July 05, 2017

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Recollection of the tragic days in Rangoon under the Japanese occupation

Any disputed issue between two countries if resulted into an arm conflict, it can’t be resolved by means of war. Even after a great bloodshed is being spilled from both sides and with the outcome of the victor country started to devise a method of suppressive administration on the loser country, so that from this unjust treatment, there is bound to be no peace for the two countries  at all. In a short time, the defeated country would always find chance to rise up and start a new war again. The resultant answer for both countries would be destruction of human lives and properties, the ruins of vital infrastructure of the two countries for development.
War broke out between Great Britain and the Japanese Empire in the Pacific, because invasion of Malaya was taken at first by the Japanese landing on Kota Bahru in Kelantan on 8th December 1941, at 00.25 hour nearly an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and thereafter the Japanese with a major bombing on Rangoon on 23rd December 1941, the Mingaladon Airfield and downtown areas including Rangoon to be taken as the principal targets. For the Japanese the Shwe Dagon Pagoda would provide an excellent navigation landmark from the air. This bombing of Rangoon Town was as a havoc to create terrors and panics on the city’s inhabitants and also to demoralize them the will to support the British war effort and hopping that such raids would force the Burmese people to turn against the British colonial ruler.
Let’s look deeper into this conflict of war that Japan had come into the theatre of 2nd World War .In 1930, China was a divided country, Chiang Kai Shek was governing the country with the support of Kuomintang
[KMT] on one side and was opposed  by Mao Tse Tung, chief of Chinese Communist Party [CCP] on the other side, fighting each other in many fierce clashes of war. Causing casualties on both sides, until at last the KMT and CCP had agreed to fight side by side against the common enemy Japan. In the 1930s the Chinese suffered continued territorial encroachment from the Japanese, using Manchuria as a cause, the whole north of the country was gradually taken over by the Japanese. As the Japanese had quickly captured all key Chinese ports and industrial centers  including cities such as  the Chinese Capital Nanking and Shanghai in this brutal conflicts, both sides used
“Scorched Earth” tactics and last of all causing heavy damages to the Chinese factories  and  public communication sectors for the Chinese government only. Massacres and atrocities were common by the Japanese. The most infamous event came after the fall of Nanking in December1937, when the Japanese troops slaughtered an estimated 300.000 citizens and rapped 80,000 women, In addition many thousands of Chinese were killed in the indiscriminately bombing of cities by the Japanese Air Force. There were also reprisals carried out by the Japanese against the Chinese peasants in retaliation for attack by the partisans who waged a guerrilla war against the invades by ambushing Japanese supply columns and attacking isolated units .From this Japanese aggressive war experience on China’s weakness in her armament and a country divided in political idealism, thus encouraging the stronger Japan to expand further her war efforts toward South East Asia.
On the 23rd December 1941, the horror of war was first experienced by me at the age of 8, When Father sent words to us, in which stated that war in Rangoon was not yet in a devastated state so better come back to Rangoon from Bogalay Town, Previously my Grand-father, Mother, Elder sister, Elder brother, me and Younger brother were told first by Father in a short notice to get away to Bogalay to escape the danger of Rangoon being attacked by the Japanese. As soon as we had arrived at Sinohthan jetty, suddenly, siren wailing out a loud warning signal. We saw several Japanese planes with the circular red sign that designated the Japanese flag was clearly appearing on the side of the plane, diving down low and shooting with machine guns at the British gun boats that were docked alongside the nearby jetty. The British navy men were not in full alert of the fact that the Japanese planes were pinpointing them as the sitting targets and started a bombardment of bombing and firing the machine guns at random speed. At this moment, when I raised up my head to search for my Father, he was standing on the foreshore waiting for us to meet him. In confusion at this time, Mother took the initiation  to lead us all to hold each other hand fast and not to let go of them, so we all  trailing behind her wherever she went. The noise of the bomb explosion and machine guns’    shooting were terrifying to hear. By covering my both ears with the palms in order to avoid the distressing noise from perhaps the dog fights between the British and the Japanese planes engaged in a deadly tangle. When I raised up my head again to see what was it.it was so happened in coincidence, that the Japanese plane was directly hit by the guns firing from the British gun boats. I saw a burst of flame so bright that had made my eyes hurt to see clearly and the noise of the explosion came out from the plane’s engine being hit was so frightful as if a thousand thunders with loud cracking and deep rumbling noise coming out at the same time ,making your ears unbearable to hear. I was so scare myself that I had to drag myself onward step by step slowly, hopping my Mother at this time would find a place for us to hide. As we reached 14th street, we saw a house with door ajar, Mother, with her pitiful voice asking for entry but was refused instantly by the owner of the house, so we could do nothing, kept on walking  until we reached 7th street, the siren had rang again to announce  that it was safe for walking on the road now. We returned to Lanmadaw Street home and had found Father, who met us there and allowed us no respite, Father made a quick decision  and ushered us to go back to Bogalay Town again’.
