Burma Operations Record, 28th Army Operations in Akyab Area
Revised in 1958
Prepared by the HQs USAFFE & Eight US Army (rear)
Distributed by the Office of the Chief of Military History
Distributed today by the European Center of Military History
This record was compiled by the former staff officer of the 28th Japanese Army, Col Aiichi Okamura during his internment in Burma after the termination of the war an was reviewed by Lt Gen Shozo Sakurai former commander of the 28th Army. After the record was received by the Information and Historical Record Division, Japanese Demobilization Bureau it was subject to some correction by Maj Nizo Yamaguchi, former staff officer of the Southern Area Army and presently a member of the above-mentioned Division.
This record is based on the documents which were available at the former Army headquarters just after the termination of the war, and on the recollection of former staff officers of the 28th Army, Lt Col Eiichi Tsuchiya, Maj Masakatsu Okudaira, Maj Tatsuru Yamaguchi and all former department chiefs of the Army headquarters and commanders of units under the command or the Army. (August 29 1952).(Revised Edition 1958) Many former officers of the Japanese 28th Army were of assistance to the Foreign Histories Division in filling in the gaps and correcting the inaccuracies in the original manuscript. We acknowledge our indebtedness and express our thanks to the following officer : Lt Gen Tadashi Hanaya, CG, 55th Division; Maj Gen Koba, CG, 54th Infantry-Group, Maj Gen Yamamoto, CG, 72nd Mixed Brigade, Col Kawamura, CoS, 55th Division, Col Furuya, CO, 112th Inrantry- Regiment, Col Yoshida, CO, 144th Infantry Regiment, Lt Col Saito, Staff Officer, 54th Division, Maj Tsujimoto, CO, 1/1430-IR, Maj Matsuo, CO, 2/143-IR, Maj Kurooka, CO, 3/143-IR, Maj Yamanaka, CO, 1/29-IR. We are also indebted to Mr Nishiura, Chief of the War Histories Section, Army Staff College, Japanese Self Defense Force, for his assistance to this division in making official records available, in particular The Memories of Lt Gen Sakurai (CG, 28th Army); Diary of Maj Gen Sakurai (CG, 55th Infantry group); Operations Report of the 28th Army, by Lt Col Tsuchiya and Maj Pukutomi, (Staff Officers of the 28th Army) and the Operations Report of the 54th Division. Casualty lists were furnished by the 1st Demobilization Bureau of the Ministry of Public Welfare. (April 30 1958)
Through Instructions N° 126 to the Japanese Government, October 12 1945, subject : Institution for War Records Investigation, steps were initiated to exploit military historical records and official reports of the Japanese War Ministry and Japanese General Staff. Upon dissolution of the War Ministry and the General Staff, and the transfer of their former functions to the Demobilization Bureau, research and compilation continued and developed into a series of historical monographs. The paucity of original orders, plans and unit journals, which are normally essential in the preparations of this type of record, most of which were lost or destroyed during field operations, bombing raids, rendered the task of compilation most difficult; particularly distressing has been the complete lack of official strength reports, normal in AG or G-3 records. However, while many of the important orders, plans and estimates, have been reconstructed from memory and therefore are not textually identical with the originals, they are believed to be generally accurate and reliable.
Under the supervision of the Demobilization Bureau, the basic material contained in this monograph was compiled and written in Japanese by former officers, on duty in command and staff units within major units during the period of operations. Translation was effected through the facilities of Allied Translator and Interpreter Service, G-2, General Headquarters, Far East Command. This Japanese Operational Monograph was rewritten in English by the Japanese Research Division, Military History Section, General Headquarters, Far East Command and is based on the translation or the Japanese original. Editorial corrections were limited to those necessary for coherence and accuracy (29 August 1952). Revised Edition : This monograph, originally edited in August 1952, was completely revised in 1958. The original edition, which was developed from fragmentary records and recollections, tailed to present the various operations in proper relationship to each other. This lack of cohesion made it virtually impossible to gain an understanding of the overall operational situation in Burma. During the five and one half years that elapsed between the publication of the two editions a tremendous amount of additional information became available, making it possible to rectify the many errors of omission and commission in the original. Map coverage has also been expanded ana improved. The rewriting and editing of the revised monograph was accomplished by the Foreign Histories Division, Office of the Military History Officer, Headquarters United States Army Japan, successor to the original editing agency. Research and compilation of data for the revised edition was performed by former Lt Col M. Iwata, now a Senior Military Operational Analyst with the Foreign Histories Division. (April 30 1958)
The Ha-Go Operation (Situation Late 1943)
Since the end of the 1943 monsoon season, the war situation in Burma had become increasingly acute and by September the enemy was building up strength on all sides. In the Akyab sector, in western Burma, the British-Indian 5th Division and 7th Division were disposed in depth of the Buthidaung – Maungdaw front, with two or three additional divisions backing them up. There were signs of preparations for an offensive in the near future. Enemy vessels massed in the Chittagong Harbor, the Naf River and other points, combined with increased enemy ship movements, were believed to be indications of a possible amphibious attack on Akyab. In Assam Province, Imphal and vicinity was the base of enemy operations and the British-Indian 17th Division, the 20th Division and the 23rd Division as well as one other division were advancing to this sector. The enemy was rebuilding the Imphal – Palel – Tamu road and the Imphal – Churachandpur – Tiddim road into motor vehicle roads. At the northern end of the Hukawng Valley the New 1st Army of the Chungking Army and a US brigade, both commanded by Gen Joseph E. Stilwell, were located in the vicinity of Ledo. The New 1st Army was greatly superior to other Chinese armies in organization, equipment and training. Here to indications of preparations for an offensive could be observed. In the Yunnan area of northeastern Burma, approximately ten divisions of the Chinese Yunnan Expeditionary Army had occupied positions along the east bank of the Salween River west of Tali. While preparations for an offensive were not being energetically pushed in this area, it was estimated that the Army would be prepared to launch an offensive in cooperation with any offensive launched by the British-Indian forces and the Stilwell’s force.
The U-Go (Imphal) Operation Planned
On August 7, the Southern Army directed the Burma Area Army to make preparations for an offensive against eastern India. After a study of the enemy situation, the Area Army commander determined to conduct only holding operations against the Yunnan Expeditionary Army in the Salween River area and against the Stilwell’s force in the Hukawng Valley sector. The main offensive against eastern India would be undertaken by the 15th Army with the 15th, 31st and 33rd Divisions. On August 12 the Burma Area Army issued orders to the 15th Army to start preparations for the U-Go (Imphal) Operation to be conducted in early 1944.
Ha-Go Operation Plans
As a diversionary action, the Area Army planned the Ha-Go Operation, an offensive to be launched in the Arakan Sector by elements of the 55th Division, two or three weeks prior to the start of the U-Go Operation. In November 1943, Lt Gen Hanaya was designated as commander of the 55th Division and in preparation for the forthcoming Offensive, immediately proceeded to make plans and effect troops positions. In the Maungdaw – Buthidaung Front, the 55th Infantry Group Headquarters and the 143rd Infantry Regiment; the West Coast (from Donbaik to the mouth at the Naf River), the 112th Infantry Regiment (less one battalion); in the Akyab Area, the 55th Reconnaissance Regiment and the 1/112th Infantry Regiment and in the Kaladan River Front, 1/213th Infantry Regiment.
A force composed of the 144th Infantry Regiment, the 1/55th Mountain Artillery Regiment and one engineer company which had been rehabilitated in Rabaul after engaging in the New Guinea Campaign as the South Sea Detachment, reverted to 55th Division control and arrived during December and January. In addition, the 111th Infantry Regiment (less the 2/111 and the 3/111) and the 2/54th Field Artillery Regiment, were transferred from the 54th Division, in mid-January, to reinforce Akyab during the Ha-Go Operation. The division commander’s plan called for the launching of an attack against the enemy’s base of operations at Bawli Bazar. The main attack would be aimed at destroying the British-Indian 7th Division, in the area east of the Mayu Range, with a pincer movement launched simultaneously from the north and south. Then, by shifting, the main body of the Division in the vicinity of Ngangyaung, they would crush the enemy 5th Division in the Maungdaw area, west of the Mayu Range. This phase of the Ha-Go Operation is generally known as the Northern Arakan Operation as distinguished from the Kaladan Operation which was a subsequent development of the Ha-Go Operation.
Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten observing Mandalay from a distance aboard a WC command car, Burma, January 13-18 1945
Activation of the 28th Army
In consideration of the War situation in late 1943, Imperial General Headquarters had determined to conduct counter offensives in China and Burma. The Yunnan-Kwangsi Offensive was to be launched in China to destroy American air bases and the India Offensive would be launched from northwestern Burma to strengthen the Japanese defensive position. There were obvious indications of possible sea and land offensives by the enemy, including the naval bombardment of the Ramree Island in December 1943. If the Burma Area Army was to be committed to operations against eastern India a strong defensive force would be necessary to hold southwestern Burma. Accordingly, on January 15 1944, the order of battle of the 28th Army was announced. Lt Gen Shozo Sakuray had been announced as 28th Army commander on January 7 1944. He had taken part in the original Burma campaign in 1942 as commander of the 33rd Division and since March 1943, had been commander of the Army Mechanized Headquarters in Tokyo. Maj Gen Hideo Iwakuro was designated as chief of staff being relieved from his position as chief of the General Affairs Department, Military Administration Office, 25th Army (Sumatra). The chief of staff was sent to Rangoon on January 18 to expedite the organization of the Army headquarters and on January 21 the Army commander arrived. Although the staff was composed primarily of personnel already in Burma, a few key members were transferred from other areas and by January 30, the organization of the headquarters was complete. The code name Saku Group was given to the army and for purpose of keeping its identity secret the name Saku Unit continued to be used. This ruse appeared to be successful as the enemy apparently identified the newly formed 28th Army as being a mixed brigade which had advanced from Malaya.
Composition and Order of Battle 28th Army
Headquarters 28th Army
– Lt Gen Shozo Sakurai, CO
– Maj Gen Hideo Iwakuro, C/S
– Lt Gen Seizaburo Okazaki, CO
– Col Takeo Kinoshita, C/S
– Lt Gen Shihachi Katamura, CO
– Col Jiro Itta, C/S
– Lt Gen Tadashi Hanaya, CO
– Col Benji Kawamura, C/S
14th Independent Antitank Gun Battalion
– Maj Nanao Nakao, CO, (Hq, 3 Companies, Ammo Train)
71st Field Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion
– Maj Teiichi Ota, CO, (Hq, 3 Batteries)
44th Field Antiaircraft Machine Gun Company
– Unfortunately unknown.
20th Field Road Construction Unit
– Lt Col Akuta (200 men)
101st Field Road Construction Unit
– Capt Hiromitsu Matsumoto, CO, (Hq, 3 Companies, 16 Off, 321 EM)
51st Independent Transport Battalion
– Maj Sadaji Inoue, CO, (6 Companies, Horse-drawn)
55th Independent Motor Transport Battalion
– Maj Takaziro Ryu, CO, (4 Companies, 50 trucks each, 1 materiel depot)
236th Independent Motor Transportation Company
– 1/Lt Shutaro Katsuta
10th Provisional Motor Transport Company
– Unfortunately unknown
26th Ponton Bridge Company
– Capt Kazushige Kuwabara
10th River Crossing Materiel Company
– Capt Torao Fujioka
70th Casualty Clearing Platoon
– 1/Lt Masajiro Tsunabuchi
71st Casualty Clearing Platoon
– 1/Lt Jitsaji Sugimoto
118th Rear Hospital
– Maj Rokuro Kasahara
Units Under Tactical Command of the 28th Army
11th Shipping Group
– Maj Gen Gisaburo Suzuki
11th Shipping Engineer Regiment (*)
– Lt Col Takashi Ishimura
3rd Sea Transport Battalion
22nd Provisional Water Transport Service Company
38th Water Transport Service Company
Southwestern Branch, Burma Area Army Field Provisional Depot
Southwestern Branch, Burma Area Army Field Ordnance Depot
Southwestern Branch, Burma Area Army Field Motor Depot
Southwestern Branch, 21st Rear Veterinary Hospital
Elements or the 106th Rear Hospital
101st Carpenter Company
93rd Land Transport Service Company
Elements or the 22nd Field Water Supply Purification Unit
(*) The 11th Shipping Engineer Regiment was composed of a Hq, 3 companies and 1 materiel depot with a total of 1105 men, and the £following vessels :
– Large landing barges – 85
– Small landing barges – 54
– Motored Sampans – 47
– Armored Boats – 2
– Fishing Boats (60 Ton Class) – 10
– Messenger Boat – 1
– Speed Boat – 1
The zone of responsibility assigned to the 28th Army was southwestern Burma from Rangoon north to Maungdaw along the west coast and extending inland to the Arakan and Pegu Mountain Ranges. At the time of its organization the only portion of the Army’s front actually facing the enemy was a 50 mile strip from Maungdaw northeast to Thayettabin. Along the Bay of Bengal it was responsible for a coastal front of 400 miles which, with the many islands adjacent to the coast, was vulnerable to an enemy seaborne attack. The Arakan Mountains, however, offered protection against attack from the northeast. Also within the operational area of the Army was the Irrawaddy Delta, one of the world’s great rice producing centers. Since the First Arakan Operation, the 55th Division had been facing the enemy on the front north of Akyab, with its main strength deployed on the Mayu Peninsula and some units in the Kaladan River Basin. The 54th Division had been assigned the defense of the long coastal strip extending from Ruywa south to the mouths of the Irrawaddy River since the latter part of 1943. The 2nd Division had been in the process of moving from Malaya to Burma since January 1 1944. The 11th Shipping Group was stationed at Taungup with the principal supply depots being located at Prome. At the time or the activation of the 28th Army, the 54th and 55th Divisions were in position and by the end of February the main force of the 2nd Division had arrived in southwestern Burma. Since the 28th Army did not wish to disturb the status quo by making radical and sudden changes, a gradual re-disposition of troops to conform with the Army’s tactical strategic plans was effected.
