Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hump Day History: Battle of Ramree Island

This has got to be one of the best (and most brutal) stories I have read recently.

Ramree Island is located just of the coast of Burma and in early 1945, it was the site of grizzly massacre. The Japanese Imperial Army, still in colonizing mode, had advanced all the way to the Burnmese coast and taken it over in hopes of using it as a resupplying port for their forces. In 1945, the Allies had managed to take back most of the coast (including parts of Ramree and a smaller island, Cheduba, just to the south and a little further out to sea) from the Japanese for the same essentially the same purpose.

On January 26th, Allied forces (Brits) attacked a major Japanese stronghold and badly crippled Japan's Burmese presence. The remaining Japanese were forced to march across Ramree Island to join other Japanese forces that were located on the opposite side of the island. It was only 16km, but there were a few significant barriers. First of all, it was night when they started the trek. Secondly, the British knew what the Japanese were planning and slowly surrounded them as they started their march. And finally, they had to walk through 16km of thick Burmese mangroves. That means a few things to the Burmese and the Japanese soldiers were about to find out what that was.

The mangroves were filled with millions of tropical mosquitoes, tens of thousands of these:

And thousands of these:

Bruce Wright was a member of the British forces who had trapped the Japanese on Ramree. He was sitting on a marine launch grounded on the slimy mire of a channel running through the labyrinth of the swamp and his account of the night of the 19 February 1945 outlines the grisly scene.

“That night was the most horrible that any member of the M.L. [marine launch] crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles, and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth. At dawn the vultures arrived to clean up what the crocodiles had left...Of about 1,000 Japanese soldiers that entered the swamps of Ramree, only about 20 were found alive.”

Here's a quick lecture on it:

As he said, the Japanese don't "remember" or have no record of this attack. But just as Korea "can't remember" certain moments, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if this was "accidentally" omitted from the public records.


Harriet said...

Misery! How did you come upon this?