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The South-East Asian Theatre of World War II was the name given to the campaigns of the Pacific War in Burma, Ceylon, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Indochina, Malaya and Singapore. Conflict in this theatre began when the Empire of Japan invaded French Indochina in September 1940 and rose to a new level following the raid on Pearl Harbor, and simultaneous attacks on Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaya on 7 and 8 December 1941. The main landing at Singora (now Songkhla) on the east side of the Isthmus of Kra preceded the bombing of Pearl Harbor by several hours. Action in the theatre officially ended on 9 September 1945.
The Allies suffered many defeats in the first half of the war. Two major British warships, HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales were sunk by a Japanese air attack off Malaya on 10 December 1941. Following the invasion, the government of Thailand formally allied itself with Japan on 21 December. Japan invaded Hong Kong in the Battle of Hong Kong on 8 December, culminating in surrender on 25 December. January saw the invasions of Burma and the Dutch East Indies and the capture of Manila and Kuala Lumpur.
Japanese forces met stiff resistance from III Corps of the Indian Army, the Australian 8th Division and British units during the Battle of Malaya, but Japan's superiority in air power, tanks and infantry tactics drove the Allied units back. After being driven out of Malaya by the end of January 1942, Allied forces in Singapore, under the command of Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942; about 130,000 Allied troops became prisoners of war. The fall of Singapore was the largest surrender in British military history.
The Japanese Indian Ocean raid was a naval sortie by the Fast Carrier Strike Force of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 31 March to 10 April 1942 against Allied shipping and bases in the Indian Ocean. Following the destruction of the ABDACOM forces in the battles around Java in February and March, the Japanese sortied into the Indian Ocean to destroy British seapower there and support the invasion of Burma. The raid was only partially successful. It did not succeed in destroying Allied naval power in the Indian Ocean but it did force the British fleet to relocate from British Ceylon to Kilindini near Mombasa in Kenya, as their more forward fleet anchorages could not be adequately protected from Japanese attack. The fleet in the Indian Ocean was then gradually reduced to little more than a convoy escort force as other commitments called for the more powerful ships. From May 1942, it was also used in the invasion of Madagascar — an operation aimed at thwarting any attempt by Japan to use bases on the Vichy French controlled territory.
In 1942, Madras City was attacked by a Mitsubishi Rufe, (the Zero's seaplane version) operating from the carrier Ryūjō which dropped a single bomb near the St. George Fort.The physical damage was negligible, though the public response was major and the city was evacuated because of fears of subsequent Japanese bombing and invasion. Many rich families from Madras moved permanently to the hill stations in fear.
Also in 1942in preparation for a possible Japanese invasion of India, the British began improvements to the Kodaikanal-Munnar Road to facilitate its use as an evacuation route from Kodaikanal along the southern crest of the Palani Hills to Top Station. Existing roads then continued to Munnar and down to Cochin where British ships would be available for evacuation out of India.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (8,293 km² on 139 islands) are a group of islands situated in the Bay of Bengal at about 780 miles from Kolkata (known at the time as Calcutta), 740 miles from Chennai (known at the time as Madras) and 120 miles from Cape Nargis in Burma. On 23 March 1942 a Japanese invasion force seized the islands and occupied them until the end of the war.
On 29 December 1943, political control of the islands was theoretically passed to the Azad Hind government of Subhas Chandra Bose. Bose visited Port Blair to raise the tricolour flag of the Indian National Army. After Bose's departure the Japanese remained in effective control of the Andamans, and the sovereignty of the Arzi Hukumat-e Hind was largely fictional.The islands themselves were renamed "Shaheed" and "Swaraj", meaning "martyr" and "self-rule" respectively. Bose placed the islands under the governorship of Lt Col. A. D. Loganathan, and had limited involvement with the administration of the territory.
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One of the major logistical efforts of the war was "flying the Hump" over the Himalayas and the building of the Ledo Road from India to China as a replacement for the Burma Road.
