Burma Victory 1944-1945
The book’s title, Burma Victory 1944-1945, is a little misleading as the first, very detailed chapter delves into the Japanese blitzkrieg beginning in December 1941 through 1942. The Japanese victories in China, the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaya and the Philippines set the stage for this book on a long forgotten and neglected theater of World War II. The author does an amazing job describing the harsh, varied terrain, weather and combatants and how the Allies regrouped and learned to fight the previously invincible Japanese military as they made their furthest incursion west.
American General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell assembled an ad-hoc force of Unit Galahad (Merrill’s Marauders named after their commander Frank Merrill was officially named the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)), American-trained Chinese divisions, Kachin (ethnic Burmese guerrillas), and British General Orde Wingate’s Chindits (a typical Western tendency to mispronounce native words, in this case, the Burmese word for lion - “Chinthe”), conducted operations in northern Burma that could be recognized today as predecessors of modern special operations with the long range penetration, guerilla operations and tactics to establish defensive strongholds behind enemy lines to conduct offensive operations. The primary focus of these units was to wrest control of the supply lines from India to China to rely less on the “flying the hump” to Pick’s Pike (named after the American Engineer General Lewis Pick in charge of its construction), better known as the Burma Road.
The other Allied offensive was led by British General Bill Slim’s multi-national British 14th Army (including troops from India and Africa) which advanced south-east through Burma to retake Mandalay and Rangoon. Both offensives had to deal with their respective terrains (mountain jungles in the north, plains, and swamps in the south; both subject to the monsoon season making movement near impossible). Allied air power played a huge role in the campaigns with the Royal Air Force and, first the Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group which became, the Fourteenth Air Force under its leader in China and Burma, General Claire Chennault. The importance of the C-46 and C-47 airlift, and aerial resupply cannot be overstated.
The Allied effort included 350,000 Indians, 100,000 British, 90,000 Africans, 65,000 Chinese and 10,000 Americans. The Japanese sent 330,000 troops to Burma, with more than 200,000 that did not return; this was over thirteen times the number of Allied casualties.
To say that I learned a lot about the Burma (now Myanmar) theater of war would be an understatement. The author, Jon Diamond, is to be commended for his attention to detail, great use of maps and amazing photographs. Readers of the Images of War series will understand the format of a few pages’ introduction to a chapter, followed by amazing photographs that I have not seen before. For modelers, there are more images than can relayed here, covering M3 Stuarts, M4 Shermans, DUKWs, Brens, artillery of all assortments, heavy machine guns, profuse mud and water, and great detailed shots of the combatants.
On a personal note, the current US Army Rangers crest is the Merrill’s Marauder patch. I am also a veteran of the 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Airborne) that traces its lineage to the 209th Engineer Combat Battalion that participated in the India-Burma campaign building the Ledo Road. In 1944, the 209th Engineers were attached to the 5307th Composite Unit to seize the critical Myitkyina airfield. This amazing book allowed me to learn more about my Army heritage and I am proud that both units traced their heritage to this little-known theater of war. Thanks to this book, I now know a lot more and appreciate the sacrifices.
Profuse thanks to Pen and Sword, Casemate (https://www.casematepublishers.com) and IPMS-USA for providing the review sample.