One or the highest priority projects on the Army’s agenda was the construction of defense positions and no effort was spared in rushing them to completion. As neither cement nor steel were available locally or through supply channels, defense positions consisted primarily or crude earthworks. Since there was no radar and only limited assistance could be expected from naval and air units, the army was forced to rely on sentries posted along the coast for production of intelligence on enemy activities and movements. With some revisions, the commander of the 28th Army approved the 55th Division plans for the launching of the Northern Arakan Operation. In view or the enemy’s numerically superior strength he felt it would be extremely hazardous for the main body of the Division to effect a penetration as far as Bawli Bazar. Further, in the event that the operation did not progress as expected, the Division might encounter difficulties that would prejudice the over-all operations or the 28th Army. Accordingly, the Army commander established a line running east and west through Taung Bazar as the northern limits of the operation. Any advance north of that line would be subject to his prior approval. With these revisions the commander ordered the operation to commence any time on or after February 4. In mid-January the 55th Division had begun regrouping for the offensive : the 55th Reconnaissance Regiment was moved to the Kaladan Valley to replace the 1/213th Regiment; the 144th Infantry Regiment (less the 3rd battalion) was dispatched to the west coast to replace the 112th Infantry, and the main combat elements of the Division began assembling at Kindaung as the assault column. Preparations were well in hand to start the offensive about the middle of February.
(Above) Indian Army troops inspect a dead Japanese soldier, Burma 1945. (Below) Colonized brothers : Nigerian and Indian soldiers during the Burma Campaign of World War II.
Japanese Task Force Organization
The 55th Division was divided into several Task Force Units to perform the various actions required by the Ha-Go Operation plan :
Commander, Maj Gen T. Sakurai (*), CG, 55th Infantry Group
– Headquarters 55th Infantry Group
– 112th Infantry Regiment (less 1 Rifle Co and 1 MG PLat)
– 2/143rd Infantry regiment (less 5th Co and 1 MG Plat)
– 1/213th Infantry Regiment (less 1st and 3rd Cos and 1 MG Plat)
– 3/55th Mountain Arty Regiment (4 mt guns and 4 mortars)
– 55th Engineer Regiment (less 1 and 1/2 Cos)
– One Plat, 10th River Crossing Material Co
– One Squad, Armorer Unit
– Med Battalion (-)
– One Wireless Squad, Division Signal Unit
– One Plat, Water Supply Unit
(*) Not to be confused with Lt Gen S. Sakurai, CG, 28th Army
Commander, Col Doi, CO, 143rd Infantry Regiment
– 143rd Infantry Regiment (- 2nd Bn)
– 4th Mountain Battery (2 mt guns)
– One Plat, 55th Engineer Regiment
– One Sect, Medical Battalion
– One Squad, Water Supply Unit
Commander, Col Yoshida, CO, 144th Infantry Regiment
– 144th Infantry Regiment (less 2nd and 3rd Bns)
– 14th AT Battalion (- 3rd Btry) (8 AT Guns 37-MM)
– 3rd Co, 55th Recon Regiment (11 tanks)
– 1/55th Mountain Arty (3 mt guns)
– Comp Btry (5 mt guns and 1 field gun)
– One Sect, Medical battalion
– One Squad, Water Supply Unit
Commander, Col Kawashima, CO, 55th Recon Regiment
– 55th Recon Regiment (- 3rd Co)
Commander Col Koba, CO, 111th Infantry Regiment
– 111th Infantry Regiment (- 2nd and 3rd Bns)
– 3/144th Infantry regiment
– 2/54th Field Arty
– 2/144th Infantry Regiment
Commander, Lt Col Kobayashi, CO, 55th Mountain Arty Regiment
– 55th Mountain Arty Regiment (- 1st and 3rd Bns)(5 mt guns)
– 2nd Btry, 3rd Heavy FAR (3 How 149-MM)
Commander, Col Sei, CO, 55th Transport Regiment
– 55th Transport Regiment (- 3rd Co)
– 3rd Co, 11th Shipping Engineer Regiment
– 1st and 3rd Cos, 51st Transport Battalion
– 26th Ponton Company
– 22nd Water Transport Service Company (Prov)
– One Plat, 10th River Crossing Material Company
– Sea Transport Company
– Division Signal Unit (- 1 Wireless Squad)
– Armorer Unit (- 1 Squad)
– Water Supply Unit (- elms)
– 1st, 2nd and 4th Field Hospitals
– Veterinary Hospital
– One Plat, 101st Carp Company
– 3rd Co and 1 MG Plat, 213th Infantry Regiment
(Above) The Campaign in North and Central Burma February 1944 – August 1945. A well armed patrol of American led Burmese guerrillas crossing a river in central Burma. (Bellow) This group of BIC (Bruma Intelligence Corps) men served with Orde Wingate’s LRPG (Long Range Penetration Groups) at Imphal and Kohima, sadly not many names are known. Known men are Ronald Kenneth Willson; Malcolm Taylor sitting front left and Albert Terry sitting front right.
Burma covers an area of more than 240.000 square miles, equivalent to an area roughly the size of France and Belgium combined. In 1941 the population was around 17 million people. The popular perception is of a land covered in dense jungle but the terrain fought over between 1942 and 1945 was more varied. Communications were generally poor, there being few roads or railways, and tended to be dominated by the main waterways. Almost all routes ran north-south, following the natural grain of the country.
Burma – Borders, Mountains, Hills Borders
Burma’s eastern border lies along mountain ranges, extending from the Chinese border in the north, south and south east to the River Mekong and the Indo-Chinese border (Laos) and then south and south west along the Indo-Chinese and then the Siamese (Thai) borders. The mountains are high in the north and gradually decline in height until they peter out at the southern end of Tenasserim. The western border, that with India, also runs along a mountain range – from the Himalayas near Fort Herz in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The range includes the Naga Hills in the north, the Chin Hills in the centre and the Arakan Yomas in the south. The Naga Hills rise to around 12.000 feet, the Chin Hills have peaks between 8.000 and 10.000 feet, while the Arakan Yomas are much lower. The mountains are covered in dense jungle up to a height of 6.000 feet.
Inland – Waterways, Plains and Hills
Central Burma consists of the valleys of three of the country’s four main rivers (the Irrawaddy River, the Chindwin River, the Sittang River) and the Irrawaddy delta. The fourth river, the Salween River, flows through the eastern tableland of the Shan States. The Irrawaddy rises in the north near Fort Herz and flows down the center of the country, being joined by its tributary, the Chindwin, near Pakkoku south of Mandalay, and on to the delta at Rangoon. Its central course is across a wide plain which receives little rainfall during the May-October monsoon and is baked dry in the dry season. The Chindwin also rises in the far north, near the Assam border, and flows south west on the eastern side of the Naga and Chin Hills. For much of its length, the river flows through rugged country, covered in jungle. The Sittang also flows north-south, from just south of Meiktila to the Gulf of Martaban and although inferior has similar characteristics to the Irrawaddy. The Salween rises in China and flows through the Shan States, the Karen Hills and Tenasserim into the Gulf of Martaban at Moulmein. The river and its tributaries cross the 3.000 foot tableland which makes up eastern Burma, mostly through deep, impassable gorges.
In 1941, communications within Burma were poorly developed and overland routes with bordering countries were almost non-existent. Almost all communications ran north-south, including the Rangoon-Mandalay railway. Other lines ran from Mandalay to Lashio, from Rangoon to Prome and from Pegu across the Sittang to Martaban, connecting to Moulmein and the line through Tenasserim to Ye by rail ferry. The road system in 1941 was primitive, with some parts of the country connected by little more than tracks. There were all weather roads – from Rangoon to Mandalay, from Meiktila through the Shan State, through the Karen Hills connecting Toungoo with Loilem, from Rangoon to Prome and on to Mandalay (though not always passable in heavy rains). Due to the reliance on cheap sea communications with India across the Bay of Bengal there had been little interest in developing overland communications between India and Burma. There were no roads through the mountainous border area and overland communications with India were restricted to a few dangerous tracks. The frontier with China was crossed by the Burma Road near Wantung, north east of Mandalay. Communications with Siam depended on tracks, the major routes being across the Dawna Range from Moulmein and from Moulmein through Three Pagodas Pass to Bangkok. The most important internal communication route was the river traffic on the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin. Services were provided by the large fleet of river craft operated by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Burma was an important link in the Imperial route from Britain to Australia. There was an airport near Rangoon, at Mingaladon, and landing grounds Akyab and Lashio. There were emergency landing grounds running down Tenasserim on the way to Singapore, at Moulmein, Tavoy and Mergui. There was an air service between Rangoon and Chungking and flying boats landed at Rangoon and Akyab. Defense of this leg of the Imperial air route was strategic for Britain.
The Burma Road
Beginning in Mandalay, this ran through Lashio to Wantung on the Chinese border. It then crossed the only bridge over the Salween and on to Chungking. Lend-Lease supplies for China were landed at Rangoon and then railed or motored Mandalay. The significance of the road for keeping China in being in her war with Japan made Burma of strategic value.
Burma – Hill Tribes Rangoon
Rangoon (Yangon), located on the Irrawaddy delta, is the capital and the main port. In 1941 there were well established shipping routes with Calcutta and Madras. Nearly all communication with India was by sea via these routes. The bulk of Burma’s imports and exports moved through Rangoon, including Lend-Lease supplies for China.
The population in 1941 of some 17 million people, was dominated by around 10 million Burmese who occupied the plains. There were around four million Karens and two million Shans in the eastern areas, and one million Kachins, Chins and Nagas. There was little love lost between the Burmese (then sometimes also called Burmans) and the remaining population. In 1941 there were around one million Indians living and working in Burma, mostly as traders, professionals, public servants and industrial workers, and these tended to congregate around the urban centres and predominantly around Rangoon. There was a growing population of Chinese who had numbered around 300.000 in 1931.
British Offensive – January 1944
On January 18, the British-Indian 7th Division took the initiative and launched an attack on the main 55th Division positions between Letwedet and Htindaw. The 9th Company of the 143rd Infantry Regiment defending the hill immediately east of Htindaw, stood firm against repeated attacks for several days, holding the hill until January 24. During the last week in January the British-Indian 5th Division made severe but unsuccessful attacks on the 1st Battalion of the 143rd Infantry Regiment in the vicinity of Razabil, west or the Mayu Range. In view of the increased enemy activity, the Division commander determined to advance the starting date of the Ha-Go operation.
Ha-Go Operation Orders
Since the 28th Army had already approved the initiating of the Ha-Go Operation, as early as February 4, on February 1, Lt Gen Hanaya, CG, 55th Division, issued orders assigning missions to the Task Force Units and directing the start of the operation on February 4. In brief, the Division order directed the following action by the Task Force Units :
(1) The Sakurai Unit : Will pierce the enemy line on the east bank of the Kalapanzin River, penetrate into Taung Bazar and destroy the enemy in that area. It will then attack, from the rear, the enemy west of the Kalapanzin River and completely destroy all enemy units in the area north of Buthidaung. A detachment will be sent to the area south of Ngangyaung, west of the Matu Range, to make preparations for an offensive in that locality. Another detachment will be detailed to guard against a possible enemy advance from the direction of Goppe Bazar. The unit assigned to hold the present line will under the direction of Division Headquarters, employ deceptive tactics to divert the enemy’s attention from the flanking movement.
(2) The Doi Unit : Will remain approximately in its present positions and stand firmly against the enemy. As the Sakurai Unit debouches to the right bank of the Kalapanzin River, the Doi Unit will seize every opportunity to take the offensive and destroy the enemy to its immediate front in order to cooperate with the Sakurai Unit. On the night of February 3, the Doi Unit will dispatch parties to raid enemy Headquarters and generally throw the enemy rear into confusion. The unit will also close the Ngakyedauk Pass and carry out other appropriate diversionary tactics. During the fighting to the east of the Mayu Range the Doi Unit will facilitate the main offensive by containing the enemy to its front as well as keeping the enemy occupied in the area west of the Mayu Range.
