Invasion of Burma file photo

Invasion of Burma

14 Dec 1941 - 26 May 1942

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Burma, isolated from the rest of the world with mountainous ranges on her western, northern, and eastern borders, was a British colony with a degree of autonomy. With the pressure from Japan, British armed Burma with some British and Indian troops and obsolete aircraft so that there would be a small buffer between Japan and India, crown jewel of Britain's Asiatic empire. United States also aimed to help Burma as a direct result of Japanese pressure, but the reason was much different than that of the British; the United States looked to maintain Burmese outside Japanese control so that supply lines into China would remain open. The supplies traveled into China via the Burma Road, a treacherous gravel road that connected Kunming, China with Lace, Burma that opened in 1938. Britain and United States' worries about Burma were not unfounded, as Japan did look to incorporate Burma into her borders. Beyond the wish to cut off China's supply lines, a Japanese-occupied Burma would also provide Japan added security from any potential flanking strikes from the west against the southward expansion that was about to take place.

The Invasion Began
11 Dec 1941

On 11 Dec 1941, only days after Japan's declaration of war against Britain, Japanese aircraft struck airfields at Tavoy, south of Rangoon. On the next day, small units of Japanese troops infiltrated into Brumese borders and engaged in skirmishes against British and Burmese troops. On the same day, a Flying Tigers squadron transferred from China to Rangoon to reinforce against the upcoming invasion.

Under the banner of liberating Burma from western imperialism, the Japanese 15th Army of the Southern Expeditionary Army under the command of Shojiro Iida marched across the border in force from Siam. Airfields at Tavoy and Mergui fell quickly, removing the whatever little threat the obsolete British aircraft posed and preventing Allied reinforcements from the air.

Tulsa Incident
16 Dec 1941

As the invasion had gotten underway, the United States recognized that she must assist British troops in the region. Brigadier General John Magruder, head of the American Military Mission to China, approached Chinese leader Chiang Kaishek for his permission to transfer ammunition aboard the transport Tulsa, currently docked in Rangoon, to the British troops. The goods were originally destined for the Chinese, but Magruder, arguing on behalf of Washington, expressed that the British troops be given priority or the Burma Road might fall under Japanese control, therefore making future supply runs impossible. Before Chiang responded, however, senior American officer in Rangoon Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Twitty advised the government in Rangoon to impound the American ship, while maintaining United States' innocent front. Chiang protested fiercely, noting it as an "illegal confistication". Chiang's representative in Rangoon, General Yu Feipeng, attempted to negotiate for a compromise, but Chiang's attitude was more drastic. On 25 Dec, Chiang announced that he would allow all lend-lease supplies to go to the British in Burma, but all Chinese troops in Burma would be withdrew back into China, and the British-Chinese alliance was to end. For days, Magruder worked with Chiang, and was finally able to secure Chiang's agreement to share the supplies with the British, but as a compromise, Magruder also had to give in to Chiang's demands that Twitty be removed from his position.

This incident, later labeled as the Tulsa Incident, exemplified the difficulties that Chiang's stern personality imposed on the relationship between China, Britain, and the United States.

The Battle of Sittang Bridge
22-31 Jan 1942

In Jan and Feb 1942, the Indian 17th Division under the command of British Major General John Smyth fought a campaign to slow the Japanese advance near the Sittang River. The Japanese 55th Division attacked from Rahaeng, Siam across the Kawkareik Pass on 22 Jan 1942, and over the next nine days pushed the Smyth's troops to the Sittang Bridge, where they were enveloped and crushed. "The Allied defense was a disaster", said military historian Nathan Prefer. "Two understrength Japanese infantry divisions, the 33d and 55th, enjoyed victory after victory over Indian, British, and Burmese troops who were undertrained, inadequately prepared for jungle warfare, and completely dependent upon motor transport for all supply."

The Battle of Rangoon
Mar 1942

Rangoon was first attacked first by air; the few Royal Air Force and American Flying Tigers aircraft defended its air space effectively initially, but their numbers waned under constant pressure. Japanese troops appeared at Rangoon's doorsteps toward the end of Feb 1942. Magruder gathered all the trucks he could to send as much lend-lease supplies north into China as possible, and whatever could not be shipped out be given to the British, which included 300 Bren guns, 3 million rounds of ammunition, 1,000 machine guns with 180,000 rounds of ammunition, 260 jeeps, 683 trucks, and 100 field telephones. Nevertheless, he was still forced to destroy more than 900 trucks, 5,000 tires, 1,000 blankets and sheets, and more than a ton of miscellaneous items, all to prevent Japanese capture.

