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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post My Father in the Burma Campaign
Created by John Eipper on 01/11/18 1:27 PM

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My Father in the Burma Campaign (John Heelan, UK, 01/11/18 1:27 pm)

My father, who took part in the Burma campaign, used to tell me that after the Imphal-Kohima battle, many (he claimed 2000) of the Japanese Army committed seppuku because of their defeat. "The Japanese defeat at Imphal and Kohima represented the largest defeat in Japanese military history. Of the 65,000 front-line troops, 30,000 were killed, 23,000 were wounded, and 600 were captured; among the 50,000 support troops, there were 15,000 casualties. The Allies only suffered 17,500 casualties in comparison."

A good account of the battle can be read at https://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=188

JE comments:  That the victors could speak of "only" 17,500 casualties gives an idea of the horrors.  Two thousand suicides must be a grim record.  Jonestown was "only" in the 900s.

What specific stories from the Burma campaign do you remember from your father, John?


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  • My Father's Stories of the Burma Campaign (John Heelan, UK 01/13/18 5:01 AM)
    John E asked on January 12th about my father's stories from the Burma campaign in WWII.



    I remember many. I was reared on such stories, as my father had been a long-term professional soldier serving in Silesia in WWI, Dunkirk, North African desert, Iraq, India in WWII and ending up in the Burma Campaign as part of General Bill Slim's 14th Army (aka the "Forgotten Army").

    The last war left him with respect for most of his opponents but a deep hatred of the Japanese Army for the cruel ways they treated people (e.g. captured nurses, civilians and prisoners). As an example, at one reunion of 14th Army veterans, one of the attendees dressed as a Japanese soldier as a joke. He got beaten up by the other attendees.


    JE comments: Prince Harry should have spoken with John Heelan before going to that costume party as a Nazi.


    https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2017/08/28/how-prince-harry-went-nazi-dress-ups-model-royal



    John, have you written your father's stories down?  Please, please do.  If you wish, WAIS can give them a permanent e-home.  And what about his serving in Silesia?  Was this after the Great War, as part of the Versailles arrangement?  I had never heard of British combatants on the Eastern Front(s) of WWI.

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    • Allied Occupation Troops in Post-WWI Silesia (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/14/18 5:38 AM)
      On 11 February 1920 the Inter-Allied Commission decided to send French, British and Italian troops to North Silesia, which was contested between Germany (Freikorps) and Poland.

      There were 3325 Italians in this force. They were attacked by rebellious nationalist Poles on 4 May 1921. The Italians suffered 25 casualties.


      The contingent remained there until 9 July 1922. The local problem was solved with a plebiscite, but Germany was punished heavily and lost vast ethnic German areas all along the new borders.


      The Western forces, including Italians, Americans, Czechoslovakians, and others, were sent to North Russia (Murmansk), at first to fight against the Germans and then the Bolsheviks from August 1918 through October 1919.


      Troops were also sent to Vladivostok to fight the Bolsheviks: 28,000 Japanese (later reaching 75,000), 7500 Americans, 4000 Canadians, 2000 Italians, 1500 British and 1000 French.


      Something completely unknown: In January 1916 a Russian contingent arrived in France via the Transiberian railroad and then from China by sea. In September 1917, however, the Russians did not want to fight anymore and were arrested. Only about 100 agreed to continue the fighting. They joined the French Foreign Legion and at the end of the war most of them remained in France.


      In my last WAIS post about the members of the Trimarium, I wrote Serbia but should have said Slovenia.  Sorry.


      JE comments: I was aware of the Russian Legion that fought in France after 1916. See Jamie Cockfield's excellent book, With Snow on Their Boots (1997).


      John Heelan's father must have been part of this occupation force in Silesia.  John (next) clarifies.


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      • Polar Bear Battalion in Arkhangelsk (Patrick Mears, Germany 01/14/18 5:51 PM)
        I just read Eugenio Battaglia's post (14 January) with interest.

        A friend of mine, Gordon Olson, was for years the Grand Rapids (Michigan) official City Historian and also was a member of the Board of Trustees with me for The Historical Society for the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.


        Godfrey Anderson was a resident of Grand Rapids and had been a member of the Polar Bear Battalion that was sent to fight the Bolsheviks near the city of Archangel in the aftermath of World War I. Anderson transcribed his recollections of that experience, which Gordon edited for publication. The book was published in 2010 while I was still living in Grand Rapids, and it was introduced in town with some fanfare. It is a very interesting read that still may be purchased online.


        https://www.amazon.com/Michigan-Polar-Bear-Confronts-Bolsheviks/dp/0802865208


        JE comments:  Many of the Polar Bears were Michiganders.  Uncle Sam must have assumed we thrive in the cold. There is a monument to the Battalion in the White Chapel Cemetery in Troy, next door to Royal Oak.  See below--the monument has more gravitas in black and white.


        I'm going to pick up a copy of Anderson's book.


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    • British Troops in Post-WWI Silesia (John Heelan, UK 01/14/18 6:00 AM)
      John E (13 January) asked how it was possible for my father, a British soldier, to have served in Silesia during WWI.

      This always puzzled me as well, as I knew nothing about Versailles and WWI at that time. So my later conclusion was the two were linked. "The Upper Silesia Plebiscite was an arrangement made as part of the Versailles Peace Treaty and implemented in March 1921. It was intended that the plebiscite would determine part of the border between Poland and Germany. An Inter-Allied force of British, French and Italian troops was sent to this hostile and turbulent area for peace keeping operations." (See http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/other-aspects-of-order-of-battle/order-battle-british-silesia-force/ )


      The photograph in this article of the Royal Munster Fusiliers--my father's first enlistment--makes me wonder is he was in it. A later family photograph, now lost, shows him and his companions with "snow on their boots."


      JE comments:  Note the durable "snow on their boots" metaphor, which was also used to refer to the Russian troops sent to the Western Front in 1916.  (See Eugenio Battaglia from earlier today.)  I stress the metaphor part:  snow doesn't stay very long on the boots once you warm up.


      Too bad that photo was lost, John.

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