Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

World War Two (1942-1945)

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...

June 1944
The battles of Imphal and Kohima

In June 1944, Allied forces defeated the Japanese Imperial Army at the epic battles of Imphal and Kohima along the India-Burma border. The battles of Imphal and Kohima are amongst the most important ever in global history. They were Japan's greatest defeat in WW2. Like the Battle of Stalingrad they marked the turning of the tide. If Japan had won the histories of India and Burma and perhaps the world would have changed decisively. Allied victory secured the reopening of...

American soldier with a Kachin child

Somewhere during 1944, American Pvt Wayne Martin offers gum to a child somewhere in the Kachin Hills. Pvt Martin was one of "Merril's Marauders", the American special operations unit that fought behind Japanese lines. American and Chinese forces were then battling the Japanese for control of Myitkyina

18 July 1944
The battles that changed Burmese history

18 July 1944 was the day the epic battles of Imphal and Kohima occurred. They are considerered by many to be the Asian equivalent of Stalingrad - the pivotal battles that turned the tide of World War Two. Nearly 100,000 British, Indian, Gurkha, and Japanese troops were killed or wounded between March and July 1944 along the Manipur-Burma borderlands. If the Japanese had suceeded and been able to push onwards from Imphal to Bengal, British rule in India might have...

15 June 1945
Allied forces holding a victory parade along Shwedagon Pagoda Road in 1945

On 15 June 1945 Allied forces under Supreme Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten hold a victory parade along Shwedagon Pagoda Road. The reviewing stand was near the intersection with Montgomery Road, near Jubilee Hall and the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The march past include units of the Indian Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the US Army, the Chinese Army, and the "Patriotic Burma Forces" under General Aung San.

2 September 1945
The 1945 Burma "White Paper"

On 2 September 1945, the Empire of Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Powers on board the USS Missouri. Over 100 Allied warships and submarines were present that day in Tokyo Bay. The Allied were represented by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander. The Japanese were represented by Foreign Minister Shigemitsu Mamoru (in top hat and tails) and Chief of Imperial Army Staff General Umezu Yoshijiro.In Burma three days before (30 August), the Commander of the Burma...

September 1945
Japanese general formally surrenders at Government House, Rangoon.

12 September 1945: General Ichida Jiro (Acting Chief of Staff Burma Area Army) formally surrenders to Brigadier E.P.E. Armstrong (Chief of Staff to Lt-General Sir Montague Stopford, GOC-in-Chief 12th Army Burma) at Government House, Rangoon. On the same day, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia received the Japanese surrender in Singapore. Five days earlier on 7 September, Lord Mountbatten and General Aung San signed an agreement at Kandy in Ceylon to absorb up to 5,200 men of...

August 1945
The defeat of the Japanese

The Japanese surrender ceremony was held at the Convocation Hall of Rangoon University in August 1945. The British 14th Army, with nearly a million men under arms (the largest imperial army anywhere in WW2) had just defeated the Japanese Burma Area Army, and were preparing for an invasion of Malaya when the war ended. In this photograph you can see the Convocation Hall in the background.

28 January 1945
Ledo or "Stillwell Road" of Myanmar

On 28 January 1945 the Ledo or "Stillwell Road" was opened. The Road connected Ledo in Assam to Kunming in Yunnan. The Allied lifeline to China was built by thousands of African-Americans in what was one of the epic engineering feats of World War Two. The road was named for General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell, Commander of the China-Burma-India Theatre. This is a photograph of him with Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, taken at Flagstaff House in Maymyo (now destroyed) in...

May 1945
Operation Dracula

In May 1945, Allied troops recaptured Rangoon ("Operation Dracula"). The 17th Indian Division was pushing south from Pegu and on 2 May reconnaissance aircraft flying over the jail noticed a message on the roof painted by British prisoners that read "Japs Gone, Extract Digit" (RAF slang for "Hurry Up"). The 26th Indian Division (a mixed force of mainly English, Punjabi, and Gurkha troops) entered the city virtually unopposed the next day. Allied leaders had feared that the Japanese would make...

