Photo: Kachin rangers lined up before a patrol against the Japanese troops (CBI Theater)
More Kachin Offensives
The Japanese apparently had more manpower and they possessed state-of-the-art weaponry. Although being a smaller fighting force equipped with light weapons, relying on our strong will and following Naw Seng’s lighting orders, we carried out offensive operations against the enemy forces. We began by infiltrating into Japanese positions in areas surrounding Sumpra Bum, Nbrang Bum, Hpung Nawn, Ingdu Yang and Maji Kahtawng. As we kept penetrating their lines, the Japanese kept pushing us back with neither side backing out. The battles raged on with utmost fury.
As mentioned earlier, the British and American troops had withdrawn to India following their defeat. When they saw Naw Seng-led Kachin troops refusing to surrender and fiercely fighting the Japanese, forces led by General Wingate began fighting their way into Burma via Arakan mountain ranges. By then, the 6th Gurkha Rifles had made their advances to the north and began attacking the Japanese as well. From March 1943, we surrounded the Japanese troops while some infiltrated into their lines resulting in the two opposing troops getting mixed up.
At a battle near Maji Kahtawg, Naw Seng along with three of his soldiers stealthily approached a Japanese sentry. Appearing right behind the sentry, he greeted in Kachin by saying “E Hkau”. When the surprised enemy sentry turned back, Naw Seng swiftly stabbed him to death without making a single noise. He then ordered his soldiers to search the dead Japanese where they found two hand grenades and 100 rifle bullets.
The soldiers continued sifting through all pockets and one of them found a small package wrapped in dried banana leaves. Assuming this Japanese soldier had been stealing valuables from Kachin civilians, he carefully unwrapped it after finding a comfortable place to sit. When the delighted soldier announced it to be dried soybean paste Naw Seng abruptly told him to throw it away. Reluctantly, the soldier threw it into the bushes.
Trusting their sentry, the Japanese let their guard down and were resting comfortably. When dusk arrived as planned, the two hand grenades seized from the dead sentry were thrown at the enemy unit while the rest of us opened fire from all corners. Approximately 30 Japanese were gunned down on the spot. The remaining Japanese troops fought their way out to the west killing two of our soldiers.
The following day after receiving news of Japanese troops ransacking and torturing civilians in another village, Naw Seng left with a group soldiers heading to the village. As they reached near the village using the jungle route, they ran into a hog asleep in the bush hiding away from the Japanese. The frightened hog immediately took off and headed to the house where the Japanese were staying at.
The starving Japanese promptly shot the unfortunate hog and began preparing the meal. Their celebratory laughs and voices could be heard from afar. Naw Seng took a peek taking cover behind the bush and he could see the Japanese officer coming out from the house as the meal was getting ready. He was happily talking to his soldiers as they were about to feast on fresh meat. As the Japanese were getting ready to eat, Naw Seng grabbed the machine gun from one of the soldiers and in a low voice said, “Let me do it instead. As soon as I pull the trigger, all of you dive in and attack as planned without making any mistakes.”
Aiming at the Japanese officer’s forehead at close range he opened a barrage of fire. The first bullet hit the Japanese officer causing him to instantly collapse. Immediately, the rest of us unleashed a devastating a hail of bullets. The Japanese neither had the time to grab their guns nor a safe place to run to and all of them were cut down. From approximately 100 feet away we saw the back of another escaping Japanese sentry dashing towards the bushes west of the village. Naw Seng took aim at him while instructing us to watch. The Japanese soldier dropped with a single shot.
We seized the guns and ammunition from the dead. Having not eaten a proper meal for days and not having tried Japanese cuisine had prompted some of our starving soldiers to begin feasting on the Japanese-prepared food. Some lost their appetite from the pungent smell coming from the dead bodies, thus could not enjoy the food. Naw Seng must have been hungry just as everyone else. Nevertheless, he did not even look at the food, but busy planning and assigning orders to several other soldiers. In fact, he never displayed hunger, physical and mental weakness to his subordinates. Nor he ate better food than the rest of us. We always shared the same food.
