Well, that was a 3-day “timeout” from writing that I didn’t intend to have. There were topics about which I wanted to write, but one little thing after another conspired to keep away from the keyboard. But as I was riding my bike home from work this afternoon, I saw my first Audi R8. That event alone is worthy of press. Bright black with chrome wheels…a sight to behold. Now unless you own one of these masterpieces, you don’t just see one everyday. And in a town of 5,000 people, having an R8 drive down the street elicits a response similar to the one I heard on Memorial Day, when our 4-year-old grandson first saw a Kool-Aid Fizzy tablet dropped in water…“Oooo…it’s a miracle!!”
The CBI is, in some sense, the forgotten World War II theater. “CBI” is an acronym for China-Burma-India and, right away, even students of the war have to think hard to piece together any coherent facts. I’m no different. But at its simplest, the CBI is the story of Allied forces, supplied from India, fighting the Japanese in Burma, trying to open supply routes to China. That’s pretty much it.
And while most of the fighting and dying took place in the awful jungles of Burma, it would stand to reason that the Japanese, at some point, would launch attacks into India to cut off Allied supply lines. And that’s what they did in March of 1944 with the initiation of Operation U-Go (I think the Japanese military had at least a dozen Operation U-Go’s in the war…it’s like they were building cars or something).
The goal of Operation U-Go was the capture of the border towns of Imphal and Kohima, which would cut off Allied supply lines into Burma. Begun on March 6th, General Renya Mutaguchi’s five infantry divisions (with some supporting armor) crossed the Indian border with good effect, cutting the road between the two towns and effectively isolating the defenders there.
But the story here was reinforcements, as fresh British and Indian forces were able to be flown in to augment the beleagured forces holding up the Japanese invaders. For the Japanese, their lines of supply were just as bizarre and complex as the forces on the other side. However, with the war turning against them elsewhere, it was much more difficult to actually keep their troops supplied.
By June, General Mutaguchi’s men were low on ammunition, starving, and battling disease. He knew further offensive action was pointless because, frankly, very few men still alive could effectively fight. And when the Fifth Indian Division reopened the road between Imphal and Kohima, Mutaguchi knew it was over.
In The Burma Road, Donovan Webster writes, “On July 7, in despair for his men and the slaughter that awaited them, Mutaguchi took his leave to a hilltop overlooking Imphal and chanted a Shinto prayer for help. And, remarkably, the next day, July 8, full five months after Mutaguchi’s diversionary troops on the Arakan Peninsula had fired the initial shots in the ‘March on Delhi’, the Japanese were given orders to begin their withdrawal from India back into Burma.”
The Japanese would leave a trail of guns, broken tanks, artillery, and dead soldiers as the survivors limped away from the fight. The orders to retreat, received on July 8, 1944 and a rarity for the Japanese, meant that Mutaguchi would leave the battle having suffered more than 55,000 killed and wounded. What started with such promise was, up to this point, the largest defeat in Japanese history.
Recommended Reading: The Burma Road