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Léo Major: Who Says Righteous Fury, Revenge and Fighting Nazis Needs to be a Group Effort?

By Kate Hudson | Celebrity | October 30, 2018 |

By Kate Hudson | Celebrity | October 30, 2018 |


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Nazis are unilaterally bad. Sure, this may seem obvious, but in 2018 when national leaders refuse to condemn them, it can seem like hope is lost in our national discourse. It all feels very discouraging to anyone with a soul.

As a general rule, I believe in the power of non-violent resistance—an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. However, the story I’m about to share with you completely flies in the face of that, and you know what? I think we all should agree that when it comes to Nazis, you gotta do what you gotta do.

This is a story for anyone who feels like they can’t make a change in the evil chaos that permeates our daily lives. As the saying goes: If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.

This is a story about Léo Major, a mosquito who one night in an epic fit of righteous revenge, singlehandedly neutralized an entire occupied village in the Netherlands of Nazis.

Major was born in 1921 in America, but was raised in Montreal—and he joined the Canadian Allied Forces in time to storm the beaches at Normandy in June 1944. He singlehandedly captured a German armored vehicle during D-Day, and when searched, the vehicle contained secret German codes. The stage was set—Major was a badass who could take on Nazis by himself and come out ahead.

Cut to late in 1944. Major is on a solo reconnaissance mission and spots two Nazis out on patrol. He’s cold, he’s wet, and he blames those two bastards for putting him into this situation. Now, most people would realize that they’re outnumbered in this scenario, and go get back-up. Most people aren’t Léo Major. You know what he does? Captures one Nazi, and uses him as bait to catch the other. Then, he somehow manages to turn two captives into 93, and marches an entire platoon of Nazis to the Canadian front lines. Another SS troop sees a large group marching towards Canadian territory and opens fire on them—not realizing that they’re firing on their own side (minus Major).

…so what does Major do? He keeps marching. (I imagine it’s still cold and wet, and he wants to go home, because at this point bullets mean nothing to him.)

He gets (what’s remaining) of his prisoners to the Canadians, and tells them the location of the other SS troops.

As a result of this act of bravery (I’m sure Major just called it Tuesday) he’s chosen to receive a Distinguished Conduct Medal…which he turns down, because he thought the General who would have given it out was “incompetent.”

In February 1945, Major was helping a military Chaplain load bodies of fallen soldiers into a jeep, when on the way back from the mission their vehicle hit a landmine, and Major’s back was broken in three places.

For anyone else, the war would be over for them at this point. To be fair, the military tried to do the same for Major. But come on, Léo Major is not just anyone. So what does he do? Escapes from the military hospital, and stays with a family in a random town in the Netherlands while he recuperates (I mean, obviously). Within a month, he rejoins his platoon ready to take on more Nazis. Somehow he avoids punishment. He’s Léo Major. Probably wouldn’t have stuck, anyway.

All of this is already very impressive, and could stand alone as a real-life Canadian version of Captain America; but his magnum opus of revenge is yet to occur.

It’s April 1945 (basically two months since he broke his back). His regiment is approaching the town of Zwolle, Netherlands. Zwolle is heavily occupied by Nazi Forces, but it also has a strong German resistance as well. Major and his friend Corporal Willie Arseneault are assigned a reconnaissance mission to determine how many Nazi troops are in the city, and to contact the Dutch resistance. Major and Arseneault have other plans—they want to capture the city, alone.

Arseneault, unfortunately was not Léo Major, and after unwittingly giving his and Major’s position away, is struck and killed by a Nazi shot. Major is alone and angry—the Germans have killed his friend, so what’s a man to do?

If you said return to base and get backup, you’re clearly not paying attention. No. Major storms into the town solo. After taking out a few Nazis (because they looked at him funny, and killed his friend) he captured a German officer, and since both spoke French, was able to communicate that the Canadian army would be storming the entire village in just a few hours. Major let him go, expecting him to let the commanding officers know of his plan.

Then under the cover of darkness, he ran up and down the town, throwing grenades and firing rounds indiscriminately, to make the Germans believe that the Canadians had begun their attack. Every time he came upon a group of Nazis, he would engage in firefight, inevitably capture them, and take them outside of the city and deposit them with allied troops waiting in the vicinity. He did this four times that night—until he finally came upon the motherlode: the SS HQ in Zwolle (He had already burned down the Gestapo HQ, because that’s what you do to evil.) Not only did he engage in firefight that killed four Nazi officers, he found that some of them were dressed as Dutch resistance members. The Zwolle resistance had been (or was about to be) infiltrated by Nazis. Not anymore. Major had either killed, captured, or forced the Nazis to flee Zwolle.

This all went down in the span of about four and a half hours (he liberated an entire town in about the time it takes to watch The Return of the King: Extended Edition, for perspective). After it was said and done, Major rejoined his fallen friend’s body, and waited to transport it away for safe keeping.

This time, Major accepted the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

So what happened to Major after that night? No one knows…

Just kidding. He lived a nice, long life until he finally died in 2008, leaving behind his wife of 57 years, four children, and five grandchildren.

Everything seems horrible and chaotic right now, and if it gets the best of you, take comfort that for whatever reason, the same universe that gave us Trump and his cronies, also gives us seemingly-super human people like Léo Major, who see evil and fascism, and hunt it for sport.

If you want to read more about Major, I used the following sources for this write up: Bad Ass of the Week, allthatsinteresting.com, Britannica.



Kate is a staff contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.



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