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Having driven the British and Indian Forces out of Burma in 1942, General Mutaguchi, Commanding the 15th Japanese Army, was obsessed by the conquest of India. In 1944 the British 14th Army, under its commander General Slim, drew back to the Imphal Plain before Mutaguchi’s impending offensive.
However to the north, the entire Japanese 31st Division had crossed the Chindwin and, on April 5, arrived at the hill-station and road junction of Kohima, cutting off Imphal except by air from the supply point at Dimpapur. Kohima was initially manned by only 266 men of the Assam Regiment and a few hundred convalescents and administrative troops. They were joined, on April 5, by 440 men of the Fourth Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment, straight from the Battle of Arakan.
In pouring rain, under continual bombardment, this tiny garrison held the assaults of thirteen thousand Japanese troops in hand-tohand combat for sixteen days, an action described by Mountbatten as ‘probably one of the greatest battles in history in effect the Battle of Burma, naked, unparalled herosim, the British/Indian Thermopylae’.
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