Third Battle of Arakan
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
In late 1942, the Allies attempted to attack the Arakan region of Burma; this offensive was beaten back with heavy casualties. The second attempt to invade the same region would not be until Dec 1944, and the advances were much swifter for the Anglo-Indian troops. The coastal city of Akyab was captured by 2 Jan, and the village of Kangaw followed on 2 Feb, though achieved with much sacrifice in lives.
On 21 Jan 1945, Anglo-Indian forces landed on Ramree island just off the Burmese coast with intention of occupying and establishing airbases on those islands. The invasion was preceded by a bombardment by the battleship Queen Elizabeth and the light cruiser Phoebe, while carrier Ameer's aircraft spotted for them; B-24 Liberator and B-47 Thunderbolt aircraft from the No. 224 Group RAF also participated in the pre-invasion attacks. One hour later, the Indian 71st Brigaded landed unopposed. On 22 Jan, the British 4th Infantry Brigade landed to reinforce the beachhead, followed by the 26th and 36th Brigades. On 26 Jan, Royal Marine forces landed on Cheduba and found it unoccupied. While the Japanese did not challenge the landing at Ramree Island, a defense is depth was planned to fight the invaders on this 2,300-square kilometer island in the Bay of Bengal. As the weight of four British and Commonwealth brigades pressured the first line of defense, 900 Japanese troops fell back to the second line of defense, as planned. To do so, the group must cross a 16-kilometer-wide swamp. The lack of food and water, tropical diseases, poisonous insects, and crocodiles wore away Japanese ranks over the next several days. When the British and Commonwealth troops finally flanked the swamp several days later, they found and captured only 20 Japanese soldiers. Legend told that a big portion of the Japanese soldiers were killed by crocodiles, and the story was made popular by the Guinness Book of Records which noted the event as "The Greatest Disaster Suffered from Animals". This event was greatly disputed, however, as it was unclear how many were lost to disease or starvation instead of crocodile attacks. There were also claims that a group of Japanese soldiers, about 500 in size, escaped the island undetected, therefore noting that the scale of crocodile attacks must be much smaller. Finally, scientists generally regarded it impossible for Ramree Island to host such a large population of crocodiles to kill so many Japanese troops, as the island's ecology simply did not allow it.
With the major Japanese bases secured by the end of Feb 1945, the Anglo-Indian XV Corps released some of its units. Although the Arakan region in Burma was considered conquered by the Allies, Japanese resistance at An and Taungup in the area would continue for some time longer.
Frank McLynn, The Burma Campaign
Third Battle of Arakan Timeline
|12 Dec 1944||Allied troops attacked the Arakan region of Burma.|
|31 Dec 1944||Japanese troops evacuated Akyab (now Sittwe), Burma.|
|2 Jan 1945||Anglo-Indian XV Corps captured Akyab (now Sittwe), Burma without resistance.|
|12 Jan 1945||Men of the British No. 42 (Royal Marine) Commando landed in southeastern Myebon Peninsula, Burma.|
|21 Jan 1945||Indian 26th Division landed on Ramree Island, Burma.|
|22 Jan 1945||Anglo-Indian troops began assaulting Kangaw, Burma. Meanwhile, off the coast, additional troops were disembarked on Ramree Island and Royal Marine commandos landed at Daingbon Chaung on the coast.|
|26 Jan 1945||Anglo-Indian troops landed on Cheduba Island, Burma; the landing was unopposed.|
|2 Feb 1945||Anglo-Indian troops captured Kangaw, Burma.|
|28 Apr 1945||In Burma, the XV Corps, which had been leapfrogging islands along the coast, reached and captured Taungup.|
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal