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Armed Forces: Second World War

Armed Forces: Second World War

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The U.S. Home Front During World War II

After the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on the American naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. was thrust into World War II (1939-45), and everyday life across the country was dramatically altered. Food, gas and clothing were rationed. Communities conducted scrap metal drives. To help build the armaments necessary to win the war, women found employment as electricians, welders and riveters in defense plants. Japanese Americans had their rights as citizens stripped from them. People in the U.S. grew increasingly dependent on radio reports for news of the fighting overseas. And, while popular entertainment served to demonize the nation’s enemies, it also was viewed as an escapist outlet that allowed Americans brief respites from war worries.

German Military Events on this Date

Read a chronological listing of German military events that occurred 1939-1945 this month.

June 25, 1940

At 1:35 a.m. CET, all acts of war between the Frenchand German armed forces cease officially.

June 25, 1941

German armored forces of Panzergruppe 1 (von Kleist) capture Lutsk and Dubno in eastern Poland (USSR territory).

June 25, 1942

The Afrikakorps captures Sidi Barrani, Sollum and Halfaya Pass in Libya. The RAF launches a 1,000-bomber raid on Bremenwhich causes heavy damage to the Focke-Wulf plant and devastates 27acres of the inner city (49 aircraft lost). Major-General Eisenhower isappointed C-in-C of US forces in Europe.

June 25, 1944

In Normandy, the British Second Army (Dempsey) begins amajor offensive in the area of Caen (Operation Epsom). In the East,40,000 troops of Heeresgruppe Mitte are surrounded by the Red Army in the area of Vitebsk. General Koenid is appointed C-in-C of the Free French forces.

German Officer & Knights Cross Holder Biographies

The following two biographical databases are available for you to search for information on nearly 10,000 German soldiers, including over 2300 ranking officers and over 7000 holders of the highest German award for combat bravery, the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.

Axis initiative and Allied reaction

By the early part of 1939 the German dictator Adolf Hitler had become determined to invade and occupy Poland. Poland, for its part, had guarantees of French and British military support should it be attacked by Germany. Hitler intended to invade Poland anyway, but first he had to neutralize the possibility that the Soviet Union would resist the invasion of its western neighbour. Secret negotiations led on August 23–24 to the signing of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in Moscow. In a secret protocol of this pact, the Germans and the Soviets agreed that Poland should be divided between them, with the western third of the country going to Germany and the eastern two-thirds being taken over by the U.S.S.R.

Having achieved this cynical agreement, the other provisions of which stupefied Europe even without divulgence of the secret protocol, Hitler thought that Germany could attack Poland with no danger of Soviet or British intervention and gave orders for the invasion to start on August 26. News of the signing, on August 25, of a formal treaty of mutual assistance between Great Britain and Poland (to supersede a previous though temporary agreement) caused him to postpone the start of hostilities for a few days. He was still determined, however, to ignore the diplomatic efforts of the western powers to restrain him. Finally, at 12:40 pm on August 31, 1939, Hitler ordered hostilities against Poland to start at 4:45 the next morning. The invasion began as ordered. In response, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, at 11:00 am and at 5:00 pm , respectively. World War II had begun.

Italians in World War II

The performance of the Italian armed forces during the Second World War has been the butt of jokes for over 70 years. However, the notion that the Italian army (WW2) fought poorly and surrendered readily is not exactly true as there are examples of Italian forces fighting quite successfully and bravely.

But the widespread belief seemed to be that the Italians were cowards, with disasters such as the failed takeover of a much weaker Greece and ineffective fighting in North Africa used as evidence. While these and other military mistakes by Italy do stand out, these debacles were not due to soldiers’ cowardice: what the Italian military lacked during their offensive campaigns was not bravery, but modern weaponry and good leadership, along with a clear lack of desire to achieve Mussolini’s goals.

Italy WW2 – Poor Weaponry

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Italy was in no way ready for an offensive war. However, Mussolini desperately wanted to participate in the redrawing of the map of Europe and overlooked the state of Italy’s military-industrial complex in order to feed his ego.

Italian industrial power was a mere fraction of that of Britain, France, or Germany and was not ready to produce the guns, ammunition, artillery, tanks, and trucks on the scale that was needed. When Italy entered the War in 1940, its forces were equipped more in line with the First World War, rather than World War II.

Italy’s artillery included vestiges of the previous century, with a contingent of horse artillery and many leftovers from World War I. The newer models, while very effective, were never made in large enough numbers. Modern tanks were virtually non-existent at the start of Italy’s war effort, as all that was available were lightly armored vehicles and “tankettes”. By the time Italy started producing better tanks and mobile artillery that could compete with allied weaponry, it was too late to make a difference.

Small arms, such as Beretta pistols and automatic rifles were very capable, but several machines and sub-machine gun types were often poorly made. Even the shoddy models were always in short supply since Italy lacked the industrial strength for mass production.

The Italian shipyards produced (or retrofitted) fast and well-designed ships, but they had the fatal flaws of being light in armor and without radar. To combat their shortcomings, the Regia Marina created cheap, but nearly suicidal craft such as Explosive Motor Boats and Il “Maiale”, a two-man human torpedo/mine – hardly the equipment to inspire confidence, but certainly an example of Italian bravery.

Italian airpower looked good on paper, but was virtually non-existent, with only a few thousand aircraft at the start of the war, many of them bi-planes. The few modern aircraft created were underpowered, poorly designed, and no match against allied fighters. The Regia Aeronautica also had the deplorable task of dropping poison gas during the conquest of Ethiopia to the disgust of the international community.

Italy WW2 – Poor Leadership

Graziani: the butcher of Ethiopia

Of all the major military forces involved at the start of World War II, Italy had by far the least competent high command. Mussolini, the leader of Italy during WW2, filled the officer positions with men whose only “qualification” was loyalty to Il Duce. With this said, the Italian military was already one step back from success.

Before the start of hostilities, Italy did have some capable generals – especially those who experienced the mistakes made during World War I. However, things would change once Mussolini attempted to militarize Italy as he would purge the country of anyone whose allegiance was questioned. Many men from titled families, whose ancestors had been fighting for centuries were considered more loyal to the King, and so stripped of their status and given menial positions.

Anyone unlucky enough to be more outspokenly against Mussolini would be sent to the confino and exiled to wastelands like Italy’s holdings in Somalia to suffer in the heat. What was left were a group of military commanders short on any talent or innovation, but long on loyalty to Mussolini’s long-term fascist goals.

The Italian navy, with a limited number of fighting ships, was handcuffed by an extremely conservative approach by its admiralty. Conversely, men like Rodolfo Graziani, the “Butcher of Ethiopia” were loyal to Mussolini until the end and would throw his men into fights he knew that they could not win. It would not take long to prove how poorly the high command would lead Italy’s troops and unfairly put into question their bravery.

When the poorly led Italian troops were used in conjunction with, or under German forces, they fought considerably better. The Italian forces that participated in Hitler’s invasion of Russia were known to have fought particularly well. Despite facing vastly superior numbers of Soviet troops and harsh weather. In fact, the bravery of the Italian Alpini (mountain troops) and Voloire (horse artillery) regiments during Operation Barbarossa was legendary. Even when the entire offensive started to fail, Radio Moscow was heard to say “Only the Italian Alpini Corps is to be considered unbeaten on the Russian Front.”

On several occasions these brave men were surrounded by enemy forces, only to successfully battle back to their own lines. Italy’s attempt to take over Greece was a complete disaster Italy was beaten back by the much weaker Greeks into Albania. Once Germany took over the Greece campaign, the Italian forces under their command fought much more effectively than under their own generals, whom they regarded as little more than Mussolini’s butchers.

Italy in WW 2 – Poor Willingness to Fight

In truth, Italy seemed uninterested in war from the start. The announcement of Italy’s entrance into the War was not met with enthusiasm, but despair. It seemed that only Mussolini and his Fascist cronies were interested in fighting. With the Fascist Regim and Mussolini, the leader of Italy during WW2, victory wasn’t doomed. Still, in 1940, Italy started out on the attempt to conquer the Mediterranean with troops that had no faith in their commanders or a desire to fight.

The botched attempt to take over Greece was met with fierce resistance from men fighting for their lives and homeland: the Greeks were ready to die for their freedom the Italians barely knew what they truly fought for.

A willingness to fight and/or a desire to protect your homeland are two factors in warfare that should never be underestimated. History has countless examples of how these factors have turned the tide against vastly superior foes, such as Ancient Greeks defeating the mighty Persian Empire.

More recently, it has been shown that modern leaders often do not learn from the past, but are instead doomed to repeat these military blunders. The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan by the Mujahideen, the defeats in Vietnam for both France and the United States, and the 2000s war in Iraq are all testaments to how a determined force, willing to fight and die, can often turn the table on what is considered the more powerful force.


In retrospect, it almost seems that the Italian military was doomed to failure from the start and was thrown into a war that they were not equipped for, nor willing to fight for Mussolini’s cronies. The very fact that Italy became an aggressor during the war was solely to appease the arrogance of Mussolini (the fascist leader of Italy during ww2), without a thought to the preparation of the country.

The Italian army with lacked competent leadership and modern weapons, still had thrust in the battle. When ill-equipped forces of disheartened men were defeated, Il Duce could not see his own mistakes and simply labeled his men as cowards. However, it has been shown that while under command of competent German leadership, Italian troops fought very well – contributing to the final defeat of Greece and acts of great bravery on the Russian front.

In conclusion, it was these factors and not cowardice that leads to Italy’s poor performance during World War II. The thoughts of one veteran seem to sum up the situation:

“The Italians were smart enough to see that it was a lost cause, in the end, Germany would dominate anyway, so why get killed for nothing? It was brains, not cowardice.”

Print and Online Sources:

An incredibly useful source to learn more about the military history of Italy during the Second World War is the website Comando Supremo, with plenty of articles dedicated to the history, the people, and the strategic choices of Italy during WW2.

2 - The United States Armed Forces in the Second World War

The effectiveness of the United States armed forces reflected the complex factors that shaped American national security policy before 1945. The United States believed that its geographic isolation between the world's two largest moats and its relative economic self-sufficiency allowed it to avoid alliances and other commitments to foreign nations. Its peacetime military policy provided only for small naval and military constabulary forces designed to police its national domain, to patrol its continental borders, to provide a small base for wartime expansion, and to protect its diplomats and merchant fleet abroad. Historically, the United States chose to avoid the political and economic costs of large standing forces and to assume the risks of its basic policy: to rely upon its large population and industrial capacity to provide the resources for military forces mobilized after the nation went to war. The Second World War proved no exception to this policy, but rather its mot dramatic expression played on a global stage.

In the Second World War the policy of mobilization for a simultaneous war against Japan and the German–Italian alliance created the parameters for organizational effectiveness. The American war effort fell into three broad phases, each characterized by different official and public perceptions of the military challenge and the requirements for successful American policy. Although the United States made some effort at rearmament before the outbreak of the Second World War, it did not make an appreciable change in military emphasis until after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.

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Mongol Empire and post-imperial Edit

As a unified state, Mongolia traces its origins to the Mongol Empire created by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Genghis Khan unified the various tribes on the Mongol steppe, and his descendants eventually conquered almost the entirety of Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe. The military of the Mongol Empire is regarded to be the first modern military system.

The Mongol Army was organized into decimal units of tens, hundreds, thousands, and ten thousands. A notable feature of the army is that it was composed entirely of cavalry units, giving it the advantage of maneuverability. Siege weaponry was adapted from other cultures, with foreign experts integrated into the command structure.

The Mongols rarely used naval power, with a few exceptions. In the 1260s and 1270s they used seapower while conquering the Song dynasty of China, though they were unable to mount successful seaborne campaigns against Japan due to storms and rough battles. Around the Eastern Mediterranean, their campaigns were almost exclusively land-based, with the seas being controlled by the Crusader and Mamluk forces.

With the disintegration of the Mongol Empire in the late 13th century, the Mongol Army as a unified unit also crumbled. The Mongols retreated to their homeland after the fall of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, and once again delved into civil war. Although the Mongols became united once again during the reign of Queen Mandukhai and Batmongkhe Dayan Khan, in the 17th century they were annexed into the Qing Dynasty.

Period under Qing Rule Edit

Once Mongolia was under the Qing, the Mongol Armies were used to defeat the Ming dynasty, helping to consolidate Manchu Rule. Mongols proved a useful ally in the war, lending their expertise as cavalry archers. During most of the Qing Dynasty time, the Mongols gave military assistance to the Manchus. [8]

With the creation of the Eight Banners, Banner Armies were broadly divided along ethnic lines, namely Manchu and Mongol.

Bogd Khanate (1911–1919) Edit

In 1911, Outer Mongolia declared independence as the Bogd Khaanate under the Bogd Khan. This initial independence did not last, with Mongolia being occupied successively by the Chinese Beiyang Government, and Baron Ungern's White Russian forces. The modern precursor to the Mongolian Armed Forces was placed, with men's conscription and a permanent military structure starting in 1912. [9]

Mongolian People's Republic Edit

With Independence lost again to foreign forces, the newly created Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party created a native communist army in 1920 under the leadership of Damdin Sükhbaatar in order to fight against Russian troops from the White movement and Chinese forces. The MPRP was aided by the Red Army, which helped to secure the Mongolian People's Republic and remained in its territory until at least 1925. However, during the 1932 armed uprising in Mongolia and the initial Japanese border probes beginning in the mid-1930s, Soviet Red Army troops in Mongolia amounted to little more than instructors for the native army and as guards for diplomatic and trading installations.

Battles of Khalkhin Gol Edit

The Battles of Khalkhin Gol began on 11 May 1939. A Mongolian cavalry unit of some 70–90 men had entered the disputed area in search of grazing for their horses. On that day, Manchukuoan cavalry attacked the Mongolians and drove them back across the Khalkhin Gol. On 13 May, the Mongolian force returned in greater numbers and the Manchukoans were unable to dislodge them.

On 14 May, Lt. Col. Yaozo Azuma led the reconnaissance regiment of 23rd Infantry Division, supported by the 64th Infantry Regiment of the same division, under Colonel Takemitsu Yamagata, into the territory and the Mongolians withdrew. Soviet and Mongolian troops returned to the disputed region, however, and Azuma's force again moved to evict them. This time things turned out differently, as the Soviet–Mongolian forces surrounded Azuma's force on 28 May and destroyed it. [10] The Azuma force suffered eight officers and 97 men killed and one officer and 33 men wounded, for 63% total casualties. The commander of the Soviet forces and the Far East Front was Comandarm Grigory Shtern from May 1938. [11]

Both sides began building up their forces in the area: soon Japan had 30,000 men in the theater. The Soviets dispatched a new Corps commander, Comcor Georgy Zhukov, who arrived on 5 June and brought more motorized and armored forces (I Army Group) to the combat zone. [12] Accompanying Zhukov was Comcor Yakov Smushkevich with his aviation unit. Zhamyangiyn Lhagvasuren, Corps Commissar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army, was appointed Zhukov's deputy.

The Battles of Khalkhin Gol ended on 16 September 1939.

