Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

World War Two (1942-1945)

Wartime Cartoon

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

Baby in American Army Jeep in Namkham (Northern Shan States)

13 February 1915 - 19 July 1947
Birthday of General Aung San

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.

23 December 1941 - March 1942
World War II came to Rangoon before Christmas

On 23 and 25 December 1941, the Japanese Empire attacked Rangoon for the first time. Over 80 Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-21 bombers escorted by 30 Nakajima fighter planes flew from bases in Thailand and Indochina. They were confronted at 12,000 feet by the 'Flying Tigers' of US Army Col. Claire Chennault but managed to destroy much of the docks and kill hundreds of people. Tomahawk and Buffaloes planes of the (UK) Royal Air Force and the (American) "Flying Tigers" attempted to...

23 December 1941 - 21 February 1942
When Australia changed Burmese history

On 21 February 1942, Australia changed Burmese history.  On 23 December 1941, the Japanese began the aerial bombing of Rangoon, then crossed the border from Thailand, seizing Moulmein at the end of January. 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. By...

December 1941
“Flying Tigers”, Defenders of Rangoon

In December 1941, the "Flying Tigers" arrive at Mingaladon to defend Rangoon from the Japanese. The 'Flying Tigers', though outnumbered, managed to down 50 enemy planes over Rangoon (whilst losing 10). The 1st American Volunteer Group also known as the "Flying Tigers" were US airmen authorized by President Roosevelt to support China and protect the Burma Road. As the US was not yet at war with Tokyo, this was a clandestine operation. The Flying Tigers were under the command of...

7 March 1942
Beginning of World War Two in Burma

On 14 December 1941, the Japanese began their invasion of the Tenasserim. This is a photograph of 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.

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...

1942 - 1945
Aftermath of World War Two in Myanmar

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 and factory. Over 200,000 soldiers died, together...

8 March 1942
Fall of Rangoon

On 8 March 1942 Rangoon fell to the Japanese after two and a half months of heavy bombing, At least 2,000 civilians had already died in Rangoon (mainly from Japanese aerial bombing) over the previous 10 weeks; another 400,000 became refugees. The city's dockyards, factories, oil refinery, and railways were all destroyed by the colonial authorities before leaving. Hundreds of offices and shops were looted by ordinary people. The fighting retreat from Rangoon first to Mandalay and then to Assam...

3 April 1942 - 4 April 1942
Bombing of Mandalay

On the night of 3 April 1942, Japanese Mitsubishi bombers attacked the old royal city with incendiary bombs, creating a gigantic firestorm. Two-thirds of all the buildings in Mandalay were destroyed. At least 2,000 - 8,000 people died and more were injured (Out of a population of about 150,000). Blackened and rotting bodies filled the moat. Everywhere in the scorching heat was the smell of death. The city emptied. My father, then ten years old, fled with his family on...

May 1942
Capture of Mandalay

In the first week of May 1942, the Japanese 15th Army under General Iida Shojiro (飯田祥二郎) captured Mandalay. The Japanese invasion of Burma began in December of 1941 with the Christmas eve bombing of Rangoon. Rangoon fell 8 March 1942. On 30 March the Japanese took Toungoo from the "Chinese Expeditionary Force in Burma" under General Luo Zhuoying and then Prome from the (British-led) Burma Corps under General Alexander. Allied forces attempted to make a stand at Mandalay which was...

February 1942
Bren Gun Carriers Patrol Downtown Rangoon

It was in Feburary, 1942. The city was in near chaos, with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the heavily bombed downtown and dockyards, electricity lines severely damaged, and food supplies running short. The Japanese 15th Army were advancing north from Moulmein. The 17th India Division had hoped to halt the advance at the Sittang River but would instead soon meet with disaster. The entire rest of the country was defended by only one other division: the 1st Burma Division...

26 January 1942 - 31 January 1942
Fall of Moulmein

On 26 January 1942, the 55th Division of the Japanese 15th Army under General Shojiro Iida attacked Moulmein. Japan's principal aim was to cut the Allied supply line from Rangoon to Chiang Kai-shek's China ("The Burma Road").  The 55th Division (under Lt. General Hiroshi Takeuchi), which advanced on the city from the east via Kawkareik and Kyondo after crossing the border from Thailand. The 33rd Division approached from the northeast from Pa-an. Tavoy had already fallen on 19 January to a...

29 April 1942
Battle of Lashio

On 29 April 1942, the 56th Division of the Japanese imperial army defeated forces of the Kuomintang's "Chinese Expeditionary Force (Burma)" and seized Lashio. Lashio was burned to the ground during a devastating five hour battle. The Japanese victory effectively cut the "Burma Road, the motorway linking Lashio to Kunming which had been built in 1939 as China's main lifeline to the Allies. The Japanese invasion of Burma had begun four months before. Washington and London asked for help from...

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.

Stay away from the Japanese!

Around 1943. American air force leaflets explaining to Burmese villagers that the bombs falling on their country are not meant for them but for the Japanese.

March 1943
Cover of "Shashin Shuho" Magazine in March 1943

The image was the cover of the Japanese magazine "Shashin Shuho" showing Dr Ba Maw and colleagues arriving in March 1943 at Tokyo's Haneda airport. Five months later, Dr Ba Maw would be proclaimed the "Adipati" of Burma. In the background is a camouflaged Mitsubishi KI-57 transport plane probably belonging to the Dai Nippon Koku (Imperial Japanese Airways).

22 November 1943 - 26 November 1943
Cairo Conference 1943

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

3 August 1944
Historic Siege of Myitkyina

Beginning 17 May 1944, Chinese and American forces (including "Merrill's Marauders" ) supported by Kachin and other Allied troops laid siege to Japanese-held Myitkyina. It was a critical battle of World War Two, leading to the capture of the all-important Myitkyina airstrip. Myitkyina was captured after only 78 days of savage fighting against an entrenched Japanese garrison. Chinese forces included armies attacking from both India and Yunnan. Altogether nearly 10,000 men were killed or wounded during the historic siege. The...