Burma: The Turning Point: The Seven Battles on the Tiddim Road which Turned the Tide of the Burma War

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They began by striking at a Japanese delaying position held by the remnants of the Japanese Thirty-Third Army at Pyawbwe. The attackers were initially halted by a strong defensive position behind a dry waterway, but a flanking move by tanks and mechanised infantry struck the Japanese from the rear and shattered them.

From this point, the advance down the main road to Rangoon faced little organised opposition. An uprising by Karen guerillas prevented troops from the reorganised Japanese Fifteenth Army from reaching the major road centre of Taungoo before IV Corps captured it. This scratch formation held up the British advance until 30 April and covered the evacuation of the Rangoon area. The original conception of the plan to re-take Burma had envisaged XV Corps making an amphibious assault on Rangoon well before Fourteenth Army reached the capital, in order to ease supply problems.

This operation, codenamed Operation Dracula, was postponed several times as the necessary landing craft were retained in Europe and finally dropped in favour of an attack on Phuket Island , off the west coast of Thailand. Slim feared that the Japanese would defend Rangoon to the last man through the monsoon, which would put Fourteenth Army in a disastrous supply situation. He therefore asked for Operation Dracula to be re-mounted at short notice. On 1 May, a Gurkha parachute battalion was dropped on Elephant Point, and cleared Japanese rearguards from the mouth of the Yangon River.

The 26th Indian Infantry Division landed by ship the next day. When they arrived they discovered that Kimura had ordered Rangoon to be evacuated, starting on 22 April. After the Japanese withdrawal, Yangon had experienced an orgy of looting and lawlessness similar to the last days of the British in the city in On the afternoon of 2 May the monsoon rains began in full force.

The Allied drive to liberate Rangoon before the rains had succeeded with only a few hours to spare. They planned to break out and rejoin Burma Area Army. To cover this break-out, Kimura ordered Thirty-Third Army to mount a diversionary offensive across the Sittang, although the entire army could muster the strength of barely a regiment. On 3 July, they attacked British positions in the "Sittang Bend".

On 10 July, after a battle for country which was almost entirely flooded, both the Japanese and the Allies withdrew. The Japanese had attacked too early. Sakurai's Twenty-Eighth Army was not ready to start the break-out until 17 July. The break-out was a disaster. The British had placed ambushes or artillery concentrations on the routes the Japanese were to use.

Hundreds of men drowned trying to cross the swollen Sittang on improvised bamboo floats and rafts. Burmese guerrillas and bandits killed stragglers east of the river. The break-out cost the Japanese nearly 10, men, half the strength of Twenty-Eighth Army. British and Indian casualties were minimal. This was to be an amphibious assault on the western side of Malaya codenamed Operation Zipper. The dropping of the atomic bombs forestalled this operation, but it was undertaken post-war as the quickest way of getting occupation troops into Malaya.

The military and political results of the Burma campaign have been contentious to historians. It was suggested by some American historians [ who? Generally, the recovery of Burma is reckoned as a triumph for the British Indian Army and resulted in the greatest defeat the Japanese armies had suffered to that date. The attempted Japanese invasion of India in was launched on unrealistic premises as after the Singapore debacle and the loss of Burma in , the British were bound to defend India at all costs.

A successful invasion by Japanese Imperial forces would have been disastrous. The defence operations at Kohima and Imphal in have since taken on huge symbolic value as the turning of the tide in British fortunes in the war in the East. The American historian Raymond Callahan concluded "Slim's great victory After the war ended a combination of the pre-war agitation among the Bamar population for independence and the economic ruin of Burma during the four years' campaign made it impossible for the former regime to be resumed.

Within three years both Burma and India were independent. American goals in Burma had been to aid the Nationalist Chinese regime. Apart from the "Hump" airlift, these bore no fruit until so near the end of the war that they made little contribution to the defeat of Japan. These efforts have also been criticised as fruitless because of the self-interest and corruption of Chiang Kai-Shek's regime. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.

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Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. London: James Currey Ltd. Retrieved 28 December International Encyclopedia of Military History. Retrieved 4 May Page Includes 1, "battle deaths" 1, killed in action and who died of wounds, for a total of 1, killed.

Retrieved 22 July Includes , dead and 56, wounded. Asia: A Concise History. World War II pg. Osprey Publishing.

