March 09, 2023

#ThrowbackThursday – 9 March

In astrology, people born on 9 March are curious, determined, adventurous and instinctual. They are dreamers who aspire to something higher. Of course, they’re also not aware that there’s more to themselves than they realise, that there’s personal depths they’ve yet to discover and explore; when they do, it can either be a cause for enjoyment or difficulties.

In a way, three specific events that went down in history on 9 March could fall under the same criteria – you decide!

1959 – Barbie Breaks the Mould

Formally, she goes by Barbara Millicent Roberts. To her adoring public around the world, she’s best known as Barbie!

Making her debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York City, New York, the original Barbie stood at a curvaceous, full-figured 29 centimetres. Mattel (the company behind the buxom blonde’s creation) had kitted her out in a zebra-patterned black-and-white swimsuit for the occasion, along with over-sized sunglasses. Indeed, she was a far cry from the baby dolls that little girls were encouraged to look after like the real thing.

One of the best-selling toys at the fair, Barbie went on to become a global phenomenon. Although she attracted criticism for her appearance and materialism (her gigantic Dreamhouse, her vast wardrobe, her unrealistic body proportions, etc), she also attracted praise for breaking the status quo where gender roles are concerned, especially during the ‘50s and ‘60s: rather than adhering to stereotypical female occupations (nursing, teaching, being a housewife, etc), Barbie has accumulated quite the CV including stints in medicine, space exploration and politics! As such, she’s become quite a model of independence and feminism.

To provide Barbie with some company, Mattel introduced her male counterpart-cum-boyfriend: Kenneth Sean Carson, or simply “Ken”, two years later.

Standing at 30cm with blond-brown plastic hair, non-bendable arms, and dressed in red bathing trunks with a yellow towel, Ken made quite the splash with fans upon debuting at the American International Toy Fair in 1961. Since then, Ken has been a constant presence in the “Barbie” franchise. He has held over 40 occupations, and continues to date Barbie … barring that one time in 2004 when they broke up (luckily they patched it up seven years later!).

The “Barbie” franchise continues to accrue billions of dollars each year. Since its inception, it has introduced various characters and changes, from releasing dolls of colour to tweaking Barbie’s body shape to look realistic so as to reflect just some of the many body shapes of women out there.

1961: Soviet Space Dog

Three years after sending Laika the dog into space, the Soviet Union sent yet another doggo into space – and this time, it had company.

Adding another Soviet Space Dog to their ranks, Russian scientists placed Chernushka (AKA Blackie, who was – you guessed it – a black dog) aboard a satellite named Sputnik 9 and subsequently launched into space on 9 March 1961. Unlike Laika, Blackie was not alone on her orbit mission: in addition to a mannequin human, a couple of mice and a guinea pig went along for the ride!

Also, unlike Laika, Blackie survived: after their spacecraft completed a single orbit of Earth, she and her travel partners safely landed back on home soil after just two hours and were successfully recovered. The landing and recovery was as smooth and uneventful as can be (save for the deployment of the mannequin for the purposes of testing the craft’s ejection seating – don’t worry, its parachute worked fine!).

Blackie was the penultimate pooch to fly to the stars; Zvezdochka took her turn to orbit the planet on 25 March – a mere 16 days later. Their missions paved the way for the first human to go into space, with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin achieving this feat on 12 April.

1974 – The Last Surrender

World War II may have ended in 1945, but for one soldier, it carried on until 1974.

Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was an intelligence officer with the Imperial Japanese Army who had been sent to the Philippines during the war. Stationed on Lubang Island in December 1944, Onoda’s duty was to hinder or waylay any invasion from the Allied forces. Trained in guerilla warfare, it was the 23-year-old’s duty to sabotage the island’s harbours and airstrips so Allied forces would be unable to use them.

Instead, he had to help his fellow soldiers to evacuate from the island via these same harbours and airstrips when an invasion did arrive in February 1945: the Battle of Manila saw US soldiers fighting against the Japanese to liberate the Philippines from imperial rule. Many of Onoda’s colleagues had been killed or had escaped from the island, but as he was preparing his own departure, his commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, told him to stay put and never surrender under any circumstances.

“I may take three years, it may take five,” Major Taniguchi told him, “but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you.”

And so, Onoda remained on Lubang Island with three other soldiers, awaiting further orders, not knowing that Japan would surrender six months later. Not even pamphlets airdropped by the US Marines containing information about this surrender could convince Onoda that the war was over.

For 29 years, Onoda and his colleagues took to attacking and defending themselves against the island’s civil population, as well as the search parties who tried to find them. Over time, two soldiers died while another broke away and eventually surrendered to the Filipinos after six months of living in the jungle. When an adventurer finally came upon Onoda in 1974, the soldier stubbornly refused to surrender and vacate his “post” until his commanding officer officially relieved him of his duties.

And so, on 9 March – just ten days shy of his 52nd birthday – Onoda finally surrendered: Major Taniguchi, who was now a bookseller, was flown to Lubang and ordered Onoda to stand down. The latter obeyed, handed over his weaponry, and was flown back to Japan in his tattered uniform. He was received as a hero by the Japanese public and was also granted a full pardon by the Filipino government.

Ondo went on to become a successful cattle farmer and educator before passing away in 2014 at the age of 91.

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