What is worse than finding yourself in the middle of war than being hunted down by an entire army who would likely do anything to get you— dead or alive? A manhunt is a thorough search for a wanted fugitive who committed a serious crime (or crimes).

In an article written by NBC News, Joe Lewis, a supervisory special agent in FBI Washington, explained, “The difference between a manhunt and a search is that a manhunt is a targeted effort with bigger resources” and that “the FBI has the manpower and technological know-how to help local law enforcement catch fugitives like Mayes.”

Here are some of the famous manhunts in military history:

Osama Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden. English: Hamid MirCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Osama Bin Laden could be the first person to come to your mind once you hear “manhunt.” He was a Saudi Arabian terrorist who founded a militant organization called al-Qaeda. His most infamous attack was the September 11 attacks, where 2,977 people were killed, and 6,000 others were injured. Because of this, he became a major target of the United States from 2001 to 2011, with a bounty of $25 million from the FBI. On May 2, 2011, he was found and killed in Pakistan by SEAL Team Six in an operation called Operation Neptune Spear.

Francisco Pancho Villa

Francisco "Pancho" Villa
Francisco “Pancho” Villa (1877–1923), Mexican revolutionary general, wearing bandoliers in front of an insurgent camp.

Another the second most famous manhunts was that of Pancho Villa. Pancho Villa was general in the Mexican Revolution. He joined Francisco Madero’s uprising against President Porfirio Díaz in 1910. Madero was also ousted later on by Gen. Victoriano Huerta who condemned him for leading anti-Huerta forces. In December 1913, after he revolted against, Villa became governor of the state of Chihuahua.

In March 1916, Villa ordered his men to attack Columbus, New Mexico, and so 100 members of his revolutionary group attacked a detachment of the 13th Cavalry Regiment of the United States by burning the town, seizing the horses, and mules as well as other military supplies. 17 American soldiers were killed in this attack. As a result, President Wilson sent 5,000 U.S. Army soldiers, along with aircraft and trucks. It was Gen. John Pershing who led the “Punitive Expedition.” So, we literally invaded Mexico, pretty serious in terms of a response.  For it’s part the Mexican government was in the midst of a civil war involving various factions all vying for power. Several times, U.S. forces fought soldiers of the Mexican government which was also pursuing Villa. The expedition failed to capture Villa but the 400-mile incursion into Mexico by Pershing managed to scatter his forces which were also depleted by dissertation and casualties. At one point, nearly 100,000 U.S. troops were poised on the border with Mexico as a show of strength and resolve not to see the civil war in Mexico spill into the U.S. with raids by guerilla forces led by the rebels.  As it turned out, Villa was never captured but assassinated. This was also the fate of Emilio Zapata a fellow revolutionary. Virtually every leader of the revolution to depose dictator Porfirio Diaz ended up getting assassinated by their former compatriots all seeking power themselves.

Isoroku Yamamoto

Portrait of Marshal Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
Portrait of Marshal Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

The Japanese Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Isoroku Yamamoto also served as the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II.

Yamamoto became a prime target of the US when he led a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that would cripple the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. His aim was to deal a stunning defeat to the U.S. that would force a negotiated peace that would allow Japan to reign in greater East Asia. Emperor Hirohito agreed with Yamamoto’s plan and so on December 7, 1941, 353 aircraft were launched against Pearl Harbor which resulted in sinking five battleships and damage to three. A gunnery training ship and three destroyers were also sunk. There was also heavy damage to a heavy cruiser, three light cruisers, two destroyers, two seaplane tenders, two repair ships, and a destroyer tender. 2,403 died and 1,178 were wounded.

On April 14, 1943, the US naval intelligence intercepted and decrypted a message about Yamamoto’s inspection tour throughout the South Pacific. Yamomoto’s itinerary turned out to be from Rabaul to Balalae Airfield in the Solomon Islands. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered  Yamamoto intercepted, and so a squadron of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings were sent to located and destroy Yamamoto’s aircraft. In an impressive feat of navigation over a thousand miles of open water, the P-38s arrived one minute ahead of schedule and found Yamamoto’s plane right on time beginning its descent for a landing at Balalae on the island of Bougainville.  The Air Force planes brought down both the bombers Yamamoto and his staff were flying in within minutes. The next day, his body was found on the crash site by a Japanese search-and-rescue party.

These are just a few of the famous manhunts that we know. If you know of other names, don’t hesitate to share them with us!