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Allied Special Operations and Their Effects on Japanese Strategy: Northern Burma, 1942-1945


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From 1942-1945, the Imperial Japanese Army and Allied forces from the United States, the British Empire, and Nationalist China fought fiercely to control northern Burma and its border areas. The region was vital for both sides, who sought to expand or regain strategic advantages in southeast Asia. At the end of long lines of communication with few resources, Allied commanders employed special operations forces with greater density and to greater effect in northern Burma than in any other combat theater of World War II out of necessity. American and British special operations forces were the only combat units in northern Burma in 1943; they operated extensively behind Japanese lines in spring 1944, and were the only forces in contact with the enemy in autumn 1944. In 1945, they directly enabled achievement of the Allies' two stated theater strategic aims. Japanese strategy at the theater and national levels changed several times in response to events in northern Burma, including campaigns where special operations forces played an essential role. This thesis analyzes operations by two types of Allied special operations units in northern BurmaLong-Range Penetration Groups (LRPGs) and Unconventional Warfare (UW) unitsand identifies two occasions on which those operations directly or indirectly led to Japanese theater or national strategy changes.



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