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When the Japanese launched an offensive into India in March 1944, a multinational force of troops stationed along the frontier fought to repel the attacks, notably around the British base at Imphal. During weeks of bitter fighting, Japanese forces made increasingly desperate attempts to break through the defensive positions.

Indian Major Dinesh Chandra Misra of the 5/6th Rajputana Rifles recalled leading his own attack to stabilise the front and the inevitable Japanese counter-attacks which were led and repulsed with such ferocity.

The Japanese had penetrated and outflanked a place we called Lone Tree Hill, and there were no troops between Divisional HQ and the hill. The CO sent for me and said ‘I will take two companies and you stay in the rear’. I asked to take the companies and he agreed. I chose a frontal attack, I thought speed was of the utmost importance, as the Japs were in the middle of preparing their positions. We got within thirty yards and were grenaded back. We withdrew, took up defensive positions and spent all night there.

Next morning an RAF Liaison Officer asked what he could do to help. I said ‘we are so close to the target that any ‘shorts’ from artillery would drop on us’. During the shelling the Japs would retreat to the reverse slope and come back when the artillery stopped. I said to the officer ‘you bring in strikes from north to south, drop bombs but don’t go away. Turn around and attack in dummy runs while we advance.

“We let them come within thirty yards and then opened up with everything. They dropped like flies.”

During these dummy runs we got to the top without any firing. I told the company commanders to get their Light Machine Guns ready, facing the direction the enemy would come from. After about ten minutes the Japs appeared, chatting away. We let them come within thirty yards and then opened up with everything. They dropped like flies.

I knew that early in the morning there would be a final counter-attack. It came and in the hand-to-hand fighting we had many casualties. I felt detached and hatred for the Japanese and a desire to kill them; I became a demon. We were shouting our battle cries and the Japs were shouting ‘Banzai’, the officers had swords. We fought with bayonets.

The Japs withdrew and I knew we had won. There was a tremendous feeling of joy and relief. In daylight we counted 150 Jap dead. The hill is now known as Rajputana Hill. In battle you reach an extreme state of hatred, but it goes away. You feel sad. How insane war is, but if you don’t kill the enemy, he will kill you.

D.C. Misra, cited in J. Thompson, Forgotten Voices of Burma: The Second World War’s Forgotten Conflict (2009, Random House) (Extracts)

The Stories of Kohima and Imphal

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