War is a horrible time for anyone. It’s a period of negativity and cynicism. How could thoughtfulness ever thrive in a wartime environment? And the most infamous of wars perhaps is World War II.
But even selflessness managed to make its way into men’s hearts. Even during the time of war, some unsung heroes rose up to become examples.
Below is a list of individuals who showed exemplary heroism and kindness during the war.
Saburo Sakai was a pilot who fought for the Japanese during World War II. He was Japan’s second leading pilot to survive the war.
In 1942, he encountered a civilian aircraft which he assumed was carrying important people. He requested that the pilot should follow him, but the latter refused. He went as close as he could to the plane. As he looked through the window, he saw a mother and a young child. This sight gave him hesitations.
He ignored his orders and signaled the plane to go ahead. He saluted the pilot and the latter saluted right back.
He later became a Buddhist acolyte after the war and died a pacifist.
Karl Donitz was a German naval commander who took control of the U-boat units.
At sea, the German navy mistakenly fired at a civilian cruise liner with a torpedo. Donitz realized this mistake and ordered his troops to grant safe passage to Allied carriers. The carriers picked the passengers up. Donitz kept it all a secret from the Allied and the Nazi forces.
It was an honest mistake to fire at the liner. But instead of simply admitting it, Donitz’s crew went out of their way to help the survivors.
Rommel was one of the most important leaders in Nazi Germany. Yet the thing about him was that he treated prisoners with kindness. He refused to abuse captives. When prisoners were forcefully stripped of their possessions, he issued that their belongings be returned.
I wonder how the high-ranking Nazi officials thought about that.
There isn’t much to tell about this story, but this tale has been circulating ever since. A soldier in Lithuania spotted a Jewish woman with her three children and decided to end them. As he aimed his rifle, his superior—an unknown Nazi officer—intervened. He pushed the rifle’s barrel down and said,
“One day, history will judge us.”
The Jewish woman survived and later died of old age.
If you’ve noticed, the individuals on the list fought for the other side. Perhaps there were a lot of these men who weren’t notorious as the cause they were fighting for. And that kind of grants me hope for humanity.
There are a lot of other unsung heroes during World War II. If you know of any stories yourself, feel free to share them!