Military History/Samurai / 2nd World War
My uncle died last year. He left a question unanswered as I was told never to ask him about it. All I was told was that the Samurai sword he kept on his wall in his private office at home was his reminder of the terrible outcomes of mans actions against other men. My uncle was a passive man who did a lot for charity & his community. I was told that he was presented with this sword by the surrendering Japanese officer after some fierce activity behind enemy lines which had very much upset my uncle as he was the officer in charge of the winning side. In later years I found out that my uncle, who was British, was serving in the Indian army in the war. On telling this story to a friend recently she said it would not be possible for my British uncle to serve in the Indian army behind enemy lines in Japan in the 2nd World War and to have been in combat and have been presented with a Samurai sword by a surrendering Japanese officer. I'd be very grateful if you could let me know whether this would have been possible or not. Many thanks, Anthony Landon Cape Town
The thing her is the difference one word makes. If you change the word "in" before the word "Japan", in this sentence, "British uncle to serve in the Indian army behind enemy lines in Japan in the 2nd World War", to "against" so the sentence reads, "British uncle to serve in the Indian army behind enemy lines against Japan in the 2nd World War." it is entirely possible.
The Pacific war was pretty much an American show, the US did not really want Britain meddling in that theater, but the Brits had a vested interest with their colonies, Singapore, Burma, Hong Kong, and India all threatened. Singapore, Hong Kong and Burma had all fallen to Japan and India was threatened. At the time there was no Bangladesh or Pakistan they were still parts of India. The big British theater was the China, India, Burma theater. The Commander over the entire theater was Lord Mountbatten. The chief commander in the field was General Slim, considered by all to be the best British commander of the war. I suggest you read up on the fighting there, it was some of the worst of the war. Virtually no quarter was given, prisoners were executed, on both sides, primarily due to the barbarity of the Japanese. They executed allied fliers if captured by beheading or bayonetting. A good book on the entire Pacific Theater is "Retribution" by Max Hastings. It only covers the last year of the war. Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942 - 1945 by Gen Slim himself is probably the book to read.
When the war was won, the Americans did not let the Brits into Japan as part of the occupation forces so in effect, the British were never "in" Japan. The only fighting "in" Japan was on Okinawa, an island considered as part of Japan and it was an entirely an American show.
All the fighting by the Brits was done in former colonies.
In the event, the British suffered defeat after defeat and were pushed back. Burma fell and British forces were pushed back into India. The british recruited large numbers of Indians into the Indian army commanded in large part by British officers. and late in the war were able to push the Japanese back, won Burma and reopened the Burma Road, the supply line from India to China.
A bit of history here. The original Indian army was formed by the East India Tea company, to protect their commercial interests in a country divided up into a multitude of princedoms with no central government. This allowed them to virtually controll the country. Eventually the British Crown government stepped in and took over. They formed the Indian Army made up of units of native troops from all over India. This period is called the Raj. the units were commanded by British officers, and to be truthful, these officers were discriminated against as being less than there Regular British Army counterparts in those days. Many fortune seekers from Britain joined the Indian Army. If they bonded with their troops too closely, and many did, they were said to have gone "native". Few of them were able to overcome this prejudice. I am sure that to a certain degree the prejudice persisted into WWII.
Here is where it becomes interesting.
There was a unit, similar to the SAS in North Africa. The SAS...the special air service was a code name for a group of special operation forces operating behind enemy lines during the fighting against Rommel's AFrica Corps. They rode in machine gun armed jeeps and raided supplie lines and air fields tying down a lot of troops doing security. There was an old TV show called "Rat Patrol" in the 1960's based on their exploits. Of course on the show they were Americans. The name comes from the name the South Africans defending Tobruk were given: Desert Rats, due to the fact they were besieged and lived pretty much underground.
Anyway, the name SAS persists today for the elite British special operations unit fighting terrorists and carrying out other clandestine military operations.
In the Pacific, there was a unit called the Chindits. A chindit is from Burmese chinthé, a mythical creature who is half lion and statues of which sit outside temples to ward off evil spirits and such.
"The Chindits were the largest of the allied Special Forces of the 2nd World War. They were formed and lead by Major General Orde Wingate DSO. The Chindits operated deep behind enemy lines in North Burma in the War against Japan. For many months they lived in and fought the enemy in the jungles of Japanese occupied Burma, totally relying on airdrops for their supplies." from http://www.chindits.info/
You don't say who your Uncle was, but on that site is a list of officers who recieved awards.
If you read up on their exploits you might be able to find out more details about where he was and what he did.
He must have been the commanding officer of some unit in order to have recieved the sword from his Japanese counterpart, else he just got it as a war souvenir.
You might also check to find out if in fact he commanded a unit of Nepalese, or the Ghurkas. they were very highly thought of:
You might check out the books on this list.
There is another alternative, It might be that he was a POW and recieved the Sword upon the surrender of the Japanese...just a guess. It appears that he might have witnessed some horrific things and nothing could have been worse than being a POW in the hands of the Japanese.
You might try this site and do a search for your Uncle's war records to see what unit he served in and then you can research that unit on the web to find out exactly where he was and what he went through.