As Japanese troops approached Rangoon, two Chinese Armies, the 5th and the 6th, marched south from China on 1 Mar 1942 to assist. The Chinese armies totalled six divisions, though half of them were understrength and most men of the 6th Army were undertrained green soldiers. Cooperation between the Chinese and the British were poor, though the Chinese regarded Americans such as General Joseph Stilwell in the Chinese temporary war time capital of Chungking rather highly.

Outside Rangoon, the British 7th Armored Brigade attempted to counterattack the Japanese troops marching from the direction of the Sittang River, but failed. On 6 Mar, Japanese troops reached the city, and the final evacuation order was given by British officers on the next day. Retreating troops demolished the port facilities to prevent Japanese use. Whatever aircraft remained of the RAF and the Flying Tigers relocated to Magwe in the Irrawaddy Valley south of Mandalay.

Battle of Tachiao
18 Mar 1942

On 8 Mar 1942, the 200th Division of the Chinese 5th Army began arriving in Taungoo, Burma to take over defense positions from the British. At dawn on 18 Mar, about 200 Japanese reconnaissance troops of 143rd Regiment of Japanese 55th Division, on motorcycles, reached a bridge near Pyu and were ambushed by the Chinese; 30 Japanese were killed, and the Chinese captured 20 rifles, 2 light machine guns, and 19 motorcycles. After sundown, expecting a Japanese counterattack, the Chinese fell back to Oktwin a few kilometers to the south. Pyu was captured by the Japanese on the following day.

Battle of Oktwin
20-23 Mar 1942

The Japanese 143rd Regiment and a cavalry formation of the Japanese 55th Division attacked defensive positions north of the Kan River in Burma manned by troops of the Cavalry Regiment of the Chinese 5th Army. The Chinese fell back toward Oktwin. At dawn on 22 Mar, 122nd Regiment of the Japanese 55th Division attacked outposts manned by a battalion of the Chinese 200th Division, but made little progress. After two days of heavy fighting, the Chinese fell back toward Taungoo, Burma after nightfall on 23 Mar.

Battle of Taungoo
24-30 Mar 1942

Taungoo, an important crossroads city in central Burma, housed the headquarters of Major General Dai Anlan's Chinese 200th Division. The city was attacked by the Japanese 112th Regiment on 24 Mar, quickly surrounding the city on three sides. At 0800 hours on 25 Mar, the main offensive was launched on the city, attempting to push the Chinese defense toward the Sittang River. The Chinese held on to their positions, forcing the Japanese to engage in brutal house-to-house fighting, which took away the Japanese firepower superiority. A counteroffensive launched by the Chinese at 2200 hours, however, failed to regain lost territory. On the next day, the Japanese also failed to penetrate Chinese lines, and later in the day the Chinese, too, repeated the previous day's performance with a failed counterattack which suffered heavy casualties. On 27 and 28 Mar, Japanese aircraft and artillery bombarded the Chinese positions to pave way for an attack by the newly arrived Reconnaissance Regiment of the Japanese 56th Division. On the following day, the Japanese penetrated into the northwestern section of the city in the morning, and by noon the headquarters of the Chinese 200th Division was seriously threatened. In the afternoon, Dai gave the order to retreat after nightfall. The Chinese 200th Division established a new defensive position at Yedashe to the north, joined by the New 22nd Division. Japanese troops would attack this new position on 5 Apr and overcome it by 8 Apr.

Battle of Yenangyaung
11-19 Apr 1942

On 11 Apr, Japanese 33rd Division attacked the Indian 48th Brigade at the oil fields at Yenangyaung, using captured British tanks to support the assault. The situation at first waved back and forth, then General William Slim's two divisions who arrived in response became cut off, leading to British General Harold Alexander requesting American Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell in China for reinforcements to the Yenangyaung region. On 16 Apr, nearly 7,000 British troops were encircled by equal number of Japanese troops. General Sun Liren arrived with the 113th Regiment of the Chinese 38th Division, 1,121-strong, on 17 Apr. Sun arrived without artillery or tank support, but that deficiency was quickly augmented by the acquisition of Brigadier Anstice's British 7th Armored Brigade. The Chinese attacked southward, while Major General Bruce Scott led the British 1st Burma Division against Pin Chaung. On 19 Apr, the Chinese 38th Division took control of Twingon outside of Yenangyaung, then moved into Yenangyaung itself, but even with the arrival of the 1st Burma Division at Yenangyaung the position could not be defended. The Allied forces withdrew 40 miles to the north. Although Yenangyaung still fell under Japanese control at the end, nearly 7,000 British troops were saved from capture or destruction.

