When the Japanese abandoned Rangoon in May 1945 the survivors of the 28th Army were in a difficult position. They were cut off from the rest of the Japanese army by British and Indian troops who had advanced south along the Mandalay-Pegu road and along the banks of the Sittang River.
The commander of the 28th Army felt it was his duty to regain contact with the main Japanese force. So Lieutenant General Sakurai Shozo gathered his remaining troops in the Pegu Yomas. These are a range of hills which run about 75 miles north to south and no more than 30 miles east to west. Most of the hills are less than 2000 feet high but they do reach up to 3000ft. They are crossed largely by using elephant tracks through dense jungle and bamboo forest. Sakurai had managed to establish a few small supply dumps, and these, plus whatever men could carry, along with edible grasses and bamboo shoots, were all he had to feed about 31,000 men.
To get his men to safety he had to get out of the Pegu Tomas, across the flooded paddy fields of the Sittang flood plain, over the Mandalay-Pegu Road and railway, back into the flooded paddy and then he had to cross the river itself before his men could march south to join their comrades of the 33rd army.
His army had abandoned its guns, and the Allies had total air supremacy, and there were armour and motorised units patrolling the Mandalay-Pegu road.
Indeed it says a lot for him and his officers that out of 31,000 men who started the march, 14,800 made it. The rest died of wounds, sickness, starvation, or were taken prisoner.
I decided to make this a solo game. A version of it first appeared in Miniature Wargames back in the 1980s. I’ve tweaked it variously since.
The player is a Japanese platoon commander. In theory your platoon should have 62 men, I suggest you have half the number. With regard to ‘heavy weapons’ the 28th Army, before the breakout, should have had one LMG per 22 man and one Type 89 Grenade Discharger per 17 men. In reality it had one LMG per 68 men and one grenade launcher per every 104men. Because I’m generous I’ll give you one LMG and, if you want it, one grenade launcher, for your 34 men.
The grenade launcher (colloquially known as the knee mortar) weighed 4.7kg, a lot for a hungry man who might also have a rifle. The grenades are about half a kilogram each, so each man could have one.
Because I’m not entirely evil I’ll give you a Type 99 light machine gun and your rifles are in the same calibre. So you can fill up your 30 round box magazines from ammunition carried by riflemen.
To give you some sort of timetable, one force, (which had Sakurai with it so could have been better motivated and led than some) let the Yomas on the 19th of July, took six days to cross the plain and crossed the Mandalay-Pegu road on the 24th July. It took them three more days to get to the river which they crossed on the 27th July. They then marched south but didn’t meet up with elements of the 33rd army until the 9th August.
Now the Japanese 33rd Army was told about the end of the Second World War on the afternoon of the 15th of August. Allied commanders would also have known about it. But news travelled more slowly to troops in the field, especially to Japanese units which may not have had any radio contact. Those men strong enough to keep going seemed to keep ahead of Allied troops who might have told them. But many Japanese soldiers collapsed and recovered to discover they were not POWs but refugees.
Everything is simple. You can start on the left hand (western) map edge and enter the hills anywhere you want. You then march east, across the flood plain, the road, the river and then link up with the 33rd Army. Each hex takes 24 hours to cross. This 24 hours includes a substantial period given over to resting. After all your men are weak, hungry and are incapable of constant effort. So every time you enter a new hex, look at the terrain type, and then cross reference it with the following table. Roll percentage dice.
|Terrain||Hazard||% chance of it occurring|
|Pegu Yomas||Burmese National Army Guerrillas.||20%|
|Allied air power||10%|
|Flooded Paddy||Allied air power||70%|
|Flooded Paddy||Allied air power||0%|
|Village (roll d6)|
|1,2,3 Empty||Allied air power||50%|
|4,5,6, Occupied||Burmese National Army Guerrillas||100%|
|Trees and Scrub||Allied air power||10%|
|Burmese National Army Guerrillas||30%|
|Chaungs||Allied air power||40%|
|Burmese National Army Guerrillas||40%|
|The Main Road||Allied Armoured Patrols||30% +5% per day after July 24th|
|Allied foot patrols||30% +5% per day after July 24th|
|The River Sittang||Burmese National Army Guerrillas||30% +5% per day after July 24th|
Types of engagement
If you are in the open when attacked, the plane will make one pass, bomb you, and then move on. Obviously you can try to take cover the minute you hear it and you have a 10% chance of not being seen. If you have cover, so for example you’re in the Pegu Yomas, trees and scrub, or in a village, you have a 50% chance of not being seen and so not attacked.
