A Suspicious Death that could have Changed History

Suspicious deaths can change history. To explain, several historical figures have died mysteriously at convenient times.

There is no evidence that any of these deaths is an assassination. However, the timing and circumstances of some leaders’ demises raises suspicions. In particular, some troublesome individuals have died at convenient times.

No Suspicious death appears more convenient to powerful individuals that that of the troublesome Indian Nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose. Bose’s suspicious death is among the most conveniently timed in history.

Subhas Chandra Bose

Indian Nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose’s survival until August 1945 was a miracle.

By the time of this death, Bose had already survived two dangerous journeys across the world. In January 1941, Bose fled British India in disguise and crossed Afghanistan and the Soviet Union to reach Nazi Germany.

Before leaving India, Bose risked his life by using a hunger strike to win his release from prison. Bose courted prison by leading a civil disobedience campaign against British efforts to drag India into World War II.

In 1943, Bose travelled through the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope in a German U-boat, or submarine. The U-Boat Journey was dangerous because the Atlantic was full of British and American planes and ships with orders to sink any German submarine. Off the coast of Madagascar, Bose transferred to a Japanese submarine; or I-boat, for an equally dangerous journey across the British-controlled Indian Ocean to Japanese territory.

In 1943, Bose travelled through the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope in a German U-boat, or submarine. The U-Boat Journey was dangerous because the Atlantic was full of British and American planes and ships with orders to sink any German submarine. Off the coast of Madagascar, Bose transferred to a Japanese submarine; or I-boat, for an equally dangerous journey across the British-controlled Indian Ocean to Japanese territory.

Traitor or Patriot

The Azad Hind was a group of Indian Nationalists who collaborated with the Japanese during World War II. The Azad Hind’s projects included the Indian National Army, a large force of Indian prisoners of war who fought alongside the Imperial Japanese Army in Southeast Asia.

Before traveling to Southeast Asia, Bose lived in Berlin, made propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis, and met with Adolph Hitler. In Germany, Bose helped organize the Indian Legion, a force of Indian prisoners of war from the British Army that was part of the Waffen SS. As SS men, Indian Legion soldiers swore allegiance to both Adolph Hitler and Subhas Chandra Bose.

Predictably, the British regarded Bose as an enemy and a traitor. However, many Indians viewed Bose as a patriot and a Freedom Fighter.

Bose claimed he was not a fascist; however, he began saying India needed “socialist authoritarianism,” which sounded like fascism to British ears.  Moreover, Bose was too comfortable in Berlin and Tokyo for British tastes.

A Convenient Death

By August 1945, Bose was on the run again because British and Indian forces had overrun Burma where they based the Indian National Army.

After the Japanese surrender on 16 August 1945, Bose fled to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and boarded a Mitsubishi Ki-21 or “Sally” twin-engine heavy bomber for a flight to Japan. Sally was the American codename for the Ki-21.

The bomber and Bose never made it to Japan. Instead, the bomber crashed in Taipei, Taiwan. In 1945, Taiwan was a Japanese colony. Many people consider the crash suspicious because mechanics heard a loud bang and saw something off the plane right after takeoff.

The Ki-21 broke into pieces during the crash, which killed the crew and most of the passengers. However, two men escaped the plane. One survivor was Bose, who ran through a fire to escape an explosion.

During the escape, Bose became covered with burning gasoline. Witnesses described Bose as a “human torch.” Companions put out the flames, but they were too late to save Bose.

The rescuers took Bose; who had third-degree burns to a Japanese military hospital, where he died that night. Bose’s survival for several hours after the fire astounded the attending surgeon, Dr. Yoshimi.

Bose’s death was convenient because he was a political liability to both the British Empire and the Indian National Congress, which was leading India’s fight for freedom. Bose had been a former president of the Indian National Congress and a protégé of Mahatma Gandhi himself.

However, Bose broke with Gandhi and left the Congress in 1940 after rejecting Gandhi’s pacifism. Instead, Bose wanted to turn the Congress into a militant movement modeled after European fascist parties.

Bose’s death was convenient to the British because he may have been trying to surrender the Americans or the Soviets. The British could have feared Bose wanted to go to Japan to offer his services to the American occupation forces or their Russian allies.

Notably, American occupation forces commanded by General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Japan in August 1945. Some Soviet officers and agents accompanied those forces.

An obvious possibility is that Bose was in contact with the Soviets or the Americans before he tried to flee to Japan. The British could have learned of such contact through their electronic eavesdropping on Japanese communications.

Bose in Russia, or worse, the United States, could have been a propaganda nightmare for the British. In 1945, the American and Soviet governments wanted the British to grant India immediate independence, a move that many British politicians; including Prime Minister Clement Attlee, opposed.

The cause of the plane crash that killed Bose is still controversial and unsolved. An accident, sabotage, or a time bomb could have brought down the plane.

However, historians believe that both the Indian National Army; and the Azad Hind were full of British double agents. In addition, the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the dirty tricks division of British Intelligence, specialized in sabotage and assassination.

As Azad Hind leader, Bose was at the top of the SOE’s hit list.* Even if Bose’s death was an accident, it was very convenient for His Majesty’s Government.

However, Bose’s timely demise did the British little good. A series of military mutinies and popular uprisings forced the British parliament to grant India and Pakistan independence on 15 August 1947, less than two after Bose’s death.

Empire’s End

Ironically, the British government’s decision to courts martial Indian military officers who had fought for the Germans and Japanese sparked the military mutinies that led to independence.

Earl Wavell; the British Viceroy (governor) of India, realized the courts martial of Indian Legion and Indian National Army Officers were a mistake and pardoned a few convicted INA and Indian Legion officers. However, Wavell’s action came too late India was on the brink of independence.

World War II had gravely weakened Britain, which was in no shape to fight a war in India. In addition, Britain’s closest ally the United States refused to support any effort to maintain the Indian Empire. Thus the British had no choice but to leave India.

Thus, Bose achieved his ultimate aim of an Independent India despite a suspicious death. Even if the British assassinated Bose, the assassination was a failure because India was on the road to independence.

*See Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War IIby Madhusree Mukerjee page 254 for details of the SOE assassination order for Bose.