The British Withdraw
7 Mar-26 May 1942

General Alexander and Slim led the remaining forces north through the jungles toward Mandalay, slowing down the Japanese as much as they could. Supply became a critical issue after the fall of Rangoon and its port facilities. In Tokyo, it was decided that Burma was to be rid of all Allied troops. An additional regiment was assigned as reinforcement to the Japanese 33rd Division to bring it up to full strength. Soon after, two additional infantry divisions, the 18th and 56th, arrived in the theater, further bolstering Japanese numbers. The reinforcements arrived to the area undetected by Allied intelligence. Fresh Japanese troops moved north in three separate columns, one through the Irrawaddy Valley, another along the Rangoon-Mandalay Road in the Sittang Valley, and the third marched from Taunggyi in the east for Lashio. Chinese troops attempted to delay Japanese advances but failed; most of them fell back across the Chinese border almost immediately.

Alexander and Slim successfully retreated across the Indian border on 26 May 1942. Along the way, they destroyed precious oilfields so that they could not be used by the Japanese. As the British crossed into India, Japanese forces captured the entire country of Burma, including the important airfields in Myitkyina near the Chinese border.

Comfort Women

Some time during the conquest of Burma, the Japanese set up a comfort women system similar to the systems seen in Korea and China. When the combined American and Chinese forces later retook Myitkyina in Aug 1944, 3,200 women were known to be retreating with the retreating Japanese forces. 2,800 of the women were Koreans who were forced to be relocated from their home country to serve the Japanese troops as prostitutes, but there were also many Burmese women who volunteered in the belief that the Japanese were there to liberate their country from western imperialism. Some Chinese women were seen in the ranks as well. The goal of such a system was to prevent the Japanese soldiers from raping Burmese women, and to prevent the spreading of venereal diseases.

Conclusion of the Campaign

"I claim we got a hell of a beating", recalled Stilwell. "We got run out of Burma and it is embarrassing as hell." With Burma under Japanese control, the blockade on China was complete, but that was but a symptom of the real underlying issue: the conflicting goals of the three Allied nations involved in Burma. To Britain, Burma was nothing but a buffer between Japanese troops and India. To China, Burma was a sideshow of the Sino-Chinese War, though important in that it provided an important supply line. To the United States, Burma was the key to keep China fighting in order to tie down the countless number of Japanese soldiers in China so that they could not be re-deployed in the South Pacific. Meanwhile, caught between the politics of the three Allied nations and the Japanese invader, the Burmese people found that none of the warring powers willing to listen to their sentiments.

Sources: BBC, the Pacific Campaign, Vinegar Joe's War, US Army Center of Military History, Wikipedia.