(3) The Kawashima Unit : Will protect the right flank of the Division by checking the advance of the enemy in the Kaladan Valley.
(4) The Yoshida Unit : Will continue to defend the west coast from the mouth of the Naf River to to Foul Point.
(5) The Koba Unit : Will defend Akyab and the Boronga Islands.
(6) The Artillery Group : Will directly support the Doi Unit. It will furnish a group specially organized and trained to utilise enemy weapons to accompany the Sakurai Unit.
(7) The Division Signal Unit : Will establish a signal center at Seinnyinbya on February 3 and will maintain communications between the Division command post and the Headquarters of all the Task Force Units. Radio silence will be maintained until 0400, on February 4.
(8) The Division Reserve : Will remain in its present location, southwest on Buthidaung. Separate orders will be issued for subsequent moves.
(Above) A view of the river after the British advance later in the year. A Bailey bridge over the Chindwin River near Kalewa, December 1944. (Bellow) A Kachin villager gives a chicken to Brig Gen Frank D. Merrill. Father James Steward (right), an Irish missionary who had lived in Burma for eight years, sits behin him.
The Northern Arakan Operation – First Phase
Maj Gen Sakurai divided his units, with a total of approximately 4300 men, into two echelons. The 1st Echelon consisted of the 112th Infantry Regiment; the 2/143rd Infantry Regiment and the 55th Engineer Regiment under the command of Col Tanabashi. The 2nd Echelon, directly’ under the command of Gen Sakurai was formed from the balance or the Sakurai Unit. The 2/143rd Infantry Regiment, acting as the advance guard, departed Hill 124 at 0100, on February 4 employing some disloyal British-Indian troops as guides. In order to shorten the column length, each battalion of the main body advanced with a six teen man column front. Proceeding northward through the narrow valley between Pyinshe Kala and Pyinshe and disregarding sporadic enemy fire, the Unit succeeded in breaking through gaps in the enemy lines. Although the main force of the 1st Echelon was delayed by some confusion, the advance guard surprised the Taung Bazar garrison at 0700. Without delay, the Battalion crossed the Kalapanzin River south of Taung Bazar, using captured boats, and was followed closely by the 2nd Echelon and the 3/112th Infantry Regiment. The main body of the 1st Echelon crossed the river northwest of Taung Bazar on the morning of February 5.
Southward Drive of the Sakurai Unit
With all units across the river, Gen Sakurai issued orders for their further advance. The 1/213th Infantry Regiment would advance to Ngangyaung to cut the Bawli Bazar-Maungdaw Road and deny its use to the enemy as long as possible. Col Tanabashi, commanding the 1st Echelon was directed to send the 1/112th Infantry Regiment through Preingyaung to seize and hold the Ngakyedauk Pass and with the rest of the 112th Infantry Regiment to advance on Hill 315, northwest of Sinzweya. The 2/143rd Infantry Regiment, on the left of the 112th Infantry Regiment, would move south toward Awlanbyin. Gen Sakurai with his Headquarters and the 55th Engineer Regiment proposed to follow the 2/143 toward Awlanbyin. On the morning, February 6, the 112th Infantry Regiment reached the sector north of the Sinzweya and overran the Headquarters of the British-Indian 7th Division while the 1st Battalion cut the Ngakeydauk Pass. In position to envelop the enemy in Sinzweya, Col Tabanashi disregarded the vital necessity for speed and delayed for 24 hours, giving the British-Indian time to establish a defense perimeter in the Sinzweya Basin. The British-Indian force, about 3000 men, equipped with many tanks, artillery pieces and several hundred motor vehicles, resisted desperately and was successful in repulsing the Japanese attack. Their success in withstanding the Japanese attack bolstered the morale of the British-Indian troops and had the effect of shaking the 112th Infantry Regiment.
Meanwhile, on February 4, the 2/143rd Infantry Regiment encountered the enemy near Ingyaung and was involved in a engagement southwest of the village for the following two days. Failing to make contact with Gen Sakurai, the battalion continued its advance southward, bypassing Awlanbyin. Gen Sakurai and his Headquarters was also involved in fighting off enemy counter attacks near Ingyaung on February 5 and 6, and due to the failure of his communications, was unable to keep in touch with his units. This lost of communications contact for a period of four days at the start of the operation had an adverse affect on the entire operation particularly in connection with the engagement at Sinzweya. By the night of the February 6, the 1/213th Infantry Regiment had succeeded in crossing the Mayu Range and establishing a base south or Ngangyaung from which it could harass and interfere with traffic on the Bawli Bazar and the Maungdaw Road.
(Above) Gen Joseph ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell and his staff cross a swollen stream during the rainy season in the Hukawng Valley. (Bellow) Merrill’s Marauders, Dug In : The Marauders’ defensive positions at the Myitkyina airstrip in July 1944 needed to be deep and secure to protect against the daily pounding by Japanese 157-MM Field Artillery.
The Doi Unit – Northward Movement
On February 5, the commander of the 55th Division, seeing that the initial advance of the Sakurai Unit was developing favorably, ordered the Doi Unit to take the offensive to the north with all possible strength in order to compress the enemy 7th Division. The 3/143rd Infantry Regiment was ordered to attack from Letwedet toward Hill 129, the following morning. The battalion took the the hill on February 7, and was joined a day later by the 2/143rd Infantry Regiment, which had advanced from the north. Believing that the main battle was over, the two battalions remained in that location, completely out of the operation.
The Division Reserve is Committed
On February 6, the Division commander received information from the Sakurai Unit Headquarters that i was involved in fighting near Ingyaung and lacked infantry protection. The Division commander thereupon resolved to commit his only reserve unit, the 2/144th Infantry Regiment, and ordered it to move north to reinforce Gen Sakurai and the 55th Engineer Regiment near Awlanbyin. The Battalion, however, found its route blocked by strong units of the British-Indian 7th Division, and although unable to break through to reinforce the Sakurai Headquarters, was successful in seizing and holding an enemy position northwest of Sinohbyin the night of February 7. One day later, on February 8, the Sakurai Unit Headquarters managed to extricate itself from its difficulties in the vicinity of Ingyaung and advanced to the north bank of the Ngakyedauk River. Learning at the situation developing at Sinzweya, Gen Sakurai determined to personally to direct Col Tanabashi’s operation. Ordering the 55th Engineer Regiment to cross the river and occupy Hill 147 to protect the left flank, Gen Sakurai and his Headquarters moved northwest with the intention of bypassing the enemy 89th Brigade, and approaching Sinzweya from the north.
In the Sinzweya area, the 112th Infantry Regiment made a second night attack on February 9 and was successful in breaking through the southwest corner of the enemy’s perimeter defense in the Sinzweya Basin. Although the Regiment was successful in firing an ammunition dump and doing great damage, the enemy’s employment o£ tanks forced it to draw back without further exploiting the breakthrough. On the morning of February 10, Gen Sakurai met Col Tanabashi on Hill 315, northeast of Sinzweya, and encouraged him to press the enemy more aggressively. The second failure of the 112th Infantry Regiment to achieve a signal, success appeared, however, to have so depressed morale that the Regiment was reluctant to repeat its attack. In order to save the situation, Gen Sakurai requested the 55th Division to send the 2/143 and 3/143 Battalions which were still in the vicinity of Hill 129 and out of his control. The addition of these two units gave Gen Sakurai five battalions under his immediate command but the chance to achieve a signal success had gone. In the past, the Japanese had won victories merely by surrounding the enemy but now the enemy had adopted a new tactic of establishing a strong perimeter defense which, when supported by air supply enabled them to withstand Japanese encircling tactics.
The Offensive Halted
The Sakurai Unit fought aggressively with all available strength for a period of about ten days, reaching a climax on February 14 and 15, but all efforts failed and casualties began to mount. Lack of supplies, particularly, food handicapped Japanese operations after February 15 while the enemy, receiving supplies by air, had adequate food and ammunition. As the offensive of the Sakurai Unit reached its climax on the 14, the troops of the Unit were disposed as follows :
Hill 315 Area
– Headquarters 55th Infantry Group
– Headquarters Co, 55th Infantry Group
– 2/143rd Infantry Regiment (- 4th Co and 6th Co)
Hill 1033 Area
– Headquarters 112th Infantry Regiment
West Sinzweya and Ngakyedauk Pass
– 1/112th Infantry Regiment
– 3/112th Infantry Regiment
– 4th Co, 143rd Infantry Regiment
– 1 Platoon, 5th Co, 143rd Infantry Regiment
– 3//55th Mountain Artillery Regiment
South of Sinzweya
– 2/112th Infantry Regiment
East of Sinzweya
– 3/143rd Infantry Regiment
Hill 147 Area
– 55th Engineer Regiment (-)
South of Ngangyaung
– 1/213th Infantry Regiment (- 1st and 3rd Cos)
– 6th Co, 143rd Infantry Regiment
N.B. The 2nd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment (2/144-IR) northwest of Sinohbyin was not under the control of Gen Sakurai
The Japanese forces were guilty of a great tactical error during this period, in that they assumed that the main enemy force was contained then the British-Indian 7th Division was bottled up at Sinzweya, and failed to take into consideration that the enemy 9th, 33rd and 114th Brigades were in position just north of the original Japanese main defensive line. This lack of knowledge and consideration was responsible for the Sakurai Unit putting on such a brave front and taking such aggressive action at Sinzweya. Fortunately for the Japanese forces the British were even more inept tactically and the three brigades took no action while the battle at Sinzweya was progressing. This surprising lack of initiative on the part of the British brigades permitted the Sakurai Unit to not only conduct an offensive but also to withdraw to its original positions.
Meanwhile, during the middle of February, it was learned that the British-Indian 26th Division was moving down from the north. Gen Sakurai summoned the 55th Engineer Regiment, which reached Hill 202 on February 18, and made it responsible for covering the rear. At this point the besieger found himself besieged and as enemy pressure from the north built up in the vicinity at Hills 315 and 202, the Sakurai Unit found itself threatened from all sides. However, the 55th Engineers and the Sakurai Unit Headquarters withstood repeated attacks by the enemy 26th Division.
The last attack on Sinzweya made on February 22, ended in failure. On the following night, acting on his own responsibility, Col Tanabashi withdrew his main force to Kreingyaung leaving the 8th Co of the 112th Infantry at Ngakyedauk Pass and the 2/112 on a small hill south of Sinzweya. Upon receiving a report of Tanabashi’s withdrawal, Gen Sakurai was extremely angry but subsequently realized that the move was undoubtedly inevitable, being forced by the lack of food and supplies. At the suggestion of Gen Sakurai, the Division commander determined to suspend the offensive and ordered the Sakurai Unit to withdraw to the line of the Buthidaung-Maungdaw Road. Moving units into the line to Cover the withdrawal, the movement south began on the night of February 24 and was completed by March 1. The 1/213th Infantry Regiment, which had been holding positions in the vicinity of the road between Ngangyaung and Maunghnama since February 6, left its positions on the night of the 25 and, after breaking through the enemy lines, returned safely on March 3.
(Above) A Burmese family living in a dug-out shelter share their tea with a British soldier during the Japanese Siege of Meiktila of the the Burma Campaign. Following the capture of Meiktila by the Allies, the Japanese would launch several unsuccessful counterattacks on the city in March 1945, only to be repelled by Indian troops. Meiktila, Mandalay Region, Burma (Myanmar) 10 March 1945 (Bellow) Chinese Expeditionary Force officers of the 114th Regiment, New 38th Division, New 1st Army, carry broadcasting equipment for use in spreading propaganda and psychological warfare to the Japanese in Bhamo during the Burma Campaign. The division obtained American equipment and training at Ramgarh in India. In November, the Chinese New 38th Division and the New 30th Division advanced from Myitkyina to Japanese-held Bhamo. The Japanese were able to resist for several weeks, but Bhamo fell to the Chinese on 15 December 1944. Near Bhamo, Kachin State, Burma (Myanmar). 8 December 1944.
Although the 55th Division bad failed to achieve its objective of completely destroying the British-Indian 7th Division during the first phase of the Northern Arakan Operation, the Division commander still planned to carry out the second phase, the offensive against the British-Indian 5th Division in the area west of the Mayu Range. However, in view of the failure to achieve complete success in the first phase, the commander of the 28th Army advised the Division that it would not be necessary to adhere to the original plan. Accordingly Gen Hanaya, CO of the 55th Division, abandoned his former plan in favor of establishing a strong defense. In order to gain time for regrouping, raiding operations were conducted which were calculated to baffle and confuse the enemy at the start of their anticipated offensive. On the night of March 4, the 1/112th Infantry Regiment made a surprise raid, sweeping in a wide arc from Hill 1301 the Battalion made a dawn attack on Zeganbyin, deep in the enemy territory and behind the lines of the British-Indian 5th Division. On March 5, the 1/143rd Infantry Regiment launched a similar attack, penetrating as far as Nawrondaung, also well in the British rear. The raids were successful in creating some confusion in the enemy rear and both units withdrew without suffering excessive losses.
