S T I L W E L L    R O A D 

Stories of the Stilwell Road as reported in CBI ROUNDUP
Newspaper of the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II


    It's a little silly to tell United States Army Engineers that a job is impossible. It's especially silly when they are building a road and under the command of a peripatetic old guy like Col. Lewis Pick.
    Pick has white hair and didn't develop his sturdy bottom sitting behind desks. He developed it traveling up and down the Ledo Road in a jeep, telling the boys with the hairy ears that they had to get so many miles done that day and damn the rain, the jungle, the mud, the mosquitoes, the mountains and the consequences.
    We are not trying to imply that Pick has gone forth like Lancelot in gilded armor, driving the lead bulldozer and challenging his boys to keep up. He probably couldn't drive a bulldozer if he had to. What we are trying to say is that Pick is the guy who puts ants in everyone's pants and delivered an engineering project that must equal in immensity and difficulty any that has ever been attempted by the United States Army.
    Pick doesn't live in an ivory tower and neither do the boys whose muscles are actually building what is intended to be a new line of communication into China. These junior officers and men live along the road, on top of saw-tooth ridges, and are quite comfortable now. This, gentle readers, is the "dry" season. It only rains about four days out of five and the guys building the road only get wet on the outside. Later, when the monsoon opens, they'll get wet from sweat and wet from rain and their clothes will never dry out, their shoes will mold, leeches will construct dugouts in their navels, mosquitoes will be as big as B-25's, the mud will be the same only more so, but they'll continue to build the road.
    An officer will get an order from Pick to build five miles in 24 hours and he'll say, "What does that damn fool think I am, a magician?" He'll tell his sergeant, who will explain, "I've got four bulldozers. Two haven't got clutches anymore. One is hitting on three cylinders. The other will be busy pushing stuck trucks that are never kept off this God-forsaken boulevard so we can build it."
    They'll gripe, curse, say it can't be done, get their T/5 slips and build the five miles. They'll never admit it was possible to build it. They'll alibi that it was done because of some fortuitous circumstance beyond their control and say it can't be done again. The truth is that it will be done again., and again, regardless of circumstances, and one day American trucks with Chinese and American drivers will be rumbling back up the Burma Road to China.
    When this road was started, the cynics went to work in earnest. It couldn't be done, they said, and it did undoubtedly falter for a while. Then came reinforcements and Pick. The Americans, Chinese, Indians and assorted tribesmen have already pushed the road ahead at a faster pace than these same cynics ever believed possible. The road has been partially graveled, trucks move ahead, never stopping to permit construction to proceed unhampered.
    This road is not the Roosevelt Highway and 15-miles-per-hour speed limit signs make you shake your head and wonder how you can ever go that fast without telescoping your spine. It isn't worth much for Sunday driving in your convertible coupe.
    This road is a yellow scar torn through the lush, green jungle and a monument to officers and men who have imagination, who will take a chance, who are tough and who won't be licked by the elements.

Lt. Gen. Dan I. Sultan, India-Burma Theater Commander, speaking at the ceremonies which marked the first convoy to China, at Wanting. His speech was translated into Chinese by Gen. Sun Li-jen, commander of the Chinese First Army, who stands at the right of Gen. Sultan. Behind and to the left of Gen. Sultan are Gens. Pick, Davidson and Chennault. Marshal Wei Li-Huang, commander of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, is behind and immediately to the right of Gen. Sultan.


  GEN. SULTAN'S HQS., BURMA - Linkup of India and China by the Ledo-Burma Road land route came closer to realization this week as (1) First Chinese Army troops of Lt. Gen. Dan I. Sultan's Northern Combat Area Command advanced eastward past Namhkam and (2) the Chinese Expeditionary Forces captured Wanting, last of the original objectives of the Salween Campaign.
  in a press conference Monday night, Sultan announced that the road trace was now open except for a few small pockets of Japs, plus a few snipers.
  Referring to the convoy waiting to roll into China, General Dan said, "This convoy represents a magnificent achievement. It represents the bitter fighting of the Chinese troops, both in Burma and across the Salween, and of the American troops who built the Ledo Road. It represents the complete co-ordination of ground and air forces."
  Meanwhile, in Central Burma, units of the British 14th Army were reported to have slashed almost to the edge of Mandalay, with patrols reporting the main Jap forces have withdrawn to the east side of the Irrawaddy River on the same bank as Mandalay. Other 14th Army forces captured the Chindwin town of Monywa after a tough scrap.
  In Northeast Burma, Sultan's 38th Division troops were striking at Muse at week's end as the western prong of the squeeze play on the Jap remnants barring the way for the India-China convoy. The eastern prong was Wanting, which the Nip garrison began to evacuate after midnight Friday following a 24-hour battle costing the enemy an estimated 2,000 casualties and the Chinese 3,300.
  Chinese Expeditionary Troops accompanied by American liaison officers under Col. John Stodter, are mopping up Jap rear pockets of resistance. With Chinese First Army forces approaching Wanting from Burma, there appeared very little hope for Jap escape.
  Elsewhere, Sultan's 50th Chinese Division is engaged in patrol activity south of Tonkwa, and the British 36th Division under his command, moving down the right flank of the front, is encountering stern opposition north of Twinnge, 50 air miles south of Tigyiang, occupied four weeks ago.
  In the Arakan, the British made their third amphibious assault on Burma's west coast. Troops of the 15th Indian Corps landed on the Jap-occupied island of Ramree, receiving complete air cover for the invasion, after previous sea and air bombardment. The assault moves the British 60 miles from Akyab and poses a threat to Southern Burma. Complete occupation of Ramree will give the British a base for operations against the strong coastal base of Taungup, 20 miles away.
  On the Myebon Peninsula, the British captured a hill feature, made advances north of Kantha.
  In the Kaladan Valley, African troops advanced in the hills east of Teinnyo.
  In Chungking, Maj. Gen. Robert McClure, Chief of Staff, China Theater, declared that American raids along the China coast had definitely upset the Japs, although they had not nullified the loss of U.S. bases in South China.
  Late communiqués tell of twin Jap offensives aimed to widen the protective ring around Hong Kong and to close the Chinese-held gap in the Canton-Hankow Railway. Initial Jap successes were reported.
  China-based B-29's of Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay's 20th Bomber Command again hit Formosa, obtaining good results.


