Many writer and war veterans like Harry Seaman and Lt General W J Slim are of the view that the battle of Sangshak was the reason for the victory of allied over the Japanese in the Imphal campaign and the battle of Kohima. The battle of Sangshak is considered by the allied veterans as the forgotten battle of the forgotten army.The importance of battle of Sangshak was only known to the soldiers of the CBI theater of war.
Few days after the attack on pearl harbor, the Japanese attacked burma during early 1942. They reached up the Burmese river valley and into the northern mountains
The Japanese General Mataguchi launched operation U-Go across the river Chindwin . The objective of U Go was to strike across the burma border with all possible speed and seize the Imphal plain. Mataguchi incorporated the Indian National Army into his plan.
Apart from usual sources of information, such as air reconnaissance and army patrols, there were two intelligence-gathering systems specific to this area; V-Force and Z-Force. Lieutenant colonel Dymoke Murray, an officer of the 4th Gurkhas was the in- charge of the V- force of Imphal operation with its headquater at Angoching , a borderline mountain between Manipur and Burma. These intelligence agencies were the one who provided priceless information about Japanese movements.
Sangshak , the name of a large naga village , 40 miles north east of Imphal and 60 miles south east of kohima. On a hill top at 6000 feet with cool, clean air and magnificient views in all directions with alpine flowers growing in profusion and orchid twining in the trees, it presented in mid March 1944, a delightful aspect.
19th March 1944, Battle at point 7378:-
Point 7378 stands on the eastern site of the khangkhui Village. The road leading to the village is not motorable and the locals have cut a road leading to the foot of point 7378 .
Lt Col Paul Hopkinson’s 152 (Indian) Para Battalion moved up to the Mahrattas’ HQ at the so-called ‘Kidney Camp few km eat of Sangshak. From ‘Kidney camp’ he sent two companies out to relieve Mahratta companies on their hilltop camps – Major Webb’s ‘B’ Company was dispatched to Point 7386 (‘Badger’) and Point 7000 (‘Gammon’),while Major Fuller’s ‘C’ Company was sent to the otherwise un-named Point 7378. The two companies discovered that the positions recently vacated by the Marathas were only half-prepared, so the Paras soon found themselves hard at work, improving their trenches, dugouts and firing positions.
On March 18, local Nagas reported the presence of Jap troops in Pushing At dawn next day Major Fuller sent a patrol to investigate. 3 miles from point 7378 they spotted a column of about 200 Japs approaching. They proved to be the leading elements of a complete battalion which advanced on C company's position, quickly surrounded it and from 9.30 made a series of ferocious attacks all day. Attempts were made to send reinforcements to the aid of C Company but these were blocked by the enemy. Just before dawn on the 20th Fuller put in a counter attack and called over the wireless for help. His men were exhausted. the fighting had gone on ceaselessly for a whole day and through the night. The enemy were vastly superior in numbers and could use fresh troops for each assault. By 6 o'clock Fuller and his second-in-command, Capt. Roseby had been wounded. An hour later they both died of their wounds. Lt. Easton was now in command. At 10 0'clock he reported that the company was being overwhelmed, with most of his men killed or wounded, .Only Easton himself and a small party of wounded escaped through the jungle.
The Japanese 3rd battalion of 58th infantry regiment under the command of major Shimano attacked the C company of 152 para initially with 300 soldiers.
According to Colonel Utata Fukunaga, commander of the imperial Japanese 58th Infantry Regiment, the 3rd battalion suffered 160 casualties in action with one company commander and two platoon commanders killed and another four officers wounded.
Sangshak was assigned to 15th Division of Japanese army, but Miyazaki, the commander of 31st division knew that the 15th division was lagging behind his force . he decided to clear the Indian Army from Sangshak to prevent them interfering with his advance.
22nd March 1944; wednesday:-
Miyazaki was prepared to wait for the regimental guns and some attached mountain guns to arrive to support the attack. He had engaged the 2nd battalion of the Japanese 58th regiment in encircling 50th Brigade on Sangshak. But a company commander captain Nagaya hastily attacked the force at Sangshak without artillery support on the night of 22nd march. The Japanese Suffered heavily from the British artillery and mortar fire. Within a short span of 10- 15 minutes the 2nd battalion of 58th regiment lost 90 men, including its commander Another 20 japanese were found dead around the football ground before the dawn. In the mean time a company of Japanese 15th division let by Major Honda also reached the eastern part of Sangshak. They too were soon beaten off, after a clash with the Marathas.’s mortar fire and machine gun fire concentrate on his troops.