In the meantime the 55th Division had rearranged its defenses and by March 5, the following troops dispositions had been made :
Right Defense Unit – North Buthidaung & East Kalapazin River
Commander Col Tanabashi
– Headquarters 112th Infantry Regiment
– 2/112th Infantry Regiment
– 9th Co, 112th Infantry Regiment
– 3rd Co, 213th Infantry Regiment
– Elements 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment
– 14th Anti Tank Battalion (- 2 Batteries)
Center Defense Unit – Buthidaung – Maungdaw Road
Commander Gen Sakurai
– 143rd Infantry Regiment (- main body 2/143-IR)
– 1/213th Infantry Regiment (- 1st and 3rd Cos)
– 1/122th Infantry Regiment
– 3/122th Infantry Regiment (- 9th Co)
– 2/144th Infantry Regiment
– 2nd Co, 55th Engineer Regiment
– Elements 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment
– 1 Battery 14th Anti Tank Battalion
Left Defense Unit – West Coast South of Godusara
Commander Col Yoshida
– 144th Infantry Regiment (- 2/144-IR and 7th CO)
– 3rd Co, 55th Reconnaissance Regiment
– Elements 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment
(Above) Portrait of British Army Pvt J. George of the South Wales Borderers (Howard’s Greens), 36th Infantry Division, following a week on patrol for enemy Japanese troops near Pinwe during the Burma Campaign. On his shoulder he carries a Bren gun. Near Pinwe, Saigang Division, Burma (Myanmar). 19 November 1944. (Bellow) British Army soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division carry a wounded Japanese POW along a railway track to a dressing station following the advance on Japanese positions in the town of Mawlu during the Burma Campaign. Near Mawlu, Sagaing Region, Burma (Mynamar). November 1944.
British Offensive – March 1844
Defense dispositions were barely completed when, on March 6, the enemy launched an intensive attack toward Buthidaung. They captured Hill 121 March 8, and the village of Buthidaung March 10. The enemy also became active in the area west of the Mayu Range and on or about March 13, Razabil was captured. By mid-March, enemy pressure had forced the 55th Division to relinquish key positions on the north side of the Buthidaung-Maungdaw Road. The period March 10 to March 20, was a critical time for the Division : the battle had reached a climax; losses were high and there were some positions in the Mayu Range that were being defended by a mere handful or survivors. The dogged resistance of the front line units enabled the Division to hold the majority of the main positions, but the officers and men, who had been fighting almost continuously since 1942, were completely exhausted. The British, too, were experiencing heavy losses and shortly after March 15, the 7th Division was replaced by the 26th Division. Becoming aware of this shift on March 2, the 55th Division commander determined to take advantage of the situation and on the night of March 22, ordered a general attack. Although the 1/112th Infantry Regiment drove through to Ngakyedaug, well to the British rear, and created some confusion by aggressive action from March 23 to March 27, the attack was not particularly in so far as over-all results were concerned. The enemy immediately thrust the British-Indian 36th Division into the line between the 26th and the 5th Divisions.
Upon completion or regrouping, the enemy resumed heavy attacks with fresh troops and, in April, gradually penetrated the Japanese defensive positions. In the middle of the month, the hills north of Dongyaung and southwest of Buthidaung as well as a part of Hill 551, a key point in the Mayu Range, fell to the enemy. Hill 162, west of Buthidaung, and the hill east of Sinohbyin were isolated, but still in Japanese hands. In spite of the critical situation, the 55th Division commander maintained determined resistance, confident that the worse things were in Arakan, the better being in Assam. He felt that the diversion created by the Ha-Go Operation was undoubtedly insuring the success or the U-Go (Imphal) Operation.
(Above) Indian soldiers of the Indian 20th Infantry Division search for Japanese holdouts during the Burma Campaign. After a victory at Shwedaung, the Japanese began firing on Prome on the night of 30 March 1945. Despite Allied forces inflicting significant casualties, they were forced to withdraw to Allanmyo on 2 April, resulting in a Japanese victory. The Allies would retake Prome in early May. Prome (Pyay), Bago Region, Burma (Myanmar). 3 May 1945. (Bellow) Ethnic Kachin guerrillas, newly recruited by the U.S. OSS Detachment 101, compare an American issued rifle, a British model Lee-Enfield made in the United States, with a long barreled hand-loading weapon used by the hill tribesmen in Burma. On 14 April 1942 the Coordinator of Information (forerunner of the Office of Strategic Services), activated Detachment 101 for action behind enemy lines in Burma. The first unit of its kind, the Detachment was charged with gathering intelligence, harassing the Japanese through guerrilla actions, identifying targets for the Army Air Force to bomb, and rescuing downed Allied airmen. Because Detachment 101 was never larger than a few hundred Americans, it relied heavily on support from various tribal groups in Burma. In particular, the vigorously anti-Japanese Kachin people (also called Jingpo) were vital to the unit’s success. During most of the unit’s existence, it funded and coordinated various resistance groups made up of Kachin peoples of northern Burma. One resistance force was known as the Kachin Rangers. By the time of its deactivation on July 12, 1945, Detachment 101 had scored impressive results. According to official statistics, Detachment 101 killed 5,428 Japanese and rescued 574 Allied personnel. Near Myitkyina, Kachin State, Burma (Myanmar). June 1942.
The 28th Army commander came to the conclusion that the continued stubborn resistance of the Buthidaung-Maungdaw Road by the 55th Division would result in injustifiable losses. Furthermore, he was considering the future disposition of the Division in the southern coastal area. Accordingly, on April 17, the 28th Army issued orders directing the movement of the 55th Division to the south. As it was desired that the movement be made at the discretion of Gen Hanaya, CG of the Division, the date of the move was not specified.
55th Division Offensive Renewed
Before the 55th Division’s move could be made, there was a shifting of enemy forces, apparently as a result of efforts to reinforce the Imphal front. In the middle of April the British mechanized forces plus the 5th and the 36th Divisions were successively moved from the Arakan area and the British-Indian 25th Division moved in to replace them. This change of forces and reduction of enemy strength relieved the severe pressure on the 55th Division and, instead of withdrawing to the south, Gen Hanaya determined to destroy the enemy forces in the Buthidaung area prior to the start at the monsoon season. Early in May, he concentrated five battalions with about 2500 men and five batteries with 10 artillery pieces – the maximum striking force that could be assembled at that time. At dawn, on May 5, a coordinated offensive was launched under the command of Gen Sakurai. The Kubo Unit (1/213-IR), the Furuya Unit (*) (Headquarters and 2/112-IR) and the Kurooka Unit (3/143-IR) advanced to Hill 101 from three directions. The Doi Unit (Headquarters 143rd Infantry Regiment, with 1/112-IR and 3/112-IR) advanced toward Letwedet to cut off the enemy’s route of retreat from Buthidaung. The Naka Unit (Headquarters 14th Anti Tank Battalion and two infantry compagnies) seized Hill 101 to protect the right flan k of the attacking force. The offensive was successful in cleaning the sector of Sinohbyin-Letwedet line in a day. Fighting in the Mayu Range, however, continued until mid-May with some gains being registered by the Japanese forces – although they were unable to retake the tunnel on the Buthidaung-Maungdaw Road. In late May, the monsoon season set in and fighting ceased. The enemy withdrew its main body to the area north of Ngakyedauk Pass and the 55th Division gradually pulled its front line back to the south to wait out the monsoon season. (*) Col Tanabashi had been replaced as commander of the 112th Infantry Regiment by Col Furuya in early March.
(Above) Chinese and an American soldier display captured enemy Japanese trophies, including battle flags and armament following the recapture of Tengchong from the Japanese occupiers. Between 1942 and 1944, there was a series of fierce battles between the Japanese forces invading from occupied Burma, and the combined Chinese forces of nationalists and communists aided by American fighter squadrons. The Japanese were routed from the area in September 1944. Tengchong, Baoshan, Yunnan Province, Republic of China. September 1944. (Bellow) A U.S. Army combat engineer of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), better known as “Merrill’s Marauders”, discovers the body of a Japanese soldier of the 33rd Imperial Japanese Army who committed suicide by hanging himself as Allied forces took Myitkyina during the Burma Campaign. Myitkyina, Kachin State, Burma (Myanmar). August 1944.
It was important that the Japanese continue to hold the Kaladan River Basin as it provided a rear communication line for the 55th Division. In addition, the Myohaung plain, south of Kyauktaw, was an important producing rice area which could easily provide for the needs of five divisions. Because there were few bridges, even on the motor roads, the most practicable means of travel was by water. Even in the dry season small landing barges could go as far up the Kaladan River as Daletme and larges landing barges as far as Paletwa. The Lemro River was navigable by large landing barges as far as the area east of Myohaung and during high water almost all the creeks in the flatland south of Thayettabin could accommodate large landing barges.
British Attack on the Kaladan Valley
In mid-January 1944, the 55th Division commander had ordered the 55th Reconnaissance Regiment, under Col Kawashima, to the Kaladan Valley to take over the missions of the 1/213th Infantry Regiment which was to come under the command of Gen Sakurai for the Northern Arakan Operation. The Recon Regiment (- the 3rd Company) was to check any enemy coming from the north along the Kaladan Valley and to protect the rear of the Division. The leading brigade of the West African 81st Division left Daletme on January 18 and, heading south, made contact with the 55th Recon Regiment on January 24. The Recon Regiment, badly outnumbered, conducted withdrawal operations pitting its small force in a read guard action against the two bridages of the enemy. The outcome of such an uneven struggle could not long be delayed and by mid-February the 81st Division had occupied the mouth of the Kaladan defile without too much difficulty. For some reason, Col Kawashima had failed to report his situation to the 55th Division and on February 18, Gen Hanaya was amazed when he received a report Kyauktaw, key point of the Kaladan front had been taken by the enemy. At that time, there were no Japanese troops on the east side of the Kaladan River, south of Kyauktaw except a Capt Honjo and a small Military Administration Detachment in Myohaung. Fortunately, about 1000 replacement troops for the 144th Infantry Regiment passed trough Myohaung at that time. Capt Honjon who had brought the report of the fall of Kyauktaw to Gen Hanaya, took command of the replacements on his own responsibility and held the line south of Thayettabin to protect Myohaung.
Reinforcements tor the Kaladan Front
The emergency situation in the Kaladan sector developed as the Northern Arakan Operation was at its height and the 55th Division was concentrating all possible strength in the offensive. Although Gen Hanaya was reluctant to lose even one man from the Mayu front, because of the tremendous strategic importance of the Kaladan River Basin, he decided to reinforce the 55th Reconnaissance Regiment with such strength as he could spare. On February 19, Maj Matsuo, commanding officer of the 2/143rd Infantry Regiment, was recalled from the hospital and, on February 21, arrived in Myohaung with a composite unit composed of the following : One composite company from 2/144th Infantry Regiment; A detachment from the 2/143rd Infantry Regiment consisting of patients recently discharged from the hospital and Three officers from Division Headquarters.
(Above) An Allied Chinese soldier of the Chinese Expeditionary Force poses for a photograph during the Battle of Northern Burma and Western Yunnan of the Burma Campaign against the Imperial Japanese Army. He wears a British helmet and carries an American M-28 Thompson gun. Burma (Myanmar). October 1943. (Bellow) 10 Year Old Chinese Soldiers Placed Under the Command of Frank Merrill After the Capture of Myitkyina airfield in 1944
Simultaneously Gen Sakurai was requested to send as many men as possible from the 2/143rd Infantry Battalion to Kaladan. Gen Sakurai complied by sending the Headquarters of 2/143-IR, the 4th Company, one Machine Gun Platoon and one Battalion Gun Squad. On February 26, this group joined Maj Matsuo at Myohaung giving a total strength of approximately half a battalion. Meanwhile, reports of the Kaladan situation had reached the 28th Army which immediately sent arms, via air, to Capt Honjo’s composite unit. The Army commander recognized the necessity of leaving the 55th Division free to conduct the Northern Arakan Operation and reorganized the Koba Detachment to move to the Kaladan front and operate under direct control of the 28th Army. On February 21, an order was issued assigning to the Koba Detachment the mission of driving the enemy as far to the north as possible and occupying the Kaladan Valley.
Koba Detachment Composition
Commander – Col Tomotoki Koba, CO, 111th Infantry Regiment.
