Delay in Burma, Disaster in China
WHEN the B-29's launched their offensive against Japan midway in 1944, the military situation along the widely separated fronts of the China-Burma-India theater was anything but hopeful. In April the Japanese had inaugurated a general offensive in northeast China which by summer threatened to overrun all Allied airfields east of Kunming, with most disastrous consequences to the Allied cause in China. In May Stilwell's offensive in Burma had been halted just short of Myitkyina.* Though his combined American and Chinese forces had seized the nearby airfield, the town itself remained under enemy control and was reduced only after a three-month siege. The Burma bulge, which since 1942 had served the enemy's purpose of cutting off ground communications between China and her allies, still remained a bar to all save the most expensive and hazardous of air communications.
It was perhaps inevitable that long-standing conflicts of personality and policy, which had formed so large a part of the previous history of CBI,† should now make difficult united action even in the face of grave emergency. Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, who combined the command of all U.S. forces in CBI with the duties of chief of staff to Chiang Kai-shek in the latter's capacity as the Allied Commander in China,‡ was dedicated to the proposition that China could be saved only by reopening a land route of supply through Burma. Accordingly, since the preceding December when he had taken active command of the Chinese and American forces in their advance southward from Ledo toward Myitkyina, he had been absent both from his head
* See Vol. IV, 498-517.
† See especially Vol. IV, 435-43.
‡ Actually, no such staff was ever established.
quarters at Delhi and from the advanced echelon of that headquarters at Chungking. At heart a field soldier, Stilwell at times seems to have forgotten that his assignment was basically diplomatic and that logistics and actual combat strength largely restricted operations in his theater to very limited air power. For Chiang, Stilwell had developed, as his published papers amply demonstrate,1 an outspoken contempt. Although he had unqualified confidence in the Chinese soldier, if properly trained and equipped, he doubted the willingness of the Chinese government to fight. Stilwell was also suspicious of Chennault, who had the full confidence of Chiang and thereby enjoyed a direct line of communication with the White House.
General Chennault, in turn, had no faith in the Ledo Road as a means of saving China. He long had argued that available resources should be concentrated on the build-up of the Fourteenth Air Force, which, in his view, could strike effectively against the extended enemy positions along the China coast and, at the same time, against Japanese communications in the South China Sea. The rapidly accelerating drives of MacArthur in the southwest Pacific and of Nimitz across the central Pacific lent new support to Chennault's argument, at least to the extent of re-emphasizing the importance of China-based air operations. Moreover, American success in the Pacific strengthened the belief that even the most expeditious completion of the Ledo Road would come too late to assist the Allies in defeating Japan.
By the spring of 1944 it had been determined that Nimitz, following his occupation of the Marianas, would move into the Palaus on or about I 5 September, and that MacArthur, whose New Guinea operations should be completed by the close of July, would land on Mindanao in mid-November with plans either for a jump to Luzon, 15 February 1945, or for support of Nimitz in the occupation of Formosa.* Whether the final decision favored reoccupation of Luzon or the seizure of Formosa, the need for supporting operations over the South China Sea by the Fourteenth Air Force remained unaffected. Likewise, the acceleration of Pacific operations, together with plans for bringing large B-29 forces within effective range of the Japanese islands, promised an earlier and perhaps more direct approach to Japan than at first had been considered feasible. By the summer of 1944, the possibility that China might be wholly bypassed in a direct attack on
Japan itself had been discussed,* but the chance that some lodgment on the China coast might be needed had not been dismissed.
In February 1944 the JCS had outlined a strategy depending upon a sea approach to Japan with China serving chiefly as a supporting air base2 and during March Stratemeyer's staff developed plans to push forward the main weight of AAF forces in CBI for cooperation with Pacific-based moves into Luzon or Formosa. The resulting plan, coded ENTERPRIZE, called for stocking 5,000 tons per month from the Hump airlift through the remainder of 1944 to permit full employment of a force in China which by January 1945 would include thirteen A-26, three P-51, and three P-63 groups.3 It was specifically stated that the project would enjoy priority over the Ledo Road. Lord Mountbatten, who had been instructed to press for an early clearance of upper Burma with a view to strengthening the air support that would be available for the Luzon or Formosa operations early in 19454 believed that even the earliest possible opening of the Ledo Road would come too late to be of assistance to U.S. forces in the Pacific. He agreed, moreover, with the basic principle that all effort should be concentrated on the immediate end of strengthening the air link with China. His Southeast Asia Command, he felt, could best assist the Pacific advance by seizing Rangoon in order to force a Japanese withdrawal from upper Burma.5
Freed from the pressure of an active campaign in upper Burma after reaching Myitkyina, Stilwell sought from Washington on 24 May some clarification of his mission. Complaining that there had been a bewildering succession of plans, proposals, and counter-proposals, he requested of Marshall new instructions "in case I am off the beam." Stilwell stated his own view with customary flatness. "I contend," he declared, "that ultimately the Jap Army must be fought on the mainland of Asia." If Marshall held a different view, it would perhaps be proper "to cut our effort here" to support of ATC and "whatever Air Force you consider suitable in China." The original mission of CBI to increase the effectiveness of the Chinese Army was still feasible, but only "when we get on a realistic basis" with Chiang "or whatever passes for authority in China."6
General Marshall's reply three days later pointed out that decisions by the Combined Chiefs in the preceding year had assigned to operations in CBI the primary purpose of support for the Pacific forces. He
* See below, p. 276.
