(Source for this blog: Indian Army Fans)
In the late afternoon of August 18, 1945, twelve persons with burns were wheeled into Nanmon Military Hospital, Taihoku, Taipei, shortly after a message reached the duty doctor that a Japanese bomber carrying them had crashed at a nearby aerodrome.
One of the victims, a well-built Indian, had burns all over his body, heart and face, and he was in a critical condition. The Medical Officer at the hospital, Capt T Yoshini, was told that the man was Indian leader “Chandra Bose”, who along with his adjutant Col Habibur Rehman and 11 Japanese officers were on a flight to an undisclosed destination.
Dr Yoshini had at the time Dr T Tusuruta and another doctor to assist him, besides a dozen Japanese and Formosan nurses. Dr Tusuruta bandaged the Indian leader, while Capt Yoshini gave him four shots of vita-camphor and two injections of digitamine to stabilize his heart. Capt Yoshini also gave him three intravenous injections of Ringer-solution of 500 cc each to prevent infection.
The treatment was initially given in the dressing room, and later, Bose was moved to ward No. 2 for further treatment. Bose and Col Rehman were in the same ward. Towards 5 p.m., Bose was given a blood transfusion to relieve the pressure on his heart. The blood was taken from a Japanese soldier in the Nanmon Army Hospital.
Initially, Bose seemed to respond to the treatment. He remained conscious and even asked for water occasionally. To communicate better with the hospital staff, an interpreter, Juichi Nakamura, was sent for to assist him. (Bose and Col Rehman had known Nakamura as he was their interpreter on several occasions, during their stop over in Taipei on their trips between Southeast Asia and Japan.
About 7.30 p.m., Dr Tusuruta noticed that Bose’s pulse count had dropped. He hurriedly gave Bose injections of vita-camphor and digitamine but his heart and pulse beat kept falling, and he died about 2300 hrs, according to Dr Yoshini’s statement recorded by the British in Hong Kong’s Stanley Jail on October 19, 1946.
Capt Youshini later wrote Netaji’s death certificate: “Writing his name in Japanese (kata kana) as “Chandra Bose” and giving the cause of his death as ‘burns of third degree’.” (According to a version, the death certificate was written on August 20, 1945, after the Japanese government retracted its decision to send Bose’s body to Tokyo.)
At that time, there were seven persons in the room: Dr Yoshini, Dr T Tusuruta, two nurses, Col Habibur Rehman, J Nakamura (interpreter) and a medical orderly (Kazo Mitsui)
The aircraft that crashed was a heavy bomber (Model 97-2-Sally) belonging to the Japanese.
The plane took off from the Saigon Aerodrome around 5.30 p.m. on August 17, 1945 and had stopped over in Tourane, where Bose and his party stayed overnight at the Morim Hotel.
To take off from the Saigon Aerodrome, the plane had to taxi down the entire runway before becoming airborne; an indication that the plane was overloaded. In fact, before the takeoff from Tourane, “co-pilot Major Takizawa, Major Kono and other Indian and Japanese officers had insisted on their offloading 12 machine guns and some ammunition. This lightened the load by 600 kg”.
The plane took off at 5.30 am, the following morning. Before reaching Taipeh, the crew was told that the Russians, who had declared war on Japan, were moving into Manchuria, and closing on Dairen. It became imperative for the crew to reach there as quickly as possible.
Crew and passengers
(According to Japanese accounts)
Pilot W/O Aoyagi ( Third Air Force)
Ass. Pilot Major Takizawa (On transfer to Mainland Japan)
Navigator Sgt Okita
Radio operator N.C.O Tominaga
Gun Operator Unidentified N.C.O
Chief of Staff, Burmese Army Command.Lt Gen Shidei
Staff Officer Lt-Col Sakai
Staff Officer, Japan Air Force Lt-Col Shiro Nonogaki
Staff Officer, Japan Air Force Major Taro Kono
Staff Officer Major Iwao Takahashi
Air Force Engineer Captain Keikichi Arai
INA Chief Subhas Chandra Bose
Adjutant Col Habibur Rehman Khan
Cause of the air crash
There were 13 passengers on board as against the maximum limit of nine, plus their personal effects
The small size of Taipei Aerodrome made take-off difficult. The presence of tall chimneys of a brick kiln compounded the problem
Despite what is said to have been Bose’s plan to seek asylum in Russia, the Indian leader had to modify his plan after he received the News that Russia had occupied Manchuria. Therefore, he was anxious to reach the destination as quickly as possible.
Even though some engines were found defective before the take off from Saigon, officers ignored them. The mechanical check-up was inadequate.
The pilots were strangers to Taipei Aerodrome, and therefore, failed to judge the length of the runway. (The plane did not lift off until it had run approximately two-thirds down the runway. So, it had to climb steeply.)
The Formosan Army Command was in disarray, and therefore, a full investigation into the causes of the air crash was not conducted. (Moreover, no records were maintained on the engine and other mechanical systems.)
The plane arrived at the Taipei Aerodrome around noon in perfect weather. In the two hours rest there, the crew refuelled the plane and also took a light lunch of sandwiches and bananas.
