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Ripley's Unbelievable Stories Of America's Service Members

Sergeant Sheik

First Posted: 05/30/11 09:05 AM ET Updated: 11/16/11 06:10 AM ET

The folks who have served in America’s military have done many great things for this country -- and some unbelievable things, as well.

Take Matthew Little, a Seaman for 70 years who served in four wars, including World Wars I and II.

Not only was his ship was sunk by a German U-boat in WWI, he was sunk twice in WWII and spent 5 days in a lifeboat.

Then he was in charge of a ferry that rescued 1,200 men at Dunkirk, only to be sunk for the fourth time.

He survived all of those life-threatening wartime experiences -- only to be hit by a truck in Baltimore.

Little not only garnered plenty of medals for his service, his unbelievably bizarre war experiences have earned him a place at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

For more than 200 years, the members of the U.S. military have been protecting the country and, for some 90 of those years, Ripley’s has been recognizing their actions and publicizing the quirkier stories, according to spokesman Tim O’Brien.

"Throughout the 1920s and '30s, Robert Ripley always saluted the military," O’Brien said. "He was very patriotic and traveled to several foreign countries looking for the odd. But he never missed an opportunity to point out the odd things that happened to our military men.

"He brought out the odd and unusual happenings of the military that didn’t make the mainstream press and we want to carry on that tradition."

Some of the stranger stories that deserve to be retold on Memorial Day:

  • In 1943, Master Sgt. John Hassebrock of Buffalo Center, Iowa, received a three-day pass to marry a WAC Corporal before he went overseas. They lost track of each other until one night in France, he made a convoy to the front lines and went to a farmhouse to spend the night. There he unexpectedly ran into his wife -- on the exact day and hour of their wedding one year earlier.
  • During World War II, Gunner's Mate Allen C. Heyn was saved three times in three minutes by his equipment. When his boat, the Juneau, was sunk by a Japanese submarine, his life was saved by his helmet, which was crushed and his skull fractured. Two minutes later, he sank with the ship, but his life jacket brought him up to the surface, where he was saved by a raft. He was the only survivor of the 12 men on that raft.
  • Private Leo Carrara of the Sixth Armored Division was truly the indestructible man. A German bomb destroyed his half track and killed 12 men and only Pvt. Carrara escaped, although he was badly wounded. His sergeant tried to save him and was killed, his lieutenant tried to save him and was killed and his litter bearer tried to save him and was killed.
  • Lt. Commander Robert W. Goehring, aboard the Coast Guard Cutter U.S.S. Duane, was swept off his ship by a mountainous wave during a storm. The ship was turned around to rescue Goehring when suddenly another giant wave tossed him back on board to safety.
  • Joe Frank Jones of the Eighth Army Air Force fell 13,000 feet and suffered no broken bones. Returning from his 22nd mission over Germany in a Fortress, he collided in mid-air and fell 13,000 feet in the severed tail section of his plane -- without serious injury and no broken bones.
  • During the Korean War, Lt. Fred J. Fees, Jr. continued to direct air strikes after he had been shot through the head.
  • Also during the Korean War: Walter J. Alliman carried an 1855 penny that brought good fortune to fighting men in 5 previous wars.
  • James Ward of La Grange, N.C., enlisted in the Army at 14, served two years, including five months in combat in Korea, and was made a sergeant. Then he was discovered and was discharged for being underage.
  • U.S. Infantryman Donald Morehouse was shot through the chest while fighting in the Korean War. Still, he walked 35 miles to safety -- and only discovered later that the bullet had gone through his heart.
  • Bob Weiland, who lost both legs in 1969 in Vietnam to a land mine while trying to save a fellow soldier, "walked" 2,000 miles from California to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1986 -- propelling himself on his padded knuckles.
  • Pvt. William Parker, a soldier in the U.S. Army fighting in Vietnam, survived after a shot to his head was deflected by the bible he kept underneath his helmet.
  • Pfc. Billy Campbell of the 101st Airborne Division serving in Vietnam, survived being shot in the chest when the bullet deflected off a spoon he was carrying in his breast pocket.
  • During the Vietnam War, American soldiers tossed "Slinky" toys over tree branches to serve as radio antennas.
  • Wayne Reymar of Alberta, Canada, had two pieces of shrapnel removed from his chest 32 years after he was wounded during the Vietnam War.
  • While fighting in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Pvt. Channing Moss survived a body hit from an anti-vehicular rocket when the explosive head broke off just before he was impaled by the rocket shaft.
  • U.S. soldiers in Iraq use a child's toy, Silly String, to detect tripwire-activated traps.
  • Jim Dillinger, a 45-year-old retired soldier from Mount Orab, Ohio, spent a year-long tour of duty in Iraq as a combat engineer -- due to a clerical error.
  • For the help he provided to residents of Iraq, the locals have made U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dale Horn an honorary Sheik.

Ripley’s is putting its money where its military support counts by offering discounts to military families at the company's "Odditoriums" … believe it or not!

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Filed by David Moye  |