  INDIA - The Roundup this week is in receipt of a letter from one who signs himself a member of the Chinese Army in India. He wrote the following on naming the overland supply route to China "Stilwell Road." "The naming of Stilwell Road is welcomed here by all members of the Chinese Army in India. They would have all voted for this name had it been submitted to a plebiscite."

    Lt. Gen. Dan I. Sultan has issued the following statement to his men in the India-Burma Theater following the successful opening of the supply route to China:
    "When the first convoy over the Ledo-Burma route entered China a great goal was achieved. Every unit in the India-Burma Theater, Ground Forces, Air Forces and Service Forces, American, Chinese, British, India and Kachin troops, has made its contribution to that achievement. Your magnificent work has been hailed by all the United Nations and will long be remembered."


    BHAMO - (Delayed) - We in the first India-to-China convoy couldn't see much of Bhamo, as it was already dark when we moved in. It was our first complete field bivouac and the entire personnel stayed in for the night.
    The jungle hammocks were slung between two rows of vehicles, then everybody settled down in front of his little gasoline stove, trying to transform his K-rations into a warm evening meal. The Chinese were fed by a regular field kitchen, the piece de resistance, of course, being rice.
    The convoy's defense unit, an elite of Ramgarh-trained Chinese soldiers, had its roll call, then one by one the men crept into their sacks.
    But some stayed up late. Americans and a few Chinese officers who knew English gathered around the communications car and listened to the news of Josef Stalin's march upon Berlin. The convoy's two press censors offered their services to the correspondents for the entire night, but I think only Til Durdin, of the New York Times, filed copy about a roadblock Mars Task Force had established on the Japanese escape route to Lashio. News about the convoy was taboo until we reached the China border.
    As I lay in my hammock, I could listen to the conversations of the stay-up-lates. Every word, even when softly spoken, was clearly heard in the silence of the night.
    S/Sgt. Robert B. Goodman, the driver of the lead truck and acting first sergeant of the convoy personnel, seemed very proud to drive the first 6x6 into China. "It's quite an honor, I guess," I heard him say.
    Two colored drivers were discussing a guy who offered them 1,000 Rupees if he could drive to China instead. The colored corporal who drove the jeep in which I was traveling was going to write his old farmer father a diary of the trip if censorship permits.
    And so the men talked about small things and big things until there was silence all about.


  CHINA - As the first convoy to China proceeded along the Ledo Road 15 minute breaks would be taken.
  In these intermissions, enlisted men artists would jump out of their cars with pen and pencils to sketch the G.I.'s and the surrounding scenes.
  They were T/Sgt. James Zornes, well-known painter, Cpl. Ted Sally, Los Angeles cartoonist and Cpl. Sydney Kotler, commercial artist in New York. Sally did the personalities, Kotler the scenery, Zornes both. The output of the three will be sent to the States for distribution among newspapers.

Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, who led the first China convoy, speaks at the ceremonies which marked the arrival of the convoy at Kunming. His speech was translated by Col. Yee Fu-de, public relations officer of the Chinese First Army (right).

A newly-constructed Bailey Bridge - latest in military stream crossing equipment - replaces a temporary wooden structure over a stream on the Ledo Road in Burma.

  ALONG THE LEDO ROAD - The Ledo Road is as American as a hot dog with mustard or a stolen kiss at the Junior Prom.
  I have just completed a trip up the Road, from its terminus at the tiny, dingy bazaar of Ledo, Assam,
far into the matted jungles of Burma where powerful bulldozers operated by sweating, swearing Americans, colored and white, are blasting the highway on through the wilderness toward China.
  The Road is a single, minute thread of modern America almost lost in the vast green tapestry of a dim, primordial world which, for countless centuries, has afforded the elephant and tiger and devil-tormented aborigine a refuge from the encroaching tides of civilization.
  But, despite the dank, dense vegetation of the jungle, the steep, uncharted mountains and low, steaming swamplands - despite month-long monsoon downpours, mud and disease - the American soldier has transplanted the spirit of his homeland in this remote corner of the world.
  When I made my first trip up the Ledo Road months ago, it was little more than a rough combat trace. Its course through the precipitous Patkai Mountains of Burma was highlighted by hundreds of breath-taking hairpin curves and narrow, wooden bridges over turbulent mountain streams.
  But today great changes are evident. The Ledo Road, day by day, is becoming a modern American highway. New fills and cuts are being made, shortening the road and eliminating the bad curves. Rock crushers operate day and night as maintenance crews surface the Road with layer after layer of crushed rock taken from mountain streambeds by dredges and draglines.
  Sheer walls of earth which tower ominously above the road in many places, constituting an ever-present threat of landslide-created road blocks, are being dynamited back from the roadway and thousands of tons of mountainside are being hauled away by long queues of dump trucks and squat carry-alls.
  Temporary wooden bridges have been replaced practically 100 percent by steel structures. Recently, installation of Bailey Bridges - the latest design in military stream-crossing equipment - has been instituted.
  In the Upper Hukawng and Mogaung Valleys I discovered that during the past monsoon - the heaviest in recent years - Services of Supply troops had accomplished the impossible in the movement of heavy equipment into the forward areas of the Road.
  Here they assembled vast backlogs of bulldozers, road graders, carry-alls, steam shovels, steam rollers, mobile machine shops, generators, pontoon equipment, steel bridge sections, rock crushers, culvert and all the other myriad pieces of equipment which would be needed to push the Ledo Road on south into Burma and across to China with the advent of the dry season.
  The fact that all this gargantuan engineering equipment had been brought over slender, and sometimes primitive, supply lines 14,000 miles from Engineer Depots in the United States was amazing. But even more unbelievable was the fact that American soldiers, working night and day during the torrential rains and battling mud and jungle disease, had assembled this vital equipment at the point of the Road, where it would be ready for instant use when the rains ended. The job these unknown and unsung heroes accomplished has easily knocked several months off the time required for the final link-up of the Ledo and Burma Roads.
  Today, American Engineers, working side by side with Chinese engineers, are pushing the Ledo Road through a swampy section of North Burma. It is a tough job. Topographical profiles have to be worked out painstakingly, for drainage is the big problem in this area. The roadbed is being built high, and culverts installed at regular intervals to carry off excessive floodwater during the monsoon season.
A G.I. operates a huge crane in swinging a span of steel bridge across a jungle stream.

