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An Army of 1000 Japanese Soldiers Was Attacked by Crocodiles During the Battle of Ramree Island, WWII

1940s | June 12, 2017

In 1942, during WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army captured Ramree Island off the Burma coast, 70 miles south of Akyab, now known as Sittwe.

Since Ramree was strategically important, the Allies wanted to retake the island and establish airbases to support the mainland campaign. So in 1945, an attack on the island was launched.

After a bloody face-off, British troops managed to drive nearly 1,000 enemy soldiers into the dense mangrove swamp that covered some 10 miles of Ramree. The defeated Japanese soldiers ignored all appeals by the British to surrender, and instead abandoned their base and entered the swamp.

It was after this that one of the oddest incidents in the history of warfare occurred.

Many of the Japanese troops succumbed to tropical diseases carried by swarms of mosquitoes, and various poisonous spiders, snakes and scorpions found in the marsh. Lack of drinking water and constant threat of starvation were problems as well. Despite these numerous hazards, one danger stood out as the greatest.

Crocodiles.

Unknown to the Imperial Japanese Army, the mangrove swamps of Ramree Island are home to an unknown number of the largest reptilian predator in the world - the saltwater crocodile.

These reptiles can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh 2,000 pounds, with many being known to eat animals as big as Indian water buffalo. Even a mid-size saltwater crocodile could easily kill a full-grown adult human.

One night British soldiers reported hearing panicked screams and gunfire coming from within the darkness of the swamp. They didn’t know what exactly was causing the terrified shouts they heard - it was as if the Japanese troops were being ravaged by some evil menace.

The soldiers were viciously and mercilessly attacked by the crocodiles.

The naturalist Bruce Stanley Wright described the scene unfolding in his 1962 book, Wildlife Sketches Near and Far:

“That night was the most horrible that any member of the M.L. crews ever experienced. The crocodiles, alerted by the din of warfare and the smell of blood, gathered among the mangroves, lying with their eyes above water, watchfully alert for their next meal. With the ebb of the tide, the crocodiles moved in on the dead, wounded, and uninjured men who had become mired in the mud.”

There is a long history of saltwater crocodiles attacking humans who wander into their habitats, and ultimately only 520 out of 1000 Japanese soldiers managed to survive the Ramree swamps.

Some of them being so badly injured and mauled that they were later recaptured by the British forces.

The Battle of Ramree Island is not well-known due to it not being one of the Second World War’s most significant skirmishes, but many consider it one of the oddest stories in the history of warfare.

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