Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15, 1942 - Allied Forces begin work to destroy the Yenangyaung oil fields in Burma

Soldiers of the I Burma Corps begin to destroy the infrastructure of the Yenangyaung oil fields to prevent the advancing Japanese from capturing them intact.

Yenangyaung in Burma was the location of a strategically and tactically important oil refinery. As a result of the speed and success of the Japanese advance up through Burma during the Burma Campaign and the Battle of Yenangyaung, the retreating Allied forces were forced to blow up the oil fields and refinery to prevent them falling into the hands of the Japanese. This difficult task was left to a small group of men who had experience with explosives and demolitions, some from serving with the Bombay Pioneers, part of the British Indian Army, in World War I. The oil facilities were destroyed at 10 pm on 16 April 1942.

The men had then to escape through enemy held territory back to Imphal and Kohima in India, a distance of nearly 1,000 miles. This escape included swimming across the Irrawaddy River, as the only bridge had been blown up to delay the Japanese advance.