In 1947, the newly independent states of Pakistan and India began the first of many wars over the province of Kashmir.In the summer of 1948, the AZN (the Pakistani army in Kashmir) attacked the village of Tithwal and surrounded the area with securely placed machine-gun nests.
Company Havildar (Sergeant) Major Piru Singh was part of the Rajaputana Rifles, a troop ordered to retake the mountain ridges now occupied by the AZN. The Indian counteroffensive force soon realized the only route of attack was up a one-meter wide path, at the end of which were two AZN machine-gun nests, with sheer drops on either side to the valleys below.
In order to attack, the Rifles would have to file directly into the death funnel, in plain view of not only the machine guns, but also dozens of grenade-lobbing infantrymen. And for half an hour, they tried it: The Indian infantry stormed up the path and was predictably cut to pieces. They suffered over 50 percent casualties.
Singh picked up his sub-machine gun and charged up alone toward the AZN position. The rest of his section (10 or so men) provided covering fire. He miraculously made it all the way up the path while bellowing “Raja Ramchandra Ki Jai” without being killed — despite having grenade blasts tear off most of his clothes and being the only target on a one-man-wide path. At the top of the rocky escarpment, he jumped into a machine-gun nest and bayoneted all the occupants.
When Singh realized that all the men who had been covering him now lay dead or dying, he reached a plane of anger as yet unrecognized by anyone. He was more filled with murder than ever, but tragically, he had just run out of bullets. And that gave him pause … for all of a few seconds, before he started hurling grenades and charging into enemy trenches again. He bayoneted two more occupants before a grenade explosion tore off half his face, which he found mildly inconvenient at best: Not only did it not stop him, it actually seemed to egg him on.
Now bleeding from multiple shrapnel wounds and half blind with his own blood, he charged the second machine-gun nest and threw a grenade into it, just as a bullet struck him in the head and killed him. As he fell, the grenade exploded, taking out the nest and winning the battle. He died as he lived: a Hero.
“He paid with his life for his singularity brave act, but he left for the rest of his comrades a unique example of single-handed bravery and determined cold courage. The country is grateful,” wrote Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Mrs. Tarawati, 75-year-old mother of Company Havildar Major Piru Singh, “for this sacrifice made in the service of the Motherland, and it is our prayer that this may give you some peace and solace.”