The Allies have a lot of artillery, some of it is engaged in pounding points on the map which might have Japanese in them. With Hell by Daylight, being caught standing when artillery comes in is dangerous, so everybody immediately goes prone. Now your men are combat veterans, they would know the sound of shells coming and would immediately throw themselves flat. Only if they are totally exhausted will they be caught still moving.
Burmese National Army Guerrillas.
These were formed by the Japanese as the Burmese National Army, to use as garrison troops. They read the writing on the wall and started changing sides in March 1945. They had a mixture of British and Japanese equipment, there was no standard uniform, and nobody trusted them enough to supply them properly. Their high command had changed sides and were more interested in Burma for the Burmese after the war. This attitude had percolated down and tended to counter the dislike many of the other ranks had of the Japanese
If you meet them, roll 3d10. That is how many you encounter. You have two options, to talk or to fight. If you decide to talk you must move toward them. You have a 50% chance of them talking to you. If you outnumber them, add 5% to your dice for every additional man you have. Don’t count wounded or stretcher cases.
If you decide to fight, or the BNA decides to fight, they’ll not push things to extremes and will fall back on 10% casualties.
BNA men should be mainly Green, with some Normal, and perhaps an occasional Veteran.
British and Indian army patrols with attack you with enthusiasm and may even attempt to call down artillery and air strikes. When you meet them you get 4d10 of them, with one Bren per 10 men. These men have been fighting a long time. D10 will be veteran, d6 green, and the rest normal.
Allied Armoured Patrols.
Given you have no anti-tank weapons it doesn’t really matter what the armour consists of. Armoured cars will be every bit as dangerous as tanks. I would suggest no more than two vehicles, indeed given the trouble it can cause, one should be enough.
The Japanese had a decent shaped charge anti-tank grenade so you can have a few of these. There was an anti-tank rifle grenade which could well scratch the paint on a tank. A bundle of half a dozen grenades could blow the tracks off.
Types of Engagement.
Play this by ear. So if you move into a village and it’s empty, but next morning you roll Burmese Guerrillas, they’re obviously the ones entering and you might be the ones ambushing them.
Armoured Patrols can be on the road as you approach (10%) so unless you want to attack them you can hide and let them drive past without seeing you.
Alternatively they can arrive as you are crossing (40%) and will appear with all guns blazing.
If they don’t manage the above, they arrive after you have crossed. Then they have a 50% chance of seeing you. At this point they have three options, roll percentage dice
1-30% Open fire until you are out of range.
31-60% Open fire and call down artillery
61-100% Open fire and call up infantry support. Three lorry loads of infantry appear after d6 moves and pursue you until either they defeat you or you inflict a morale defeat on them (perhaps causing them to fall back or lose contact.)
For infantry and guerrilla patrols you meet, roll percentage dice
1-30% You can ambush them, or let them past if you don’t want to fight. There is a 30% chance that they’ll notice and start fighting but you are the one in cover etc.
31-60% A meeting engagement
61-100% They ambush you.
Energy and Attrition
In simple terms you and your men are undergoing a slow lingering death from starvation. You are assumed to start your march on the 15th July. Each of your men carries two bamboo poles, which you’ll tie together to make rafts to cross the Chaungs and the Sittang. You also have a small and wholly inadequate amount of food. But you will be able to travel on this starvation diet for some time.
Each man has 20 energy points to start with.
Each day’s march uses 1 energy point.
- Each night’s march (splashing through paddies in the dark) costs 1.5 energy points.
