WWII Assam cemetery being dug for Japanese troops’ remains

January 19th, 2012 - 5:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Jan 19 (IANS) Labourers in Assam continued digging a World War II cemetery for the second straight day Thursday to look for remains of 11 Japanese soldiers.

A Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) official said the digging operation began Wednesday at War Cemetery in Assam’s main city of Guwahati to recover the remains of the 11 Japanese soldiers buried here.

A three-member Japanese government official team is overseeing the exhumation work.

The delegation includes Ken Miyashita, who is deputy director of the Office of Foreign Affairs and the planning division of war victims’ relief, Koju Matsubayshi, who is the first secretary in the Japanese embassy in New Delhi, and technical expert Masahiro Takeda.

“According to reports available with the Japanese government, the remains of the 11 soldiers were buried in wooden boxes here at this cemetery and hence the digging exercise,” said Salew Pfotte, regional manager of the CWGC.

“So far, no significant remains have been found, but the operation is on.”

Guwahati is among the nine war cemetery in India that has graves of Japanese soldiers who died in the World War 11. Five of the nine cemeteries are in the northeast.

Hundreds of Japanese soldiers died fighting the Allied Forces during World War II. The Allied Forces fought to free China from Japanese occupation and most of the action took place along the historic Stilwell Road.

The 1,726-km road was a vital lifeline for movement of troops of the Allied Forces during World War II.

It starts at Assam, in the heart of India’s northeast, and cuts through the Pangsau Pass in Myanmar to Kunming in southwest China.

“This is the first time ever that any World War II cemetery maintained by the CWGC in India was being dug to retrieve grave remains,” Pfotte said.

“The digging was allowed following an official intimation from the CWGC headquarters saying the Japanese government wants to retrieve grave remains of the 11 soldiers whose records were available with them.”

“According to information available with us, along with the bodies there were valuables of the dead soldiers buried in the cemetery in the wooden coffins. The idea is to get at least some remains so that we can take it back and bury them as per Japanese rituals,” Miyashita, a member of the Japanese delegation, was quoted as saying by an Indian interpreter.

“Surely there are emotional values attached to this entire operation and we hope we go back with some memories at least.”

The Guwahati cemetery has 523 graves, including 316 known and 18 unknown graves of soldiers from the United Kingdom, 136 known and seven unknown Indian soldiers, four each from Canada and South Africa, one from New Zealand, two graves of soldiers whose nationality is unknown, 11 Japanese soldiers, and 24 Chinese soldiers.

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