General Stilwell in Burma
   The war in Burma is different from the war in the rest of the world, both in the way it looks and in the way it is fought. Because the jungle is too thick for large-scale maneuvering, its campaigns move in narrow spearheads up and down the roads. As miles of road are gained, adjacent territory falls automatically. Sometimes raiding parties hook around the main enemy forces on jungle trails to strike a rear blow, but the road is always their prime objective. In some places Allied troops have fought big offensive actions even though they were cut-off from behind. With the Allied air force in command of the air, they could be completely supplied by planes. In fact, even armies with secure ground supply lines have come to depend on planes for their day-to-day needs.

   Late last October Lieut. General Joseph Stilwell's two American-trained Chinese divisions began to move slowly down the road in north Burma's Hukawng River Valley, pushing the Japanese in front of them. In the middle of the valley last month their advance picked up when Brig. General Frank Merrill's American infantry hiked through the jungle from the west to cut off part of the retreating enemy. In the trap between these two forces more than 2,000 Japanese jungle veterans were killed. By the end of March the Chinese had followed the road over a low divide into the valley of the Mogaung River, which flows southward into Burma's great Irrawaddy. If the Allies could keep moving, they would eventually drive across the top of Burma into China itself. Behind their advance, crews of American engineers and Chinese laborers hopefully built the road which would open a new land route to Chungking. As the fighters and road builders moved down the valleys, LIFE's William Vandivert made this record of their stout campaigning.

 Joe Stilwell's War Chinese artillerymen fire American 75-MM howitzer down Hukawng Valley road, probing for retreating Japanese. At left is an American liaison officer.

 Joe Stilwell's War Bulldozer widens narrow road in the Hukawng Valley behind the advancing Chinese. Wrecked trucks at right were abandoned by refugees fleeing Burma in 1942. They have been stripped by Japanese and riddled in passing battles. Note solid mass of bamboo and hardwood beside road.

 Joe Stilwell's War Chinese and pack animals move down hot, dusty road through Maingkwan, largest settlement in the Hukawng Valley. Burmese weather has only three variations: cool and dry, hot and dry, hot and rainy. This is the hot and dry season. The rains come with the monsoon in May.

 Joe Stilwell's War Chinese soldiers rebuild emergency bridge over stream within a long gunshot of front down the valley. Job was completed in three hours start to finish. American engineers and construction gangs building road behind troops sometimes follow primitive Japanese road, sometimes cut off to higher ground. Japanese road is serviceable only in dry weather. When American-Chinese road is finished, it will be open all year round. Part of troops building the bridge remain armed because of danger of sneak flank attack by Japanese or sniping from the jungle.
 Joe Stilwell's War Carrying everything they own on shoulder poles, three Chinese casuals hike through Maingkwan clearing on way to the front. The Chinese are the greatest walking troops in the world. The Chinese 8th Route Army once walked 6,000 miles in 368 days, fighting as it went along.


 Joe Stilwell's War Chinese tank men stand in the hatches of Mickie, American M-5 light tank. Column of these tanks under American Colonel Rothwell Brown had just helped slaughter 2,000 Japanese between Maingkwan and Walawbum. Few of these men have had over two months' training.
 Joe Stilwell's War Using Japanese flag for an apron Chinese artillery man eats his bowl of rice in the jungle. After finishing, he removed flag and cheerfully wiped his mouth with it. Some of Stilwell's Chinese are as young as 14, few are older than 25. Their average weight is about 110 pounds.

 Joe Stilwell's War Dumping packs in neat rows, Chinese infantry column halts at Maingkwan. Field kitchen is set up under corrugated-iron roof of burnt-out building in the background. Before the war Maingkwan had a population of 1,000 natives. The helmets are British, standard issue for Stilwell's Chinese.

 Joe Stilwell's War In a ruined Buddhist temple at Maingkwan, Chinese officers set up light housekeeping. Nearly all Burmese are Buddhists. The hill people are particularly superstitious, frequently drive stakes into the ground for evil spirits, or nats, to sit on. One stake will accommodate 1,000 nats.

 Joe Stilwell's War Roadside barbershop is set up by Chinese artillerymen in cover of jungle thicket. Unfailing good humor of Chinese impressed Stilwell's American officers. Their favorite words are ting hao, which roughly means okay, and fantung, a jibe something like American "gold brick."

 Joe Stilwell's War Captain Huang Cheun-yu, executive officer of artillery battery in the Chinese 22nd division washes feet at a command post between orders to fire. While this picture was being made, Huang's battery of 75-mm howitzers was under fire from Japanese 150-mm guns down road.

 Joe Stilwell's War Watching trail which leads into road, alert Chinese sits behind a British Bren gun. Great danger of fighting is to be cut off by enemy raids which circle main forces on trails. Woods are still full of Japanese who dispersed as Chinese came down road.
 Joe Stilwell's War At observation post along road, Chinese telephone man holds rifle for quick action. In back of him is foxhole, in front, a Japanese helmet. Posts are set up at intervals along the road so that main forces will be ready for any enemy flanking movement.

 Joe Stilwell's War Dropping supplies to troops in forward areas, C-47 dumps part of load without parachutes. Jungle airstrips are marked for identification from the air by parachute-silk numerals.

 Joe Stilwell's War Parachuted supplies are dropped by same plane in second pass at the airstrip. Planes in north Burma are commanded by Colonel Philip Cochran, famed fighter ace. (LIFE Aug, 9, 1943)

 Joe Stilwell's War Parachuted supplies drift to ground. After dropping load to reduce landing speed, plane landed.








 LIFE Magazine - April 17, 1944
Adapted for the internet from the April 17, 1944 issue of  LIFE 
Portions copyright 1944 Time, Inc.

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