Leap of Faith
Some 77 years ago today, in the remote mountainous frontier area between India and Burma, an extremely understrength parachute light infantry brigade began an epic week-long battle against a Japanese force that was both much larger and much better armed– never an ideal task for airborne troops.
The battle was never supposed to happen, it turned out that the Japanese 15th and 31st Divisions, infiltrating toward India, blundered into the Indian/Gurkha paras while the latter were working patrols. Nonetheless, it was a nightmare for all involved.
As noted by Paradata:
The Indian Parachute Brigade group held up the Japanese advance for six days, in appalling conditions, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy but at great loss. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting revolved around the Sangshak church within 200 yards of Brigade headquarters. Counter-attacks with bayonet and Kukri drove the Japanese back.
And from The Museum of the Parachute Regiment & Airborne Forces in Duxford:
On the 26th March, with both sides nearing complete exhaustion, the arrival of the 5th Indian Division allowed the Brigade to ‘fight its way out’ back to Imphal, having lost 40 officers and 585 men.
Patched back up, the Indians and Gurkhas would later finish the war with a drop into Rangoon.
One anecdote from the formation of the Gurkha parachute unit at Delhi in October 1941 was that the hardy mountain men were absolutely ready to jump out of a moving airplane to fight, but were greatly relieved when later told they would do it with a parachute!