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RAF battle honours:
Qualification: For operations against Japanese aircraft and naval units by squadrons based in Ceylon during the Japanese attacks of April 1942.
Qualification: For operations during the 14th Army's advance from Imphal to Rangoon, the coastal amphibious assaults, and the Battle of Pegu Yomas, August 1944 to August 1945.
The earliest successes were gained by mine laying and submarine warfare. The Japanese minesweeping capability was never great, and when confronted with new types of mines they did not adapt quickly. Japanese shipping was driven from the Burmese coast using this type of warfare. British submarines based in British Ceylon operated against Japanese shipping.
It was only after the war in Europe was clearly coming to an end that large British forces were dispatched to the Indian Ocean again. Following the neutralisation of the German fleet in late 1943 and early 1944, forces from the Home Fleet were released, and the success of Operation Overlord in June meant even more craft could be sent, including precious amphibious assault shipping.
During late 1944, as more British aircraft carriers came into the area a series of strikes were flown against oil targets in Sumatra, such as Operation Meridian. USS Saratoga was lent for the first attack by the United States. The oil installations were heavily damaged by the attacks, aggravating the Japanese fuel shortages due to the American blockade. The final attack was flown as the carriers were heading for Sydney to become the British Pacific Fleet.
After the departure of the main battle forces the Indian Ocean was left with escort carriers and older battleships as the mainstay of its naval forces. Nevertheless, during those months important operations were launched in the recapture of Burma, including landings on Ramree and Akyab and near Rangoon.
At the start of the war the British had two commands with responsibilities for possessions in the theatre. India Command under General Sir Archibald Wavell the Commander-in-Chief (CinC) of the Army of India and the Far East Command, first under Air Chief Marshal Robert Brooke-Popham and then from 23 December 1941 commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Royds Pownall.
India Command was responsible for British India, British Ceylon, and for some of the time Burma. The Far East Command based in Singapore was responsible for Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and other British Far East possessions including, for some of the time, Burma.
A month after the outbreak of war with Japan on 7 December 1941, the Allied governments jointly appointed the British Commander-in-Chief (CinC) of the Army of India, General Sir Archibald Wavell, as Supreme Allied Commander of all "American-British-Dutch-Australian" (ABDA) forces in South East Asia and the Pacific, from Burma to the Dutch East Indies.
However, advances made by the Japanese over the next month split the ABDA forces in two. After transferring the forces in Burma to the India Command, on 25 February 1942 Wavell resigned as commander of the ABDA and resumed his position of CinC of the Army of India. Responsibility for the South West Pacific Area passed to US General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific.
From February 1942 until November 1943 the India Command was responsible for the South East Asian Theatre. General Wavell was made Viceroy of India and General Claude Auchinleck became Commander-in-Chief of the India Command on 20 June 1943. In August 1943 the Allies formed a new South East Asian Command to take over strategic responsibilities for the theatre.
The reorganisation of the theatre command took about two months. On 4 October Winston Churchill appointed Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten supreme Allied commander of the South East Asia Command (SEAC). The American General Joseph Stilwell was the first deputy supreme Allied commander. On 15 November, Auchinleck handed over responsibility for the conduct of operations against the Japanese in the theatre to Mountbatten.
The initial land forces operational area for SEAC included India, Burma, British Ceylon and Malaya. Operations were also mounted in Japanese-occupied Sumatra, Thailand and French Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos).
Initially SEAC commanded:
In October 1944, CBI was split into US Forces China Theater (USFCT) and India-Burma Theater (USFIBT).
On 12 November 1944 Eleventh Army Group redesignated by Allied Land Forces South East Asia (ALFSEA) combining Commonwealth and US forces,[ citation needed ] with an HQ at Kandy. On 1 December ALFSEA HQ moved to Barrackpore, India.
