World War II (WW2) was the most widespread global war in world history as it witnessed the involvement of more than 100 million people from 30 different countries. It lasted for 6 years (1939-1945).
That being said, here are 5 unsung heroes of WW2 who showed courage, bravery and selflessness to protect and preserve world peace.
1. MATT URBAN
Lt. Colonel Matt Urban was the most decorated American officer of WW2. He fought in seven campaigns and was wounded seven times.
He was given the nickname “the Ghost” by the Germans as he often cheated death.
When Urban was given the Medal of Honor, his citation referred to ten separate acts of bravery during just the Normandy campaign.
These acts of bravery included destroying multiple enemy tanks with a bazooka (while walking on a cane because he’d broken his leg landing on Utah Beach), organizing multiple counter attacks after nearly having his leg blown off, then breaking himself out of the hospital, hitchhiking to the front, immediately throwing himself into battle, running into an abandoned tank and driving it toward the enemy line with all by himself.
He was wounded over and over again, and yet, still refused to flee from the battlefield.
Even after being shot in the throat, which took him out of combat for good, Urban survived and lived until 1995.
2. EILEEN NEARNE
Eileen Nearne was a British citizen who grew up in France.
She escaped to Britain during the German invasion in 1940. She later became a spy for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to join the war, and went back to France for an undercover mission under the code name “Rose”.
She operated a secret radio line between London and Paris that arranged weapon drops to the French Resistance.
Her cover was eventually blown, and was captured by the Gestapo, eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Although she was brutally tortured, “Rose” never revealed her true identity or association with the SOE.
Transferred and tortured from one death camp to another, she eventually escaped and survived the war.
She did not reveal her horrific experience during the war until 1997, she died in 2010.
3. JOSEPH ROCHEFORT
Joseph Rochefort was an American codebreaker who was assigned to decode Japanese communications that pointed to them attempting to invade the strategically critical island of Midway.
Rochefort’s team devised a smart plan to deceive the Japanese, where they broadcasted a fake message about a water condenser failing on the island to bait them.
The plan turned out to be successful and Rochefort put together an intelligence profile that pointed to exactly when and where the attack would take place.
The US Navy was able to blunt the assault on Midway, and in June 1942, they sank four Japanese aircraft carriers, which turned the tide of the Pacific War.
However, his contributions were never revealed and he received no recognition at the time. He died in 1976.
4. LLEWELLYN CHILSON
Known as the “One Man Army,” Master Sergeant Llewellyn Chilson’s was awarded seven medals by President Truman after the war for his extraordinary bravery.
Fighting in Italy, he was captured with three other men, then promptly escaped and brought 40 prisoners with him, on his own.
As if that wasn’t enough, he took an enemy hill in Southern France with 25 men on it, capturing all of them by himself.
While fighting on the Rhine River in March 1945, Chilson took out six German guns and vehicles, at one point, crawling from one position to another and blowing them up.
When the fight ended, Chilson and his men had killed, wounded or captured more than 200 German troops, and liberated an entire small town.
Even with all his outstanding efforts, he was never awarded the Medal of Honor and died in 1981.
5. GEORGE VUJNOVICH
American intelligence operative George Vujnovich organized and led an operation to smuggle over 500 downed Allied airmen out of Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.
He first trained a three man team to parachute into the area, disguised as Serbian nationals, and had them work with locals and allied fliers to set up an airstrip.
Vujnovich then successfully smunggled 512 men from an incredibly dangerous region without ever losing a plane or being detected.
His plan remained secret until 2007, when the unassuming owner of an airplane parts supply company was revealed to be a former secret agent who saved hundreds of lives.
Vujnovich died at the age of 96 in 2012.