World War II and immediate aftermath Edit

In the beginning stage of World War II, the Mongolian People's Army was involved in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, when Japanese forces, together with the puppet state of Manchukuo, attempted to invade Mongolia from the Khalkha River. Soviet forces under the command of Georgy Zhukov, together with Mongolian forces, defeated the Japanese Sixth army and effectively ended the Soviet–Japanese Border Wars.

In 1945, Mongolian forces participated in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria under the command of the Red Army, among the last engagements of World War II. A Soviet–Mongolian Cavalry mechanized group under Issa Pliyev took part as part of the Soviet Transbaikal Front. [13] Mongolian troops numbered four cavalry divisions and three other regiments. During 1946–1948, the Mongolian People's Army successfully repelled attacks from the Kuomintang's Hui regiment and their Kazakh allies in the border between Mongolia and Xinjiang. The attacks were propagated by the Ili Rebellion, a Soviet-backed revolt by the Second East Turkestan Republic against the Kuomintang Government of the Republic of China. This little-known border dispute between Mongolia and the Republic of China became known as the Pei-ta-shan Incident.

These engagements would be the last active battles the Mongolian Army would see, until after the democratic revolution.

After the Democratic Revolution Edit

Mongolia underwent a democratic revolution in 1990, ending the communist one-party state that had existed since the early 1920s. In 2002, a law was passed that enabled Mongolian Army and police forces to conduct UN-backed and other international peacekeeping missions abroad. [9] In August 2003, Mongolia contributed troops to the Iraq War as part of the Multi-National Force – Iraq. Mongolian troops, numbering 180 at its peak, were under Multinational Division Central-South and were tasked with guarding the main Polish base, Camp Echo. Prior to that posting, they had been protecting a logistics base dubbed Camp Charlie in Hillah. [14]

Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, visited Ulan Baator on 13 January 2004 and expressed his appreciation for the deployment of a 173-strong contingent to Iraq. He then inspected the 150th Peacekeeping Battalion, which was planned to send a fresh force to replace the first contingent later in January 2004. [15] All troops were withdrawn on September 25, 2008. [16]

In June 2005, Batzorigiyn Erdenebat, the Vice Minister of National Defence, told Jane's Defence Weekly that the deployment of forces in Mongolia was changing away from its Cold War, southern-orientated against China posture. "Under Mongolia's regional development concept the country has been divided into four regions, each incorporating several provinces. The largest capital city in each region will become the regional centre and we will establish regional military headquarters in each of those cities," he said. However, at the time, implementation had been delayed. [17]

In 2009, Mongolia sent 114 troops as part of the International Security Assistance Force to Afghanistan. The troops were sent, backing the U.S. surge in troop numbers. Mongolian forces in Afghanistan mostly assist NATO/International Security Assistance Force personnel in training on the former Warsaw Pact weapons that comprise the bulk of the military equipment available to the Afghan National Army.

In 2021, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the armed forces, it was awarded the Order of Genghis Khan by President Khaltmaagiin Battulga. [18]

Peacekeeping missions Edit

Mongolian armed forces have been performing peacekeeping missions in South Sudan, Chad, Georgia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Congo, Western Sahara, Sudan (Darfur), Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Sierra Leone under the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. In 2005/2006, Mongolian troops also served as part of the Belgian KFOR contingent in Kosovo. From 2009 to 2010 Mongolian Armed Forces deployed its largest peace keeping mission to Chad and completed the mission successfully. In 2011, the government decided to deploy its first fully self-sustained forces to the United Nations Mission UNMISS in South Sudan. Since then Mongolian Infantry battalion has been conducting the PKO tasks in Unity State of Republic of South Sudan. In addition, Mongolian Staff officers deployed at the Force Headquarter and Sector Headquarters of the UNMISS mission. First general officer deployed in this mission as Brigade Commander in 2014.

On November 17, 2009, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations, James Schear had lunch with Col. Ontsgoibayar and selected troops from the 150th Peacekeeping Battalion under his command, bound for Chad on November 20, 2009. [19] Afterwards Schear visited the Five Hills Regional Training Center, which hosts numerous combined multinational training opportunities for peacekeepers.

Other peacekeeping battalions in the Mongolian forces may include the 084th Special Task Battalion, and the 330th and 350th Special Task Battalion. [20]

Historical Mongolian naval forces Edit

Historically, the Mongolian Navy was one of the largest in the world, during the time of Kublai Khan. [21] However, most of the fleet sank during the Mongol invasions of Japan. [22] The Mongolian Navy was recreated in the 1930s, while under Soviet rule, using it to transport oil. [23] By 1990, the Mongolian Navy consisted of a single vessel, the Sukhbaatar III, which was stationed on Lake Khövsgöl, the nation’s largest body of water by volume. The Navy was made up of 7 men, which meant it was the smallest navy in the world at the time. [23] In 1997, the navy was privatized, and offered tours on the lake to cover expenses. [24] [21] Currently, Mongolia does not have an official Navy, but they have small border patrols on Buir Lake, patrolling the border between Mongolia and China in the lake. [25]

Mongolia has a unique military policy due to its geopolitical position and economic situation. Being between two of the world's largest nations, Mongolian armed forces have a limited capability to protect its independence against foreign invasions the country's national security therefore depends strongly on diplomacy, a notable part of which is the third neighbor policy. The country's military ideal is to create and maintain a small but efficient and professional armed forces. [26]

Higher leadership Edit

The military order of precedence is as follows: [27]

  • Deputy Ministers of Defense
  • Deputy Chiefs of the General Staff of the Armed Forces
  • Service branch commanders

Branches Edit

Ground Force Edit

The Ground Forces possess over 470 tanks, 650 Infantry Fighting Vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 500 mobile anti-aircraft weapons, more than 700 artillery and mortar and other military equipment. Most of them are old Soviet Union models designed between the late 1950s to early 1980s. There are a smaller number of newer models designed in post-Soviet Russia.

Air Force Edit

On May 25, 1925 a Junkers F.13 entered service as the first aircraft in Mongolian civil and military aviation. [28] By 1935 Soviet aircraft were based in the country. In May 1937 the air force was renamed the Mongolian People's Republic Air Corps. During 1939–1945 the Soviets delivered Polikarpov I-15s, Polikarpov I-16s, Yak-9s and Ilyushin Il-2s. By 1966 the first SA-2 SAM units entered service, and the air force was renamed the Air Force of the Mongolian People's Republic. The MiG-15, UTI and MiG-17 the first combat jet aircraft in the Mongolian inventory, entered service in 1970 and by the mid-1970s was joined by MiG-21s, Mi-8s and Ka-26s.

After the end of the Cold War and the advent of the Democratic Revolution, the air force was effectively grounded due to a lack of fuel and spare parts. However, the government has been trying to revive the air force since 2001. The country has the goal of developing a full air force in the future. [26]

In 2011, the Ministry of Defense announced that they would buy MiG-29s from Russia by the end of the year, but this did not materialize. [29] [30] In October 2012 the Ministry of Defense returned a loaned Airbus A310-300 to MIAT Mongolian Airlines. [31] From 2007 to 2011 the active fleet of MiG-21s was reduced. [32] [33] [34] In 2013 the Air Force examined the possibility of buying three C-130J transport airplanes, manufactured by Lockheed Martin. [35] Left without Russian aid, the Mongolian air force inventory gradually reduced to a few Antonov An-24/26 tactical airlifters and a dozen airworthy Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters. [30]

On November 26, 2019 Russia donated two MiG-29 fighter aircraft to Mongolia, which then became the only combat-capable fighter jets in its air force. [36] [30]

Construction and Engineering Forces Edit

Since 1963, large-scale construction work has been a military affair, with the Council of Ministers on January 8, 1964 establishing the General Construction Military Agency under the Ministry of Defense. In addition, a large number of construction military units have been established. The work create a new construction and engineering army began in 2010. The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces have established six civil engineering units over the last 10 years. [37]

Cyber Security Forces Edit

The Armed Forces Cyber Security Center has been established under the General Staff of the Armed Forces. A project to upgrade the Armed Forces' information and communication network, conduct integrated monitoring, detect cyber attacks, and install response equipment is expected to be completed in August 2021. [38] [39] [40] A decision has been made to build a Data Center for the Armed Forces' Cyber Security Center. This will be the basis for the creation of a Cyber Security Force. [37]

Special Forces Edit

The only Special Forces (Mongolian: Тусгай хүчин ) in Mongolia is the 084th Special Task Battalion.

Military education Edit

In October 1943, the Sukhe-Bator [ disambiguation needed ] Officers' School was opened to train personnel of the Mongolian Army in accordance with the experience of the Red Army during the Second World War. [41] The National Defense University serves as the main educational institution of the armed forces. The NDU is composed of the following education institutions: [42] Defense Management Academy, Defense Research Institute, [43] Academic Education Institute, Military Institute, Military Music College, NCO College. In 1994, the MNDU maintained a border protection faculty, which would later be expanded to establish the Border Troops Institute and what would later become the Law Enforcement University of Mongolia. [44]

Conscription Edit

The legal basis of conscription is the Universal Military Service Act. Men are conscripted between the ages of 18 and 25 for a one-year tour of duty. [45] Mongolian men receive their conscription notices through their local administrative unit. [46] Reserve service is still required up until the age of 45. [47]

Women Edit

More than 20 percent of the total personnel of the Armed Forces are females, who work mainly in communications, logistics and medical sectors. In addition, female members of the Armed Forces have been active in UN peacekeeping operations. Major N. Nyamjargal was the first female member of the Armed Forces to serve as a UN-mandated military observer in Western Sahara in 2007. A total of 12 women have served in the Western Sahara and Sierra Leone. [48]

Policies in recent years have been aimed at making female military service more equitable. [49]

Military courts Edit

On March 16, 1921, a joint meeting of the Provisional People's Government and the members of the Central Committee of the MPRP decided to establish a "Military Judicial Office under the Ministry of Defense". In 1928, the government approved the “Charter of the Red Army Judiciary” and the Military Judiciary established under the Ministry of Justice. This was disbanded a year later and the Military College of the Supreme Court was established. It was composed of the Khovd Regional Military Court, the Eastern Military Court, and the Military Courts of the 1st Cavalry Division (Ulaanbaatar). The military court were referred to as "special courts" at the time and dealt with criminal and civil cases involving military personnel. In 1929, the Provisional Court and the General Military Court were dissolved, and the Military College of the Supreme Court was subordinated to the three former military units. The Military College was dissolved in 1954, and was re-established in 1971.

In connection with the change in the staffing, the parliament ordered in 1993 the abolition of the All-Military Special Court and the Special Military Court of First Instance, transferring the assets used by the Military Courts to the General Council of the Judiciary. All activities of the Military Court system is supervised by the Military Collegium. [50]

Military Logistics: A Brief History

The practice of logistics, as understood in its modern form, has been around for as long as there have been organised armed forces with which nations and / or states have tried to exert military force on their neighbours. The earliest known standing army was that of the Assyrians at around 700 BC. They had iron weapons, armour and chariots, were well organised and could fight over different types of terrain (the most common in the Middle East being desert and mountain) and engage in siege operations. The need to feed and equip a substantial force of that time, along with the means of transportation (i.e. horses, camels, mules and oxen) would mean that it could not linger in one place for too long. The best time to arrive in any one spot was just after the harvest, when the entire stock was available for requisitioning. Obviously, it was not such a good time for the local inhabitants. One of the most intense consumers of grain was the increasing number of animals that were employed by armies of this period. In summer they soon overgrazed the immediate area, and unless provision had been made beforehand to stockpile supplies or have them bought in, the army would have to move. Considerable numbers of followers carrying the materiel necessary to provide sustenance and maintenance to the fighting force would provide essential logistic support.

Both Philip and Alexander improved upon the art of logistics in their time. Philip realised that the vast baggage train that traditionally followed an army restricted the mobility of his forces. So he did away with much of the baggage train and made the soldiers carry much of their equipment and supplies. He also banned dependants. As a result the logistics requirements of his army fell substantially, as the smaller numbers of animals required less fodder, and a smaller number of wagons meant less maintenance and a reduced need for wood to effect repairs. Added to that, the smaller number of cart drivers and lack of dependants, meant less food needed to be taken with them, hence fewer carts and animals and there was a reduced need to forage, which proved useful in desolate regions. Alexander however, was slightly more lenient than his father was, as regards women. He demonstrated the care he had for his men by allowing them to take their women with them. This was important given the time they spent away on campaign and also avoided discipline problems if the men tried to vent their desires on the local female population of newly conquered territories. He also made extensive use of shipping, with a reasonable sized merchant ship able to carry around 400 tons, while a horse could carry 200 lbs. (but needed to eat 20 lbs. of fodder a day, thus consuming its own load every ten days). He never spent a winter or more than a few weeks with his army on campaign away from a sea port or navigable river. He even used his enemy's logistics weaknesses against them, as many ships were mainly configured for fighting but not for endurance, and so Alexander would blockade the ports and rivers the Persian ships would use for supplies, thus forcing them back to base. He planned to use his merchant fleet to support his campaign in India, with the fleet keeping pace with the army, while the army would provide the fleet with fresh water. However, the monsoons were heavier than usual, and prevented the fleet from sailing. Alexander lost two-thirds of his force, but managed to get to Gwadar where he re-provisioned. The importance of logistics was central to Alexander's plans, indeed his mastery of it allowed him to conduct the longest military campaign in history. At the farthest point reached by his army, the river Beas in India, his soldiers had marched 11,250 miles in eight years. Their success depended on his army's ability to move fast by depending on comparatively few animals, by using the sea wherever possible, and on good logistic intelligence.

The Roman legions used techniques broadly similar to the old methods (large supply trains etc.), however, some did use those techniques pioneered by Phillip and Alexander, most notably the Roman consul Marius. The Romans' logistics were helped of course, by the superb infrastructure, including the roads they built as they expanded their empire. However, with the decline in the western Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD, the art of warfare degenerated, and with it, logistics was reduced to the level of pillage and plunder. It was with the coming of Charlemagne, that provided the basis for feudalism, and his use of large supply trains and fortified supply posts called 'burgs', enabled him to campaign up to 1,000 miles away, for extended periods. The eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire did not suffer from the same decay as its western counterpart. It adopted a defensive strategy, which Clausewitz recognised as being easier logistically than an offensive strategy, and that expansion of territory is costly in men and material. Thus in many ways their logistics problems were simplified - they had interior lines of communication, and could shift base far easier in response to an attack, than if they were in conquered territory, an important consideration, due to their fear of a two-front war. They used shipping and considered it vital to keep control of the Dardanelles, Bosphorous and Sea of Marmara and on campaign made extensive use of permanent warehouses, or magazines, to supply troops. Hence, supply was still an important consideration, and thus logistics were fundamentally tied up with the feudal system - the granting of patronage over an area of land, in exchange for military service. A peacetime army could be maintained at minimal cost by essentially living off the land, useful for Princes with little hard currency, and allowed the man-at-arms to feed himself, his family and retainers from what he grew on his own land and given to him by the peasants.

