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Just Shoot Me

Bala, 28, Gordon Gekko in the making, pseudo-intellectual, cynic, bibliophile, obsessive compulsive ranter...

my own kunta kinte

November 20, 2007

A couple of months ago, i discovered the World War II discharge certificate of my maternal grandfather. For a smelly tattered document, it holds a treasure trove of information for the wannabe amateur military historian. My grandfather was a mechanic in the Indian army in the closing stages of the second world war. The Burmese or the south east asian theater of war was and has been the forgotten theater of the world war II. While the war in Europe, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific and the Russian fronts has been written about over and over, the battles in the jungles of Burma remain in the background. The discharge book made me re read about the forgotten front.

My grandfather was a mechanic in the IEME - the corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The IEME was formed in 1943 and his regiment - the 551st - must have been amongst the very first to be raised / attached to the new corps. He was posted in the Burmese theater between january 1945 and June 1946. By Jan 1945, the Japanese had been beaten back and the allied 14th corps was on launching offensives retaking wide swaths of Burma. For having served in a combat theater of operations he was entitled to wear the Star of Burma. Since no one in the family has seen such a medal, i assume he sold it as soon as he got out of the Army. He has always bragged to me about cowering in the trenches in thigh high water facing the Japanese (i was the only one who would listen to his stories) and now i find he was a REMF posted in the front when the Japs were being driven back. And he told everyone who would listen that he came back from the army because his mother wanted him back. Sucker was being discharged because of demobilisation and he had everyone believe that he returned due to thaai paasam.

Funny thing is it was listening to his stories about the war , that made me start reading history seriously. For a ex jeep mechanic behind the frontlines he had a lot to say about the war - how mountbatten was a better general than macarthur, how the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was such a bad idea (the armies were far ahead of the railroads), How the INA were idiots to have believed the Japs and so on. Those conversations were the beginning of the road to a MA in History. ;-)


posted by Bala, 12:45 PM


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