advanced the view that Japan could be defeated without a major campaign against her army on the mainland of Asia. The "paramount mission in the China Theater" was to "support the main effort directed against the enemy by forces in the Pacific." In the future, Stilwell should devote his chief effort "to the Hump lift and its security," in order to develop the maximum effectiveness of the Fourteenth Air Force consistent with "maximum requirements for support of all other activities in China."7 This directive made it clear that Stilwell's original mission had been modified,8 although he was still to be prepared "to exploit the development of overland communications to China."9
The change in mission, however, had little effect on immediate operations. For the security of the air route to China no less than for the advance of the Ledo Road, a project to which Stilwell continued to be devoted, Myitkyina had to be cleared of enemy forces. So, it was to that task General Stilwell gave his close attention through most of the summer of 1944.
Reorganization of EAC
The Eastern Air Command, which under Stratemeyer's leadership had carried the burden of air operations throughout the 1944 Burma campaign, had been organized in December 1943 as an "integrated" Anglo-American command combining the U.S. Tenth Air Force and the RAF Bengal Command.* This integration reflected Mountbatten's enthusiasm, and to a lesser extent Stratemeyer's, for the highly successful coordination of British and American strength in the Northwest African Air Forces.10 The complex situation in CBI, however, had presented in practice problems quite different from those of Eisenhower's combined command in the Mediterranean. Consequently, by the summer of 1944 it was agreed that reorganization was necessary.
Indeed, the Americans had accepted the principle of integration in the first instance with reservations, and because at the time it was assumed that all forces would soon concentrate on a major effort to drive the Japanese from Burma in 1944.11 After decisions at the Tehran conference of late 1943 resulted in withholding resources necessary for a major amphibious venture in Burma, discussions of CBI
* See vol. IV, 458-59. Under EAC, British and American units were combined in four subordinate commands: a strategic air force, a tactical air force (Third TAF), a troop carrier command, atld a photographic reconnaissance force (PRF).The Tenth Air Force and Bengal Command retained their separate entities for purposes of administrative control of their respective units.
strategy had served to re-emphasize the conflicting interests of the British, the Americans, and the Chinese* and this strengthened doubt among American leaders as to the wisdom of an integrated air command. The British appeared to be interested primarily in the liberation of Singapore, whereas the Americans were chiefly concerned for the support of China. It was perhaps only because the decision in favor of integration already had been widely publicized that the War Department took no action to withdraw from EAC in December 1943.12 Instead, Washington apparently warned Mountbatten that American commitments to China might require further consideration of integration by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.13 Thus scarcely had EAC come into existence before one of the partners regretted the decision.14
Under these circumstances, it isa tribute to the American and British commanders within SEAC and EAC that integration worked so well.15 Despite many differences of opinion, patience and understanding at the top set a pattern for all elements of the command.16 As a result of the common sense shown by both Allies, EAC endured as long as the Japanese remained in Burma, and it was not until Rangoon was occupied in May 1945 that integration was altogether abandoned. Meantime, June 1944 brought adjustments within EAC which represented a partial departure from the original concept.
The change came as part of a general reshuffling at top level. Delhi was crowded, far away from battle fronts, and not even located within the confines of Southeast Asia Command. Admiral Mountbatten therefore moved his headquarters to Kandy on Ceylon, which was at least in his own territory. Stratemeyer. transferred EAC to Hastings Mill, twenty miles north of Calcutta on the Hooghly River, where the jute mills provided ample space for offices and quarters. At the same time he directed his staff to study the advisability of dividing the Photographic Reconnaissance Force and splitting the Third Tactical Air Force (TAF) into two task forces, one for operation on the northern part of the Burma front and the other for the south. His proposal suggested assignment of all types of aircraft to both task forces, except that heavy bombers would remain in SAF.17
There was little difficulty in reaching agreement within the staff, which itself included both American and British officers, on the need for some reorganization in the interest of a closer coordination of air and ground efforts.18 Despite Stilwell's practical independence, the British Fourteenth Army was theoretically in command in Burma,
* See Vol. IV, 497.