The fighting ships of antiquity were limited by the lack of endurance while the broad beamed seaworthy merchant ships were unsuited to the tactics of the time that were practised in the Mediterranean. It wasn't until the Europeans put artillery on-board such vessels that they combined the fighting and logistic capability in one vessel and thus became instruments of foreign policy with remarkable endurance and hitting power. They reached the zenith of their potential during the Napoleonic Wars, but with the conversion to coal and steam power, a ship's endurance was once again limited. But they could still carry their ammunition and supplies farther and faster, and were thus more logistically independent than horse-powered armies, despite the need for coaling stations. Fuel oil increased endurance by forty percent, but that was due to its greater efficiency as a fuel source. The coming of the fleet train and underway replenishment techniques during the Second World War enhanced the endurance of modern navies massively, and ships could thus stay at sea for months, if not years, especially with the reduced time between dockyard maintenance services. The coming of nuclear power once again extended the sea-going life of a vessel, with endurance limited to that of the crew and the systems that need a dockyard to be overhauled.

The appeal by Emperor Alexius to the Pope for help in clearing Anatolia of the Turks in 1095 paved the way for a series of Western European military expeditions which have become known as the Crusades. As a result of these, the Western Europeans significantly advanced their practice of the military arts.

The First Crusade ran from 1096 until 1099 and ended with the capture of Jerusalem. It didn't start very well however, with the various contingents from Normandy, Sicily, France, Flanders and England having ten leaders, internal friction within the army, which at times was no better than a rabble, and having a strong distrust of the Byzantines, which was reciprocated. The Crusaders had no interest in recapturing lost Byzantine lands, while the Emperor had no interest in Jerusalem. The lack of a supply system almost twice brought it to grief early on, when the Crusaders almost starved while besieging Antioch and after the capture of the city, were besieged themselves. The army advanced south to Jaffa the following year, and appeared to learn the logistic lessons from the previous experience. There was far more co-operation between national contingents and they had the advantage of the Pisan fleet sailing parallel to their route to provide logistic support. This of course only lasted while they were fairly close to the coast, but the army soon had to turn inland towards Jerusalem. The Crusaders were too small in number to completely surround the city and could not easily starve the city into submission as the governor of Jerusalem had ordered all the livestock to be herded into the city and stockpiled other foodstuffs. The Crusaders also found themselves short of water, and thus time was not on their side. The Crusaders thus attempted an assault as early as possible without siege engines and while they overran the outer defences, could not make any headway against the inner walls. Fortunately, the English and Genoese fleets arrived in Jaffa at this point, but conveying their cargo to Jerusalem was time consuming and expensive in both men and animals. Additionally, there was a shortage of decent timber with which to make siege weapons with, but some was finally found on some wooded hills near Nablus, fifty miles north of Jerusalem. Again, this was a time consuming and expensive operation. By the time work had started on the siege towers it was mid-summer, the Crusaders were suffering from a shortage of water and word had been received that an Egyptian army was marching to the relief of the city. The Crusaders speeded up their preparations and finally rolled out their siege towers and assaulted the city, on the 13th and 14th of July, which fell that night.

The Second Crusade consisted of a French army under King Louis VII and a German army led by Emperor Conrad III. It was launched to take back Edessa from the Muslims and was a logistic disaster. The German army managed to stir up the local inhabitants once they arrived in Byzantine territory by pillaging, but the French army behaved much better and had little trouble. Unfortunately the German army had taken much of the available food and had so frightened the peasants that they had hid what little they had left. To accentuate this, the Germans refused to sell food to the French when they reached Constantinople. The hostility between the two armies led Conrad to split the two armies and take different routes across Anatolia. To compound this, Conrad split his own army with both groups being routed at different points along their respective paths. Louis' army faired little better, being defeated at Laodicea as well. The French thus made their way back to Attalia on the coast but found that the inhabitants were short of food as well, and the presence of the Crusaders attracted the Turks who set about besieging the city. Louis was forced to leave, taking his cavalry by sea in two lifts to Antioch, but leaving his infantry to march overland. Needless to say, few survived this example of dreadful leadership. Finally, Louis and Conrad joined by Baldwin of Jerusalem, set about besieging Damascus. Unfortunately, not only set their siege lines against the strongest part of the city's defences but sited their base camp in an area that didn't have any water nearby. Unsurprisingly, the siege failed.

The Third Crusade followed some forty years later and came after the Christian defeat at Hattin and the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin. It involved three kings, Richard I of England, Frederick I of Germany and Philip II of France. Frederick was first on the scene, and after marching through Anatolia and capturing Iconium, was unfortunately drowned and his army badly depleted by enemy action and the twin scourges of hunger and disease. A year later Philip and Richard arrived at Acre, where the Christian armies had been besieging the town for almost two years. Within twenty-four hours the morale of the army had been restored and the tempo of operations increased. A relief effort was beaten off, and the city eventually surrendered. Philip then left Richard in sole command of the army, who started the advance to Jerusalem. His planning and logistics were far superior to what had gone before. For example, he kept in contact with his fleet off the coast, he kept his marches short to preserve the strength of his soldiers, and even arranged a laundry organisation to keep the clothes clean (helping morale and health). He defeated Saladin at Arsuf, stopped briefly at Jaffa and marched towards Jerusalem in the winter rains. His men suffered quite badly, and recognising his mistake, he returned to Ascalon, on the coast. In the following spring, Richard set out once again for Jerusalem, but Saladin retired before him, destroying crops and poisoning wells. The lack of fodder and water meant that Richard finally halted at Beit-Nuba and concluded that he could not risk his army in besieging Jerusalem. Even if he captured the city, he would have to return to England due to the treasonous actions of his brother, John and it was unlikely that the Christian army would be able to hold until his return. So he retreated to Acre where he learnt that Saladin had taken Jaffa with a surprise attack. On hearing this, Richard set out with a small force by ship to Jaffa, with the rest travelling overland. At the sight of these ships, the Christians in the city took up arms against Saladin's troops and Richard, on the prompting of a local priest who had swum out to the fleet, took his small force and routed the occupation army. He even beat off a second attack by Saladin who tried to catch Richard before his main force arrived.

The Crusades pointed to a number of tactical and military engineering lessons that were vital for the improvement of the Western military art. The most important of these was that of logistics. Western armies had lived off the land when campaigning, and when they had stripped an area, they would have to move on, or starve. The length of campaigns tended to be short, as the length of time that Barons and their retainers could spend away from their fiefs was limited. Most Western armies when faced with the scorched earth policies of the Turks, and with no organised wagon train, limited local knowledge as regards the terrain and climate, thus tended to disintegrate. With the long campaigns in Western Asia, the generals had to re-learn the lessons learnt by Alexander, plan properly or die. In the first two Crusades, many men and horses died of starvation, but Richard showed that good logistic planning could change the situation around completely. He built a logistic base on the island of Cyprus and used that to his advantage when marching from Acre to Ascalon. His refusal to embark on a protracted siege of Jerusalem shows that he understood the serious logistic situation that would have arisen.

As the centuries passed, the problems facing an army remained the same: sustaining itself while campaigning, despite the advent of new tactics, of gunpowder and the railway. Any large army would be accompanied a large number of horses, and dry fodder could only really be carried by ship in large amounts. So campaigning would either wait while the grass had grown again, or pause every so often. Napoleon was able to take advantage of the better road system of the early nineteenth century, and the increasing population density, but ultimately still relied upon a combination of magazines and foraging. While many Napoleonic armies abandoned tents to increase speed and lighten the logistic load, the numbers of cavalry and artillery pieces (pulled by horses) grew as well, thus defeating the object. The lack of tents actually increased the instance of illness and disease, putting greater pressure on the medical system, thus putting greater pressure on the logistic system due to larger medical facilities needed and the need to expand the reinforcement system. Napoleon failed the logistics test when he crossed the Nieman in 1812 to start his Russian campaign. He started with just over 300,000 men and reached Moscow with just over 100,000 excluding stragglers. Napoleon had known the logistics system would not sustain his army on the road to Moscow and keep it there. He gambled that he could force the Russians to the negotiating table and dictate terms. He failed, and so had to retreat. The pursuing Russian army did little better, starting at Kaluga with 120,000 men and finally reaching Vilna with 30,000.

The only major international conflict between that of the Napoleonic War and the First World War was that of the Crimean War, fought between October 1853 and February 1856 and involved Russia, France, Britain and Turkey as its main protagonists. From a British and French point of view the main theater of operations was the Crimean Peninsula, but operations also took place in the Caucasus, around the Danube and the Baltic Sea. The background cause of the war lay in what was known as 'The Eastern Question' which involved the Great Powers in the question of what was to be done with the decaying Ottoman Empire, and in particular, its relationship with Russia. The immediate cause was the territorial ambition of Russia and the question of minority rights (the Greek Orthodox Christian Church) under the Turks.

It was logistics, as well as training and morale that decided the course of the war. All three armies in the Crimea suffered in one way or another in terms of the actual combat capability of the forces, but also the logistics back up received. The Russians were losing ground industrially by both Britain and France, both in terms of Gross National Product (GNP) and GNP per capita. While this did not immediately translate into military weakness, the effects would be felt soon enough, with no railways south of Moscow, Russian troops seriously lacked mobility and could take up to three months to get to the Crimea (as would supplies and ammunition) as opposed to three weeks for the British and French who would come by sea. The majority of Russian troops were still equipped with muskets as opposed to rifles, which were more accurate and had a longer range. With the French revolution still casting a deep shadow over the continent, Governments were worried about the loyalty of their troops, and the lack of a war caused officers to emphasis caution, obedience and hierarchy. Nicholas I encouraged this within Russia and thus military parades and the look of the troops' uniforms became more important than logistics or education. (Kennedy, 1989, pp. 218 - 228)

The British Army had suffered as well, in the forty or so years of peace since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. There were some seven semi-independent authorities that looked after the administration of the Army, and contributed to the "complication, the muddle, the duplication, the mutual jealousies, the labyrinthine processes of supply and control". (Hibbert, 1999, p. 7) These 'organisations' were made up of the Commander-in-Chief (located at Horse Guards - a sort of Chief of the Imperial General Staff), the Master General of the Ordnance (equipment, fortifications and barracks), Board of General Officers (uniforms), The Commissariat (supplies and transport, but Wellington's baggage train had been disbanded many years previously and so had no real means of moving said supplies), The Medical Department, the Secretary-at-War (who was responsible for the Army's dealings with civilian contractors), and the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

There was little, if any, coordination between these different 'organisations' and thus the provision of logistic support was rudimentary at best. In 1854, the view of administration and the provision of logistic support to the troops in the field was in the hands of, to a greater or lesser extent, the commanding officers of the regiments, some of whom cared for their men, but most simply looked after their own lot. Logistics is not merely about the supply of men and matériel to the theater of operation, but the application of those resources in a timely manner to affect the outcome of battle, but also the provision of food, clothing, shelter and entertainment to the troops in order to safeguard morale and discipline. There were very few in the Crimea who could visualise this problem, or had the power to do anything about it. The British tended to fight the war first and leave the administration to take care of itself. Unfortunately, it made it difficult for any comprehensive revision of the system. Many of the clothing and equipment were left over from the Peninsula War and thus a lot of it was rusting, decaying or falling apart. It was not the fact that there was no food, equipment, fodder or supplies, there was plenty of it in Balaclava. It was that there was virtually no centrally organised system of getting it to where it was needed. There was also a very loose and ill-defined chain of command, which had contributed to the Army's difficulties. Many commanding officers looked upon their regiments as their own personal property, and were very reluctant to take them out for exercises with other units, which were held extremely infrequently anyway. Few officers had any conception of military tactics to start with. "This army &hellip is a shambles." (Quoted from the letters of Captain M A B Biddulph, RA in Hibbert, p. 8) All these faults combined with the terrible winter of 1854 to produce chaos, and the medical system effectively broke down. Into this maelstrom walked Florence Nightingale and thirty-eight nurses. Although there was initially resistance to their presence, the stream of wounded from Balaclava and Inkerman overwhelmed the hospital. With her own budget and working unceasingly to improve the conditions (the washing of linen, issue of clothing and beds, special diets, medicine, hygiene, sanitary conditions etc.) there, the death rate fell from 44 per cent, to 2.2 per cent in six months. The terrible conditions were reported in the Press from reports of The Times correspondent, W H Russell, and also in letters from serving officers. Public opinion became such that the Government of Lord Aberdeen fell, and Lord Palmerston took over, with Lord Panmure as Minister of War and Lord Clarendon as Foreign Secretary. General Simpson was sent out to relieve Lord Raglan of the administrative burden, and gradually, the administrative chaos was overcome. A central system for the supply of provisions to depots on the peninsula was formed, Turkish labour was recruited to undertake construction work, the railway from Balaclava to near Telegraph on the Woronzov Road was completed, transport was borrowed from the French and Spanish mules hired from Barcelona. Mr Filder and Admiral Boxter began to restore order in Balaclava and organise the port. The group of dishonest sutlers and contractors that had been operating unchecked were bought under control, and by February, the army was beginning to heal itself, with games of cricket and football being played in the camps. Britain's main military power of course rested with the Royal Navy, and with the effective withdrawal of the Russian fleets into port, provided the main logistic supply line to the British forces in the Crimean Peninsula.

Of the three main armies to take part in the Crimean War, the best was clearly the French, which retained a measure of its professionalism from the Napoleonic era and many officers and men had served in Algeria. There was still a degree of incompetence and around half the officers were chosen from the lower ranks, so many had trouble reading and writing. The teaching of military skills such as reading maps, strategy and topography was as scorned as it was in the Russian Army. But the French General Staff was much more comprehensive than that of the British, and included officers of the Administrative Service as well as specialised corps. It was the supply and medical arrangements that really stood out, and both were superior to that of the British (initially) and Russian Armies, for at Kamiesh, the French built a logistic support base of some 100 acres in area, and another 50 acres of shops where a large variety of goods could be bought. (Blake, 1973, p. 108) The American Civil War foreshadowed future warfare, particularly as regards logistics. Both sides were determined, had reasonably competent generals, with large populations from which to draw recruits from, and the means to equip them. This laid the foundations for a long war, not one that would be determined by one or two battles, but several campaigns, and hinge upon the will to sustain the war-fighting capability (material or morale). This was to be a large conflict between large populations with mass mobilisation armies. This meant that a logistics infrastructure would have to be set up to cater for the training, equipping and movement of these armies from scratch. But it would also have to cater for the supply of food, ammunition, equipment, spare parts, fresh horses and their fodder, and the evacuation of casualties (of which there would be greater numbers than ever) and canned food, introduced in the 1840's. Strategy took into consideration not only the combatants' own logistic requirements, but that of the enemy as well. That principle meant that Grant was able to fix Lee in Virginia, which enabled Sherman to march to Atlanta to destroy the Confederates' major communications and supply centre, and hence onto Savannah. Lastly, it was the first major war in which railways played an important part, speeding up the movement of troops and supplies. They also dictated to a great extent, the axes of advance or retreat, the siting of defensive positions and even the location of battles. But it also warned of the consequences of having a large army tied to the railway system for the majority of its supplies, as McClellan found out in both the Richmond Peninsula campaign and after the Battle of Antietam. Most European observers had lost interest in the war early on, after the shambles of the First Bull Run, but a few (including a Captain Scheibert of the Prussian Army) were impressed with the support given by the Union Navy to the Union Army, in tactical and logistic terms, and the use of railway repair battalions to keep the rail systems functioning. The two lessons they missed or were forgotten, were the growing importance of fortifications (particularly the trench) to offset the increasing firepower of contemporary weapons and the increasing rate of ammunition expenditure. The Austro-Prussian and the Franco-Prussian Wars confirmed the importance (as well as the limitations) of railways but were similar to the wars of the past in that ammunition expenditure was relatively low. It was thus easier for troops to be supplied with ammunition as compared to food.

