[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Kohima of WWII is significant not only for those who have travelled from overseas to observe and remember the brave soldiers who died in “foreign fields” but also for the denizens of Kohima and Nagaland. The historic battle is an intrinsic part of the heritage of the Nagas and it is important that the younger generation of Nagas learn and know all about this great battle, fought right here in the heart of the state’s capital.The battle associated with the name of Kohima catapults our small state into the annals of history and it is up to us to devise means and ways to preserve and honour the hundreds of lives that were laid down to win the war against Japanese Imperialism. The Japanese plan to invade India, codenamed U-Go, was originally intended as a spoiling attack against the British IV Corps at Imphal in Manipur, to disrupt the Allied offensive plans for that year. The commander of the Japanese Fifteenth Army, Lieutenant General Renya Mutaguchi, enlarged the plan to invade India itself and perhaps even overthrow the British Raj. The objections of the staffs of various headquarters were eventually overcome, and the offensive was approved by Imperial General Headquarters on 7 Jan 1944. The fight for Imphal went on longer than that for Kohima, lasting from March until July. Kohima was smaller in scale, and shorter, lasting 64 days, from April to June – but the fighting was so intense it has been described as the Stalingrad of the East. The Japanese, who fought alongside some Indian nationalists, eventually lost 53,000 dead and missing in the battles. The British forces sustained 12,500 casualties at Imphal while the fighting at Kohima cost them another 4,000 casualties. The Battle of Kohima was the turning point of the Japanese U Go offemsive into India in 1944 in WW II. The decisive battles of Imphal and Kohima during World War II have been voted the greatest battles fought in the history of the British Army in a contest organised in Feb 2013, by the National Army Museum in England.
In Manipur the battle awakened a desire to find out more about this historic battle. Amateur war researcher Rajeshwar Yumnam and his team, have been relentlessly in their search to identify areas where the battle might have been fought. This led them to dig around a hilltop in Manipur’s Sadar Hills district, which served as a Japanese army post during World War II.
For Mr Yumnam and his team, the place was a potential goldmine, with their metal detector beeping almost everywhere in Motbung, one of the areas that saw a do-or-die battle between Japanese troops and British soldiers in 1944, during the war. The relics found by the team of war researchers will go towards establishing a Second World War Musuem in Manipur.
A defeat here at the hands of the British troops had forced the Japanese to eventually surrender in a theatre. After their defensive victory, the British went on to clear the Japanese from Burma.
The visit of the delegation from the United Kingdom is an opportunity for the people of the state to revisit the pages of history with the commemoration of 70 years of the war.
To learn of the past is to enrich the present for the future.