Invasion of Burma Timeline

12 Dec 1941 Churchill placed the defence of Burma under Wavell's command, promising four fighter and six bomber squadrons and matérial reinforcements, together with the 18th Division and what remained of 17th Indian Division (since two of its Brigades had been diverted to Singapore). On the same day, the 3rd Squadron of the American Volunteer Group was transferred to Rangoon, Burma.
14 Dec 1941 A battalion from the Japanese 143rd Infantry Regiment occupied Victoria Point, Burma on the Kra River near the Thai-Burmese border.
22 Dec 1941 The Japanese 55th Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Takeuchi Yutaka, assembled at Bangkok, Thailand and was issued orders for it to cross the Thai-Burma frontier and capture Moulmein, which happened to be held by the Headquarters of 17th Indian Division.
23 Dec 1941 54 Japanese bombers escorted by 24 fighters attacked Rangoon, Burma in the late morning, killing 1,250; of those who became wounded as the result of this raid, 600 died.
28 Dec 1941 Lieutenant-General Thomas Hutton assumed command of Burma army. A competent and efficient Staff Officer (he had been responsible for the great expansion of the Indian army), he had not actually commanded troops for twenty years. Across the border in Thailand, Japanese Colonel Keiji Suzuki announced the disbandment of the Minami Kikan (Burmese armed pro-Japanese nationalists) organization, which would be replaced by the formation of a Burma Independence Army (BIA), to accompany the Invasion force.
29 Dec 1941 Japanese bombers struck Rangoon, Burma, destroying the railway station and dock facilities.
14 Jan 1942 Japanese forces advanced into Burma.
16 Jan 1942 The first clash between Japanese and British forces within Burma occurred when a column of the 3rd Battalion of the Japanese 112th Infantry Regiment was engaged by the British 6th Burma Rifles (plus two companies of the 3rd Burma Rifles and elements of the Kohine battalion BFF) at the town of Tavoy (population 30,000 and strategically important as it was the start of a metal road to Rangoon). By the 18th the Japanese had taken the town, having lost 23 dead and 40 wounded, but the morale of the defenders had been badly damaged and the Japanese column was able to move on to Mergui without serious opposition.
19 Jan 1942 Japanese troops captured the airfield at Tavoy (now Dawei), Burma.
20 Jan 1942 The Japanese advance guard crossed the border into Burma heading for Moulmein. Kawkareik was defended by 16th Indian Brigade under Brigadier J. K. "Jonah" Jones, but was widely dispersed covering the tracks leading to the border 38 miles away. The Japanese first encountered the 1st/7th Gurkha Rifles (who had only arrived on the previous day) near Myawadi. The Gurkhas were quickly outflanked and forced to withdraw. Within forty-eight hours the rest of 16th Infantry Brigade were forced to follow.
23 Jan 1942 The Japanese commenced a determined effort to establish air superiority over Rangoon, Burma. By 29 Jan seventeen Japanese aircraft had been shot down for the loss of two American Volunteer Group and ten Royal Air Force machines, forcing the Japanese temporarily to concede.
24 Jan 1942 Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon, Burma for the second day in a row. From the Thai-Burmese border, Japanese troops marched in multiple columns toward Moulmein, Burma, looking to capture the nearby airfield.
25 Jan 1942 Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon, Burma for the third day in a row. Meanwhile, Archibald Wavell ordered that the airfield at Moulmein, Burma to be defended, which was being threatened by troops of the Japanese 55th infantry Division.
26 Jan 1942 Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon, Burma for the fourth day in a row.
30 Jan 1942 Japanese 55th Infantry Division captured the airfield at Moulmein, Burma.
31 Jan 1942 Japanese 55th Infantry Division captured the town of Moulmein, Burma one day after the nearby airfield was captured; Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Roger Ekin) retreated across the Salween River during the night after having lost 617 men (mostly missing); Archibald Wavell however, unaware of the true situation, was appalled and angry to hear of the ease with which the Japanese had driven Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade from the town. On the same day, Slim issued a report summarizing the air situation in Burma, noting the Allies had 35 aircraft in the area to defend against about 150 Japanese aircraft; while a few more Allied aircraft were en route for Burma, by mid-Mar 1942 there would be 400 operational Japanese aircraft in this theater of war.
3 Feb 1942 Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade and a part of the Indian 17th Division withdrew from Martaban, Burma toward the Bilin River.
6 Feb 1942 Wavell, still angry at the loss of Moulmein, Burma, ordered 2nd Burma Brigade to "take back all you have lost". It was too late-the Japanese were already bringing more troops (33rd "White Tigers" Division and the Headquarters of 15th Army) across the frontier. Lieutenant-General Hutton insisted on abandoning Moulmein and taking up new positions on the Salween which would be reinforced by the newly committed 46th Indian Brigade who had been brought down from the Shah States.
7 Feb 1942 The Japanese infiltrated across the Salween River in Burma cutting the defenders of Martaban River, 3/7th Gurkhas with a company of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry under command, from the 46th Indian Brigade headquarters base at Thaton. The Gurkha's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel H. A. Stevenson, knowing that his position was now untenable led a bayonet charge to clear the road block. The subsequent retreat from Martaban (over difficult terrain with no food) of more than 50 miles in two days was a terrible ordeal and a foretaste of things to come.
