Historical Figures We Can't Believe We Just Learned About In 2022

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Vote up the historical figures and stories you wish would've been in the textbooks.

There's a lot to cover in history class, fair enough. But it seems like certain figures take the curriculum cake, while many names are lost to history despite their brave, bold, and bizarre accomplishments

Historical films are also guilty of focusing on the same tired subjects over and over, when there are plenty of lesser-known historical figures who are more than worthy of their own biopics.

Luckily, the age of the internet has brought much new information about these historical figures to light. Read on for the ones we learned about in 2022 - though we can't believe it took that long.


  • After Being Wounded, Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. Reportedly Told His Men To Tie Him To A Tree So He Could Keep Firing At The Enemy
    Photo: Military Sealift Command / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    1
    540 VOTES

    After Being Wounded, Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. Reportedly Told His Men To Tie Him To A Tree So He Could Keep Firing At The Enemy

    Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. was a member of the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Nation. Born in 1925, he joined the US Marines in 1941. He served in the Pacific during WWII, was discharged, then reenlisted in the Army.

    While in Korea in 1950, Red Cloud and his unit were bombarded by Chinese forces. Armed with a Browning automatic rifle, Red Cloud fired at the enemy as eight bullets hit his body.

    Even after he fell to the ground, Red Cloud pulled himself up, refusing medical aid. In some tellings of what happened next, he told his men to tie him to a tree using a belt so he could stay upright. According to medic Perry Woodley, Red Cloud wrapped his arm around a tree and "continued his deadly fire again, until he was fatally wounded.”

    Because many members of his unit were asleep at the time of the maneuver, Red Cloud's "heroic act stopped the enemy from overrunning his company's position and gained time for reorganization and evacuation of the wounded." 

    He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1951.

    -Melissa Sartore 

    540 votes
  • Dutch Teacher Johan Van Hulst And Henriëtte Pimentel Transported Jewish Children Out In Baskets
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    2
    570 VOTES

    Dutch Teacher Johan Van Hulst And Henriëtte Pimentel Transported Jewish Children Out In Baskets

    Johan van Hulst taught at a college in Amsterdam during the German incursion of the Netherlands. German officials set up a deportation center and holding area for Jewish children at a daycare center near van Hulst's school.

    The official in charge of the center was Henriëtte Pimentel. Sensing opportunity, she recruited van Hulst for a daring plan: They would secretly transport the children out of the center and into van Hulst's neighboring school, where they could escape the clutches of the Germans.

    To get the children to safety, van Hulst concealed them in baskets and sacks and handed them off. From there, they could be delivered to households connected to the resistance who agreed to care for them.

    Pimentel's and van Hulst's actions saved around 600 children. Unfortunately, Pimentel didn't survive WWII; she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Van Hulst continued teaching after the wear and also served in the Dutch Senate and European Parliament.

    -Setareh Janda

    570 votes
  • Buffalo Calf Road Woman Saved Her Brother During Battle, Then Knocked George Armstrong Custer Off His Horse
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    3
    448 VOTES

    Buffalo Calf Road Woman Saved Her Brother During Battle, Then Knocked George Armstrong Custer Off His Horse

    On June 17, 1876, General George Crook attacked the Northern Cheyenne people in an attempt to steal their land in the Battle of the Rosebud. Buffalo Calf Road Woman was the only woman to go with the warriors to battle. She was in her mid-20s at the time and had a 4-year-old daughter. 

    At one point during the conflict, her brother, Chief Comes in Sight, was struck and pinned down under enemy fire. She ran into the active fire to help get him out, saving his life. Buffalo Calf Road Woman not only saved her brother, but also cemented her reputation as a fierce warrior. The Northern Cheyenne even gave the battle a new name: The Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother.

    A few days later, she fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn - the only woman warrior present. Once again, she was incredibly brave and strong, with outstanding marksmanship. The Northern Cheyenne were victorious thanks to Buffalo Calf Road Woman knocking Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer off his horse.

    Unfortunately, she passed only a few years later in 1879 from diphtheria, which was known as the “white man’s coughing disease” by the Cheyenne people. 

    The tribe had kept this information among only the elders of their community, taking a vow of silence for 100 summers after the battle for fear of retribution from the US government. The Northern Cheyenne finally told Buffalo Calf Road Woman's story in 2005. Prior to that, there was one mention of her from an eyewitness account of the battle, which was published in the 1967 book by Thomas B. Marquis, Custer on the Little Bighorn:

    Most of the women looking at the battle stayed out of reach of the bullets, as I did. But there was one who went in close at times. Her name was Calf [Road] Woman... [she] had a six-shooter, with bullets and powder, and she fired many shots at the soldiers. She was the only woman there who had a gun.

