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Not all troops fighting along the frontiers of modern-day Myanmar in 1944 were foreign. The local population, made up of a number of tribal groups, was fully engaged in the battle for their homeland.

The Naga people had lived in the region for thousands of years when they found themselves and their homes at the middle of one of the most bitterly contested engagements of the entire Second World War. Many of those fighting-age men joined units of the Indian Army and saw action in the defence of their home region.

Havildar Zhavise Vihienuo of the 2nd Assam Regiment remembered returning to his home village of Kohima once the Japanese had finally withdrawn with the allies in pursuit.


Devasted Naga village near Kohima, taken after fierce resistance from the Japanese © IWM (IND 3709)

Kohima was totally destroyed and seemed devoid of all life. The people were shell-shocked and seemed unable to talk. The trees had no leaves or branches and even the stumps left standing were pockmarked with bullets or shell holes, likewise the few houses still left standing.

The entire area was completely bombed out and Kohima village was reduced to ashes. The whole area looked like a ghost-town.

Z. Vihienuo, Filmed interview with C. Chasie, for Battle of Kohima 1944 – A Naga People’s Perspective (2017), Kohima Educational Trust

The Stories of Kohima and Imphal

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