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  • Loganathan J. Date January — July Burma and India. Dissolution of the State of Burma and restoration of British Rule. Ask Seller a Question. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. For four months there was intense and savage fighting with the heaviest of all along the road leading from Tiddim in Burma to Imphal. The Japanese plan was to encircle and destroy this division before bursting into the plain and seizing Imphal.

    Burma campaign

    They failed in their first aim but, nothing deterred, General Mutaguchi, who commanded the Japanese 15th Army, took personal command and brought up all his available reserves, including all his tanks and most of his heavy artillery and prepared a final all-out thrust for Imphal. However, the British 4th Corps struck first. After three weeks the Japanese were virtually annihilated and Mutaguchi admitted in his diary that the campaign was lost. With the door to Burma now undefended, General Slim's Fourteenth Army flooded through it to win the great victories of Visit Seller's Storefront.

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    They then advanced northwards, outflanking successive British defensive positions. Troops of the 17th Indian Division tried to retreat over the Sittang River, but Japanese parties reached the vital bridge before they did. On 22 February, the bridge was demolished to prevent its capture, a decision that has since been extremely contentious. The loss of two brigades of 17th Indian Division meant that Rangoon could not be defended. Although some units arrived, counterattacks failed and the new commander of Burma Army General Harold Alexander , ordered the city to be evacuated on 7 March after its port and oil refinery had been destroyed.

    The remnants of Burma Army broke out to the north, narrowly escaping encirclement. After the fall of Rangoon, the Allies attempted to make a stand in the north of the country Upper Burma , having been reinforced by a Chinese Expeditionary Force in Burma. The Japanese had also been reinforced by two divisions made available by the capture of Singapore, and defeated both the newly organised Burma Corps and the Chinese force.

    The Allies were also faced with growing numbers of Burmese insurgents and the civil administration broke down in the areas they still held. With their forces cut off from almost all sources of supply, the Allied commanders finally decided to evacuate their forces from Burma. The retreat was conducted in very difficult circumstances. Starving refugees, disorganised stragglers, and the sick and wounded clogged the primitive roads and tracks leading to India.

    Burma Corps managed to make it most of the way to Imphal, in Manipur in India just before the monsoon broke in May , having lost most of their equipment and transport. There, they found themselves living out in the open under torrential rains in extremely unhealthy circumstances. The army and civil authorities in India were very slow to respond to the needs of the troops and civilian refugees.

    Due to lack of communication, when the British retreated from Burma, almost none of the Chinese knew about the retreat. Realising that they could not win without British support, some of the Chinese troops committed by Chiang Kai-shek made a hasty and disorganised retreat to India where they were put under the command of the American General Joseph Stilwell.

    After recuperating they were re-equipped and retrained by American instructors, the rest of the Chinese troops tried to return to Yunnan through remote mountainous forests and out of these, at least half died. This article does not contain any citations or references. Please improve this article by adding a reference. For information about how to add references, see Template:Citation. The rest of Burma was to be under Japanese control. Three Thai infantry and one cavalry division, spearheaded by armoured reconnaissance groups and supported by the air force , engaged the retreating Chinese 93rd Division.

    Kengtung , the main objective, was captured on 27 May.


    The Chinese troops could not retreat because the routes to Yunnan were controlled by the Thais and Japanese. The Thais captured many Chinese soldiers. The Japanese did not renew their offensive after the monsoon ended. In practice, both government and army were strictly controlled by the Japanese authorities. On the Allied side, operations in Burma over the remainder of and in were a study of military frustration. Britain could only maintain three active campaigns, and immediate offensives in both the Middle East and Far East proved impossible through lack of resources.

    The Middle East was accorded priority, being closer to home and in accordance with the "Germany First" policy in London and Washington. The Allied build up was also hampered by the disordered state of Eastern India at the time. There were violent "Quit India" protests in Bengal and Bihar, [9] which required large numbers of British troops to suppress. There was also a disastrous famine in Bengal , which may have led to 3 million deaths through starvation, disease and exposure. In such conditions of chaos, it was difficult to improve the inadequate lines of communication to the front line in Assam or make use of local industries for the war effort.

