Provided courtesy of Mr. Carl Weidenburner
CHINA-BURMA-INDIA - Remembering the Forgotten Theater of World War IIl

IBT Roundup
Vol. IV   No. 31        Delhi,  Thursday,  April 11,  1946.        Reg. No. L5015

Theater Sees 65 Months Of Asiatic Operations

Stilwell's Dec. '41 Mission Initiates Brilliant History

After a little over 65 months of operation the geographically largest Theater in World War II - the land from Singapore to Karachi, from Java to the Himalayas, the Theater which once comprised all of China - is about to shut up operations and go home.

Its men worked in some of the most difficult jungle and desert terrain in the world; they sweated under the intense South Asiatic sun; they performed their mission despite the fierce prevalence of tropical disease.

The India-Burma Theater, once the China-Burma-India Theater and a former branch of the Allied Southeast Asia Command, is packing up for return by first available transportation to the Zone of the Interior: the U.S.A.


Its history goes back to December 30, 1941, when President Roosevelt suggested to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek that he assume command of the Allied forces in China. Chiang responded by appointing an American Chief of Staff: Joseph Warren Stilwell, at that time a three-star California general with a campaign hat that looked like a cowboy's and the nickname of "Vinegar Joe."

Stilwell organized a mission of 32 officers and 18 men to increase the combat efficiency of the Chinese Army and the party landed in Karachi the end of February, 1942. A week later the China-Burma-India Theater was officially christened with headquarters at Chungking, China in March. Stilwell took charge of the Chinese armies in Burma, and the 10th Air Force landed in India under Maj. Gen. Lewis Brereton, its planes having detoured from Australia on up around Java.


Meanwhile, the Japanese continued to push their offensive and took Rangoon, the greatest city in Burma. Two Flying Fortresses, the first Army Air Force offensive in the CBI, retaliated by damaging a Japanese cruiser and troop transport off Port Blair in the Adaman Islands on April 2, 1942. Right after that, the first U.S. Army flight over "the Hump" was made with Col. William D. Old in the pilot's seat.

The Japanese pushed on through Mandalay to Lashio in central Burma and drove on toward Myitkyina in the north. "Vinegar Joe" and his Chinese forces were badly equipped and out-numbered. They had to retreat. They were pushed back steadily from Shwebo in Burma to Imphal in India. At first it was by truck, but jungle trails made that impossible and the rugged general set the pace himself for the 150-mile march back into India.

When the retreating party finally reached safe territory, the man with the cowboy hat and steel-rimmed GI glasses said, "We took a hell of a beating. We ought to find out why it happened and go back."

And "Vinegar Joe" wasn't fooling. The Japanese had overrun Burma and strangled the Burma Road, the only Allied supply route to China. The enemy was now threatening to invade China from the south and India from the northeast.


The most critical need was somehow to get the supplies into China and keep her in the war now, after those five gallant, solitary years of holding the Japanese at bay. In June, 1942, the India-China Wing of the ATC was organized and the supplies were flown in over the "Hump" - the roof of the world, the Himalayas of Asia. And then, to prepare for the eventual land offensive, Chiang Kai-shek gave his consent to the establishment of a training center for Chinese troops at Ramgarh, where American and British Army personnel would equip and prepare them for modern jungle warfare. The "Hump" then became a two-way traffic channel: Chinese armies were flown back to India on the ships that brought cargo to China.

Simultaneously, the fundamental U.S. Army organizational plan was formed and Headquarters established in New Delhi for SOS activities. Three Base Section headquarters were made at Karachi, Bangalore and Calcutta and two Advance Sections temporarily established at Agra and Dibrugarh. Then APO 886 at Karachi, the first Army Post Office in the CBI, started funneling mail to the troops by the end of May.

July 4, 1942, the nation's birthday and the day the Flying Tigers finally won Army recognition; the American Volunteer Group became the China Air Task Force under Brig. Gen. Claire L. Chennault.

