MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.
The Car Nicobar island is a small island located in the middle of the Andaman Islands Archipelago. It has a population of about 17000 and a coastline of 51 km while the area of the island is 126 Square kilometers. The island was occupied in the early 20th century by the British who also made a small airfield. This was called NO 1 staging post. After 1947, the island became part of India and the small airfield which had been lengthened by the Japanese was taken over by the Indian Air Force. I have flown many times to this airfield from Barrackpore in Kolkata. I remember we used to use an Avro HS 748 and the flight took four hours. The island has pristine beaches and is a great place to swim and enjoy. During my visits to the island, I came across very startling facts which have never been fully studied by historians.
In May 1942, a Japanese task force consisting of one aircraft carrier, battlecruiser, and other warships approached the Andaman islands which at that time were guarded by about 200 Sikh militia under the command of a British officer. The British had a battalion of Gurkhas, but expecting a Japanese assault the Gurkhas were re-inducted from the Andaman Islands and positioned in Burma. The islands were thus practically defenseless.
The imperial navy task force approached the Andaman Islands and was only required to fire a few shots at the Harbor of Port Blair, the capital and the militia surrendered. The entire archipelago was occupied by the Japanese. A small body of troops of the imperial army also landed in Car Nicobar and took control of the island. The British resident commissioner was shot dead.
The Japanese handed over nominal control of the island to the Indian National Army led by Subhas Chandra Bose. He visited the islands once, in 1943 but was somehow not conversant with the way the Japanese were treating the local population and committing untoward atrocities.
The island remained under the occupation of the Japanese from May 1942 till the surrender of Japan in August 1945. This is one of the most harrowing experiences for the local population who were left defenseless by the British.
I have been told by the village headman that the Japanese conscripted all the adult males of the island and herded them together as a labor force to modernize and strengthen the short airfield. The entire island is covered with tropical forest and many of the male laborers simply died of lack of food and proper care but the Japanese were not concerned. If a given task was not completed, many of the men were executed.
Now comes the most harrowing part of the Japanese occupation. Car Nicobar island had a population at that time of about 7 to 8000 and in the attempt to elongate the airfield about 3000 of the local men died or were executed. The women who were left behind were conscripted as wives for the Japanese soldiers. It has not been verified and the exact numbers are not available but as per local resources, I was told that many hundreds of tribal women were conscripted as wives and impregnated by the Japanese repeatedly, during the three years of occupation.
The local tribal girls are good-looking and the more beautiful and younger ones were reserved for the officers. This was resisted by the locals.
In particular, the Japanese targeted the educated elite who spoke English and just either beheaded or shot them. This was done in full view of the local populace and after the killings, many tribal girls were married as 'wives' to the Japanese soldiers. Such barbarity is hard to condone.
In August 1945, the Japanese soldiers left the island as well as the women and escaped to Malaysia. Many were caught and their trials were conducted in Singapore and they were hanged to death. The occupation and in particular the bestiality of the Japanese on the Car Nicobar islands needs to be studied by historians. The plight of the comfort women of Korea is well documented but not as much is known about what the Japanese did in Car Nicobar. There is a lurking feeling that the Japanese changed the race of the island.
© 2022 MG Singh emge