  Up ahead of the bulldozers and road graders are the demolition crews - veteran Negro Engineers who handle the "hot stuff" with incredible non-chalance. These men are blasting a path through the jungle for the heavy equipment, following a course determined by survey parties which work still farther ahead.
  And, skirting the trace, Chinese engineers have constructed a corduroy road, built of timbers which have been hewn by hand. This wooden road makes it possible for trucks to carry supplies and equipment into the jungle to the men who are working far ahead of the passable portion of the new roadbed.
  Up forward on the trace, I found a crew of Chinese and American Engineers laying two sections of 36-inch culvert. I stopped and talked with Maj. E. M. Johnson, of Pueblo, Colo., who is working out of Road Headquarters. When I asked him how the Chinese were doing, he replied:
  "They're hot. They've got lots of the old American urge to break production records. Yesterday this same gang installed a section of 72-inch culvert in 10 hours - a job which normally requires at least two days."
  Nearby, a stocky Chinese wrestled a heavy section of culvert into place, wiped the perspiration from his face and grinned the inevitable, "Ding-how, Joe."
  M/Sgt. A. O. Anderson, of Chicago, and T/5 John J. Tanchyn, of Scranton, Pa., who were supervising the laying of the culvert, said that the Chinese were excellent workers whenever Americans took the time to explain the details of a job.
  Predominant as the spirit of America is in the engineering feats being accomplished in the jungles of Burma, it is even more apparent in the men who are working on the Road.
  I stopped for dinner at an evacuation hospital tucked away among a grove of hollong trees at the foot of the purple Patkai Mountains. After dining on Spanish omelets a la powdered eggs, I lingered long enough to watch a few innings of a ball game being played on a diamond which the hospital personnel had cleared and leveled from virgin jungle territory. A rabid crowd of fans, including numerous Chinese patients, hurled insults at the umpire in the best approved Flatbush fashion.
  Everywhere along the Road, the G.I.'s had provided for athletic activity. Basketball and volleyball courts were the most numerous. At one place, a lusty gang of American soldiers was indulging in a fast game of volleyball on a court built between two tents on a wind-swept knoll overlooking a deep gorge. At a camp which some weary Engineer, with the typical G.I.'s grim sense of humor, had dubbed "Camp Neverest," two men were playing horseshoes beside the Road while several kibitzers sprawled on the ground nearby.
  At Shingbwiyang, on the edge of the Hukawng Valley, I went to the Metz Theater - named after a soldier who was killed by a Jap land mine when the fighting was raging near this Northern Burma outpost last January.
  Five American girls were putting on a USO show for the troops. The natural amphitheater in which the movie is located was crowded to overflowing. And, when the girls staged a jitterbug contest on the stage with contestants selected from the audience, the crowd picked a small, nimble chap with a conspicuous bald pate, as the winner. His award was a kiss - not one of those casual pecks on the cheek, but a long, lusty bit of osculation. The crowd roared its approval.
  Pfc. Henry M. Jakob, working as a cook at officers' mess in Shingbwiyang, typifies the versatility of the American soldier. He arrived in Ledo with a Quartermaster outfit 22 months ago and was put into a newly-formed air-dropping unit. He completed 250 combat flying hours in the early days when air-dropping was a grim business, and for that service he was awarded the Air Medal.
  Leaving air-dropping, he served as an MP, then volunteered for a special experiment which resulted in the Soldiers Medal. Later, he served as a truck driver on the Ledo Road.

The old and new.  Elephants carrying G.I.'s on a timber cruise pause beside a bulldozer that is carving a new roadbed for the Ledo Road in the jungles of Burma.

  Life for the G.I. pushing the point through the jungles of Burma is a transient affair. The men set up camp, work for a few days in one area, then break camp - usually at night after finishing work - and move forward again. This goes on, week after week, during the dry season when the Road moves forward approximately two miles a day.
  But still the men manage to maintain a vestige of the niceties of the civilization they have left behind. One outfit has made has made portable wooden bunks with rubber springs fashioned from worn-out inner tubes. Another has a portable washing machine. In one camp, near the point of the Road, I saw a sign reading "Joe's Tonsorial Palace." Inside the tent, I found a barber's chair made from a heterogeneous collection of odds and ends. The outfit had carried the chair from one camp to another for over a year.
  Another unit has a portable kitchen, mounted on a 6x6 truck, enabling the men to have warm meals even when the outfit is on the move. And one enterprising G.I. has set up a dice table in his quarters, supplemented by an antiquated slot machine which can be played with one-quarter rupee coins. At present, the dice table is gathering cobwebs, for "the house" was taken for 4,800 rupees one night in a big game which has become legendary up and down the Ledo Road.
  And thirsty G.I.'s with parched palates have devised sundry ingenious stills which turn out such potent juices as "raisin jack" and "cherry squeezins."
  As one G.I. remarked, as we watched a coolie leaning on a shovel beside the Road humming his Indian version of Pistol Packin' Mama which some American soldier had taught him:
  "People back home worry about us G.I.'s in the jungle going native. Hell, it's just the opposite. The natives are going American!"

