Why did Japan wait until 1944 before they started a large offensive in to India?

Why did Japan wait until 1944 before they started a large offensive in to India?
Since it was allready clear that Japan and Germany were losing important battles in 1943, and British India was important, a succesfull invasion of India was their only chance to change the course of the war.


The Japanese had reached the end of their logistical tether by late 42/early 43 in Burma. They’d had excellent results pushing back both British and Chinese forces in every campaign, but usually with fewer troops and shoestring supplies. It wasn’t until 1944 that IJA leadership freed up enough resources from other fronts to make another push out of Burma and the lines of easy transportation (such as they are) run vaguely northeast to southwest, almost literally at right angles to the lines of advance for armies of both Japan and Britain.

I suspect the IJA also expected much better results from the Indian National Army and clandestine fifth-column support in India proper when the campaign kicked off. Bose may have over-promised, but the IJA believed him.

Logistics are important in every military campaign, but logistics in Burma were perhaps the worst problem any set of opposing armies faced during the entire war aside from the German 6th Army trapped in Stalingrad. The road net in Burma was very limited and at least until late 1943 the British/Indian/Commonwealth forces were far too dependent on road transport, while the Japanese began the campaign with very few motorized units (they captured a lot during the war, but they didn’t get as much benefit from them because the roads were still too primitive).

A successful invasion of India from Burma would have been a huge political victory, but I very much doubt that it would have gotten very far militarily even if the Japanese had prevailed at Imphal-Kohima, without a substantial naval campaign (which Japan no longer had the resources to do). Part of the reason the British hadn’t launched many assaults into Burma was that the road and rail net from the rest of India to the frontier wasn’t much better than the roads in Burma proper. Vast resources were poured into Assam to upgrade the road, railway, and air transport links, but the work went slowly due to limited equipment being supplied from outside India.


My impression from what Indy mentioned in the regular episodes is that the invasion of India seemed to be more out of desperation to have some kind of major success literally anywhere by this point in the war. As mentioned above it would be a major political victory and an embarrassment for the Allies, but it’s pointless long term since taking British India doesn’t change the fact the Americans are slowly making their way up the Pacific closer to the Home Islands and there’s still a stalemate in China. And even if they do take the Raj there’s no way then can hold, the population is too great and the logistics would be non-existent. It also really seems they were banking on the Indians rising up against the British which of course didn’t happen. I imagine this was because the Indians saw the British as the lesser of two evils where there was at least a chance of independence as opposed to the Japanese who would be playing for keeps.


Sorry for the long post but this is the detailed explanation for the reason why the invasion of India only occurred in 1944:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – Philosopher George Santayana

The Empire of Japan was the exception to this rule. The Japanese did study their past which led to the annihilation of their empire in the Second World War. What the Japanese misapplied was that the Manchu Qing Dynasty and the Romanov Dynasty decided that the humiliation of foreign defeat and the loss of marginal territory and interests on the edge of their empires was a far lesser threat than the continuation of war which could lead to the overthrow of their dynastic rule through revolution and civil war. The Japanese also misapplied the lessons of World War 1 in their mistaken belief that the Western Allies would be too bogged down in their fight against the Axis powers in Europe to apply significant forces against the Japanese Empire.

The Japanese start off in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor with only a core force of 51 infantry divisions in the Japanese Army. The Japanese Army committed 20% of their forces for the conquest of Southeast Asia. The Japanese forces contained a grand total of 2 square infantry divisions, 9 infantry divisions, 2 infantry brigades, 6 artillery regiments, 2 anti-aircraft regiments, 10 anti-aircraft battalions, 6 artillery battalions, 3 heavy mortar battalions, 8 tank regiments (battalion size), and 10 combat engineer battalions.

