Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forgotten escape

Although the Japanese did not make too many serious efforts to attack Madras during World War II, the threat of air-raids was real enough for the city fathers to change the landscape and create an underground shelter. The Japanese did make an attempt, however. Some say that it was only a training run by a Mitsubishi Zero (or a Rufe, the Zero's seaplane version) which dropped a bomb near the Fort St George and then never came back.

Not much is known of the bombing; unlike the half-hour blitz by the S.M.S.Emden in 1914, which added the word emden (or emenden, if you like), meaning 'fearsome' to the Tamizh lexicon, the Japanese bombing seems to have been too mild to be remembered. Indeed, memories of the threat seem to have eclipsed the fact of its having happened. The official website of Chennai district lists it as a 'historical event', though with the rather dry entry, "1943 Japanese Fighter Plane dropped bombs on City and disappeared". A more tangible memory of that bombing is displayed in the Fort Museum - a fragment of the bomb itself, mounted on a brass plaque alongside a similar fragment from its 'illustrious' predecessor.

Another memory, though a tangential one, is the film 'Andha Naal' - the main character ('Sivaji' Ganesan), a traitor leaking secrets to the Japanese during World War II, being murdered on the night the Japanese bombed Madras!

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