Most important British battle Imphal-Kohima

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by raumatibeach, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. raumatibeach

    raumatibeach Banned

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  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    It wasn't important just for the British but for the entire allied effort in the East. It was quite literally a turning point. The Japanese went backwards for the rest of the war on the Asian mainland. The Japanese leadership realized at the time,that their last chance of inflicting defeat on the Allies in mainland Asia was gone. Whilst General Slim and his troops fought their way down through Burma,a 700 mile retreat for the Japanese, the Japanese concentrated still more on their forlorn attempt to frustrate the advance of the Americans in the Pacific. All the while Slim's Fourteenth Army tied down tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers who might have been deployed elsewhere.

    XIV Army is known as the forgotten army in the UK. In US histories it is rarely mentioned at all! The "Objective Burma" syndrome.

    Max Hastings has said that this battle should be better known than it is. I have always maintained that the huge contribution of the Indian Army towards the Japanese defeat on mainland Asia has been criminally neglected. Eight of the thirteen Divisions which comprised the Fourteenth Army at one time or another were Indian. Two were West African and one East African.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  3. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Agree with all. Slim was one of the greats and the contribution of not just the Indian Army but the entire British effort in Burma has been overlooked compared to the more glamourous island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Robert Lyman lists the Kohima/Imphal battle as one of the four turning points of WW2,along with El Alamein,Stalingrad and the naval confrontation between the USN and IJN in the Pacific,I don't remember if he specifies a particular battle (Midway?)

    It would be hard to argue against that.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  5. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Totally agree, not enough recognition from UK and USA about the significance of Kohima and Imphal.
    It also saddens me to know that a lot of Indian troops who served with distinction to keep the Japanes out of their country were shunned or worse after the war by their own people.
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    There were Indians on both sides of the battle. Post war and post independence,having fought for the previous colonial power was not always popular. Of course people holding such views hadn't thought too hard about the alternative.

    My grandfather was a career soldier,stationed in India in the 1930s. My mother was born in a British army hospital at Meerut. He was recalled to the UK shortly before the war. The respect and affection that he felt for the Indian soldiers was only equalled by the contempt in which he held the Egyptians.

    Let's just say that he was a man of his time.

    My interest in military history was ignited by conversations I had with him about his experiences all over the world.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Roger Hilsman witnessed events in Burma first hand. His portrait of Slim is not flattering.

    "American Guerrilla. My War Behind Japanese Lines."
    Worth a read for people interested in WWII Burma.
     
  8. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Care to provide some detail on his comments (for those of us who haven't read the book)?
     
  9. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Burma was a sideshow in the battles of Asia. It might be important in British military history, but not elsewhere.

    Beginning in Jan 1944, all important events in the Pacific that had a direct outcome of the war, was in the Central Pacific and the Philippines. This was a maritime war and anything that crippled the IJN was decisive. The IJA and Burma was a non factor.
     
  10. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Not sure I understand you Syscom. Every island that American forces "hopped" across in the Pacific was defended by the IJA. How can the IJA be a "non factor"? That the IJA suffered more casualties in Burma than in the island-hopping campaign surely has some strategic significance?
     
  11. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Despite the vast losses of Japanese troops and the unmistakeable strategic benefit from the defeat of Japanese forces in the region, Burma is widely regarded as a side-show by American historians, mainly due to its irrelevance to the US naval effort in the Pacific, despite the USA providing airlift and ground troops in small numbers to the region. It was primarily a British conflict, so its significance is frequently over-looked by the Americans, who at the time feared the British would attempt to re-establish the 'Old Colonial ways' in Asia after Japan's defeat there - ironic in hindsight considering the USA's growing influence in Asia in the twenty years post WW2. A bit of a sore point, but in the words of an American historian, Raymond Callahan, who is a little more circumspect than his rather dismissive colleagues;

    ""Slim's great victory ... helped the British, unlike the French, Dutch or, later, the Americans, to leave Asia with some dignity."
     
  12. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Japans maritime resources were over stretched just trying to support what troops they had in NG and the Central Pacific. To say that the troops in Burma and China could have been sent to the many islands and adequately supported is simply not true.

    No matter how you try to spin the campaign in Burma, it always comes down to this; the moment the US took Saipan, anything south of that latitude became irrelevant.
     
  13. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    A bit of a sweeping generalisation there, not to mention a little narrow minded a view of things, Syscom, even if there is a element of truth in that statement. I'm pretty certain the US forces engaged in combat below Saipan's latitude didn't think so at the time or now, for that matter, all thing's considered. It's a bit like saying what was the point of American intervention in Vietnam, it was going to fall to the communists anyway.