Naw Seng then instructed the soldiers, “The officers wouldn’t believe if we just told them we had killed so many Japanese. Cut off their ears for proof.” Along with the badges taken from the Japanese officer, the ears filled up a back-carrying basket. The English officer was at a loss for words dumbfounded for a moment when our soldier unloaded the ears from the basket. “OK Very good. Congratulations!” exclaimed the officer after he regained his senses standing up and wildly shaking Naw Seng’s hands. After the news was transmitted to the headquarters, the General himself rewarded Naw Seng with the most coveted Burma Gallantry Medal (BGM). This was one of the first medals awarded to Naw Seng by the British Forces.
Some of our troops surrounded and attacked enemy troops in Sumpra Bum while others conducted non-stop assaults on enemy units stationed along Sumpra Bum-Myitkyina route. Simultaneously, the American and English fighters indiscriminately pounded Japanese positions. In February 1944, the Japanese withdrew from Sumpra Bum, while occupying Nsawp Bum and Rit Hpawng Bum as they retreated. We continued attacking the enemy with impunity.
Reinforced by Allied Forces
In 1944 beginning April 5, some of General Wingate’s 12,000 infantry troops entered Burma on foot using 1,200 transport horses while the remaining troops parachuted to Indaw, Manmaw and Katza mountain ridges. Meanwhile, the American forces led by General Stilwell and Li Min’s Chinese Kuomintang troops barged in via Ledo road and began attacking Japanese forces based in Hu Gawng and Mu Kong.
In July 1944, Naw Seng took his troops and waited next to Wa Shawng as news of a Japanese battalion coming their way to cross the the river reached us. Suddenly, it started raining just before dusk arrived. To shelter from the rain, we left private Manam Brang as sentry at the foot of the long ladder and went up to this tall empty house sitting along Wa Shawng village road.
Within a few minutes, we heard Manam Brang fire a shot. Naw Seng immediately ordered us to jump down while he made it to the ground ahead of everyone else in lighting speed. In dim light, he unleashed a barrage of fire at the moving bushes next to the house. Manam Brang’s gunshot in the dark at what was suddenly approaching at him hit the Japanese officer in the chest killing him instantly.
The Japanese soldiers would not fire unless they received orders from their commanding officer. As there was no one to call the shots, the enemy soldiers withdrew into the bushes without exchanging fire. Again, Naw Seng grabbed the machine gun from a soldier, rushing his way into the bushes and kept firing until he ran out of bullets. Without firing back, the Japanese soldiers swiftly escaped to a safer place. Assessing the situation, we also withdrew to another location. When the morning sun came out the next day, we learnt that the passersby from the village counted 27 dead Japanese bodies lying around.
The Battle of Myitkyina
In August 1944, the American troops entering Kachin region via India began attacking the Japanese at Rit Hpawng. Meanwhile, we also fought our way down to Myitkyina. Naw Seng’s company along with the Gurkha troops fought along the highway on foot and finally reached Nsup bridge. Circling around Nhkai Bum, our troops made advances towards Myitkyina. By September 1944, we had completely driven out all Japanese troops in areas surrounding Myitkyina. All NKL companies then received an order from the English General to be on highest alert with guns and ammunition ready.
Assessing the situation, we concluded more intensifying battles were coming our way. The battle scene had also switched from the jungles where we could easily hide and camouflage to the open plains. Having learned that it was going to be a major face-off where both sides would be fighting to the death, some were thrilled to gain new experience imagining decisive victory over the enemy. Some wanted to see their parents, families, relatives and girlfriends before leaving for the major war.
Some Kachin soldiers went back to their respective villages where the village traditional animist priests or the Christian priests/pastors performed prayers for victory. The soldier who previously carried a basketful of ears we cut off from dead Japanese was secretly smiling and hoping to carry at least five more baskets in this war. The soldier who found the dried soybean paste from the Japanese sentry Naw Seng stabbed to death was also with us, still complaining that Du Kaba told him to throw it away into the bushes.
After winning the war, some dreamt of protecting our land and working to develop the region. As for myself after receiving the General’s order, I got extremely busy with battle plans and allocating responsibilities to troops under my care.
