British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute on Saturday to the countries that defeated Japan in World War II, on the 75th anniversary of the Japanese surrender that ended that war.
In an open letter to veterans of that campaign, Johnson praised the courage of those who fought in Asia and the Pacific. Some 50,000 soldiers from Great Britain and its Commonwealth were killed in that operation, nearly half of whom perished in prison camps.
“You were the last to return, but your achievements are evident in the lights of the capitals of this dynamic region that we see today,” the president wrote.
He acknowledged that the achievements of those soldiers “have been overshadowed in the popular imagination by the conflict in Europe” but assured that it was their service that ended World War II and inaugurated a period of peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia.
Great Britain, long a colonial power in much of that region, suffered possibly its worst defeats to Japanese forces in the early years of World War II, having to withdraw from Malaysia, Singapore, and Burma.
“These blows were so hard that many thought they would break their will to keep fighting,” Johnson said. “But you survived the longest military withdrawal in British history, marching almost 1,000 miles from Burma to India, where you regrouped.”
The prime minister highlighted the formation of the 14th Army, a force of nearly a million fighters, many from India or Africa, which helped “turn defeat into victory.”