Attack of the Crocodiles
February 19, 1945 - It was on this day in what is now Burma, that hundreds of Japanese soldiers were attacked and eaten by crocodiles.
At the beginning of World War II the Imperial Japanese Army captured and occupied Southern Burma, but in 1945 the Allies fought to take it back. After six weeks of heavy fighting at the Battle of Ramree Island, the British and Indian forces had outflanked 900 Japanese soldiers and demanded their surrender.
Instead of laying down their weapons, the Japanese attempted to escape by walking across 1o miles of treacherous swampland. In addition to knee-deep mud, the soldiers were confronted with deadly scorpions, swarms of mosquitoes and 15-foot-long crocodiles.
Bruce Wright, a member of the British forces described the disaster that ensued:
That night was the most horrible that any member of the M.L. [motor launch] crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles, and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth. At dawn the vultures arrived to clean up what the crocodiles had left...Of about 1,000 Japanese soldiers that entered the swamps of Ramree, only about 20 were found alive.
Many historians are skeptical of Wright's sensational account and some claim that as many as 500 men may have escaped the long night in the swamp, but by every account the death toll was extremely high.