LIFE Magazine  General Stilwell
       April 10, 1944
 The War In Burma

   While fighting continued at Cassino, another heart-breaking Allied campaign was in progress some 4,500 miles away. In northern Burma Lieut. General Joseph Stilwell's Chinese-American forces worked painfully down the valleys toward Japanese base of Myitkyina. Their objective was to clear a path for an all-weather road across the top of the Japanese salient jutting up between India and China. The road, extending from a railroad at Ledo in India to Yunnan Province, would reopen the land route to Chungking. By the end of March, Stilwell's men had pushed to within 55 miles of Myitkyina, but success was still remote.

   Four hundred and fifty miles to the south, British and Indian troops plugged slowly along the Burma sea-coast toward the port of Akyab. Between the two Allied drives the Japanese had begun one of their own which pressed ominously into India and threatened to snarl the entire Allied plan. In front of the Japanese advance was the railroad from Ledo to the sea. If this artery were cut, the Stilwell offensive would be choked off. Without the railroad, China's aerial supply route from Assam over the Himalayas might also be marooned.

   Wherever it went on, the fighting in Burma had a curiously narrow focus. It was waged almost entirely on the roads, because heavy jungle made a continuous front impossible. Its campaigns were pursuits and retreats up and down narrow defiles, its battles sharp little clashes for a roadside village or pillbox. In fighting like this Stilwell's army battled down the Hukawng Valley road toward Myitkyina in mid-March. Stilwell himself, accompanied by LIFE photographer William Vandivert, followed a few miles behind the advancing front. For photographs of the battle debris that Vandivert found along the side of the road as he moved ahead 24 hours after the fighting, see below.


 General Stilwell and Colonel Brown In a bamboo shelter Stilwell receives a report from haggard Colonel Rothwell Brown, American officer who commanded Chinese light-tank force in battle down the valley. Brown has not slept or eaten for 48 hours, drinks first coffee as he talks.


 General Stilwell confer with officers Chinese officers confer with Stilwell at division headquarters. Seated second from left is Major General Liao Yao-hsiang, commander of the Chinese 22nd Division. Others seated are Liaison Officer (behind post) and a Chinese brigadier general.


 General Stilwell and General Liao With General Liao Stilwell gestures to describe a "hooking" tactic. A few days after picture was made Stilwell decorated Liao with the American Legion of Merit for his service in Burma retreat of 1942. Only 36 years old, Liao studied at St. Cyr.


 General Stilwell visits wounded  General Stilwell studies maps Left: At general hospital in the rear, Stilwell talks fluently with a wounded Chinese. Most of wounded, and most of Stilwell's troops, are Chinese. His only all-American ground troops are a small commando force under Brig. General Frank Merrill.
Right: Hunched over map spread on cot, Stilwell studies progress of his army. At the time this picture was made by LIFE's Vandivert, Stilwell's troops were approaching end of Hukawng River Valley, shortly went over divide into Mogaung Valley.


 Dead Japanese litter roadside Dead Japanese litter roadside three-quarters of a mile beyond Maingkwan, village in central Hukawng Valley which was captured by Stilwell's Chinese early in March. Chinese caught a company of Japanese retreating southward on road at right, killed six officers and 80 men.


 Dead Japanese litter roadside Japanese soldier and horses were killed on road by Chinese shellfire. Decomposed carcasses had been lying where they fell for a day and a half when Vandivert made this picture. Chinese in jeep at right move up behind troops who are following Japanese down the valley.


 Dead Japanese litter roadside Four dead Japanese were probably killed by single shell-burst as they ran for cover at the side of the road. They were part of the Japanese 18th Infantry Division under General Shinichi Tanaka, who commanded forces which captured Singapore in 1942. Most of the fighting in northern Burma campaign was in sharp little battles like this with the retreating Japanese. What appears to be rice sprinkled on man in foreground is actually colony of maggots.





 LIFE Magazine - April 10, 1944
Adapted from the April 10, 1944 issue of  LIFE.
Portions copyright 1944 Time, Inc.

 TOP OF PAGE      PRINT THIS PAGE      ABOUT THIS PAGE      CLOSE THIS WINDOW