Before taking off again, the pilot, Major Kono, and Capt Nakamura, who was the Maintenance Officer of the Airbase, ran a quick check on the plane. Though Major Kono found a defect with the left engine, he overlooked it and confirmed its worthiness. Thereafter, all the passengers took their seats again in the same seating order as before.
Then, the plane taxied to one end of the 890 metre long runway. (Heavy bombers usually are airborne when they are halfway down the runway. However, in this case, the plane did not leave the ground even after it had travelled three-fourth of the runway.) The plane took off and made a steep ascent when a loud explosion was heard and the plane tilted to the left. The propeller and the port engine fell out and the plane dived to the ground approximately 10 to 20 metres from the boundary of the aerodrome and caught fire on hitting the ground.
Lt Gen Shidei and Pilot Major Takizawa were killed on the spot. Netaji, Pilot W/O Aoyagi and two others died in the hospital
Seven persons named below survived the accident. Lt Col Nonogaki, who was seated in the turret, was thrown out of the plane and landed on the ground unhurt. Lt Col Sakai, Major Takahashi and Capt Arai became senseless when the plane hit the ground, but regained consciousness in time to escape with minor burns and bruises.
Major Kano, who also survived the crash, recollected that as the plane was falling to the ground, the petrol tank got dislodged and fell between Mr Bose and him. The tank blocked Major Kano’s view and therefore he could not see Bose. He could, however, spot Lt Gen Shidei. He had a cut at the back of the head.
Major Takizawa hit the steering gear and cut himself on the face and forehead. Warrant Officer Aoyagi had wounds to his chest.
Col Habibur Rehman (Netaji’s adjutant): “The plane crashed to the ground and the fore part of the plane split and caught fire. Netaji turned towards Col Rehman and said: “Please get out through the front. There is no way in the rear.” They could not get out through the entrance door as it was all blocked and jammed by luggage and other things. So Netaji had to get out through the fire and Col Rehman followed him. Netaji’s trousers were on fire and he had burns on his person. He was wearing Khaki drill clothes. Col Rehman had burns on his hands. (He said he burnt his hands while trying to take off Netaji’s clothes.) He then rolled Netaji on the ground to put out the fire. By then Netaji was severely burnt.
Navigator Okita: When the plane crashed, his spine was damaged. He had a 40-cm long cut on the back. He was in hospital for some time and was eventually repatriated in September 1947. Ironically, Gen Shidei and Netaji who were occupying the best seats in the plane died and the junior officers occupying the not so safe seats survived the accidents.
History of the flight
It was on the night of August 10, 1945, that Major-General Inayat Kiani’s call from Kuala Lumpur broke the News that Russia had declared war o\n Japan. The News did not worry Netaji, who was then at the Seremban Guest House, near Singapore, along with Major-General Alagappan, Colonel G R Nagar, Colonel Habibur Rehman and S A Ayer.
“What if Russia has declared war on Japan? How does it affect us in any way? We shall have to go on whatever happens. I cannot leave until I finish my work here”, Netaji told S A Ayer, who was one of his most trusted men. That the Major-General had called again the next day, this time wanting Netaji back in Singapore, still did not betray the turn of world events to Netaji. Netaji had come up from Singapore on what was first meant to be a brief visit to Seremban. Naturally, no one had cared to put up a shortwave radio set in the Guest House.
That was a long day for Bose and his men. There was a meeting at INA Training Camp in Seremban that ended at 10 o’clock, which was followed by a late dinner. By the time everyone retired to bed, it was 1 a.m. The ring of a long distance call from Malacca, however, brought the men out of their beds. The caller said that Dr Lakshmayya, General Seceretary and Mr Ganapathy, Acting Secretary of the Publicity Department of the ILL headquarters in Singapore, were on their way to Serembam to see Netaji.
Lakshmayya and Ganapathy were bearers of an ominous news. Locked in with Netaji and S.A.Ayer in the privacy of a room, the two broke the news: “Japan has surrendered!”
Impact of the surrender
Bose had known as early as September 1937 that the Germany and Japan would fail if they went into a long war with the Anglo-American powers. In an analysis in the Modern Review of Calcutta, he had inferred that Germany, plagued by a resource shortfall, would let its initial war gains slip to America and Great Britian.
However, he had not anticipated that Japan would surrender so soon after the fall of Germany. He had hoped that between the defeat of Germany and the fall of Japan there would be an interval for him to combine his INA with Aung San’s Burma Defence Army and continue the fight against Britain, making Burma and eastern India as the nationalist base. However, when America hit Japan with atomic bombs, Emperor Hirohito decided to surrender.
For the INA, Japan’s surrender presented a peculiar problem. The joint forces of Britain and America had defeated Germany, INA’s ally during the early parts of World War II. Unlike Burma’s Aung San, the INA did not want to change sides and join the British, as Aung San did at the last moment, when the Allies were re-occupying Burma.
Meanwhile, Japan had Britain, America and, most recently, Russia, waging war against it, and Japan was INA’s latest war ally. Japan’s surrender meant that the INA was now almost on its own.
