On This Day

The Day Imperial Japanese Bombers Rained Fire on Yangon

By Wei Yan Aung 23 December 2019

Yangon—On this day 78 years ago, approximately 3,000 people were killed in Yangon when the then capital suffered its first-ever aerial bombardment. Yangon residents, who had never experienced an air raid before, watched curiously as British fighters attacked a fleet of around 70 Japanese bombers, which proceeded to unload their explosives on the city.

Within hours, the town center was strewn with bloody, headless, mutilated corpses, and turned into a cemetery. The Indian neighborhood on Fraser Road (now Anawrahta Road) and Merchant Street near Bogalay Market was hit hardest by the bombings.

Large numbers of Yangon residents, especially Indian expats, fled Yangon following the bombings. Meanwhile, the government released the inmates of prisons and psychiatric hospitals, triggering a crime wave, and leaving residents feeling even less secure.

Unable to repulse the invading Japanese forces, the British practised a scorched-earth policy, destroying department stores, storage depots and warehouses along the port. The thick smoke from the fire covered the whole town, and Yangon was in ruins. Two months later, Yangon, the seat of colonial rule, fell into the hands of Japanese fascists.