Convoy  Reaches  Jump  Off  Point

  MYITKYINA - With the initial lap of their history-making trip under their belts, the G.I. and Chinese drivers of the first convoy over the Ledo Road to China are bivouacked outside this North Burma town, awaiting the "go ahead" signal to continue the grueling haul to Kunming which lies before them.
  The convoy, which pulled into Myitkyina late this afternoon, three days after leaving the railhead bazaar of Ledo, Assam, is being held here pending classification of the route to be taken to China's border and the Burma Road.
  At a press conference, Lt. Gen. Dan I. Sultan, India-Burma Theater Commander, and Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, Commanding General of the Ledo Road project, revealed that opening of the road is dependent upon the "eradication" of a Jap suicide force which holds a stretch of roadway between Namhkam and Wanting on the Burma Road.
  In discussing the Ledo Road, Sultan said, "Insofar as engineering construction is concerned, there is a physical road to China. In other words, the construction of the Ledo Road, insofar as the movement of limited convoys to China is concerned, is possible. The fly in the ointment is that the Jap still holds a section from Namhkam to Wanting. As soon as they are ejected from that area, convoys can begin moving."
  Although he would not venture an estimate of how long it would take to clear that last barrier between a land linkup with China, Sultan declared that the First Chinese Army "has now captured Namhkam," and that the Chinese Expeditionary Force is "fighting for Wanting."
  However, should the Tengchung track (emergency road), which Chinese Engineers have been cutting across the backbone of the Himalayas (southeast of Myitkyina) be completed before the Namhkam-Wanting sector of the Ledo Road is cleared for traffic, the convoy will proceed into China over that route, it was also disclosed.
  If the Tengchung cutoff is used, the makeup of the convoy, which now includes jeeps, weapons carriers, ambulances, cargo trucks and artillery - all ticketed for delivery to the Chinese in Kunming - probably will be limited to vehicles which can negotiate the steep grades and sharp curves of the road.
  It was emphasized that although the convoy will take the first route which is open into China, the Bhamo-Namhkam-Wanting linkup with the Burma Road will ultimately comprise the permanent supply artery for the shipment of heavy equipment to China.
  So far, there has been a singular air of destiny about the convoy. It has a contagious spirit which causes G.I.'s working along the Road to stop and watch with quiet eyes as the trucks file past. If the men along the Road sense the culmination of the job well done, and even if they are not riding along, they are proud of the part they played in making the convoy possible. The Negro G.I.'s who had such a large part in the building of the road, will have representatives in the trip to China, Sultan said.
  Engineers, truck drivers, wire stringers, G.I.'s who have been tied to desk jobs in the rear echelon - all have played a part in finishing the job which once was branded "Impossible." The early days of the Ledo Road were gloomy. Equipment and personnel were painfully inadequate. native laborers were imported in large numbers, but they were unsatisfactory. Most of the men were untrained and the term of their contract ran for only three to six months, at the end of which time they had to be replaced by new, inexperienced men.
  Then came the first monsoon. men at this point underwent untold hardships. They were wet all the time. They slept in waterlogged tents, bamboo lean-to's and moldy jungle hammocks. The soggy jungles were infested with long, purplish leeches, the bites of which festered. 'Dozers were lost over steep banks when the rain saturated the trace, causing the shelves to collapse. 'Dozers were buried in slides and stalled in seemingly bottomless mud.
  When Pick assumed command of the Road, it seemed hopelessly stalled in a maze of densely-jungled, precipitous mountains. Eighty percent of the Engineers at the point were hospitalized with malaria. Crews were working but one eight hour shift a day.
  Pick called a staff meeting his first night in Ledo. "I've heard the same story all the way from the States," he told his staff, "It's always the same. The Ledo Road can't be built. Too much rain, too much mud, too much malaria. From now on we are forgetting this defeatist spirit. The Ledo Road is going to be built. Mud, rain and malaria be damned."


GEN. SULTAN'S HQ., NORTH BURMA - Asked at a press conference what would be the name of the new supply route to China, Lt. Gen. Dan I. Sultan, Commanding General of the India-Burma Theater, replied:
  "It is now generally called the Ledo-Burma Road. But there is little doubt that far more appropriately it could be named after the man whose almost single-handed pertinacity is responsible for this spectacular achievement. If history, in an off guard moment, should decide to do justice to one individual this overland lifeline to China should be known as "Stilwell Road."

  And the Road was built. During the past 15 months, it has been pushed from Pangsau Pass at the Burma border to the China border, and a juncture with the Burma Road.
  The price of the Ledo Road has not been cheap. Great amounts of equipment and manpower have gone into its construction. From a purely profit and loss point of view, the Road will never be a paying proposition. But wars aren't fought and won on a dollar return basis.
  The Ledo Road has justified itself in the part it played in shattering the Jap hold on North Burma and since its inception the Road has been closely related to the tactical strategy of this Theater. gen. Joseph W. Stilwell wanted a road built across the Pataki's and into Burma's Hukawng Valley by Jan. 1, 1944. The Road was through four days ahead of schedule and a convoy of 55 trucks, carrying Chinese troops and equipment, followed the lead bulldozer down from the hills into Shingbwiyang.
  In the Hukawng and Mogaung Valley campaigns, combat roads were cut by Engineers operating armor-plated equipment. Troops and supplies moved on south into Burma through the jungle to the battlefields at Ningam Sakan, Taipha Ga, Maingkwan, Walawbum, Tingwaukm Sakan, Jambu Bum Pass, Shadazup and Warazup.
  Aside from the part the Road has played in Allied successes on the battlefields of Burma, it has provided a route for heavy equipment and armament into Burma and China, which could never have been shipped by cargo plane.
  Over-emphasis of the importance of tonnage figures has served to create the erroneous impression that the remarkable figure being set over The Hump by air freightage nullifies the value of, and need for the Road.
  Conversely, the Ledo Road, now that it has joined with the Burma Road, will serve as a compliment to The Hump freight run. For, while the emphasis in air shipments is on equipment and supplies which are not too bulky, traffic over the Ledo Road into China for perhaps the next year will be concentrated on the delivery of all type of vehicles, equipment and armament to the Chinese armies.
  The peak of convoy traffic over the old Burma Road from Rangoon reached an estimated tonnage figure of 19,000 tons a month, much of which was contraband. How the tonnage figures of the Ledo Road shipments into China will compare with that figure is problematical.
  Although Sultan declared that this "token convoy" to the Chinese will be followed by many more, he pointed out that future trucking operations are dependent as to their scope on the War Department allotment of stock and personnel to maintain the vehicles.
  But all of that belongs to tomorrow's headaches. Today is not the time for worry. American industry and determination built the Ledo Road. American industry and determination will get the freight over the Road. And the G.I. drivers who are sleeping in jungle hammocks by their trucks tonight are the trailblazers of the new Ledo Lifeline to China.