– Headquarters, 111th Infantry Regiment (from Akyab)
– 3/111th Infantry Regiment (- the 9th Co) (en route to Akyab from the south)
– 2/143rd Infantry Regiment (Composite) (en route to Myohaung)
– 55th Recon Regiment (- 3rd Co) (West bank of the Kaladan River)
– 1 Plat, 3rd Heavy Field Arty (1 149-MM) (On the Mayu Front)
– Honjo Composite Unit (north of Myohaung)
In late February, an attempt was made to airborne 1st Battalion of the 29th Infantry Regiment (2nd Division), from Magwe to Akyab. Enemy air superiority however, prevented this move to provide additional reinforcements to the Kaladan Front. Col Koba proceeded to Myohaung on February 22, and began assembling his force. The two battalions from the 111th and 143rd Regiments arrived in Myohaung by February 28.
Counter attacks by the Koba Detachment
On February 25, the West African 81st Division had completed occupied Kyauktaw and on the 29 started an advance toward Apaukwa along the west bank of the Kaladan River. The 55th Recon Regiment was pushed back to the Apaukwa-Kanzauk area and the 81st Division threatened to isolate the entire 55th Japanese Division from southern Burma. Col Koba’s plan of attack called for the use or the 55th Recon Regiment on the west bank and the Honjo Unit on the east bank of the Kaladan River. While these two forces checked the enemy advance, the 3/111 and the 2/143 would move north, along the western foot of the mountains north of Teinnyo, to make a flanking attack on the enemy on the east bank. Having completed that task the battalions would move across the Kaladan River in the rear of the main force of the 81st Division. On March 1, the 3/11-IR drove through to Lammadaw from Kagyo and captured Hill 263, while the 2/143-IR seized the vicinity of Thayettabin. By March 5, the enemy force on the left bank had been routed. A Day later, the enemy had captured Apaukwa but shaken bu the success of the Koba Detachment’s flanking movement, began to withdraw to the north.
(Above) A Chinese soldier stands sentry atop a destroyed tank at the airport in Kunming during the Allied Burma Campaign. Kunming, Yunnan, Republic of china 11 october 1944 (Bellow) Japaneses didn’t take black or native prisoners … They just killed them on the spot.
Determined to cut off the retreat of the West African 81st Division, Col Koba ordered the 3/111-IR rush to Bidonegyaungwa and the 2/143-IR to Kaladan. The two units arrived at their respective destinations about March 10, while the main force of the enemy was still south of Sabaseik. The 3/111-IR turned south to attack the enemy rear and, by the following day, having moved to the area just north of Htabaw, Maj Kobayashi, the commanding officer, gathered his officers on a hill to issue the orders for the future actions. The group was taken under fire by the enemy and sustained heavy casualties, including Maj Kobayashi who was killed. When Col Koba, at Kaladan, received word of this serious blow to the Battalion he was in somewhat or a quandary regarding his next movements. At that time he had no knowledge of the fact that the enemy line of communications passed through Sabatseik, because the only map available to him was a small-scale map (1:500,000) it was difficult to accurately plan operations. Based on the information available to him he decided that it would be necessary to reinforce the 55th Recon Regiment which was still checked as far as Laungbangya. Ordering the 2/143-IR to hold Kaladan, he moved the balance of his force, including the 2/111-IR, down the Kaladan River by boat to Kinthe. There, he was reinforced on March 15 by the 9th Company and a Regimental Gun Company (two guns) of the 111-IR.
Domination of the Kaladan Valley
The enemy offered stubborn resistance in the vicinity of Sabatseik while the Recon Regiment continued its extremely slow progress. At that time, however, Col Sugimoto arrived to take over command of the Regiment from Col Kawashima and under the aggressive leadership of the new commander, the 55th Recon Regiment took on new life. On March 19, the Koba Detachment made a successful attack on Sabaseik and again the enemy began a northern withdrawal. The Detachment pursued to Kaladan with the Recon Regiment moving on land and the balance or the Detachment traveling by boat. In the meantime, the 2/143-IR had been forced to relinquish Kaladan. By the end of March, the Koba Detachment was concentrated astride the Kaladan River just south of Kaladan which it succeeded in recapturing in early April. From this point on, the enemy made no further offensive threats apparently contented with fighting a step-by-step delaying action, making good use of advantageous terrain features. On April 21, Paletwa fell to the hands of the pursuing Japanese and on May 2, Daletme was captured by the Koba Detachment.
(Above) Supply road to China : Burma. If one Jeep bogs down in the mud on the new Ledo Road the whole caravan of blitz buggies is temporarily halted. Negro soldiers attached to an Engineer unit building the supply road to China try to extricate one Jeep from the muddy part of a new portion of the road that has just been cleared of the Jungle growth. (Bellow) British infantry section on patrol in Burma, 1944.
Regrouping of Forces
In the meantime, in consideration of the favorable progress of the Kaladan Operation and the importance of protecting Akyab, 28th Army formulated a plan for a regrouping of forces. As a part of that plan, the 1/29-IR, which had been at Akyab since March 9, was ordered to Kaladan on April 19. Later, after the Battalion had advanced up the Pi River to Satwei and crossed the Burma-India border on April 24, the 28th Army issued an order reorganizing the Kaladan front. Col Koba and his original units (principally the Headquarters and 3/111-IR) were to return to Akyab, while the 55th Recon Regiment, the 2/143-IR, and the 1/29-ID were to take over responsibility for the Kaladan front under the command of Col Sugimoto. Because the Kaladan Operation started under very adverse conditions and the Japanese forces engaged were hurriedly assembled in the face of an emergency, it was felt that the Koba Detachment had achieved an outstanding success. Particularly ingenious had been the employment by Col Koba of his one piece or artillery, a 149-MM howitzer. Moving the gun from one area to another on a large landing barge, he had successfully employed it to exploit the weak points of the comparatively lightly equipped enemy. In recognition of its performance in the Kaladan Operation, the Army commander presented a citation to the Koba Detachment.
Troop Disposition – May 1944
About the middle of May the 2/143-IR occupied Kaletwa, the 55th Recon Regiment secured the Burma-India border near Labawa and the 1/29-IR made a raid on Banzai Bazar, about ten miles northeast of Bawli Bazar. The West African 81st Division was driven completely out of the sector and the Kaladan Operation was concluded. Toward the end of May, the monsoon season began, the Sugimoto Unit reverted to 55th Division control and troop dispositions were made to wait out the rainy season.
Line of Communications
The main wire and radio communications networks available to the 28th Army were as shown on the Map bellow. The establishment of communications networks was greatly expedited by using the existing line that paralleled the main operational roads. The cables that ran underwater along the Irrawaddy River bed from Prome to Henzada bad, however, deteriorated badly and were of little use. Line maintenance centers were located at Letpadan, Prome, and Kywegu and there was a line between Rangoon and Henzada which bad been installed by the Burma National Telecommunications Bureau.
Logistic emphasis for the Ha-Go Operation was placed on the supplying of fuel and munitions to the 55th Division. In order to meet the requirements or the intensive operation, the Army moved supply to terminals as tar toward the front as practicable and made every effort to maintain transportation capacity. The principal concentrations of Ammy supply depots were near Prome and Shwedaung. Depots for the 55th Division were located at Kethala, depots for the 54th Division were located at Taungup, while those for the 2nd Division were at Bassein. Although it was possible for the units on the northern front as well as those on Ramree and the Cheduba Islands to procure local provisions, few local sources existed in the area south or the Kaladan River Basin and west of the Arakan Range.
Transportation posed a particularly difficult problem. There was only one motor road crossing the Arakan Range and, north of Taungup, the poor coastal roads combined with increasing enemy air activity made movement or supplies by motor vehicle almost impossible. Enemy air activity was also responsible for making water transport so hazardous and difficult that it was almost entirely limited to night movement. Transportation during the Ha-Go Operation was provided as shown below :
Area Served and Units
Between Padaung and Taungup
– 55th Independent Motor Transport Battalion
– 2nd Company, 2nd Transport Regiment
– 3rd Company, 2nd Transport regiment
Between Taungup and Kethala
– 11th Shipping Group Battalion
– 11th Shipping Engineer Regiment
– 3rd Sea Transport Battalion
– 51st Independent Transport Battalion
– 236th Independent Motor Transport Company
– 1st Company, 2nd Transport Regiment
– 2nd Company, 54th Transport Regiment
– 2nd Company, 55th Transport Regiment
Between Taungup and Akyab
– 38th Water Transport Service Company
Local Transport at Prome (*)
– 3rd Company, 54th Transport Regiment
– Composite Motor Transport Company
(*) Transportation between Rangoon and Prome was conducted chiefly by rail.
The medical situation was generally favorable. the percentage of Malaria cases, by division, was as follows : 2nd Division, 5 to 8%; 54th Division, 2 to 3%; 55th Division, 20% and forces directly assigned to the 28th Army, 7 to 15%. There was little incidence of contagious disease.
(Above) Soldiers of 4th Corps rest with their mules after crossing the Chindwin River near Sittaung before pushing east to link up with the 36th Division, 17 November 1944. (Bellow) Soldiers of the 11th East African Division crossing the River Chindwin by ferry before moving towards the village of Shwegyin, Burma, December 1944.
The Kan Operation – Number 1
By the beginning of the 1944 monsoon season it became clear that the Imphal Operation had failed and, on July 5, the Burma Area Army issued orders for suspension of the operation. The actions in the Salween River and the Hukawng Valley sectors were also going badly for the Japanese. With the exception of the northern Arakan front where the 28th Army was still accomplishing its mission, the situation in the entire Burma theater had become critical. Furthermore, intelligence estimates indicated that enemy forces, including a powerful airborne unit, were prepared to launch large scale attacks after the end of the monsoon season.
New 28th Army Mission
On July 12, the Burma Area Army, in an attempt to cope with the current situation, issued an order assigning the 28th Army a new mission :
– The 28th Army will prepare for further defensive operations with particular importance being attached to the Irrawaddy Delta and the strategic coastal areas south or Tamandu. The Ramree and the Cheduba Islands will be held as long as possible. The 2nd Division and the bulk of the motor transport units attached to the 28th Army will be transferred to the 33rd Army immediately.
At the time or the issuing of the order, the 28th Army, having been advised of its contents in advance, was conducting a conference of staff officers and division commanders at Paungde to consider operational plans for the period following the 1944 monsoon season. On July 13, Gen Kawabe, commander of the Burma Area Army attended the conference. Although the basic plan, as outlined at the commanders’ conference, was not completed in detail until October, the following general concept was established at the July meeting :
– In view of the fact that the extensive defense area of the 28th Army (400 miles long and 150 miles wide) is to large to be completely covered by only two divisions, strategic areas will be defended as follows :
– (A) – Holding Areas : The entire area west of the Kaladan River Basin, including Akyab and the coastal islands and the southern tip of the Irrawaddy Delta will be designated as Holding Areas. Action in these sectors will be primarily defensive, with every available means being employed to check enemy advances.
– (B) – Counter attack Areas : The coastal strip from Myebon south to Pagoda Point and the Arakan Mountain zone will be considered as Counterattack Areas. Forces assigned to these sectors will conduct a semi-mobile defense and will endeavor to destroy enemy land and amphibious attacks by independent and aggressive action.
– (C) – Decisive Battle Areas : The Irrawaddy River Basin , except the southern delta region, will be the final defensive line. Defensive positions in depth, will be prepared in this area and in the final decisive battle the enemy be met and halted by the entire available strength of the 28th Army.
N. B. The 33rd Army had been organized with the 18th and the 56th Divisions, in April 1944, to conduct operations on the Hukawng and Salween River. Later reinforced by the 53rd Division, the 33rd Army was commanded by Gen Masaki Honda. The Headquarters of the 28th Army had been moved from Maudaing to Paungde during May.
(Above) Gurkhas hold onto their mules as they swim across the Irrawaddy River in Burma during the advance towards Mandalay, January 1945. (Bellow) Trucks cross Bailey Bridge spanning a gap on the Burma Road during the first supply convoy to use the India to China supply route, aka the Ledo Road, Burma February 1945.
Task Force Organization and Missions
To defend the 28th Army zone of responsibility and to carry out the missions outlined in the new defense concept, three task forces were formed from the 54th and 55th Divisions :
– 55th Infantry Group Headquarters
– 2/112th Infantry Regiment
– 1/143rd Infantry Regiment
– 3/144th Infantry Regiment
– 2/55th Mountain Artillery Regiment
– 55th Reconnaissance Regiment (- 3rd Co)
– 4th Co, 143rd Infantry Regiment (attached)
– 3rd Co, 4th Shipping Engineer Regiment
– One Co, 55th Engineer Regiment
– One Co, 55th Transportation Regiment
– 1. To take over the defense sector formerly assigned to the 55th Division and screen the withdrawal of the Division.
– 2. To delay the advance of the enemy in the area northwest of the Akyab-Myohaung line as long as possible.
