Usually when people reminisce about World War II in the Pacific theater they talk about the struggles between the Allied forces and Japanese powers in battles like the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, but they never talk about struggles in places like India. India, literally a ticking time bomb, was under the control of the British and was known to occasionally fight back against the British Raj. As one can imagine, the Indian Nationalists of that period would have saw World War II has a perfect time to try to gain independence from British rule.
What happened in World War Two to drastically contribute to the push for Indian independence in 1947? Moreover, what were the affects of such an event? Events in history tend not to happen very fast, but crawl toward a very slow climax and this was indeed the case in India when ideas of independence came on the horizon. In the early twentieth century Indian exiles/revolutionaries, having been prevented from agitation in India, found a safe haven for activity among the immigrants of the West Coast of the United States.
There on the West Coast the Indian exiles created a newspaper called “The Ghadr” (Revolution) which was distributed to most Indian communities in America and regularly smuggled into India. In 1914, “The Ghadr” was able to persuade several thousand Sikhs to go back home to India, with trouble on their minds. With Indian Nationalists seeking trouble in India, Europe plunged into World War I and the Indian Revolutionary Society flourished while becoming openly pro-German.
Indian conspirators figuratively used German diplomatic posts for Indian Independence billboards in places like Shanghai, Batavia, and the United States to assist its agents in India. Needless to say, this idea of Indian independence spread down to the grass roots of Indian/Asian society and motivated people to think about an independent India. For example, after World War One Indian movements like Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience Acts began to become more popular and he as well as the ideology gained a foot hold in India.
Although Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience Acts were eventually called off, it churned the political pot in India and set the stage for India’s struggle for independence in World War Two. As expected, at the outbreak of World War Two, Indians scrambled toward the Axis powers in the hope that they would help liberate India from Britain. The Indian Independence League of Japan (organized by Rash Behari Bose, an Anti-British Indian Nationalist) and many other groups began to openly speak against the British presence in India and Japan began to negotiate with Germany about how to enlist their help to weaken the British hold over India.
Luckily for the Axis powers, their efforts were re-enforced by Subhash Chandra Bose, leader of the Indian National Congress, who traveled to Germany to help gain the independence of India. In addition, exiled/revolutionary Indian Nationalist members who campaigned in the beginning of the century in places like Shanghai, Batavia, Canton, and Hong Kong came out in the open and started to gather allies to help overturn British rule in India. Interestingly, during the outbreak of the war Japanese sheltered the Indians in Japan even though officially they were enemies.
It is estimated that there 874 Indians in Japan in 1939; most were politicians, business men, and students and were located in the big cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, and Osaka. British officials at the beginning of the war told the Indians to leave Japan, but none left because the Japanese assured them safety and freedom to carry on their political/business agendas. Moreover, almost all Indian assets were unfrozen by the Japanese Government and they were treated in the same way as the assets of other friendly countries. In addition to Japan, there were also Indians in other countries like Thailand.
Although there were a great number of religious and educational Indian organizations in Thailand at the eve of war, there were also some ardently nationalist Indians who were ready to do Anti-British activities with the belief that it would sway India toward freedom. In 1940, three Indian revolutionaries escaped British prison in Hongkong and immediately contacted the Japanese army stationed in Canton. The revolutionaries asked for facilities in Thailand and the Japanese Army Headquarters quickly arranged their transport to Thailand with the facilities.
Later that year, Japanese officials saw the significance and Allied concentration of forces in Bangkok and quickly sent Major Fujiwara Iwaichi an assignment to set up intelligence/ propaganda operations. Japan had already conquered Indochina and saw that war with the west in the Pacific was almost inevitable; Southeast Asia proved to be a key listening post for all of Asia. Additionally, Japanese officials recognized the great aspirations for independence in Southeast Asia and knew that these movements could greatly enhance Japanese effectiveness in the region as well as weaken the British control.
Apart from Fujiwara’s intelligence orders, he was also ordered from Chief of General Staff Sugiyama: If an Anglo- Japanese war should break out, you will prepare to facilitate military strategy and encourage friendship and co-operation between the Japanese Army and the Malayan people. I want you also to look at the total Indian situation and to consider future Indo-Japanese relations from the standpoint of establishing the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Japanese success rested in Fujiwara’s hands because he was the Japanese forefront in dealing with other cultures that would lead to India and without him there would be no foothold in any Southeast Asian country. Many British officials were aware that the Japanese were seeking to control all Asia (the Japanese already controlled Indochina), but they were under the false impression that the Japanese would avoid direct conflict with British forces. The British were wrong. The Japanese and the Indian Independence League signed a cooperation treaty on December 1, 1941 and both military authorities began to take shape.