but the commander of the Third Tactical Air Force did not have a corresponding responsibility for all units in his immediate area, which extended from Assam to Arakan. The arrangement caused confusion. At a fully attended meeting on 28 April 1944, the EAC staff agreed that the Troop Carrier Command should be disbanded and its units placed under the Third TAF, the latter remaining as constituted at the headquarters level but possibly divided into two or three tactical commands at the operational level. It was also agreed that both the Strategic Air Force and the Photographic Reconnaissance Force should be continued in their existing form, but that every precaution should be taken to safeguard the integrity of the Tenth Air Force.19 Stratemeyer hastened to begin the work. His first move was to place the Troop Carrier Command (TCC) temporarily under the Third TAF, as of 2 May. The men of TCC, knowing they had done a remarkably fine job, regarded the change as a penalty for making the maximum effort in carrying through a difficult mission,20 and it took all of Stratemeyer's diplomacy to ease the hurt feelings.21 A month later, 4 June, Troop Carrier Command was abolished, and its units came under the direct control of the Third TAF.22
On 20 June EAC was reorganized into six components: Strategic Air Force, Third Tactical Air Force, Photographic Reconnaissance Force, Tenth Air Force, 293 Wing, and an air task force. The Strategic Air Force, under Air Cdre. Sir Francis Mellersh, remained an integrated organization composed of the AAF 7th Bombardment Group (H) and the RAF 231 Bombardment Group.* The Photographic Reconnaissance Force was composed of 171 Wing and the 87th Photographic Group. Third TAF kept the RAF 221 and 224 Groups, the 12th Bombardment Group (M), and the 3d Combat Cargo Group. The Tenth Air Force, restored as a combat command under Maj. Gen. Howard C. Davidson, had the 80th Fighter Group, the 311th Fighter-Bomber Group, the 443d Troop Carrier Group, and the 11th Combat Cargo Squadron attached, with additional signal, fighter-control, air warning, and antiaircraft units. An air task force, whose responsibilities were not yet defined, consisted only of Air Commando Unit No. 1 and the 3d Combat Cargo Group.†
* The AAF 9th, 436th, 492d, and 493d Squadrons and three RAF wings--175, 184, and 185--were included in SAF. The 292 Squadron, Air Sea Rescue was controlled by 231 Group but was not part of SAF.
† Of these units only the first was in the theater. The other was being set up in the U.S. for CBI, but see below, p. 208n. The task force was never brought into existence.
With the June reorganization complete, Davidson established his Tenth Air Force Headquarters in the upper Assam valley, a situation favorable to his new operational responsibilities,23 which included defense of the Assam-Myitkyina area, protection for the air route to China, and the provision of air support and supply for Allied forces still at Myitkyina. In effect, the reorganization kept the central principle of an integrated command over British and American air forces, thus providing assurance of flexible employment of all resources in the event of an emergency, and maintained unified direction for strategic and reconnaissance operations. The units directly engaged in the support of ground forces, however, were operating along national lines. It was a decision justified by many considerations, but like many other decisions in CBI, it did nothing to simplify an already complex command structure.
The Siege of Myitkyina
On 17 May 1944 Stilwell had seemed to have Myitkyina, chief enemy base in northern Burma, within his grasp, but after seizing the airstrip west of the town, his forces failed to take the town itself. The inexperience of some of his troops, the exhaustion and low morale of others, and a misunderstanding in the execution of plans for his reinforcement by air combined to cost Stilwell a great victory.* The enemy, now forewarned, had time to dig in, and Stilwell faced the necessity for a long siege.
Reinforcements were flown in as quickly as possible, and by June the Allied lines were tightening around the strongly entrenched enemy. On the north two battalions of Merrill's Marauders had their left flank on the Irrawaddy and their right flank on the Sumprabum road.
The U.S. 209th and 236th Combat Engineer Battalions, recently flownin, were south of the road. The Chinese 30th Division occupied positions west of the town, and the Chinese 50th Division was on the south with lines extending to the Irrawaddy.24 A small column of the Wingate Force† had worked its way northward along the line of the Irrawaddy to complete the encirclement of Myitkyina by taking up
*See Vol. IV, pp. 16-17.
† Brig. Orde Wingate the preceding year had organized with British imperial troops a long-range penetration force which in March 1944 had been air-landed in the interior of Burma and supported entirely by air in its operations around Indaw. (See Vol. IV, 503-7.) Though Wingate himself had been killed on 25 March, his Special Force continued to be known as the Wingate Force.
positions east of the city. By 14 June there were as many as 12,000 troops besieging Myitkyina, but their morale was low25 The American engineers had no experience in combat, and some of them appeared to lack the most fundamental training in self-defense. The Marauders, whose numbers had been sadly depleted by casualties and sickness, were especially depressed. Not until the fourth week in June could Stilwell report that his forces had "snapped into it."26 During four critical weeks the Japanese might have counterattacked with success had they not believed that the Allied forces numbered 30,000 men or more.27
As the siege began, Stilwell's greatest fear was that air supply, upon which he was highly dependent, might fail to meet his needs. Not only were the daily landings of transport aircraft at the west strip limited through the first days after its capture to twenty-five or less, but clouds above the mountains foretold the early coming of the monsoon. Happily, Stilwell's fears proved to be ill founded. The techniques of air supply had been developed to an amazing point of perfection in CBI, where unusual requirements encouraged a wide variety of experimentation in the whole field of air support for ground operations. The most interesting of the experiments was embodied in Col. Philip G. Cochran's air commando group, a self-sufficient air task force equipped to deliver the Wingate-type of ground force far behind the enemy lines, to keep it supplied, to render tactical air support for its operations, and, if need be, to accomplish its withdrawal. Actually, the main responsibility for air supply during the Burma offensive had fallen to the Troop Carrier Command, and it too had proved to be both ingenious and effective in the execution of its difficult tasks.* By late July as many as 551 planes had landed and taken off from the west strip on a single day, and the supplies delivered by air transport more
* See Vol. IV, 503-7. The early enthusiasm for the air commandos led Washington to overestimate the need for this type of unit in Burma, By summer the AAF was in the process of establishing four special air units shaped by the experience in Burma: two air commando groups (each with two squadrons of twenty-five P-51's, one troop carrier squadron of sixteen C-47's and thirty-two CG-4A gliders, and three liaison squadrons having in each instance thirty-two L-5's and a small complement of UC-64's) and two combat cargo groups (each with four squadrons of twenty-five C-47's--later changed to C-46's). Mountbatten, whose plans emphasized amphibious operations rather than a further development of long-range penetration groups, questioned the need for these special air units in Burma. As a result, the units were divided ultimately with SWPA (see below, pp. 334-35). In EAC on 14 September 1944 the Combat Cargo Task Force, in lieu of the air task force of 20 June (see above, p. 206) was activated to include the 1st Air Commando Group, the 1st Combat Cargo Group, and RAF 177 Transport Wing. Brig. Gen. Frederick W. Evans was its commander.