10 Feb 1942 Japanese troops crossed the Salween River in Burma.
11 Feb 1942 Having crossed the Salween River at Kuzeik, Burma during the night the Japanese II/215th Infantry regiment engaged the raw and inexperienced 7/10th Baluch who were deployed in a semi-circle with their backs to the river without barbed wire or artillery support. After dark the Japanese launched their attack on the Indian positions and after four hours of bitter hand to hand fighting began to get the upper hand. By dawn organized resistance had effectively ceased. The heroic 7/10th Buluch had suffered 289 killed; with the few survivors making off in small parties.
13 Feb 1942 In Burma, the British Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant-General Hutton requested Archibald Wavell to appoint a corps commander to take charge of operations and a liaison team to work with the Chinese. He received no reply as Wavell was incapacitated after suffering a fall.
14 Feb 1942 Indian 17th Infantry Division was ordered to defend against the Japanese advance toward Rangoon, Burma at the Bilin River.
15 Feb 1942 Japanese troops penetrated Indian 17th Infantry Division positions on the Bilin River north of Rangoon, Burma.
17 Feb 1942 Japanese troops crossed the Bilin River north of Rangoon, Burma and began to encircle the Indian 17th Infantry Division.
18 Feb 1942 After three days of confused fighting along the Bilin in Burma, Major General "Jackie" Smyth learned that he was threatened with being outflanked to the south by the Japanese 143rd Regiment. He committed his last reserves, 4/12th Frontier Force Regiment who fought a stiff action on 16th Indian Brigade's left but ultimately failed to dislodge the Japanese.
19 Feb 1942 Mandalay, Burma came under aerial attack for the first time. Meanwhile, the Japanese 143rd Regiment, having crossed the Bilin Estuary arrived at Taungzon, effectively bypassing the British and Indian positions along the Bilin River; Lieutenant General Hutton had no option but to permit a withdrawal to the Sittang.
20 Feb 1942 The Japanese attacked the positions of 16th and 46th Indian Brigades at Kyaikto, Burma, delaying the retreat from the Balin to the Sittang Bridge for forty-eight hours, and causing total confusion among the withdrawing columns. To make matters worse the Indians came under friendly air attack from RAF and AVG aircraft. In addition most of the Divisional Headquarters' radio equipment was lost in the confusion. In Rangoon, Hutton's implementation of the second part of the evacuate Europeans caused wide-spread panic with much looting by drunken natives, and the emptying of the cities goals of lunatics and criminals.
21 Feb 1942 The 2nd Burma Frontier Force, who had been placed north of the Kyaikto track to warn against outflanking, were heavily engaged by the Japanese 215th Regiment and forced to withdraw north-west, crossing the Sittang River by country boats, and proceeding to Pegu. No report of this contact ever reached the divisional commander "Jackie" Smyth who was still hearing rumours of a threatened parachute landing to the west. To the south, British 7th Armored Brigade arrived at Rangoon by sea from Egypt.
22 Feb 1942 During the early hours, the Sittang Bridge in Burma became blocked when a lorry got stuck across the carriageway. With the Japanese closing in on Pagoda and Buddha Hills overlooking the important crossing, the British divisional commander "Jackie" Smyth had to accept that the bridge must be destroyed, even though a large part of his force was still on the east bank. Lieutenant-General Hutton was informed that he was to be replaced but was to remain in Burma as Alexander's Chief of Staff, a most awkward position which he endured until he was replaced at his own request by Major-General John Winter before returning to India in early April.
23 Feb 1942 The Sittang railway bridge in Burma was blown up to prevent its capture by the Japanese, even though most of General Smyth's command was still on the east bank. Smyth salvaged from the catastrophe 3,484 infantry, 1,420 rifles, 56 Bren guns and 62 Thompson submachine guns. Nearly 5,000 men, 6,000 weapons and everything else was lost. Despite many men making it back across the river without their weapons, 17th Indian was now a spent force. It would take the Japanese a fortnight to bring up bridging equipment which permitted the Europeans in Rangoon to make their escape from the doomed city.
28 Feb 1942 General Archibald Wavell, who believed Rangoon, Burma must be held, relieved Thomas Hutton for planning an evacuation.
2 Mar 1942 Japanese 33rd and 55th Infantry Divisions crossed Sittang River at Kunzeik and Donzayit, Burma, forcing the British 2nd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment to fall back 20 miles as the Japanese troops captured the village of Waw.
3 Mar 1942 Japanese troops forced Indian 17th Infantry Division out of Payagyi, Burma.
4 Mar 1942 In Burma, Japanese troops enveloped Chinese troops at Toungoo while British 7th Queen's Own Hussars regiment clashed with Japanese troops at Pegu.
6 Mar 1942 Anglo-Indian and Japanese troops clashed at various roadblocks near Rangoon, Burma.
7 Mar 1942 £11,000,000 worth of oil installations of Burmah Oil Company in southern Burma near Rangoon were destroyed as British retreated from the city, preventing Japanese capture; this destruction would result in 20 years of High Court litigation after the war. Also destroyed were 972 unassembled Lend-Lease trucks and 5,000 tires. From Rangoon, 800 civilians departed aboard transports for Calcutta, India. The Anglo-Indian troops in the Rangoon region were held up by a Japanese roadblock at Taukkyan, which was assaulted repeatedly without success.