54th Division – Commander Gen Katamura
– Headquarters 54th Division
– 54th Infantry Group Headquarters
– 111th Infantry Regiment
– 121st Infantry Regiment
– 154th Infantry Regiment (- 2/154)
– 54th Field Artillery Regiment (- 1st Battery)
– 54th Reconnaissance Regiment
– 54th Engineer Regiment
– 54th Transportation Regiment
– 14th Anti Tank Battalion (- 1st Battery)
– 2nd Battery, 3rd Heavy Field Artillery Regiment
– One Battery, 35th Anti Aircraft Battalion
– 1st Co, 11th Shipping Engineer Regiment
– 26th Ponton Company
– 38th Water Transportation Service Company
1. To check and crush the enemy in the zone between the Myebon Mountain, Yoma (Hill 4793) line to the Dalet River.
2. In coordination with the Sakurai Detachment, a strong element will be engaged in conducting delaying actions in the area south of the Akyab-Myohaung line and will cover the withdrawal of the Detachment.
3. To hold the Ramree and Cheduba Islands as long as possible.
55th Division – Commander, Gen Hanaya
– Headquarters 55th Division
– 112th Infantry Regiment (- 2/112)
– 143rd Infantry Regiment (- 1/143 & 4th Co)
– 144th Infantry Regiment (- 3/144)
– 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment (- 3/55)
– 3rd Co, 55th Reconnaissance Regiment
– 55th Engineer Regiment (- one Co)
– 55th Transportation Regiment (- one Co)
– 1st Battery, 14th Anti Tank Battalion
– 10th River Crossing Material Company
– One Platoon, 11th Shipping Engineer Regiment
– One Co, 51st Transportation Battalion
1. Withdraw to the Bassein area to replace the 2nd Division as soon as possible.
2. Defend the Irrawaddy Delta and the strategic area around Bassein.
(Above 1) Japanese troops on the attack between Homalin and Thaungdut in their efforts to cut the Imphal to Kohima road. (Above 2) Japanese army soldiers with captured guns. (Bellow 1) Three of the few Japanese Tanks in Burma, 8 year-old 14-tonners, come over a plank bridge and pas a British wrecked Ambulance. (Bellow 2) Japanese troops on elephant in Burma.
Other instructions of a general nature included the organizing and equipping of all rear area troops to combat airborne attacks and to complete the work started in April 1944 to reconstruct the Minbu-An Road as a dry season motor road. The boundary between the operational zones of the 54th and 55th Divisions was established as the Prome-Taungup Road, with the road itself being in the 54th Division zone. Fortifications, in three echelons were to be constructed in the Arakan Range on the Prome-Taungup and Mimbu-An Roads.
On July 17, the 2nd Division began its movement northeast to the Shan Plateau while the first echelon of the min body of the 55th Division started its southward movement. The Sakura Detachment remained in the northwest to protect the rear or the 55th Division and screen its southward move. For the most part, men and draft animals moved by foot, water transport being utilized for the transportation of approximately 2000 tons of ammunition. The re-disposition of the 55th Division in the Bassein area as accomplished by the end or September and, by the end of October, the bulk of equipment and ammunition had also been moved. In order to deceive the enemy, measures were taken to make it appear that the Division had arrived at Bassein from Malaya to take part in a new operation which was referred to as the Chittagong Operation.
Burma Area Army Command Changes
In September there was a tremendous shake-up in the Headquarters of the Burma Area Army and its subordinate units, which resulted on many of the higher commanders being replaced. Lt Gen Hyotaro KimuraLt was newly designated as commander of the Area Army with Lt Gen Shinichi Tanaka, formerly commander of the 18th Division, as chief of staff; Lt Gen Shihachi Katamura was shifted from command of the 54th Division to the command of the 15th Army and Lt Gen Shigesaburo Miyazaki, who had commanded the 31st Infantry Group and the Miyazaki Detachment, was appointed commanding general of the 54th Division.
Imperial General Headquarters Directive
On September 19, Imperial General Headquarters issued Army Directive N° 2167, addressed to the Southern Army :
The chief aim in the Burma area will be to bolster the north wing the southern sphere by ensuring the stability or the strategic areas in southern Burma. At the same time, every effort will be made to sever communications between China and India.
After careful consideration and in accordance with the Imperial General Headquarters Directive, the Southern Army issued new instructions to the entire Burma Area Army :
– The Area Army will hold that part of Burma south of the Lashio-Mandalay line and east of the Irrawaddy River.
Operational Instructions by the Burma Area Army
In accordance With the Southerd Army order, the Burma Area Army prepared operational instructions for the 1944-1945 dry season and directed all subordinate armies to have their plans prepared by late October. Burma Area Army instructions are outlined :
– 1. The operation along the China-India route, the operation in the central basin of the Irrawaddy River and the operation on the coastal areas of Burma will be referred to as the Dan, Ban and Kan Operations, respectively.
– 2. Preparations will be made on the basic assumption that the decisive battle win be expected along the Irrawaddy River between Mandalay and Pakokku or in the Irrawaddy Delta area. Meanwhile every effort will be made to cut off communications between India and China for as long a time as possible.
– 3. The 33rd Army will be in charge of the Dan Operation and will conduct a strong defense on the line of Lashio, Bawdwin and Monglong.
– 4. The 15th Army will be assigned the Ban Operation with a decisive battle to be expected in late January. Its defense zone will, in general, extend from Mandalay along the Irrawaddy River to Yenangyaung. During the decisive battle on the Irrawaddy River, the 28th and 33rd Armies will cooperate with the 15th Army, and lend as much strength as possible, while conducting holding operations in their own zones.
– 5. The 28th Army will be responsible for the Kan Operation. The Army will make every effort to check enemy amphibious attacks from the Bay of Bengal, and subsequently will hold on a line from Yenangyaung, along the Arakan Mountain Range to Bassein and Rangoon. During the period of the Kan Operation decisive battle, the 15th and 33rd Army will conduct holding operations on their fronts.
– 6. The Area Army reserve will be employed in reinforcing whichever army is involved in a decisive battle in the Ban or Kan fronts.
– 7. Counter measures against enemy airborne attacks will be made in order to destroy such attacks at their inception. For this purpose a systematic intelligence and communications network will be established as soon as possible.
Planning for the Kan Operation
This order of the Burma Area Army confirmed the mission of the 28th Army and added some new tasks. The Rangoon and Minbu areas were transferred to its operational zone while the Rangoon Defense Unit, composed of the Rangoon Antiaircraft Unit and elements of some logistic units, as well as the Katsu Force were placed under the 28th Army command. The Katsu Force was composed of units from the 49th Division :
– 153rd Infantry Regiment (- 1/153)
– 3/49th Field Artillery Regiment (-9th Battery)
– 2nd Co, 49th Engineer Regiment
– One Medical Company
By early October the 28th Army plan for the prosecution of the Kan Operation was in readiness, based on the original plan prepared in July. The commander of the 28th Army held a conference of his subordinate unit commanders to brief them on the new plan and their missions. In late October, a general conference was held in Rangoon under the auspices of the Area Army. The operational plan of each of the subordinate armies was thoroughly discussed in order to insure coordination of the over-all Burma operation. As a result of these deliberations, the Yenangyaung area was added to the operational zone of the 28th Army, which would be reinforced by the 72nd Mixed Brigade, soon to be activated.
28th Army Final Kan Operation Plan
The original plan of the 28th Amy for operations in late 1944 had required no radical changes to bring it into agreement with the Burma Area Army’s plan for the implementation of the Kan Operation. Since the basic concept of the 28th Army’s plan was never changed, the subordinate units were able to make consistent preparations throughout the 1944 monsoon season.
The 28th Army amplified its original operational plan by issuing detailed instructions on policy and control as a guide to its subordinate units :
– 1. Major engagements are anticipated in the Irrawaddy Delta area, the Yenangyaung area and in the environs of Rangoon.
– 2. As explained in the original plan, the Army defense area is divided into Holding Areas, Counter Attack Areas and Decisive Battle Areas.
– 3. To supplement lack of strength and equipment, fortifications will be constructed throughout each operational area, munitions will be stockpiled at locations where engagements are probable, and communications facilities, to expedite mobility, will be prepared and maintained. Anti-British natives will be encouraged to strengthen civil defenses and, in the conduct of combat operations, long range raiding tactics will be employed.
– 4. Reinforcement of the 28th Army by the 2nd and 49th Divisions is expected when a decisive battle is joined.
In addition to designating the type of defense to be employed in each area, the Amy established within the frame work of the Kan Operation three sub-operations and advised its subordinate units of the action which the 28th Army would take as each of the sub-operations was activated :
Kan Operation – N° 1
The Kan Operation N° 1 will be activated in the event a decisive operation on the southwestern coast developes. It will be conducted as follows : 1. The 55th Division will check the enemy along the main defensive line from east of Gwa to the area northeast of Bassein while the Army prepares for a counter defensive. 2. The Army will concentrate the following forces within 20 days after the operation begins : (a). Six infantry and two artillery battalions of the 54th Division to be assembled at Henzada. Foot and motor movement to be employed. (b). The 2nd and 49th Divisions and, if required, one other division will be dispatched to the Henzada and Danubyu sectors by the Area Army. Movement to be by motor or rail. Certain specific elements of the 49th Division will assemble near Maubin. Movement to be by water. (c). The Katsu Force from the Yenangyaung area will move to the Henzada sector by motor transport. 3. During this phase of the operation, holding actions will be conducted on the Yenangyaung front by the 72nd Mixed Brigade and on the Arakan front by one artillery and three infantry battalions of the 54th Division.
Kan Operation – N° 2
The Kan Operation N° 2 will be activated in the event a decisive operation in the Yenangyaung area developes. It will be conducted as folloW’s : 1. The 72nd Mixed Brigade, with the Katsu Force, will conduct delaying actions in the sector between the Tilin-Pakokku Road and the Irrawaddy River and will check and crush the enemy on the main defense line between Seikpyu and Mount Popa. 2. It is expected that two infantry and one artillery battalions of the 54th Division and two infantry battalions of the 55th Division will be utilized to reinforce the units engaged in this operation. 3. If the situation permits, the main force of the 54th Division will be transferred to this front. 4. The Army will make, every effort to force the enemy to conduct a decisive battle on the right bank of the Irrawaddy River where the battle can be coordinated with the 15th Army.
Kan Operation N° 3
The Kan Operation N° 3 will be activated for the defense of Rangoon and will be conducted as follows : 1. The Rangoon Defense Unit will secure the outskirts of Rangoon. 2. The Army will assemble the following forces within 20 days of the start of the operation : (a). The main body of the 54th Division (six infantry and two artillery battalions), two infantry battalions of the 55th Division and the Katsu Force will be concentrated in the Hmawbi-Taikkyi-Maubin sector. Foot, motor and water transportation to be used. (b). The 2nd and 49th Divisions will be dispatched to the Hlegu-Pegu area by the Area Amy. 3. During the decisive battle, holding actions will be conducted in the Yenangyaung area by the 72nd Mixed Brigade, on the Arakan front by the balance of the 54th Division and on the southwest coastal strip by the main body of the 55th Division.
Loss of Air Support
Some changes in planning regarding the amount of support to be expected from the air arm were required in December, as half the strength of the 5th Air Division was transferred to the Philippines. This move left only about 40 planes available to support ground operations in all of Burma and limited, air support to strategic air reconnaissance.
Operations of the Sakura Detachment
Meanwhile, as the 55th Division began its movement south, in the latter part of July, the Sakura Detachment remained in position as a holding and screening unit. Initially the Detachment covered a broad front from Donbaik north to Alethangyaw, along the coast, and then east to Kaladan. The 3/144-IR was deployed in the coastal sector; the 1/143-IR in the Mayu Range; the 2/112-IR in astride the Kalapanzin River; the So Partizan Team (about 100 men under Capt Kanetoshi) in the Mowdok Mountain Range and the 55th Reconnaissance Regiment in the Kaladan Valley.
Early in September there were an increasing number of indications that the enemy was preparing for an attack which was intended to outflank the troops in the area west of the Mayu Range. On September 11, in an effort to forestall the enemy attack, Gen Sakurai launched an attack with units from the Sakura Detachment. The 1/143-IR and the 3/144-IR, supported by six mountain guns made an effective surprise raid on an enemy group of approximately brigade size at Godusara. later, on October 6, the Detachment also carried out a surprise attack on Goppe Bazar, when the 2/112-IR and the 3/144-IR were successful in confusing and delaying the enemy’s attack preparations.
British Offensive – November 1944
In mid-October, a powerful element of the West African 81st Division had moved into the Kaladan front from the direction of Ngahan. Gen Sakurai rushed to Paletwa to conduct operations but by the end of October, the 55th Reconnaissance Regiment had been gradually pressed back to Paletwa and the area to the west. The regiment withstood repeated attacks until early November when it was ordered to withdraw to the Kaladan-Bidonegyaungwa line where it was reinforced by two companies from the Mayu front. In mid-November the British launched a general offensive with the West African 82nd Division driving along the Kalapanzin River and the British-Indian 25th Division striking west of the Mayu Range. Vastly outnumbered, the Sakura Detachment defended the Buthidaung area up to early December with some 1500 men opposing two full divisions.