The Chinese Army in India (the CAI) began its first courses in Artillery and Infantry training at Ramgarh in August and by the end of the year 21,000 of Chiang's soldiers had been flown over "the Hump" for this experimental program of one nation's army training another's.

FALL 1942

Stilwell approved the CBI patch for military personnel in the Theater in September, 1942 and by February, 1945 the War Department was to get around to recognizing it as well.

And while the Air Force attacked Japanese positions and the ATC carried over SOS supplies to China, "Vinegar Joe" was planning to open up that land route to China, both for his troops and his supplies. He sent Col. John C. Arrowsmith to Ledo in November to make a reconnaissance of what was to be known as the Ledo Road. It was a completely new approach to the Chinese end of the Burma Road and would skirt around Japanese lines in Burma. The following month Ledo was established as Base Section No. 3 with the dual purpose of supplying construction operations on the Ledo Road and acting as a depot for future tactical operations into Burma.


Then the Japanese became frisky. On Dec. 20 Calcutta was attacked from the air and during the next ten days there were four more air raids. The effect was negligible, causing little damage to the dock area on the Hooghly and none at all to U.S. installations.

At the close of the year 1942 the CBI Theater strength showed 10,476 Air Force personnel, 4,622 SOS, 1,599 ATC and 394 Ground Force men - a Theater population of 17,091.

The Ledo Road had pushed from Assam into Burma at Mile 43.3 on the last day of February, 1943. Things were picking up in China too. Chennault organized the 14th Air Force with headquarters at Kunming and SOS Advance Section No. 4 was established in Kweilin, a great step forward into that strip of eastern China not yet occupied by the Japanese.


And to keep up the morale of the troops, the first Armed Forces Radio Station, VU2ZY, began broadcasts in New Delhi on March 23, 1943. back in the States the supply POE for the CBI was switched from Charleston, South Carolina to Los Angeles.

Yank came to the CBI with the publication of the mid 1943 issue from its new Calcutta office.

Air power grew rapidly in 1943 with the 10th and 14th Air Forces not only counter-attacking enemy planes, but bombing Japanese installations all over Southeast Asia and Eastern China. At the end of the year we had unchallenged air superiority over our own vast land stretches and when Maj. Gen. George Stratemeyer was made commanding general of USAAF in the CBI, the Theater had become a major air command of the U.S. Army.


Global warfare meant global planning and when the Quebec Conference was held between Roosevelt and Churchill in August, 1943, they had their thoughts on the CBI, just half-way around the world. It was there decided that Lord Louis Mountbatten, cousin of King George VI, Admiral of the British Fleet and leader of the commando operations along the coast of western Europe, was to be the Supreme Commander of an Allied Southeast Asia Command. Stilwell was named his deputy and he and his CBI Theater now came under the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Quebec also approved the formation of a lightly-equipped, air-supplied jungle force, later known as the "Marauders" of Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill. Its and the mission of the British units similar to it was to clear North Burma for the advance of the supply lines into China. To facilitate air operations on the other side of "the Hump," the planners of Quebec also considered the construction of the Pipeline to Kunming.

FALL 1943

By mid-October, "Vinegar Joe" had had enough of watching the Japanese advance and entrench. He blew the whistle and the Chinese 38th Division's 112th Regiment went into battle. Their mission: to secure the Dalu Valley and part of the area west of the Tarung River in Burma. By the end of the month the first volunteers for the Gallahad Force (Merrill's Marauders) arrived in Bombay on the S.S. Lurline.

The Chinese regiments were progressing nicely by now and the 113th took Shingbwiyang in North Burma.

During October the ATC began its 24-hour daily operations over "the Hump" with gasoline, ammunition and supplies for China. And very soon after, the first group of the future XXth Bomber Command arrived in India.


December 1943, and the Japanese made their second annual air raid on Calcutta. This time the raiders were in greater number. They did some damage to the Calcutta docks and their bombers also made a raid on the Dinjan air fields in Assam.