Two trucks roar along one of the winding sections of the supply artery to China, soon to be opened.

  MYITKYINA - The Brahmaputra Valley was in excellent form. The sun was high, the air was clear, and Ledo of Assam was as busy as usual. Still, the G.I. hotspot teemed with activity. Suddenly, traffic moving to Mile Point 0.00 had to stop. Few, very few, knew what was going on, as the first convoy to China moved out.
  The press, radio and newsreel were waiting for the convoy at Myitkyina, 262 miles away. Thus,
the ceremony at Mile Point 0.00 was strictly a military, family affair. Soldier correspondents and G.I. movie cameramen recorded the move out. The spectators, too, were exclusively soldiers who just happened to be about.
  At 1 p.m. the waiting convoy flanked the road below Mile Point 0.00 like an endless arrow. The drivers stood at attention by their vehicles, snapped to salute as the three-starred jeep of the Theater Commander drove by. General Dan's jeep stopped in front of the leading truck. There, with a broad smile on his pleasant face, Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, Commanding General of the Ledo Road project, welcomed General Dan.
  "Sir," began Pick, "the Ledo Road life-line to China is open. The first convoy is ready."
  "Congratulations, General Pick," replied the Old Man, "you have done a splendid job. I am confident that this is the first of many convoys to go with this road to our Chinese Allies."
  Handshakes. Salutes.
  "Line'm up, Mullet," called Pick to Col. Dewitt T. Mullet, the convoy commander, who thereupon gave the signal, and the fantastic caravan moved into the Naga Hills.
  Yes, there was something fantastic about this American caravan. Two M.P.'s with white gloves and glaring white helmet liners, never seen in Assam before, raced ahead on motorcycles. The lead truck followed with its special fancily-painted top, which made it look like a streamlined covered wagon. The vehicles carried the flags of America and China, and a big sign on both sides. Its screaming letters called attention to the First Convoy Ledo Road. Pick's Pike - Lifeline to China. In a zipper cover over the cab, a revolving anti-aircraft gun pointed toward the sky. There followed a seemingly endless parade of brand-new 6x6 trucks, weapon carriers, jeeps, ambulances. The larger vehicles were loaded with supplies, many had hooked-on artillery pieces trailing behind. All this, from jeeps to
Lt. Gen. Dan I. Sultan is greeted by Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick at the head of the first convoy to China at Mile Point 0.00.
blankets, will become Chinese property, as soon as the convoy reaches Kunming. A token and herald of more to come. The symbolic gesture of an American and Chinese driver in each vehicle gave the procession a dynamic dignity. The Chinese and the Americans wore their standard uniforms. And somehow they rose to the occasion. They looked very serious and proud. Specially, the Chinese seemed carefully selected. And their was the honor to drive the convoy into Kunming. Now, while the Yanks were driving, they could relax and acknowledge the cheers of the Road.
  The first 30 miles of the Road recalled an American metropolis to me. One is deceived by the huge traffic, the gas stations, toiling Americans, and the multitude of Yank outfits flanking the road: Quartermaster trucking outfits, maintenance units, hospitals and warehouse areas. This animating impression, however, becomes a mirage when instead of the anticipated city, one finds himself trapped in a jungle.
  The reaction of the Road was exciting. A glance at the beflagged special convoy, with M.P.'s racing from one end to the other, made it clear that a three-year-old dream has become a reality. Every onlooker responded in his own way. Some waved, some shouted, many smiled, called Ding How to the Chinese drivers, and some snapped to attention and saluted the fluttering little flags.
  The Negro boys at the roadside made big eyes and did not smile. Their searching gaze swept from car to car, looking for colored men. But they have not been forgotten. These matchless drivers, in whose strong hands the deadliest curve becomes a toy, have been selected to join the enlarged convoy when it will pull out from Myitkyina. They will help to master the steep mountain passes of China, some almost 10,000 feet high.
  The amazement of The Road was truly international. Indian pioneer troops who gravel The Road and dig drainage ditches cheered, so did the Chinese engineers who work on The Road. The colorful Naga Hillmen who helped to clear, with their bare hands, the former mule trail which now is the Ledo Road, and the friendly Kachins who walked the military highway barefooted in pursuit of their little affairs, just stopped, made big eyes, seemed not to know what the excitement was all about.
  The picture of The Road itself, of course, lives already in all our minds, whether we have actually seen it or not. But let us pause at its highlights as the convoy passes by.
  Between the 13th and 14th-mile point, we climb on hairpin curves to 4,230 feet, arrived at the famous Pangsau Pass: the Burma border. A little less than two years ago, the first American lead bulldozer crossed this lofty border into Burma. That evening a formal retreat with flags and bugles was held by the officers and enlisted men of the Engineering units attached at the point.
  It's so drippy to enthuse about scenic views, but a gaze from this border pass reveals the most impressive picture you can see in Burma. The convoy stops for a short while in the pass, on the edge of a tremendous abyss. In the far distance, you can see isolated peaks of the Himalayas climbing in stair steps into the sky. beneath the white peaks,
A Negro G.I. - one of the many whose heroic, unheralded efforts made The Road possible.
a huge mountain range swims in indigo. Beneath that, in catalytic depth, stretches the jungle. And down in the green depth, the Ledo Road is climbing on pinpoint curves towards the pass. It is strange to realize that we were down there about a half hour ago. But in the same gaze we have the proof, for on The Road still thousands of feet below us the rest of the convoy is moving upwards. Thus, in this singular gaze from Pangsau Pass, you see the magnitude of an American-made miracle, which General Pick, its architect, so aptly described as "beyond doubt the most difficult road project the American Army has undertaken in war time."
  After sunset, the mountain air became crisp and cold. Like an endless cog-wheel, the convoy negotiated peak after peak, climbed and descended, mastered curves whose boldness made anything we had seen of curves in the movies little and trivial. Flaming buckets of oil on the roadside lit up the dangerous parts of the highway, made the cliffs glow. These were the very buckets General Pick inaugurated when inadequate illumination made a round-the-clock working schedule impossible. Sometime, we seemed to see village lights flicker in the dark. But there were no villages. It was again the trailing half of the convoy.
  Many of the drivers had never been so far on The Road. They could scarcely believe that riding a supply convoy through this often-cursed, once Godforsaken landscape could be so exhilarating. Others, however, have seen this miracle in its making. And they remembered. They remembered the time when the highway was a mere mule trail. They remembered the Ledo Road Engineers who slept in the water-logged tents in a steaming jungle. But the highway had not only to be built, it had to be wrenched inch by inch from the Jap. And we thought of the departed General Stilwell who made it possible. He was with us all along the journey. His conquest of The Road began right here, a few miles beyond Pangsau Pass, for only 42 miles of road construction was achieved over friendly terrain. From here on, all the way to Mong Yu, where the Ledo Road meets the Burma Road, the Engineers were subjected to Jap ambushes, land mines, bombing, strafing and sniping. But Stilwell knew how to tackle the Jap, he cut into his rear, and threw road blocks across his retreat. On the heels of the fighters, often alongside, came General Pick's trail blazers, Engineer recce-parties hacking a trace with axes across jungle.
  The convoy passed landmark after landmark. Later, we had supper on The Road's highest point: The 5,000-foot high Gap. The Jap advanced to the Gap with all the elephants he could get hold of in Burma. But he chose to withdraw to his supply base at Shingbwiyang, when his native porters and elephant contractors deserted him under cover of night. We were racing now down the same steep path of his retreat. It was an exciting descent of several thousand feet over a stretch of only 15 miles.
  At Shingbwiyang, in the Hukawng Valley, the convoy had its first overnight bivouac, and the drivers used, for the first time, their jungle hammocks. Next morning, colored boys served hot coffee in a 24-hour transit mess.
Trucks of the convoy pass Hellgate and start up the grade to Pangsau Pass. There are seven and one half miles of steep grades and sharp curves to the summit of incredibly beautiful Pangsau Pass, which is the India-Burma border.

