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Comment: Ramree Island in Burma is a huge swamp home to 1000's of salt water
enormous salt water crocodiles, the deadliest in the world. (fact)

During WWII it was captured and garrisoned by the Japanese. In 1945
Jan/Feb British forces conducted a series of naval landings and caught the
Japanese troops in a pincer movement. The Japanese rather than fight a
fruitless battle decided to retreat to the far side of the island to make
a stand. The only available route was through the centre of the island, a
two day march through a perilous swamp (fact)

The legend begins then that 1000 Japanese troops began the two day march
and were attacked by crocodiles, only 20 made it out alive.

A simple google search "Ramree Island + crocodiles + Japanese" will reveal
many websites that give the account of the Japanese' demise.

However I have checked some legitimate British military records of the
event. They have proved quite intriguing. None mention the demise of the
Japanese at the hands of the crocodiles. Rather they give obscure accounts
of Japanese troops entering the swamps full of Mosquitoes, Scorpions,
crocodiles, flies, strange insects, thick mud and impenetrable trees with
no food or water. The accounts talk of befuddled prisoners being captured
emerging from them.

The British records niether confirm nor deny the crocodile assault but the
do confirm the Japanese forces entering the swamp and a heavy toll being
taken on them, enough to destroy their effetive fighting capacity.

I was wondering what the truth in this was. IF true it' bigger evn than
the USS Indianapolis incident.

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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According to this website:
Of the 1,200 to 1,500 Japanese in occupation on the day of landing, only a few escaped. The remainder were either killed in battle or drowned in the mangrove swamps. Only twenty prisoners were taken in spite of all efforts of persuasion towards the close of Operation Block, when many Japanese troops, without hope of relief or escape, had reached the final stages of exhaustion.
A quick search also reveals that the mangrove swamps on Ramree Island are indeed populated with Crocodylus porosus, the largest Crocodilian species. However, Burma (Myanmar) is also home to many different species of venomous snakes, including several (King Cobra, Russell's Viper, Krait, Banded Sea Snake) that are fatal without (and sometimes even with) medical help.

I also found this reference on sci.anthropology.paleo:

From "Crocodiles" by Rodney Steel (1989) page 55:
"..allied troops surrounded between 400 and 800 Japanese soldiers..
There seems to be some doubt as to the veracity of this frequently quoted account, however, and David Finkelstein concluded in 1984 that in fact the majority of Japanese troops escaped to rejoin the rest of their army."

The Finkelstein reference is: "Tigers in the Stream" Audubon, 86, May 1984, 98-111.

(Anyone have access to the Audubon article?)

Given the number of Japanese troops defending the island, it's not unreasonable to assume somewhere from 400 to 1,000 Japanese were able to retreat into the swamp. Looking at the map, Ramree Island is actually connected to the mainland by swamps. As described in the London Gazzette article, the allied troops were unable to completely seal of all exits from the swamp, so an unknown number may have escaped.

The condition of the captured Japanese soldiers suggests the main killer was dehydration due to the complete lack of fresh water in the swamps. That late in the war, with supplies being interdicted by the allies, Japanese troops were often in poor health. It's likely that most of the troops were already suffering from malaria, beriberi, disentery, or even all three before entering the swamp. They wouldn't have lasted more than a couple of days without water, trying to slog their way through muddy swamps. They would have collapsed and drowned.

Now, crocs aren't above eating carrion, but as far as eating 1,000 live Japanese...very doubtful. But, between the crocs, the snakes, disease, insects...I'd be surprised very many escaped.

"My neighbor asked why anyone would need a car that can go 190 mph. If the answer isn't obvious, and explaination won't help." - Csabe Csere

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