What impact did the Chindits have?

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by Jonathan Saunders, Feb 27, 2007.

  1. Despite all that they endured and their unquestioned bravery, in a recent conversation I was told pretty bluntly that what the Chindits achieved was a major PR coup, but in effect they made little contribution in the defeat of Japan. I just wondered what were the views of others on the impact the Chindits made in the war against the Japanese in Burma.

    Thanks and regards,

    Jon S
  2. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Having Spoken to a Gurkha who was in one of the reserve columns for the second Chindit operation. His view point was that The Chindits were very successful, maybe not in the sense that they brought down the Japanese in Burma by themselves, But they showed the Japanese that the Allies could fight as an equal or better force to them and could get behind their lines and cause mayhem.
    I guess that is PR in some way but It made the Japanese think twice.
  3. Thanks Andrew ... that roughly mirrors the conversation I had. I think it was a bit more than just PR because it did prove the Japanese were far from invincible in jungle warfare and that knowledge must have had an impact on our forces and theirs in future fighting, but I am not clear where the dividing line is bewteen impact and "PR".


    Jon S
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Senior Member

    I'd have to agree with Jon Saunders' post. Accomplished little other than a PR coup. The real technique that worked in the end was using sufficent troops backed by tanks to capture a critical point (say like Mandalay) cutting the Japanese off from their supply lines and then build a real airfield and use aerial resupply.
    This forced the Japanese to attack a heavily defended position that was now fortified. This was something the Japanese proved totally incapable of doing. The cost of their attempts was so high that this in short order emasculated the Japanese army to a point where their troops were reduced to little more than a starving rabble.
    The US attempt at emulating the Chindits (Merrill's Maurader's) was likewise less than successful for the same reason. Both held nothing operating more like a guerrilla force than as a field army. Guerrillas throughout history have proved annoying but, they also proved incapable of winning a war on their own. Until things could be stepped up to conventional warfare by the Allies such tactics were useful in tying up the Japanese at low cost. But, those tactics would not win the Burma campaign on their own.
  5. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    You make a good point T A Gardener, I think it works both ways as well, the Allied victory would not of happened without the influence of the Chindits.
    The Chindits idea was educational for both sides, To the allies (specially) the British it gave them some confidence, that they could beat the Japanese in the Jungle.
    It educated the Japanese that they could be beaten and it may have caused them to doubt themselves.
  6. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Yes I think that the Chindits showed that the Japanese were not masters of the jungle and that with the right training and leadership, the Allies were as capable of fighting in the Jungle as their Japanese adversaries
  7. South Staffs

    South Staffs Junior Member

    Another aspect of their influence in the Pacific theatre is that they tied up Japanese troops that might have been used to greater effect elsewhere.
  8. seamonkey

    seamonkey Junior Member

    The first chindit expedition was a major disaster but "Operation Thursday" was a resounding victory and far from a PR exersise. In terms of human loss they were both drastic but as battle victory the the last one "battle of Mogaung" was the turning point.
  9. mikky

    mikky Member

    I think the Chindits were a success, for all the reasons stated, moral,tying up Japanese etc. Had Wingate survived, they would have been even more successful. He dreamt up the plan, and made it work. After he died, Lentaigne, Slim and others used the chindits in operations for which, they were neither trained, or equipped.
    77 Bgde were lucky to have the remarkable Calvert in command, they took Mogaung. 111 Bgde had Masters in command, and he sited Blackpool, where Wingate never would have, and it failed.
    I don't think Wingate did himself many favours, eccentric to say the least, but the fact that a man like Calvert thought so highly of him, says much. Calvert was no fool, and a great soldier.

  10. mikky

    mikky Member

    Another point is; The Chindits were tying up Japanese troops that may have swung the balance against us at Kohima

  11. craftsmanx

    craftsmanx Junior Member

    It's always a mistake in any large conflict to analyse individual operations. Of course the Chindits did not win the war against the Japanese but they forced them to use resources that would have been employed elsewhere. In fact considering the size of the Chindit columns they tied up many times there own numbers and so contributed to the invasion and eventual victories in Burma.In the same way that the SAS didn't win the war in the desert the Chindits achieved much more than they would have had they been used in a conventional manner.
  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi All,

    My Grandfather was a 1943 'guinea pig' Chindit. He died a POW in Rangoon Jail in June that year. He perished from a mixture of malnutrition, malaria and exhaustion, but died proving the theory of L.R.P. I would hate to believe that his sacrifice was in any way a waste of time in the military sense. I believe that the Chindit operations were vital in the eventual undoing of Japanese forces in that theatre. The 1943 operation did little on the ground to destroy the Japanese war machine but it proved a massive morale boost to the Allied troops and families back home. It also gave Wingate the opportunity and resources to prove his theories more completely in 1944.