Interestingly, before the invasions, Fujiwara Kikan created a group called the F. Kikan. The “F” stood for “Friendship, Faith, and Fujiwara” and each F. Kikan group was assigned to a Japanese column to secure proper treatment of future Indian prisoner of war and Indian residents in the area. Fujiwara was preparing to persuade future Indian prisoners of war to switch sides and fight for the Japanese by giving them an attractive deal, Indian Independence. Captain Mohan Singh, second command of a British Indian battalion, was ordered on the night of December 7 to spearhead the British advance in Thailand from Malaya by occupying Singora.
Skirmishes quickly ensued with the Japanese and the next morning twenty-seven Japanese bombers bombed the airport and rail line. The British defenses became confused and the Japanese overran the Allied perimeters. The Indian battalion that Captain Mohan Singh commanded was on the run and the ten ammunition trucks were quickly blown up by the advancing Japanese. Ammunition was popping off from the heat of the fiery vehicles and these explosions dispersed Mohan’s Singh’s battalion in a melee of shouting figures. It was here that the F.
Kikan contacted Mohan Singh’s battalion. Captain Mohan Singh fought gallantly, but was quickly surrounded and forced to surrender by the Japanese. Captain Mohan Singh was taken to the Japanese Army Headquarters where Fujiwara Kikan tried to convince him to fight for the Japanese. Mohan Singh did not expect to hear these different terms of surrender and was encouraged to express his own ideas on India’s indignation towards Britain. Several days went by with both men exchanging ideas and discussing the future of India as an independent state.
After many long and exhausting nightly discussions Mohan Singh was finally convinced that Fujiwara was serious toward the Indian cause and determined that he was prepared to give his unconditional aid to the Indian independence movement through Major Fujiwara by fighting beside the Japanese against the British. The flag of the Indian Independence League was raised above the Siam-Malaya border and one Japanese soldier’s account states that the first blow for freedom for the Indian Motherland was in a little insignificant village. The Indian National Army was born.
Shortly after their agreement, Fujiwara and Mohan Singh were on to the next battle. All Indians that were captured by the Japanese were to be given to Mohan Singh who then would incorporate them in the Indian National Army. The Japanese and Mohan Singh decided that propaganda would be the best method to gain more Japanese sympathizers in Southeast Asia. For example, small groups of Indian prisoners of war were re-organized to rejoin their British units that they were separated from in order to persuade the Indian corps to surrender to the Japanese.
Additionally, the Japanese would use pamphlets and microphones on the battlefield requesting the Indians to not fight against the Japanese. The prisoner of war Indian National Army soldiers were dressed in British Indian uniforms with F Kikan passes to allow them around the Japanese frontlines. The Indian National Army soldiers ran through the heat of the battle and literally disappeared into the British firing perimeter. It was hellish for the I. N. A members to run through the gun fire, but it was effective because when the I.
N. A members returned back to the Japanese front line, there was always more British Indians coming back with them. Mohan Singh proved to be an effective asset in the Japanese army because he could soften the British fronts by sympathizing with the Indian soldiers for Indian independence. As Mohan Singh and Fujiwara propagated Anti-British slogans and gained popularity among the British Indians, the Japanese Army steam rolled through the a great deal of Southern Asiatic countries.
On December 12 the Japanese Forces penetrated deep into the State of Kedah and then swiftly took over Sungei Patani, Penang, Buntar Bharu, Kuala, Krai, and Trengganu. On December 19, after the fall of Penang the British Forces tried to retreat to make a final stand, but the Japanese encircled them and pushed them out of Penang. For most of December and January the Japanese forces consolidated forces to completely occupy the mainland. After Malaysia was fully occupied the Japanese forces turned toward Singapore, the invincible island of the British forces.
The Japanese took their positions on the coast of Johore and the tense situation for Singapore began. As one British Indian recounted, “Under cover of heavy artillery barrage, the Japanese succeeded in landing in rubber boats. Casualties in their ranks were heavy; but as they were superior in numbers, this did not matter to them. ” By February 15,1942, Singapore stated its unconditional surrender to Japan in only one weeks worth of fighting. The surrender ceremony was for scheduled for the February 17 and was set up to seat approximately 73,000 British, Australian, and Indian P.
O. W. s. Most interestingly, Mohan Singh at the surrender ceremony addressed the 45,000 Indian P. O. W. s his intentions of raising the Indian National Army to all the Indian P. O. W. s. This proposal had immediate impact because most Indian soldiers felt deserted by their British counterparts and in some ways this speech relieved their anxiety over the Japanese’s cruel treatment. Many lower ranked officials joined the Indian National Army that day, but there were a few senior officers who still held on their responsibilities and to their old nationalities.
