Well, what a delight!
I’m always one for history to be told as it actually happened to the masses by the masses and not what was thought to have happened to the few and written by the few. This one is right on target.
Whilst it’s hard to call this a documentary in its truest form it’s an amazing unbiased view of the so called Forgotten Army in Burma. It’s basically a collection of newsreel footage and mini reports and interviews, the first by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten who was commander in chief of South East Asia Command (SEAC) during the campaign. His style in this interview, filmed in 1955, is a little bumbling and confusing at times but thus was his manner. He’s short and to the point on certain subjects and he struggles with acknowledgement to the Americans and their efforts in Burma. Of interest he clearly shows his distaste to the fact that much needed manpower and equipment was in fact removed from the Far East and sent back to England ready for D-Day. This is harsh to stomach when you realise the conflict against the Japanese in Burma had started back in 1942! But, all said and done he gives a complete and rousing insight into the hardships faced by all.
Interesting to note the second film is from an American source and from the narrative its hard to believe that they’re talking about the same conflict at times, (did you know Texas is the same size as Burma?). Clearly the Allies had issues with command and differences over priority of targets but when you’ve got such a large multi-national force as this, 100,000 men at its height; its not hard to imagine logistical problems and a clash of personalities and ideas. A truly amazing fact mentioned is the engineering feat that there was over 2000 miles of fuel and oil pipelines crossing the jungle and mountainous terrain in order to keep the Allied advance moving.
Also of note is the non PC use of language by the Americans referring to the Japanese as little puppets, living a civilized facade and, of course, reference to their skin colour and eyesight!
However, like the conflict itself the DVD is harsh, brutal and blunt and for most of the part truthful……. and sometimes that hurts!
Review by Phil Hodges for War History Online
BURMA -The Forgotten Army
Pen & Sword
Running Time: 165 mins