    The inevitability of a situation is not obvious at the time and there is no 'spin' surrounding the British victory in Burma. Its relevance to the conflict was high in terms of the scale of losses suffered by the Japanese and the overall situation of Japanese disposition of forces.
     
  14. raumatibeach

    raumatibeach Banned

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    I'm surprised that battles that tied up thousands of enemy troops are resources who could have been used elsewhere -ie Saipan- are dismissed as sideshows.I'm going to re reread Nemesis, it has a fair bit of detail about it , using elephants , constantly resuppled by air .african troops, monsoons etc it was a fairly epic campaign
     
  15. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    If I remember correctly, the Imphal / Kohima battles featured the use of the Lee Grant tank - where it did really well.
    It had the ability to fire a reasonable HE shell and need not worry too much about Japanese tanks.
    It proved to be a reliable work horse that made a difference. It is fitting that this 'stop gap' tank got its chance to shine.
    (Yes I know it did well briefly in North Africa - briefly!).
     
  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Military historians, including some Americans would disagree. A look at an atlas and the scale of the campaign would show that to call it a side show is a rather narrow minded view of a global conflict.

    Following the defence of Kohima/Imphal the 14th Army offensive culminating in the battles of Meiktila and Mandalay (collectively known as the Battle of Central Burma) fundamentally altered the Japanese position in Asia.

    The Japanese co-prosperity sphere was to be built on the resources of South East Asia and China, not the islands of the Pacific. Japanese occupation of those islands was a military imperative. I suppose the coconuts and guano came in handy. Holding on to the resource rich areas of South East Asia was Japan's long term strategic objective. They would be able to obtain all the rubber, oil, iron ore, coal and other resources that they needed and had been denied by the Western Powers.

    Let's wind back a bit here:

    On July 2, 1940, Roosevelt signed the Export Control Act, authorizing the President to license or prohibit the export of essential defence materials. Under this authority, on July 31, exports of aviation motor fuels and lubricants and No. 1 heavy melting iron and steel scrap were restricted. Next, in a move aimed at Japan, Roosevelt slapped an embargo, effective October 16, “on all exports of scrap iron and steel to destinations other than Britain and the nations of the Western Hemisphere.” Finally, on July 26, 1941, Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the United States, thus bringing commercial relations between the nations to an effective end. One week later Roosevelt embargoed the export of such grades of oil as still were in commercial flow to Japan. The British and the Dutch followed suit, embargoing exports to Japan from their colonies in southeast Asia.

    Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda communicated to Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura on July 31: “Commercial and economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer. Consequently, our Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the South Seas.”

    Toyoda's statement is self explanatory.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  17. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    It was fairly obvious (especially with the benefit of hindsight), that due to her need for oil and other raw materials that Japan would either have to enter into some serious trade agreements - which the USA and Britain were reluctant to do, or they would have to invade to secure them.
    We know which happened!

    As far as Burma, Manchuria and China were concerned, they were quite large deployments of Japanese men and equipment. If they were not deployed in these areas - it would have meant even more Allied losses wherever they turned up!
     
  18. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Any reasonable "what if" scenario of a Japanese victory in Burma still comes back to the end result of the war ending pretty much when it did. Suppose the IJA did defeat the British in that theater in 1943. Are the Japanese just going to pack up their bags and redeploy elsewhere? Hardly. Win or lose, the IJA was going to keep its divisions where they were.

    Now supposing they did decide to send 1/2 their forces elsewhere. Where are they going to go, how are they going to get there, and be supported? Their were plenty of islands in the NG, the Marshalls Islands and Caroline Islands that were undefended or lightly defended. There were too many of them and not enough Jspanese forces and logistical capabilities to defend them all. The US and ANZAC forces had plenty of options for where they will attack and build airfields. Even if an island was heavily defended, the US had the firepower to prevail.

    Once the USN had taken Kwajelein and Eniwetok, and MacArthur had the Admiralties, the Japanese position in the Central Pacific was smashed. And that was in Feb 1944. In July, when Saipan and Biak was taken, Japan was beaten and the end game began. Anything happening south of the latitude of Saipan was irrelevant in the outcome of the war.
     
  19. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    You could say that once the first Bomb had been tested successfully - that anything else was irrelevent to the outcome of the war!
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    So the Japanese commitments and huge losses were irrelevant in Burma? Once Stalingrad fell Overlord wasn't relevant to the outcome of the war either by that logic.

    That's despite the Germans being bled white in Normandy (German casualties averaged about 2,300 men per Division per month in Normandy compared with just under 1,000 in the East for the same period).

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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