★ My BURMA CAMPAIGN
by Rex Wait
The 18th Field Regiment (Self-Propelled), Royal Artillery was equipped with the American 105mm howitzer on a Sherman tank chassis. These in the British Army were given the name Priests. At the time we were sent into Burma, in December 1944, I was a humble subaltern, the Troop Leader of Fox Troop, 94/95 Battery. Being something of an oddity, our Regiment was not assigned to any particular Division. It came directly under the Brigadier, Royal Artillery, at 14th Army H.Q., and we wore the 14th Army flash on our shoulders. The Regiment could thus be made available to support the armoured units of any of the Brigades in the Divisions of 33 Corps and 4 Corps as the Army Commander might require.
We crossed the Chindwin with 2 Div at Kalewa on Christmas Eve, and 94/95 Battery accompanied the leading squadron of the Gordon Highlanders tank regiment by way of ‘Pink Gin’ (as we always called it – its real name was Pyingaing) through the teak forests and along the dried-up river beds to the open agricultural areas along the Yu river and so to the township of Shwebo, encountering only fairly minor Japanese resistance.
★ Misunderstanding and Mistranslation in the Origins of the Pacific War of 1941-1945: The Importance of “Magic”
by Dr Keiichiro Komatsu
The points of the argument here are that mutual misconception grew between the two sides over a longer period, not just immediately before the Pacific War but from long before it. In his publication of 1999, the researcher covers a period which spans centuries, from the time of the first Europeans landing in Japan up to the beginning of the US-Japan peace talks prior to Pearl Harbor.
The cumulative effect of such perception gaps in the talks preceding the Pacific War contributed to the outbreak of the conflict. The conflict was then precipitated by faulty communication, including the significant role played by ‘Magic’ (the decoded intercepts of Japanese diplomatic messages). In this sense it was therefore a very important factor which contributed to the outbreak of the War. Magic, rather than being something performed by magicians, is here a code name given by American intelligence which will be explained in detail later. Serious mistranslations and misinterpretation in Magic were significant factors in the failure to reach an agreement in the talks leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
More info on the book Origins of the Pacific War and the Importance of ‘Magic’
★ Is Reconciliation History?
by Phillida Purvis
I am neither a veteran of any war nor an academic who specialises in history or peace studies. Today I am speaking as an individual who has spent 20 years promoting Anglo-Japanese understanding and friendship. It is from this perspective that I view the nadir of relations between our two countries, during the Pacific War, and explore the question of whether those years of war should matter to us today, and if they do, what should we do about it, or is it past history and should never be referred to again? The central issue to me is one of reconciliation. Are we reconciled to our pasts and to each other? Does the term reconciliation have any meaning any longer?
Reconciliation can be interpreted in a number of slightly different ways. The most common dictionary definitions are ‘to bring back to friendship or union’ or ‘to bring to agreement or contentment’. I believe that when we are talking about reconciliation over our two countries’ encounter during the Second World War these definitions must be applied in three different ways, the first to reconciliation between individuals directly involved in the encounter, and those who surround them, the second to reconciliation between the people of the countries and the third to the countries themselves, as represented by their governments.
More info on the book Origins of the Pacific War and the Importance of ‘Magic’
★ MY RECOLLECTIONS OF INDONESIA, 1944-1947
by Sadao Oba
At the beginning of March 1942, the Japanese 16th Army, 55,000 strong, occupied Java in 10 days capturing 80,000 Allied Prisoners of War, losing 255 killed and 702 injured. The unexpectedly rapid collapse of the Allied Forces was caused by their fear of a possible general uprising of Indonesians and their overestimation of the number of Japanese army. Several months later, the core of the Japanese occupation forces were sent to Guadalcanal and Timor.
After their departure, the 13th Independent Defence Unit (HQ in Bandung) was assigned to defend the Western half of Java, and the 14th Independent Defence Unit (HQ in Surabaya) was assigned to defend the Eastern half of Java. Those two defence units were re-organised as the 27th Independent Mixed Brigade (Bandung) and the 28th Independent Mixed Brigade (Surabaja) in the beginning of 1944.
