Why INA withdrew

On August 13, 1944

When the Imphal expedition failed largely because of the failure of the Japanese military supplies to the front and the complete dominations the British and American forces had over the skies of Burma, Netaji had to explain that this was not the end of the war. It was a setback but not the final defeat.

We started the operations too late. The monsoon was disadvantageous to us. Our roads were submerged. River traffic had to be against the current. Against this, the enemy had first-class roads. Our only chance was to take Imphal before the rains started; and we would have succeeded if we had more air support and if the enemy forces in Imphal had not special orders to make a stand to the last man. If we had started in January, we would have succeeded. In all sectors, till the rains began, we either held the enemy or advanced. In the Arakan Sector, the enemy was held; In the Kaladan Sector, we routed the enemy and advanced; In Tiddim, we advanced; In Palel and Kohima also, we advanced; In the Haka Sector, we held them – and all this in spite of the numerical superiority that the enemy had, plus equipment and rations.

When the rains came, we had to postpone the general assault on Imphal. The enemy was able to send mechanized divisions and thus was able to retake the Kohima-Imphal Road. The question then arose: where should we hold the line? There were two courses open: either to hold on to the Bishenpur- Palel Line and not allow the enemy to advance; or to fall back and hold a more advantageous position.

What are the lessons we have learnt from the campaign? We have received our baptism by fire. A body of ex-civilians, who were ordered to withdraw, and with fixed bayonets they charged the enemy. They came back victorious.

Our troops have gained much confidence. We have learnt that the Indian troops with the enemy are willing to come over. We must now make arrangements to take them over. We have learnt the tactics of the enemy. We have captured enemy documents. The experience gained by our Commanders has been invaluable. Before the campaign started, the Japanese had no confidence in our troops and wanted to break them up into batches attached to the Japanese Army. I wanted a front to be given to our men and this was ultimately given.

We have also learnt our defects. Transport and supply were defective owing to the difficult terrain. We had no frontline propaganda. Though we had prepared personnel for this, we could not use them owing to lack of transport. Henceforth, each unit of the INA will have a propaganda unit attached to it. We wanted loudspeakers but the Japanese failed to supply them to us. We are now making our own.

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