than met the need through the preceding two months.28 The fact that the deliveries were made through the rainy season to a strip only 50feet wide and 4,200 feet long added greatly to the significance of this achievement.
Equally important in the final victory of Stilwell's troops was the close-in ground support provided by the Tenth Air Force. Though the Myitkyina Task Force Corps Artillery was invaluable to the besieging infantry, its equipment consisted only of two 155-mm., two 105-mm., and eight 75-mm. howitzers,29 and thus the Tenth Air Force had to supply a substantial deficiency in supporting fire power.
Fortunately, experience provided the necessary organization and effective techniques. When Stilwell first began his advance from Shingbwiyang up the Hukawfig Valley in the autumn of 1943, it had been anticipated that heavy demands would be made on the Tenth Air Force for close-in ground support. At that time, the AAF fighter units in Assam consisted of the 80th Fighter Group (three squadrons of P-40's) and the 311th Fighter-Bomber Group (two P-51 squadrons and one squadron of A-36's). Since the personnel of these units had no experience in close support, careful preparations were made for the work ahead. The first move was to establish an air-ground support radio team in the 1st Tactical Communication Squadron to receive all requests for air-ground support, to screen these requests and eliminate those not suitable for air attack, and to convey accepted requirements to air headquarters together with all information necessary for the execution of the mission. Also liaison had to be established with G-2 and G-3 in order to keep air headquarters constantly apprised of the precise positions of friendly and hostile troops.30
In the advance toward Myitkyina, it had been agreed at first that troops asking close support would lay out a panel at a specified distance from the target and pointing toward it. When the deep jungle, however, made it difficult to place such a signal and even more difficult for the pilots to spot it, smoke shells were mortared on the target according to a pre-devised code, so that their bursts formed, for example, a triangle or a rectangle. Still, the signal pattern was frequently blurred by drift or other causes, including diversionary smoke shells fired by the enemy. A third device was the use of coordinates superimposed on special photographs of enemy-held areas. A transparent grid of plastic made it possible to divide any print into twenty-four squares with the usual horizontal and vertical designations by number
and letter. With copies of the appropriate print in the hands of all interested units and headquarters, air and ground, it required only the specification of the coordinates to pinpoint the desired target.31 To assure speedy and correct coverage of target areas, as early as November 1943 a detachment of the 9th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron and the 17th Photographic Interpretation Detachment were placed at the disposal of air headquarters. The A-2 division screened requests for coverage, maintained a photographic library, placed orders for anticipatory photographic coverage, and briefed the pilots for missions.32 The highest efficiency in close support was achieved by combining the use of coordinates with ground-controlled radio guidance. With both the target and friendly troops located by grid, the pilot reached his destination at a prearranged time and contacted by radio the ground-air liaison party. A dry run over the target provided a further check, so that errors in flight could be detected and corrected before the actual bombing was undertaken.33
The system worked. The most elaborately hidden Japanese artillery positions, dug-in machine guns, slit trenches, road blocks, or troop concentrations were hunted and destroyed. Errors became increasingly few and a spirit of camaraderie seldom met with elsewhere grew up between the ground and air personnel.34 The airmen did not strike with that detachment which so often marked the activities of bomber crews operating from an altitude that made the target an impersonal object far below.
By May 1944 air strips had been built along the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys that were suitable for use by fighters and transports. The 88th Fighter Squadron, equipped with P-40's 7 was based at Shingbwiyang; the 528th Fighter Squadron, with both A-36's and P-51's, was located at Tingkawk Sakan, as was also a flight of P-40's of the 20th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. In Assam there were two more squadrons of P-40's and two of P-51's.35
As the siege of Myitkyina began, it was decided to base a flight of eight P-40's on the newly captured west strip in order to assure the immediate availability of a few planes for supporting operations. These planes--the number was later raised to twelve--operated from a base that was probably closer to enemy lines than ever before in the history of aerial warfare, for Japanese machine guns were only 1,000 yards away and fired on the aircraft at every take-off and landing. Although the first line of the hostile emplacements was soon destroyed by dive-bombing
attacks, there were other machine guns a short distance to the rear which were a constant threat.36 A detachment of three P-40's of the 20th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was also ordered to Myitkyina, along with a small field laboratory, which could produce required prints of target areas with a minimum loss of time.