After a few days, we met Father again,  when he finally came to Bogalay Town to stay with us at last. We heard him retell that terrible incidence of that first time air raid by the Japanese Air Force. He said that when the Japanese plane was shot down  by the British gun boat at the foreshore of Sinohthan jetty. The Japanese pilot was killed, but one of his severed leg dropped from the sky on to  the platform in front of the silversmith shop at Lanmadaw Street, the engine head of the downed Japanese plane  fell on the charcoal shop at 17th street. The Mingaladon Airfield was scattered everywhere with various plane parts of the British as well as the Japanese after their dog-fits. There was also a most horrible scene descried by my Father, that was when one  Japanese plane dived low and started shooting easily with the machine guns at the water front area where most of the imported Indian laborers were working, who had  low standard  in education running and scrambling here and there on the road of Phonegyi Street, instead they should  quickly seeking safe shelter nearby, just like ants when their nest was being poked open by someone making them running mad everywhere, providing easy targets for the Japanese gunners. The casualty was amounted to nearly 1000 persons. The fall of Malaya so quick was being blamed for the failure  on the British  Supreme Command which has a high hope on the plan for defense  of Malaya with a misconception of thinking very high of the capability of the two battle ships which should be enough to defend the Malaya Peninsula without air cover,  but the Japanese troops took cover behind the steam engines at Jahor Railways Station in the final stage of their advance down the Malaya  Peninsula which culminated in the surrender of the British Force and the occupation  of the British Naval Base in Singapore  by the incredible courage of the Japanese  Air Force’s torpedo bombers on 10 December 1941  with bombardment  of heavy torpedoes launching from the air. Thus crippling the two battle ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse and met the fate of being sunk at sea.
With the Japanese occupation of Kuala Lumpur, the Capital of Malaya on 13th January  1942 and  of Rangoon , the Capital  of British Burma  on 7th  March 1942 The new Commander of Burma, General Harold Alexander ordered the city of Rangoon to be evacuated after the ports and oil refinery had been destroyed ,The remnants of Burma broke out to the north, narrowly escaping  encirclement, to  make way to Imphel and Manipur in India just before  the monsoon broke out in May 1942.
During the occupation of the Japanese in Burma, so many incidents of Japanese brutality and inhuman treatment of the Burmese people had taken place. Due to the lack of manpower, the Japanese invaders had recruited many Taiwanese natives who were mostly uneducated from the remote village tracts, naturally  their behaviour were rude . On the first day that the Imperial Army of Japan had taken control of Bogalay Town, it was a small column of about twenty soldiers, many of them equipped with army rifles and bullets and the last soldier was carrying a machine gun. As a youngster I was afraid, however, I had to crouch behind the elderly relatives, to have a glimpse. A few days ago likewise  about thirty townsfolk young and old, carrying various old fashioned rifles and even including some air guns, marching past the same square, where were they now, they were supposed to guard the town against the Japanese invaders, they all had fled into hiding. About some days later, I was heading to the market to buy some edible titbits for breakfast on the 1st street, suddenly a Japanese soldier, came out from the market looking in distress, quickly standing in broad day light, urinating before the eyes of townsfolk including women, without any shame and regards at all to the elderly persons around.
Many times, from the high command of the Japanese Military in Rangoon had sent immediate orders to many townships to send in laborers for works in the frontier areas in which stated that if not being fulfilled in time, very bad consequences would be fallen upon them. So the various townships would be scrambling to search for the said laborers and when such laborers  had been obtained, the respective township elders would have to organize financial teams to collect the required amount of money to be used as transport charges and daily allowances for the laborers to go off to the frontier area. Mostly those went away laborers never returned back to their homes, presumed to be dead or from time to time, some recurring news said about those laborers being sent to the  border town of Thanbyusayat near Kwai Noi River of Thailand to construct a railway for the transport of war materials by a short cut of loading these materials  in  Thailand. There were news of some daredevil type of villagers daring to risk their lives by accepting the offer of money, and then on the way to their destination by double decker steamers .These laborers had planned their escape at some riverine remote areas, jumped ship and swimming away to the nearby thick jungles.
(To be continued)


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