    Efforts to improve the training of Allied troops took time and in forward areas poor morale and endemic disease combined to reduce the strength and effectiveness of the fighting units. Nevertheless, the Allies mounted two operations during the — dry season. The first was a small offensive into the coastal Arakan Province of Burma.

    The Indian " Eastern Army " intended to reoccupy the Mayu peninsula and Akyab Island, which had an important airfield. A division advanced to Donbaik, only a few miles from the end of the peninsula but was halted by a small but well entrenched Japanese force. At this stage of the war, the Allies lacked the means and tactical ability to overcome strongly constructed Japanese bunkers. Repeated British and Indian attacks failed with heavy casualties. Japanese reinforcements arrived from Central Burma and crossed rivers and mountain ranges which the Allies had declared to be impassable, to hit the Allies' exposed left flank and overrun several units.

    The exhausted British were unable to hold any defensive lines and were forced to abandon much equipment and fall back almost to the Indian frontier. The second action was controversial. Under the command of Brigadier Orde Wingate , a long-range penetration unit known as the Chindits infiltrated through the Japanese front lines and marched deep into Burma, with the initial aim of cutting the main north-south railway in Burma in an operation codenamed Operation Longcloth.

    Some 3, men entered Burma in many columns. They damaged communications of the Japanese in northern Burma, cutting the railway for possibly two weeks but they suffered heavy casualties. Though the results were questioned the operation was used to propaganda effect, particularly to insist that British and Indian soldiers could live, move and fight as effectively as the Japanese in the jungle, doing much to restore morale among Allied troops.

    From December to November the strategic balance of the Burma campaign shifted decisively. Improvements in Allied leadership, training and logistics, together with greater firepower and growing Allied air superiority, gave Allied forces a confidence they had previously lacked. In the Arakan, XV Indian Corps withstood, and then broke, a Japanese counterstrike, while the Japanese invasion of India resulted in unbearably heavy losses and the ejection of the Japanese back beyond the Chindwin River. The training, equipment, health and morale of Allied troops under British Fourteenth Army under Lieutenant General William Slim was improving, as was the capacity of the lines of communication in North-eastern India.

    An innovation was the extensive use of aircraft to transport and supply troops. SEAC had to accommodate several rival plans, many of which had to be dropped for lack of resources. Amphibious landings on the Andaman Islands Operation "Pigstick" and in Arakan were abandoned when the landing craft assigned were recalled to Europe in preparation for the Normandy Landings.

    Orde Wingate had controversially gained approval for a greatly expanded Chindit force, which was given the task of assisting Stilwell by disrupting the Japanese lines of supply to the northern front. Chiang Kai-shek had also agreed reluctantly to mount an offensive from the Yunnan. Under British Fourteenth Army, XV Corps prepared to renew the advance in Arakan province, while IV Corps launched a tentative advance from Imphal in the centre of the long front to distract Japanese attention from the other offensives.

    When the staff at Southern Expeditionary Army were persuaded that the plan was inherently risky, they in turn found that Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo was in favour of Mutaguchi's plan. This was composed largely of Indian soldiers who had been captured in Malaya or Singapore, and Indians Tamils living in Malaya. Both Bose and Mutaguchi emphasised the advantages which would be gained by a successful attack into India. With misgivings on the part of several of Mutaguchi's superiors and subordinates, Operation U-Go was launched.

    Stilwell's forces designated X Force initially consisted of two American-equipped Chinese divisions with a Chinese-manned M3 Light Tank battalion and an American long-range penetration brigade known as " Merrill's Marauders ". The Japanese 18th Division was repeatedly outflanked by the Marauders and threatened with encirclement. In Operation Thursday the Chindits were to support Stilwell by interdicting Japanese communications in the region of Indaw. A brigade began marching across the Patkai mountains on 5 February Soon some twelve Chinese divisions of 72, men, under General Wei Lihuang , were attacking the Japanese 56th Division.

    The Japanese forces in the North were now fighting on two fronts in northern Burma. On 17 May, control of the Chindits passed from Slim to Stilwell. The Chindits now moved from the Japanese rear areas to new bases closer to Stilwell's front, and were given additional tasks by Stilwell for which they were not equipped. They achieved several objectives, but at the cost of heavy casualties. By the end of June, they had linked up with Stilwell's forces but were exhausted, and were withdrawn to India.