23rd March 1944, Thursday :-
On 23rd march Brigadier Hope Thomson commanding 50th Parachute Brigade was able to concentrate his battalions and all important mountain guns and mortar and by early morning. The Signallers of 50 Brigade were able to send message to Divisional Head quarter at Imphal. In the message , the bearings of an area available for air drop were given. And groups of three persons were send out in all direction to locate the Japanese dispositions. The airdrop was schedule at 3 pm. The air drop that day was a disaster. All the supply fell outside the perimeter and Japanese got benefit from it. . Fortunately a battery of mountain gunners had been attached to 50 Brigade and they had a field day shelling the Japs. Their C.O. Major Lock said it was the best day's shoot of his life. It was to be almost his last as he was killed a few days later. His senior Indian officers were in tears as they told how their C.O. had died leading a bayonet charge to defend his guns . In the late afternoon, the three men patrol groups brought the news that the Japanese has infiltrate the southern perimeter and the Indian Army garrison at Sangshak was totally encircled by the invading Japanese force. And by that time the artillery of Japanese have arrived and the shelling started that evening. That night the Japanese used Suicide missions to raid the British. Six Japanese with one officer would rush at the perimeter, hurling grenades and firing machine guns but they were not able to penetrate the perimeter as the defending troops held their ground.. The suicide raids and the shelling made it impossible for the defenders to relax the whole night. A Japanese officer was killed that night inside the British perimeter and from him a map showing routes and objective of the 15th and the 31st Divisions was found the next morning. Copies of these plans were made and carried back to Imphal through the Japanese positions by two officers using different routes.
24th March 1944, Friday :-
The shortage of water was felt extremely on 24th as water collecting party were sniped at and ambushed whenever they ventured out to the three seepage springs. The condition of the garission was such that any shell bursting there could hardly fail to find a target. It definitely hit either mule or men. The western end was filled with the smell of the death. Mr Ranga Raj , the first Indian who make a parachute jump was also there at Sangshak as medical officer to 152 battalion.. From the Midday of 24th the attack of the Japanese became (more deleted) stronger with the joining of 3rd battalion of 58th infantry regiment supplemented by its mountain and field guns. The Japanese fired four field guns from Lungshang, about a mile north east of Sangshak. General Miyazaki was there with the field guns.
On the evening the Japanese make an attack with a company strength but the troops were withdraw after clashing with the defending forces. And during the night, the two commander of 2nd and 3rd battalion make a plan of attack the next morning and the attack would be led by Lieutenant Nakamura.
25th March 1944 , saturday:-
The planned assault on 25th start at 4 am, aimed at the church and the north west corner of the perimeter. The Japanese had a savage hand to hand fighting that morning with the allied force. Those who had entered the Sangshak perimeter were annihilated and the remainder withdrew with heavy loses including Lieutenant Nakamura killed. From the two battalion, six of the eight company commander were out of action, either death or wounded and at least 300 men were down in each battalion. On the Indian site, the 152nd para’s two company now comprised a handful of men; the rest were either death or wounded. Even with the support of the Kali Bahadurs, the defence along the north western perimeter was dangerously thin.
Late in the evening, the remaining men of the 152nd para were withdrawn to new positions behind the church., leaving a section of eight men inside the church .
26th March 1944, Sunday:-
The Japanese had seen the withdrawl of the 152nd para from the church. By 3 am the Japanese make an attack to occupy the church. By daylight, the Japanese were able to capture 152nd para’s former positions to right and left of the church. The Indian mountain and mortars were just few yards behind them.
Hopkinson, Commanding 152 battalion, was wounded that day in the morning taking shrapnel from an exploding grenade in his leg and foot, and most of the men with him were either killed or seriously injured. That day a composite body of 120 strong made up of men from 6 and 11 companies of the 2nd and 3rd battalion and led by Captain Nishida was taking a heavy toll of casualties. The Japanese overran No1 gun of mountain battery, a shell explode shortly at second gun pit .
It was time, the allied troops must drive the Japanese back beyond the church, otherwise they will lose the plateau and the battle. The task was given to Major Jimmy Roberts of the Gurkhas 153 para. Roberts moved two platoons to the right and left of the Japanese forward troops to provide a covering fire, while the third platoon advanced in the centre, crawling, each men with as many hand grenades as they could carry. The mortars maintained a steady fire to prevent the Japanese from resupplying and reinforcing. By mid afternoon the gurkhas were able to capture their lost area from the Japanese with heavy loses of life on both side.
By late afternoon, a radio message arrived from imphal, which read “fight your way out, go south and then west, air and transport on the look out for you, Good Luck, our thoughts are with you”