21 Dec 2006

Strange Survival Stories

The London Times reports a New Zealand sky diver who had both parachutes fail to open fell 15,000 ft (4,000m) into a blackberry bush, and survived.

And a Japanese hiker lost on a remote mountain is said to have survived 23 days without water… by hibernation.

2 Feedbacks on "Strange Survival Stories"

Dominique R. Poirier

When I was in America I incidentally found on a library bookshelf No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, the biography of Lt Hiroo Onoda, an army intelligence officer of the Japanese Imperial Army who survived during 29 years in the mountains of Lubang Island, in the Philippines, with no contact of any sort with the exterior world.

Lt Onoda unabashedly refused to surrender, dismissing every attempt to convince him that the war was over. He believed it was a ruse, for a curious and regrettable coincidence had made that, in the aftermath of the war, loud local Air Force exercises occurred sometimes near the area where he was in hiding.

In 1959, Onoda was declared legally dead in Japan, but since some doubts arose due to some gun fights occurring sometimes between inhabitants and a mysterious hermit new researches were undertaken for him. There has been several Japanese expeditions on the island, but all attempts to communicate with the hermit proved to be unfruitful.

In 1974 the Japanese government located Onoda’s commanding officer, Major Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller. He flew to Lubang and informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in 1945 and ordered him to lay down his arms. Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the commanding officer’s order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his Type 99 Arisaka rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition he had canned in glass jars and several hand grenades.

Once he returned to Japan it was established by psychiatrists that he was perfectly sound in mind and body (despite the fact he had killed some thirty Philippine inhabitants of the island and engaged in several shootouts with the police since the end of WWII). Onoda was welcomed as a national hero when he landed in Japan. Later he received exceptional pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos for the killing of the local Philippinos and arrangements and compensations for the “disturbance” were made between the Japanese and the Philippine governments. He revisited Lubang Island in 1996, and donated $10,000 for the local school on Lubang.

That’s the most incredible and emotional story about survival, courage and tenacity I have ever read. I highly recommend the reading of this book to everyone, and to Mr. Rich Lowry, Editor of the National Review, if ever he read this comment.

No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, by Hiroo Onoda and Charles Sanford, available on Amazon:

Dominique R. Poirier

Since, in an afterthought, I felt a bit worried to have sent the story of a WWII Japanese officer as example of survival, tenacity, and courage to an American Conservative blog, I feel somewhat obliged to send this other incredible one; this of Green Beret Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez I found in What Courage Matters, a little and interesting book written by Senator John McCain in 2004.

Here is the extract I found so incredible that I recopied it in a notebook at the Worcester public library:

“Special Forces Master Sgt Roy Benavidez was the son of a Texas sharecropper. Orpheaned at a young age, quiet and mistaken as slow, derided as a “dumb Mexican” by his classmates, he left school in the 8th grade to work in the cotton fields. He joined the Army at 19. On his first tour in Vietnam, in 1964, he stepped on a land mine. Army doctors thought the wound would be permanently crippling. It wasn’t. He recovered and became a Green Beret.

During his second combat tour, in the early morning of 1968, in Loc Ninh, Vietnam, Sgt Benavidez monitored by radio a 12 man reconnaissance patrol. Three Green Berets, friends of his, and nine montagnards tribesmen had been dropped in the dense jungle west of Loc Ninh, just inside Cambodia. No man aboard the low flying helicopters beating noisily toward the landing zone could have been unaware of how dangerous the assignment was.

Considered an enemy sanctuary, the area was known to be vigilantly patrolled by a sizeable force of the North Vietnamese Army intent on keeping it so. Once on the ground the 12 men were almost immediately engaged by the enemy and soon surrounded by a force that grew to a battalion. The mission had been a mistake and three helicopters were ordered to evacuate the besieged patrol.

Fierce small arms and antiaircraft fire wounding several crew members forced the the helicopters to return to base. Listening on the radio, Benavidez heard one of his friends scream ‘get us out of here!’ and ‘so much shooting it sounded like a popcorn machine.’
He jumped into one of the returning helicopters, volunteering for a second evacuation attempt. When he arrived at the scene, he found that none of the patrol had made it to the landing zone. Four were already dead, including the team leader and the other 8 were wounded and unable to move. Carrying a knife and a medic bag, Benavidez made the sign of the Cross, leapt from the helicopter ten feet off the ground, and ran seventy yards to his injured comrades. Before he reached them, he was shot in the leg, face, and head. He got up and kept moving. When he reached their position, he armed himself with an enemy rifle, began to treat the wounded, reposition them, distribute ammunition and call in air strikes. He threw smoke grenades to indicate their location and ordered the helicopter pilot to come in close to pick up the wounded. He dragged four of the wounded aboard and then, while under intense fire and returning fire with his captured weapon, he ran alongside the helicopter as it flew just a few feet off the ground toward the others. He got the rest of the wounded aboard, as well as the dead, except for the fallen team leader. As he raced to retrieve his body and the classified documents the dead man had carried, he was shot in the stomach and grenade fragments cut into his back.

Before he could make his way back toward the helicopter, the pilot was fatally wounded and the aircraft crashed upside down. He helped the wounded escape the burning wreckage and organized them in a defensive perimeter. He called for air strikes and fire circling gunships to suppress the ever increasing enemy fire enough to allow another evacuation attempt. Critically wounded Benavidez moved constantly along the perimeter, bringing water and ammunition to the defenders, treating their wounds, encouraging them to hold on. He sustained several more gunshot wounds, but he continued to fight for 6 hours.
When another extraction helicopter landed, he helped the wounded toward it, one and two at a time. On his second trip, an enemy soldier ran up behind him and struck him with his rifle butt. Sergeant Benavidez turned to close with the man and his bayonet and fought him, hand to hand, to the death. Wounded again, he recovered the rest of his comrades. As the last were lifted onto the helicopter, he exchanged more gunfire with the enemy, killing two more Vietnamese soldiers, and then ran back to collect the classified documents before at last climbing aboard and collapsing, apparently dead.

The Army doctor back at Loc Ninh thought him death anyway. Bleeding profusely, his intestines spilling from his stomach wounds, completely immobile and unable to speak, Benavidez was placed into a body bag. As the doctor began to pull up the black shroud’s zipper, Roy Benavidez spit in his face. They flew him to Saigon for surgery, where he began a year in hospitals recovering from seven serious gunshot wounds, seventy-eight shrapnel wounds, and bayonet wounds in both arms.”

Roy Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan for this deed of bravor.

About Roy Benavidez on Wikipedia:



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