    According to Wallace Bearchum, the director of tribal services for the Northern Cheyenne, although Buffalo Calf Road Woman was an "excellent markswoman," she likely knocked Custer off his horse with a club instead of a bullet.

    -Liv Pasquarelli

    448 votes
  • Lachhiman Gurung Took On 200 Soldiers With Only One Hand
    Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia / Fair Use
    4
    423 VOTES

    Lachhiman Gurung Took On 200 Soldiers With Only One Hand

    During WWII, Burma (present-day Myanmar) was a major battleground between the forces of the British Empire and the Empire of Japan. In 1942, the Japanese invaded the country, and although it controlled large portions of Burma, the forces fought to a stalemate for the next three years. 

    In 1945, a unit of Indian soldiers was sent to block a retreating Japanese force. During the maneuvering, an advance group of Gurkha riflemen got caught behind enemy lines. Two hundred Japanese soldiers attacked.

    One of the first Gurkha soldiers to make contact was Lachhiman Gurung. Shortly after the fighting began, an enemy grenade exploded near him, rendering his right hand inoperable and breaking his arm. He continued fighting with his left hand for four hours until the Japanese retreated. Gurung received the Victoria Cross for his valor. 

    -Jim Rowley

    423 votes
  • Betty Robinson Came Back From The 'Dead' To Win Olympic Gold
    Photo: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    5
    493 VOTES

    Betty Robinson Came Back From The 'Dead' To Win Olympic Gold

    Elizabeth "Betty" Robinson was only 16 when she won a gold medal for track and field at the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928. As the first woman to win the 100-meter dash (1928 was the first year women could compete), she was greeted by a parade in Chicago upon her return and looked forward to the next games in 1932.

    In 1931, Robinson was in a plane crash that left her with a broken arm, a cracked hip, and a broken leg that required a pin to hold it together. She was told she would walk with a limp for the rest of her life, but she almost never even had the chance to receive treatment. 

    The plane carrying Robinson was piloted by her cousin, Wilson Palmer. After it went down, she was believed to be a casualty. According to researcher Roseanne Montillo:

    The man who found her believed her to be dead… and he took her, not to the hospital, but to an undertaker.

    He took her to the morgue in the trunk of his car, where the undertaker noticed Robinson was breathing. It was then that she received medical care.

    Despite hearing she would likely never run again, Robinson began walking - then running - over the months and years that followed. By 1936, she was no longer able to crouch and start like other runners in the 100-meter dash, but she still had speed. As a result, she made the team for the 4x100 meter relay for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

    As a team member, Robinson took home another gold medal. Her daughter Jaine Hamilton noted:

    The first [gold] medal was not as important to her as her '36 medal… The first was easier; the second she had to work her tail off to get back from injury. 

    -Melissa Sartore

    493 votes
  • 6
    434 VOTES

    A Team Of All-Female Russian Bomber Pilots Called 'The Night Witches' Terrified The Third Reich

    Members of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment had the honor of being at the top of Third Reich Germany's list of least favorite people. By the end of WWII, they had dropped 23,000 tons of bombs on German targets. Notably, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment was entirely composed of women.

    It was the Germans who gave them their menacing nickname, Nachthexen, roughly translating to "Night Witches," because their wooden planes made a whooshing noise similar to that of a broom right before they dropped a bomb. The women used tiny plywood biplanes too small to show up on radar or infrared locators, so the swooshing sound was the only warning the SS had, and by then, it was usually too late. 

    Prior to WWII, women were barred from military service, but the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was enough for the country to reconsider. They needed all the help they could get, and after the performance of the women, they never went back. The witches' very first mission, bombing the headquarters of invading SS soldiers, was a huge success. They didn't only fly and drop bombs; they also returned fire when they were attacked. This made the Soviet Union the first nation to allow women to fight in active combat.

    When it came to forming the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the women had to deal with sexism and harassment from male Soviet soldiers, who made fun of them during training. The women were given hand-me-down uniforms that didn't fit, and their planes were rickety crop dusters called Polikarpovs. Made of plywood, the crafts exposed the women to the elements during flights, which was no small feat in the harsh conditions of the Soviet winter. 

    The Night Witches did what they could to use the situation to their advantage. The size of the planes made them near impossible to target. And they flew at night because they had to stay low to the ground, able to hold only two bombs at once, one under each wing. 

    Throughout WWII, the Night Witches flew 30,000 missions. Thirty perished in combat, but 24 lived to receive the Hero of the Soviet Union award.  

    -Liv Pasquarelli

    434 votes