I’m sure most of us can agree that crocodiles are some pretty terrifying creatures. All those teeth, the power of their jaws, the “roll of death” which tears prey apart…. Fortunately, humans are not a common victim of crocodile attacks. However, there was one even in history during which many men lost their lives to crocodile predation.

Battle of Ramree island

During WW2, Allied forces clashed with the Japanese army in numerous small engagements. One of these battles was fought over a small island known as Ramree, and its neighboring island of Cheduba.

Sergeant Wackett/Wikimedia Commons

The Allies referred to the effort to take these islands and their strategic assets from the Japanese as “Operation Matador.”

Japanese crocodile fatalities

The Japanese forces were partially encamped within mangrove forests on Ramree Island. Native to that area were a large number of saltwater crocodiles. While no Japanese accounts of the attacks remain, there are some records from the Allied forces detailing the evidence of crocodile attacks upon the entrenched Japanese soldiers.

Kat Clay/Broome

British naturalist Stanley Wright participated in the Battle of Ramree Island and gave this description of one attack on the enemy. “That night [of the 19 February 1945] was the most horrible that any member of the M. L. [motor launch] crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth.”

Crocodile attacks and records

Only six of the known 23 crocodile species are considered dangerous to adult humans. The Nile crocodile and, unfortunately for the Japanese soldiers on Ramree, the saltwater crocodile is the species most known to prey upon people.

Molly Ebersold/Wikimedia Commons

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Battle of Ramree Island as the “worst crocodile disaster in the world” and that it had the “most number of fatalities in a crocodile attack.”