THIS is a first-person account by Air Commander Ramesh S Benegal about his experiences of war from1941 to 1945 and which to him and his brothers was an adventure - "We could not ever have imagined the twists and turns our lives would take, or the adventures I would experience in the four years that lay ahead."
It all starts on December 7, 1941 when Japan unleashes a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour at a time when the author is a high school student in Rangoon. It is a time when the Japanese are derided for being "small-sized persons with slanting eyes and thick spectacles, all due to the British propaganda machinery." The author continues, "Subsequently on December 23, 1941, Rangoon was raided by wave after wave of Japanese fighter planes. The air raids that followed destroyed the enemy aircraft on the ground and caused chaos enough to lead to an exodus of Indians to Madras. Rangoon was captured in March 1942, followed by Singapore and the rest of Malaya by the Japanese High Command."
The author with his brothers and uncle escapes the northernmost town of Myitkyina in Burma. He says, "It was like a dead city. There was not a single person on the streets. We looked around to find someone to direct us to the Indian group we had been told about, but just could not find anybody." They seek shelter in an empty house. Next morning on peeping over the compound wall, they catch their first glimpse of a Japanese soldier who is "short, stocky, Mongolian features with narrow-set eyes." Here a Japanese officer helps them to escape on a boat down the Irrawady river before they reach Rangoon with a minor incident on the way.
The author then talks of the arrival of American troops in Japan and his own return to India and his joining the Indian Air Force after leaving the INA.
This is an interesting account of the author’s life events, especially his joining the INA that touches his life in a way that dictates his entire future.
“It all started on 7 December 1941, when Japan unleashed its surprise attack on a place called Pearl Harbor. To think that something that was happening a thousand miles away would affect the lives of so many people, including me, was unimaginable then. But it did touch my life. In fact it dictated my whole future.”
Ramesh Benegal, recipient of the Maha Vir Chakra, was born in Burma and was seventeen when the Japanese captured British-occupied Burma. He tells this extraordinary, first-person story of his career with the Indian National Army in Burma and Japan in the years from 1941 to 1945.
A series of chances lead the young Ramesh to enrol for the selection of cadets to be sent to Japan for military training at the initiative of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. We follow his journeys on land, sea and air as the young voice narrates in sharp and often visceral detail the experience of travelling from Burma to Thailand, Singapore and Japan. The years are long and hard and alternate between deprivation and plenty and between disaster and hope—before the turning point of the War changes everything. What opens before us is not only a war memoir but the transformation of a boy as he steeps himself in the cultures of food, behaviour, customs and the ethnic aspirations of the countries he finds himself in.
eBook Edition also available
Author: Air Commodore Ramesh S Benegal, MVC, AVSM