Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

World War Two (1942-1945)


A wartime Cartoon

A wartime cartoon reflecting the mood of pro-Axis anti-British feeling at least amongst some in the elite.


A baby in an American army jeep in Namkham (northern Shan states).

13 February 1915
General Aung San's birthday

13 February is the birth anniversary of General Aung San. This is a photograph of General Aung San at the Dorchester Hotel in London during negotiations with the UK government in January 1947. He is flanked by Thakin Mya and U Tin Tut (the delegation's principal negotiator). It was the moment of his greatest triumph. Thakin Mya would be killed together with General Aung San six months later. U Tin Tut was killed in September 1948.

1930
Indians carrying Chinese signs - Rangoon c. 1930.

Grateful if any Chinese reader can say what the signs mean.

14 December 1941
The start of World War Two in Burma

On 14 December 1941 the Japanese began their invasion of the Tenasserim. On 23 December two waves of Japanese warplanes bombed Rangoon. They were confronted at 12,000 feet by the "Flying Tigers" of US Army Col. Claire Chennault, but managed to destroying much of the docks and kill hundreds of people. This is a very rare photograph taken from a Japanese plane.. The old prison is clearly visible near the centre, with most of the bombs in this photograph falling...

25 December 1941
Christmas Day 1941

Christmas Day 1941. Japanese imperial forces bomb Rangoon for a second time, killing at least 2,000 people. As many as 4,000 may have died that week (out of a total population of less than half a million). Over 100,000 began to flee in panic, by sea or air if they could (including from sea-planes taking off from in front of the Strand Hotel), otherwise by land to Assam. Hundreds of thousands more would follow and tens of thousands died along...

23 December 1941 - 25 January 1941
Japanese bombing Rangoon

On 23 December and on Christmas Day in 1941, over 2,000 people killed in Rangoon by Japanese bombers. Japanese Mitsubishi bombers escorted by fighter planes heavily bombed Rangoon, including with incendiary bombs. There has never been any memorial to the men, women and children killed that day. The 2,000 dead (and many more wounded) were out of a total population of less than 500,000.

23 December 1941 - March 1942
World War Two comes to Rangoon

On 23 and 25 December 1941 80 Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-21 bombers escorted by 30 fighter planes bombed Mingaladon and downtown Rangoon for the first time. An estimated 2,000 civilians (out of a total population of 400,000) were believed killed, including many women and children. Tomahawk and Buffaloes planes of the Royal Air Force and the American ""Flying Tigers"" attempted to incept the Japanese invasion force with only limited success. The Japanese used high explosive and incendiary bombs over the entire...

7 March 1942
The start of the war in Burma

British troops along Sule Pagoda Road, probably from the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, who were amongst the last to remain in the city, until the final evacuation on 7 March 1942.

February 1942
How Australia changed the course of Burmese history - in late February 1942

The Japanese were then approaching Rangoon from Moulmein and would soon cross the Sittang River. On 15 February, Singapore, Britain's "impregnable" fortress in the Far East, fell and 80,000 Allied troops were captured. On 19 February, the Australian town of Darwin was bombed by the Japanese. At the same time, two Divisions of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) - the Australian 6th and 7th Divisions were sailing east after successful operations against the Germans in North Africa and Syria. Winston...

December 1942
World War II battles in Myanmar

In December 1942, the 14th Indian Division began their (unsuccessful) attempt to seize the Mayu peninsula back from the Japanese, whilst at the same time the British and Gurkha special forces (the 'Chindits') were preparing for their first attempt ('Operation Longcloth') to push deep behind Japanese lines in northern Burma. But the Japanese were then also battling the Chinese in Yunnan, whose 5th and 6th armies had tried in vain in 1942 to hold the Shan states, and in 1943...

27 April 1942
The destructions in Myanmar caused by the Second World War

Lashio was destroyed on 27th April 1942. No need to live in the past, but as Myanmar steps up its relations with big powers around the world, it may be useful to remember that those same big powers turned the country into a giant battlefield in the 1940s. Half a million American, British, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other soldiers fought in Burma, leading to the devastation of almost every single city and town, every port, airport, train station, oil field...

8 March 1942
When Rangoon fell to the Japanese

On 8 March 1942 Rangoon fell to the Japanese after two and a half months of heavy bombing, the destruction of key infrastructure, and the exodus of nearly all its civilian population. This photograph shows victorious Japanese troops in front of Government House (near where the Region Hluttaw building is now). Imperial Vice Chief of Staff Lt General Takashiro Kawabe would formally sign Japan's surrender there in August 1945.

January 1942 - 1 February 1942
Moulmein during World War II

The 55th Division of the Japanese 15th Army under General Shojiro Iida invade Burma, crossing the border from Thailand and seizing Moulmein by the end of January in 1942.Japan's principal aim was to cut the Allied supply line from Rangoon to Chiang Kai-shek's China ("The Burma Road"). Over 500,000 Japanese, Chinese, American, British, Indian, Gurkha and Burmese soldiers would die or be severely wounded in Burma (and at Imphal and Kohima) over the next three and half years. (photo of...

March 1943
Dr.Ba Maw in Tokyo in 1943

A photograph from March 1943 showing then Dr Ba Maw arriving in Tokyo (together with Thakin May, U Thein Maung, and Gen Aung San) for discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Tojo and others. Dr Ba Maw would soon become the “Adhipati” or “Leader” of the State of Burma and an ally of the Axis Powers.

1943
"Stay away from the Japanese!"

From 1943: "Stay away from the Japanese!" American air force leaflets explaining to Burmese villagers that the bombs falling on their country are not meant for them but for the Japanese.

22 November 1943 - 26 November 1943
Cairo Summit

Alllied leaders President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, PM Winston Churchill, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek discuss the reconquest of Burma at their summit in Cairo.
Also at the conference were Madame Chiang Kai-shek (also in photo), the new Allied Supreme Commander for South East Asia Lord Louis Mountbatten, and his deputy General Jospeh "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell.
The Chinese pressed for an aggressive invasion of Burma, by British, Indian, and American as well as Chinese forces, the early capture of Mandalay, and building...

3 August 1944
The 1944 Myitkyina’s historic seige

3 August 1944: Chinese, Kachin, and American forces including "Merrill's Marauders" capture Myitkyina after 78 days of savage fighting against entrenched Japanese defenders. Altogether nearly 10,000 men were killed or wounded during the historic siege. The photograph is of Sgt. John Busaites, exactly 69 years ago, next to the ruins of the Myitkyina Teak Timber Co. in the seventh block of town. A former basketball player, he was often called on by the Chinese "X Force" to throw grenades.

1944
Chinese forces approach Myitkyina in 1944

The photo shows troops of the 32nd Infantry Division preparing to attack Myitkyina. A joint American-Chinese operation (including "Merrill’s Marauders") captured Myitkyina in late 1944 from the Japanese after a long siege, opening the "Ledo" or "Stilwell" Road from India to China.

March 1944 - August 1944
The Capture of Myitkyina

A 10 year old Chinese solider at Myitkyina airfield 1944. American and Chinese forces supported by Kachin Rangers captured Myitkyina after a gruelling 5 month long siege that begin in March 1944. American forces included the famed "Merrill's Marauders". Both sides suffered a total 7,000 men dead or wounded. The Japanese had put up a fierce defense against almost impossible odds. The Japanese commander, Maj-General Genzo Muzikami committed suicide after finally evacuating the town in early August 1944. The capture...