20 April 1945
Allied Forces’ occupation of Pyinmana

On 20 April 1945 Allied forces led by the 5th Indian Division were seizing control of Pyinmana (now "Naypyitaw"). It was the headquarters of the Japanese 33rd Army and its commander, General Masaki Honda, only just managed to escape in the dark on foot. Hundreds of other Japanese were killed. The 5th Indian Divison - with Scots, Pathan, Sikh, English, Gurkha, Punjabi and other troops - had fought the Italians in East Africa and the Germans in North Africa, as...

Queen of Hlihin

Our neighbours to the north: a queen of the Hlihin in what is today western Yunnan c.1945. The Hlihin were an independent people who speak a language related to Burmese; their homeland was absorbed into the Peoples Republic of China in the 1950s.

15 May 1945
The relationship between Lt. General Slim and General Aung San

General Aung San crossed the Irrawaddy at Allanmyo on 15 May 1945 and then flew to Meiktila on 16 May to meet for the first time with Lt General William Slim, commander of the (British) 14th Army. The 14th Army with nearly one million men was the largest Commonwealth army anywhere during World War Two - a giant force of Indians, Africans, British, Gurkhas, Burmese and others. By 16 May the 14th Army had already retaken Rangoon and General Slim...

May 1945
British patrol in Rangoon

A week of May, 1945: troops of the British 14th Army (likely 17 Indian Division) patrol Rangoon days after the Japanese retreat. The war damaged Reserve Bank of India (later Central Bank) is in the background. If you look closely at the jeep - you will see three Indian soldiers as well as a British soldier reading a map. He probably does not know that he is on Merchant Street heading west past Sule Pagoda Road.

1 May 1945 - 7 May 1945
War-damaged Rangoon

In the first week of May 1945, Allied troops led by the Indian 17th and Indian 26th Divisions retake Rangoon from the Japanese who retreat to Moulmein. It was the same week Adolf Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered. Many people do not realize how badly damaged Rangoon was from the war, from Allied as well as Japanese bombing, and three and a half years of occupation. The dockyards, railways, factories, oil refineries, and much basic infrastructure had been completely...

July 1945
Labour party and Burma

In July 1945, the Labour Party won a landslide victory over the Conservatives and Clement Attlee replaced Sir Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. Labour's election victory without a doubt changed the course of Burma's history. Clement Attlee was committed to decolonization and within a year reversed earlier policies and began moves towards Burmese self-determination. By 1949 the Attlee government had granted independence to India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. A Conservative government under Winston Churchill would almost certainly not have granted...

2 July 1945 - 7 August 1945
The Battle of the Sittang Bend (2 July - 7 August 1945)

Soon after the Allied recapture of Rangoon (May 1945), the Japanese 15th, 28th and 33rd armies under General Kimura Heitaro attempted to break out from the Pegu Yomas and move towards Siam. Nearly 10,000 were killed and another 5,000 wounded. (အောက်ဗမာပြည်ရောက် ဂျပန်စစ်တပ်၏ ၁၉၄၂ ခုနှစ်က ဓာတ်ပုံ။ ရက်စွဲ အတိအကျမသိရပါ။)

15 June 1945
Allied forces marching in Rangoon

Rangoon 15 June 1945: Allied forces march past the reviewing stand in a Victory Parade over the Japanese Empire.The Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten took the salute together with other Allied commanders including Gen. Aung San, who had just been given the rank of "Deputy Inspector General". The "Patriotic Burma Forces" took part in the parade and the new flag of the AFPFL was allowed to fly alongside the flags of the UK, France, Netherlands,...

8 March 1945
The Battle on the Mandalay Hill

In March 1945, fighting rages on Mandalay Hill between the 19th Indian Division and defending Japanese imperial forces.The 44th Gurkhas had successfully stormed the Hill the night of 8 March, reaching the summit the next morning. But the Japanese had hidden themselves in dozens of concrete tunnels and bunkers. For two days, amongst Buddhist temples and monasteries, the Gurkhas together with Sikhs of the Frontier Force Regiment battled the Japanese, including in hand-to-hand combat. The Battles for Meiktila and Mandalay...