Japanese held at the Battle of Sangshak

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: British 3-inch mortar detachments support the 19th Indian Division's advance along the Mawchi Road, east of Toungoo, Burma. The mortar proved the most effective weapon in jungle warfare.

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March – July 1944: British 3-inch mortar detachments support the 19th Indian Division’s advance along the Mawchi Road, east of Toungoo, Burma. The mortar proved the most effective weapon in jungle warfare.

In Burma the 13,000 men of the Japanese 31st Division were now threatening the British lines in northern Burma and into India. They had carried all their equipment and ammunition through the jungle, with each man carrying loads of 40-50 kilos. It was hoped they could make a surprise attack but unknown to them, despite every effort at concealment, they had been spotted crossing the Irrawaddy river. The British were hastily re-inforcing their positions. On the approaches to the main base at Kohima they had a strongpoint outside the village of Sangshak.

Captain Shosaku Kameyama was with the 3rd Battalion, 58 Infantry Regiment. He and his troops had endured the trek over the Arakan mountains and began their attack on the British outpost near the village of Sangshak on 21st March. They quickly discovered that they faced a more formidable enemy than the ill trained and poorly equipped Chinese troops that they had previously fought. They were beaten off with heavy casualties and tried again on the night of the 22nd/23rd:

From our experience in China we were confident of the success of the night attack, but we had to expect that a mass of bullets from the overwhelming enemy automatic weapons would result in much greater casualties.

When 8th Company broke through the enemy front line, 5th and 6th tried to advance, but very fierce enemy firing made their progress impossible. Under a strong counter—attack the commander and most soldiers of 8th Company were killed or wounded. Though we wanted to advance we could not even lift our heads because of the heavy fire which we had never before experienced.

Major Nagata, the battalion commander, insisted: ‘The bones of 8th Company men should be recovered by all means and all the battalion should advance.’ He was then shot through his neck and was bleeding, so I took out a cloth bandage cloth, but he cried, ‘Don’t mind me. It’s a trifling cut. Adjutant, organise the attack!’

So I asked a soldier to bandage him and crawled to the commanders of 5th and 6th Companies and asked their opinion. Both said regretfully, ‘We should retreat and try again. If we continue, we shall all be annihilated.’ I agreed with them and went back to the battalion commander.

Hearing my report, the commander finally realised that the attack could not be carried out and he broke down in tears, a man weeping in front of his subordinates, saying, ‘Too shameful not to recover the bones of Lieutenant Ban and soldiers of 8th Company.’ I tried to calm him down, ‘Please be patient, we are not running away.’ So we retreated back to a slope facing the enemy hill, under cover of the morning mist. It was the morning of 23 March.

During the day of 23 March, the enemy attempted to capture our position and fighting continued. We had then five medium machine guns, but our guns with air-bursting shells had not yet arrived due to the bad road, so we could do nothing against the enemy mortars which threatened us. The mortar shells came down from above, so we could not shelter behind obstacles, as against bullets which fly low. The battalion commander and I were in a trench dug by the enemy.

In the late afternoon, I had to visit company commanders to convey orders for the coming night attack. I went by way of a communication trench and saw five soldiers crouching in it. On the battlefield soldiers feel forlorn and tend to stick together. Just as I told them to disperse, a shell exploded between me and them and all five were killed.

I was facing the enemy so my face was injured. I could not see, I could not open my mouth and because of the wound I could not apply styptic treatment. If I tried to press my blood vessel closer to the heart I would be choked. So I put my towel on the wound and held it there. A machine gunner saw me and ran up and wrapped his towel around my face, which slowed my bleeding. As the enemy was near at hand I sent him back to his gun, which fought well and halted the enemy advance.

See Tales By Japanese Soldiers .

The Arakan Campaign January 1943 - May 1945: A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.

The Arakan Campaign January 1943 – May 1945: A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.

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