    These are some of the official views and opinions of the high-ranking Japanese commanding officers present in Burma and beyond during the Chindit operations of 1943 and 1944. The majority of the matters raised are based on the second operation (Thursday), as this was the most devastating to the Japanese plans for that theatre of war!
    It is true to say that the Japanese high command was not expecting either of these two penetrations into the Burmese jungle. Lieu.Col. Mutaguchi of the 18th division states in his debrief on capture that he never expected Allied forces to come over the Chindwin from the areas the 1943 Chindits came.
    He goes on to say that he commanded too few troops to completely defend the whole front on the Assam border. His superior in the SE Asia theatre, General Numata goes further. He believed that it was not essential to defend against these ‘crack troops’, but to use their example, and to prepare similar Japanese forces to begin the attacks on Imphal and Kohima. In effect the two events were being considered almost simultaneously by both sides in late 1942.
    So in a strange way the actions of Wingate’s first Chindit operation was to confirm the Japanese belief, that attack was the best way forward when dealing with the question of India. This, as history has shown was their eventual undoing in this area of SE Asia, and the beginning of the end within the theatre in general.

    The first operation was on a small and experimental level, but it had shown what could be done with good organization and training. With the crucial benefit of air supremacy, the soldiers caused chaos amongst their enemy, and for the first time began to sow the seeds of doubt into the psyche of their opponent.

    The second Chindit operation of 1944 was something altogether different in its objectives and approach. Once again the Japanese were never expecting such an audacious allied offensive, and underestimated its numerical strength. They thought that the airborne force, which landed at ‘Broadway’, was the curtain raiser for a full-scale land invasion by the allies. With the Chindits having three days grace at ‘Broadway’ before the Japanese even realised what had occurred, the race to set up the stronghold at Mawlu was won.

    The stronghold named ‘White City’ (due to the large numbers of parachutes that adorned the treetops in the area) was set up extremely quickly by the engineers of the British forces. This was to become a major thorn in the side of the Japanese Burma Army, to speak nothing of the great embarrassment it gave its commanding officers. Within their midst was an enemy fortification which proved impossible to eradicate and showed no open signs of concern when dealing with any opposition.
    The Japanese called ‘White City’ and all the other Chindit strongholds ‘beehives’. I guess that was because they were full of vicious British insects, who when stirred always came back hard and stung them?

    Eventually the Nippon high command had no alternative but to deploy an army against ‘White City’. And so ‘Take’ force was assembled. This was an army of various types of troops cobbled together under the command of Lieu.Gen. Takeda Kaoru. It numbered around 6500 men, from whatever divisions could spare them. Over a period of several weeks they threw themselves quite literately at the perimeter wire of ‘White City’, but were repulsed on every occasion.

    Takeda was surprised by the Chindits discipline in defence, and by their resilience under heavy fire. His troops were envious of the enemy’s morale, its medical service level in treating the ill and wounded, and that these men would be evacuated by light planes, under the nose of the Japanese themselves. At this time malaria was beginning to have a dramatic effect upon the forces of Nippon in the Burmese theatre. They had inferior drugs and supplies in general, and the callous way that sick men were treated began to demoralize the Japanese infantryman greatly. The climate of this jungle area was too hot and wet for any soldier to manoeuvre easily, but when hungry and sick, and with no air cover available, it became intolerable.

    In conclusion, the two Chindit operations of 1943-44 greatly surprised and confused an opponent who had been used to his own way for sometime and was quick to underestimate his opponent in the field.
    If you consider that the original aim of the Chindits was only to help the advancement of the US and Chinese forces under the command of General Stilwell. Then the added bonus of eventually forcing the enemy’s hand into an all out attack on the Assam border, which would lead to his utter destruction, was fortune indeed!

    The commanding officers of the Nippon Army in Burma, men such as Numata, Mutaguchi and Naka, all stated that the Penetration forces did not alter Japanese operational planning in Burma. Either on the Assam Central border or the Northern combat frontier (Stilwell and his ‘Marauders’).
    However, they did admit that the presence of the Chindits caused havoc with their lines of communication, and also cut away their supply routes both North and West. This led to the starvation of their forces of both food and ammunition, and of fuel to drive their tanks. It is also true that the Chindit soldier’s presence within their territory began to erode the morale of the Japanese from the bottom all the way to the top!

    MacKenzie14, Ranger6, Owen and 2 others like this.
  13. Many thanks for your answer Bamboo. A most interesting read.