On the other hand, after such large numbers of Indian P. O. W. s were gathered, the Indian Nationalist in Japan as well as the Japanese wanted to make sure that the now greatly expanding Indian National Army had the same ideals for India as the Japanese/Indian Nationalist officials. Rash Behari Bose (Indian Politician/ Indian Nationalist) sponsored the “Tokyo Conference” and it was held in March 1942, in Tokyo. The conference brought representatives of Indians and Pro-Independent India people to one central location to discuss the future possibilities of a independent India.
The conference chiefly stated that the Indian National Army would fight against the British and be allies with Japan, Japan would not have a design for India, Japan would support the Indian Independence Movement, Mohan Singh was allowed to recruit Indians for the I. N. A. , and also that the India Independence League would not be used to benefit the Japanese (sense the I. I. L. was essentially under the thumb of Japanese politicians). However, even after such a large conference questions still arouse and Indian distrust in the Japanese still persisted.
Many more discussions between India and Japan persisted and the objectives were mostly clear, but each faction failed to completely trust the other one especially India. Along with the growing distrust, the Japanese bogged down the I. N. A. by not giving them proper supplies and by also limiting their growth. Moreover, the most over lying theme that came to most P. O. W Indians as well as Mohan Singh was that they were just a show piece of the Japanese Army and a convenient Japanese puppet used not to free India, but to be at their disposal.
Needless to say, tensions grew between the two parties and relations quickly deteriorated. The Japanese began to suspect that the I. N. A. was somehow working with the British. Mohan Singh presented many different ideas to the Japanese as to how the Indian National Army should be run, but the Japanese turned a deaf ear to them because they knew that there was a spy among the I. N. A. officials. Mohan Singh became frustrated with Japanese and finally decided not to correspond with them.
Interestingly, throughout this miscommunication, the Japanese found one of Mohan’s officials, Colonel Gill, as a conspirator with the British. This was the last straw for Mohan Singh because dealing with the Japanese proved to be too difficult and frustrating. Mohan Singh denied the Japanese permission to talk to Colonel Gill, but the Japanese eventually arrested Gill and then later relieved Mohan Singh of his Indian National Army command. In early 1943, the fate of India was unknown because the first attempt to create an Indian National Army had failed.
However, after much deliberation and many joint meetings between the Japanese and Indians, it became clear that Subhas Chandra Bose should lead the next Indian National Amry. Subhas Chandra Bose was a very popular Indian Nationalist before and throughout World War Two. At the outbreak of war instead of going to Japan for help S. C. Bose went to Germany to try to side with Europeans for Indian Independence. Unfortunately for S. C. Bose and India, the European Axis powers were not very willing partners in the fight for Indian independence.
Once the Germans suffered their largest defeat at Stalingrad, the European Axis powers dropped all ideas about helping the Indian Independence Movement and focused on the war the in Europe. Afterwards, Japan requested that S. C. Bose be shipped to Japan for leading the now broken I. N. A. Once Bose reached Japan he became the commander of the I. N. A. from which he gave a speech stating that his intentions were to create a Provisional Government of Free India and to mobilize all forces to lead in the Indian Revolution for Indian independence.
Now that the second I. N. A was re-established and Subhas Chandra Bose was established as a firm leader, the Japanese planned to launch an offensive in Burma. The main strategy of the Japanese forces was to push their defense lines up to a more strategic place in Indo-Burma mountains in order to capture Imphal and Kohima areas which were the bases of the Allied Forces. In the operation, the Japanese allowed three Regiments of the Indian Nation Army with some two-hundred I. N. A. soldiers already attached to the Japanese units.
These soldiers were to carry out special operations in the Japanese units such as front-line propaganda among the Indian troops, intelligence on relevant Indian information, reserve group for looking after the Indian soldiers who decide to surrender to the I. N. A. , and to also help fight alongside the Japanese when needed. The one thing that was in the back of all the Indians mind for this campaign was that it would be superb for the Indian National Army to reach India and then push the British out by force, but this feat proved to be harder than anyone ever realized. Once S. C. Bose set up the I. N. A. eadquarters in northern Malaya/Burma border, he began to produce propaganda which called for civilians to hamper the British war efforts by planned sabotage and to abandon the British military forces. The Japanese attack began on February 4, 1944 and proceeded well for a good while until the Allied forces finally hit back. The Allied forces pushed the Japanese/ I. N. A. back and the Japanese confined itself to just holding off the counter attacks of the Allied forces. The Japanese push for Imphal began on March 21, but in about three months the advance proved to be one of the most tragic disasters for the Japanese forces.