The First World War was unlike anything that had gone before it. Not only did the armies initially outstrip their logistic systems (particularly the Germans with their Schlieffen Plan) with the amount of men, equipment and horses moving at a fast pace, but they totally underestimated the ammunition requirements (particularly for artillery). On average, ammunition was consumed at ten times the pre-war estimates, and the shortage of ammunition became serious, forcing governments to vastly increase ammunition production. In Britain this caused the 'shell scandal' of 1915, but rather than the government of the day being to blame, it was faulty pre-war planning, for a campaign on the mainland of Europe, for which the British were logistically unprepared. Once the war became trench bound, supplies were needed to build fortifications that stretched across the whole of the Western Front. Add to that the scale of the casualties involved, the difficulty in building up for an attack (husbanding supplies) and then sustaining the attack once it had gone in (if any progress was made, supplies had to be carried over the morass of no-man's land). It was no wonder that the war in the west was conducted at a snail's pace, given the logistic problems. It was not until 1918, that the British, learning the lessons of the last four years, finally showed how an offensive should be carried out, with tanks and motorised gun sleds helping to maintain the pace of the advance, and maintain supply well away from the railheads and ports. The First World War was a milestone for military logistics. It was no longer true to say that supply was easier when armies kept on the move due to the fact that when they stopped they consumed the food, fuel and fodder needed by the army. From 1914, the reverse applied, because of the huge expenditure of ammunition, and the consequent expansion of transport to lift it forward to the consumers. It was now far more difficult to resupply an army on the move, while the industrial nations could produce huge amounts of war matériel, the difficulty was in keeping the supplies moving forward to the consumer.

This of course, was a foretaste of the Second World War. The conflict was global in size and scale. Not only did combatants have to supply forces at ever greater distances from the home base, but these forces tended to be fast moving, and voracious in their consumption of fuel, food, water and ammunition. Railways again proved indispensable, but sealift and airlift made ever greater contributions as the war dragged on (especially with the use of amphibious and airborne forces, as well as underway replenishment for naval task forces). The large-scale use of motorised transport for tactical re-supply helped maintain the momentum of offensive operations, and most armies became more motorised as the war progressed. The Germans, although moving to greater use of motorised transport, still relied on horse transport to a large extent - a fact worth noting in the failure of Barbarossa. After the fighting had ceased, the operations staffs could relax somewhat, whereas the logisticians had to supply not only the occupation forces, but also relocate those forces that were demobilising, repatriate Prisoners Of War, and feed civil populations of often decimated countries. The Second World War was, logistically, as in every other sense, the most testing war in history. The cost of technology had not yet become an inhibiting factor, and only its industrial potential and access to raw materials limited the amount of equipment, spares and consumables a nation could produce. In this regard, the United States outstripped all others. Consumption of war material was never a problem for the USA and its allies. Neither was the fighting power of the Germans diminished by their huge expenditure of war material, nor the strategic bomber offensives of the Allies. They conducted a stubborn, often brilliant defensive strategy for two-and-a-half years, and even at the end, industrial production was still rising. The principal logistic legacy of the Second World War was the expertise in supplying far off operations and a sound lesson in what is, and what is not, administratively possible.

With the end of the Second World War, the tensions that had been held in check by the common goal to defeat fascism finally came to the fore. The Cold War started in around 1948 and was given impetus by the Berlin Blockade, the formation of NATO and the Korean War. The period was characterised by the change in the global order, from one dominated by empires to a roughly bipolar world, split between the Superpowers and their alliance blocs. However, the continued activity by both blocs in the Third World meant that both sides continued to draw on the experience of power projection from the Second World War. East and West continued to have to prepare for both limited conflicts in the Third World, and an all-out confrontation with the other bloc. These would vary between 'low intensity' counter-insurgency conflicts (Vietnam, Central America, Malaya, Indochina and Afghanistan) and 'medium intensity' conventional operations (Korea, the Falklands) often conducted well away from the home base and an all-out Third World War involving high-intensity conventional and / or nuclear conflict. Both sides had to deal with the spiralling rate of defence inflation, while weapon systems increased in both cost and complexity, having implications for the procurement process, as defence budgets could not increase at the same rate.

The principal concern for the defence planners of the two blocs involved the stand off between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Europe. The history of the two alliances is closely linked. Within a few years of the end of the Second World War, relations between East and West became increasingly strained to the point of becoming the Cold War and a dividing line being drawn across Europe (the 'Iron Curtain' from Winston Churchill's famous speech at Fulton, Missouri). The Soviet inspired coup in Czechoslovakia, the Greek Civil war and the Berlin Blockade all suggested to the Western nations that the Soviets wished to move the Iron Curtain westwards, which was combined with the Soviet failure to demobilise on a par with the West. Initially, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April 1949 building upon the Brussels Treaty of 1948, and was signed by the United Kingdom, France, United States, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Iceland, Italy and Luxembourg. The outbreak of the Korean War (in June 1950) and the early test of a Soviet nuclear device in August 1949 led to fears of a major expansion in Soviet activity. This prompted the Alliance into converting itself into a standing military organisation, necessitating the stockpiling of large amounts of munitions, equipment and spares "just in case" it was needed. The original members were joined in 1952 by Greece and Turkey, by West Germany in 1955 and by Spain in 1982.

NATO strategy, by the late 1980s, was based around the concepts of "flexible response", "forward defence" and "follow on force attack". The key element of NATO strategy, that of "flexible response", was adopted in 1967, and took over from "massive retaliation". This strategy demanded a balance of conventional and nuclear forces sufficient to deter aggression, and should deterrence fail, be capable of actual defence. The three stages in response to aggression were "direct defence" (defeating the enemy attack where it occurs and at the level of warfare chosen by the aggressor), "deliberate escalation" (escalating to a level of warfare, including the use of nuclear weapons, to convince the aggressor of NATO's determination and ability to resist and hence persuade them to withdraw) and "general nuclear response" (the use of strategic nuclear weapons to force the aggressor to halt his attack). A key commitment has been to "forward defence" (in deference to German political interests), that is, trying to maintain a main front line as close to the Iron Curtain as possible. To this had been added "FOFA" (follow?on?force attack), derived from the US Army's "Air?Land Battle 2000" strategy where "smart" and "stealth" weapons (as seen in the Gulf War) are used to attack enemy rear areas and approaching forces. For forty years, the main threat to NATO's territorial integrity was the armed forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Treaty Organisation, more commonly known as the Warsaw Pact. This organisation came into being on the 14th May 1955 with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance by Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, and of course the USSR. This was supposedly a response to the rearming of West Germany and its incorporation into NATO. The treaty reinforced a number of bilateral mutual aid treaties between the USSR and its allies, which was also complemented by a series of status force agreements allowing for the positioning of substantial Soviet forces on the allies' soil. The original treaty was valid until May 1975 where it was renewed for ten years and again in May 1985 for twenty years. The purpose of the Pact was to facilitate the Soviet forces to defend the Soviet Union (not surprising, considering the Soviet post?war concern with security) and to threaten Western Europe, while extracting military assistance from the East European states. Refusals or deviance were not tolerated, as seen in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968) but that is not to say the Soviets had it all their own way. The East Europeans were "reluctant to make all the military efforts demanded of them, and have from time to time, resisted Soviet attempts to extract more resources, and refused to undertake all the exercises demanded or even on occasions, to lend full blooded diplomatic support". (Martin, 1985, p. 12) As a consequence, the dependability of the Pact forces in a war may have been open to question. Much would have depended upon the nature of the conflict.

Warsaw Pact doctrine called for a broad frontal assault while securing massive superiority at a few pre?selected points. The attacking forces would be echeloned, possibly three or more echelons deep (coming from the expectation that NATO would quickly resort to nuclear weapons to stop any breakthrough) even at Theatre (each Theatre consisted of two or more Fronts) level. To the Pact, only the offensive was decisive. The concept of defence was used as a means to shield reorganising forces getting ready to launch another offensive. Pact formations were modular all the way up to Front level (each Front consisted of two to five Armies, but generally consisted of three). One Pact Army was configured similarly to another Army (each Army was made up of from three to seven Divisions but generally consisted of four or five Divisions). Forces in the front echelon would punch holes in NATO's front line for the Operational Manoeuvre Groups and the second echelon to exploit through and hopefully lead to the collapse of the NATO main line position. The third echelon would then pursue the fleeing enemy forces and complete the assigned objectives.

It must be noted however, that as structured, the Pact was not intended to be used in wartime. The Pact was meant to support the stationing of the various Groups of Soviet Forces, control training and exercises, assist in operational effectiveness and supervise and control military policy. The East European national armies were trained and equipped on the Soviet model because in war they would have been fully integrated into the Soviet Command structure as parts of the various Fronts. An example was the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where the joint invasion was conducted by the military command in Moscow. The logistic implications of a clash between these two giants would have been enormous. Despite its "economic weakness and commercial and industrial inefficiency, the Soviet Union possessed mighty and highly competent armed forces. Indeed, they were probably one of the few efficient parts of the Soviet Union." (Thompson, 1998, p. 289) Also, despite its high ideals, NATO had a number of drawbacks, the most serious of which was its lack of sustainability. In a major shooting war, so long as the Soviets performed reasonably well, NATO would probably have lost due to the fact it would have run out of things with which to fight. In a static war, logistics is somewhat simpler in the modern age, as ammunition can be stocked and fuel expenditure is limited (thus allowing one to stock that as well). In a highly mobile war, the main consumable used will be fuel rather than ammunition, but in a highly attritional conflict, the reverse will apply. Ammunition will be used to a larger extent than fuel. For example, Soviet tank armies advancing at a rate of between sixteen and forty-five kilometers a day in 1944 - 5 suffered far lower losses in men and tanks and consumed a third less fuel and one sixth the ammunition of tank armies that advanced at a rate of between four and thirteen kilometers a day. (Thompson, 1998, p. 291) Of course, this requirement will have to be modified to take account of what Clausewitz termed the 'friction of war' - terrain, weather, problems with communications, misunderstood orders etc. not to mention the actions of the enemy.

NATO reinforcement and resupply had been coordinated under SACEUR's (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe) Rapid Reinforcement Plan, and could be expected to work if given adequate time (a big 'if'). However, there were possible clashes in that, for example, if the United Kingdom decided to exercise its national option of reinforcing BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) with the 2nd Infantry Division, its arrival may coincide with the arrival of the III US Corps from CONUS (Continental United States) to draw their equipment from the POMCUS (Pre-positioned Overseas Material Configured in Unit Sets) sites and thus cause major logistic problems given the lack of rolling stock to go around. So, paradoxically, the greater the success the United States had in reinforcing Europe, the greater probability there would have been clashes in priority. The plan depended upon NATO forces limiting the expected interference from theb enemy (something the Warsaw Pact definitely planned on doing) and kind weather - only then would the plan have had a good chance of succeeding. Even if the forces had got there, would the logistics system have worked? Given the extended supply lines from the Channel ports across the Low Countries and the lack of operational coordination, either in defensive tactics or logistics one is left to wonder. For example, if one corps' national logistic capability became critical, the Army Group headquarters may have recommended a transfer of stocks between National Logistic Support Commands. If the national authorities refused to transfer stocks then the Army Group Commander would have to refer the decision to the Commander-in-Chief Central Region (CINCENT) who would then negotiate with the Ministries of Defence concerned. Tactical and logistic responsibility was thus separated and command was divided. CINCENT or the Army Group Commanders had no power to reallocate nationally provided operational support capabilities or resources, and did not have access to logistic information that would have helped them make decisions on redeployment or reinforcement. As logistics was a national responsibility, each national corps has a set of 'tramlines' that ran westwards. Cross corps-boundary logistics was difficult, if not impossible. While routes for such operations had been thought out, there were three different tank gun ammunition types, different fuzing and charge arrangements for artillery ammunition, different fuel resupply methods and no interoperable logistic support system for airmobile operations. All this would mitigate against a cohesive Army Group battle, particularly in the Northern Army Group. Thus sustainability would have been the NATO achilles' heel. While the agreed stock level was to thirty days, many nations did not stock even to this. All have different ways of arriving at Daily Ammunition Expenditure Rates. Most members had either non-existent or not published plans to gear up their industrial base to replace the stocks once used. As experience in the Falklands War points out, actual ammunition expenditure rates would have been far above those planned. (Thompson, 1998, p. 310) It is also worth remembering that one British armoured division would have needed around 4,000 tons of ammunition of all types per day.

The Soviets (and hence Warsaw Pact) view was that while a short war was preferable, it was possible that the conflict might last some time and stay conventional. There is no such word as 'sustainability' in Russian, the clossest being 'viability'. This has a much broader context, and includes such matters as training, the quality and quantity of weapons and equipment, and the organisation of fighting units, as well as supply, maintenance, repair and reinforcements. The Soviets also relied on a scientific method of battle planning one that took into account military history, to reduce uncertainty to a minimum and to produce detailed quantitative assessments of battlefield needs. They also had a common military doctrine throughout the Warsaw Pact and standard operational procedures.

Soviet forces still relied on a relatively streamlined logistic tail as compared to their Western counterparts. The bulk of logistic resources were held at Army and Front level, which could supply two levels down if required. This gave a false indication to the West of the logistic viability of the Soviet division. Thus senior commanders had a great deal of flexibility in deciding who to support and who to abandon and which axis to concentrate on. Soviet priorities for resupply, in order, were ammunition, POL, spares and technical support, food and medical supplies and clothing. They regarded fuel as the greatest challenge, but their rear services could still make maximum use of local resources, be it clothing, food or fuel. It is probable though that the Soviets would not have had things all their own way. Keeping a high tempo of operations would consume large amounts of fuel and ammunition. Thus almost every town and wood in East Germany and Czechoslovakia would have become a depot and every road or track would have been needed to transport it and every possible means to carry it utilised, including captured vehicles. NATO would of course be trying to interdict these supply routes and the density of forces would have made traffic control problematic, not to mention the fact that any significant advance would place the leading forces well away from their supply bases and railheads behind the initial start line. However, the Soviets would endeavor to maintain strict control over supply priorities and a ruthless determination to achieve the objective. To this end, surprise would have been vital, and thus the objectives should have been achievable with forces in being, with the minimum amount of reinforcement. Also, the first strategic echelon would have been required to maintain operations over a longer period of time. There would thus be no secure rear areas, no forward edge of the battle area or front line. The repair and medical services would thus be positioned well forward, giving priority to men and equipment that can be tended to quickly and sent back into action. The Soviets did not have a 'use and throwaway' attitude to men and equipment, but intended to keep the fighting strength of the unit as high as possible for as long as possible. Once the formation had become badly mauled however, it would be replaced by a fresh one - they did not believe in the Western method of replacing unit casualties with reinforcements thus keeping the unit in action over a prolonged period.

