The Nisei, Tonkwa Burma

From Ray Mitchell's memoirs... Burma, 1944. At right, Sgt. Major Ray Mitchell in China, 1945. He was about 24 years old.

As it began to lighten up the next morning, several of the enemy wandered into our line. You can just imagine what took place. They were not prepared, we were. The slaughter began.

The ground was level so the field of fire reached a long, deadly way. The Japanese's officer began trying to rally his troops, and then lead them into a 'banzi' attack on our fixed positions. The slaughter continued.

To cause them even more confustion the Nisei shouted orders for them to fall back. This cause the troops to stop, hesitating and to begin milling around. This was complete disaster for them. Their attack failed, they were driven back, leaving many dead and wounded.

In the days to come, we saw lots of actgion and found valuable information on several of the dead Japanese officers. The Nisei could read and interpret papers guiding us as to what we should do.

We were shocked to learn that we were fighting a Division. That's between 8,000 to 10,000 Japanese to our 1,000 or less. We immediately made radio contact for assistance. The 3rd Battalion was about a hundred miles away, and they began moving to assist us. There were there in five days.

We were very lucky. The Japanese would draft men into the Army in Japan, give them a few weeks of training, then send them to fight the very poorly trained and ill equipped Chinese. Thus, they had on the job training. After the Japanese were combat trained, then they were sent into the Pacific front or other areas that were fighting trained, well-equipped men. This Division was looking to fight the Chinese, be we got in their way. With our fire power, and well-trained men, the Japanese could never penetrate our line. That was their way of fighting--over run and cause panic of the enemy, except the tables were turned here. They broke off the action and retreated from the area. We later heard that the Japanese Division had suffered more than 80 percent casualties, the Unit was deactivated and those left were sent to other units. And, the commanding officer was executed. We left our dead in a temporary cemetery, less than fifty men died, but that was still too many.

After Tonkwa, we moved into the mountain jungles. It was slow moving. Here you learned that combat will sap your strength because you donn't move around or get the exercise to keep fit. However, in a few days, you begin to adjust and your strength and stamina return and you are fine.

We moved further south and into higher mountains with more streams to cross. We had to be very careful day and night because at night we could hear the Japanese planes searching for us. We called the plane, "Bed Check Charlie". This is one of the main reasons we would leave our bivouac area in the morning before daylight. Just in case the planes had spotted us during the night, we'd be gone.

As we continued moving, we knew we were getting closer to our objective due to the restrictions imposed. No fires at any time, keep the voices low, stay in a quiet mode.

Then we moved into the stream for several days, moving all day then near dark, climbing up on the bank to attempt sleep. All of a sudden we went into a force march, moving fast.

We broke out of hte mountains and into a beautiful valley. Across the valley was a high ridge named Loi Kang. It would later be called Bull's Eye Ridge.

We attacked the ridge late that afternoon. It was necessary because we were now exposed to the enemy. We managed to make it half way up the ridge before it became too dark to move on. The next morning we reached the top of the ridge and took (occupied) about half of the long high ridge. The ridge had a 6,000 foot elevation. I know it was difficult to climb, especially with someone above you throwinng grenades down at you! From the Loi Kang ridge, we had the Burma Road in view below us.

We were separated from the Japanese by a narrowing of the ridge. We could not move across the well-defended ridge nor could the enemy move forward to attack us. It was a stalemate for the present time. The ridge was not very wide at any place, therefore, we became a good target for the enemy artillery.

Since the real estate was divided, but close, it was easy for the Japannese to direct very heavy artillery on our positions.

Part Six The Old Burma Road is here.

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