Japan bombed Military bases of European colonies in Asia, not civilians unlike the Allies (Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki)
Posted on June 30th, 2019

Janaka Perera

Dilrook has said that ‘ Japan was the only country that bombed Sri Lanka”

Here is my reply:

The Easter Sunday Raid (or Battle of Ceylon) was an air attack by carrier-based aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against ColomboCeylon (now Sri Lanka), on Easter Sunday, 5 April 1942, during the South-East Asian theatre of World War II. This attack was part of the Indian Ocean Raid, and was followed a few days later by a similar attack on Trincomalee. The targets were British warships, harbour installations, and air bases; the object was to disrupt the war effort of British Empire / Commonwealth nations and force the British Eastern Fleet to leave Asian waters.  ( Wikipedia – Easter Sunday Raid – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Sunday_Raid)

When Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, British occupied Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) became a central base for British operations in Southeast Asia, and the port at Trincomalee regained its historically strategic importance. 

Because Ceylon was an indispensable strategic bastion for the British Royal Navy, it became an irresistible military target for the Japanese.

The Japanese in their bombing raids over Ceylon in April 1942 targeted only British military bases in Colombo and Trincomalee, and not civilian locations.

The Japanese also bombed the mental asylum at Angoda, mistaking it for the fuel tanks at nearby Kolonnawa.  There was no Red Cross painted on the Roof of the Hospital.

It was what is now called co – lateral damage.

This stands in contrast to the conduct of the the Allies who deliberately targeted innocent civilians in the Anglo – American raid over Dresden, Germany in February 1945, and the Americans who mercilessly bombed innocent men, women and children using Nuclear Bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945.

Janaka Perera

6 Responses to “Japan bombed Military bases of European colonies in Asia, not civilians unlike the Allies (Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki)”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Unfortunately Sri Lanka was under British rule then and our ports were occupied and governed by the British along with locals. Bombing them is bombing Sri Lanka.

    Fast forward to today and what if some country bombs Hambantota or the Colombo Port SOuth Terminal or the Trinco oil farm? Would that not amount to bombing Sri Lanka?

    “Japan bombed Military bases of European colonies in Asia, not civilians unlike the Allies (Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki)”

    Japan did far worse crimes on (mostly Buddhist) civilians in China, South East Asia, etc. than just bombing them. It’s unspeakable horror unseen in these parts of the world before.

    Dresden get all the attention over Manchuria may be because one is in Europe and the other in Asia. One’s civilians are Christians and the other’s Buddhist.

  2. samurai Says:

    The writer is NOT talking about what would have happened if the Japanese occupied Sri Lanka or about what they did in China. This is solely about Japanese bombing British military installations in Sri Lanka. We did not come under British rule because we liked it. So there’s no point in blaming only the Japanese if that is the argument.

    Today we are an independent country at least for name sake. So if a foreign military military power bombs Hambantota, Colombo or Trinco because they are given to attacker’s rivals, then again it is not only the bombers who have to be blamed but also our own regime which has allowed our country to become like old China which allowed its territory to become sphere’s of interest of different foreign powers

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook said “Fast forward to today and what if some country bombs Hambantota or the Colombo Port SOuth Terminal or the Trinco oil farm? Would that not amount to bombing Sri Lanka?”

    I wish to point out what Dilrook failed to underscore: that today Hambantota and Colombo Port South Terminal are under Chinese Control, and that Trinco Oil Tank Farm (and the Colombo Port East Terminal in the near future, together with USA and Japan) is under India’s Control.

    As such, I disagree with Dilrook in TWO ways:

    1. Although the host nation TODAY is sovereign Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka has no CONTROL over these foreign controlled installations. If these installations are bombed to attack those foreign nations, those attacks should not be viewed as attacks on the Sri Lankan nation, albeit necessitated by OUR STUPIDITY in granting foreign countries ECONOMIC or MILITARY bases within Sri Lanka. Let us remember that in modern wars BOTH ECONOMIC and MILITARY targets are FAIR GAME in WAR!

    2. The situation during WWII was FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT, because Sri Lanka THEN was a COLONY of Britain, wholly occupied and wholly controlled to serve British interests. As such, Sri Lankan British territory was CERTAINLY a FAIR and VALID TARGET for the Japanese military; that should be BEYOND DEBATE! Even though indigenous Sri Lankan civilians were also killed during the Japanese raids, that was unintended “peripheral damage”; the main targets were military, be they British assets and personnel, or belonging to the Sri Lankan Army which was then DIRECTLY controlled by and in the SERVICE of the British as a Colonial Force. Furthermore, Sri Lanka was the HQ of the Allied South Asia Command, and a perfectly valid target for the Japanese. I believe that the majority of military casualties in those RAIDS were British nationals, whether they were killed on Sri Lankan land, or in the surrounding seas where major battles took place and many British ships were sunk.