The ending of the Cold War has had profound effects upon the philosophy of, and approach to military logistics. The long held approach of stock-piling of weapons, ammunition and vehicles, at various strategic sites around the expected theatre of operations and in close proximity to the lines of communications was possible when the threat and its axes of attack were known. It is no longer the optimum method in the new era of force projection and manoeuvre warfare. 'High tech' weapons are also difficult to replace, as the US Air Force demonstrated during the 1999 attacks on Yugoslavia, when they started to run short of cruise missiles.

With pressure on defence budgets and the need to be able to undertake a (possibly larger) number of (smaller) operational roles than had previously been considered there has been a closer examination of the approach of commercial organisations to logistics. For the UK, this pressure has been particularly intense and as part of the Strategic Defence Review (1998) the Smart Procurement Initiative was announced. This was designed not only to improve the acquisition process but also to bring about more effective support in terms of supply and engineering. However, it is pertinent at this point, to briefly examine what commercial practices are being considered.

Just after the Second World War, the United States provided considerable assistance to Japan. Out of this, the Japanese have become world leaders in management philosophies that bring about the greatest efficiency in production and service. From organisations such as Toyota came the then revolutionary philosophies of Just In Time (JIT) and Total Quality Management (TQM). From these philosophies have arisen and developed the competitive strategies that world class organisations now practice. Aspects of these that are now considered normal approaches to management include kaizen (or continuous improvement), improved customer-supplier relationships, supplier management, vendor managed inventory, customer focus on both the specifier and user, and above all recognition that there is a supply chain along which all efforts can be optimised to enable effective delivery of the required goods and services. This means a move away from emphasising functional performance and a consideration of the whole chain of supply as a total process. It means a move away from the 'silo' mentality to thinking and managing 'outside the (functional) box'. In both commercial and academic senses the recognition of supply chain management, as an enabler of competitive advantage is increasingly to the fore. This has resulted in key elements in being seen as best practice in their own right, and includes value for money, partnering, strategic procurement policies, integrated supply chain / network management, total cost of ownership, business process reengineering, and outsourcing.

The total process view of the supply chain necessary to support commercial business is now being adopted by, and adapted within, the military environment. Hence initiatives such as 'Lean Logistics' and 'Focussed Logistics" as developed the US Department of Defense and acknowledged by the UK Ministry of Defence in the so-called Smart Procurement, recognise the importance of logistics within a 'cradle to grave' perspective. This means relying less on the total integral stockholding and transportation systems, and increasing the extent to which contractorised logistic support to military operations is fanned out to civilian contractors - as it was in the eighteenth century.

Force projection and manoeuvre warfare blur the distinction between the long held first, second and third line support concept of the static Cold War philosophy and link the logistics' supply chain more closely with the home base than ever before.

One of the reasons for the defeat of the British in the American colonies in 1776 may have been the length of, and time involved in, replenishing the forces from a home base some 3,000 miles away. The same was true in the Russo-Japanese War with a 4,000-mile supply line along a single-track railway. Whilst the distances involved may still be great in today's operational environment, logistic philosophies and systems are being geared to be more responsive in a way that could not have been previously envisaged.

The five principles of logistics, accepted by NATO are foresight, economy, flexibility, simplicity and co-operation. They are just as true today as they were in the times of the Assyrians and Romans. The military environment in which they can be applied is considerably different, and, as can be seen in the Balkans in the late 20th Century, adopting and adapting military logistics to the operational scenario is an essential feature for success. Ultimately a "real knowledge of supply and movement factors must be the basis of every leader's plan only then can he know how and when to take risks with these factors, and battles and wars are won by taking risks." (Wavell, 1946)

Military Naturalization During WWII

Henry B. Hazard, designated representative
of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, swears in Lt. Steve Pissanos,
Plainfield, N.J. as a citizen of the United
States in London, England. Lt Pissanos was
the first person to receive citizenship in the
European Theatre of Operations (May 3,

After the United States entered World War II Congress acted to provide for the expedited naturalization of noncitizens serving honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Second War Powers Act of 1942 (56 Stat. 182, 186) exempted noncitizen service members from naturalization requirements related to age, race, residence, any educational tests, fees, filing a declaration of intention, and enemy alien status. Later, a 1944 statute (58 Stat. 885) also eliminated the requirement for proof of lawful entry to the U.S.

Noncitizen service members who wished to naturalize still needed to show that they had served honorably, had good moral character, were attached to the principals of the Constitution, and had a favorable disposition toward the good order and happiness of the United States. No member of the military was forced to naturalize and service members did not “automatically” gain citizenship upon joining the Armed Forces. To become a citizen, a naturalizing service member needed to file a petition for naturalization and swear the required Oath of Allegiance.

During the War the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) oversaw the campaign to naturalize members of U.S. Armed Forces. Stateside, the INS worked with the military to identify noncitizen soldiers who wished to naturalize, helped soldiers complete the required petition, and organized swearing ceremonies. In many cases INS officials traveled to military camps to process large groups of soldier petitions. Because petitioners needed to swear the Oath of Allegiance in open court, a naturalization judge would then open a session of court at the camp and swear in the soldiers onsite.

The Second War Powers Act of 1942 also authorized the first overseas naturalizations in the nation’s history. Under its provisions, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization could authorize designated representatives to naturalize members of the Armed Forces serving outside of the U.S. This eliminated the need for soldiers stationed overseas to swear the oath in open court and, for the first time, allowed administrative officials to perform naturalizations. The Commissioner designated representatives from the Department of State and U.S. District Attorney’s Office, but INS officials conducted the majority of overseas naturalizations.

On December 4, 1942, INS Assistant Commissioner Thomas B. Shoemaker (who served as INS’s first designated representative for overseas naturalization) naturalized James A. Finnell Hoey in the Panama Canal Zone, making Hoey the first person to receive U.S. citizenship abroad. Over the next year Shoemaker went on to naturalize 289 service members overseas.

Over the course of the war, Henry B. Hazard, INS Director of Research and Educational Services, performed more overseas naturalizations than any other INS official—by a wide margin. Between February, 1943 and early 1945, Hazard traveled nearly 100,000 miles and visited six continents in order to naturalize 6,574 service members. This made him responsible for the vast majority of INS’s overseas naturalization (INS agency officials performed a total of 7,178 overseas naturalizations) and nearly half of alloverseas naturalizations during WWII (all designated government officials performed a total of13,587 overseas naturalizations) 1 . On April 3, 1946, the War Department recognized Hazard’s wartime service by awarding him the Medal of Freedom.

Hazard chronicled his wartime experiences in a series of articles for the Immigration and Naturalization Service periodical Monthly Review, including summaries of his earliest overseas naturalization trips (PDF, 226.14 KB) , his work in the Pacific Theater (PDF, 219.1 KB) , and a postwar reflection (PDF, 344.84 KB) . In October 1948, the Monthly Review also published INS Commissioner Watson B. Miller’s summary report on the Foreign Born in the U.S. military during WWII (PDF, 760.88 KB) .

*Full text issues of the Immigration and Naturalization Service Monthly Review are available through the USCIS History Library’s online catalog.

Second World War – Burma 1943-44

The 1st/11th Sikhs arrived at Dohazari by rail on the 12th of October and then marched some eighty-five miles to Tumbru, where they arrived five days later. On the next day the Battalion embarked in river craft and sailed down the Naf river to Bawli, where it joined the 7th Indian Division. Here the Battalion was allotted the role of Divisional Headquarters Battalion and was split up amongst the three brigades of the Division.

Before proceeding with a detailed account of the Battalion’s activities in the Arakan, it is necessary to explain very briefly the general situation at this time. During the monsoon both the British and the Japanese had been holding their forward positions very lightly and the actual number of troops on the ground at this time was small. A build-up was beginning to take place and the 7th Division was the first to arrive. Initial operations took the form of small unspectacular local advances with the intention of closing up on the Japanese forward positions north of the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road.

The Allied intention was to capture Akyab, the only port of any importance in the Arakan, by a combined sea and land attack. The XV Corps was to advance south in the Arakan with the 5th Indian Division on the right and the 7th Indian Division on the left.

During November the 5th Division arrived and took over the coastal sector north of Maungdaw, while the 7th Division crossed to the east of the Mayu Range to get into position for the coming offensive.

The area east of the range consisted of a tangled mass of jungle-covered hills intersected by stretches of flat rice fields, which were quite dry at this time of the year. The jungle was mostly thick bamboo and the hills were very steep and usually about a hundred to two hundred feet high. They provided ideal defensive positions and were very difficult to assault.

There was no lateral road across the Mayu Range to supply the Division, so a road was constructed by the divisional engineers through dense jungle over the thirteen-hundred-foot-high Ngakyedauk Pass. This was a remarkable feat of engineering, which enabled tanks, artillery and heavy transport to reach the Division. The pioneer platoon of the 1st/ 11th Sikhs was attached to the divisional sappers for work on the road and constructed some of the many bridges on the pass.

The Battalion was very unfortunate to lose its Adjutant, Captain P. J. Sheehan, who died of smallpox in Bawli Bazar in January. His place was taken by Captain P. T. Cunningham, who remained as Adjutant almost to the end of the war.

During January the Division started to line up for the offensive to eliminate all Japanese forces resisting north of the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road. Battalion Headquarters and “A” Company, under Major Lerwill, were with the 114th Brigade, east of the Kalapanzin river, and were given the task of showing strength in front of the strong Japanese fortifications around Kyaukit, while the remainder of the Brigade prepared for the offensive. Patrols were active day and night and often penetrated deep into these defences. The official report says
” It is credit to this battalion that the Japs were sufficiently impressed with the exuberance of Sikhs to put them down as a full battalion.”

During this time “D” Company, under Major Workman, was detached on a special protective and reconnaissance role in the Eastern Yomas overlooking the left flank of the Division. This company, known as “Workcol,” isolated in these thick jungle hills, did excellent work and carried out many long-range patrols.

“B” Company, under Major Walker, and “C” Company, under Major Spink, were with the 33rd and 89th Brigades respectively. These companies carried out numerous successful patrols towards the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road and gained valuable information for the coming offensive.

During this time the Japanese command was preparing for its march on India which was to break the Allied forces on the Indo-Burma border and open the road to the plains of Assam and Bengal. In practice, this offensive fell into two distinct stages-first the Arakan offensive and second the drive through Manipur.

In the Arakan the Japanese plan was to encircle and destroy the 7th Division east of the Mayu Ridge, then cut the main line of communication behind the 5th Division in the coastal sector and drive it into the sea.


On the night of the 3rd of February, when the 33rd and 114th Brigades were deploying for the attack on the enemy main forces covering Buthidaung, a Japanese force of several thousand men, with artillery, engineers and ancillary units, under the command of Colonel Tanahashi, moved round the left flank of the Division. There was much confused fighting in the rear areas and the 89th Brigade, in reserve, bore the brunt of the main Japanese thrust in the Linbabi area south of Taung Bazar. Here they delayed the Japanese advance and “C” Company was engaged in some bitter fighting, repulsing Japanese attacks on Brigade Headquarters. During this fighting, Lance-Naik Karnail Singh earned a posthumous Indian Order of Merit for great gallantry. When a large number of men in his platoon were either killed or wounded, he charged forward on his own and drove off a party of Japanese:, who were harassing the evacuation of the wounded, and thereby enabled all the casualties to be brought back safely. His body was found some time later surrounded by dead Japanese. Major Spink was one of the wounded and had a very lucky escape when his stretcher convoy was ambushed: his life was undoubtedly saved through the gallantry of his orderly, Sepoy Mehar Singh, who was awarded the Military Medal.

On the 6th of February Divisional Headquarters was overrun by the Japanese and after some very gallant fighting General Messervy, with most of his headquarters personnel,’withdrew to the divisional administrative area, which became known as the “Admin. Box.” Brigades were immediately called up by wireless and ordered to stand fast and form defensive boxes.

The 1st/ l lth Sikhs, less “B” and “C” Companies, were with the 114th Brigade in the Kwazon area and continued to hold more or less the same positions north of Kyaukit. “D” Company had been withdrawn from the Eastern Yomas and was holding a hill feature on the northern side of the brigade box.

On the west bank of the Kalapanzin river “B” Company was protecting the 33rd Brigade Headquarters, just east of Hill 182, while “C” Company formed a box with a company of the 7th/2nd Punjab Regiment to protect a field regiment and some anti-aircraft gunners at Awlanbyin.

On the 7th of February the Japanese captured the Ngakyedauk Pass and the siege began. This was a series of large and small battles for three weeks, when the Japanese did their utmost to hammer the Division into submission, but everywhere the troops stood firm, inflicting severe casualties on the enemy. Some of the most bitter fighting was seen around the Admin. Box, which was so gallantly held by Headquarters and administrative personnel. The Granthi, Naik Kartar Singh, with the “Granth Sahib,” was in the Admin. Box with the motor transport. The drivers played their part in the defence of the box, while the Granthi displayed considerable, gallantry while encouraging the men holding the front line. The Gurdwara harmonica was damaged by a bullet in the fighting and it was mended and is still in use in the Gurdwara.

The Japanese had not expected the Division to hold on and fight and had not appreciated that General Slim could maintain the Division by air. The first Dakota aircraft came over on the 11th of February and the Royal Air Force dropped supplies daily until the siege was raised, while small liaison aircraft, landing on rough airstrips in brigade areas, evacuated all the seriously wounded from the overcrowded field ambulances.

For the next three weeks the Japanese lost heavily and Tanahashi’s force was split into small scattered parties which were methodically reduced by offensive action from the defensive boxes and by troops of the 26th Division, who moved up from reserve in the north. During this period “A” Company carried out several successful ambushes, while a platoon infiltrated into the Kyaukit defences and occupied a Japanese forward position. “B” Company had their share of fighting with the 33rd Brigade and on the 20th of February carried out a particularly successful attack on a party of Japanese near Hill 182 overlooking Brigade Headquarters. The Sikhs went in with great dash under the inspired leadership of Subadar Gurcharan Singh and threw the Japanese out of their positions with the bayonet.

On the 23rd of February the Ngakyedauk Pass was opened, in co-operation with troops of the 5th Division who attacked from the west, and the siege was lifted. By the end of February the remnants of Tanahashi’s force had been mopped up.

General Sir William Slim, Commander of the Fourteenth Army, summed up this battle in the Arakan in these words
” The battle of the Arakan was the first occasion in this war on which a British force has withstood the full weight of a major Japanese offensive, held it, broken it, smashed it to little pieces and pursued it. Anybody who was in the 7th and 5th Indian Divisions and was there has something of which they can be very proud indeed.”