When the island was occupied, the Japanese Military Government Head-Quarters (Gunseikanbu) was set up in Djakarta with branch offices in each state of Java. Imperial HQ (Tokyo) gave guidelines for the 16th Army (a) to ensure their popularity with the people (b) to ensure their own security (c) to obtain and send to Japan essential commodities and products. These 3 guidelines were incompatible with each other and the 16th Army HQ and Military Government tried to balance the demands (a.b.&c.) from Tokyo and at the same time (d) tried to ease the pressure on the daily life of the people so as to achieve (a) and (b) The Java Military Government was said later to have been the most successful Military Government in territories occupied by Japan. The success may be attributable to (a) the general situation in Java which I describe later (b) the Commander in Chief of the 16th Army and his subordinates.
I reported to the 16th Army HQ’s on January 5th, 1944 and was assigned to the 27th Independent Composite Brigade HQ. I arrived at Bandung the same day. I was a 21 year old Officer Cadet (Supply).
★ “YESTERDAY’S ENEMY IS TODAY’S FRIEND” (SPEECH)
by Philip Malins
I was conceived just before the end of the First World War in which my father served as an Engineer Lieutenant in the British Royal Navy throughout the war from 1914 to 1918. He was torpedoed three times. 1 was born on 8 May 1919, a beautiful time of the year to be born in England or in Japan.
My mother graduated in 1916 in the middle of the war and within a few months most of the men who had graduated with her had been killed as infantry officers on the Western Front in France. I was the eldest of her three sons all of whom grew up just in time to serve in the Second World War. I remember as a little boy the ex-servicemen back from the First World War wearing their war medals, some blinded, some with only one arm or one leg on crutches selling matches or begging. They nearly all had no pensions or other financial means of support. It was difficult or impossible for them to find a job. Even as a little boy I remember the terrible sadness of that time. The fathers of many other little boys who were my friends had been killed during the war.
The First World War began for Britain when Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium whose neutrality Britain had guaranteed. The War lasted for over four years. Some ten million lives were lost and twice that number wounded. A total of some 25 million people died including those by the influenza epidemic which followed the war. It was called the Great War, and hopefully “The War to End All Wars.” It was the first time that millions of civilians had fought in a war, previous wars having been fought by small armies of professional soldiers and sailors. Despite the terrible casualties, so great was the patriotism that Britain was able to rely on volunteers for the first two years of the war. In due course other countries became involved in the war including the United States and Japan on the side of Britain and France. Japanese naval craft patrolled the Mediterranean Sea. As part of the peace settlement the Mariana, Caroline and Marshall Islands, which had belonged to Germany, were given to Japan as one of the victorious powers under a League of Nations Mandate in 1919.
Poems and Letters
★ “FAR AWAY PLACES…” (BURMA ..THE LONGEST WAR.)
by Pat McEvoy
(Recalling the eighty mile thrust across the Irrawaddy and the central Burma desert to storm the vital centre of Meiktila and hold it for three weeks in a state of siege, contributing largely to the defeat of the Japanese Army in Burma. Feb – Mar 1945)
“Home?”… What is Home?
Three years back and half a world away.
This hole in the ground, covered with logs and earth?
No, not yesterday, not tomorrow…
Just for the day… and night.
We forget our prayers…except when the shells fall..
But not the Pass-Word.. We still want to live.
Did we ever walk without sword-bayonet slapping our thigh?
Without kukri, and slung rifle?
Our friends, the enemy, we met before,
We beat them then..just.
So many died.
How can we survive this time?
They are all around us.. they will never give way.
The heat of central Burma!
How can we hope?
Take one day, at a time..one hour.
Our family? Here is our family,
Our troop, our comrades, our Sergeant..our sheet-anchor.
We are soldiers, this is our life.. we knew no other.
To do our duty, and survive.
This is the reality..
The world before, the world after..just a dream.
God gives Hope, and strength,
To those who endured.
We, the survivors, honour our comrades..
And our dead.
★ Copy of a letter in The Tablet of 31 August 2002
by Philip Daniel
Comrades in Arms
There have been countless stories down the years about the bitterness felt by British war veterans against the Japanese. They have usually focused on the ex-soldiers and their families’ anger that they had never received adequate apology or compensation for their suffering in Burma during the Second World War.
But there have also been old soldiers who have very quietly spent the intervening years trying to restore a climate of friendship between the two nations. Among them has been a Catholic, Philip Daniel, who expresses frustration with those who continue to complain that the Japanese never apologised for atrocities they committed in Burma.