February 8

This Day in History

World War II

Feb 8, 1943:

Britain's Indian Brigade begins guerrilla operations in Burma

Under the command of Major General Orde Wingate, the 77th Indian Brigade, also called the Chindits, launch guerrilla raids behind Japanese lines in Burma.

Wingate was an eccentric British officer famous both for quoting the Bible and advocating irregular warfare tactics. His career as a guerrilla fighter began when he organized Jewish underground patrols to beat back Arab raids in British-controlled Palestine in the 1930s. In 1941, Wingate led a mixed Ethiopian and Sudanese force in retaking Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, from the Italians, who had invaded in 1935.

Upon the beginning of Japan's China-Burma campaign, Wingate was sent to India to use his experience as a guerrilla fighter to train and organize the Chindits--a brigade of specially trained Gurkha (Nepalese), Burmese, and British troops. The Chindits were composed of two units of Long Range Penetration Groups, each made up of men and mules. Wingate and his brigade entered Japanese-controlled Burma from the west, crossed the Chindwin River, and launched their campaigns: penetrating Japanese-held territory, attacking supply lines, and cutting communications. Once in the field, the Chindits were cut off from other units and could be supplied only by airdrops.

One of the Chindits most effective attacks was against the Mandalay-Myitkina railway, when they blew up three bridges while also beating back Japanese troops determined to stop the demolitions. The Chindits continued to wreak havoc--at one point killing 100 Japanese soldiers while suffering only one loss themselves--until a lack of supplies and troublesome terrain forced them back to India. They were disbanded in the latter half of 1944.

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