The Battle of Imphal remains one of the most significant battles in the Pacific Theatre of World War Two. While it is among the lesser known great battles of the war, it was one of the greatest defeats the Imperial Japanese Army ever suffered, and one of Britain’s greatest victories.
Fought in horrendous Jungle conditions, British-Indian forces were attacked by the Japanese army who thought to crush the Allies with a swift offensive into British India. However, the Japanese general Mutaguchi had fiercely underestimated his enemy’s defensive skills, and even when it was clear that the offensive had been lost, demanded that Japanese forces press on. This led to a devastating loss of over 50,000 troops for the Japanese army, resulting in a harsh rebuke from the Emperor, as well as the withdrawal of the general responsible for the failure to Tokyo – an irrevocable stain on his career and a great loss of manpower for Japan when it was most needed.
Ending with the total withdrawal of Japanese forces from India, the defeat was an embarrassment and a major setback for the Empire of Japan. General Mutaguchi was recalled to Tokyo and forced into retirement, meanwhile the general responsible for the British victory, William Slim, was knighted by the Viceroy of India! It thwarted Japan’s ambitious plan to invade India and severely weakened their overall position in the Pacific, which would contribute to their later defeat by the American military in 1945.