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  • Writer's pictureDavid Connolly

Did Crocodiles Really Eat Hundreds of Japanese Soldiers in World War II?

In January 1945, two infantry brigades from the Indian Army and a detachment of British commandos were dispatched to Ramree Island, the largest island off the coast of present-day Myanmar (then known as Burma). Somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 soldiers from the Imperial Japanese Army’s 54th Division were entrenched on Ramree. If the British 14th Army succeeded in taking the island, it could build an airbase there and use it as a launch point for bombing missions over Burma and Malaysia.

After weeks of bitter fighting, the Allies managed to drive the last surviving Japanese soldiers into mangrove swamps surrounding the island — swamps populated by thousands of saltwater crocodiles. As the Indian and British troops closed in, the Japanese soldiers were faced with two options: They could stay and fight or attempt to flee through the marshes and escape by sea. They decided to flee. What happened next is a bit of a mystery; however, according to one version of the story — the best-known version — only 20 of the soldiers who entered the marshes made it out alive; the rest were eaten by crocodiles.

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