Global planning again focused on the CBI when Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek met in Cairo on Dec. 6, 1943, and planned the VLR (Very Long Range) fields of China and West Bengal for the next year's use by the brilliant new B-29 bomber. They also gave the go-ahead signal on construction of the Pipeline, to be laid from the oil storage tanks at the port of Calcutta, up through the airfields of Eastern Bengal, past Ledo and eventually to the "Tank Farm," right inside of Kunming.

Allied Fighting In Burma Clears Way To China

With the beginning of 1944 two key appointments were announced by CBI headquarters: Maj. Gen. Daniel I. Sultan was made Theater deputy commander and Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill took command of the 5307th Brigade, the Marauders' official name.

On Feb 9th the Marauders left Ledo for their march into Burma and on the 22nd they received their first combat mission: to cut the road in the vicinity of Walawbum and attack the Japanese 18th Division command post, believed to be located there.

They contacted the enemy at Lanem Ga, North Burma, and the lead scout, Pvt. Robert W. Landis of Youngstown, Ohio, was killed. Landis was the first American Infantry soldier to lose his life in battle on the Asiatic continent since China's Boxer Uprising in 1900.

In their first encounter with the enemy at Walawbum, the Marauders set up a road block and took them by surprise, killing 800 Japanese and losing only five of their own men. Before the completion of their mission these Marauders were to make more than 700 miles of severe jungle marches through Burma and Assam.


To insure the best communication with forward areas, the U.S. Military Railway Service took over the Bengal and Assam Railroad. India's railways now worked on "stop-watch" time.

Col. Phillip Cochran ("Flip Corkin" of comic strip fame) began flying penetration forces of the First Air Commandos to "Broadway," the secret jungle airstrip northeast of Katha, then being readied for a behind-the-lines strike at the Japanese in North Burma.

One day after April Fool's Day the first B-29 Superfortress landed in India and the joke was about to be on the enemy. And that same month two Chinese divisions were flown down from China to fight in the Hukawng Valley. The Marauders broke the enemy siege at Nhpum Ga and on May 17, along with the Chinese, scored their first major victory in the Burma campaign: the capture of the Myitkyina airstrip.

Mid-April and a British ammunition ship exploded in Bombay harbor, destroying 15 other ships, killing an estimated 2,000 and tumbling a good part of the harbor installations into the water.

Later, the ATC and the Air Forces established their Theater headquarters within the compound of the Warren Hastings Jute Mill, right outside Calcutta. SEAC became restless too and Mountbatten and staff moved from New Delhi to Kandy, Ceylon, near the base of the fleet which he someday hoped to lead in the recapture of the peninsulas of Southeast Asia.


Theater morale was given another boost in the summer of 1944 when the CBI branch of USAFI opened in Calcutta.

The first B-29 mission from Indian bases, the raid on the Makasan Railway yards at Bangkok, Siam was made in early June and a week later the Superforts bombed Japan from China bases, successfully damaging the imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata on Kyushu Island.

In Burma, the Chinese Expeditionary ("Y") Force launched a five-column offensive across the Salween River to drive the Japanese from West Yunnan and clear China's part of the Burma Road. A few weeks later it fought its way into the walled Chinese city of Lungling. Simultaneously, Chinese and American forces captured Mogaung and thus cleared the entire Hukawng and Mogaung Valleys.

In mid-June 1944, the Japanese launched two offensives, capturing Lungling back from the "Y" Forces on the Burma border and threatening to take Changsha in central China, heart of the "Rice Bowl" district and strategic key to control of the Canton-Hankow Railway.

By the end of July the 5332nd Brigade was organized and assigned to the Northern Combat Area Command in Burma. This brigade later became known as the Mars Task Force and, together with the Marauders, went down in I-B history as the major body of U.S. fighting forces in the Burma campaign.

On August 3, 1944, Myitkyina, the main objective of the North Burma campaign, fell to Allied forces after a 78-day siege. Although the airstrip had been taken since mid-May, it was only after the Marauders had had their ranks enormously depleted by exhaustion, jungle disease and enemy harassment and then reinforced with combat engineers and stateside replacements that their remnants were finally able to join the Chinese in taking the town.

