Viktor Nikolayevitch Leonov was a grizzled, hardcore old Russian sailor so completely over-the-top boss hogg scary-as-shit that he once convinced a Japanese garrison to surrender simply by staring them down and threatening to tear them all limb from limb until every single member of the garrison died by his hands – and he somehow pulled it off it AFTER they'd already captured him and were holding him at gunpoint (and were commanding a force that outnumbered Leonov's 3,500 to 140, though I suppose Leonov counts as a Force Multiplier of x30 so the odds were a little more even).
Oh yeah, and he was also a pioneer in the art of modern amphibious warfare, a two-time Hero of the Soviet Union, and a man who was so badass that every time he thought about how much he hated Fascists he spontaneously grew the most awesome beard you can possibly imagine. His operations in the early days of WWII laid the foundation for one of the most hardcore special operations forces in the world, the Russian Spetsnaz, and in case you don't know what the Spetsnaz is, here is a picture that sums it all up pretty succinctly:
That is a photo of a soldier training to kill the enemy by backflipping over barbed wire and throwing a hatchet at a target with deadly accuracy.
In case your soul is colder, deader, and more miserable than a guy with clinical depression reading Nineteen Eighty-Four on the Ice Planet Hoth during Nuclear Winter and that picture didn't do anything for you, here are a few more pictures of Spetsnaz training, which, as far as I can tell, is basically just a bunch of big, gigantic, frighteningly-jacked Russian dudes beating the unholy shitburgers out of each other with pipes, chains, and dead cats, all of which may or may not currently be on fire.
If those pictures don't freak you out, make you happy we didn't have to fight the Russians during the Cold War, and/or give you a kill-boner (or, for my female readers, a girl-boner), then I regetfully have to inform you that there is nothing on this website that will ever interest you. Please buy four copies of my book and then close your browser immediately.
Viktor Leonov was born in Zaraisk, USSR in 1916. He enlisted in the Soviet Navy in 1937 as an enlisted man, but clawed his way up through the ranks, and by the time World War II really got going he had already been promoted from Private (Seaman?) to Lieutenant, and was attached to the 181st Special Recon Detachment of the Soviet Navy – a special unit designed specifically to carry out balls-to-the-wall commando raids aimed at tearing the Germans' balls off in lightning-quick Paddy Mayne-style night raids, crippling their war effort, and then peeling out of there on jetskis or rowboats or some shit before anybody could figure out what the fuck had just blitzed into their base, set everything on fire, and drove a railroad spike through your commanding officer's brain by stabbing it at him like an icepick.
Throughout 1941, Lieutenant Leonov single-handedly commanded dozens of what-the-fuck insane raids on enemy bases along the Russian and Finnish coastlines, running chest-deep through the testicle-petrifying frigid temperatures of the Baltic Sea, blazing his submachine guns like a goddamned maniac, and wiping out all in his path in a tremendous frenzy of destruction that sort of resembled the first level of Wolfenstein 3D. Deploying by inflatable raft, torpedo boat, submarine, and parachute, this unstoppable motherfucker obliterated communications centers, ammunition depots, AA guns, and other strongpoints in the Arctic Circle, monitored enemy ship movements and captured/interrogated/dickpunched enemies along the Black Sea, and once coordinated with Norwegian commandos on a mission that wiped out a motor transport depot, killed 100 of the enemy, destroyed 25 trucks, and ignited untold quantities of fuel without suffering a single friendly casualty.
Leonov survived literally hundreds of ultra-dangerous missions and operations during four years of near-constant battle, but his most famous raid against the diabolical forces of European Fascism came in October of 1944. The Mad Russian's Naval Spetsnaz unit had been ordered to silence four massive 155mm coastal defense guns that had been kicking the shit out of anything the Russians tried to stick in Cape Krestovyi – certainly no easy task, considering that these motherfuckers were locked-and-loaded to blast the shit out of anything in the water that had the audacity not to fly a flag sporting a giant swastika, and they were supported by enough anti-aircraft weaponry that any paratrooper operation was going to be about as much fun as trying to deathmatch an Elder Dragon with a number two pencil.
But Leonov wasn't about to be deterred. Instead of trying the frontal approach, he did something even more insane – he landed his troops several miles up the coast, somehow force-marched a team of about 100 commandos a half-dozen miles deep behind enemy lines without anybody noticing, and ambushed an 88mm flak cannon position that just so happened to be strategically positioned right near the 155mm guns. The Spetsnaz captured the 20-man artillery unit, had them call for reinforcements, and then when the reinforcements showed up Leonov lowered the guns and plowed them into a crater with heavy artillery. He then immediately attacked the 155s, capturing 60 men (including the commanding officer) without so much as firing a shot. This unbelievable asskicking helped the Soviets land in Finland, and earned Leonov his first Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union -- the highest award for military bravery the USSR had to offer.
|Leonov was also awesome because he didn't buy in to all that political bullshit. When his unit was assigned political commisars (propaganda officers whose sole job was to make sure the soldiers all remained good little Communists), Leonov rounded them all up and gave them two options – fight or quit. He had no use for them otherwise.
After the fall of Berlin, Viktor Leonov still wasn't done kicking the shit out of people, so he transferred to the Pacific front so he could unleash his badassitude on the Japanese. His most famous operation there was the aforementioned capture of the airfield – one of the most straight-up balla things I think I've ever heard.
Rather than leading this operation, Leonov was serving under a Captain, who had his 140-man team parachute into what was supposed to be a lightly-defended airfield. However, once the men hit the ground and started taking fire, they realized that this was no lightly defended bullshit, and that they were now staring at something on the order of 3,500 Japanese rifles aimed at their heads. Leonov's commander surrendered, and the ten Spetsnaz officers were taken into the Japanese HQ to meet with the garrison commander.
The Russians immediately demanded his surrender.
The Japanese dude was obviously like, "what the fuck is wrong with you assholes," and right in the middle of the negotiation (and I think I am using the word "negotiation" pretty liberally here) Viktor Leonov suddenly out of nowhere got super pissed, slammed his fist down on the table, and shouted, "We've been fighting in the West throughout the war and we have enough experience to assess our situation. We will not allow ourselves to be taken hostage! You will die like rats when we break out of here!" Then one of his men pulled out a grenade and threatened to frag the entire room.
The Japanese surrendered.
The only time Russians look happy is when they are executing a bayonet charge,
and only then because it's super fucking unnerving.
Leonov received his second HSU in September 45, after leading his men on successful raids that captured no fewer than four Japanese ports along the Korean and Manchurian coastlines. During his daring operations against the Japanese, he lost a grand total of nine soldiers. Seven of them died parachuting into that airfield I just talked about.
Leonov retired after the war, wrote a suitably-badass book about his experiences, and was held up by the government as a model of Russian Naval badassitude throughout the lifespan of the Soviet Union. Tragically, he fell out of favor after the collapse of the USSR, and when he died in 2003 his death was not even mentioned in the newspaper (perhaps even more horrifically, as of the time of this writing he doesn't even have a Wikipedia article). Nowadays I think there's a Gundam character named after him or something, so I guess that's a small consolation.
He apparently only retired because there was no more room on his chest for any more medals.
WW2 in Color Forum
A Review of His Book (There seriously isn't much out there on this guy)
Leonov, Viktor. Blood on the Shores. Ivy, 1994.
Sakaida, Henry. Heroes of the Soviet Union 1941-45. Osprey, 2004.
Takemae, Eiji and Robert Ricketts. Allied Occupation of Japan. Continuum, 2003.
Zabecki, David T. World War II in Europe. Taylor & Francis, 1999.