From the archives: Burma in 1942

From time-to-time we publish a short extract here on New Mandala that seeks to introduce some historical depth for discussion. Today, the events of the first half of 1942, 70 years ago, are particularly relevant. On 1 May of that year The Sydney Morning Herald breathlessly reported:

The Japanese have nearly won their race, if race it has been, against the monsoon in Burma, and their northern-most striking force has reached Lashio, where the railway ends and the famous road into China begins. What else they have won will appear in due course, as the effects of the now inevitable severence of “China’s life-line” are felt in Chungking and on the whole Allied position in East Asia. In itself the tragedy of Burma is grevious enough. The great commercial edifice that British colonising genius had built up lies in ruins. The rich oilfields, whose product had an almost unique high octane value, are in flames. Rangoon, opulent gateway to the wealth of Burma, has followed other renowned entrepots of the East into Japanese hands. Death and misery haunt the teeming “Road to Mandalay.” All the civilising influences of British rule are gone, and savage Burmese tribesmen have joined hand with the conquerors to loot and slay…

The map and this extract, plus the complete article titled “Battle of Burma and After”, are available here. On the same page you can read about Australian servicemen riding in cattle trucks from Adelaide to New South Wales, and about new alcohol and cigarette taxes in New Zealand.

About Nicholas Farrelly