The Burma Campaigns
These are the military operations fought between Japanese and British Commonwealth
troops in Burma (Myanmar) and north-eastern India during World War II --
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The Japanese invaded Burma in December 1941, shortly after Japan had launched
coordinated attacks on Hong Kong, Malaya, and the Philippines; their chief
objectives were to protect the flank of troops fighting in Malaya, to prevent
supplies reaching opposing forces in China, and to threaten British India.
Two divisions-accompanied by the Burma Independence Army (BIA), led by U
Aung San-destroyed the 17th Indian Division at the Sittang River on February
23, 1942, forcing a British withdrawal. Road-bound Anglo-Indian forces were
repeatedly outflanked and encircled by Japanese soldiers trained to fight
in the jungle. On March 8 the port of Rangoon was captured, following which
the demoralized, poorly trained, and ill-equipped Burma Corps, led by William
Slim, retreated 1,500 km (900 mi) across rivers and difficult jungle-clad
hills to the Indo-Burma frontier.
A puppet state was formed to gain local support but soon it became disillusioned.
Reasons for defeat:
1) Highly controversial strategies due to difference between British and
United States objectives
2) Too much on the defensive side.
The coordination of Allied units in South East Asia dramatically improved
when South East Asia Command was created in 1943. Before it could act, the
Japanese invaded India to forestall an anticipated British counter-offensive.
It was fought to a standstill by Anglo-Indian troops at Imphal and Kohima
in March-July 1944, who decimated the sick, hungry, and overextended Japanese
troops, deprived of sufficient logistical support because of the overconfidence
of their high command. While the Japanese offensive was under way, the Chindits-landed
and supplied from the air-operated in strength behind enemy lines, cutting
supply lines and cooperating with US and Chinese troops during operations
in northern Burma and attacks on Mogaung and Myitkina. The Anglo-Indian
14th Army crossed the Irrawaddy River in early 1945, and on March 28, the
disaffected BIA changed sides, joining the advancing Commonwealth forces.
At the decisive Battle of Meiktila in March, the Japanese army in Burma
was destroyed as an organized fighting force. An armoured thrust southwards
divided remaining Japanese forces, while Rangoon was captured on May 2,
1945, following an amphibious landing. In July, those Japanese units trapped
in the Pegu Yomas highlands north of Rangoon suffered appalling casualties
during repeated attempts to escape encirclement and reach Thailand.
Burma became independent in 1948 after the war.