By the time the war ended, it was one of the most brutal campaigns in military history. For the British, the war may have ended in victory, but the empire was never the same again. The end of the Raj was near. For Japan, the loss of South Asia marked the end of its era of aggression, the end of its imperialist ambitions.
The decisive battles of Imphal and Kohima during World War II have been voted the greatest battles fought in the history of the British Army in a contest organised last month by the National Army Museum in England.
For amateur war researcher Rajeshwar Yumnam and his team, the bad weather and threats from extremists were hardly a deterrent, as they relentlessly dug around a hilltop in Manipur's Sadar Hills district, which served as a Japanese army post during World War II
For Mr Yumnam and his team, the place was a potential goldmine, with their metal detector beeping almost everywhere in Motbung, one of the areas that saw a do-or-die battle between Japanese troops and British soldiers in 1944, during the war. A defeat here at the hands of the British troops had forced the Japanese to eventually surrender in a theatre.
Mr Yumnam's team has dug-out significant war-items, including Japanese grenades and empty magazines, nuts and crews of tanks and 30 rounds of Rifle bullets of British origin. Helping Mr Yumnam carry out his mission, were war diaries, war citations, war veterans, maps and backing from the Burma Campaign Society in London of which he is the only Indian member.
The battle of Kohima began on April 3, 1944, when 15,000 men of the
Japanese 15th Army attacked a British garrison with a fighting force of
only 1,500 men. Outnumbered 10 to one, the men stood their ground for
nearly two weeks, until reinforcements arrived.
"The story of the World War is less known to the people of the state. We have tried to establish what happened here. War-time items are still intact. It's easy for researchers to excavate," Mr Yumnam said.
At the fifth battlefield that Mr Yumnam has marked for proper and further digging, the relics will enrich his collections with which he hopes to establish a Second World War museum in Manipur along with other like-minded researchers, to coincide with the 70th year of the Battle of Imphal in 2014.