The battles of World War II in Southeast Asia started with a saga of repeated defeats and retreats by the Allies. Then in 1944, after they re-grouped during a stalemate in 1942–43, the Allies decisively defeated the Imperial Forces of Japan in the jungles of the Chin Hills, leading to a victorious advance down the plains to Rangoon. These campaigns included the greatest land battles and the soundest defeat of the Japanese armies during the war. They were engineered by the combination of sound Allied tactics and resolute jungle fighting that was facilitated by a most intensive and innovative use of airpower. In spite of Winston Churchill’s statement that the attack against Ceylon (Sri Lanka) by a Japanese naval task force in 1942 represented the most dangerous moment of the war, these campaigns have been slighted in subsequent general histories of the World War, as they were by the media of the time.

During the campaigns most of the Allied troops felt that their efforts and sacrifices were unrecognized and largely forgotten in the panorama of the war. They believed that they were poorly supported—they knew they were assigned inferior equipment in deficient quantity—and they suspected they were short-changed by remote leadership and inadequate strategic planning. Those feelings arose in 1941–42 during the defeats and retreats from Malaya, Singapore, the East Indies and Burma, and they hardened during the stalemate after the monsoon of 1942 when the 14th Army dubbed itself the “Forgotten Army.”