The Japanese originally intended for 15th Army to occupy Thailand and seize the southern Tenasserim region of Burma to cut off British attempts to reinforce Malaya and Singapore with aircraft by seizing the airfields. The 15th Army only consists of the 33rd Division (minus an infantry regiment and 2 artillery battalions due to lack of transport) and the 55th Division (minus the South Seas or Nakai Detachment) and 2 combat engineer regiments (battalion size). After secret talks with Burmese nationalists that allowed them to find out the true strength of the British forces in Burma that the Japanese decided to launch a full-scale invasion. The 15th Army had to leave units behind to guarantee that the Thais would stay committed to the enforced alliance so the invasion force consisted of 10 infantry battalions, 3 artillery battalions, 3 combat engineer regiments (battalion size), 3 combat engineer companies, and 2 cavalry companies.

After the fall of Rangoon, the Imperial Japanese Army will bring up by convoys under the protection of the Imperial Navy the remainder of the 33rd Division, the 18th Division (minus the Kawaguchi Detachment), and the 56th Division with 2 attached tank regiments. The Imperial Japanese Army realized that it would be impossible to supply their forces from Rangoon by the sea without the presence of Combined Fleet so the decision was made to build a railroad connecting Thailand to Burma. The Southern Expeditionary Force ordered the 15th Army to remain on the defensive until a secure supply route can be established between Burma and Thailand by the building of the Railroad of Death.

A group of Imperial Japanese Navy planners proposed in April, 1942 that the Japanese 25th Army with the Imperial Guards and 38th Division be used for the invasion of Ceylon. The planners hoped that the invasion would cause the Indians of the Raj to arise in revolt against British rule while the rulers of the princely states under the control of the Raj from the Emirate of Kuwait in the west to the Kingdom of Manipur in the east would break away from British control and declare independence. But this course of action was rejected by both Combined Fleet and the Imperial Japanese Army HQ.

By this point, the Japanese government realized that the Allied nations had no intention of starting peace negotiations. The Imperial Japanese Army also realized that the production of heavy equipment like anti-aircraft artillery, anti-tank guns, field artillery, armored vehicles, and motor vehicles was at maximum capacity. The army only had the production capacity to raise infantry battalions.

The Japanese started scouring the newly conquered territories for every piece of manufacturing machinery to be transported back to Japan. Simultaneously in the home islands, the Army rebuilt every piece of obsolete and abandoned machinery to increase manufacturing capacity. Both of these efforts took time and highest priority was given to the manufacturing of aircraft since present manufacturing capacity could barely replace combat and accidental losses.

So, in 1942, the Japanese were only able to equip 2 Type B infantry divisions. By adding on independent battalions to existing mixed infantry brigades, the Japanese raised 6 Type C counterinsurgency divisions in China but these consist of either 8 or 10 infantry battalions, 2 combat engineer companies, and 8 field guns. With the use of mostly captured allied trucks, the Japanese attached a 1400-man motorized infantry regiment, a motorized artillery regiment, and a motorized anti-tank battalion to three armored brigades to create three tank divisions. A fourth tank brigade was designated a division but actually remained a brigade due to lack of trucks.

In 1943, the Japanese Army would have the equipment to create 1 Type A and 7 Type B infantry divisions along with 4 Type C divisions in China. Using the recovered survivors of Kawaguchi’s Brigade and Ichiki Detachment from Guadalcanal as a cadre, the Army created the Type B 31st Division in Bangkok to reinforce Burma by marching along the route of the Burma-Thailand railroad. The Japanese also created the 24th Independent Mixed Brigade and new units to replace the destroyed units of the South Seas Detachment to bring the 55th Division up to full strength.

Only after the completion of the Thailand-Burma Railroad in October 17, 1943 did the Southern Expeditionary Force authorize the reinforcement of Burma which allowed the transfer of the 2nd (rebuilt at Saigon), 15th, 53rd, and 56th Divisions to be transferred to Burma so offensive operations could be conducted. This transfer of forces occurred by slowly due to the fact that the Allied Southeast Air Command had gained air superiority over Burma. The main railroad lines were under attack by the combined British-American Strategic Bombing Force. Closer to the frontlines, the communication routes were coming under aerial attack by the 10th US Army Air Force in northern Burma and 3rd Tactical Air Force in southern Burma. It was due to Allied air superiority that caused the Japanese to only begin the offensive on March 8, 1944.