadian high command didn't see fit to reprimand this guy for his not so subtle diss of Monty, and their decision ended up paying off in one of the most balls-out one-man battles ever fought – the single-handed capture of the Dutch town of Zwolle by Private Leo Major and his implacable rage.
One quiet night in 1945 Major and his buddy were sent out to do some recon in the Nazi-occupied town of Zwolle, report back on enemy numbers, and maybe establish contact with the Dutch resistance. Sadly, not long into the mission, Willy the Lumberjack was cheap-shotted and killed by a German machine gun. This set off one of the most epic blood rages ever recorded. Leo Major completely flipped his shit, strapped three machine guns onto his back, grabbed a huge sack of hand grenades, and charged into the quiet town with his guns and weapons blazing. Leo ran around like a berserker madman, creating such a clusterfuck of explosions, fires, and dead bodies that the German garrison was convinced that they were fighting a vastly superior force. During his mad rampage of Nazi destruction, this one-eyed juggernaut kicked in the door of an SS officer's club, kiled four high-ranking enemy commanders in a firefight, and then went and ran out and burned down the local headquarters of the Gestapo. By the time the sun rose on Zwolle the next morning, the entire German garrison had evacuated and the town was returned to Dutch control. To this day Leo Major is still remembered as the sole savior of Zwolle, an honor that kind of blows my mind a little.
Major would deservedly receive his first DCM for the insanity at Zwolle, but the second one would come a decade later and halfway around the world, during the fighting in the Korean conflict. Major, who by this time had graciously been promoted to Corporal, was sent to infiltrate a key hill that had just been captured from the Americans by a huge force of nearly forty thousand Chinese soldiers. Major snuck in with 19 other French Canadian hardasses, set up fortifications, and – for whatever reason – decided to open fire on the Chinese. In a massive battle that lasted for three days and nights, Leo Major and his 20-man platoon somehow captured the hill and held off desperate counterattacks by two full divisions of the Chinese army. Major was right in the middle of the whole thing, pumping up his men and calling mortar fire down mere feet from his position to ensure maximum detonation of his enemies. That's some stone-cold shit right there, but at this point we know it to be par for the course for this guy.
Leo Major died in 2008, but nowadays he is fondly remembered as a hero to Canadians, Dutch, and pretty much anybody who's a fan of guys in eyepatches that kick their enemies in the groin as hard as possible whenever the opportunity presents itself. His old unit now offers a yearly award in his name to the toughest company in the regiment, and the people of Zwolle continue to teach him in their public school curriculum. There's also a constellation named after him, but there's a slight chance that may have been around first.
"I fought the war with only one eye, and I did pretty good."
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