  From Shingbwiyang, the country was more or less flat, the highway wide, the evergreen trees in the forest very tall and very large. But again this pretty forest has the bad habit to turn into a hell of a swamp during the monsoon. The many rivers which cross the Ledo Road were formidable barriers to Pick's Engineers at monsoon time. In addition to 10 major rivers, over 150 streams had to be bridged before truck traffic could reach the Burma Road. Every three miles, our convoy passed over one of these bridges as if they had been there since the time of peace.
  The convoy passed over the sites of many jungle battles, now service stations of The Road. You may remember the names: Tingkawk Sakan, Jambu Bum Pass, Shadazup and Warazup. Burned-out tanks still lay on the roadside and in the riverbeds.
  At Warazup, in the Mogaung Valley, we bivouacked for the second time. Next morning, heavy fog blanketed the valley, and The Road. Heavy dust caked on the lamps and windshields. At mid-morning, the sun came out and with it many little liaison planes from which Signal Corps cameramen photographed the cavalcade. These little Cub planes, by the way, did a great job during the campaigns of the Ledo Road. They evacuated the casualties and helped direct artillery fire.
  At General Pick's triangle, some 10 miles from Myitkyina, where the Ledo Road turns to Bhamo, the convoy's path was blocked by correspondents from the two interested Theaters. The G.I. and Chinese drivers smiles into the cameras and everybody was happy. Perhaps happiest of all was the magic master of the Ledo Road: General Pick. His face beamed all over. A Chinese guard of honor waited for him with fixed bayonet. With his famous pilgrim stick, the General walked to a little hill in the center of the road junction and pointed towards China. We rolled into Myitkyina, moved into a special bivouac area in the center of the town. The drivers washed up, dined and went to see Hedy Lamarr.


  ON THE LEDO ROAD - Shadowed by the dust of the Ledo Road and hidden away in the Burma jungles lies a tract of land that not long ago was occupied by the Japs but now bears the title of "Little Peoria."
  The reason for the appellation is a sound one - for here live 145 officers and men, all from Peoria, Ill., who walked out of the Peoria Caterpillar Tractor Co. plant en masse on Oct. 1, 1942, to enlist in the U.S. Army Engineers.
  Every building on the grounds and every tent is named after some well-known Peoria tavern, business house or public building. The C.O., Capt. Jean Walker, occupies a tent labeled "The Chamber of Commerce"; the first gadget, Clyde Chenowieh, lives in "Buehler's Old People's Home"; the latrine is "The Snakehouse"; headquarters "The Courthouse"; the supply room is "The B & M Dry Goods"; and the day room is "The Peoria Journal-Transcript." All the streets of the tent city are named after Peoria thoroughfares.
  Everything runs smoothly in the camp, with none of the "home State" arguments which sometimes plague the peace of other establishments. The G.I.'s only have two problems now - how to get a company of Peoria WACs assigned to the neighborhood, and what steps to take to get a Peoria distillery transplanted into the heart of the jungle.