Kachin Levies’ Marching Songs
From the mountain ranges Levies companies emerge
On flat-land Myitkyina we descend
Let’s get going, let’s get going
Assault enemy bases and capture the troops
Fighting fearlessly, capturing more enemies
Let’s get going, let’s get going
Our blue-eyed friends drive the flying tanks above
Blasting Japanese fighters distraught
I tread the land on foot
Ferociously fighting as I could
Let’s storm the enemy fort
Make them suffer a great loss
(Composed by Htingbai Naw)
Naw Seng’s troops are coming
The Japanese go panicking
The Levies succeed, the Japanese retreat
They run without finding a path
They run without finding a path
In the thickness of the jungles
I hear only chirping birds and rustles
Where are you mother and father?
I miss you both dearly from here
Mother, mother I long to see you
Waiting for the day to unite with you
Waiting for the day to unite with you
(Composed by Ndup La)
As I leave for the battles
Unknowingly when the body will crumble
To my blue-eyed officer
Please let my parents know of my passing
Let them know of my passing
(Composed by Ndup La)
South of Nhkai Bum lay the wide Hpung Yin river. Using bamboo rafts, we crossed the river on August 10, 1944 while losing one of our soldiers who drowned. After the crossing, all our companies made it to the vicinity of Myitkyina. The American and Chinese Kuomintang troops had positioned themselves along the mountain ridges and hills surrounding Myitkyina for the major offensives. In response, waves of Japanese fighters incessantly bombed and attacked us with machine guns.
At night, the Japanese fighters would keep attacking us using floodlights. In retaliation, we used our floodlights against the buzzing warplanes and fired back indiscriminately. Heavy mortar and all kinds of heavy artillery shells flying high and low had turned the night into day. The highway was packed with huge trucks and military tanks shining in the sunlight everywhere. It was such a breathtaking sight denoting a major engagement with the enemy.
When the morning broke, everyone could see English and American fighters chasing and downing Japanese fighters, which immensely boosted our fighting spirit. The allied fighters relentlessly bombarded Japanese positions and the deafening noises made us feel like the world was coming to an end. The explosions from heavy artillery and mortars had created smokey clouds causing us unable to see the sun. The large bombs had leveled up the ground as if someone had cut down the trees for his slash-and-burn farm.
The large numbers of troops from both sides had resulted in opposing troops getting mixed up in the battlefield. Sometimes, we found ourselves in the midst of the Japanese troops and vice versa. Many a times when we ran into the enemy face to face, we resorted to killing each other with the bayonets or the swords.
Naw Seng’s troops had been fighting more battles without rest compared to other companies. The Japanese wanted Naw Seng dead or alive. The enemy had rounded Naw Seng’s troops up so many times trying to capture or kill him but to no avail. In fact, the Naw Seng-led troops always came out victorious. As as result, both friends and enemies alike began calling Naw Seng “the bulletproof man”.
Of those American, Chinese and NKL companies which attacked Myitkyina from all directions, a big chunk of Kachin troops concentrated east of Myitkyina after crossing the river. Naw Seng’s troops were the first to cross Mali Hka from Man Hkring followed by other companies.
Battles continued days and nights in Gwi Htu, Wa Shawng, Pau Sung, Wai Maw and Maw Hpawng areas. The Japanese suffered more casualties than before. One could see Japanese dead bodies lying around by the roadsides and in the bushes. In some instances, our heavy artillery shell hit right in the middle of the Japanese units blowing them up into pieces. Their heads and limbs hung high on the nearby trees turning into easy meals for vultures and crows without even having to come down.
We had run into a Japanese soldier who had gone insane by the blaring noises of the battlefields. Throwing away his uniforms, sword, gun and ammunitions, the naked Japanese soldier was strutting about holding his hat in one hand singing and dancing to “Rawt ga law! Rawt ga law!”, a Kachin Levies war song. Many Japanese had also committed suicide unwilling to accept defeat. Some large groups of Japanese had managed to fight their way out from our sieges. Meanwhile east of Manmyen not far from our positions, the Chinese army engaged the Japanese troops the entire day. An entire battalion of Japanese soldiers that had fled were captured alive by Naw Seng’s troops. On our side, there were only dead Japanese.