    In Conclusion, we the indigenous people of Sri Lanka should not view the Japanese attacks during WWII as targeting us at all. Neither should we believe that iof Japan had prevailed in WWII in South Asia we would have been better off, given the experience of the China and Indochina in Japanese hands.

    We should ONLY acknowledge that the Japanese, perhaps unintentionally, helped South Asian nations in a BIG WAY to break free from Colonial Occupation by the West, by WEAKENING their ECONOMIES, their CONTROL over our nations, and by sapping their WILL to continue the occupation in the face of emerging nationalist struggles for freedom.

  4. Dilrook Says:

    “Although the host nation TODAY is sovereign Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka has no CONTROL over these foreign controlled installations. If these installations are bombed to attack those foreign nations, those attacks should not be viewed as attacks on the Sri Lankan nation”

    I strongly disagree.

    It is equal to bombing Sri Lanka. And no one has the right to do so.

    Only Japan, JVP, LTTE and ISIS bombed Sri Lanka.

    ISIS bombed a Chinese owned hotel in Colombo on Chinese owned land. But that is an attack on Sri Lanka itself.

    “The situation during WWII was FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT, because Sri Lanka THEN was a COLONY of Britain, wholly occupied and wholly controlled to serve British interests. As such, Sri Lankan British territory was CERTAINLY a FAIR and VALID TARGET for the Japanese military”

    Not so. Sri Lanka was punished twice – once by the British occupasion and then by Japanese bombing.

    In addition, it affected locals, drove fear into them, caused them to lose property, livilihoods, etc.
    Had Japan bombed London, then I would agree with you.

    Japanese intention clearly was to do what they did to Buddhists elsewhere in Sri Lanka. That was one of the most barbaric treatment world Buddhists ever suffered until then.

    Had Japan succeeded, there would not be any healthy Buddhist men or woman left in Sri Lanka. Thankfully Japan was given a dose of its own medicine to end the war which is celebrated worldwide including Japan. However, Japan still occupies territory it robbed from other nations and glorifies and worships war criminals in shrines.

  5. samurai Says:

    I wish to raise another point on this subject.
    If the Japanese bombing British military targets in Sri Lanka amounts bombing of Sri Lanka then the Allied air raids on German-occupied France to drive out the Germans amounts to bombing of France.

    The Japanese bombed British targets only on two days in 1942 – April 5 (Colombo) and April 9 (Trincomalee) whereas the Allied bombings on France continued for nearly five years (1940-1945) until the Germans were driven out of that country.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_France_during_World_War_II

    If the Japanese were held accountable for war crimes, why were not those who bombed German cities killing thousands of civilians and atom bombed Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki held accountable for war crimes? A victor has no right to judge the vanquished if both of them committed similar atrocities.

    If the British decided they had the right to declare war on Germany on Poland’s behalf in 1939 what was wrong in Japan occupying British and other European colonies in Asia.

    If Japan’s Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was considered a war criminal, then what about Marshal of the British Royal Air Force Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris who was responsible for killing thousands of German civilians in relentless air raids round the clock, sometimes jointly with the U.S. Air force?

    The Portuguese, Dutch French and the British waged war on Sri Lanka and other Asian countries for nearly 500 years. Since there was no air power in that era that they could not bomb but launched sea-borne invasions and land battles. But none of these countries have been asked to compensate for destruction they caused in the colonies.

  6. samurai Says:

    About the allegation that the Japanese would have killed Buddhists if they occupied Sri Lanka let me quote a few sentences from Pro. S.K. Arsekularatne’s book SINHALESE IMMIGRANTS IN MALAYSIA AND SINGAPORE (1860-1990) under the title ‘Befriending the Japanese’ (p.259) during the Japanese occupation

    “….Dhanapala Jayawardene’s family too had a great feel of their warmth. ‘When a young Japanese officer came home and saw a picture of the Buddha, a bond was established. He saw a resemblance of my mother and offered to pray for her’….”

    I am drawing attention to this NOT to gloss over or deny Japanese atrocities in Malaya, Singapore and other occupied territories but to refute the allegation that they would picked up Buddhist for harassment. If that was the case the first Buddhists they would have targeted would have been Buddhists in Myanmar and French Indochina .

    What happened in China has little or nothing to do with Buddhism but racial enmity. The Japanese did not deliberately destroy Buddhist temples and shrines in China during the war. At one stage of her history Buddhism was Japan’s State religion. However in later years they promoted Shinto as State religion for military purposes since they were waging war in the name of the Emperor.

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