Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The IJA 18th Division aka Chrysanthemum Division

IJA 18th Division (第18師団Dai-ju-hachi Shidan?) was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the Chrysanthemum Division (菊兵団 Kikuhei-dan?)

The infamous Division caused the most carnage amongst the chinese population in Malaya. One of the reasons for the attrocities committed in Malaya was because the same division were involved in major battles against the Chinese army in their China theatre. Local chinese in Malaya poured in funds to fight the Japanese in China.

The 8th Division was formed inKurume, Kyūshū on 13 November 1907, together with the 17th Division, as part of the post Russo-Japanese War expansion of the standing Japanese military. In World War I it was strengthened by an additional infantry regiment (the 29th) and given an independent command in the siege of the German colony of Tsingtao in the Shandong peninsula, China. Abolished at the end of World War I, it was revived for participation in the Siberian Intervention.

However, in 1925, it was again dissolved as one of the four divisions cancelled by Minister of War Ugaki Kazushige as part of a cost saving measure during the Kato Takaaki administration.

The 18th Division was resurrected in September 1937, and assigned to the 10th Army with the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. It took part in the Battle of Shanghai. As part of the China Expeditionary Army, it participated in theBattle of Nanjing (and subsequent Nanjing Massacre), and various campaigns throughout China, cumulating in the Canton Operation of 1938.

In 1941 the division was under the command of Lieutenant-General Renya Mutaguchi. It was re-assigned to the 25th Army (which was under the command of General Yamashita Tomoyuki). It participated in the invasion of Malaya and Singapore. Afterwards, it was transferred to the Japanese Fifteenth Army and the Burma front, where it suffered over 3000 casualties from food poisoning and malaria.

Late in 1943, Mutaguchi was promoted, and replaced in command of the division by Lieutenant-General Shinichi Tanaka. Transferred to theJapanese Thirty-Third Army, and operations in northern Burma, 18th Division fought against the American-led Chinese divisions advancing on Mogaung and Myitkyina, and against the British Chindits operating behind their lines. Although sufferering heavy losses, the division nevertheless inflicted many casualties and imposed severe delays on the Allies.

In the aftermath of the disastrous invasion of India in 1944, Lieutenant-General Tanaka exchanged appointments with Lieutenant-General Eitaro Naka, formerly Chief of Staff at Burma Area Army. In the 1945 campaigning season, the division once again lost many thousands of men in the Battle of Central Burma, particularly at the Battle of Meiktila south of Mandalay. It ended the war in southern Burma.

Of the 31,444 men sent to Burma, more than 20,000 did not make it home to Japan.

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