The History of Myanmar

By William J. Topich; Keith A. Leitich | Go to book overview

8
The Japanese
Conquest of Burma

THE OUTBREAK OF WAR

Even though Japanese expansion into Asia began in 1931 with the invasion of Manchuria and continued in 1937 with attacks throughout northern China, it wasn’t until 1942 that the Japanese Imperial Army (IJA) invaded Lower Burma, aided in part by General Aung San and the Thirty Comrades and their Burma Independence Army (BIA). Japan’s interest in Burma was a result of the recently completed, strategically important Burma Road to China. If the Japanese were able to close the Burma Road, they would close the Allies’ only land supply route into China. The Japanese could also use Burma to defend their recently conquered Southeast Asian territories.

The Japanese took Burma with astonishing speed and ease. On December 11, 1941, Japanese aircraft bombed the airfields at Tavoy, south of Rangoon. The next day Japanese troops infiltrated the Burmese border and skirmished with British and Burmese troops. They were followed by units of the BIA, who provided logistical and intelligence support, including the collection of food and resources in the newly occupied areas, the gathering of intelligence from villagers, and the sabotage of British operations. The Japanese launched a fullscale invasion of Burma on January 20, 1942, when the 55th Division of the

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