So I’ve been diving super hardcore into finishing the third and final Guts & Glory book (the first one is on sale here in case you’re looking for a non-denominational holiday present to amaze and delight your friends and family and relatives and probably also pets) with the sort of reckless abandon that can only come from being a damn month late on my deadline with no end in sight. The book I ultimately hope to have completed at some point before the end of human existence is on World War II, and while I was researching a badass chapter on Gurkha warriors cracking skulls I accidentally came across what has to be one of the most balls-out awesome tales of borderline-suicidal heroism I think I’ve ever heard.
It’s the story of a Muslim dude from India who fought the Japanese in Burma with the British Army, if that makes any sense. More specifically, it’s the story of a dude who pumped his platoon up by telling them they were invincible, proceeded to run uphill across an open field straight-on into a fortified company of enemy troops who outnumbered him by a significant margin while firing a machine gun from the hip like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of Commando, and didn’t stop screaming and shooting and killing everything in his path until the entire enemy formation was in full retreat.
Look at this dude's main profile picture, then
imagine him covered in blood and coming at you like this.
In early 1944, the Japanese Imperial Army launched a full-on attack against British India, hoping to destroy the vital Allied garrison at Imphal, cut off resupply routes from India to the Chinese guerillas, and possibly even open the way for a full-on Japanese assault on Calcutta itself. Somehow transporting a ridiculously-huge armada of 90,000 battle-hardened veteran troops through trackless Indiana Jones-style thick monkey jungle wilderness without anybody knowing about it, the Japanese came screaming in out of nowhere and attacked Imphal from pretty much every single direction at the same time. Cut off in the city and outnumbered two to one, brave British and Indian troops somehow fought on, receiving air drops of everything from bullets to paratroopers to keep their struggle alive.
Early in the morning on April 6, 1944, Indian reconnaissance scouts reported back to British Army command with some really shitty news -- a badass commando team of Japanese infantry had infiltrated through the Allied front lines and captured a vital position overlooking the only jungle road that lead into Imphal from the north. As long as the elite 51st Infantry was resting their nuts on this ridge, you weren’t going to be able to get a friggin’ bicycle into the city without a Japanese dude shoving a live mortar round down your pants.
The scouts reported that 40 men were positioned there as of 6:30am. By the time Abdul Hafiz of the 3rd Battalion, 9th Jat Regiment, Fifth Indian Division arrived at 9:30, it had already been reinforced to a full-strength company complete with heavy machine gun and grenade launcher sections.
A native of Kalanpur Village in Northern India, Abdul Hafiz was the incredibly-berserker commander of the 40-man platoon sent to re-take the ridge at all costs. A Jemadar (which is more like a Second Lieutenant than a race of superwarrior aliens who live on the other side of an Gamma Quadrant wormhole) and veteran infantry officer, this dude was a literally completely fearless war-mongering battle-demon in the vein of Khalid bin Walid who didn’t have a problem staring death in the face and hocking a big loogie in its eye. He took one look at an enemy strongpoint manned by a significantly-larger entrenched enemy force aligned atop a difficult cliff without any cover on it whatsoever, assembled his men, and got them more pumped up than a fucking Iron Maiden song by basically doing the World War II version of that thing where those football players huddle up the team before the game and start frothing at the mouth like tweaked-out Norse Vikings. Hafiz told his assembled men that they were “invincible”, and that he guaranteed beyond a shadow of a doubt that if they showed no fear and attacked like true warriors the enemy would be driven before them in a glorious victory for the ages.
I would have love to have seen a transcript of exactly what was said this morning, because whatever it was that Jemadar Hafiz said to the men of 3/9th Jat Regiment, it fucking worked. His guys freaked out, grabbed their bayonet-equipped Enfield rifles, and ran screaming out from the jungle head-on towards Japanese heavy machine gun nests.
Swarming out with an epic battle-cry, the Indian Army troops ran full-speed up the ridge, being raked with machine gun fire every step of the way. As you can imagine, a couple of these dude were chopped pretty much in half by wave after wave of large-caliber rifle ammunition pretty much immediately, and the attack faltered a bit once these guys realized, hey, maybe we aren’t actually invincible here, but Hafiz didn’t give a fuck. Firing his Thompson submachine gun and hurling grenades, he shouted an ancient Muslim war cry and pressed on, ignoring the hail of bullets being thrown in his direction. When an enemy bullet ripped through his leg just below the knee this dude didn’t even flinch – he just kept sprinting.
Hafiz had already chucked all his grenades and blown through every .45-caliber bullet in the magazine when he somewhat-miraculously reached the enemy front lines, so instead of waiting for reinforcements or reloading his gun or doing some other lame bullshit he just ran up to the closest enemy machine gun, GRABBED THE FUCKING BARREL OF THE GUN and turned it away from him, apparently not even reacting to the fact that machine gun barrels are red-fucking-hot after they’ve carried a couple hundred rounds downrange. But this dude didn’t give a shit. Pointing the barrel of the gun straight in the air, he pulled out his knife, but before he could shank the understandably-freaked-out enemy machine gunner one of Hafiz’s buddies jumped in and bayonetted the guy in what was probably a much more humane death than Hafiz had planned for him.
Here’s how I picture it going down.
Crushing his way through the front line with hand-to-hand combat, Hafiz and the rest of his platoon overpowered the defenders in the trench. But this guy wasn’t done. Searching through the carnage around him, this dude grabbed a Bren gun off a wounded comrade, slammed a magazine in it, and started running towards the next trench spraying automatic weapons fire in every direction like a fucking psychotic blood-raging madman.
He personally took out a half-dozen more enemy soldiers, cleared out both mortar pits and another machine gun nest, and took out two Japanese officers. When the surviving defenders started running for it, he ran after them, standing at full-height feeding mag after mag into his Bren and ripping off rounds from the hip as he ran.
He chased the fleeing enemy over the ridge and down the far side of the hill, firing and screaming like a banshee, until suddenly a hidden machine gun opened fire from the jungle and drilled the berserking Indian dead-center of the chest. Falling to the ground, knowing his second bullet-related injury would be a mortal wound, he rolled over on his front, rested the Bren on its bipod, loaded another magazine, and started laying down rounds in the direction of the enemy machine gun. His last words to his top NCO were “Re-organize on the defensive positions! I will give covering fire!”
The 23 surviving members of his unit would occupy the Japanese trenches and hold until reinforcements arrived. The ridge, officially known on British Army maps as “Runaway Hill”, would stay in Allied hands for the rest of the battle.
The complete disregard for his own safety
and his determination to capture and hold the position at all costs
was an example to all ranks, which it would be difficult to equal.
-Victoria Cross citation, Jemadar Abdul Hafiz
Luto, James. Fighting with the Fourteenth Army in Burma. Pen and Sword, 2013.
Perrett, Bryan. For Valour. Orion, 2012.
Sharma, Gautam. Valour and Sacrifice. Allied, 1990.
Singh, Jaswant and Manvendra Singh. Till Memory Serves: Victoria Cross. Rupa, 2012.