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The northern coast of Ramree Island was peppered by the heavy artillery shells launched from the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Phoebe. The night sky was painted red by the screaming projectiles from the RAF fighter planes. In addition to the Navy and the Air-Force, the coast was attacked by the 71st, the 4th, and the 36th Indian Infantry Brigade of the British Army. The tiny Island of Ramree, with its mud volcanoes, deep and dark mangrove forests and the raging fires as result of the British bombardment resembled the deepest pits of Hades itself. 


Colonel Kanichi Nagazawa roared over the din and his order for his regiment was answered with a loud, “WAKATTA!” YES SIR! Colonel Nagazawa looked around his charges. The 121st Infantry Regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army had landed on the southern tip of Burma in the first week of January and had taken over the islands of Ramree and Cheduba within a fortnight. The strategic port of Kyaukpyu, located at the northernmost tip of Ramree, was fortified by the IJA. Trenches were dug and heavy guns were placed in the strategically built batteries to repel any British landing parties on the beaches. 

At that time, it looked as if the Japanese had won a great tactical advantage in the Burma campaign. Burma’s neighbours and historical rivals, Thailand, had thrown in their support to Japan as well. The 121st regiment garrisoned in Ramree and Cheduba while the much larger 54th Division was situated only a few miles behind them. It was only a matter of time before the 54th and the Thai Army would march forward and join the 121st before mounting an assault on mainland Burma. 

On the 21st of January, 1945, the situation turned on its head as the British launched a three-pronged assault on the islands of Ramree and Cheduba. Cheduba fell in short order but the 121st under Colonel Nagazawa in Ramree put up one hell of a resistance. Yet, inside his heart, the Colonel knew that it was only a matter of time before the enemy’s much superior numbers overwhelmed them. 

“TEKI O HAKKEN!” someone shouted. Enemy spotted! 

Colonel Nagazawa grabbed his bullhorn and bellowed, “UCHIKATA HAJIME!” Open Fire!

“RYOKAISHITA!” his men shouted, even as they rained a maelstrom of bullets towards the advancing Royal Marines. The battle lasted for almost ten days and the strength of the 121st started dwindling. Only around a thousand men remained. A good number of his men were already in the throes of death – a result of starvation, malaria, diarrhoea, and the expert marksmanship of the British army snipers. Colonel Nagazawa was not a gambling man, but even he could understand the miniscule odds that favoured their survival in Ramree. He had to take a decision, and soon. 

Around him, the battle raged on. The howling of the bombs and the roar of the planes combined with the screams of wounded and dying men to create a macabre symphony. Suddenly, the enemy ceased their assault. A boat approached with its loudhailer blaring. 


Surrender! Colonel Nagazawa scoffed. The Japanese would rather slit their own throats and die with honour than surrender. He turned towards his men and shouted, 

“Shūjin to shite hazukashiku ikite wa ikemasen. Shi ni, fumeiyona hanzai o nokosanaide kudasai.” Do not live in shame as a prisoner. Die, and leave no ignominious crime behind you.

His men replied with a resounding, “HAI!” Yes Sir!

There was only one viable option left. They would have to make a tactical retreat and re-join the 54th. There was one small problem. All the safe routes had been blockaded by the British. The only available route was a ten-mile trek through the treacherous mangrove forest situated to the south of Ramree Island. Death before dishonour, thought Colonel Nagazawa to himself. He would crawl through the deadly forest and would rather die in the process than surrender. 

He made his decision. Jigoku ni iko, they would go through hell indeed. 


February 1, 1945

It was indeed hell. The 121st had suffered heavy causalities throughout their ten-day march through the marshlands. On the first day itself, they had lost more than twenty men to snakebites and scorpion stings. The next day, a Burmese python, with an engorged midsection, was found on a tree branch on which a young Japanese soldier had gone to sleep. The men marching through the mangroves were tired, exhausted, dehydrated, and dying. Mosquitoes swarmed around, injecting them with a continuous dose of the deadly malaria virus. Venomous spiders and leeches crawled into their uniforms, biting and sucking blood nonstop. 

Min Kyaw Zin smiled even as he kept his head bowed. His hands were bound and a leash made of forest vines circled his neck. The proud Burmese was being led like a stray mongrel by his captors. He should have died with his family and his friends. Their screams still echoed inside his throbbing brain. The Japanese army had laid waste to the fishing village in Ramree Island, he had called his home until a few days back. Leave no ignominious crime behind, they had shouted as they went about looting, raping, mutilating and killing the innocent inhabitants of the hamlet. 

What does war do to a man? Once upon a time, a war was considered as one of the noblest of methods to settle disputes. Alas, it isn’t the case anymore. A war destroys a man and not just physically. It invades and corrodes his soul. It eats away his happiness and fills him with an everlasting darkness from which there is no return. A war awakens the most primitive and primal part of the human brain, something evolution has tried its best to conceal and contain. Men become beasts and leave a trail of death and destruction behind them. Min Kyaw Zin’s wife and daughter were butchered savagely by the Japanese army. They went from door to door, killing the men and raping and then killing the women. Only Kyaw Zin was spared. That was because of the remorse shown by the man who was presently leading him by the leash. 