In the weeks that followed the opening of the siege, the planes stationed on the Myitkyina strip carried through most of the missions directed against the town and its immediate defenses. The pilots became so proficient that they were called upon even when friendly troops were within seventy-five yards of the target. Other planes were called in from Tingkawk Sakan, Shingbwiyang, and the Assam fields for less exacting performance. Since most of these were naturally not as familiar with the sector as those based on the west strip, they depended on radio direction for locating the target. They normally did not land at Myitkyina, but made their approaches over the strip for any last-minute instructions from the local ground-air liaison station.37 The intensity of the supporting effort at Myitkyina was in itself remarkable. There were days when pilots flew as many as six missions each, and it was by no means unusual for a flight of four planes to accomplish twenty sorties within twenty-four hours. In all, the fighters ran a total of 2,515 sorties between when the siege began and 3 August when the city fell. That was an average of thirty-three sorties per day, and it was accomplished during the rainy monsoon, when there were many hours in which weather prohibited flying. Consequently, every possible advantage had to be taken of even the briefest breaks in the rain and clouds, which meant that a disproportionate burden of close support had to be carried by aircraft based on the strip. All too frequently clearing weather gave way again to rain and low ceilings before fighters from Tingkawk Sakan, though only twenty minutes away, could reach the targets.38
In performing their mission, the fighter pilots developed their own technique of dive bombing in order to keep the bomb strike within fifteen yards of the target. Using a 45° angle of dive, usually begun at 5,000 feet with pull-out at 1,000 feet, and sighting between the second and third wing guns, they could detect the slightest deviation. On most of the missions the bombs were 250-pounders, fuzed for one-tenth of a second delay to permit penetration and narrow the area of the explosion.39
Meanwhile, the troops of the Ledo forces were daily moving closer
to the center of Myitkyina. The Japanese were slowly edged toward the river, on the other side of which the British were advancing. By 1 August it was evident that the end was near and Burmese civilians, allowed to escape by the Japanese, came over to the American and Chinese lines. On 3 August the investing armies moved forward all along the line, with the exception of the Chinese 30th Division. The fighting was heavy in the morning, but lessened with the passing hours. By midafternoon the city was completely occupied,40 but many of its original defenders had escaped.
Simultaneously with the siege of Myitkyina, columns of the Wingate Force moved in from the south, and Chinese forces came from the north to join hands in a siege of Mogaung--an important town, some thirty miles southwest of Myitkyina, lying astride the railroad and the roadway leading from the Irrawaddy valley to the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys. The town was captured early in July, with the aid of 423 supporting air sorties.41 Following the capture of Mogaung, the British 36 Division drove the enemy south along the Burma railroad, the mobile warfare making impossible the contact between troop commanders and supporting pilots which obtained at Myitkyina. If the problems were more difficult, however, they were also more representative, and the system employed had further use as the Allied troops advanced south into Burma during the remaining months of 1944 and the first five months of 1945.
Each brigade of the British 36 Division was divided into two columns. The 72 Brigade sent one column south along the railroad and the other south along the roadway, with brigade headquarters advancing behind the columns at a distance of one to five miles. The problem before the Tenth Air Force was to supply adequate close support without constantly maintaining fighters over the moving columns. To meet the situation, the Tenth Air Force installed a tactical communications network within the brigade: each column was furnished with a voice radio and a four-man team, the latter consisting of an air officer and three enlisted airmen; brigade headquarters was supplied with a radio for voice communication and another radio for point-to-point transmissions, together with the necessary operating personnel. When the column commander desired close support, he called the chief of the radio team and specified the location of the enemy strongpoint by using gridded mosaics. The chief of the radio team then called brigade headquarters by voice to describe the support requested. The brigade
commander, assisted by an air force representative, decided whether the request could be honored, and Forward Echelon Tenth Air Force at Shaduzup was requested in the clear to send a definite number of fighters to the specified coordinates with a specified bomb load. Tenth Air Force dispatched the aircraft and supplied brigade headquarters with the estimated time over the target. As at Myitkyina and Mogaung, the liaison between air and ground was consistently so close during the course of attack that the air force was able to hit a pinpoint target at the front lines within forty minutes after the initial request, using aircraft based fifty miles to the rear.42
After 3 August victorious troops from Myitkyina joined those advancing south of Mogaung. Aweek later, Taungni fell and the Allied ground forces prepared to establish a defensive position along the Taungni-Kazu line, less than twenty miles south of Mogaung. The Tenth Air Force, disturbed by the decision to halt the advance so near the city of Myitkyina and its airfields,43 argued that the front line should be at least seventy miles from the city--that is, the Katha-Bhamo line--to guarantee proper air warnings. Supporting this view was the apparent fatigue of the Japanese troops and the demonstrated ability of the Tenth Air Force to maintain both supply and tactical support despite the weather. Nevertheless, Stilwell felt that his troops were in need of rest and reorganization, and halted his advance about 10 August some twenty miles below Mogaung. There his armies stayed until the resumption of the offensive in mid-October 1944. The decision by Stilwell to halt his advance on the Taungni-Kazu line was a bitter disappointment to Chiang Kai-shek. The latter had been persuaded, very much against his will, to commit his Yunnan Force of 50,000 combat troops, commanded by Brig. Gen. Frank Dorn, to the Burma campaign in May when there was every reason to believe that Myitkyina would fall without trouble and that contact would be established soon after between the X Force advancing from Ledo and the Y Force advancing from the Salween valley. Participation in the Burma campaign involved not only the Yunnan ground forces but also the Fourteenth Air Force which was expected to play the same role in the battle along the Chinese frontier which the Tenth Air Force performed around Myitkyina and Mogaung.44 Specifically, the Fourteenth was called upon to perform the following functions: 1) air supply of food and ordnance to Chinese units at advanced points; 2) close tactical air support by bombing and strafing targets of
immediate tactical importance; and 3) destruction of enemy lines of supply in an effort to isolate the battlefields. It is evident that the Salween campaign thus demanded the employment of important units of the Chinese armies and the Fourteenth Air Force, and it so happened that the campaign got under way at the very time when the need became critical for these same forces in east China.