Within a week the railway from Myitkyina to Mogaung started operating with an improvised "jeep-on-rail" train service. Then, their mission achieved, the Marauders were inactivayed. In mid-August, the British had annihilated the last of the Japanese invaders from the borderlands of India near Tiddim, killing 30,000 of the enemy.

FALL 1944

In October, 1944, Stilwell was recalled to Washington and his CBI Theater divided into the China Theater under Lt. Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer and the India-Burma Theater under Lt. Gen. Daniel I. Sultan, former CBI deputy commander. With the division of the Theaters, China had a strength of 25,002 and the I-B of 179,687.

The Chinese Expeditionary Force, fighting on the Chinese-Burma border through monsoons and mountains and across the precipitous gorges of the Salween River, captured the Japanese stronghold of Tengchung after a long siege. Turning south, it recaptured for once and all the Burma Road town of Lungling. During November and December of 1944 Chinese forces surrounded the Japanese stronghold of Bhamo, second largest city of North Burma. On Dec. 15 they took it and opened the way for the drive into Central Burma.


At this time the 475th Infantry regiment of the Mars Task Force left Myitkyina for the front lines and tangled with the Japs for the first time near Tonkwa. With the help of the Chinese 22nd Division, Tonkwa was captured in mid-December. The men of Mars had marched 200 miles in 25 days to accomplish this initial victory.

Their next move was a surprise 150-mile trek across the mountains to the Burma Road. Instead of aiming directly for it, as expected, they made a 35-mile forced march across country, caught the Japanese napping and secured some of the commanding ground overlooking the Road. After 20 days of furious fighting, the Mars Forces succeeded in completely crushing Japanese resistance.

The last day of 1944 also saw the last Japanese air raids over Allied installations in North Burma. The enemy simply couldn't afford to challenge our air superiority any longer. And at the end of the year the I-B strength was practically 200,000, while that of the China Theater was just a little over 30,000.

January 1945: the beginning of the last year of fighting. During the first part of the month the Chinese New Sixth Army, trained and equipped by Americans, was air-lifted back to China to form the nucleus of an effective fighting force against the Japanese in the long-promised China offensive. And then Shwebo, Burma was recaptured by British and Indian troops and the scene of Stilwell's humiliating retreat was finally avenged.

As a classic example of "crossing your bridges when you get to them" the first motor convoy left Ledo for China on January 12, knowing very well the road was not yet cleared of the enemy, but confident it would be by the time it arrived.

Ten days later the "X" and "Y" Chinese Expeditionary Forces joined at Mu-se, Burma, and the final mopping up of Japanese action along the Stilwell Road began. On January 27 Chinese veterans of the Salween campaign met Chinese veterans of North Burma at Mong Yu and the "Golden Spike" had been driven, the Ledo and Burma Roads were one.

The first convoy, its faith in the road's being cleared vindicated, crossed the border into Wanting, China the following day. At the peak point of its construction the Road had 15,400 GI's working on it and it is said that an American life was lost for every mile of its length. The man whose dogged determination it was to reopen the land route to China was no longer around to see the glory: "Vinegar Joe" was now a four-star general and Chief of Army Ground Forces in Washington.

And then came the comforts. The ATC inaugurated its C-54 flights direct from Barrackpore to Kunming for high priority passengers and cargo. Taking it the bumpier way, Maj. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, chief engineer on the road, led the first convoy of 113 vehicles into Kunming on February 4, 1945.

Near the end of February the XXth Bomber Command, which had launched the first B-29's in the war, packed up from its gloomy Hijli prison compound in West Bengal and flew off to Guam and Tinian to join the Twentieth Air Force headquarters base. Bomb tonnage for the month of February had reached a new high of 4,367.6 tons dropped over enemy lines.

Although only in its first month of operation, 30 convoys were dispatched over the Road to China during February and 5,231 tons of equipment delivered to Kunming. It was in february that Calcutta was named first of all Army ports for its net and gross discharge efficiency.


On March 3 "Vinegar Joe" was finally given his due, and the Road he pushed through was designated the "Stilwell Road."

