Not many are aware that Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) was bombed during the second world war. The rapid progress made by the Japanese through South-East Asia in early 1942 was finally halted on the borders of India, but they did managed to inflict some damage on Calcutta. Once Burma fell, Calcutta lay well within the range of the Japanese bombers, and on 20th of December, 1942, a force of eight Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF) Ki -21 Type 97 medium bombers, code-named ‘Sally’ by the Allies, scattered their bombs over Kolkata. The IJAAF bombers returned on a number of occasions on the days that followed, notably on the night of the 24th December.
However, Calcutta did get off lightly and did not suffer hardships, compared to other places of war in South-East Asia. In fact, the physical damage to the city by the bombings was trivial compared to the devastating blow to the morale of the inhabitants: approximately one-and-a-half million people panicked and fled the city, causing more damage and deaths by chaos, compared to the bombings itself.
Air Battle on Boxing Day…Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart, I.C.S. (Indian Civil Service) District Magistrate Chittagong, Chittagong, 26th December 1943 (Source: personal scrapbook kept by Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart O.B.E., I.C.S. seen on 20-Dec-2005 / Reproduced by courtesy of Mrs. Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart)
Now a Bollywood film named ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’ (starring Sushant Singh Rajput & directed by Dibakar Banerjee) is being filmed at the sites that were bombed during the war. The movie is set in the back drop of World War 2 and it captures the Calcutta of that time. Scenes were also shot at ‘The Old Eastern Hotel’, which was largely destroyed by Japanese planes.
A source informs, “It was a brutal attack and Sushant was overheard discussing that the incident reminds him of the recent Taj terror attack. Sushant actively spoke to Dibakar about the attack and dug for more details. While the hotel has been restored, there yet are yet areas which are reminiscent of the war. Sushant took a walk around the hotel actively talking to Dibakar and the staff there who were filling him in with details.”