Battle of Kohima: The forgotten face-off that sealed Allied victory in Asia

On April 4, commemorations were given to the fallen British and Japanese soldiers who perished in the Battle of Kohima, which took place between April 4 and June 22, 1944. The annual ceremony was attended by representatives of both the warring sides of that time. While the town of Kohima was submerged in a wave of remembrance, there was little attention given to this historic event elsewhere, despite it playing a key role in tilting the balance towards Allied Forces in World War II (WWII).

Having taken place on Indian soil and for control over Indian land, the Battle of Kohima played a huge role in shaping the country’s history. It was a point in time where Colonial India was at the crossroads of its destiny; victory meant continuing as a colony under the British Crown, whereas defeat meant emerging as a pseudo-sovereign puppet state under Japan—both of which were a far cry from India’s ambition of “Swaraj”. Ultimately, the Allies defeated the supply-deficient Japanese, killing and maiming over 68, 000 Japanese soldiers, while their own casualty count was 17, 500. It was the worst defeat anyone had ever inflicted on the Japanese Army and the most decisive Allied victory of WWII, which stopped the Axis Powers from gaining traction in their South Asian conquest. The magnitude of Britain’s victory was so majestic that many historians widely consider it to be their greatest military victory ever.

Despite Kohima’s great significance, it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves around the world. The little coverage it receives in the media seriously fails to honour its actual scale and role in the Allied victory of WWII. While an event like the Battle of Normandy is recalled in its full glory, there is limited awareness about the Battle of Kohima which was perhaps more important in terms of what was at stake—the former helped Allies pry back a country, whereas the latter helped them save an entire continent from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Regardless of mainstream media’s apathetic behaviour towards the Battle of Kohima, it doesn’t change the fact that Allies, supported by Indian and Nepalese soldiers, remarkably stopped dictatorship from making inroads into what is known today as the world’s biggest democracy. The impact the Kohima victory had on the course of world history is perennially valuable.

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