The next step
Jokes and laughter punctuated the eleven and half-hour travel from Seremban to Singapore. Though the war situation was weighing heavily on every man who took the journey that day, Netaji’s presence helped to keep the spirits up. At Singapore, Major-General Kiani and Colonel Habibur Rehman joined the party at a meeting to discuss Japan’s surrender and its implications.
Every member of the team agreed on the steps to be taken and the instructions to be passed to the Divisional Commanders of the INA and the Chairmen of the branches and sub-branches of the Indian Independence League throughout East Asia.
Urgent organisational issues once again kept everyone busy over the next few days. For Netaji, the welfare of his soldiers, especially the 500 women from Singapore regimented with the Rani Jhansi Brigade, was uppermost in his mind.
On August 14, Bose had a bad tooth extracted and, so, was asked by the dentist to stay in bed. However, certain pre-occupations ensured that he got little rest.
The most important meeting that day started very late, and was attended among others by A N Sarkar, a member of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. The meeting was called to decide whether or not Bose should stay back in Singapore with his troops and have himself taken Prisoner of War. Though Bose felt that there were greater advantages in being taken prisoner, (his imprisonment or death, he felt, would accelerate the demand for anti-British movement in India.) his team members were not all sure that he should give himself up to the British.
On August 15, Tokyo officially announced the news of its surrender. That night, after a five-hour meeting, Bose decided to leave Singapore. The tricky question, however, was: “Where should he go – to Thailand, Indo-China, Japan, Manchukuo or Russia?” It was definitely a question that needed to be answered, but those who attended the meeting did not leave an account of the decision. It was, however, decided that Bose should visit Tokyo for final consultations and also to thank the Japanese government for the help his government received from Japan.
By the time the final plan was drafted, it was 3 am. This was the last of the informal meeting and was attended by Major-General Kiani, Major-General Alagappan, Colonel Habibur Rahman, A N Sarkar and S A Aiyer. Here it was decided that Major-General Kiani should take charge of the affairs of the INA in Singapore in Netaji’s absence and that Major-General Alagappan and A N Sarkar should stay on to assist.
Col Habibur Rehman, Col Pritham Singh from Singapore, Major Abid Hassan and Debnath Das from Bangkok and Major Swami were to join Bose’s team leaving for Saigoan, Tokyo, and thereafter, another destination.
At 9.30 am the next day, Bose was leading Colonel Habib, Colonel Pritham Singh, S A Ayer, and Mr Nigeshi, the Japanese interpreter into a Japanese bomber headed for Bangkok. There was something wrong inside the plane and the passengers sitting upfront, including Bose were being drenched by petrol leaking from a loose tank pipe.
The News of Bose’s arrival in Bangkok city spread among the Indians within a few minutes and Netaji was deluded by a stream of visitors from that evening to early hours of August 17. The rest of the day was taken up for the conduct of organisational affairs.
Bose went to sleep the next day at 5 am and was in bed for an hour. Then Netaji, Col Habib, Col Pritham Singh, Col Gulzara Singh, Maj Abid Hassan, Debnath Das and S A Ayer set off on a short flight to Saigon. In Saigon, the air was tense and rumour of French wrath falling on Japan’s allies were doing busy rounds.
Bose and his party drove from Saigon Aerodrome in two cars to the outskirts of the city and arrived at the house of Narain Das, Secretary of the Housing Department of the IIL Saigon.
Bose had just a half-hour rest when he was woken up by the arrival of Kiano, the Japanese Liaison officer. Kaino said there was a Japanese plane ready to fly, but there was only one seat on it. Kiano did not know where the plane was headed, but he kept insisting that there was no time to lose. When Bose refused to be on a plane whose destination was unknown, Kiano rushed back to fetch his seniors General Isoda, Mr Hachiyya and a Staff Officer of Field Marshal Terauchi. Netaji, Col Habib and the visitors were closeted in a room. In the middle of the meeting Netaji and Col Habib stepped out of the room, leaving the Japanese behind them. Bose motioned Habib, Abid, Debnath and Aiyer into a room and behind closed doors gave them a brief of the Japanese mission. The question that followed was cryptic… “There is a plane ready to take off in the next few minutes. The Japanese say there is only one seat to spare… should I go even if I have to go alone?”
There were some exchanges following which it was decided that the Japanese would be asked to arrange for another seat on the plane for Bose’s adjutant as well. No word was exchanged on where Netaji was headed. “We did not ask him and he did not tell us,” Aiyer quoted in his book Unto him a witness. “But we knew and he knew that we knew. The palne was bound for Manchuria.”
After a brief consultation with the Japanese, Bose informed the men that there was a spare seat and Col Habib would fly with him. There was not a moment to be lost and Bose and Col Habib raced in a car to the aerodrome to take the fateful flight….”
– Compiled by Shali Ittaman
(This story has been pieced together from accounts of “eyewitnesses, scholars, researchers and writers” who have reported on the incidents leading up to the fateful flight. That the plot has many holes, is a warning to surfers that there may be more to the Subhas Bose “death episode” than the following story indicates.)
Courtesy Hindustan times