On 15 August 1945 responsibility for the rest of the Dutch East Indies was transferred from the South West Pacific Area to SEAC.
SEAC was disbanded on 30 November 1946.
British 11th Army Group ( November 1943 – 12 November 1944) was on paper the main Commonwealth army force in South East Asia which directed
On 12 November 1944 the 11th Army Group was redesignated Allied Land Forces South East Asia, still under SEAC, because it was felt that an inter-Allied command was better than the purely British headquarters. Command problems with General Stilwell and his interactions with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had precipitated the change.
The Imperial Japanese Army Unit controlling all army land and air units in South East Asia and the South West Pacific was the Southern Expeditionary Army headquartered in Saigon, Indochina. It was commanded by General Count Hisaichi Terauchi, who commanded it from 1941 to 1945. The Japanese also deployed the South Seas Force, a combined force of Army and Special Naval Landing Force personnel. The Southern Army's major field commands were the 14th Army, the 15th Army, the 16th Army and the 25th Army. These consisted of 11 infantry divisions, six independent infantry brigades, and six tank regiments, plus artillery and support troops. The Japanese extensively used bicycle infantry, which allowed them quick movement over vast distances.
The former Royal Air Force Far East Air Force, more simply known as RAF Far East Air Force, was the Command organisation that controlled all Royal Air Force assets in the east of Asia. It was originally formed as Air Command, South East Asia in 1943 during the Second World War. In 1946, this was renamed RAF Air Command Far East, and finally Far East Air Force in June 1949.
The 11th Army Group was the main British Army force in Southeast Asia during the Second World War. Although a nominally British formation, it also included large numbers of troops and formations from the British Indian Army and from British African colonies, and also Nationalist Chinese and United States units.
The British Fourteenth Army was a multi-national force comprising units from Commonwealth countries during World War II. Many of its units were from the Indian Army as well as British units and there were also significant contributions from West and East African divisions within the British Army. It was often referred to as the "Forgotten Army" because its operations in the Burma Campaign were overlooked by the contemporary press, and remained more obscure than those of the corresponding formations in Europe for long after the war. For most of the Army's existence, it was commanded by Lieutenant-General William Slim.
The Northern Combat Area Command or NCAC was a subcommand of the Allied South East Asia Command (SEAC) during World War II. It controlled Allied ground operations in northern Burma. For most of its existence NCAC was commanded by US Army General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell. In 1945 after Stilwell was recalled, his deputy, Lieutenant General Daniel Sultan, was promoted to and assumed command.
South East Asia Command (SEAC) was the body set up to be in overall charge of Allied operations in the South-East Asian Theatre during World War II.
The Burma campaign was a series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, South-East Asian theatre of World War II, primarily involving the forces of the British Empire and China, with support from the United States, against the invading forces of Imperial Japan, Thailand, and collaborator units such as the Burma Independence Army, which spearheaded the initial attacks against British forces, and the Indian National Army. British Empire forces peaked at around 1,000,000 land and air forces, and were drawn primarily from British India, with British Army forces, 100,000 East and West African colonial troops, and smaller numbers of land and air forces from several other Dominions and Colonies.
During the Second World War (1939–1945), India was controlled by the United Kingdom, with the British holding territories in India including over five hundred autonomous Princely States; British India officially declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939. The British Raj, as part of the Allied Nations, sent over two and a half million soldiers to fight under British command against the Axis powers. The British government borrowed billions of pounds to help finance the war. India also provided the base for American operations in support of China in the China Burma India Theater.
China Burma India Theater (CBI) was the United States military designation during World War II for the China and Southeast Asian or India-Burma (IBT) theaters. Operational command of Allied forces in the CBI was officially the responsibility of the Supreme Commanders for South East Asia or China. However, US forces in practice were usually overseen by General Joseph Stilwell, the Deputy Allied Commander in China; the term "CBI" was significant in logistical, material and personnel matters; it was and is commonly used within the US for these theaters.