Lashio, the old terminus of the Burma Road and an important hub on the supply route to China, fell to the Chinese 38th Division the first week in March. This was quickly followed by the British 14th Army's taking of Mandalay and capturing 30,000 Japanese prisoners. Sultan's three-pronged drive into Central Burma was comnplete and they were now free to advance south to Rangoon, the last great enemy throttle in Burma.

Meanwhile, the Pipeline to China under steady construction despite jungle, monsoon and shellfire, had been completed and the first gasoline crossed the Chinese border at Wanting on March 22.

Just about the end of March the Admiral Benson docked at Bombay and became the last troop transport to have to detour to India's west coast. From here on it was the Bay of Bengal and Calcutta. The GI's held their own this month when 10 enlisted men were given field commissions for work in the Mars Task Force.

Victory Over Japan: The I-B Starts To Demobilize

On May 3, 1945 Rangoon fell to British amphibious forces. Pegu and Prome quickly capitulated and two days later Mountbatten announced the end of organized Japanese resistance in Burma and the conclusion of the Burma Campaign. The Japanese had 347,000 casualties; the Allies, 27,905.

The only Congressional Medal of Honor for the I-B was awarded posthumously to Lt. Jack Knight, killed while serving with the 124th Cavalry in Burma. And on the lighter side, an I-B ATC jeep turned up in France, AWOL with no one having even noticed it was missing.

Near the end of May the Pole-line of telephone wires was added alongside the Road and the Pipeline to become the third communication and transportation link-up with China. The first telephone hook-up was made from New Delhi through Calcutta to Kunming on May 25.


Now that the Burma Campaign was over, the Mars Brigade was disbanded and the American Air Force units withdrawn from the Eastern Air Command and sent to China. Redeployment of American and Chinese troops over "the Hump" and along the Road to China began. The spotlight was now on China and the I-B would be its supply artery more than ever. June was also the first month of redeployment for discharge: 1,500 I-B veterans sailed for Uncle Sugar.

On June 23, Sultan was recalled to become Chief of the Inspector General's Department in Washington and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler, took command of the Theater.

July, 1945, and the New York POE took over from Los Angeles to supply and equip the I-B. The 10th Air Force packed up at Piardoba in Bengal and flew to its new headquarters in Kunming. Monsoons were washing out sections of the Road but excellent maintenance work restored each wash-out, almost as it occurred.

August 14, 1945, the day every man in World War II had placed ahead of Christmas - the Imperial Household of Japan accepted Allied surrender terms and gave the cease-fire orders. Mail censorship was off a while later and the pent-up personal griefs of almost four years of war exploded into letters home.

But war over or no, the Pipeline went on pumping and the Road convoys kept on delivering. Over 9,000,000 gallons had been pumped to China since the line's opening April 9. The Road's monthly quota, of course, exceeded every previous month's record: in August it was 15,866 long tons.

FALL 1945

Demobilization got into full swing in September, 1945 with 80-point men leaving for home on the General McRae, the first evacuation ship to leave Karachi. The I-B got its fourth Commanding General when Wheeler was recalled to Washington to become Chief of Engineers and Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Terry, former CG of the Second Service Command in New York, was named new Theater chief.

October was sort of a wind-up month. The last convoy over the Road arrived in Kunming on the 7th, giving the Road a grand total of 25,783 vehicles and 6,539 trailers, carrying 146,948 long tons of cargo into Kunming since the first convoy drove over the Road the previous February.

The last spurt of gasoline plunked into Kunming on the very last day of the month and this meant that 58,297 short tons of fuel had been delivered between April and October.

ATC began to wind up its "Hump" activities and on November 20 the pilots who flew daily to China over the world's roof decided to call it a day. The India-China Division of ATC had flown 776,532 tons of material to Kunming in its three years of operation. There were losses too: 594 planes, 910 crew members killed and 130 still missing.


The removal of U.S. dead to five centralized cemeteries at Singapore, Myitkyina, Barrackpore, Kalaikunda and New Malir began. This was destined to become the start of the last mission in the Theater, for the Graves Registration Service plans to work at shipping home these dead until 1949.