The following is an extract from a message sent by Mr. Winston Churchill to General Slim after this victory in the Arakan
” I congratulate the Fourteenth Army heartily upon the successful outcome of the series of fierce encounters with the Japanese in the Arakan. . . .”

At the same time, Admiral The Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia Command, issued an order of the day in which he said
” . . . The enemy . . . launched a major offensive in the Arakan in the hope of defeating you and sweeping you into India. You have met the onslaught with courage, confidence and resolution. Many of you were cut off and encircled, dependent on supplies dropped from aeroplanes. But everyone stood firm, . . . . Now, after bitter fighting in the jungles and in the skies, the Japanese attack has been smashed. The enemy forces which infiltrated into your rear have been destroyed or scattered. The threatened passes are clear the roads are open. You have gained a complete victory. Your splendid spirit was clear to me when I visited you recently. Now that spirit, that tenacity, that courage, have been demonstrated to the enemy and to the world. I salute you.”

At the beginning of March the 1st /11th Sikhs were relieved of their role as Divisional Headquarters Battalion and allotted to the 33rd Brigade for the postponed offensive on Buthidaung. Everyone in the Battalion was delighted and felt that they would now have a chance of showing their worth and giving the Japanese a real beating. The men were all in great heart their morale, which had always been high, soared they were all very fit and they had great confidence in themselves. The weather at this time was good nice sunny days, not too hot, while the nights were not as cold as they had been a month earlier.

The Battalion concentrated in Awlanbyin on the 29th of February and then moved to join the 25th Dragoons just south of the Admin. Box on the next day to carry out some tank training.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dinwiddie left the Battalion here to go and command the 114th Brigade, and Major P. G. Bamford, who was Second-in-Command, took over command.

Some very valuable training was carried out with the 25th Dragoons and preparations were completed for the coming offensive. This aimed at securing the eastern end of the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road, including Buthidaung, with the object of cutting off the enemy occupying their strong positions on the jungle hills, known as Massive and Able.


The 1st/ 11th Sikhs were ordered to capture two hill features, Poland and Rabbit, on the night of the 6th of March. This was to be the first phase of a general advance by the 33rd Brigade to drive a wedge into enemy positions from which an assault on Buthidaung could be launched later.

Patrols were sent out on the evening of the 5th of March and reported the next morning that Poland and Rabbit were held by the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford decided to attack with “B” and “C” Companies forward and to keep “A” and “D” Companies in reserve.

The Battalion set out at dusk on the 6th of March and moved through the rice fields, between the enemy strongholds of Massive and Able, to their forming up area just north of the main road. It was bright moonlight and the Sikhs arrived in plenty of time to form up for the attack. At 10.15 p.m. Major Brough led “C” Company forward across the road under a barrage from the Corps and Divisional artillery. The barrage lifted as the leading platoon commenced the assault. “C” Company went up the slopes of the hill with great dash and surprised a forward enemy post which withdrew in haste as the men charged. Without a pause the Sikhs dashed on and captured the Japanese main position at the top of the hill against slight opposition.

Major Brough sent his reserve platoon through to capture the enemy’s final position, but the leading section was held up as it moved along the top of the ridge. A second attack was put in and the men dashed forward shouting their “fatehs.” They were again held up by a medium machine gun firing at very close range and suffered some casualties. It was very difficult to locate the machine gun in the jungle at night, while it was impossible to move down the steep slopes to attack the position from a flank, so Major Brough decided to consolidate his gains and delay the final attack until the next morning. However, the enemy had taken such a knock that they withdrew before dawn. In this action Sepoy Sajjan Singh displayed great gallantry in crawling forward under extremely heavy enemy fire and bringing back several wounded men from within a few yards of the enemy’s machine gun. He was himself eventually wounded, but he refused to leave his section until the whole position was secured in the morning.

Meanwhile, “B” Company, under Major Walker, had advanced on the right of “C” Company, but the leading platoon had moved over too far to the west and was held up by impenetrable jungle. This delayed the advance of the remainder of the company and it was nearly an hour before patrols found a way through the jungle and “B” Company could move forward. The men had great difficulty in climbing up the slopes and in several places had to cut their way through the jungle. However, they met no opposition and secured the position soon after midnight, capturing two 47-mm. anti-tank guns and a considerable amount of minor equipment.

The remainder of the Battalion now moved forward and consolidated against the inevitable Japanese counter-attacks.

It was discovered in the morning that a Japanese headquarters had been located in the nullah between Poland and Rabbit and had been covered by positions on these two hills. It is believed that the enemy was surprised by the rapid advance on Poland, and, not suspecting an attack on Rabbit, failed to “stand to” in their positions on the latter when the artillery barrage lifted.

The, Sikhs’ position on Poland were shelled all the next day, but very few casualties were sustained, since the men had completed their trenches early in the day. The next night, as expected, the Japanese launched a series of counter-attacks on both Poland and Rabbit and were repulsed all along the front. The night was one that everyone in the Battalion will remember. It was amazingly still and a full moon was high in the sky as the Japanese attacked through the jungle. The men held their fire until the Japanese were close up and then gave a resounding “Bole so nihal, sat siri akal,” as they threw them back time after time. These shouts rang clearly through the jungle and echoed around the hills, while answering “fatehs” were periodically heard from men of the 4th/ 15th Punjab Regiment holding positions over on the left. The self-confidence of the Sikhs was most inspiring and no one could fail to have complete confidence in the men and to have pride to be serving with them. Before dawn the Japanese called off the attack and withdrew to their positions farther south.

On the 8th of March the 1st/11th Sikhs were warned to carry out an attack on the Japanese positions in the jungle hills, known as Astride, covering the western approaches to Buthidaung, so that the 4th/8th Gurkha Rifles and the 25th Dragoons could then pass through and capture the town the next day. The attack was not to take place before the 12th of March, so that the Battalion would have plenty of time to obtain details of the enemy’s dispositions and to carry out diversions towards the south. “A” Company, now under the command of Major Thomas, was therefore sent to occupy a position west of Htinsbabyin, with the support of a squadron of tanks of the 25th Dragoons. No opposition was met, but the tanks were held up by marshy ground about half a mile north of Dongyaung, so “A” Company occupied a strong position on the ridge while the tanks withdrew into reserve. ,On the 9th of March “A” Company was ordered to move forward and occupy the southern end of the ridge overlooking Htinsbabyin, while “D” Company, under Captain Redding, was sent to raid enemy dumps in the Dongyaung area.

“A” Company moved south along the ridge, but the leading platoon met with very stiff resistance when moving forward to seize the objective. Major Thomas immediately launched an attack and the leading platoon captured three enemy posts in some fierce close-in fighting before being held up by several light machine guns firing at point-blank range. “A” Company sustained a number of casualties and Major Thomas wisely decided to consolidate his gains and not attack this strong position again until artillery support could be arranged. The leading section commander, Naik Naranjan Singh, displayed great dash and determination. Although he was wounded early on, he continued to lead his section forward and carried the first two enemy trenches at the point of the bayonet in spite of heavy fire from several light machine guns. Although all but two men of his section were killed or wounded, Naik Naranjan Singh assaulted the third trench up a precipitous slope and killed all the enemy with grenades. By this time one of his companions was killed and the other wounded, but Naik Naranjan Singh continued to hold the enemy trench until the remainder of the company had consolidated and he was ordered to withdraw. In this action Sepoy Mukhtiar Singh won a posthumous Indian Order of Merit for great gallantry he was last seen charging the remaining enemy post on his own, firing his Bren from his hip, and killing four or five of the enemy.

“D” Company gained complete surprise. They moved behind the enemy’s forward positions and destroyed three dumps without opposition. The company returned in the evening, having successfully completed its task without suffering any casualties.

While “A” and “D” Companies had been operating in the south, a number of Sikh reconnaissance patrols had been active along the whole front. A small patrol of four men was ordered to find out if the enemy was occupying a position south of Poland. This patrol set out in bright moonlight on the 8th of March and when it had gone about a mile it observed a party of forty Japanese moving north towards Poland. The patrol immediately took cover, but it was spotted by the enemy, who moved out to outflank the Sikhs, leaving their grenade discharger in a central position to cover their advance.

Sepoy Charan Singh crept silently .forward on his own until he was only a few yards from the grenade party. He then leapt at the Japanese with the discharger and killed him with one thrust of his bayonet. The other two grenadiers gave a piercing shriek, got up and fled. This bold move completely surprised the whole Japanese party, who turned about and retired hastily towards their own positions. On the same night a patrol, led by Havildar Bachan Singh (Brown), moved out to the Astride position. It moved right up close to the Japanese trenches and collected very valuable information. It reported that the enemy were busy digging and constructing bunkers along the whole of the Astride position and had several posts in the vicinity of the main road.

As a result of this patrol report, General Messervy came forward during the afternoon of the 9th of March to advance the time of the attack, while the artillery and Royal Air Force were ordered to harass the Astride position, in order to try to delay the construction of the Japanese defences.

General Messervy explained that there were two alternatives: to attack that night with tired troops and without reconnaissance, or to attack a better established enemy the next morning. Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford decided to attack the next day, since “A” and “D” Companies would be rested and some divebombers, all the Corps artillery and a squadron of tanks would be available to support the attack.

The Sikhs immediately prepared for the attack. “A” Company was relieved by a company of the 4th/15th Punjabis at Htinsbabyin and arrived back at 8 p.m. for some well-earned sleep.


The Sikhs moved to the forming-up area behind West Finger before light on the 11th of March and Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford issued verbal orders for the attack from the forward slopes of this ridge at 6.30 a.m. A squadron of Lee tanks had been detailed from the 25th Dragoons and these joined the Battalion about half an hour later.

The forward troops were again “B” and “C” Companies. This time “B” Company was to be on the left to capture the hills north of the road while “C” Company on the right was to capture those to the south. On capturing Astride, the Sikhs had been ordered to secure the road, so that the 25th Dragoons and the 4th/8th Gurkha Rifles could pass through and capture Buthidaung at first light the next morning. “A” and “D” Companies were therefore ordered to be prepared to pass through and secure the eastern end of the Astride position as soon as the forward companies had captured their objectives.
When company commanders were just finishing their orders to their platoon commanders the bombers came over and gave a fine display of dive-bombing, dropping all their bombs in the target area. They were followed about an hour later by fighters, who strafed the whole area.

At about 10 a.m. the enemy observed the Sikhs’ mortars getting into position and shelled and mortared the ridge from behind the Astride position. At this time both leading companies were moving forward to their assembly areas and the Sikhs suffered some casualties. Immediate and accurate counter-battery fire was put down and the enemy fire slackened considerably.

At 10.15 a.m. the artillery commenced laying smoke screens on the left flank and in front of the objective, and mortars and medium machine guns opened fire, while the tanks moved forward according to plan. The smoke screen put down for the tanks effectively stopped any further interference by enemy artillery fire and by 10.30 a.m. tanks and assaulting companies were formed up on the start line ready for the attack.

The Corps artillery now opened up on the objective, putting down a concentration so intense that the attacking infantry had to lie flat on their faces on the start line to avoid splinters from the barrage five hundred yards distant. Even so, two or three men were hit. The smoke and dust from the barrage mingled with that from the original screen and from the undergrowth on the objective which was now ablaze. The objective itself and the fields beneath it were soon obliterated by drifting clouds of smoke. In all, over seven thousand shells were fired on a front of some five hundred yards.

After ten minutes the artillery lifted and the leading companies advanced, the tanks moving forward with the leading troops. Although the objective was invisible, direction was easy to maintain and the forward elements of the attack were soon at the foot of their respective objectives. During the advance across the open the machine-gun overhead covering fire from both the tanks and guns firing from West Finger was intense and continuous. The noise was deafening, completely obliterating the sound of the tanks and even the artillery barrage, now coming in rear of the Astride position. The moral effect of this covering fire and of the tanks moving steadily forward, both on the enemy and on our own troops, cannot be overemphasized.

Cheering and shouting “fatehs,” the men now commenced the assault, while the leading tank halted only when it reached the mouth of the defile twenty yards from a deep anti-tank ditch and a minefield. The overwhelming concentration of fire and the sight of the rapid and determined advance of the Sikhs and tanks were too much for the Japanese, who offered only slight resistance before retiring in disorder from the defences which they had so carefully prepared.

On arrival on its objective “B” Company saw large bodies of the enemy streaming south in front of Buthidaung. A forward observation officer had accompanied company headquarters and the enemy was therefore engaged promptly and with good results. Buthidaung itself was also shelled and was soon blazing merrily, whilst the ground strafe by fighters about half an hour later also met with success.

At 11 a.m. the first objectives were in British hands and “A” and “D” Companies immediately passed through and secured their objectives without meeting the enemy, who had fled. Strong fighting patrols were sent out and all companies immediately consolidated the position to secure the road.

Patrols pushed far ahead, but no enemy parties were encountered and they entered Buthidaung without opposition. It was therefore decided to exploit success and send two platoons on tanks to Kanbyin away on the right flank and move on Buthidaung from the south. This party was delayed until 2 p.m. by anti-tank mines, but set out in great spirits. It moved about five miles south and then turned up a track towards Buthidaung, but the enemy had pulled right back and the Sikhs, riding on tanks, entered Buthidaung without seeing any enemy.

Unfortunately, one tank near Boomerang, a small hill on the northern outskirts of the town, struck a mine. Although the tank was damaged and could not be repaired that evening, no casualties were suffered. One platoon therefore had to stay out to protect the tank during the night, while the remainder returned to the Battalion position.

Before dark the Battalion was firmly established on Astride and the tanks withdrew safely to Tank valley.

This was a much bigger success than had been expected. The enemy had been surprised and thrown out of a strong position. They had run from the bayonets of the Sikhs and left Buthidaung to be captured without a fight. In view of this success the move of the Gurkhas was accelerated and they passed through Astride at about 10.30 p.m., taking up positions securing the southern exits from Buthidaung.

During the night there was much enemy activity and “C” Company south of the road encountered numerous parties trying to infiltrate into their former positions. The enemy attempts to recapture the hill features south of the road were very half-hearted and were easily driven back. However, the next morning a Japanese platoon was reported to have dug in on India Hill, which was overlooking the road.

Since the Battalion was able to hold only the more important hill features along the road, it had been decided to leave India Hill unoccupied until Subadar Mehar Singh’s platoon returned from pirotecting the disabled tank on Boomerang. Consequently the enemy had no difficulty in reoccupying it during the night.

The 25th Dragoons were now passing through the position and it was essential therefore to recapture India Hill immediately, before all their transport arrived.


Gallantry of Naik Nand Singh, Victoria Cross Winner

” C” Company was detailed to carry out the attack and Major Brough was ordered to waste no time. As he dashed. away from Battalion Headquarters he met Subadar Mehar Singh and his platoon returning, after being relieved on Boomerang by the Gurkhas, so he immediately took them along to do the attack on India Hill. This feature was too close to “C” Company’s position to allow artillery or mortars to support the attack, so Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford managed to get a Lee tank from the 25th Dragoons to cover the platoon forward.