Having nowhere to run to, many Japanese also surrendered to the Chinese battalions. In this way, we defeated the Japanese in areas surrounding Myitkyina and subsequently captured Myitkyina air base in August 1944. The few surviving Japanese fled to the south. Looking back and reassessing the Myitkyina battle, the Naw Seng-led troops not only killed many Japanese but they also captured many of them. Depending on the terrains and situations, they employed various strategies and fought the enemy with lightning speed winning many battles.
Again, the British general who orchestrated the Burma campaign dubbed Naw Seng as “the one and only Naw Seng” and personally handed over another Burma Gallantry Medal (BGM). The awards were also given to other outstanding Kachin officers who distinguished themselves in the battlefields.
As planned by the central command, we fought and completely wiped out the Japanese active in areas surrounding Myitkyina in September 1944. However, in the south in Namhpaka, Kutkai, Ta Mungnye, Mung Yaw, Mung Yin, Loi Lem and along Loi Dau Bum ridges Japanese still maintained strong bases.
The American-led 101 Kachin Rangers were responsible for dealing with the enemy in the south. The 101 Kachin Rangers were founded in June 1943 at Alaw Bum west of Myitkyina. Crossing the Myitkyina-Mandalay highway to the east, they headed towards Shan state forming a battalion along the way recruiting local Kachin youth.
Hkam Man of Mak Wau and Jaukang Tang of Mung Baw Man Nawng villages were the first ones to parachute to Nam Hkyek Bum. In November 1994, Major Zau Jun and Captain Kumje Tawng of the British Airborne Division descended on Loi Kang and Mung Hkawm east of Kutkai. The quickly connected with Hpung Shwe Du Zau Bawk and conscripted many Kachin men significantly boosting the NKL strength.
Along with the British officers, several Kachin officers parachuted to Loi Dau Bum. The key Kachin officers who led these forces were now veteran Zau Jun, Hkam Man, Jaukang Tang, Miwa La Tawng, Ndau Chyan, Kumje Tawng and Hpung Shwi Zau Bawk. With assistance from Hwi Dawng Du Zau Htang, they recruited more Kachin men in areas surrounding Loi Dau Bum. All the Kachin Myo Tsa Dus were asked to lead 200-300 strong forces to collectively fight the Japanese.
Within a few days, the Kachin Myo Tsa Duwas in northern Shan state mobilized their troops and met up in Loi Dau. Du Hpa Bren Zau Tang led the fighting forces from Mung Ji and Mung Paw villages whereas over 200 soldiers from Hpawng Seng and Mung Gu were led by Hpwng Seng Du Zuk Hawng. Hwi Dawng Du Zau Htang led the Namhkai, Hwi Dawng troops. Gang Ming Duwa led his Gang Ming and Man Mawk troops. Ying La Duwa Zau La led the Mung Ya and Ying La troops. Together, they defeated the Japanese harboring in Mung Yaw and Mung Yang.
Some Kachin across the Chinese boarder also joined the NKL companies whereas others were members of the Kuomintang battalions fighting the common enemy. In this battle, Nhkum Gam of Mung Mau Je Li was awarded the coveted BGM award for his outstanding service. Meanwhile, the Chinese Kumintang troops led by General Din Ni Yetsu La Tang positioned themselves along Shau Haw, Lung Htang and Ta Mungnye. The Chinese troops rounded up the Japanese in Mo Guk, Namtu and Lashio. As for the 101 American Kachin Rangers, they fought and drove out the Japanese in Nam San, Loi Lem, King Ding and Gin Ma.