Nobuo Inamoto was a lowly soldier, yet he had shown compassion to the victims of his brothers in arms. The young soldier, not yet twenty, had gone around after the hyenas had left, doing his best to console the dying. He had sat and wept with Kyaw Zin and had saved the latter’s life by letting his superiors know that the Burmese man knew the way through the mangrove forest. And there they were, the sombre procession through a veritable hell on earth towards their possible salvation. 

Not if I have any say over it, swore Kyaw Zin to himself. He knew the deadly secrets of the mangrove forest. He knew where to go and where not to set his foot. There are certain places in this planet where the physical world meets the spectral world. In these places reside beings that do not belong to this world. Some of them were fantastical, some were benign and a lot of them were plain malevolent. Min Kyaw Zin spared himself another smile, it was to one such place that he was leading the 121st infantry regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army. 


February 6th, 1945

More than three hundred had fallen. The men were wading through chest-deep swamp water, as if they were mere automatons going through their motions. A few had committed Seppuku, preferring an honourable instant death over a drawn out and agonizing death. Colonel Nagazawa was the first to go. He had contracted a severe case of diarrhoea and was filled with bouts of delirium. After three days of suffering, he had knelt down, stabbed himself in the abdomen with his short sword and had passed away with a smile on his lips. 

Min Kyaw Zin spat at the memory. These raid dogs did not deserve such honourable ends. They had to die just how their victims had – with pain permeating through their veins and fear occupying their brains. The mid-day sun scorched through the mangrove trees, making them sweat even when their bodies were submerged in brackish water. Just a few more hours, Min Kyaw Zin muttered under his breath.    

“What did you say, Kuso?” A soldier growled at Kyaw Zin. 

“Nothing, I just said…”

Omae wa mou shinideru!” the soldier roared and raised the butt of his rifle to strike Kyaw Zin. A crazed look had filled his visage – the forest was getting to him. The strike never landed. Nobuo Inamoto had grabbed his comrade and dragged him away. The young man came back towards Kyaw Zin after a few minutes. 


Omae wa baka na no?” he whispered. Are you an idiot? 


“No, I just said that we will reach a safer place in a few hours.” 

Nobuo sighed and said, “I hope for your sake that you are correct.”

“So do I,” said Kyaw Zin. “So do I.”


February 7th, 1945

The soldier who had attempted to drive his rifle into Min Kyaw Zin’s face was the first to go. They had traversed into a dark and dense part of the forest. The clock had just struck midnight. The soldier, who was bringing up the rear, had felt something brush his legs and tried to inspect. The next second, he had vanished with only a huge splash in the place he had stood and his violent screams the only remnants of his erstwhile existence. 

Panic set upon the ragtag group of dishevelled soldiers as they thrashed around in the swamp water, trying to get a glimpse of what had attacked their compatriot. Min Kyaw Zin smiled serenely as he took advantage of the commotion to climb the nearest tree. Once he reached the top, he perched himself on a sturdy branch and prepared himself for the gore show that was about to unravel. 

The Magan was coming. 

Within an hour, another hundred had perished after being pulled violently into the murky depths of the swamp by a relentless predator. Shouts of Ike, Ike – attack, attack filled the air as the desperate soldiers fired round after round into the water, to no avail. The silent predator was picking them off, one by one. 

Min Kyaw Zin smiled. The worst was yet to come. 

In the wee hours, they spotted the scales. Bullets ricocheted as the monster made its way, gliding through the water. Two sinister red eyes came out of the water followed by the prehensile snout. 

KUROKADAIRU!” Crocodile, they shouted even as they shot at the advancing monster. Oh yes, it was a monster indeed. The marshes of Ramiree Island were inhabited by saltwater crocodiles, one of the largest predators on earth. Some grew to more than twenty feet in length and a ton in weight. Yet the largest saltwater crocodile was nothing more than a worm compared to the Magan. 

A monster from Burmese mythology – part crocodile and part shark, the Magan was considered no more than a figment of the old Burmese people’s imagination. Yet, Min Kyaw Zin knew that they existed, and he knew one more thing about this monster – the more they ate, the larger they became. 

As the first rays of the morning hit the swamp, they saw the Magan – all two hundred feet of it. And then, it was over within minutes. The gigantic maw of the Magan crushed tens of soldiers at once, the evil eyes flashing as it chewed and swallowed them. Nobuo bit back a horrified scream as he witnessed the carnage beneath him, while thanking Min Kyaw Zin who had pulled him up the tree. 



Nobuo Inamoto was just one of the twenty survivors who had surrendered to the British. When their captors asked him what had happened, he muttered,

“Krokadairu, thousands of saltwater crocodiles attacked us.” 



