Map taken from Unsung Heroes of the Royal Air Force
by Les and Pam Stubbs
real strategic significance of Japanese victories in Malaya and the Dutch East
Indies and beyond lay in their gains of important air and naval bases that could
be used to interfere with key shipping routes vital to Allied war efforts.
Occupation of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal on 23rd March
further provided a naval anchorage with direct access to the Indian Ocean. This
was demonstrated on 9th April when Japanese aircraft attacked the
Trincomalee naval base in Ceylon destroying 2 British cruisers and one aircraft
supremacy in the Indian Ocean became central to Allied war strategy which led to
the pre-emptive occupation of Madagascar by Britain thus denying the island to
Japan. Such a base would have allowed the Japanese to operate freely in the
vital for the Japanese to consolidate their gains and ensure continued supplies
and protection for their armed forces. Due to a real shortage of civilian
manpower, the use of forced labour became essential to meet these objectives.
Greatest pressure was applied to those projects of greatest military
The Burma-Siam railway was designed to provide a link
between the two main North-South railways on the East and West coasts by joining
Nom Pladuk with Thanbyuzayat. Only 14 months were allocated for this enormous
project through dense jungle and difficult terrain.
The Sumatra railway
was built between Pakenbaroe on the NE coast and the existing railway at Mauaro
in the West. It was designed to transport men and material rapidly to help
repulse the anticipated Allied attack on Sumatra.
The repair and upgrading of airfields
in the islands captured in Java, Sumatra, Borneo and the Philippines was
essential to Japanese plans to take Borneo and protect its newly conquered
Maximising the output of metal ores,
and other key raw materials, from captured islands and territories was essential
to the war effort. Kinkaseki mine on Formosa, the largest producer of copper in
the Japanese Empire, became notorious.
The mines, ports and factories of Japan
required forced labour to maintain supplies essential to the Japanese war effort
as the demands of its own armed forces had reduced the number of men available
for such work.
the vast army of POWs became an integral part of this vast machine that gave no
quarter in the pursuit of its military and imperial objectives. This was
contrary to the Geneva Convention but the Japanese had never ratified this and
indicated that they would adhere to the Principles “only as far as they were