  KUNMING, CHINA - Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick delivered the first convoy over the Ledo-Burma Roads, now known as Stilwell Highway, to the Chinese in Kunming this week, 23 days after leaving Ledo.
    The tall, gray-haired builder of the Ledo Road personally led the convoy over the 1,050-mile route, a large portion of which fringed Jap held territory, without losing a piece of equipment. The General was the hero of the day in Kunming as he led his convoy through the West Gate in the city at noon today. All Kunming turned out for this historic occasion, A solid wall of humanity lined The Road from the West Gate four miles into the city proper, on through the city to SOS Headquarters, at the far side of the city, where the convoy was turned over to the Chinese.
    The ride from the West gate, after Gen. Lung Yun, Governor of Yunnan Province and official representative for Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, cut the ribbon officially opening the Stilwell Highway, was an experience no one on the convoy will ever forget.
    The crowds were alive with color. Chinese, American, British and Russian flags fluttered on all sides. School children proudly waved vari-colored paper flags bearing Chinese inscriptions. And each of the convoy vehicles was decorated with Chinese and American flags and red, white and blue ribbons.
    The cool air of this 7,000-foot plateau was filled with the colored banners. Occasionally, Roman candles skyrocketed in the heavens. The smoke of burnt powder stung our eyes.
    It was a polyglot crowd. Painted prostitutes jostled with merchants dressed in conservative American business suits. Coolies in rags crowded the curbs. Proud mothers and father held up tiny children above the crowd to see the convoy. Chinese boy and girl scouts, dressed in near blue uniforms, waved banners. Chinese women in fashionable fur coats and Western dresses mingled with women dressed in long, shapeless garments slit on the sides to their knees.
    In the city, people clung to balconies and leaned out of windows. Flower peddlers swung their colorful wares high above the heads of onlookers. Rickshaw men stood by their rickety carts on the side streets and looked on with wondering eyes. And all along the way the crowd grinned and chanted "ding how" as each vehicle passed slowly by down the stone streets.
    Along the way but one person was seen oblivious to the occasion. A coolie woman in patched blue trousers and jacket was washing clothes in the canal which skirts the road on its way into the heart of the city. The firecrackers, the cheering, the blaze of color didn't disturb her for a moment as she industriously scrubbed her laundry in the murky waters of the canal.
    Even the people in the riverboats which ply the canal had pulled their craft to shore and were joining in the festivities.
    American drivers, colored and white, and Chinese drivers pushed the convoy carefully through the narrow lane of humanity which was held back by Chinese police of Kunming in gray uniforms and Chinese soldiers with long rifles and gleaming bayonets.
    An official ceremony at the West Gate preceded the parade through Kunming. And, before the ceremony began, Lily Pons, American opera star and her husband, Andre Kostelanetz, famous composer, both of whom are touring Army installations in China, Burma and India, were introduced to Pick.


    Lung, the governor, speaking at the ceremony, told the crowd, "This is a happy occasion for China. The arrival of this first convoy marks the opening of this great new highway, just named the Stilwell Highway."
    Pick, in turning the convoy over to the Chinese, declared, "One hundred yards away is the first convoy to penetrate the blockade of China in nearly three years. When the ribbon is cut China again will be linked with her allies by land communications.
    "They said that the job of building this Road could not be done. But thousands of American Engineers, Chinese Engineers, and soldiers proved that it could. There stands the proof.
    "You have arranged today's celebration in honor of personnel of the convoy. But the celebration should honor other men. It should be in honor of the soldiers and engineers buried in the jungles of Assam and Burma. It should be in honor of the Engineers who toiled and bled and fought to carve The Road through jungles and swamps - across mountains to the Burma Road.
    "In opening this road we have to pay tribute to the man who had the vision to undertake its construction - General Joseph W. Stilwell.
    "The building and opening of the Ledo Road to connect with the Burma Road fulfills another part of the pledge President Roosevelt made to Chiang Kai-shek to provide aid to China.
    "It has been my privilege to command the troops that built the Ledo Road. Day and night they toiled through rain and mud, harassed by the pests of a tropical jungle, to carve this road through the Patkai mountains, past Chingto and the Chin Hills, across the Hukawng and Mogaung Valleys, over the Irrawaddy River past Bhamo to the Burma Road.
    "The Ledo Road is the most important road in the world today. But there is an even more important road to be built. That is the road leading from the Ledo and Burma Roads to Japan proper. But before that can be built, supplies must be moved into China. Soldiers and construction men must have the equipment to push on. This convoy is but the first of the equipment to come over this road to prosecute the war against our common enemy, Japan."
    Maj. Gen. Gilbert X. Cheeves, Commanding General of SOS in the China Theater, congratulated Pick and all of the men of the first overland convoy from India to China. He told the assembly that The Road is the result of many years work and reminded everyone that The Road is primarily a military highway.
    In the closing ceremony, Lung presented a silk banner to Pick. The banner was inscribed with Chinese characters, "Sung Li Che Lou." Translated this means "The Road to Victory."
    The hardships of the past week are imprinted upon the faces of the men of the convoy today. The highest, longest mountain supply line in the world has been crossed; but the Himalayas have left their mark in wind-burned faces, lips and hands, cracked and bleeding from the cold, eyes weary and bloodshot from long hours on The Road.
    People of the villages and towns greeted the convoy with gay displays of centuries-old pageantry. At the walled city of Paoshan thousands of persons lined the narrow stone streets, cheering, waving flags and banners, and firing long strings of firecrackers as we passed.
    But despite the Paoshan welcome, the convoy was a serious business. On the morning of the second day out from Wanting the convoy was halted by an air raid alert at the bottom of the Salween Gorge, before crossing the long suspension bridge over the turbulent river.
    It was a grim moment. Thirty-one Jap planes were reported in the vicinity. We were hemmed in by steep mountains on one side and the Salween River on the other - easy targets for strafing and bombing attacks. Gunners manned anti-aircraft machine guns mounted on the cabs of the trucks. The rest of the convoy personnel sought shelter on the rocky mountainside. But the alert proved to be false.
    The walled city of Lungling was a blackened ruin. But its people had returned and were starting anew in its rubble. Sungshan Mountain was a battered monument overlooking the Burma Road.
    The vehicles passed through many other ancient villages and towns. Yungping, Sichow, Siakwan, on the hillsides above Erhhai lake. Siakwan is a wind swept town at the foot of a snow-capped peak 13,000 feet high. The commercial center of Western Yunnan Province, it is the intersection of the Burma Road with caravan trails used by tea traders from Shunning to the south and Tibetan traders from the north.
    Later the convoy passed through the open village of Yunnanyi and made its way slowly up Tienatze Miao Po (Temple of the Son of Heaven Mountain) to the highest point on the Burma Road, 9,200 feet elevation.
    And, as the convoy neared its destination, it passed Hsachiao, Chennan and Tsuyung, an ancient Chinese walled city.
    Stilwell's dream has come true and The Road named after him is now open from Ledo to Kunming.

