LETTER: VJ Day for the Japanese: insults, apologies and the future

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The Independent Online
From Mr Gordon Graham, MC

Sir: Press coverage of VJ Day has given well-merited attention to the sufferings of British ex-PoW under the Japanese. Many column inches have also rightly been devoted to the moral implications of the atom bomb. Regrettably, little or nothing has been said about the achievements of the 14th Army in Burma, which, starting with the battle of Kohima in April- May 1944 and ending with the capture of Rangoon in May 1945, repelled the last great Japanese offensive of the war. It seems that the Forgotten Army is still forgotten.

The Burma campaign of 1944 and 1945 was a fair and square encounter between two highly professional armies, locked in mortal combat. There was no carpet-bombing of cities. Every inch of territory was gained or lost by foot soldiers.

There were three Japanese armies in Burma, totalling over 30,000 men, when the decision was taken to invade India in 1944. While the 14th Army, consisting of three corps, was mainly made up of the Indian regiments, there were many British regiments who fought alongside their Indian comrades. One entirely British division bore the brunt of the epic Kohima battle.

In remembering today, 50 years later, what was mainly an American-Japanese war, we in Britain should not fail to remind ourselves that British troops played an honourable part in the Japanese defeat. Their achievements were overshadowed by events in Europe and the Pacific. Burma was a side-show in a global war. But a campaign in which more than 30 British battalions were engaged, in which more than 20,000 British troops were killed or wounded, and in which British soldiers gained the respect of their former Japanese enemies, should be more than a footnote to history.

Yours faithfully,

Gordon Graham

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

13 August

The writer was in the 1st Battalion, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, 1941-45.