India Hill was a knife-edged ridge, with steep, jungle-clad slopes. The enemy was holding some deep trenches and fox-holes which were well concealed and impossible to see in the jungle. The tank therefore harassed the whole area for several minutes, while the platoon moved up to assault the position, with a section under Naik Nand Singh in the lead.

Naik Nand Singh led his section forward along a narrow track leading up to the enemy position. This was the only possible approach on to the hill. Reaching the crest, they came under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, and every man in the section went down, being either killed or wounded. Nevertheless, Naik Nand Singh dashed forward alone under intense fire at point-blank range. As he was approaching the nearest Japanese trench he was wounded by a grenade, but without hesitating he went on and captured the trench, killing both occupants with his bayonet. Naik Nand Singh, seeing another trench a short distance away, jumped up and dashed towards the second trench in spite of the continuous fire from the enemy. He was again wounded by a grenade and knocked down, but he got up and hurled himself into the trench, killing both occupants with his bayonet. He moved on again for a third time and captured a third trench all on his own. As soon as he had captured the third trench the fire on the remainder of the platoon ceased and they were able to move forward and capture the remainder of the position, killing with bayonet and grenade thirty-seven out of the forty Japanese who were holding the position.

It was due to Naik Nand Singh’s gallantry and determination that the Japanese position was captured so rapidly with so little cost of life and that the whole enemy party were destroyed almost to a man. For his gallantry and complete disregard for his own life in this action Naik Nand Singh was awarded the Victoria Cross.


On the 20th of March the Battalion was withdrawn from the Buthidaung area and given a protective role in the old Admin. Box, situated at the bottom of the now-famous Ngakyedauk Pass.

Early on the morning of the 25th of March a party of Japanese was reported in the hills overlooking the eastern entrance of the Admin. Box and the Battalion was ordered to drive the enemy off. Two platoons of “A” Company and one platoon of “B” Company were detailed for this task.

Patrols moved out at 8 a.m. and reported the enemy to be some one hundred strong and well dug in, in tunnelled positions. Three separate attacks were put in by the Sikhs supported by one tank and a very limited amount of artillery, and, although severe casualties were inflicted on the enemy, only two out of three enemy localities were captured. Jemadar Didar Singh showed great bravery during the second attack, personally leading his platoon forward under heavy enemy machine-gun and grenade fire. He could be seen dashing forward, all on his own, time after time, hurling grenades at a Japanese machine-gun post. He was killed in this action, but he was awarded a posthumous Indian Order of Merit for his outstanding gallantry. Sepoy Mohan Singh was also quite outstanding throughout this attack. He was with the leading section, which was soon pinned to the ground by enemy light-automatic fire. He crawled forward on his own right close up to the enemy trenches and threw grenades at the machine guns holding up his platoon. When his supply of grenades was exhausted he crawled back for a further supply and then moved forward again to continue his bombardment. It was later learned that Sepoy Mohan Singh had killed over ten of the enemy on his own.

By nightfall the enemy were still occupying a few of their bunkers, and it was decided to leave a platoon of “A” Company to hold the captured trenches alongside the enemy overnight. The next morning the enemy were found to have evacuated their position, having suffered heavy casualties and leaving some fifty bodies behind.

On the 2nd of April the Battalion again moved to the east bank of the Kalapanzin river to hold the hill features around Kwazon Ridge to assist the 114th Brigade in that area. Whilst in this area Major Thomas was unfortunately killed by enemy shell fire when taking over a position from the 4th/ 14th Punjab Regiment.

On the night of the 7th of April, having covered the withdrawal of the 114th Brigade to Awlanbyin, the Battalion withdrew northwards to a reserve area on the west bank of the Kalapanzin opposite Taung Bazar and joined the 89th Brigade, to which the Battalion had now been permanently allotted.

Meanwhile, “D” Company had been operating on its own in the jungle hills known as “Massive,” to contain the remnants of a Japanese force still holding out. They had one or two minor patrol encounters with the enemy, but returned to the Battalion on the 10th of April after handing over to troops of the 26th Indian Division.

In Taung the Battalion was employed in digging defences and building bamboo huts for the monsoon, but “B” and “D” Companies held. positions on the northern end of Long Ridge and Bogiyaung respectively to cover Taung Bazar. Both these companies were spasmodically attacked by enemy raiding parties and harassed by enemy artillery, but all attacks were beaten off with losses to the enemy, while the Battalion casualties were negligible.

Major-General Savory

Major-General Savory, now Director of Infantry at General Headquarters in Delhi, in a letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford at Taung Bazar, wrote
” You will be interested to hear that I went to a cocktail party with the Commander-in-Chief yesterday and he told me that my old battalion was now making a great name for itself in Burma. General Gifford was also at the party and he made a point of coming over to tell me how well you had all been doing in the recent fighting in the Arakan.”

On the 26th of April, when the Battalion was waiting to return to India for rest and refit, orders were received to proceed to Imphal with the 89th Brigade to join temporarily the 5th Indian Division, whose third brigade was cut off in Kohima by the Japanese in their drive through Manipur.

On the 27th of April the 1st/ 11th Sikhs left Taung for Bawli, which was riverhead for the forward areas in the Arakan. The rifle companies marched over the Goppe Pass while the remainder of the Battalion, with the baggage, went in lorries via the Ngakyedauk Pass.

The next day the Battalion, with all the mules, embarked on river craft and arrived at Tumbru in the afternoon. Here the men had their evening meal before moving off in lorries for Dohazari. The Battalion arrived at dawn on the 29th of April and was accommodated in the transit camp, This was real luxury, as no one had slept under a roof for many months.
The 1st/ 11th Sikhs remained three days in Dohazari and the men had a good rest and a chance to clean up. Drill parades were carried out each morning and the men were all in great heart.

On the 2nd of May, after holding an “Ardasa” thanksgiving service, the Battalion marched to the station with pipes playing and arrived at Sylhet by train early on the 3rd of May to fly to Imphal.

The Sikhs camped for the night on the side of the airstrip and prepared for the flight the next day.


In the early morning of the 4th of May aircraft loads were laid out on the edge of the airfield and the men paraded alongside their loads. The first aircraft left at about 11 a.m. and the flight to Imphal was uneventful and lasted an hour. The Battalion, with jeeps and baggage, was in its concentration area, a camp of bamboo huts some twelve miles north of Imphal, by 4 p.m. without mishap.

The mules arrived by air a few days later, while the motor transport moved by road to Dimapur, where it remained until the Kohima-Imphal road was cleared many weeks later.

At this time the Japanese were investing Imphal. The enemy columns which had swept northwards from Burma had been halted on the roads into the Imphal Plain by the 20th and 23rd Indian Divisions, while the columns which had swung north from the Chindwin river were at last held at Kohima and Kanglatongbi after seizing a large section of the famous Manipur road.

At Kanglatongbi the Manipur road debouches on to the Imphal Plain. After all its hectic twists and turns, its hairpin bends, its fantastic climbs and descents, the road comes smoothly down the valley of the Imphal Turel, a mountain torrent. The hills on either side get lower, and the valley opens out. A driver after this exhausting one hundred and twenty miles’ journey from Dimapur feels that the worst is over. He is nearly home.

The Japanese were holding the village of Kanglatongbi and also the ridge running away to the east on the other side of the Turel. They had reached the limit of their advance, although they did not yet realize it. From the tops of the hills they could see Imphal, their promised land. They were beginning to get hungry, for their plans to capture the British food supplies had not yet succeeded. They were not disheartened and they were determined not to be driven back.

On the 6th of May the 1st/11th Sikhs took over Saingmai Hill from the 1st / 3rd Gurkha Rifles and Saingmai village from the West Yorkshire Regiment. These were the forward positions facing the enemy at Kanglatongbi.

The map can give but little idea of the country. Practically the whole of the area, except for the rice fields on the Imphal Plain, is covered with jungle. , Nothing of the ground can be seen from the air from above it looks lovely, somewhat like a huge bed of parsley. The hills are steep and cut by numerous deep nullahs. Even the few open stretches in the valleys are often covered with tall elephant grass studded with scattered trees. Visibility was so limited that fighting by day had many of the characteristics of night fighting.

Kanglatongbi was held by the enemy in strength. Patrols had located the Japanese in positions all along the top of the ridge eastwards from the village, so any large outflanking movement was almost impossible. A direct break-through up the road would be dangerous while the ridge was held. So Major-General Briggs, commanding the 5th Indian Division, decided to clear the western end of the dominating ridge while also forcing his way up the road. This would turn the flank of the enemy farther east and force a withdrawal to the hills north of Ekban Ekwan.

The 89th Indian Infantry Brigade was given the task of capturing the ridge from its western extremity by the Turel near by as fat as the tiny village of Tingsal, some three miles east of Kanglatongbi. On the right were the 4th / 8th Gurkha Rifles on the left the 2nd Battalion The King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The Sikhs, less “A” Company, of which more anon, were in reserve. The attack was to start at dawn on the 15th of May, and orders were issued on the 11th of May so that there should be ample time for the preparation of plans.

“A” Company was given a role in the main attack. It had to pass through the enemy forward localities and seize the ridge between Tingsal and Ekwan behind the enemy’s line. The company would then be astride the track along which all supplies to the enemy units on the right had to go. Once in position the company was given three tasks. The first was to divert Japanese attention from the main attack the second was to prevent any attempt at an enemy withdrawal and the third was to make contact with the Gurkhas on the Japanese positions. The company’s position would be precarious, with an exceedingly doubtful line for reinforcement or supply, for it would be between the Japanese forward positions and their reserve units.


On the 1 st of June the Battalion moved out on the first stage of its journey to the Iril valley, where it was to take over positions held by the 3rd/9th Jats.

The first night was spent at Imphal and the next day the Battalion moved up the Iril valley in pouring rain. The men had to march ten miles, most of. which was knee-deep in mud. The Battalion arrived in the 3rd/9th Jats’ area in the afternoon and bivouacked for the night in the valley south of Wakan.

On the 3rd of June the Battalion took over positions from the Jats, who were holding hill features on a ten-thousand-yard front in very mountainous country. These positions were on the left flank of the Japanese main positions and prevented the enemy from moving down the Iril valley to Imphal. The. Battalion was located on the hill feature of Wakan, while “A” and “D” Companies were some three miles farther north on high hills around Point 4364 and were containing the enemy on their main positions on Everest, the highest of the Japanese strongholds.
On the 4th of June Brigadier Crowther visited the Battalion and ordered the Sikhs to make every effort to infiltrate on to the Everest positions. A direct assault was quite out of the question, since the Battalion was out of range of artillery fire and the positions were exceptionally strong and were held by a high proportion of machine guns. The 9th Brigade had previously carried out numerous attacks with strong artillery support during the past month and had suffered heavy casualties without meeting with any success.

Patrols, therefore, were sent out day and night to pin-point the Japanese positions on Everest. They all reported the positions strongly held and all confirmed that infiltration would be difficult and costly. On the 5th of June a patrol behind the enemy lines reported that the enemy was occupying the village of Nurathen on the Japanese line of supply from the north. The patrol stated that there was considerable movement in the village during the night. A Japanese headquarters was believed to be in the village and it was therefore decided to abandon the plan of infiltration on to Everest and to send a company to raid Nurathen and then take up a position on the enemy supply line. “D” Company moved out from Point 4364 at 10 p.m. on the 6th of June with nearly a full moon. They had to move down a very steep track for fifteen hundred feet to the valley below and then through marshy country for about three miles to the village. Just south of the village the forward platoon encountered an enemy post at the foot of a spur commanding the approaches to the village. The platoon immediately rushed the post, which it overran, killing ten Japanese. This small action unfortunately put all the enemy in the vicinity on the alert and the company was not able to get into the village. Major Workman therefore decided to move up a hill overlooking the enemy supply line north of the village. Here they prepared a strong position and sent out patrols to harass the enemy. There was considerable patrol activity during the next few days and enemy parties moving in the area were engaged day and night.

On the 8th of June a patrol went north from “D” Company’s position and discovered that the enemy had withdrawn temporarily from Point 5417, which was their main stronghold in the next line of defences The patrol immediately occupied the position and sent back information to the company. A platoon was at once dispatched to reinforce the patrol, but in the meantime the enemy, who

had evidently gone back to a hutted village for food without leaving a sentry on the position, started to return. The patrol immediately engaged them and inflicted a number of casualties on the enemy, who withdrew. Several minutes later the patrol, which was only four strong, was attacked by some sixty Japanese, whom it held off for nearly twenty minutes. The patrol, however, ran out of ammunition and was almost overrun. It was forced to withdraw just as the leading troops of the reinforcing platoon were approaching the position. The platoon attempted tb retake the position, but it had been reinforced. The Sikhs suffered several casualties, including Major Workman and Subadar Bishen Singh, who were wounded, and found that they were opposed by superior numbers, so they had to return to the company position.

It was most disappointing, since the capture of this hill feature would have forced the enemy to withdraw from the main road without further delay. Nevertheless, the patrol had inflicted considerable casualties on the enemy in their very gallant stand. During this time other patrols had been into Nurathen village, and, finding no sign of the enemy headquarters, it was decided that the village was used by the enemy as a staging point. “D” Company in their position denied the use of this route to the enemy, who lost many casualties in the area. The enemy made no effort to throw “D” Company out of their position, and this was the first indication that the enemy probably lacked reserves in this area.
On the 11th of June increased activity was reported in the enemy rear areas and on the 12th of June a patrol reported that all the Everest positions had been evacuated by the enemy. These were immediately occupied by “C” Company under Major Redding. This was the second time since the Battalion had been in the Imphal area that the Japanese had been forced to withdraw through infiltration tactics into their rearward areas.

The 1st/11th. Sikhs continued to operate on the right flank of the Division in the upper reaches of the Iril valley. Although there were several jeep tracks in this area, these were now impassable on account of the heavy rain. The Battalion therefore had to be supplied entirely by mules. By the 14th of June this was also found to be impossible and it was decided to commence supplying the Battalion by air. During this period considerable patrolling had been carried out and a route round the enemy left flank was discovered.

Accordingly, on the 21st of June the Brigade Commander ordered the Battalion to move to a position on the main Japanese supply line from Kangpopki, his advance base on the main road, to his main base at Ukhrul. Battalion headquarters, with “A” and “D” Companies, moved off on the 22nd of June and had an entirely uneventful march to the village of Aishan. The Battalion was fortunate in having a few fine days during this period and was able to take up and prepare a strong position just east of the village in fine weather.

On the 22nd of June the Kohima road was cleared and the troops from the 2nd Division advancing south from Kohima joined up with the 5th Indian Division. At long last the siege had been lifted.

On the 23rd of June a patrol from “A” Company contacted a party of the enemy moving east. The enemy, however, was in considerable strength and the patrol was forced to withdraw. The Japanese followed up and unexpectedly encountered the forward platoon of “D” Company. They made several attempts to force the Sikhs back, but they were repulsed with losses each time. The enemy therefore took up a position on high ground some four hundred yards farther west. This was unfortunately on the Sikhs’ line of supply and so, although the Battalion had cut off the Japanese, it was now itself also completely cut off. The next morning “C” Company, which was moving forward to reinforce the Battalion at Aishan, was held up by the enemy. The next night the Japanese, who were estimated to be three hundred strong with artillery and machine guns, made a few half-hearted attempts to throw the Battalion back and, having suffered several casualties, dispersed in small parties to the north. This action had denied the enemy his best line of withdrawal and forced him to withdraw over very much more difficult country to the north. The Sikhs lost only one man killed and four wounded in this action, but nine mules were killed by Japanese machine, guns during the attack on the final night.