In preparing for the campaign, a forward echelon of the 69th Composite Wing was set up on 2 May with Maj. A. B. Black in command.45 Air support for the Chinese armies was assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 22d Bombardment Squadron (M). In addition, there were the B-24's of the 308th Bombardment Group which were employed to bomb certain targets--principally Lung-ling, Tengchung, Wanting, and Lashio--on shuttle trips between China and India. Also, the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron from EAC was attached on 21 May to the 69th Wing for the purpose of supplying the Chinese armies, otherwise effectively cut off by lack of bridges and roads as soon as they crossed the Salween and began to move against the almost impregnable Japanese positions on the east bank.*
It was always realized, of course, that the Y Force alone, advancing against the powerful Japanese positions east of the Salween, could accomplish nothing. The point of the campaign was to take Tengchung, Lung-ling, Mang-shih, and Pingka in a pincer movement with the X Force, but the wisdom of committing the Y Force was made questionable by the long siege at Myitkyina. During the summer of 1944, the Y Force fought doggedly and had little to show for its efforts except dead and wounded. The Generalissimo, therefore, felt that his worst fears were justified when victory was held up from
* The extent of air operations devoted to the Salween campaign during the summer of 1944 is shown by the following table:
|14 C-47's of Troop
|June||--||--||300 approx.||100 approx.|
17 May until 3 August, and he became very impatient with Stilwell when the latter decided to halt his advance on 10 August a short distance from Mogaung. From the Chinese point of view, the Salween campaign was a waste of men and materiel from the moment that Stilwell failed to take Myitkyina until 15 October when the advance on Bhamo was resumed. The Y Force did not win its first outstanding success until 14 September when Teng-chung fell.
Loss of the Kaifeng-Hanoi Axis*
Long before Myitkyina fell to Stilwell's besieging forces, the Japanese Army was well advanced toward the completion of its conquest of the Hengyang-Kweilin-Nanning corridor. Though the Japanese had been content until 1944 to occupy only such points along the Chinese coast south of Shanghai as were necessary to close off sea communications, they now clearly intended to cut through eastern China a land axis joining the northern and southern portions of their empire. In addition to getting interior lines of communication, they also hoped to overrun the more important Allied airfields which posed an additional threat to their sea communications just when U.S. Pacific forces menaced them from the east. Moreover, it was hoped China might be completely knocked out of the war before U.S. forces were in position to make effective use of the Asiatic mainland either as an air or as a staging base in an assault on Japan.
The Japanese offensive had opened 17 April in a move from across the Yellow River at Kaifeng down the railway leading to the Yangtze. Contact was made with the Japanese forces at Hankow a month later. After a slight pause the offensive was renewed on 26 May in a widening drive southward from the line of the Yangtze toward Changsha on the Hsiang River. This drive, which left little doubt as to the serious implications of enemy plans, forced the Chinese armies to fight on widely scattered fronts. Two American-trained divisions, the 30th and Soth, were committed to the newly inaugurated siege of Myitkyina; on 11 May the Yunnan Force (the Chinese 87th and 88th Divisions) launched their own offensive into Burma across the Salween
* It is customary to speak of the "loss of the east China airfields" as though they all fell to the enemy in one catastrophe. That is incorrect. Between April and December 1944, the Japanese pushed through their Kaifeng-Hanoi axis, and took the airfields along the Hankow-Nanning railway. Then, in January and February 1945, the enemy occupied the remaining east China airfields between the Hsiang River and the coast.
River to support Stilwell's attempt to clear the enemy from upper Burma. In eastern China, Marshal Hsueh Yo* undertook to stem the enemy drive with a force of about 150,000 men of the regular Chinese Army, none of the units having benefitted by the special training program undertaken by General Stilwell, and all of them sadly deficient in modern equipment. The Japanese had committed to the new offensive approximately a quarter of a million men, although not more than 60,000 were front-line combat troops. Their greatly superior equipment and training gave them a decided advantage over their opponents, and fighters and dive bombers, apparently drawn from Formosa, supported the advancing ground units.
