The Burma Front

3-Fronts in the Pacific
from Time 1943/09 - big

The British colony of Burma was lost to Japan in 1942, symbolized by the "walkout" of Gen. Joseph Stilwell from Maymyo to Imphal by May 20, 1942: "We got a hell of a beating ... and it is humiliating as hell." As commander of the China-India-Burma theater, Stilwell planned to train Chinese troops equipped with Lend-Lease aid to retake Burma and open a road from India to China. But the plan was opposed by Gen. Claire Chennault who wanted to use airpower to attack Japan from bases in China, by Chiang Kai-shek who wanted Lend-Lease aid for his government in China, by the British who wanted men and supplies diverted to "Europe-first" and North Africa. FDR supported a Burma theater with limited supplies, and by Sept. 1943 Stilwell was able to start his GALAHAD offensive with the help of the Kachin guerillas trained by Detachment 101 of the OSS, aimed at taking the airfield at Myitkyina, the largest city in Kachin province. The British finally agreed to help and created the South East Asia Command Nov. 15, 1943, under Lord Mountbatten to protect India ("Save England's Asian Colonies") and to begin an offensive in Burma. Gen. Lewis Pick led construction battalions and the African American 858th Aviation Engineers to build the Ledo Road in Nov. and Dec. 1943 into Burma for Stilwell's X-Force that led the GALAHAD offensive.

Gen. and Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, on the day following the Doolittle Raid. Maymyo, Burma. 1942/04/19, (NWDNS-111-SC-134627) from NA

Feb. 4, 1944 - Japan began attack on the Arakan coast of the Bay of Bengal to stop Mountbatten's offensive, but the Japanese were defeated.

Mar. 6 - Japan Gen. Mutaguchi began the U-Go offensive against Imphal as Stilwell advanced south into the Hukawng Valley - - map of "Double Gamble" from Time, 1944/04

Apr. 17 - Japan began the Ichi-Go offensive in south China to open railroad from Peking to Nanking, and to attack Chennault's airfields. The railroad from Bangkok to Rangoon with the Kwai bridge had been completed in Oct. 1943. Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign in India crippled the British railroads; until the Burma Road was reopened, FDR created the ATC to "fly the hump" in new C-46 cargo planes 500 miles from Assam to Kunming with 12,000 tons per month for China.

May 11 - China's Y-Force finally crossed the Salween.

May 17 - Stilwell besieged Myitkyina until its capture Aug. 3.

Aug. 1 - Stilwell got his 4th star (with MacArthur, Marshall, Eisenhower, Arnold). The 858th finished the Ledo Road and joined it with the Burma Road south of Bhamo by November with the world's largest pontoon bridge, 1180 ft. across the Irawaddy. The battalion was helped by Kachin and Gurkha and Lisu and Naga laborers; they watched Hollywood movies at night, had their own swing band that made radio broadcasts to the U. S.

July-Oct. - Military Observers Mission (DIXIE) with Henry Wallace and John Service sent to gain support of Mao Tse-tung in Yenan; Service wrote 77 memos from Yenan to Ambassador Clarence Gauss and Patrick Hurley, with copies to Stilwell, that communists controlled "most of North and part of Central China" with morale "very high" and no "defeatism" or "war-weariness" and the movement "is strong and successful" and "it will not easily be killed."

Sept. 12-16 - 2nd Quebec Conference - FDR pledged support of Chiang who wanted direct command of the Chinese army fighting in Burma, and supported the British who wanted to absorb Stilwell's Galahads into SEAC.

Oct. 18 - Stilwell was replaced by Gen. Albert Wedemeyer as commander of US Army in China, and by Gen. Daniel Sultan who commanded Mars Force (formerly Merrill's Marauders) and Chinese forces trained in India.

Nov. 15 - Japanese Ichi-Go offensive captured Liuchow, succeeded in overruning Chennault's airfield at Kweilin, effectively cut China in half. OSS agents of Maj. Frank Gleason fought the Japanese in China, blew up 50,000 tons of weapons stored at Tushan that Chiang never used. Jan. 27, 1945 - Chinese forces under Gen. Sultan from Myitkyina and Chiang's Y-Force from Yunnan joined to reopen the renamed "Stilwell Road" to Chungking. "Pick's First Convoy" had left Ledo Jan. 12 and reached Mong Yu on Burma-China border where Ledo and Burma Roads met, cut ceremonial tape under sign that pointed 566 mi. to Kunming and 478 mi. to Ledo. Gen. Lewis Pick arrived at Kunming Feb. 4, completing his 1100-mile convoy on the Stilwell Road. The road would deliver 147,000 tons of supplies and 25,000 trucks to China in 1945, but flights over the hump delivered 555,000 tons. - "Life-Line To China Re-Opened, Ledo Road ('Pick's Pike') Opens" Universal 18-372 newsreel 2/12/45 on DVD 55

Feb. 4-11 - Yalta conference - Russian entry into war against Japan more important than Poland or Chiang's China

June1 - FBI raid on Amerasia offices in New York leads to arrest of John Service.

John Service 1945

Lt. Col. Dean Rusk in China 1944

Julia McWilliams [Child] in Ceylon 1944



North Burma in 1945, from CMH

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