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1942-1945: Burma & India
Japanese occupation of Burma in 1942 cut off the Burma Road, the last land route by which the Allies could deliver support for the defense of China to the government of Chiang Kai-shek. Without the Burma Road, the only supply route available was the costly and dangerous use of transport planes over the Himalayas, the "Hump".
1942-1945: Burma & India
During 1943, two divisions of the Chinese Army were airlifted to Ramgarh in India to plan and train with U.S. ground forces to recapture Burma. On 21 August 1943 a supreme Allied command was set up for Asia -- named Southeast Asia Command (SEAC) -- with British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the Commanding General of the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI), as deputy commander.
Operations in Burma in 1944
After long delays due to Allied discord and lack of supplies, the reconquest of Burma was finally attempted in the spring of 1944. A force under General Stilwell fought down the Hukawang Valley and reached the vicinity north of Myitkyina, a key communications center and Japanese stronghold, in May 1944. Meanwhile, the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), a reinforced U.S. Army regiment better known as "Merrill's Marauders," had circled and was attacking Myitkyina from the south. Japanese resistance and the onset of the monsoon season in June delayed completion of the operation until August.
While Stilwell's Chinese divisions and Merrill's Marauders attacked with conventional formations, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) organized Detachment 101 consisting of a few Americans, British and Burmese, as well as several thousand Kachin tribesmen. They were parachuted behind Japanese lines to supply and aid guerrilla fighters and to harass the Japanese in Northern Burma with ambushes as well as the destruction of bridges and communication lines.
As another phase of the spring offensive, a British force (the so-called "Chindits") under Maj. Gen. Orde C. Wingate had made a successful airdrop near Kotha in March and proceeded to disrupt Japanese communications in central Burma. At the same time, farther to the south, a British Commonwealth force inflicted a considerable defeat on Japanese forces defending against a drive on Akyab, a port of the Bay of Bengal.
In western Burma, the Japanese had launched a powerful counterattack toward Imphal and Kohima in eastern India. The British made a last-ditch stand in the vicinity of Kohima and, when reserves arrived, won a decisive victory at the end of June 1944. As the monsoon broke, the decimated Japanese force was in disorderly retreat back into the jungles of Burma. By late summer of 1944 the Allies had cleared northern Burma, permitting construction of the Ledo Road and a fuel oil pipeline from India to China.
Stilwell was replaced in October 1944, at which time the American CBI administrative area was separated into the U.S. Forces, China Theater (USFCT) and U.S. Forces, India-Burma Theater (USFIBT). Lt. Gen. Daniel I. Sultan was named commanding general of the USFIBT, and Maj. Den. Albert C. Wedemeyer became commanding general of the USFCT. Wedemeyer also took over Stilwell's position as Chief of Staff to Chiang Kai-shek.
Except for five Chinese divisions and a mixed American and Chinese brigade known as the Mars Task Force (replacing "Merrill's Marauders"), Allied forces in Burma consisted of British and British Commonwealth forces. Operations in Burma during the last year of the war were left to the British, who were more interested in recovering Singapore than in taking Burma or helping China. The British preferred to reconquor Burma from the south, beginning with a seaborne assault on Rangoon, but demands on shipping for European and Pacific operations precluded such a plan. Consequently, the British attacked from India across the Irrawaddy River to Mandalay and then south to Rangoon. They experienced tremendous difficulties because of the terrain and the resistance of seasoned Japanese troops. Supply by air was essential to the success of operations. Mandalay was captured after a prolonged fight in mid-March 1945.
Progress to the south was relatively fast after March 1945, and the reconquest of Burma was essentially completed with the capture of Rangoon on 3 May 1945.
Recommended Books about the CBI Theater
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