One of Miwa La Tawng’s thighs was severely blown up and he got seriously injured at the battle of Ming Ding. Kachin men such as Jaw Lum, Hkaw Sau and Balawng Gam fought valiantly in this battle. All these brave Kachin men fought risking their very lives until the Japanese accepted defeat and surrendered unconditionally. When the war was over and the Union of Burma was being formed, the powerful Shan Sinli Zaw Bwa was so grateful for Kachin contribution in liberating the region, he granted 49 Kachin Myo Tsa Dus to rule over Si Sip Gau Ming Kachin Sub-State, in northern Shan State. This is how Kachin Sub-State came to exist due to Kachin men fighting the Japanese from the beginning to the end risking their precious lives.
The allied forces along with the NKL, and 101 Kachin Rangers relentlessly attacked the Japanese from all directions in southern Burma and across Shan state. Because of our offensives, General Kimura collected all his troops to Mandalay and fought a defensive war from there.
With reinforcements from the 5th, 7th, 20th and 26th Indian Divisions in January 1945, the allied forces recaptured Mandalay on March 20. They subsequently took Kyauk Pan Tawng and Tawng Dwi Gyi on April 12-13, Pyin Mana on April 21 and smaller towns such as Ye Nan Chaung and Tawngngu on April 22. The demoralized Japanese 33rd Division troops led by Lieutenant General Masaki Honda scattered in all directions.
The Japanese continued losing one battle after another and finally on April 29, 1945 they deserted Yangon. The BIA home-guards(formerly Japanese allies) led by Bo Thein Han and Bo Khin Cho then seized Yangon on April 30. This incident can be found in Burma history books.
Japan was one of the countries which started the world war which burned down everything and finally they burned themselves. They disregarded and destroyed the lives of non-Japanese peoples and the curse of the victims forced Japanese perpetrators now to kill themselves. Not only in Burma, but in other war fronts, the Japanese were facing major defeats.
On August 6 in 1945, Russian fighters launched airstrikes against Japanese troops in Guangdong while their ground troops attacked the Japanese bases in Manchuria and Korea. Simultaneously, the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 8 in 1945 respectively. We heard the two cities burned to ashes and the dead could not even be counted. On August 15 in 1945, about a week after the two cities were decimated, Emperor Hirohito made Japan’s surrender announcement subsequently ending the hostilities of World War II.
Along with the NKL companies there were many White officers and soldiers who fought the Japanese. They fought as fiercely as the Wunpawng soldiers. Some even mastered the Jingpo language. Some White officers would even greet each other comfortably in Jingpo, “Lasa mang law, yungnu kaba wa e, nang hpe grai myit dum nga ai she rai yang!” which can loosely be translated as “ Fuck you – you big-thumbed fucker, I fucking miss you!”
The following are some of the Kachin and non-Kachin men who distinguished themselves fighting alongside the Allied Forces: Lahpai Naw Seng , Share Hpung , Nding Naw, Nhpan Naw ,Shingram Tang ,Magawng Gam, Ting Bawm, Shi Hkun Naw, Pat Tala (Karen), Sayaw Lum , Sumdu Mai ,Bo Pe Ni, Namu Dai Hkawng, Kareng Tang, Hkaw Tu, Zung Kwi, Kareng Gam, Bo Chit, Ting Chang, Kareng La , E Ta Ting, Hpau Ju Gam, O.K. Seng Tu , Hkaw La Ku, Zinghang Tang, Sang Dong Khin, Gang Di and Lamai Tang.
Approximately 25,000 Kachin soldiers took part in this war to repel the Japanese from Burma theater. However, it was nearly impossible to run into other Kachin soldiers during the war as all of us were fighting in several fronts. The Japanese casualties were very high and many Kachin officers and soldiers had also sacrificed their lives to protect the motherland. Due to many difficulties, some casualties did not get reported to the headquarters and the accounts of each individual Kachin officer and soldier could not be properly documented.
This article was translated by Myi Hprap from original article published by the Kachin Net.
The biography of Du Kaba Lahpai Naw Seng was originally written by Zinghang Tang, who fought numerous battles alongside Du Kaba. The Wunzup Rawt Jat Hpung, a Thailand-based Kachin organization, has edited the original story and published it for Kachin communities worldwide in hoping that Kachin people for generations will learn from the awe-inspiring life lived by a Kachin legend.