TODAY -

World War II and its fierce battles in Manipur
- Part 1 -

Dr Gairiangmei Maringmei *

Life on Highway 39
Imphal bombed on May 10, 1942. :: Pix - RKCS Art Gallery
Warning: These images CANNOT be reproduced in any form or size without written permission from the RKCS Gallery



This article is an attempt to highlight the great loses of the two sides of warring groups, suffering and displacement of local civilians during the World War II (WW II). It examines the recognition or in remembrance of fallen heroes made by the Axis nations and Allied nations after the World War II. It also suggests the nations involved in the World War II to acknowledge and recognize the suffering innocent civilian populations during the war by making memorial or institutions in remembrance of their noble sacrificed for the nations.

On 15th August 1945, Japan formally surrendered and the WW II came to an end. WW II was the deadliest military conflict and the most destructive war in all of history. The primary combatants/fighters were the Axis nations (Germany, Italy, Japan and other smaller allies) and the Allied nations led by Britain (and its Commonwealth nations), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America. The Allies won the war.

WW II affected almost all over the inhabitants of the world, its exact figures of human fatalities are unknown and its fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total dead ranging from 50 million to more than 80 million. The higher figure of 80 million includes deaths from war-related disease and famine. The military deaths figures from 22 to 25 million, including battle deaths and personnel missing in action as well as fatalities due to accidents, disease and deaths of prisoners of war in captivity. Civilians killed totaled from 38 to 55 million, including 19 to 25 million include deaths caused by strategic bombing, holocaust victims, German war crimes, Japanese war crimes, population transfers in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, other war crimes, and deaths due to war related famine and disease.

Battles grounds in Manipur

More than seventy years ago, few people have heard about the fierce gun battles of World War II that took place in Manipur. The World War II was fought between the Allied Forces and the Japanese aided by the Indian National Army. Today, after two generations, thousands of soldiers who died in one of the bloodiest war are being honoured as heroes. And yet, many people of India are unaware of this battle and how many local people suffered, displaced, and destroyed their properties by this war.

The World War II is known locally as "Japan Lan", meaning War of Japan. Manipur was part of British India at that point of time, British India was controlled by Britain and thus India officially declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939. Manipur as a part of British India was most affected by the World War II. Manipur had few links to the outside world in early 1942, and it became a frontline state between the British and the Japanese once the latter took over Burma that year. In Manipur, there are many WW II heritage sites, cemeteries, museum, memorial, battlefield, airfields, bunkers, trenches. In most of the major battle fields' people can still find war relics.

Battles of Imphal

According to British military accounts the 1944 battles in Manipur are referred to as either the Battle of Imphal, or the Imphal Offensive, or the Siege of Imphal, or the Imphal Campaign, and so on. In 1942, Imphal became the major entry area for refugees fleeing from Burma. More than thousands of refugees are said to have thronged through Manipur en route to Dimapur and Silchar. Imphal-Koirengei airfield was established a large camp to house the refugees. On 10 and 16 of May 1942, Imphal itself was bombed for the first time that led to the destruction of the city, civilian casualties and population of the city fleeing.

Thousands of Allied forces fought to defend British India from the Japanese invasion. Japanese troops attempted to destroy the Allied forces at Imphal and invade India, but they were driven back into Burma with heavy losses. The "Battle of Red Hill aka Point 29263 , one of the bloodiest Battle of Imphal during World War II that makes Manipur one of the most important place of WWII. This battle was the turning point in the Burma Campaign of the WWII. It was at this battle that the Japanese invasion of British India and marched through Asia was stopped, with the British led Allies subsequently driving them out of Burma in 1945. The Japanese lost some 30,000 men in what was one of their single greatest military defeats.

From the beginning of April, the Japanese attacked the Imphal plain from several directions:

Silchar-Bishenpur Track

The Japanese troops attacked from the south at Bishenpur, where they cut a secondary track from Silchar into the plain. They raid succeeded in destroying a suspension bridge (which was blown up by the Japanese on 15 April, 1944), making the Silchar track unusable. Silchar-Bishenpur Track or the Silchar Track, are referring to the section of the Old Cachar Road from Bishenpur up to the suspension bridge over the Leimatak River.

They advanced through the hills to the west of Bishenpur, almost isolating the British in the village, but suffered severely from British artillery fire. Japanese leading soldiers were halted by lack of supply only 16 k.m. away from Imphal. Other Japanese soldiers advancing directly up the Tiddim-Imphal road were halted in villages 4 k.m. south of Bishenpur, as troops of 17th Indian Division rejoined the battle.

During the first half of May, there were several Japanese air attacks on Bishenpur, and heavy fighting for the village of Potsangbam 3.2 k.m. away to the south, in which the British lost 12 tanks. Peaks such as Laimaton Peak (Point 5846), Wooded Hill and Three Pimple Hill /Mitsukobu, and spots such as Water Piquet and Mortar Bluff were the sites of many clashes took place in this sector, while mountain villages such as Ngariyan, Mollou, Laimanai, Sadu Khoiroi, Tokpa Khul (now Zeihkulong village), Kungpi, Kha Aimol, Koka-den, Khoirok, Laimaton, and Nunggang, were on routes used by the Japanese to approach the Silchar Track and Imphal from the west. The people of these villages were heavily suffered, lost lives, ransacked and displaced houses and destroyed their properties including paddy fields and fleeing to many far places where the war activities could not reach.

To be continued..


* Dr Gairiangmei Maringmei wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao and The Sangai Expresss
The writer is a research scholar. He can be reached at gairiangmei(aT)gmail(doT)com
The article was webcasted on June 15 2015


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