8 Mar 1942 200th Division of the Chinese 5th Army arrived at Taungoo, Burma to assist the British defense.
9 Mar 1942 Japanese troops entered undefended Rangoon, Burma, abandoned by British troops two days prior.
10 Mar 1942 Japanese 55th Infantry Division began pursuing the retreating British troops from Rangoon, Burma.
15 Mar 1942 Harold Alexander admitted to Joseph Stilwell that the British had only 4,000 well-equipped fighting men in Burma.
18 Mar 1942 Chinese troops ambushed 200 Japanese reconnaissance troops near Pyu in Battle of Tachiao, killing 30. Meanwhile, aircraft of the 1st American Volunteer Group "Flying Tigers" bombed the Japanese airfield at Moulmein, claiming 16 Japanese aircraft destroyed on the ground. Of the Burmese coast, troops from India reinforced the garrison on Akyab Island.
19 Mar 1942 Japanese troops captured Pyu, Burma.
20 Mar 1942 Japanese 143rd Regiment and a cavalry formation of the Japanese 55th Division attacked troops the Cavalry Regiment of the Chinese 5th Army north of the Kan River in Burma.
21 Mar 1942 151 Japanese bombers attacked the British airfield at Magwe in northern Burma, the operating base of the Chinese Air Force 1st American Volunteer Group "Flying Tigers"; 15 Sino-American aircraft were destroyed at the cost of 2 Japanese aircraft. Meanwhile, at Oktwin, forward elements of Japanese 55th Division engaged Chinese troops.
22 Mar 1942 American and British airmen abandoned the airfield in Magwe in northern Burma. To the southeast, at dawn, troops of the 600th Regiment of the Chinese 200th ambushed troops of the 122nd Regiment of the Japanese 55th Division near Oktwin, Burma.
23 Mar 1942 Chinese troops held the Japanese attacks in check near Oktwin, Burma, but withdrew toward Taungoo after sundown.
24 Mar 1942 Japanese 112th Regiment attacked Taungoo, Burma, overcoming the disorganized Chinese outer defenses. Meanwhile, Japanese 143rd Regiment flanked the Chinese defenses and captured the airfield and rail station 6 miles north of the city. Taungoo would be surrounded on three sides by the end of the day.
25 Mar 1942 The main Japanese offensive against Taungoo, Burma began at 0800 hours, striking northern, western, and southern sides of the city nearly simultaneously. Fierce house-to-house fighting would continue through the night.
26 Mar 1942 Chinese and Japanese troops continued to engage in house-to-house fighting in Taungoo, Burma, with heavy losses on both sides.
27 Mar 1942 Japanese aircraft and artillery bombarded Chinese positions at Taungoo, Burma.
28 Mar 1942 A fresh regiment of the Japanese 56th Division attacked Chinese-defended city of Taungoo, Burma.
29 Mar 1942 Japanese penetrated the Chinese defenses at Taungoo, Burma and threatened to trap the Chinese 200th Division in the city. General Dai Anlan issued the order to retreat from the city after sundown, falling back northward. During the withdraw, the Chinese failed to destroy the bridge over the Sittang River. To the west, Japanese captured a main road near Shwedaung, disrupting the Allied withdraw; an Anglo-Indian attack from the south failed to break the roadblock.
30 Mar 1942 Japanese 55th Division attacked Taungoo, Burma at dawn, capturing it without resistance as the Chinese 200th Division had evacuated the city overnight. To the west, British 7th Armoured Brigade broke through the Japanese roadblock at Shwedaung, but suffered tank destroyed on the nearby bridge over the Irrawaddy River, blocking traffic. Shortly after, Japanese-sponsored Burma National Army attacked the British troops while the British attempted to maneuver around the disabled tank, killing 350 with as many losses.
2 Apr 1942 Japanese troops drove Indian 17th Division out of Prome, Burma.
3 Apr 1942 Six B-17 bombers of the US 10th Air Force based in Asansol, India attacked Rangoon, Burma, setting three warehouses on fire; one aircraft was lost in this attack.
4 Apr 1942 Japanese aircraft bombed areas of Mandalay, Burma, killing more than 2,000, most of whom were civilians.
5 Apr 1942 Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at Yedashe in central Burma.
6 Apr 1942 Japanese troops captured Mandalay, Burma. Off Akyab on the western coast of Burma, Japanese aircraft sank Indian sloop HMIS Indus.
8 Apr 1942 Japanese troops overran Chinese 200th Division and New 22nd Division defensive positions at Yedashe, Burma.
10 Apr 1942 Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at Szuwa River, Burma.
11 Apr 1942 In Burma, British troops formed a new defensive line, Minhia-Taungdwingyi-Pyinmana, on the Irrawaddy River. After dark, the Japanese reached this line, launching a first attack on the Indian 48th Brigade at Kokkogwa.
12 Apr 1942 Japanese attacks on Minhia, Thadodan, and Alebo on the Minhia-Taungdwingyi-Pyinmana defensive line in Burma were stopped by Anglo-Indian troops including the British 2nd Royal Tank Regiment. British tankers reported seeing captured British tanks pressed into Japanese service.
13 Apr 1942 Japanese troops continued to assault the Minhia-Taungdwingyi-Pyinmana defensive line along the Irrawaddy River in Burma without success. To the northwest, troops of Japanese 56th Infantry Division captured Mauchi from troops of Chinese 6th Army and the nearby tungsten mines.
