10 Amazing Courageous People In History
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
When researching this list, I wanted to find stories that convey the inherent altruistic nature we're all capable of, but don't often hear about. Those unsung heroes that risked everything for a greater good and, for a moment, transcended their own immortality to make the right decision where most others would have hesitated. Some heroes affect one life, while others can change the course of history. Today we'll be looking at 10 courageous people in history and their amazing acts of heroism.
Long before Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange, there was Dr. Daniel Ellsberg. A strategic analyst employed at a global strategy think tank, he helped to contribute research to a study of classified documents regarding the conduct of the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until late 1969 that Ellsberg became disturbed by the course of the war, and he decided he should do something about it. Photocopying classified documents, he first approached members of the Senate, working throughout 1970 to try and persuade them to release these documents to the Senate. Unsuccessful, he shared the papers with Neil Sheehan of the New York Times, who then published them. After publication, Ellsberg then leaked the papers to other papers, including The Washington Post. Despite facing a number of charges that carried up to 115 years of sentences, Ellsberg stayed in the country instead of being a coward and running. He surrendered to authorities and faced the charges, and in 1973, all of the charges were dismissed.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the city of Basra came under siege. Constantly bombarded by Australian, American and British forces, nothing in the city was safe, including the historical artifacts. The Al Basrah Central Library held some of the most important texts in the Middle East, but with anti-aircraft guns on top, was also a prime target.
Head librarian Alia Muhammad Baker braved the fire and, recruiting whoever she could find, managed to rescue 70% of the books before the library was consumed by a fire, including irreplaceable centuries-old manuscripts. Braving a war zone, and acting directly against the governor of Basra who had denied permission to move books, Baker saved integral parts of Iraq’s culture.
One of the worst building collapses in recent times, the Rana Plaza disaster claimed the lives of hundreds of workers. When the building fell, Didar Hossain was at work in a garment factory across from the plaza, and like many others, his first sense was to try and help. Pushing past a security guard trying to keep his fellow workers inside, Didar worked his way through unstable wreckage as one of the first people on the scene. Untrained at rescue or surgery, Didar nonetheless dragged out dead bodies as well as survivors, performing amputations to free trapped workers. By the end of the day, he managed to free 34 workers, many of whom would have been further injured or killed before trained rescuers would have made it to them.
In the Revolutionary War, women were expected to follow their soldier husbands around and cook for them, and do their laundry. Margaret Corbin was fine doing this, and followed her husband John to Fort Washington, New York. In one attack, John was assisting a cannon gunner. When the gunner was struck down, John took command of the cannon, and Margaret stepped up to assist. After a period of time, John was killed as well, at which point, with no one around, Margaret herself took charge of the cannon, and continued to keep firing without any help, loading the cannon and firing it on her own. She was eventually severely wounded by grapeshot, and carried to the rear. She never fully recovered from her wounds, living without use of her left arm for the rest of her life. For her bravery, she was the first woman to be granted a soldier’s pension, and a monument to her stands at West Point.
Early in the Second World War, the existence of concentration camps was not well known. Poland had been steamrolled by the Germans, with only a few underground organizations continuing to fight. The leader of the Secret Polish Army, Witold Pilecki, had been fighting and had learned of a camp nearby, at Oswiecim. At this time, it was thought of to simply be an internment camp or prison, so he thought he would investigate and gather intelligence, deliberately walking in to a street roundup in Warsaw.
Pilecki was sent to the nearby camp, where he soon discovered the horrors that were going on behind the gates sitting under the sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” – Auschwitz. Pilecki organized an underground in the camp, gathering intelligence and transmitting it to the Allies for two years. In 1943, he escaped the camp, and authored a detailed report on the conditions. He would go on to fight in the Warsaw uprising, and then return to collecting intelligence when the Polish government was exiled, collecting evidence on Soviet atrocities against the Poles. He was eventually captured and executed, his name sullied. It wasn’t until the fall of Communism that Pilecki’s honor was restored, receiving posthumous Orders and decorations in 1995 and 2006.