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 - 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 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 downtown from Pazundaung to Ahlone, destroying 3/5s...

23 December 1941
Japanese bombers hit Rangoon

Just after 10am, 23 December 1941: two waves of Japanese bombers attacked first Mingaladon and then downtown Rangoon, killing approximately 2,000 men, women and children.

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

On 21 Feburary 1942, Australia changed Burmese history. On 23 December 1941 the Japanese began aerial bombing of Rangoon, then crossed the border from Thailand, seizing Moulmein at the end of January. 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 attacked by the Japanese. By late February, the Japanese 15th Army were fast approaching Rangoon, defeating the 17th Indian Division, and...

24 December 1941
War came to Yangon before Christmas in 1941

On 23 December and Christmas Day 1941 the Japanese Empire attacked Rangoon for the first time. Over 80 Mitsubishi bombers supported by Nakajima fighters flew from bases in Thailand and Indochina. They were resisted by the Tomahawks and Buffaloes of the (UK) Royal Air Force and the (American) "Flying Tigers", but still managed to inflict very heavy damage. High-explosive and incendiary bombs destroyed Mingaladon airfield and large parts of downtown. Approximately 2,000 people were killed and many more injured (out...

December 1941
The “Flying Tigers” that defended Rangoon from the Japanese

In December 1941, the "Flying Tigers" arrive at Mingaladon to defend Rangoon from the Japanese. 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 retired General Claire Chennault and ultimately at least in theory Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek. There were...

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.

21 February 1942
How Australia changed the course of Burmese history

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...

1942
Fall of Rangoon

In 1942: Rangoon falls to the Japanese.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 over the next three months would be the longest ever in British...

3 April 1942
When Mandalay was destroyed in April 1942

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. 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 horse-cart...

7 March 1942
The Japanese troops who took over Rangoon

On 7th March 1942, - Rangoon falls to the Japanese 15th Army. Burma/Myanmar has not known a year of peace ever since.(Photo is of troops of the Japanese 15th Army at Government House, Rangoon)