- A 24 hour period without movement (resting) doesn’t cost any energy pints.
- If you get food from an outside source gives each man one energy point back
- It takes two men to carry a comrade and each man carrying uses up 50% more energy.
- Seriously wounded men ignore energy. They roll d6 every day and on a 1 they commit suicide to spare their comrades the difficulty of moving them.
Each dead man gives 1d6 points to the pool if you have time to search his body. Each wounded man being carried gives 1d6 to the pool.
As officer you can give this extra to particular individuals, the machine gunner, his mate, the stretcher bears. Anybody but you, really. But you’ll have to keep individual tallies of who has how much energy as some will go down before the others do.
When it comes to crossing the Sittang tot up the number of energy points per man available. (Ignore wounded and seriously wounded.) Add to this total, per man, +1 for each of the bamboo poles the man has. (Stretch cases lose theirs and each stretcher bearer loses 1 to make the stretcher).
Take this total per man, (obviously some will have higher or lower scores) then roll 1d6 per man. If you roll higher than his final points score he was swept away and drowned. This means that if you arrive at the Sittang with at least 6 points per man left, you will automatically cross safely.
- In an empty village you have a 50% chance of finding enough food to give the men +1 energy points after a day’s rest.
- If you barter with BNA guerrillas you have a 75% chance of getting this amount of food from them.
- If you defeat an allied patrol you automatically get enough food for your +1 provided you have your days’ rest. You can carry the food and eat and rest later, you don’t have to stop and eat it immediately.
The Officer’s inspiration.
As the leader of these men you are responsible for them and they look to you for encouragement. If you give of yourself selflessly they will be encouraged. You can burn yourself up for your men. If you sacrifice 1 energy point it provides 10 energy points to be shared among the men. You can do this once per day.
If the men run out of energy points they collapse, lie down and die unless carried. If an officer runs out they roll 1d6. If he rolls 3+ he staggers on. This inspires them even more and produces an extra 5 energy points for them. If he rolls 2 or less he has to be carried but is still in charge. Each day the officer retests. So after a day of being carried you can bounce back onto your feet.
Ending the game
When you cross the Sittang you roll 1d6 every move. In the first roll you meet them on a 6, on the second a 5 or 6, on the third, 4,5 6. So on the 6th day at the latest you will find them.
But just getting there isn’t enough. Victory is determined by how you carry yourself whilst travelling. How much ‘face’ have you won or lost.
- Just making the trip gives an officer 3 points of face.
- He gets 2 points of face for each energy point he burned up for his men.
- He gets 2 points of face of each seriously wounded man he brings in.
- He gets 3 points for still having the LMG and another 3 points for the Grenade launcher.
- For each man knowingly left behind who was still alive, lose 3 points.
- For certain deeds, for example if the officer was killed whilst knocking out the armoured car single handed with a jammed Nambu pistol and a handful of grenades, great face can be gained and is forwarded to his heirs.
If your score is negative then you’ve lost.
But one quote from the time. “The men who came past were in a dreadful state, sunken eyes, listless, dragging along painfully lacerated feet. It gripped his heart to see that these tatterdemalions with their rotting feet, their eyes burning with raging fever, their thighs dripping with the excrement of dysentery, their whole bodies on the brink of collapse- these men still had the enduring courage that had brought them this far.”
This scenario was designed for Hell by Daylight rules but should work for a lot of systems.
If you don’t know Hell by Daylight, they’re available from Wargame Vault in pdf for £4 at
They’re available from Amazon in paperback for £9.50, or on Kindle for £4.00
2 thoughts on “Sittang 1945”
Sounds good, Jim, and I’ve got the forces to give this a try sometime! 🙂 I think the photo of the Grant tank you’ve shown is the first time I’ve seen one in the CBI theatre – photos of the Lee with the machine gun cupola replaced with a hatch seem much more common!
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Every so often I do something clever by accident. Really I ought to nod wisely and comment the I wondered if anybody would spot it. Actually I put it in because it makes a change from the endless Shermans etc 🙂
Glad you liked it
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