Miffed by the San Francisco Chronicle's weird article that Ledo Road Engineers erected interesting road signs in Italy, of all places, the hairy ears sent along the above photograph to prove that their handiwork was fashioned along "Pick's Pike." (The sign reads: Speeder's Beware!  Mark my words,  Wait and see,  You'll get caught,  Just like me!  25 MPH.)

    Forty-odd war correspondents and photographers - American, Chinese, English, Australian and Indian - besieged the Public Relations Officers of the I-B Theater for background information and release dates. Many distinguished correspondents who usually did not make Myitkyina their headquarters flew in for the occasion. You saw Til Durdin of the New York Times, Teddy White of Time and Life, Al Ravenholt of United Press, Jim Brown of INS and the young Australian writer, George Johnston - just to name a few.
    And there were the soldier-correspondents, three different radio teams, Signal Corps photographers, War Department cameramen, official British and Chinese newsreelers and the representatives of the Office of War Information and the State Department.
    The coming event was the climax of our activities in this part of the world. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell's bold dream, carried out by Lt. Gen. Dan I. Sultan, was soon to be attained. A land route from India to China was waiting for the first convoy.
    The great event was celebrated by G.I.'s and generals alike. "The Canteen Caravan" of a Special Service company, gave a special jazz show in the convoy bivouac for the drivers.
    The correspondents gave a Chinese dinner for the Public Relations people, and all were entertained by the Gens. Sultan, Howard C. Davidson and Lewis A. Pick on three different occasions.
    All this happened during perpetual tension. The war at large was forgotten. Everybody waited anxiously for news from the front, which in this case was the Burma Road itself. Came the news of the fall of Namkham. At last Wanting fell. But The Road still had to be cleared of snipers.
    When will the convoy roll - this was the eternal question. The harassed acting Public Relations officer of the India- Burma Theater, Lt. Col. Don C. Thompson, a gentleman from Harvard who was tired of the correspondents heckling, wrote a release in the manner of Gertrude Stein. It read, in part: "What are mountains? Mountains. What is mud? Mud. What are mountains and mud? A convoy is a convoy is a convoy is a pain in the neck."
    At last, the convoy left Myitkyina the 23rd of January, a foggy Tuesday morning.

War Department Statistics Show Ledo Road Toughest Job

    WASHINGTON (ANS) - The War Department this week backed up with statistics the proud boasts of G.I.'s who built the Ledo Road that theirs was "the toughest road construction job ever undertaken."
    In an official release the following facts about The Road were disclosed: The 478-mile highway was built at a rate of about one mile per day through some of the worst jungle in the world and over 4,000-foot mountain passes. During one seven-month period, 175 inches of rain fell to hamper the work. By comparison, eastern States of the U.S. average less than 45 inches per year.
    Approximately 70 acres of airstrips were built at points near the Ledo Road. The Road's builders moved a total of 13,500,000 cubic yards of earth. It would take a string of railroad cars 470 miles long to transport the 1,303,000 cubic yards of gravel spread on The Road. To top it off, there's an average of one bridge to every three miles of The Road. So, take a well-deserved bow boys.


  WASHINGTON (UP) - An estimated 15,000 American-made trucks will rush enlarged supplies of food and war material to China over the new Stilwell Road, announced Foreign Economic Administrator Leo T. Crowley this week.
    He visualized a centralized transportation system - the first in China's history - and said American technicians will aid the organization to make "more flexible distribution inside the country."
    Crowley added that the new program also plans completion of a 2,000-mile pipeline from Calcutta into China. He stated that Chinese will also be trained in the U.S. for technical work, with 69 having arrived this month for instruction.
    In addition, several power plants will be sent to China, Crowley promised.

SOS Volunteers May Request Convoy Duty

  Volunteers in Services of Supply, India-Burma Theater, can now apply to their commanding officers for permission to drive convoys to China over the new Stilwell Highway, it was stated this week by Lt. Col. Allen C. Bigelow, chief of the Transportation Section, Transportation Service, SOS.
  Bigelow says SOS needs men to drive the supply convoys to Kunming with the initial deliveries scheduled this month. He urges men desirous of volunteering to see their commanding officers without delay.
  After arrival in Kunming the drivers will be flown back to India-Burma Theater. Volunteers must be experienced drivers of vehicles having a capacity of two and a half tons or more. The selectees will be given a 15-day refresher course and then will be examined by the cadre men of Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick's Motor Transport Service at Advance Section No. 3, SOS, where the convoys are assembled.
  It is planned to send out separate convoys manned chiefly by men and officers from the same organization. Bigelow stated that the men will be under jurisdiction of the India-Burma Services of Supply Forces even when they are in China.

S T I L W E L L    R O A D 

Compiled and adapted from original issues of Roundup

Copyright © 2006 Carl Warren Weidenburner