    Jonathan S
  14. Ranger6

    Ranger6 Liar

    I think General Wingate's long range penetration concepts and his aerial resupply and reinforcement techniques were revlutionary for the time... Airmobile divisions in modern times do the same thing, Just with helicopters. The Chindits were force multiplers as we say today, a smaller force tied up a much larger force. Bamboo, I will say a prayer for the memory of youre grandfather. May he rest in peace
  15. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Even though most of my ideas have already been cited, I just can´t stay out of this discussion, so I'll post them, anyway :D:

    1.- Does anyone know a guerrilla outfit that has won a war by itself? Their mission isn´t to conquer ground, or hold the main battleline, but to drain the enemy's blood through mosquito bites which debilitate, sicken and disorient, opening the door for the main armies to strike a spent enemy.

    2.- The turning point for the Chindits was Wingate's death; he would have never allowed the retreat from White City, which was a solid a strongpoint as Leningrad, with the added advantages of being strategically placed on top of one of the Japanese MSR's (feeding Imphal and Kohima!), and deep in the Japanese rear, away from combat troops (most attacks on it were carried out by rear-echelon outfits); he would have never allowed the creation of Blackpool, so close to japanese combat units; HE WOULD HAVE NEVER ALLOWED THEIR USE AS SHOCK TROOPS IN MOGAUNG!, being in fact light infantry (same thing happened to Merrill's lot).

    3.- Chindit operations gave the perfecting touches to such vital themes as air-to-ground support, air supply, inmediate airborne medevac, etc., which were to prove war-winning during the following months, all the way to Rangoon.

    4.- The concept of basing Spitfires at Broadway, complete with radar units and light AA, was, to say the least, very interesting.

    All of this doesn´t sound like PR to me... ;)
  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Gents,

    Thank you for your kind words Ranger. I have been lucky to meet several Chindit soldiers from both operations. On the whole they warmed to Wingate's views and methods. They were not always so sure about his maverick personality, but they understood how his 'new' ideas may change the course of what was at that time a 'losing' situation.

    Some did struggle very much with the idea of leaving men to perish in the Burmese jungle in 1943. This was corrected in 1944 with the advent of the light plane and the bravery of the American pilots of 1st Air Commando.

    The most passionate advocate of Wingate's ideals that I have met was actually left behind by Wingate himself in 1943. He survived two years in Rangoon jail before finally coming home.

    It is true that after his death Wingate's principles of LRP were not kept up by Lentaigne. He failed to stand up to Joe Stilwell ( a man I greatly admire) and this led to the destruction of the Chindit force, carrying out duties it was not equipped or trained to do.

  17. mikky

    mikky Member

    Hi Bamboo. Very interesting. Any thoughts on why Slim chose Lentaigne over Calvert. Surely Calvert was the ideal man for the job. He would have, and did, stand up to Vinegar Joe.

  18. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Mike,

    From the books I have read and the stories I have been told, Mike Calvert never really stood a chance of replacing Wingate after his death.

    Wingate had won the ear of Churchill and most of Allied Command by early 1944, but he never had the true support of the bigwig's at British India HQ. In fact it is true to say they totally detested him and his ideas. Before being literally told to get on and support him by Churchill, they had put every possible obstacle in his way, both in 1943 and in the preparation for Operation Thursday.

    When he died in the plane crash, the success of Operation Thursday was still not totally apparent. So the men of India command took their chance and replaced him with a sound and conventional soldier in the shape of Joe Lentaigne.

    I think that Slim (who was never comfortable with Wingate, but understood clearly his talent and forward thinking ideas) would have fallen down on the side of safety and backed the choice Lentaigne.

    Men such as Calvert (the most natural successor) and to a degree Bernard Fergusson were overlooked in order for the local hierarchy to take back some semblance of control in the theatre. This led to the miss use of the 1944 Chindit force toward the end of the fighting season that year. Both these men suffered a slowish rise within the British Army after WW2, this may well have been down to their connection with Wingate?

    I would not put Slim in the bracket of 'Wingate detractor' along with the more starchy members of India Command back then. As he is quoted as saying when the decision came to close down Chindit operations for good in 1945; 'the whole of the British Army is now Chindit minded', shows his understanding of the units worth and role in Burma during WW2.

  19. mikky

    mikky Member

    'the whole of the British Army is now Chindit minded'

    I don't think he was so generous in the Official history though. ( which is a shame )
    There's an interesting article here The Second World War Experience Centre - Major General Orde Wingate 1903 - 1944

    It's not surprising that Lentaigne, and Calvert took to drinking, the pressure they were under. Windgate didn't need alcohol, he had ' the faith '.

    Cheers Mike

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