U.S. Army Truck Convoy, Burma Road Between India and China, 1944/5

U.S. Army Truck Convoy, Burma Road Between India and China, 1944/5

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This photo was taken by a U.S. Army Signal Corps photographer on the Ledo Road portion of the famous Burma Road, one of the most remarkable engineering achievements of all time. Built to provide logistic support from India for China in their struggle against the Japanese, it penetrated impenetrable jungles and crossed uncrossable mountains. When the project started it was widely considered to be a fool's mission, but it was completed and did contribute to the war effort.

This photo shows a typical convoy winding its way up the narrow mountain track. In some areas the road was hacked out of pure rock. In the "twelve curves" zone, twelve huge switchbacks snake their way up steep mountainsides. The original Burma Road section, in China and Myanmar, runs from the Myanmarese railhead of Lashio to Kunming, Yunnan, China a distance of over 700 difficult miles. War supplies were shipped to Rangoon and then by rail to Lashio where they transferred to trucks. After the Japanese took control of the Chinese coastal areas and Indochina, the Burma Road was the only link. The Ledo Road (later called the Stilwell Road) from Ledo, India, into Myanmar was begun in December 1942. In 1944 the Ledo Road reached Myitkyina and was joined to the Burma Road.

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There is an incredible amount of detail in this photo, that can only be seen in the full size version. For example, you can clearly see the face of the African-American soldier riding outside the cab of the truck to spot the road ahead. The trucks are GMC 2 1/2 ton 6x6 CCKWs.

Peacetime conditions and modern air shipment have eliminated the need for this road, but its legacy lives on. Some of the most difficult portions of the U.S. Interstate Highway System were engineered by professionals who gained their skills working on the Burma Road.

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