15 Apr 1942 As Japanese troops began to push through the British Minhia-Taungdwingyi-Pyinmana defensive line along the Irrawaddy River in Burma and approached the oil-producing region of Yenangyaung, William Slim gave the order to destroy 1,000,000 gallons of crude oil to prevent Japanese capture while the British 7th Armoured Division pushed through Japanese road blocks to prepare men on the line to fall back.
16 Apr 1942 Japanese troops decisively defeated the 1st Burma Division near Yenangyaung, Burma.
17 Apr 1942 William Slim launched a failed counterattack with the Indian 17th Division near Yenangyaung, Burma; he had wanted the counterattack to open up Japanese lines, to meet with troops of the 113th Regiment of Chinese 38th Division fighting to relieve Yenangyaung, and to allow the remnants of the 1st Burma Division to return to the main Allied lines. To the east, Japanese 56th Infantry Division and Chinese troops clashed at Bawlake and Pyinmana, Burma.
18 Apr 1942 Although the 113th Regiment of the Chinese 38th Division under General Sun Liren and the British 7th Armoured Brigade had reached near Yenangyaung, Burma, they could not prevent the Japanese troops from capturing the city; the final elements of British troops fleeing out of the city destroyed the power station to prevent Japanese use.
19 Apr 1942 The 113th Regiment of the Chinese 38th Division under General Sun Liren captured Twingon, Burma then repulsed a Japanese counterattack that saw heavy casualties on both sides. To the east, Japanese 55th Infantry Division captured Pyinmana.
20 Apr 1942 Japanese troops captured Taunggyi, Burma, capital of the southern Shan States, along with its large gasoline store. In central Burma, troops of the Japanese 56th Division pushed Chinese troops out of Loikaw, while troops of the Japanese 18th Division clashed with Chinese troops at Kyidaunggan.
21 Apr 1942 Japanese 18th Division captured Kyidaunggan, Burma from Chinese troops.
22 Apr 1942 British troops fell back to Meiktila, Burma while Indian 17th Infantry Division fell back from Taungdwingyi to Mahlaing to protect Mandalay.
23 Apr 1942 Chinese mercenary troops under Allied command attacked Taunggyi, Burma while Japanese 56th Division captured Loilem.
24 Apr 1942 Japanese 18th Infantry Division captured Yamethin, Burma.
25 Apr 1942 Alexander, Slim, and Stilwell met at Kyaukse, Burma, 25 miles south of Mandalay. It was decided that all Allied troops were to be pulled out of Burma, but Slim demanded that no British nor Indian units would be withdrawn to China even if the Chinese border was closer to that of India's. Meanwhile, Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at Loilem, central Burma.
26 Apr 1942 In Burma, the Indian 17th Division moved from Mahlaing to Meiktila, 20 miles to the south, to assist the Chinese 200th Division in forming a line of defense against the Japanese attack on Mandalay.
28 Apr 1942 Troops of the Chinese 28th Division arrived at Lashio in northern Burma. To the west, the Indian 17th Division crossed the Irrawaddy River at Sameikkon, Burma on its retreat toward India; Chinese 38th Division and British 7th Armoured Brigade formed a line between Sagaing and Ondaw to guard the retreat.
29 Apr 1942 Japanese 18th Infantry Division captured Kyaukse, Burma just south of Mandalay. To the west, Japanese 33rd Infantry Division pursued the Anglo-Indian withdraw across the Irrawaddy River toward India. To the north, 100 kilometers south of the border with China, Japanese 56th Infantry Division captured Lashio midday.
30 Apr 1942 In western Burma, Chinese 38th Division began to move westward to join the Anglo-Indian troops already en route for India. After the tanks of the British 7th Armoured Division had successfully crossed the Ava Bridge over the Irrawaddy River, Chinese troops blew up the bridge to slow the Japanese pursuit.
1 May 1942 Japanese 18th Infantry Division captured Mandalay, Burma. 300 kilometers the northeast, Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at Hsenwi. 50 miles west of Mandalay, Japanese troops blocked the British retreat at Monywa on the Chindwin River and then attacked from the rear by surprise, capturing the headquarters of the 1st Burma Division.
2 May 1942 1st Burma Division unsuccessfully attacked Japanese 33rd Infantry Division at Monywa, Burma on the Chindwin River.
3 May 1942 Having fought off the attack by the 1st Burma Division at Monywa, Burma, Japanese 33rd Infantry Division went on the offensive pushing 1st Burma Division back toward Alon.
4 May 1942 Japanese troops captured Bhamo, Burma. Off the Burmese coast, with increasing malaria cases affecting the garrison's morale, Akyab Island was abandoned.
8 May 1942 Japanese troops captured Myitkyina, Burma.
9 May 1942 By this date, most troops of the Burma Corps had withdrew west of the Chindwin River.
10 May 1942 The Thai Phayap Army invaded Shan State, Burma. In western Burma, Gurkha units, rearguard to the British general retreat, held off another Japanese assault throughout the afternoon; they also withdrew westwards after sundown.
12 May 1942 The monsoon began in Burma, slowing the retreat of Allied troops into India, but it also stopped Japanese attempts to attack the retreating columns from the air.
15 May 1942 The retreating Allied columns reached Assam in northeastern India.
18 May 1942 Most of the retreating troops of BURCORPS reached India.
20 May 1942 Japanese troops completed the conquest of Burma. All Allied troops previously under the command of William Slim (who was transferred to Indian XV Corps) were reassigned to the British IV Corps, thus dissolving the Burma Corps.
23 May 1942 Japanese and Chinese troops clashed along the Hsipaw-Mogok road in northern Burma.
25 May 1942 Chinese 38th Infantry Division began to cross the border from Burma into India.
27 May 1942 Thai forces captured Kengtung, Burma.

