UK Army Museum photo

WWII: Lone Gurkha Fighter Stopped 3 Tanks

As the tank crews abandoned their vehicles, he launched a furious grenade attack.

In 1944, the Japanese were still advancing into British-dominated Burma-India theater. Their progress was slowed due to dense jungles, steep mountains, and the fact that they were trampling all over the backyards of the world’s best soldiers.

One of those was 19-year-old Ganju Lama. Lama was a Rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, an anti-tank unit. This training would soon come in handy. They were part of an effort to recapture the city of Imphal in eastern India, along the Burma border.

The Japanese rolled into the area with 37mm guns mounted on Type 97 Chi-Ha tanks.

Ganju Lama.

Early model Chi-Ha tanks, like the kind Ganju Lama used to eat for breakfast.

In his first contact with the Japanese outside of Imphal, he used a projectile, infantry, anti-tank (or PIAT) rifle to disable one of the tanks. The Gurkhas then fell back, with Lama covering their retreat. Three weeks later, Ganju Lama met another company of Japanese tanks.

That fight would go a very different way.

Japanese artillery opened up on the Gurkhas in the morning of June 12th and rained death on them for more than an hour. As soon as the rain let up, enemy infantry supported by three tanks tore through the British lines near Lama’s position. The Gurkhas counter-attacked but were soon bogged down.

That’s when Ganju Lama picked up a PIAT and went to work.

Bleeding from one leg, as well as his left arm and right hand, he crawled within 30 yards of the enemy tanks. He took out the first tank and then the second, using one round apiece.

As the tank crews abandoned their vehicles, he launched a furious grenade attack, using only his teeth to pull the pin and his good arm to throw.

According to the Guardian, Lama wouldn’t allow himself to be evacuated until he killed or wounded the last of the enemy crewmen.

Ganju Lama

Lama also earned the Military Medal for covering his unit’s fall back three weeks prior.

Ganju Lama was awarded the Victoria Cross, the UK’s highest award for gallantry, for his actions that day. He would survive his wounds and the war, living to the ripe old age of 77.

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