For more than seventy years, the Battle of Ramree Island was listed under ‘Worst crocodile disaster in the world,’ and ‘Most number of fatalities in a crocodile attack,’ by the Guinness Book of World Records. The claim was later disputed and the record was struck from the books in 2017. 

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Arpita Bhattacharya

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful read. The story struck the right chords and gave the nerves a shatter. A horror story indeed!
    Filled with words rich in imagery, the story was vivid.

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    Sraman Dasgupta

    Revenge is…salty, eh?

  3. Avatar
    Amrita Sarkar

    I just released my breath with the end of your story! It was brilliantly plotted and executed. You captured the horrors of ear, devastation and carnage so graphically. It was straight out of a movie. Amazing writing! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Avatar
    Khushboo Shah

    A very cleverly crafted tale. Your ability to imbibe a foreign culture and locale into your stories has astonished me more than once.Here, you used Japanese in addition to your Myanmar prompt! The title, sequence of events is so apt. Even the characterization is bang on. My only observation: While throughout your narrator is 3rd POV neutral, for one paragraph about the war corroding the soldier’s soul- it became opinionated, which is per se not wrong.And it indeed is a beautiful insight on what the war does to men, but within the story, with its word limit…it seemed avoidable. Rest, outstanding!

  5. Avatar

    Excellent story. Blending facts, history, myth and fiction into a seamless tale. The open-ended finish was delicious – leaving the reader to guess if the Magan was real, or not. The musings about war and its impact on man was good too. Enjoyed reading this.

  6. Avatar
    Deepti Menon

    A well crafted story which brings alive the ravages of war on the minds of the victims! The descriptions of the action at the start were a trifle overwhelming, but once the horror began, the narrative took on a different timbre. The transition from the physical to the spectral world was spine chilling. Apart from one little typo where ‘rabid’ has been written as ‘raid’, this story reads well and fits into the horror genre.

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    The thought of a mass crocodile attack it itself so scary and when you say that it was a mythical monster of sorts, it increases the horror to the highest level! I like such stories which are emotionally horrific without too much written description of blood or gore. I liked the way you have combined this folklore with a real life incident. Now I’m tempted to believe that the crocodiles which attacked the soldiers were indeed ‘magans’. Wonderful story and vivid writing.

  8. Avatar
    Lakshmi Ajoy

    A blend of history, facts, fiction, action, war, myths all blended in one. Flawlessly rendered and who can dare call this an impromptu plan delivered? Such intense research that leaves me feeling awed. The war scenes are so vividly described that it makes the readers feel like being present there witnessing the scenes. Exceptional read sir.

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    I do not like reading war details, so that way the greater part of the story did not work for me. But that was me, not the story. The story is written in excellent style, the tone was crafted to the scenes unfolding. The native words made the narrative more authentic. But that was done well, not leading to any confusion. Because of the genre, and because this comes from you, I was expecting more horror. I usually steer clear from this genre but I have always associated you with blood curdling horror, I don’t know why, that’s my impression of you. I love how intelligently you seep facts and native flavour in your stories, the NPAT was another example that has stayed.

  10. Avatar
    Vaijayanti Panchal

    This was different than your trademark horror, but as an avid horror reader, it was appealing and interesting nonetheless. In spite of the fact that you have come up with this within such a shirt span of time, you have done a tremendous amount of research. Quite tactfully you have included the horrors of war and how it ravages humanity, the monster just adds more terror to an bleak backdrop of your narrative. This could turn into a terrific creature feature

  11. Avatar
    Ratna Prabha

    Oh! This story is lesson in story-telling, compelling narrative, amazing research, fact and fiction blending seamlessly to simultaneously create terror and disgust in my heart. Although I’m not a big fan of war stories, I loved this!

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    Wow, what a fantastic story! Your writing brilliantly mixes creature horror, war horrors, vivid descriptions of battle, myth, and a moral lesson. I love the background you gave Min Kaw Zin, and how he took his revenge on the rabid animals who plundered his village and murdered his family. Just amazing!

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    Monica Singh

    Please let me in on your writing process. To come up with such a remarkable creature horror and execute it with finesses in such a brief span of time! Woah!

    The story is superbly crafted, and the setting of the war came out really well- it was very visual and ‘felt’ very grounded. The names were a little much for me. I lose track of who was who when I am confronted with anything other than boring, predictable names. But, that’s a me issue. Context-wise, they were perfect!

    These two sentences are very similar. Some rephrasing will remove the unintended repetition. – Colonel Nagazawa was the first to go. // The soldier who had attempted to drive his rifle into Min Kyaw Zin’s face was the first to go.

    Your story (esp the sucking in of soldiers into the swamp part) reminded me of Tremors. It’s an old English movie and one of my absolute favourites. heart

  14. Avatar
    Preeti Athri

    This is Jaws rebooted but at a deeper, richer and more complex level. The research, details, narrative and flow are highly praiseworthy. This is nail-biting horror to the next level! I have a lot to learn from this tale and you.

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