Ramree Island holds the record for deadliest crocodile attack in history.

The Crocodiles of Ramree Island Devoured Hundreds of Japanese Soldiers

The Crocodiles of Ramree Island Devoured Hundreds of Japanese Soldiers

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
March 20 2015 11:15 AM

The Ramree Island Massacre: History’s Deadliest Crocodile Attack

The frightening maw of a saltwater crocodile.

Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images

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During World War II, Ramree Island off the coast of Myanmar was the site of a number of military battles, but the truly terrifying action began after the military maneuvers ended. 

On Jan. 26, 1945, British troops made their way to Ramree Island so they could establish an airbase. However, first they had to drive off the Japanese invasion force that had already claimed the island. After a bloody but successful campaign against the Japanese, the British soldiers managed to drive nearly 1,000 enemy combatants into the dense mangrove swamp that covered some 10 miles of Ramree. While this may have seemed like a fine opportunity to slip into the wilderness and regroup, most of the Japanese soldiers would never be heard from again.


Unfortunately for the fleeing men, the mangrove jungle on Ramree Island is home to an unknown number of the largest reptilian predator in the world—the saltwater crocodile. These prehistoric holdovers can grow to more than 20 feet and 2,000 pounds in some cases, and although examples that size are rare, even a midsize crocodile of the species could easily kill a full-grown adult human.

In addition, saltwater crocodiles are far from a misunderstood monster. The crocodiles have a long history of attacking humans who wander into their habitats, seeing them as little more than taller, more awkward prey. So when nearly 1,000 panicked soldiers came dripping blood and sweat into the cramped confines of the Ramree mangrove swamp, the toothy monsters likely had the feast of their lives.

About 400 Japanese soldiers escaped those mangrove swamps, and 20 of them were eventually recaptured by the British forces who had set up a perimeter around the thick wilderness. However, the survivors told horrific tales of dozens of crocodiles attacking the soldiers en masse, and appearing seemingly out of nowhere to drag off some poor soul. The nights were said to have been filled with dire screams, gunfire, and the sounds of animal attacks.

The story of the Ramree massacre was reported in a number of papers, but the tale is still largely apocryphal. However, this has not stopped the Guinness Book of World Records from crediting the incident with the “Most Number of Fatalities in a Crocodile Attack.” A dubious distinction for a horrible event, no matter the real numbers.

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Eric Grundhauser is a head writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. He lives in Brooklyn with his comic book collection. Follow him on Twitter.