By the end of June the Japanese offensive had not only been effectively stopped but their main forces had been utterly defeated on all sectors of the Imphal front and the enemy were withdrawing to the Burma border.

The monsoon had set in and the troops in the forward areas were fighting in appalling conditions. Previously in Burma the heavy rains at this time of year had always brought operations to almost a standstill, but General Slim, the Fourteenth Army Commander, was not going to allow the weather to interfere with his plans this year and he was determined to exploit his successes and keep the Japanese on the run.

The unmetalled roads along which the divisions were operating were by now almost impassable to motor transport and there was no hope of supplying the forward troops by mule or jeep far from the main roads. However, the R.A.F. once again came to the Army’s assistance and, in spite of all the risks and dangers of flying at this time of the year, they readily agreed to do everything possible to deliver supplies to the forward divisions throughout the monsoon.

The 23rd Indian Division, therefore, pressed on down the Tamu road, while the 5th Indian Division was switched over to the southern front to pursue the retreating Japanese towards Tiddim. The only Japanese still holding out were those on the Ukhrul road, some twenty miles from Imphal, in front of the 20th Division. This force held on grimly to its positions to cover the withdrawal of the remnants of the Japanese forces in the north.

As soon as the Manipur road was open the 89th Brigade returned to the 7th Indian Division, which had been ordered to pursue the Japanese retreating through Ukhrul.

On leaving the 5th Indian Division, General Briggs, in a letter to LieutenantColonel Bamford, wrote
” I was sorry not to be able to see you to say good-bye and to thank you for the great assistance you and your battalion have given this division in the last operations. The spirit and dash shown by you all has been magnificent and you have certainly taken every advantage offered you to defeat the Jap.”

The 33rd Brigade was already moving south towards Ukhrul, so the 89th Brigade was ordered to move immediately across country to Ukhrul and Sangshak to cut off the Japanese withdrawals from the Manipur road and to threaten the rear of those farther south in front of the 20th Division.
The 89th Brigade, with animal transport and much-reduced baggage, was to move along the track from Kangpopki through Aishan, Chawai, Mollen, Leishan and Toinem. Two days’ rations were carried, while an air-drop was being arranged every second day.

The Brigade Commander decided to march in three groups with a day’s march between each group. The 1 st / 11 th Sikhs were in the lead with Advanced Brigade Headquarters and the 62nd Field Company, while the Gurkhas were in Group II with a mountain battery and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Group III.
On the 26th of June Brigade Headquarters and the 62nd Field Company, with additional mules for the Sikhs, left Kangpopki at 8 a.m. The 2nd Division was moving forward to clear Hill 5247 and operations along the track slightly delayed the column, which arrived at Aishan at about 6 o’clock in the evening. On the next day Group I moved out from Aishan, but the river, four miles farther east, was in spate and could not be crossed until the sappers constructed a bridge. This took the whole day, so the group camped for the night on the bank of the river.
On the 28th of June the Battalion had a very long and tiring march over rough and mountainous country and went into bivouac in the evening a mile west of Leishan. “B” and H.Q. Companies, who had been left behind in the Iril valley, rejoined the Battalion as it passed through Chowai.

On the 29th of June the Battalion had another very strenuous march to Toinem over even more difficult country, and at times in pouring rain. The Brigade had now crossed some four mountain ranges, so Brigadier Crowther decided that the 1 st / 11 th Sikhs should rest for a day at Toinem before moving on to Ukhrul.

While the Battalion rested the next day two patrols were sent out, one to reconnoitre the route to Ukhrul and the other to raid a Japanese party reported to be in the village of Pharong. The reconnaissance patrol returned in the evening and reported that the track to Ukhrul was not correctly marked on the map and it went through a very steep ravine and over a high pass two miles west of the town. The other patrol, under Major Redding, met very stiff resistance on approaching the objective, and, although numerous casualties were inflicted on the enemy, it was not able to clear the village. It was later learnt that the local inhabitants had warned the Japanese of the approach of this patrol.

On the 1 st of July the 1st /11th Sikhs set out at first light to seize the pass and, if possible, push on to Ukhrul itself. “B” Company, under Subadar Indar Singh, was in the lead and by midday the company moved into the ravine leading to the top of the pass without encountering the enemy. However, towards the far end of the ravine the leading scouts were suddenly engaged by some Japanese, who were holding a position astride the track. Although “B” Company surprised and overran a small post, the Sikhs could not dislodge the enemy holding the pass. The jungle was very thick in this area and it was quite impossible to ascertain the extent of the enemy positions or the lie of the ground.

In order to try to secure the pass before dark, “A” Company was sent to capture the high ground to the north, while “D” Company under Subadar Hazara Singh moved out to seize the high ground to the south. Both these companies experienced great difficulty in moving through the thick jungle and up the steep slopes in pouring rain. However, they reached their objectives without encountering any opposition and had outflanked the, enemy holding the pass. Patrols were sent out and were soon back reporting that about eighty of the enemy were holding a position covering a track junction on the pass. It was now getting dark, so the Sikhs consolidated on the high ground while fighting patrols were sent out to cut the enemy line of withdrawal to Ukhrul.

It continued to pour with rain and the Sikhs spent a miserable night in the open. Patrols met no opposition at the eastern end of the pass, but they confirmed that the enemy were still in position around the track junction at daylight. Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford therefore decided to attack immediately from the east and capture the position from the rear. Just as final arrangements were being made for the attack, a Japanese party, from a position farther south counter-attacked “D” Company and enabled their comrades to withdraw from the pass during the fighting. The counter-attack made no progress and the Japanese soon gave up and withdrew right back to Ukhrul, leaving the Sikhs in control of the pass. “C” Company immediately followed up and seized the col leading to Ukhrul.

Brigade Headquarters and the 4th / 8th Gurkhas arrived at the top of the pass at 11 a.m. and Brigadier Crowther came forward to reconnoitre. He was able to get a very good view of Ukhrul and the country in between and he decided to form a base with the 1 st / 11 th Sikhs, Brigade Headquarters and the mountain battery astride the pass, while the Gurkhas moved forward to occupy Ukhrul.

The air-drop which had been arranged for the whole Brigade group did not materialize owing to rain and cloud, which prevented the supply aircraft flying low in the Troubal valley.

At first light on the 3rd of July the Gurkhas moved forward. They met considerable initial success by taking the enemy completely by surprise and soon captured the south-east corner of Ukhrul. However, the enemy were holding strongly – prepared positions in the old fort in the southern part of the town and, a track junction farther north. The Gurkhas made great efforts to capture these strong points, but they could not make any further progress. Aircraft again were not able to drop supplies on account of low clouds over the whole area, so rations were almost exhausted and everyone was now getting very hungry.

On the next day the King’s Own Scottish Borderers moved forward round the southern edge of the town, but they were’also held up by small enemy posts in and around the old fort. This was most unfortunate, as now two battalions were committed in Ukhrul, while the Sikhs had to remain on the pass to protect Brigade Headquarters, the guns and the field ambulance. This was necessary, since the 33rd Brigade had reported that four hundred Japanese were moving south from Ngainu farther north. It was still appalling weather and no air-drop was possible, so stocks of rations were completely exhausted. However, on the 5th of July the weather cleared. Much-needed supplies were successfully dropped throughout the afternoon and everyone had his first good meal for several days in the evening.

During the next few days the Gurkhas and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers made further efforts to find a way round the Japanese positions, but without success, while Sikh patrols moving north from the pass ambushed several small parties of Japanese withdrawing south.

On the 6th of July the enemy brought up some artillery south of Ukhrul and shelled Brigade Headquarters and the Sikhs intermittently for two days, but luckily very few casualties were sustained.

On the 8th of July the enemy shelled the Gurkhas in Ukhrul and at the same time evacuated their positions north of the town. The Gurkhas immediately pushed forward and made contact with the 33rd Brigade at about 12 noon. During the afternoon the enemy again shelled the Gurkhas and their rearguards withdrew from the fort area, leaving the town to be occupied by the Gurkhas.

The Brigade Commander then decided to move on and before dawn on the 9th of July the Sikhs set out across country to Humpum. On reporting this area clear the Battalion was ordered to push on towards Sangshak. The Sikhs encountered a few Japanese stragglers, but met no organized resistance and bivouacked for the night a few miles south of Humpum.

On the next day the Battalion again moved off early, but the leading platoon of “A” Company was held up by an enemy rearguard covering the bridge over the river in the valley south of Sangshak. A second platoon was immediately sent to cross the river farther west. It had some difficulty in crossing, but eventually got over to the other side and attacked the enemy from the rear, killing six Japanese and forcing the remainder to withdraw eastwards. The Battalion now pushed on and passed through a very strong Japanese position on the col between Shangshak and Semshang. This position had only recently been evacuated by the Japanese, who had left six 105-mm. guns, a 4-inch mortar, twelve lorries and much minor equipment behind. There were a number of stragglers in this area and it took a considerable time to search the position and the Sikhs did not arrive in Sangshak until after dark. The leading company was engaged as it entered the village, but the Japanese offered only slight resistance and withdrew as soon as the men advanced to take the position.

Sangshak had been the scene of some bitter fighting when a parachute battalion had borne the brunt of the Japanese offensive a few months earlier. The village was now in a foul condition it had been burnt to the ground in the fighting and the Japanese had made no attempt to bury the dead or dispose of abandoned equipment. The Battalion spent an uncomfortable night amid the ruins and filth and the men had a busy time clearing up the area the next day.

Patrols were pushed down towards the Imphal road and reported that the Japanese had withdrawn and the way to Imphal was clear. The next day jeep ambulances came forward to evacuate the sick and wounded, who had. been carried along with the field ambulance since leaving Kangpopki.

From the 11th to the 19th of July the Battalion remained in Sangshak and patrolled far and wide without encountering any formed body of Japanese. On the 14th of July General Messervy came forward and established an advanced headquarters in Sangshak for three days. The men were all very pleased to see him and his presence in the forward area so soon after the road was open was much appreciated. Major Adams and twelve men contracted scrub typhus while in Sangshak and were evacuated to hospital in Imphal. This disease was very prevalent at this time and was taking a large toll among the troops. In spite of great efforts by doctors and the provision of additional nurses, Major Adams and eight men died in hospital. This was a sad blow at the end of this phase of operations just as the Battalion was about to go back for rest and refit. Major Adams heard a few days before he died that he had been awarded the Military Cross for the part he played in the Ekban battle.

On the 19th of July troops from the 2nd Division started to arrive in the area and take over from the 89th Brigade, which was at long last being given a rest. On the next day the Battalion marched twenty-one miles down the road towards Imphal and bivouacked for the night at the eighteenth milestone. The road was ankle-deep in mud, so the men had a very tiring march out of action. After resting for a couple of days the Battalion moved by motor transport to its rest area in Kohima:


The Brigade was located in a delightful area some five miles out of the town. The Sikhs were accommodated in a tented camp and the men were able to make themselves comfortable for the first time for many months. The Battalion had been in contact with the enemy continuously for ten months. The men had stood up to the prolonged fighting in appalling weather with short rations exceptionally well. The wonderful spirit of the Sikhs could not have been higher right up to the last. A large number, however, were very debilitated and there was a great deal of diarrhoea throughout the Battalion. The men had stuck it out to the end, but they now needed careful attention, good food and rest.

On the 8th of August General Sir George Giffard, Commander-in-Chief, 11th Army Group, visited the Battalion and congratulated the men on the fine part they had played in the recent operations.
Shortly after arriving in Kohima two large parties went off for a month’s leave while a draft of some two hundred men arrived from the 15th Battalion, which was being disbanded.

Owing to the bracing climate and excellent rations in Kohima, the men were soon fit and well. New clothing and equipment were issued and the Battalion was ready to start training in October. This was soon in full swing and much valuable training was carried out during the next two and a half months.

In the early morning of the 19th of October Brigadier Dinwiddie and Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford, with a representative party from the Battalion, set out from Kohima to Imphal to fly to Delhi, to attend an investiture by His Excellency Field-Marshal Lord Wavell. The Royal Air Force had very kindly detailed a special plane to fly the party to Delhi and back in order that they might witness the ceremony, at which Naik Nand Singh was to be invested with the Victoria Cross. The investiture took place outside the Red Fort in Delhi and Naik Nand Singh was presented with the Victoria Cross by Lord Wavell, with three other recipients, before a large gathering, including General Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief, India, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia, General Sir George Giffard, Commander-in-Chief, 11th Army Group, and General Sir William Slim, Commander, Fourteenth Army.

After the presentation of medals the Viceroy, accompanied by General Auchinleck, inspected the parade, which consisted of the troops in Delhi Area and a guard of honour from each of the regiments to which the Victoria Cross recipients belonged. After the inspection the parade marched past and all senior officers witnessing the ceremony were introduced to the Victoria Cross holders.

Since the 1st /11th Sikhs were in an operational area, the guard of honour was provided by the Regimental Centre, but was commanded by Major Brough, with Subadars Bachan Singh and Bishen Singh as his,Viceroy’s commissioned officers. It was a most impressive ceremony and it was very fortunate that a party could attend from the Battalion, even though it was in an operational area. Two days later the party flew back to Imphal and rejoined the Battalion in Kohima.

At this time Brigadier J. G. Smythe, Military Correspondent of the London Times, who won the Victoria Cross with the 15th Sikhs in France in the First World War, selected the 1st/ 11th Sikhs and published the record of their fighting in the Arakan and Manipur in the Sunday Times to disprove the criticisms in certain uninformed circles in the United States concerning the fighting of Indian soldiers in the war. Brigadier Smythe, in an article published in 1946, wrote:
” The reason I selected the 14th as an example to quote to America was the tremendously high opinion I had heard of them from a very distinguished British battalion which fought alongside of them-and I think that is the praise any unit would prize more than any other and which is most likely to be well deserved.”

In November Lieutenant-Colonel Bamford left the Battalion to take up a staff appointment in the United States, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton was posted in his place.

While in Kohima the Sikhs constructed a very fine Gurdwara and were able to celebrate the birthdays of Guru Nanak Singh and Guru Govind Singh in the traditional manner, when all the Sikhs in the Division were the guests of the Battalion throughout the celebrations.

The 1st/ 11th Sikhs were very pleased that Major-General H. J. M. Cursetjee, who was the Medical Officer with the Battalion in Gallipoli in the First World War, was able to visit them on the 24th of December and stay with them over Christmas.

All preparations for the next campaign were complete by December and the Battalion was once again ready for action. The men were in good heart and fit. They had enjoyed their time in Kohima and had had an opportunity to play games and to get to know other units in the Division.

Watch the video: Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow consecrates Main Military Cathedral (July 2022).


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