YouTube – World at War.14.It’s a lovely day tomorrow.Burma-1942-44 p.1–ePBM&feature=related

World at War_14_ It’s a lovely day tomorrow_Burma 1942-1944_part 1


When we think about the Allied campaigns against the Japanese during World War II, most of us tend to remember the American forces’ involvement and think about such engagements as Pearl Harbor, the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, and Leyte Gulf, and the landmark campaigns of Guadalcanal, the liberation of the Philippines, or the climactic struggles for Iwo Jima. The war in the Pacific, by its very nature, was essentially the U.S. Navy’s war, even though the Army did contribute tens of thousands of soldiers, airmen, and support personnel in the long struggle against the Japanese Empire.

This view of the war, however, overshadows the almost forgotten (at least by American television audiences) war in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, in which U.S. participation was almost a sideshow to the flashier island-hopping campaigns carried out by Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur in the Central and Southwest Pacific. Although American forces — including an Army Air Forces command centered around what remained of the Flying Tigers and a ground contingent led by Gen. Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell, the fight to keep China from being completely overrun and to defend India — the “Crown Jewel” of the British Empire — from a Japanese invasion was a mostly British affair.

In December of 1941, the Japanese launched a spectacular series of coordinated attacks against American, Australian, British, and Dutch-controlled territories in a bid to seize new sources of raw materials the Empire needed in order to win its long war against China and to escape the strangling effects of American trade embargoes imposed by the Roosevelt Administration as a result of Japanese aggression in Asia. One of the British colonies which was quickly overrun was Burma (now called Myanmar); the Japanese needed to secure it not only as a springboard to invade India, but also to cut the Allies’ only land link to China, the Burma Road.

Because most of the British and Commonwealth forces were already committed to the North African and Middle East theaters of war, Burma’s defenses were not able to withstand the Japanese attack, and by the middle of 1942 the Allies had been forced to retreat to India. Thousands of British soldiers were taken into captivity and endured much abuse, including — as depicted in David Lean’s 1957 epic The Bridge on the River Kwai — acts of torture and forced labor, treatment that was in violation of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners. Combined with the fall of Malaya and Singapore earlier in the year, the Burma campaign’s first stage was a debacle for the British.

But as It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow unfolds, the appointment in 1943 of a young and energetic officer named Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Commander, Southeast Asia Theater of Operations, was the first of many positive developments that helped turn the fortunes of war in favor of the Allies. Mountbatten had previously been in charge of Special Operations against the Germans, so he appreciated the need to create such specialized units as Ord Wingate’s Chindits and their American counterparts, Merrill’s Marauders. These outfits were all-volunteer units and given intensive training in jungle warfare, which up to that time had been the bailiwick of the Japanese Army. Under Mountbatten’s leadership and the appointment of General William Slim as commander of the British 14th Army, the Allies were able to destroy the myth of Japanese invincibility in the hot, humid, and generally inhospitable terrain of Burma.

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YouTube – World at War.14.It’s a lovely day tomorrow.Burma-1942-44 p.3

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