Photographs

Troops of the Japanese 15th Army preparing to cross into Burma, late Dec 1941Chinese soldier fighting in Burma, circa 1942Electrical equipment at the Yenangyaung oilfields being destroyed by retreating British troops, Burma, 15 Apr 1942Stilwell marching out of Burma, May 1942

Maps

Map of Japanese and Allied movements in Burma, Apr-May 1942Map showing Japanese offensives in Malaya, Burma, and the Indian Ocean, Jan-May 1942Map depicting the transportation routes in the China-Burma-India theater, 1942-1943




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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Anonymous says:
    24 Mar 2009 10:43:20 AM

    My grandfather Captain Gurbux Singh Bhatti was incharge of an airfields security in Burma . He passed away in 1976 . Any way I could get any details about him , or the division he served with ?
  2. Mick Knight says:
    14 Mar 2010 11:26:41 AM

    This article does not mention the greatest defeat of Japanese forces onland - some 53,000 killed and wounded - at Imphal and Kohima by Lieutenant General Slim's Indian and British forces.To quote Japanese Lieutenant General Kawabe "We witnessed a unique event the Japanese army in headlong retreat". After Slim's further victory at Meiktila, the Japanese were unable to field an army and, but for the advent of the atomic bomb, would probably have been chased all the way back to Japan.
  3. Jean says:
    7 May 2011 01:17:14 PM

    My father served with General Slim, and felt nothing but the utmost respect and dare I say adoration for his leadership. Far more than Mountbatten. I think it is an insult to those soldiers to be the forgotten army. As they endured great hardship and difficulties,to put it mildly
  4. kiy says:
    12 Apr 2012 10:05:27 AM

    boring
  5. Anonymous says:
    15 Apr 2012 02:24:46 PM

    Well,I am just collecting information on Burma Campaign as my Uncle captain Eric blanchard tuxford(Artists Rifles) fell in one of the battles for Rangoon.
    As an exservice type( Aus army)historically Australia has always been in "Expeditions" and hopefully we will learn not to repeat history
  6. simi graff says:
    30 Mar 2013 01:12:25 AM

    i am looking for information about captain lord dowding who worked for 7TH INDIAN DIVISION: 33rd Indian Infantry Brigade: 1st Queen’s Royal Regiment 1944 to 1947. he had been a good friend to my grand father but he lost his contact. so he is still alive and he wants to know about his old pal.
  7. Anonymous says:
    20 Apr 2013 07:08:46 PM

    Records of defeated armies and retreating troops are not fantastic, but I think the British put up a bit more of a fight than detailed here.

    http://homepages.force9.net/rothwell/burmaweb/RangoonBattalionBAF.htm

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More on Invasion of Burma
Participants:
» Alexander, Harold
» Du, Yuming
» Slim, William
» Sun, Liren
» Thanarat, Sarit

Location:
» Burma

Ship Participants:
» Kumano
» Suzuya


Invasion of Burma Photo Gallery
Troops of the Japanese 15th Army preparing to cross into Burma, late Dec 1941
See all 4 photographs of Invasion of Burma



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