By the end of December, 151,594 men from the I-B and China had been repatriated through India, a monthly average of 57,898 since the demobilization program started in early September. This left the I-B with 78,637 men and 8,013 officers on the eve of 1946.

Getting his last licks in, Roundup's reporter Sgt. Ed Alexander rode in the last American jeep across Stilwell Road into China on Christmas Eve, 1945. And up in the weeds, all property left in Burma, save the Pipeline, tankage and heavy equipment, was sold to the Government of Burma.

During last January the monthly evacuation of personnel had dropped to 17,679 and the Theater strength became 36,832.

In February, 1946 the last Chinese Army personnel in India were airlifted to Shanghai, and activities in the forward area had dwindled to such an extent that Intermediate Section was consolidated under Base Section in Calcutta.

Only four U.S. installations now remained in Burma: the Road, the 4" and 6" Pipelines and that part of the Kuoming Toll Line lying in Burma. U.S. troops had been slimmed down to 46, all employed in jungle search and rescue work.

On Feb. 17, Terry was flown home to Walter Reed Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in an automobile accident near New Delhi. Maj. Gen. Vernon Evans, his Chief of Staff, assumed command. The India Wing of the ATC was placed under the North Africa Division of ATC and all Air Force activities were consolidated at the Bengal Air Depot.

The last day of February the bottleneck of Theater demobilization - the manner of disposal of Army surplus property to the Government of India - was broken. FLC representatives and Indian officials came to an agreement and the custodial transfer of surplus property began.


Last month, Undersecretary of War Kenneth Royall announced in New Delhi that he anticipated the I-B Theater's closing by the end of May, leaving only a residual group of 500 for graves registration work and similar activities. These 500 are to be progressively slimmed down and in a few months India will have but 100 to 150 men of the U.S. Army.

With the sailing of the General Hersey April 21, all men with either 30 months of military service or 45 points will be on their way home. Theater personnel will be dropped to 2,100 in early May and the transfer of surplus property to the Government of India's custodians will have been completed.

And so we have the history of the India-Burma Theater of World War II. From Dec. 30, 1941 to the end of May, 1946. Sixty-five months of combined effort on the part of the Chinese, the British, the Indians and the Americans.


Its success was due to the cooperative resources of Allied nations; its campaign planning determined half-way around the world by Big Two and Big Three conferences. Sometimes under China, sometimes under the Southeast Asia Command of Mountbatten, eventually an independent U.S. Theater Headquarters, the I-B has had a vital role in the war against Japan.

While the larger part of the land fighting in Burma was done by the British in the central and southern areas and by the Chinese in the north, the American forces kept hammering at the supply lines to China. Our ranks were composed primarily of air and service forces, not ground forces. The air arm protected the British and Chinese advances and drop-fed them. Our SOS Engineers and Signal Corps men followed the combat teams and laid down paths of communication and transportation as soon as the enemy had been cleared from the area.

The India-Burma mission was to keep China's back door free, her forces supplied for a successful defense of the great Asiatic mainland, and to prepare for a day when British, Chinese and American forces would throw the japanese eastward as the Pacific forces pushed them west: an unprecendented pincer movement which would have incorporated and enormous part of this world's land surface.

Because the enemy capitulated, that final strategy never became necessary. But the I-B had done its job up to then and it was fully mobilized to see it all the way through.


The month: March 1945
The breakdown:

Theater troops18,606
XX Bomber15,915
Misc. Atchd.1,762




From September 1, 1944 to August 31, 1945 the ATC Passenger Service: carried 1,204,207 persons, flew 350,209,660 miles. Transported: 515,598 net tons to China in 237,572 trips over the "Hump." Airlifted: 195,893 Chinese and U.S. troops, their battle equipment and their 4,400 pack animals. Evacuated: 4,720 patients over 2,181,496 flight miles.


During the peak month of July 1945 the net short tons delivered to China were:

By Air73,682
By Road5,900
By Pipeline11,601

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