The American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Command, or ABDACOM, was a short-lived, supreme command for all Allied forces in South East Asia, in early 1942, during the Pacific War in World War II. The main objective of the command, led by General Sir Archibald Wavell, was to maintain control of the "Malay Barrier", a notional line running down the Malayan Peninsula, through Singapore and the southernmost islands of Dutch East Indies. ABDACOM was also known in British military circles as the "South West Pacific Command", although it should not be confused with the later South West Pacific Area command.
The Far East Command was a British military command which had 2 distinct periods. These were firstly, 18 November 1940 – 7 January 1942 succeeded by the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM), and secondly, 1963 – 1971 succeeded by Australia, New Zealand, and United Kingdom Force
Following the Kitchener Reforms of 1903 during the British Raj, the Commander-in-Chief, India, enjoyed control of the Army of India and answered to the civilian Viceroy of India. The Commander-in-Chief's staff was overseen by the Chief of the General Staff. GHQ India was based in Calcutta and Simla until the seat of power moved to New Delhi in 1911.
The Malayan campaign was a military campaign fought by Allied and Axis forces in Malaya, from 8 December 1941 – 31 January 1942 during the Second World War. It was dominated by land battles between British Commonwealth army units, and the Imperial Japanese Army with minor skirmishes at the beginning of the campaign between British Commonwealth and Royal Thai Armed Forces. The Japanese had air and naval supremacy from the opening days of the campaign. For the British, Indian, Australian and Malayan forces defending the colony, the campaign was a total disaster.
During World War II, Operation Dracula was the name given to an airborne and amphibious attack on Rangoon by British, American and Indian forces during the Burma Campaign.
Force 136 was the general cover name, from March 1944, for a branch of the British World War II organisation, the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Originally set up in 1941 as the India Mission, it absorbed what was left of SOE's Oriental Mission in April 1942, then going by the cover name of GSI(K). The man in overall charge for the duration of the war was Colin Mackenzie.
Malaya was gradually occupied by the Japanese between 8 December 1941 and the Allied surrender at Singapore on 16 February 1942. The Japanese remained in occupation until their surrender to the Allies in 1945. The first Japanese garrison in Malaya to lay down their arms was in Penang on 2 September 1945 aboard HMS Nelson.
The Chinese Expeditionary Force was an expeditionary unit of the Republic of China's National Revolutionary Army that was dispatched to Burma and India in support of the Allied efforts against the Imperial Japanese Army during the Japanese invasion and occupation of Burma in the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War.
The South West Pacific theatre, during World War II, was a major theatre of the war between the Allies and the Axis. It included the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, Australia and its mandate Territory of New Guinea and the western part of the Solomon Islands. This area was defined by the Allied powers' South West Pacific Area (SWPA) command.
The First Indian National Army was the Indian National Army as it existed between February and December 1942. It was formed with Japanese aid and support after the Fall of Singapore and consisted of approximately 12,000 of the 40,000 Indian prisoners of war who were captured either during the Malayan campaign or surrendered at Singapore and was led by Mohan Singh. It was formally proclaimed in April 1942 and declared the subordinate military wing of the Indian Independence League in June that year. The unit was dissolved in December 1942 after apprehensions of Japanese motives with regards to the INA led to disagreements and distrust between Mohan Singh and INA leadership on one hand, and the League's leadership, most notably Rash Behari Bose.Rash Behari Bose handed over Indian National Army to Subhas Chandra Bose. A large number of the INAs initial volunteers, however, later went on to join the INA in its second incarnation under Subhas Chandra Bose.
The fighting in the Burma campaign in 1944 was among the most severe in the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II. It took place along the borders between Burma and India, and Burma and China, and involved the British Commonwealth, Chinese and United States forces, against the forces of Imperial Japan and the Indian National Army. British Commonwealth land forces were drawn primarily from the United Kingdom, British India and Africa.