Chinese hopes of stalling the enemy offensive depended heavily upon the assistance Chennault could provide. He had taken the precaution early in April of ordering to forward bases four fighter squadrons and one medium bombardment squadron of the Chinese-American Composite Wing (CACW).† Although delays in the completion of this movement left the Japanese free of interference from the air in the initial stage of their advance, B-24's of the 308th Group and P-51's of the 23d Group had been moved up to the Chengtu bases in titre to strike the first blows on 25 April. By May the CACW units were also in the fight.
Chennault had now achieved his long cherished hope for an air force of 500 planes, of which approximately 400 were in operational conuition. Instead of the envisioned air offensive against Japanese communications along the China coast, however, he found himself almost completely committed to defensive operations under most stringent logistical limitations. The 25th Fighter Squadron, the 22d Bombardment Squadron (M), and the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron were tied down by combat along the Salween, and a substantial part of the Fourteenth's recently acquired strength had been provided for the specific purpose of defending the B-29 bases in Chengtu. The 33d add 81st Fighter Groups of the newly organized 312th Wing were still in the process of going northward to their new bases,‡ a movement not completed until July.
For support of the hard pressed Chinese Army, Chennault had the P-51's of the veteran 23d Fighter Group, the B-24's of the 308th Bombardment
* Commander of the 9th War Zone. His name is sometimes written as Hsueh Yueh.
‡ For details, see above, pp. 80-81.
Group, the B-25's of the 11th and 491s Bombardment Squadrons, the aircraft of the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, and, as elements of the CACW, the 5th Fighter Group (P-40's) and the 3d and 4th Bombardment Squadrons (B-25's). These units were organized as a special task force under the command of Col. Clinton D. Vincent, who also was given operational control of the 322d Troop Carrier Squadron and the 21st Photographic Squadron. Instructions given Vincent on 1 June 1944 assigned the following target priorities: first, enemy airborne aircraft to deplete Japanese air power; second, shipping on rivers and lakes in the Hankow region to interdict his communications; and third, troop columns, trains, camps, motor vehicles, bridges, and river crossings to impede his movements.46 Strikes against all other types of targets, however inviting, were forbidden in order to conserve fuel for the most vital tasks.
Although not all of Vincent's units were in condition to fight at full strength, a shortage of supply rather than of planes proved to be the critical factor. In the attempt to build up the minimum stockpile required to permit the inauguration on schedule of operations by XX Bomber Command, the Fourteenth Air Force had suffered, especially in the month of March, a reduction in its Hump tonnage.* As a result, fuel reserves were low, and on eastern bases, which were a month's distance from Kunming by the land lines of communications normally employed in China, the shortage of fuel was particularly acute. Chennault had vigorously protested the priority given to MATTERHORN and warned Stilwell in a message on 31 March that the fate of China itself might be at stake.47 Stilwell advised cutting back operations as much as necessary to build up reserves for an emergency.48 On 8 April Chennault substituted for the usual radio message a full letter to Stilwell,49 which the latter seems to have interpreted as a warning chiefly that the Fourteenth could not defend Chengtu.50 Just after the inauguration of the Japanese offensive, Chennault advised Stilwell that the defense of Chengtu would be "child's play" in comparison with "the more difficult problems of the moment," to which Stilwell countered with an expression of his pleasure in knowing that "the defense of Chengtu is child's play.51
Whatever tone Stilwell intended to convey, the remark was unfortunate in itself and symptomatic of the lack of sympathy and understanding between the two commanders at this critical point. Stilwell
See above, pp. 83-85.
seems not to have been willing to accept Chennault's word as evidence of the impending danger, and Chennault perhaps now paid a penalty for the vigor with which he had previously pushed the claims of the Fourteenth Air Force and of China in competition with other interests embraced by CBI. On 15 May Chennault complained to CBI headquarters that G-2 had been "unduly cautious and conservative" in its reports to the War Department on the Kaifeng offensive.52 On 1 June, six days after the major enemy offensive had been launched from the Yangtze toward Changsha, Chennault reported to Stilwell an estimated doubling of enemy troops in the Canton-Hong Kong area and heavy reinforcements in Indo-China, asking immediate assistance toward solving low stock levels in eastern China.53 Although the Fourteenth Air Force share in Hump deliveries for both April and May had been above 6,000 tons,* Chennault warned Stilwell that the defense of east China would require at least 10,000 tons. Admitting that this would mean conversion of existing XX Bomber Command stockpiles and air supply facilities to support of the Fourteenth, he insisted there was no alternative because the whole effort in CBI was at stake.54 He got the 10,000 tons, and more, in June but not before Stilwell had asked for Mountbatten's "opinion on a Jap move south from Hankow and/or north from Canton?" Had the move started? Was it imminent? If so, when was it expected? "Or is this just a cover for an attack on Kunming from Indo-China?"55
With the renewal of the Japanese offensive on 26 May, Chiang Kaishek requested Stilwell to return to Chungking for a conference.56 It had been six months since Stilwell visited China, but he replied that the situation at the front made a trip impossible. Chiang could radio "what is wanted," or he could "send a representative to see me."57 On Chennault's advice the Generalissimo on 31 May appealed to President Roosevelt in an aide-mémoire, requesting that the reserve fuel, aircraft, and parts at Chengtu be turned over to the Fourteenth Air Force and that further assistance be provided for the strengthening of the Chinese Air Force and for increase of the fire power of Chinese ground forces.58 In the War Department there was some inclination to discount Chiang's estimate of the situation.59
General Stilwell, however, whether persuaded by intelligence received from SEAC or by other influences, now recognized the danger, at least in part. A message of 4 June from Brig. Gen. Haydon L.
