Victory at Kohima Ridge by Yaroslav Lavrentievich Padvolotskiy
A little-known triumph of British arms against the Japanese.
Much has been written about the cataclysmic battles that took place in Europe and the Pacific Ocean during the Second World War, yet very little is known about another theater of operations that was no less important: the British Far East. What knowledgeable people mostly recall about these campaigns is a series of spectacular defeats: the capitulation of Hong Kong and Singapore, and the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse by Japanese aircraft. The defeat of the British forces in the Far East during the early months of the Pacific War was by far the worst military loss ever inflicted on the Empire. Within a year, the British were driven out of Malaya and Burma and forced back to India with the Japanese in pursuit. Yet, the Far East would soon see a victory that, according to some experts, surpasses even Waterloo and Quebec. It is known as the Battle of Kohima.
Little has been written about this great victory, but for two torrid months in the most miserable conditions, a small garrison of British and Imperial soldiers faced down an entire Japanese infantry division at ten-to-one odds with few supplies and little fresh water. In the end, they won an impressive victory in the style of Rorke’s Drift that changed the course of the war in Southeast Asia.
The causes of the war in the Pacific were many and long-standing. The most immediate was the American embargo on metal and oil exports to Japan and the closure of the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping because of the Japanese invasion of China and its occupation of French Indochina. The Japanese decided to go to war rather than give in to American pressure.