Reinforcement of the Kaladan Area
In consideration of the increasing enemy pressure both in the Kaladan and Mayu areas, the 28th Army ordered the Matsu Detachment to assume responsibility for the kaladan front. The Detachment composed of the Headquarters, 54th Infantry Group, the 111th Infantry Regiment (- 2/111-IR), the 3/154-ID and the 2/54th Field Artillery Regiment (Gen Koba). The 55th Recon Regiment was temporary attached. In late November, Kaladan was evacuated by the 55th Recon Regiment while the Matsu Detachment made a counter attack to check the enemy at Tinma, the southern end of the Kaladan defile. In mid-December, however, another enemy force attempted an advance through the mountains to the east. The Matsu Detachment was forced to turn east to meet this new threat while the 55th recon Regiment fought a delaying action north of Kyauktaw.
Withdrawal or the Sakura Detachment
While the Matsu Detachment fought in the Kaladan area, the badly outnumbered Sakura Detachment had been resisting doggedly, forcing the enemy to battle for every inch of advance. On December 10, the Detachment relinquished the Hill 162-Buthidaung area and took up positions on the south bank of the Saingdin River, but continued to hold the line west of Hparabyin, to the west. In late December, Gen T. Sakurai suggested to Gen S. Sakurai that the Detachment was reaching the limit of endurance. Considering that the mission of the Sakura Detachment had virtually been accomplished, the Army commander ordered its withdrawal to Prome. The withdrawal from the area which the Japanese had held for two and a half years was begun on December 26. On New Year’s Eve, Gen T. Sakurai and his men crossed the Kaladan River and, by January 4, were concentrated south of Myohaung being covered by the Matsu Detachment. The Sakura Detachment then moved to Prome where it was awarded a citation by the 28th Army commander for having successfully checked two enemy divisions from August through December.
Final Preparations for the Kan Operation
While the Sakura and Matsu Detachments checked the enemy in the north, other 28th Army units were able to make preparations for the final decisive battles to determine the fate of south western Burma.
The 28th Army Headquarters planned the fortifications to be used in the expected main battles as well as those over which the Army felt it expedient to exercise control. All other fortifications in the designated defense areas were the responsibility of the subordinate units. In general, defense positions were to be of the field type, with key installations to have medium cover capable of withstanding 200 kg bombs or a concentrated attack by 150-MM guns. Construction work would be accomplished by the troops with the aid of local labor. The Army encountered great difficulty in performing the necessary construction work due to the monsoon season and because enemy air interference in many areas meant that work on positions could only be done at night. In spite of difficulties, however, the work progressed and, during late 1944 and early 1945, the following fortifications were completed by the 28th Army :
1. In the Arakan Mountain Range, along the Prome-Taungup Road. (During the time the Arakan Range fortifications were being planned, some 28th Army staff officers criticized the plan; since the positions lay behind the 54th Division, they felt that the construction would have an adverse affect on 54th Division morale. The Amy commander, however, recognized the possibility that the 15th Army might fail to bring the Ban Operation to a successful conclusion and the consequent necessity of the 54th Division being required to withdraw across the Arakan Range). 2. In the Arakan Mountain Range, along the Minbu-Tamandu Road. 3. In the area around Yenangyaung, including Chauk and Seikpyu. 4. In the vicinity of Allanmyo (considered as a strong point for defense against enemy airborne units). 5. In the environs of Mount Popa. 6. In the vicinity of Prome (for protection of line of communications installations). 7. In the environs of Rangoon (for defense against amphibious attack). 8. Along the southwestern coastal area (for defense against amphibious attack).
Because of the necessity for closely coordinated operations, special emphasis was placed on the establishment and maintenance of communications. It was, however, extremely difficult to complete communications nets in such a vast and undeveloped territory. In addition, material was in short supply and although the 28th Army had an element of the Area Army Signal Unit attached, it had no organic signal units and was required to rely almost entirely on existing lines for wire communications.
A large-scale program of road construction and improvement was undertaken to meet the requirements of the Army. Particular emphasis was laid on the Rangoon-Prome-Yenangraung Road, the Prome-Taungup Road, the Henzada-Bassein Road and the Minbu-Tamandu Road as the main arteries for the movement of the 28th Army. The Minbu-Tamandu Road had been started by the 20th Field Road Construction Unit in June 1944 and was completed in January 1945. Other newlly constructed roads included the Paungde-Toungoo Road, begun by the 67th Independent Engineer Battalion in September 1944 and roughly completed in March 1945 and the Okshitpin-Henzada Road which had been started in October 1944 using native labor and was roughly completed in January 1945. At important crossing points of the Irrawaddy and other large rivers in the region, ferrying facilities were prepared and engineer river crossing units were assigned to the points.
Because of the disruption of supply lines from Japan, weapons and ammunition were in short supply and the Army was hard put to equip its subordinate units from the supplies on hand. The need for antitank mines was particularly acute and 28th Army made frequent requests of higher headquarters for supplies of these defense weapons. Failing to receive any supplies of munitions from higher Headquarters, the 28th Army was forced to prepare antitank mines and other needed explosives by removing the charges from aerial bombs. As a last resort, the Army urgently requested an air shipment of detonating fuzes but they were not forth coming either and the supply of antitank mines assembled by the Army was completely inadequate.
Because of the greatly superior enemy strength and equipment as well as the nature of the operational areas, it was foreseen that many aspects of the coming combat would differ radically from normal procedures. Since existing training manuals did not provide the training information necessary to prepare 28th Army units for future operations, the Army prepared the following special manuals to fit the particular needs of the situation :
– Manual for Antitank Action
– Manual for Raiding Action
– Manual for Combat Against Airborne Units
– Manual for Coastal Defense
– Manual for Attack on Defense Perimeters
– Manual for Air Defense
Although there was undoubtedly some dogmatic theory included in the new training manuals, on the whole they were practical and geared to current conditions. The Army conducted many map and terrain exercises for the officers of its subordinate units in efforts to effect thoroughly realistic training. The fact that the Army forces were so widely dispersed, however, militated against providing sufficient training and the results of the training program fell short of expectations.
Start of the Kan Operation
The operation plan of the 54th Division called for holding as long as possible north and west of the Myebon Mount Yoma line as well as on the principal coastal islands. It would secure the Myebon Mount Yoma-Dalet River triangle with its main force and the Taungup sector with a strong element Any enemy force which might land south of Myebon would be attacked by the nearest available units. The areas around An and Taungup would be secured under all circumstances and enemy advances toward the Arakan Mountain Range would be checked. To defend the key points in the 54th Divisioan’s zone of resposability, a series of defense units were formed :
Matsu Detachment (Commander, Gen Koba)
– Headquarters, 54th Infantry Group
– 111th Infantry Regiment (- 2/111)
– 3/154th Infantry Regiment
– 2/54th Field Artillery regiment (- 4th Battery)
– One Company, 54th Engineer Regiment
Myebon Sector Unit (Commander, Lt Col Nakamura)
– 54th Reconnaissance Regiment (- 1st, 3rd, 4th Cos)
– 1st Company, 154th Infantry Regiment
– One Platoon, 54th Field Artillery Regiment
Kangaw Sector Unit (Commander, Col Murayama)
– 154th Infantry Regiment (- 3/154)
– 1/54th Field Artillery Regiment
– 2nd Battery, 3rd Heavy Artillery Regiment
Tamandu Sector Unit (Commander, Lt Col Nakao)
– 14th Anti Tank Battalion (- 2nd and 3rd Batteries)
– 9th Company, 111th Infantry Regiment
– 9th Company, 121st Infantry Regiment
Kywegu Sector Unit (Commander, Col Tanaka)
– 2/111th Infantry Regiment (- one Company)
– 4th Battery, 54th Field Artillery Regiment
– Headquarters, 54th Division Medical Unit
Taungup Sector Unit (Commander, Col Nagasawa)
– 121st Infantry Regiment (- 9th Company)
– 4th Company, 54th Reconnaissance Regiment
– 3/54th Field Artillery Regiment
– 3rd Company, 54th Engineer Regiment
– 3rd Battery, 14th Anti Tank Battalion
Units Under Direct Division Command
– Headquarters, 54th Field Artillery Regiment
– 54th Engineer Regiment (- Elements)
– 1st and 3rd Companies, 54th Reconnaissance Regiment
– 54th Transportation Regiment
The Matsu Detachment, in cooperation with the Sakura Detachment would hold the enemy in the Kaladan River Basin with its main force and, with an element, secure the Akyab sector. After covering the anticipated withdrawal of the Sakura Detachment, it would withdraw to and hold in the vicinity of Myohaung. Efforts would be made to limit the intensity of the fighting in the Myohaung area. In holding the coastal islands, emphasis would be placed on the Ramree Island, with only guard units being deployed on the other islands. River mouths that offered landing opportunities to enemy amphibious forces would be blocked with engineer placed obstacles. The Myebon, Kangaw and Tamandu Sector Units would make preparations for the northern front defense operation, including the organization of the defenses in the Myebon Mount Yoma-Dalet River triangle. The main position would be around Kangaw with another strong point around Myebon. Other defense positions would be built throughout the entire area. The enemy attack in this area would be checked at the main defensive zone and the attacking forces destroyed in a counterattack by the main striking force of the Division which would be formed from the Matsu Detachment and units drawn from other Sector Units. A minimum strength for the counter attack was estimated at five infantry and two artillery battalions.
The Taungup Sector Unit would check the enemy advance from prepared positions south of the Tanlwe River and north of the Thade River. The Ramree Island would be secured as long as possible without resorting to a decisive battle. The Kywegu Sector Unit, in the event of a large-scale enemy landing, would hold strong points along the coast until such time as the Division could launch a counter attack with its main force. In the event that it should be necessary to transfert the main body of the Division east of the Arakan Mountain Range, a unit with two infantry battalions as a nucleus would remain in the Taungup sector. Another unit comprised principally of one infantry battalion would remain in the An sector to check the enemy delay movement against the Arakan Range defenses.
Abandonment of the Akyab-Myohaung Area
Immediately after the conclusion of the 1944 monsoon season, the British XV Corps launched an offensive along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The Sakura Detachment, which bad been expected to check the enemy in the area west of the Kaladan River well into January, was forced to withdraw on December 26 and the 54th Division found itself defending the west coast area of Burma somewhat sooner than expected. The Sakura Detachment which was to concentrate in the environs of Prome, conducted an orderly withdrawal which was completed by the end of January. Prior to its move south, the Detachment transferred the bulk of its ammunition to the 54th Division and the Division planned to utilize the Sakura Detachment as convoy force to transport rice from the Myohaung Plain for stockpiling in the rear. However, the early withdrawal of the Detachment and the fact that only native boats of limited capacity were available, made it impossible to complete the stockpiling operation.
The 1/111-IR had been defending Akyab. On December 31, as the rear guard of the Sakura Detachment crossed the Kaladan River and moved eastward the Battalion was ordered to withdraw after light fighting against British forces attacking from the north. A landing at Akyab was made by the enemy on January 3, after the defending battalion had withdrawn to Ponnagyun. The main body of the Matsu Detachment was fighting against the West African 81st Division in the sector north of Myohaung, covering the right flank of the Sakura Detachment. The commander of the Matsu Detachment shifted the 3/111-IR east from Tinma to cover the left flank of a composite battalion 111-IR which was operating on the west bank of the Lemro River. As the enemy advanced south, the Matsu Detachment shortened its front and made efforts to hold the Myohaung area, aided by the 1/111-IR, which had been withdrawn from Ponnagyun between January 6-12. The rear of the Detachment was effectively protected by a composite company commander by Capt Yokota, which held Minbya for about 20 days against vastly superior enemy force which moved up from Akyab. (Later, during the fighting in the Kangaw sector, Capt Yokota commanded the 1st Recon Co securing the rear line of communications of the 54th Division against penetration by the enemy 81st Division in the vicinity of Kaw. For this, as well as his actions at Minbya, as commander of the composite infantry company, Capt Yokota was awarded a posthumous citation by the commander of the 28th Army.
Fighting in the Myebon Sector
Under both air and naval cover, the British-Indian 25th Division commenced landing operations on the southern tip of the Myebon Peninsula at 1000, January 12, using four large transports and 40 landing craft. The Myebon Sector Unit, under Col Nakamura, was unable to hold against this strong force and was pressed back to the north of Myebon where the unit secured Hill 831 and held the enemy in check for about 10 days. As reinforcements, the 54th Division sent one company of the 54th Recon Regiment from An and one infantry company from Kangaw Sector Unit. En route, the two companies were cut-off by the enemy and failed to reach their destination. The Myebon Sector Unit was forced to withdraw across the Min River to Kani in late January, where it covered the withdrawal of the Matsu Detachment.
