In 1942, the answer would have been, "because Britain didn't have enough troops." They were then weak "everywhere" along the line.

But by early 1944, after two years of the Burma Campaign, Britain and its allies (America and China) had an overall superiority of troops and equipment on the Burma front. Why, then, did Britain allow Japan to have a local superiority in the middle of the line while the main British forces were concentrated further south, opposite Arakan, Burma, and American and Chinese forces at the north end of the line, aiming for Southwest China.

  1. Was General Slim employing a "Cannae" like strategy of luring in the Japanese into a trap in the center, and then closing in on the flanks? Elements of this actually occurred during the campaign.

  2. Did the British somehow underestimate local Japanese strength in the center of the line, despite their overall superiority?

  3. Did the British, for "imperial" reasons give greater priority to recovering Burma than to protecting India and the "Over the Hump" air link to China further north?

  • Why the scare quotes around the word "everywhere"? Do you mean to suggest it wasn't really everywhere but that that's what people would have said then? Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 20:02
  • @MichaelHardy: I meant "that's what people would have said then."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 20:25
  • It seem that the Allies again, as in the Malay Peninsula 2.5 years earlier, underestimated the Japanese ability to move large numbers of troops long distances through forbidding terrain. No great plan, no great conspiracy, simply an underestimation that ultimately worked to the Allied advantage due to their vastly greater resources. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 3:03
  • 2
    @PieterGeerkens: Sounds like saying "the Germans aren't going to move into/through the Ardennes in force, so no need for more than a nominal defense force there."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 12:40

2 Answers 2



Meanwhile, the commander of the British Fourteenth Army, Lieutenant General William Slim, belatedly realised (partly from Japanese documents that had been captured at Sangshak) that a whole Japanese division was moving towards Kohima.[15] He and his staff had originally believed that, because of the forbidding terrain in the area, the Japanese would only be able to send a regiment to take Kohima.[1][16][17]


The main considerations about Kohima and Imphal being lightly defended (which is not actually true, overall the British had a lot of forces there) are:

  • The center of Burma was truly considered as a point of importance by both British and Japanese forces
  • Imphal is a center of operations, so the British had all their troops there and less in the neighbourhoods, for example less in Kohima
  • The British were planning an attack in the Arakan that resulting in the battle of Admin Box: actually, this battle was seen by the Japanese as a diversion in favour of the attack on Imphal
  • American and Chinese forces had a strategy of opening a contact with SouthWest China, where American generals hoped to open a new line of contact. This actually occured, but after and because of the weakening caused by the Japanese defeat at Imphal/Kohima

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