happy's Reviews > Burma '44: The Battle That Turned Britain's War in the East

Burma '44 by James  Holland
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really liked it
bookshelves: history-world-war-ii

This is the fourth of Mr. Holland’s books I’ve read this year. As with the others, I found it to be a well written and researched and more importantly a complete look at the subject he is writing about. In this case it is a little known battle fought in February of 1944 between the British/Indian Army and the Japanese on a the India – Burma border. It has become known at the Battle of the Admin Box.

In telling the story of the battle, the author tells of just how the two armies came to be at the location, how British General William Slim remade the British Army and gave it back its confidence and in addition to the ground war, how the RAF influenced the battle. The 14th Army was in many ways a forgotten army, in fact when Lord Mountbatten assumed Theater Command, he would joke with his troops that, “You arenot forgotten, people back home didn’t know you're here.” At the far ends of the supply lines, British equipment was often obsolete and scarce. Mr. Holland uses fighter aircraft to illustrate this. In 1944, the RAF was just reequipping with Spitfire Mk Vs. They had been flying Hurricanes, which were no match the Japanese fighters they were opposing. On the Army side of the equation, he looks at the M-3 Grant Medium tanks that the 25 Dragoons were issued just before battle begins. For the Navy’s part of the scarcity, the author relates how the lack of landing craft, or more truthfully, the needs of other theaters of war that were rated more important, canceled several planned amphibious operations. This forced the British to plan their 1944 offensive to go through the jungle.

In looking at the Japanese, Mr Holland explains just how scant logistics were all part of the plan. Advancing troops were expected to live off the land or capture enemy stores. This view led the Japanese infantry to be extremely mobile and very effective in the Jungle advance in 1942/43.

The battle commenced in February 1944. The Japanese attacked the 7th Indian Division, by passing the Divisions Infantry Bdes in an attempt to capture the division’s supply depots located in the Admin Area of the division, giving the battle its name. When telling about Japanese assaults, the author give some vivid examples of just how ruthless the Japanese were. One of the starkest examples is what happened when the Japanese captured the division’s hospital. The Japanese just did not kill all of the patients and hospital staff, but bayoneted or beat them to death.

The author does an excellent job of telling of the resupply efforts made both RAF and USAAF transport aircraft. This is where the importance of the newly arrived Spitfires is shown. The Spitfires were able to gain air superiority over the battlefield and allow the British resupply drops to succeed.

In looking at the ground combat, the importance of 25th Dragoons and the Grant tanks is brought to the fore. While the tanks were at best obsolescent on the European battlefields, the Japanese did not have any effective counter measures. The Dragoons were able to use the 75 mm guns as very effective bunker busters and to break up Japanese infantry assaults.

Finally, what happened the Japanese troops when their plan of living off captured food and other supply needs didn’t happen is well told. By the end of the 15-day battle the Japanese were literally starving, out of most medical supplies and were short of ammunition.

While in itself this was not a very big battle, it did prove to the British/Indians that they could take the best the Japanese could throw at them and not only survive, but also defeat their foe.

I found this a very informative and enlightening read, esp for an American who does not have a very firm grasp on that theater of the War. I would rate this a 4.25 star read, so I’ve rounded down for GR
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Reading Progress

June 17, 2019 – Started Reading
June 17, 2019 – Shelved
June 17, 2019 –
page 233
June 20, 2019 – Shelved as: history-world-war-ii
June 20, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Jill (new) - added it

Jill Hutchinson Such an excellent review, happy.

message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian I agree will Jill's comment!

My father was in the 14th Army and thought highly of Mountbatten. The troops took a perverse pride in the joke about them not being forgotten.

I read General Slim's memoir, "Defeat into Victory" and he makes exactly the same point about the way the Japanese were expected to live off captured supplies. Just as the author here says, it allowed the Japanese great mobility. On the other hand, if you could hold them off for a couple of weeks, their troops started to starve.

leslie hamod I would love this! Wonderful review happy!

message 4: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' Great review Happy!

happy leslie hamod wrote: "I would love this! Wonderful review happy!"

tnx all

message 6: by Jonny (new)

Jonny Great review Happy... now you need to dig up a copy of Fergal Keane's Road Of Bones: The Siege Of Kohima 1944 The Epic Story Of The Last Great Stand Of Empire

happy I'll see what I can do ;)

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