Japanese Occupation of the Andoman and Nicobar Islands

29/02/2012     Japan

During the Second World War, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were occupied by the Japanese forces for a period of three years from 1942 to 1945.

Japan had declared war on England at the end of 1941 which was followed by rapid military success against the British Colonies in the area including the fall of Singapore in 1942 followed up the occupation of the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Malaya and Burma. The assault on the Andaman Islands was inevitable since they flanked the approaches to Rangoon and had only one British company to maintain law and order in the islands. The islands possessed no defensive emplacements nor armed forces capable of withstanding an invasion so an evacuation of all British officers was ordered with only a skeleton staff left to run the administration. On 23 March 1942, the Andaman Islands were captured by Japanese troops without resistance.

The Japanese occupation was at first welcomed by the islanders. Those rendered unemployed due to the British evacuation were re-employed in higher positions vacated by senior officers. The attitude of the Japanese towards the islanders was friendly and they paid good prices for the goods they purchased in the shops.

Meanwhile, an Indian National Army (INA) had come into existence under the command of Capt. Mohan Singh who had organised the Indian Prisoners of War formerly in British service across Southeast Asia. Not wanting to alienate the large Indian population living in the formerly British-owned territories now under their control, the Japanese found it to their advantage to organise these Indians for an armed freedom movement against the British to liberate India.

As the war progressed and the Allies began regaining territory the Japanese began running short of food supplies. Ships bringing in supplies became the target of British air-raids and were being sunk just as they entered the harbour and by 1944 Allied forces had sunk more than 750 merchant vessels. Fearing that the islanders themselves were passing on shipping details to the Allies, the Japanese became suspicious of anyone who spoke English, torturing and murdering suspects. When the food situation further worsened in June 1945, the Japanese "dealt" with the crisis with a massacre of hundreds of local people, either rounding them up and throwing them into the sea, or shooting them in the forest.

On 22 October 1945, the British re-occupation forces landed on Car Nicobar and in February 1946, ten Nicobarese (six from Car Nicobar, and four from Nancowry) were brought to Singapore as witnesses of the Japanese atrocities. The court in Singapore sentenced six Japanese officers to death while nine of them were imprisoned for various terms.

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