Tuesday, November 11, 2008

9.9 One-eyed dragons

Ah, yes, this 1956 movie based on Leo Tolstoy's epic tome of the same title. And Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) remains a perennial favor of many movie fans all over the world, even today.

One of the supporting characters in the movie, while in fact the chief architect of the Moscow defense, or more accurately, the Non-Defender of Moscow, General Mikhail Kutuzov had lost his right eye to head injuries, sustained while fighting against the Turks early in his career.

In 1812, France invaded Russia. With Kutuzov's scorched-earth strategy, Napoleon entered a deserted Moscow. His Grand Armée eventually succumbed to the bitter winter. Of the 450,000 men, only 10,000 returned to France, barely alive.

There were a few one-eyed generals. In the Eastern culture, they are known as one-eyed dragons (or 独眼竜 in Japanese and 獨眼龍 in Chinese). In the Chinese Red Army, there was General Liu Po-cheng (劉伯承, 1892-1986) who had also lost his right eye to a bullet wound. He led successful guerrilla warfare against the Nationalist Army in the late 1940s.

Beyond military operations, and far more interesting is the founding of Sendai City (仙台市) in the Northeast region of Japan in 1600 by Lord Da-Té Masa-Mu-né (伊達 政宗, 1567-1636) who had also lost one eye. The right eye, of course.
In this case, however, the loss was not owing to war injuries but to an eye infection of unknown etiology. Some proposed small pox, others claim that he later gouged out his diseased eye on purpose. And it is doubtful that any anesthetic was used at that time.

Lord Daté was a patron of Christianity in Japan. He actually built sea-worthy ships and with which, sent emissaries to Rome to establish diplomatic relations with the Pope. Five members of the expedition stayed in Coria (now Seville) in Spain to avoid religious persecution ordered by the Tokugawa government back home. The descendants adopted a last name "Japón" who now number 600+.

It would appear that generals who had lost their right eyes were great visionaries.

To make the story complete, the earliest known one-eyed general was Antigonus I Monophthalmus (382BC - 301BC) under the command of Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, it is unknown as to which eye he had lost. Judging from his life-long military successes, probably the right eye as well. He finally lost a battle at age 81, killed by a javelin.

King Philip II (360-336BC, father of Alexander the Great) also had lost his right eye, but then he was not a general.