Passing On the Memory of a “Reckless Operation” to Future GenerationsHonoring those who sacrificed their lives for peace today at the Imphal Peace Museum
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal, one of the fiercest battles of World War II. With support from The Nippon Foundation, the Imphal Peace Museum has opened on the site of the battle, with an opening ceremony held on June 22 and attended by representatives of India, Japan, and Britain.
With their supply lines cut off, three divisions of the former Japanese army, comprising 85,000 troops, had 30,000 killed in the battle and close to 40,000 more die of starvation and disease during their retreat, leaving a legacy as a “reckless operation.” The British forces, which included Indian units, suffered major losses as well, estimated at 15,000 killed in battle and 25,000 related deaths afterward. The Indian National Army, which sought independence from British rule and cooperated with the Japanese army, also suffered heavy casualties, and many local residents of Manipur and Nagaland, the two states in northeast India where the battle took place, lost their lives as well.
At the opening ceremony, The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa noted that India’s postwar independence and peace today are “The legacy of the ultimate suffering of those who have fought and have fallen in war.” British High Commissioner to India Dominic Asquith commented, “As our nation, today works together in close partnership to protect the global freedom, we say together we’ll remember them.”
In addition to family members of Japanese troops visiting from Japan and representatives of local tourist organizations, several people representing Japan who are based in the capital of Delhi attended the day’s events. Before the ceremony, the attendees placed flowers at the India Peace Memorial, built 15 years ago by the former Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare (the current Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare), in the nearby Imphal War Cemetery.
Afterward, the group moved to a hotel in Imphal for a press conference and an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle. At the event, Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India, remarked, “We can truly appreciate the peace we enjoy today only by remembering what we went through. We know that the foundation of our today exists upon the precious and tremendous sacrifices of the past.”
The museum stands on a small hill known as Red Hill, located roughly 20 kilometers west of the city of Imphal, which was the objective of the Japanese operation. Locally, the battle is referred to as the “Japan war,” and because the Battle of Imphal had a major impact on India’s history, The Nippon Foundation provided roughly 50 million yen for the project, and local young people and others collected items to be displayed. A framed work of calligraphy of the Japanese characters for heiwa (“peace”), drawn by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has also been presented to the museum and is on display.
The building is a single-story octagon with display areas and a central auditorium, with sections dedicated to the themes of the battle, the postwar period, and local daily lives and culture. Displays include photographs and documents, and videos of local residents sharing their recollections. The museum will continue to search for and collect items for the displays, to pass on to future generations the effect that this battle had on India’s history.
Public Relations Team
The Nippon Foundation
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