The Burma Campaign and Beyond
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, June 25, 2019


The Burma Campaign and Beyond

By Bertil Lintner JANUARY, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.1


Another look at the World War Two Burma theatre


Burma: The Forgotten War by Jon Latimer. John Murray, London. GBP25.
The title of this book is definitely a misnomer. The fighting in Burma between the Allies and the Japanese Imperial Army can hardly be described as “forgotten.” Only two years ago, the Imperial War Museum in London published a detailed, 456-page volume on the Burma Campaign written by military historian Julian Thompson. Dozens of other books, including a number of classics, have been written on what was one of the bloodiest campaigns in Asia during the Second World War.


The fighting in Burma may, in fact, be one of the most documented wars in modern Asian history. That said, Jon Latimer’s study is worth reading, not because his heroes are “unsung”, as he puts it, but as an authoritative and comprehensive study of the Burma campaign. He chronicles the British defeat, the ensuing stalemate, and then the eventual victory over the Japanese in minute detail. It is also beautifully written.


Latimer, who served for many years with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, then as a military intelligence officer, is the author of several other books about World War Two. For this book he drew from wartime records in Washington, London, Edinburgh, and the Gurkha Museum in Winchester, and interviews with survivors of the conflict.


The Burma Campaign was one of the biggest multiracial undertakings in the history of warfare. The allied troops came not only from Britain and the United States but also from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, West, East and South Africa, and, overwhelmingly, from India. As Latimer points out, they were “Dogras, Sikhs, Punjabis, Kumaonis, Madrassis and Nepalese, representing every race and caste on the subcontinent.”


Witness the construction of the 1,000-kilometre road from northeastern India through northern Burma to support the forces fighting the Japanese in China. According to Lt-Col Frank Owen, a British war veteran and the author of The Campaign in Burma, yet another book about this supposedly “forgotten” war, “Chinese, Chins, Kachins, Indians, Nepalese, Nagas, Garos slashed, hauled and piled. Negroes drove machines.

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