Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

World War Two (1942-1945)

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
The Battle for Moulmein

On 26 January 1942, the Japanese 15h Army under General Shojiro Iida attacked Moulmein, The main attack was led by the 55th Division (under Lt. General Hiroshi Takeuchi), which advanced on the city from the east via Kawkareik and Kyondo. The 33rd Division approached from the northeast from Pa-an. Tavoy had already fallen on 19 January to a battalion group of the 55th Division. Defending the city was 16 Brigade of the India Army's 17th Division ("The Black Cat"), under...

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!"

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.

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...