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Subhas Chandra Bose, Azad Hind, and the Indian National Army

   Few leaders of the Second World War simultaneously represented the fusion of East and West and the division of East and West so much as Subhas Chandra Bose. An Asian who lived in a British-controlled land, he had a Western education but a love for Eastern culture and mysticism. During his years in Germany he raised a legion of Indian troops to fight as part of the Wehrmacht against the Allies. Back in Asia following a memorable voyage by German U-boat and Japanese submarine, he declared himself head of the "provisional government of Azad Hind" (Free India), a government recognized by a host of Axis nations and their puppet regimes, both European and Asian. The fighting force of Bose's Azad Hind, the Indian National Army, was raised mostly from soldiers formerly in British service, but armed and trained to spearhead the invasion and liberation of British India.
   Bose lived a remarkable, vigorous, colorful life with many dramatic and memorable episodes, but when he came to a mysterious end just as World War II drew to a close, his life had to be judged a failure. His German-sponsored Indian Legion proved to be without military value. His Azad Hind government never ruled more than the tiniest fraction of Indian territory. The Japanese-led campaign against India ended in utter disaster. Most of the troops of the Indian National Army either died in the jungle of deserted back to the British. Yet the goal above all others toward which Bose struggled his entire life—independence for India—came to pass a few short years after his death, due in no small part to the role played by Bose, his Azad Hind, and the Indian National Army. While Bose's efforts bore little fruit during his lifetime, the repercussions of those efforts—such as the Red Fort trials of former INA officers—meant a great deal to the Indian independence movement in the immediate post-war years.
   No single book fully expounds the entire story of Bose, Azad Hind, and Indian troops in Axis service during the war, but there are many volumes containing larger or smaller pieces of the tale. For students of the Second World War whose interests transcend weapons, uniforms, and insignia, this is a fascinating epic worth studying. Here are some of the key books on the topic.

Allen, Louis. The End of the War in Asia. London: Hart-Davis, 1976. One chapter on Bose in 1945, with moving details of his death.

Allen, Louis. Burma: The Longest War, 1941-45. New York: St Martins Press, 1984. The best book on military campaigns in Burma, with information on the INA within that context.

Bose, Sisir K. A Beacon across Asia: A Biography of Subhas Chandra Bose. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1973. One-sided biography by Bose's nephew.

Bose, Subhas Chandra. The Indian Struggle, 1920-1942. New York: Asia Publishing House, 1964. Bose's political philosophy and program, mostly written before the war but revised before his death.

Corr, Gerard H. The War of the Springing Tigers. London: Osprey, 1975. Focus on the INA with some good OB material.

Fay, Peter Ward. The Forgotten Army: India's Armed Struggle for Independence, 1942-45. Ann Arbor: Michigan State University Press, 1993. Probably the best book on the INA and the military side of the story, with excellent biographical information about some INA officers.

Getz, Marshall J. Subhas Chandra Bose: A Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2002. The newest work with some fresh information and speculation, but rather skimpy. The best primer.

Hauner, Milan. India in Axis Strategy: Germany, Japan, and Indian Nationalists in the Second World War. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981. By far the biggest, deepest, most scholarly treatment of the larger political/diplomatic issues, especially from the German perspective.

Lebra, J. C. Jungle Alliance: Japan and the Indian National Army. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1971. A good treatment of Bose and the INA from the Japanese perspective.

Munoz, Antonio J. (ed). The East Came West: Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist Volunteers in the German Armed Forces, 1941-1945. Bayside, NY: Axis Europa Books, 2002. Uneven collection of material about Indian troops (and others) in German service.

Toye, Hugh. The Springing Tiger: A Study of a Revolutionary. London: Cassell, 1959. A solid biography of Bose, but a bit dated.

Voight, Johannes H. India in the Second World War. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1988. A broader look at India as a whole during the war, with Bose and the INA forming only a small fraction.

 

Reviewed 14 June 2002
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone
 

 

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