In the early hours of July 19, 1972, the nine members of the British SAS who had been assigned to defend the Omani port city of Mirbat had themselves a little bit of a Communist problem. Specifically, they had a problem with the fact that a few hundred heavily-armed Communist rebels were descending on their tiny fort from every direction, supported by artillery fire from mortars and RPGs in a concerted effort to wipe out the city's defenders in an explosion of blood and massacre the entire population to death in order to demonstrate that Karl Marx's socio-economic theories were better than those of Adam Smith.
When the mortar rounds started dropping in, blowing gigantic chunks out of the fort itself and ripping gigantic gaping holes through the barbed wire perimeter around the structure, SAS Captain Mike Kealy quickly took stock of what he had to work with. There were 9 SAS guys – badass, hardcore elite warriors in the mold of Paddy Mayne who are considered some of the world's toughest soldiers – and roughly 30 Omani militiamen garrisoning the fort. The Omanis were armed only with old-school .303-caliber bolt-action rifles – throwbacks from WWII that, while certainly still capable of spewing forth a large bullet that could easily bring a person's existence to a screeching halt in a hurry, weren't exactly the ideal service weapon when you're facing a horde of dudes with fully-automatic AK-47s and Soviet-manufactured heavy machine guns. The SAS had L1A1 rifles (basically FN FAL assault rifles), some hand grenades, a mortar, and two Browning .50-caliber heavy machine guns. They were facing somewhere between 250 and 400 guys arrayed in a circle around the fort, charging in from every direction at the same time in a coordinated assault.
The odds weren't good.
The fort at Mirbat.
Under cover of smoke and artillery, the Communist guerillas rushed forward into range of the SAS guns. The heavy Brownings immediately sprung to life, spraying a hail of gigantor bullets in every direction, blasting continuously until their barrels literally became white from the heat. Captain Kealy directed his troops as best he could, reinforcing positions where needed, but it was pretty damned obvious that this wasn't going to be enough to hold this massive onslaught back – 30 dudes with bolt-action guns and two heavy MGs weren't even close to enough to dent the oncoming swarms of humanity.
It was at this point that Kealy looked out through a sandbagged window and saw Sergeant Talaisi Labalala, a gigantic SAS man who hailed from the sunny South Pacific beaches of Fiji, sprinting straight across the wide-open, coverless desert towards a small structure 500 meters from the main fort. The dude didn't even see to notice the tracer fire swirling around him from every direction.
He was headed for a small trench that housed, of all things, an obsolete World War II-era 25-pounder anti-tank field gun:
Sergeant Labalala dove head-first into the trench as bullets ripped the sand up around him, crashing into the gun pit like a slip-n-slide and immediately getting to work with the serious business of blowing the fucking shit out of Commie bastards. Operating a 25-pounder field gun was a four-man job – on a good day – but this giant ripped Fijian didn't seem to get the memo – he cranked a heavy artillery round into the breach, lowered the gun barrel to zero-trajectory (i.e. pointing it directly at them rather than lobbing a shell at them from a distance), and ripped a high-explosive round straight into the teeth of the enemy formation, ripping a gigantic smoking crater where there used to be a couple dozen Communists with automatic weapons.
Labalala's friend, SAS Sergeant Sekonaia Takavesi, wasn't far behind his balls-out countryman. Not the sort of hero who was going to sit back and let his buddy single-handedly take on the entire Communist Party of Oman on his own, the former international rugby player known to his friends as "Tak" sprinted the 500 yards towards the trench, drawing fire from a few hundred AK-47s as he ran, utterly oblivious to the mortar shells and RPG rounds zipping past his head and shredding the countryside around him. Covered by the Brownings from the fort, Tak sped to his friend's aid, sliding into the trench like Luke Duke hood-sliding across the General Lee, and the two men – neither of whom had any formal training in the operation of World War II era howitzer artillery – began working the gun like they were born with anti-tank artillery shells in their cribs. Cranking out a little more than one round per minute, these psychotic kill-raging Fijians blasted shell after shell into the faces of rampaging horde of enemies so close that these guys had to sight their weapon by looking straight down the barrel because the trajectory sights were totally worthless at that range.
Tak (on the left) standing with the gun.