Loss of the Ramree Island
The Ramree Island was garrisoned by the 2/121-IR under the command of Maj Inomata. At 1005, January 21, following a heavy naval bombardment by 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers, 15 gunboats and 20 other ships and an air bombardment by 30 Consolidated bombers, 9 Lockheeds and 15 carrier planes, the main body of the British-Indian 26th Division, using a number of large transports and 55 landing craft, commenced landing operations near Kyaukpyu on the northern tip of the island. One infantry company with 25 pound guns succeeded in sinking several of the landing craft, but the landing was forced and the enemy advanced southward along the northern neck of the island. During the next few days, landings were made at Yameyaung, the Cheduba Island and the southern tip the Ramree Island on January 23, 26 and 27 January respectively. Maj Inomata concentrated his force in the central part of the island, with his main strength in prepared positions south of the Yanbauk River, where he was successful in checking the enemy. The 26th Division then directed its main attack on Sane and moved against the defenders in the vicinity of Yanthitgyi on February 7. Although the 54th Division orders did not contemplate an all out stand on Ramree, Maj Inamoto determined to hold his positions to the last man. On February 9, however, the 54th Division commander directed the garrison to withdraw to the mainland. Splitting up into small parties the Battalion began evacuation on January 18, using native boats. Although the 5th Air Division supported the evacuation with about six aircraft, the command of the sea was so completely in enemy hands, that the withdrawal went badly. By the middle of March, about 500 of the island’s garrison had reached the mainland. Maj Inomata presumably died in action.
Action in the Kangaw Sector
Concurrently with its attack on the Myebon Peninsula, the main body of the enemy 25th Division, accompanied by tanks, began a landing operation at Kangaw on January 23, with strong naval and air cover. With the support of the 1/54th Field Artillery, the 1/154-IR and the 2*/154-IR counter attacked the invasion force but failed to halt the landing. The Division commander immediately ordered the Matsu Detachment from Myohaung and the Myebon Sector Unit from Hill 831 to move to the vicinity of Kangaw to check the enemy’s southward advance. The enemy advanced steadily and captured the main position or the Kangaw Sector Unit located on Hill 170. The 3/154-IR, which had already been pulled out from the Matsu Detachment to reinforce the Kangaw Sector Unit, was en route from Myohaung and was the first of the reinforcing units to arrive. On February 10, a night attack was launched by the 2/154 and 3/154 and Hill 170 was retaken. Shortly after, however, the 2/154 was forced off the hill and once more it fell into the hands of the enemy. The West African 81st Division which had captured Myohaung, advanced southward pursuing the Matsu Detachment. Attacking the Kangaw scetor from the north and, at the same time, penetrating the eaetern mountain area it advanced to the flank and rear of Kangaw Sector Unit. Capt Yokota, now commanding the 1st Recon Company, rushed his unit to Kaw to cover the exposed right flank and checked the enemy advance in the rear or the Sector Unit.
Defense of the Tamandu-An Sector
In late January, the 28th Army chief of staff arrived to direct the operations of the 54th Division. In early February there were indications that the British-Indian 26th Division, which had almost completed the securing of the Ramree Island, would make a landing south of Tamandu and the 54th Division was forced to its main battle positions to the sector south of the Dalet River. The Matsu Detachment was directed to Tamandu and, on February 15, the Kangaw Sector Unit was withdrawb to positions west and north of the Dalet River, just north of Tamandu.
New 54th Division Plan
After studying the over-all situation in late January, the 54th Division commander decided it would be possible to crush the enemy land and sea attack on the Tamandu-An, sector. To accomplish this feat, the following plan was developed :
After making efforts to crush the enemy in the area north and west of the Dalet River and in the coastal area between Tamandu and Kywegu, the Division will assemble all uncommitted units in the vicinity of An. Using these units as a Division striking force a counter offensive will be launched to wipe out the enemy west.of An. The Taungup sector will continue to be secured by a stong force. Another force to will secure key points in the Arakan Range to check enemy advances east of the Range.
1. First Phase
The Tamandu sector will be firmly held as the key position to separate the enemy advancing from the north and the enemy force which is expected to land south of Tamandu. The strongest defense effort will be concentrated on the northern front. The main body of the Kangaw Sector Unit will conduct a delaying action in withdrawing to the sector north and west of the Dalet River. There, designated as the Right Defense Unit, it will be responsible for the defense of the northern front. Holding actions will be conduced in the coastal area south of Tamandu.
2. Second Phase
In the event that the enemy penetrates the front line and moves toward the east, the main body of the Division will counter attack while holding the vicinity of Kolan as key position. Following the counter attack, the Division will occupy key points west of An with an element and the striking force will regroup in the vicinity of An. At the first opportunity the Division will launch a general offensive. After the withdrawal of the Division to the vicinity of An, elements will be deployed at key points on the trails through the Arakan Mountains to prevent enemy penetrations.
Task Force Organization
The Sector Units, except the Taungup Sector Unit, will be dissolved and the following defense units will be formed :
Right Defense Unit
– 154th Infantry Regiment (- 1/154 and 2/154)
– 54th Recon Regiment (- 3rd and 4th Cos)
Center Defense Uniy
– 111th Infantry Regiment (- 2/111 and 3/111)
– 14th Anti Tank Battalion (- 2nd and 3rd Batteries)
Left Defense Unit
– 2/111th Infantry Regiment
– Headquarters, Medical Unit, 54-ID
The 54th Artillery Regiment (- 1/54 and 3/54), will furnish artillery support to the Center Defense Unit and the 3/111-IR will be held in reserve. The 54th Engineer Regiment and the 54th Transport Unit will be placed under direct command of the Division.
Continued British Attacks
In late February, an element, of the British-Indian 25th Division advanced southward along the coast south of Kangaw and the West African 81st and 82nd Divisions also moved toward the south from the mountains east of Kangaw. The Right Defense Unit met both forces north of the Dalet River but was unable to prevent their advance to the river. To the south, on February 16, the main body of the enemy 25th Division landed in the vicinity of Dokekan. The Center Defense Unit counter attack was ineffective and, with the support of naval and air bombardment, the enemy rapidly enlarged the beachhead. Infiltrating into the sector just west of Hill 990 with a powerful column, the 25th Division threatened to cut the Japanese line of communications on the Tamandu-An Road toward the end of February. The balance of the enemy force from Dokekan attacked Tamandu from the south, in cooperation with another enemy group which landed near Tamandu on March 3. By the end of February, the village of Dalet had fallen into enemy hands. The 54th Infantry Group Headquarters, the 1/154-IR and the 1/54-FAR, which were ordered by the 28th Army to move east of the Arakan Range left Kolan on February 26 1945.
The Counter Offensive – First Phase
As the first step in countering the British successes, the Division commander decided to conduct a drive in the area west of Hill 990. On March 3, the Center Defense Unit was reinforced by the Division reserve (3/111-IR) and ordered to attack the enemy column that had moved to the rear of the Tamandu positions. This force, commanded by Col Yagi, succeeded in turning back the enemy after a series or engagements between March 7 and March 17. Thereafter, the British-Indian 25th Division troops in that area assumed the defensive. Meanwhile, the Right Defense Unit had also made counter attacks that were successful in checking the enemy’s advance beyond the Dalet River. In the central sector, along the Tamandu-Kolan Road, superior enemy strength forced a gradual but steady Japanese withdrawal and, by the middle o£ March, the British forces had penetrated to the vicinity of Kolan.
The Counter Offensive – Second Phase
The Right Defense Unit continued to hold in the vicinity of the Dalet River and prevented the two British forces from joining. The 54th Division commander, taking advantage of this split in the enemy forces, launched an attack against Kolan on March 23. Although the attack, carried out by the Right Defense Unit from the north and the 111th Infantry Regiment (- 2/111) from the south, was moderately successful, the Division commander considered that the time had come to prepare tor the second phase of the Division plan. While the 3/111-IR, in positions along a north and south line based on Hill 990, acted as a general outpost, the Division completed regrouping in the vicinity of An by the end of March. In the regrouping, two attacking forces were formed :
Right Column, Commander Col Murayama
– 154th Infantry Regiment (- 1/154 and 2/154)
– 7th Company, 111th Infantry Regiment
– 9th Company, 121st Infantry Regiment
– 54th Recon Regiment (- 3rd and 4th Cos)
– One Battery, 54th Field Artillery Regiment
– One Engineer Platoon
Left Column, Commander Col Yagi
– 111th Infantry Regiment (- 3/111 and 7th Co)
– One Battery, 54th Field Artillery Regiment
On April 7, as the battalion outpost at Hill 990 was being extended to the utmost, the 54th Division shifted to the offensive. The counter offensive was conceived as a two pronged attack against the area between Letmauk and Hill 990, with the Right Column driving between. Letmauk and Hill 990 and the Left Column south of Hill 990. Under heavy pressure, the enemy began to withdraw on the night of April 8 and the Division commander ordered the two columns to pursue the enemy toward Tamandu. The 2/111-IR succeeded in out flanking the enemy and occupied Shaukchon on April 12 to cut off routes of retreat. The battalion, however, was unable to hold control or the road until the main striking force of the Division could arrive. In spite of the favorable progress of the counter offensive, the 54th Division was compelled to suspend the action on April 15 owing to the critical situation which had developed east of the Arakan Mountain Range. Orders from the 28th Army directed the Division to regroup east of An to prepare for further operations on the Irrawaddy River
Fighting in the Taungup Sector
Following its occupation of the Ramree Island, the British-Indian 26th Division commenced landing operations at Mae on March 12. The Yamane Composite Company, assigned to that area to cover the withdrawal of the Ramree Island garrison (2/121-IR), immediately counter attacked but was driven off without stopping the enemy’s landing operations. Therafter, the Caomposite Company conducted a delaying action designed to slow the enemy’s southward advance. The enemy force, now numbering more than 1000, was equipped with tanks and too strong for the Composite Company to hold. The Company was reinforced by the 4th Company (light armored cars) of the 54th Reconnaissance Regiment dispatched from Sabyin on March 13. On the 14, the 11th Company of the 121-IR was also dispatched from Hill 534. Another force of the 26th Division was conducting landing operations near Mae and it was feared that it too, would move against Taungup. On March 17, Lt Col Baba, the new commander of the 121-IR (Lt Col Baba replaced Col Nagasawsa who was appointed CO of the 55th Infantry Group), sent the 3/121 from Taungup to hit the enemy in the Sabyin area and hold it along the Tanlwe River as long as possible. The Battalion met the 26th Division force south of Sabyin on March 19 and, in a sharp engagement, inflicted heavy losses.
Because the dispatch of the 3/121 had greatly reduced strength in the Taungup sector, the 1/121 was moved from the Thade River north to Taungup. The 2/121 and the Yamane Composite Company were directed to move northeast of Taungup to hold the upper reaches of the Tanlwe River. By the end of March the Yamane Company occupied positions around Yapale and the 2/121 was in the sector north of Mogyo. In the meantime, the enemy 26th Division had established beachheads near Kyetkaing and Kindaunggyi on the Tanlwe River and was, apparently receiving air support, using airstrips behind their lines. By March 27, the 3/121 had withdrawn to positions already established north of the Taungup River, where it successfully employed favorable terrain to check the enemy briefly. On March 29, however, the 26th Division force, supported by tanks, artillery and aircraft captured Hill 815, a key defensive point overlooking the Taungup Plain. On March 31, the enemy also made an attack on Rokko Hill, south of Migyaungdo, but was driven off.
Starting about April 3, the enemy directed its main effort along the Taungup Road. In a coordinated attack, employing tanks, artillery and air to support the infantry, Hill 370 was taken on April 4. A night counter attack, conducted by the Kurihama Company which had garrisoned Hill 370, failed to recapture it. The Kominami Company, garrisoning Rokko Hill, also conducted repeated attacks in a effort to regain Hill 370. The Kominami was eventually successful in achieving its objective, although at a terrific cost – almost every man in the company including the company commander, was either killed or wounded. The 121-IR then abandoned Rokko Hill in order to shorten its front. The enemy made repeated attempts to recapture Hill 370 but was beaten back with heavy losses and abandoning its attempts to recapture the Hill, shifted its main attacking force to the upper Tanlwe River sector.
On April 15, the enemy force, approximately 2000 strong, commenced an attack along the Tanlwe River. Although the Yamane Composite Company fought desperately, it was unable to hold the vastly stronger enemy force. The Company withdrew from Yapale to Tikywa on April 16 from which point it launched counter attacks for days, but was finally forced back Kagosaka Pass on April 20. At the same time, the 3/121 which had been holding on the north bank of the Taungup River was pressed back across the river. On April 21, the 2/121 was transferred to the vicinity of Allanmyo and placed under the direct command of the 28th Army. The Regimental commander replaced the 2/121, in the Mogyo area, with the 1/121. On April 24, enemy light armored cars appeared on the front north of Kagosaka Pass and on the 25 an attack by about 2000 British troops, preceded by artillery and air bombardment, was successful in taking one corner of the Kagosaka Pass position. Repeated night counter attacks, however, resulted in the position being retaken. On April 29, the 121-IR (- 2/121) with the 3/54-FAR was placed under the direct command of 28th Army and received orders to withdraw to Okpo.
(end of part one)
For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)