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Wartime in Burma

A Diary, January to June 1942

Muang Theikpan

Publication Year: 2009

This diary, begun after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and covering the invasion of Burma up to June 1942, is a moving night-by-night account of the dilemmas faced by the well-loved and prolific Burmese author, Theippan Maung Wa (a pseudonym of U Sein Tin) and his family. At the time of the Japanese invasion, U Sein Tin was deputy secretary in the Ministry of Defense. An Oxford-trained member of the Indian Civil Service, working for the British administration on the eve of the invasion, he was living with his wife and three small children in Rangoon; he felt threatened and extremely fearful of the breakdown of law and order that would follow the invasion.

Wartime in Burma is a stirring memoir that presents a personal account of Theippan’s feelings about the war, his anxiety for the safety of his family, the bombing of Rangoon, and what happened to them during the next six chaotic months of the British retreat. Eventually the author and his family left Rangoon to live in a remote forest in Upper Burma with several other Burmese civil servants, their staff, and valuable possessions—rich pickings for robbers. His diary ends abruptly on June 5, his forty–second birthday, when he was murdered by a gang of Burmese bandits. The diary pages, scattered on the floor of the house, were rescued by his wife and eventually published in Burma in 1966.

What survives is a unique account that shines new light on the military retreat from Burma.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xxi

The Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7/8, 1941, made a single conflict, World War II, out of what had been two separate wars--Japan against China on the one hand, and Germany and its allies against Russia and Britain...

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p. xxiii

Among the other memoirs that have been published on the war in Burma written from the point of view of British participants, there are two which seem particularly relevant to Sein Tin's diary. Both authors were young members of the ICS at the time. The first is Robert...

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January 1942

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pp. 1-51

1. Up and out of bed early morning at 2 a.m. to come back to Rangoon from Ma-ubin with Myint on the fast boat from Bassein. 2. Myint has come along because she finds that after spending almost a month in Ma-ubin away from her husband, it is not enough to spend just a couple of days with him in Rangoon and then to have to...

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February 1942

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pp. 52-93

I couldn't get to sleep last night for a long time, worrying over the news of the final fall of Moulmein and the withdrawal of all troops to Singapore. I just couldn't help thinking about each item of the news. I am cut off from my brothers and sisters. There's no way of getting through to them either by mail or by telegraph. There's...

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March 1942

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pp. 94-132

Even though today is Sunday, we were in the middle of moving, and so we all had to come in to the office. Even Secretary U Kyaw had to come down from Maymyo. After he had met and talked with most of the staff and officers, he arranged the tasks that had to be carrried out in the future. Mr. Alexander and Mr. Chari said that they wanted to go back to India and did not want to continue working...

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April 1942

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pp. 133-168

A doctor who came in from Mandalay in the evening looking for Dr. Min Sein told us that an enemy bombing raid had caused an enormous fire that is raging in Mandalay. This was confirmed in the evening news from Burma Radio. It said that there have been many deaths and much material damage. At nine in...

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May 1942

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pp. 169-187

At about eight this morning my old friend U San, the forest officer, came to the rest house with his assistant, U Ba Ohn. U San is having to stay in a small village, called Sabe-nantha, about twenty miles northeast from Kanbalu, where his job is arranging for the construction...

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June 1942 [contains image plates]

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pp. 188-202

Although I have been unemployed for a month now, I still find myself feeling an urge to go and draw my salary on the first day of the month. But I won't be drawing a salary anymore. Doubtless the idea of a salary will gradually fade away. The desire that seizes me on the first day of the month to go and draw my pay...

Appendix: An Eyewitness Account of U Sein Tin's Death

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pp. 203-205


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pp. 207-208

Index of Names

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pp. 209-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780896804715
Print-ISBN-13: 9780896802704

Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 742512928
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Wartime in Burma

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rangoon (Burma) -- Biography.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Refugees.
  • Burma -- History -- Japanese occupation, 1942-1945.
  • Rangoon (Burma) -- History, Military -- 20th century.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Burma.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, Burmese.
  • Wa, Theippan Maung, 1899-1942 -- Diaries.
  • Burma -- Officials and employees -- Diaries.
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