The Japanese moved about 120,000 troops into the battle, but planning for the battle proved to be extremely inadequate and haphazard. To make matters worse, there was a shortage of ammunition, small arms weapons, medical supplies, and no heavy equipment. Transportation bogged down from the start of the operation because there were only twenty-six transport trucks which were almost all in bad condition. MountBatten later said about the battles in Burma: The Japanese High Command played into our hands by staging an all-out offensive.
It was most fortunate that at this stage the enemy should choose to fight us on our own ground near ourown bases, in the only areas where our existing lines of communication could adequately support us in a large campaign, and when our air bases were sufficiently near the front to enable our supply to be undertaken. The Japanese initial success proved to be because the British forces allowed the invading forces to free run and then the British encircled them, besieged, and demolished them. The I. N. A and Japanese forces fought gallantly, but they did not have the support that the British had.
The Japanese advance proved to be short lived under the crushing pressure of the British forces. With this massive defeat at Burma the tides of World War Two had flipped and the Japanese began to retreat. However, Subhas Chandra Bose decided that retreat was not an option for the Indian National Army and he stated that they would stay to fight the British with the help of a Indian uprising to overthrow the British. S. C. Bose announced this plan to all of India and Burma over the radio, but with such a crushing defeat still fresh in the minds of the Indians and with the strong British presence in India/ Burma ,nothing happened.
The Indian National Army retreated with Japanese until the end of the war in 1945. After the war the British were generally hostile to the I. N. A. The Red Fort Trial was held November 1945- May 1946 to charge the officers/ soldiers for war crimes. The historical Red Fort that resided in Delhi was the place where Shah Nawaz Khan, Prem Sahgal , Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon, Abdul Rashid, Shinghara Singh, and Fateh Khan were tried for either treason, torture, murder, or abetment to murder.
The sentences for most officers was to be exiled from the country for life, but were never carried out due to the immense uproar of the Indian civilian population (some men were considered Indian heroes). The Indian civilians felt that the men in the trials were wrong for treason, but were fighting for Indian independence. Most I. N. A. soldiers were set free once they had been cashiered (degradation ceremony: they publicly rip off the medal and break the soldier’s swords). Unfortunately, Subhas Chandra Bose, the leader of the second Indian National Army, would never see a free India because Bose was mortally wounded from airplane crash.
Subhas Chandra Bose’s last words were, “India will be free before long. Long live free India. ” In conclusion, the Indian National Army played a very crucial role in the development of an independent India. The I. N. A. was the liaison between the Japanese forces and the Indian Nationalist who wanted to make India an independent country. Without the I. N. A. , India would have been as it always was before World War Two, a British controlled subject that had a counter culture that once in a while fought back against the British. In many ways the I. N. A. as also an outlet for the Indian people to try to make a difference without dealing with the ramshackle British politics that never made a difference for the commoners. Overall, the I. N. A. was an organization that helped Japan’s war interest as well as helped the Indians push for independence. Without either one of these two factions in the Pacific, the war and the independence movement would have been very different. The Japanese pushed out the British and gave morale to the Indians while the I. N. A. softened the front-lines by getting the Indian troops to surrender. It was a win-win situation for both the Japanese and the I.
N. A. in World War Two. Moreover, the Indian National Army and the Japanese forces also proved to be a vital source to the Indian Independence because it made the idea of fighting the British and “winning”, a feasible thought. The Indians by themselves probably would have never had the man power to erect a movement of that magnitude to effectively repel the British forces (Revolt of 1857 was not effective). With the sponsorship of the Japanese, the Indians saw that the invincible British could be defeated and that with the momentum of the Japanese victories independence could be won.
For example, once the impregnable island of Singapore was captured by the Japanese, 45,000 Indians surrendered knowing that the I. N. A. would take them in. Another example is when the Red Fort trials demanded the I. N. A. members to exile; the Indian public went into chaos and eventually overturned some of the rulings. Where did this Indian drive/tenacity come from? It came from this ideology of brute force that was instilled in the Indians during World War Two when they saw the British being defeated by the Japanese and they realized that it could be done.
Yes, some Indians opposed the Japanese propaganda, but it was the ideal that the British could be defeated that really got the ball rolling for the Indian civilians and the Indian Nationalists. All of this energy of potential independence in World War Two trickled into the post- World War Two atmosphere and ultimately made it possible for the Indians to become free. The Indian people wanted to be free from British rule and on August 15, 1947 that is what they got!