As you can probably expect, the gigantic piece of fucking field artillery – a weapon originally designed to take out German Panzers – quickly became the prime target for the Communist rebels, and they pasted Lala and Tak's position with everything they could throw at it. Lobbing grenades and mortar rounds, the rebels desperately tried to silence the Fijians and their gigantic twenty-five pound boomstick, as these psychotic, apparently-fearless men poured explosive anti-personnel rounds into them.
It wasn't long before Labalala took an AK-47 round to the jaw. It blew off part of his face, but this still didn't stop this hardcore SAS motherfucker from working the gun and taking as many of the enemy out as possible. Tak was also hit, with a burst of 7.62mm ammunition and an errant grenade ripping a ridiculous gaping hole in his chest, but still the men continued to work their weapon.
The blockhouse at Mirbat.
As the enemy continued firing from point-blank range, Labalala was hit again, this time fatally, dying at his gun. Tak, unable to work the AT gun by himself due to his intense, probably-mortal injuries, simply propped his back up against the wall, rested the barrel of his assault rifle on the edge of the trench, and fired at the enemy, each squeeze of the trigger driving the stock into his wounded chest and causing excruciating pain. The enemy was going down, dying in every direction, but they still weren't stopping. They continued their advance, closing in rapidly now that they didn't have to worry about being pasted in the dome with a shell big enough to punch through the armor of a Tiger tank.
When Captain Kealy heard the 25-pounder stop, he immediately rushed out to the trench himself, taking a medic and one other man along with him. They hit the trench, laying down heavy fire, but things weren't looking good. After a few minutes of hard fighting Kealy was wounded, the medic was dead, Tak was barely clinging to life, and the only other surviving SAS man in the trench had his hands full trying to hurl live grenades back at the enemy just as quickly as they could lob them into the trench. It wasn't looking good for the defenders of Mirbat, as the enemy closed in around them from all sides.
It was then that Sekonaia Takavesi heard the most beautiful sound he'd ever heard in his life – the deafening screech of British ground attack aircraft screaming in, streaking 150 feet off the deck, barely underneath the ridiculously-low cloud cover, dropping their payloads of high explosives on enemy positions a mere ten meters away.
I kind of picture this going down like the end of Saving Private Ryan:
The jets were followed by a helicopter assault from the rest of Captain Kealy's company – SAS troops fast-roping down, supported by air-to-ground rockets, and the Communist forces immediately broke and ran the hell out of there. In several hours of non-stop battle, the SAS and Omanis had suffered three dead and one wounded. They'd killed 85 communist guerillas, and captured 10 more. Sekonaia Takavesi was immediately attended ti by medics, but when they brought out the stretcher to carry him to the ambulance, he told them, "Fuck that, I'm walking out of here." He then proceeded to stand up, walk to the helicopter, and fly out of there with the rest of his team. When he checked himself into the base hospital, the surgeon remarked that Tak had the worst chest wounds he'd ever seen on a living person.
Takavesi survived the battle and had some other adventures as time went on, though nothing quite like single-handedly firing a WWII anti-tank cannon at a horde of Communists from point-blank range while dudes flung hand grenades in his face. He participated in the Iranian Embassy raid in 1980, when he and 20 other SAS men stormed a terrorist-controlled structure on national television, killed 6 terrorists, and saved 18 of the 19 hostages held inside. He was also working as an advisor during the 2003 Iraq War, when the 58 year-old Fijian found himself in a blazing gunfight on a tarmac near Baghdad – outnumbered by a dozen guys who were shooting his jeep up with AK-47s, Tak put his hands up and pretended to surrender, and the second the enemy lowered their guards he pulled the MP5 off his lap, smoked them, and then leaped out the driver's side door, tackled another guy, and clubbed him to death with the stock of his weapon. The bad guys managed to shoot Tak in the thigh, chest, and head during that particular encounter, but, as you can probably imagine, he still simply managed to dust himself off, get in the car, and drive himself to the hospital.
Battle of Mirbat
Ashcroft, Lord. "A Rare Kind of Courage." The Daily Mail. November 25, 2008
Geddes, John. Highway to Hell. Random House, 2008.
Scholey, Pete. Who Dares Wins. Osprey, 2008.
Warman, Matt. "Special Forces Heroes." The Telegraph. November 18, 2008.
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