How would you feel when you are just inches away from a possible death?
There are some brave soldiers who have laughed at death during the World War II.
These soldiers are martyrs and they have sacrificed their lives for their motherland, and even death could not kill their virtue and honor. All wars cause death and destruction, and the images of the devastation caused by many past conflicts are often terrible. Some photographs, however, cause a special emotion, because are taken in a few moments, or a few hours, before the soldiers died, while they were aware of their fate. Thanks to these images that testify their courage will remain forever in history.
1) A Russian spy in Finland.
Rukajärvi, in East Karelia, November 1942.
During the Second World War, Finland was allied with Germany because it wanted to regain possession of the territories it had lost during the “winter war” against the Soviet Union, in 1939-40. Called “desants”, Soviet spies and saboteurs who were parachuted into Finland risked immediate execution in case of capture. This picture was declassified by the Ministry of Defense of Finland in the 2006, with the description: “Unknown Soviet intelligence officer before being shot, Finland, 1942.”
2) Georges Blind.
October 1944. The photo shows Georges Blind, a member of the French resistance during the Second World War, who smiles at the firing squad of German soldiers. It is possible that Blind smiles because aware that the scene was a scenic part of an interrogation, but the partisan was transferred to the concentration camp of Blechhammer, and executed the following month. It is estimated that during the Nazi occupation, about 30,000 French civilian hostages were killed, as intimidation for the Resistance, in an attempt to nullify any form of rebellion. Men were usually tied to wooden poles and executed by platoons composed of 60 soldiers.
3) Crewmembers of the sinking carrier Zuikaku.
Battle off Cape Engano, 25 October 1944. Crewmembers of the sinking carrier Zuikaku, last of the six carriers that started the Pacific War with the Pearl Harbor attack almost three years earlier, give a final “Banzai” cheer after the Japanese Naval Ensign was lowered.
On October 24, 1944, a massive US air strike hit the ship with 7 torpedoes and 9 bombs. Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa gave the order to lower the flag and abandon the ship, which sank aft. Of the 1660 crew members only 842 were rescued. Since the ship carried the symbol of the empire, the high number of survivors was considered a divine sign of the alliance between the emperor and the Shinto religion. The auspicious form “Banzai!”, Which means “Long Life”, was used as a war cry by Japanese soldiers, who wished the emperor long life.
4) Stjepan Filipovic.
The photo above shows Stjepan Filipovic a few moments before his hanging, as he raises his arms to the sky and launches his last cry of freedom. Filipovic was a Yugoslav communist partisan, who commanded the Tamnavsko-Kolubarski unit in Valjevo. Yugoslavia was one of the most active forces of resistance against the Nazis in Europe, which also had two planes. When he put the rope around his neck, Filipovic was immortalized while shouting: “Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu!”, which means “Death to fascism, freedom to the people!”, which was a Yugoslav Partisan motto, afterward accepted as the official slogan of the entire resistance movement, that was often quoted in post-war Yugoslavia. It was also used as a greeting formulation among the movement members both in official and unofficial correspondence during the war and for a few subsequent years, often abbreviated as “SFSN!” when written and accompanied by the clenched fist salute when spoken (one person usually saying “Smrt fašizmu!”, the other responding with “Sloboda narodu!”).
Still today the brave fighter is considered a national hero.
Below, the monument in his honor:
5) The Japanese kamikaze Yukio Araki.
In the photo, corporal Yukio Araki, holding a puppy, with four other pilots of the 72nd Shinbu Squadron at Bansei, Kagoshima on 26 May 1945. Araki died the following day, at the age of 17, in a suicide attack on ships near Okinawa.
He wrote the following letter to his family just before his sortie, which was to be read only after his death:
“I am writing my last letter. I trust you have been doing well recently. I am leaving today (May 27) on a glorious mission. I will surely achieve great success in battle. I will be waiting for the day we meet at Kudan with the cherry trees blooming.
Please take care of yourselves. Please give my regards to my younger brothers and to everyone in the neighbor association.”