* See table below, p. 220.
Boatner, commander of Northern Combat Area Command (NCAC) , urging diversion of planes and supplies from other air projects for a defense of the eastern airfields, has scribbled across it this penciled notation: "Tell him not to worry. We are taking suitable measures. JWS."60 The reference, presumably, was to Stilwell's action that day diverting for the use of the Fourteenth Air Force 1,500 tons of ATC Hump lift previously allotted to MATTERHORN for the month of June.61 The Generalissimo having again summoned him to Chungking,62 on 5 June Stilwell left Burma for China. Stilwell's presence in Chungking served to eliminate some of the difficulties occasioned by wide separation, and for the remainder of the year the Fourteenth Air Force received relatively high tonnage, even though the Joint Chiefs of Staff refused Chiang's request for VLR stockage and continued with plans for B-29 operations from Chengtu.* The statistics for CBI are often conflicting and uncertain, but the following table based on ATC records63 serves well enough to reveal the improved position of the Fourteenth Air Force among the consignees for Hump tonnage in 1944:
This increase in allocations did not solve Chennault's problem, for the extra fuel was not given in time to meet the crisis. Deliveries made at Kunming in June could not begin to reach the combat areas for thirty days or more. True, there were set up on paper, lines of air transportation branching out from Kunming to Chengtu, Liangshan, Chihkiang, Ling-ling, Kweilin, and Liuchow, but the Fourteenth Air Force had neither sufficient transports nor, indeed, sufficient gas to fly what transports were available.64 The experience of XX Bomber Command amply demonstrated that this more expeditious mode of delivery
* For discussion of details, see above, p. 87.
offered only limited assistance.* The alternative was a tedious trip across precarious roads or inadequate railways, which resulted in at least a month's delay between the unloading of supplies at Kunming and their delivery in east China. In the absence of a previously stocked reserve in east China, Vincent's forces continued to operate under serious limitations, so serious in fact as to make it doubtful that a larger force could have been effectively employed.
Vincent's task was an unenviable one. Even under the most favorable circumstances of supply, his only hope of stopping a determined drive by a large and well-equipped army lay in the possibility that effective air support might fortify the morale of the Chinese armies enough to overcome the many disadvantages under which they fought. The enemy moved southward on a broad front, bypassed fixed defensive positions, and employed tactics of dispersal that cut down the effect of Vincent's attacks. Japanese planes rarely accepted combat, but they continued to find opportunity to assist the advancing ground forces. Vincent's directive did not provide for operations against enemy planes on the ground, and second-priority targets--communications in the region of Hankow--tended to acquire in fact first priority.Hankow itself, the vital center of the Japanese offensive, was an inviting target. Fourteenth Air Force leaders hoped that General Wolfe's B-29's might be used against that city,65 but Arnold, though insisting upon a speed-up of their first strike at Japan,† consistently refused to consider any diversion from the strategic mission of XX Bomber Command. In any event, the aid that could have been provided would have been limited, for the B-29's also operated under logistical limitations. Vincent definitely lacked the resources to undertake any massive assault. His bombers, both heavy and medium, struck repeatedly at selected targets in Hankow during early June, but the heavier consumption of fuel by the bombers restricted their use at any distance from their bases. Indeed, before the month was gone, the shortage of fuel forced Vincent temporarily to withdraw his bombers even from short-range attacks on the enemy front.66
Almost from the first, the burden fell chiefly on the fighter planes. During the first two weeks of June the P-40's based at Hengyang averaged
* See above, pp. 85-87.
† See above, p. 112.
three or four sorties per plane each day-a rate of operation destructive to both planes and pilots.67 In cooperation with the Chinese troops along the Yangtze, Vincent sent his planes out day after day to strafe and bomb the Japanese columns. Although the Americans caused small pools of havoc wherever they struck, nowhere did the Chinese infantry prove capable of capitalizing upon this assistance to the extent of accomplishing any major halt in the enemy's advance. Even the bad weather which came early in June did not reduce the pace of air operations. The Fourteenth Air Force history68 records "strafing and dive bombing missions through such foul weather that the Mustangs had to level-bomb from under hundred foot ceilings" because "they could not get enough altitude under the soup to dive-bomb." Operations and operating conditions are further described as follows:
Forays against cavalry and bombing of supply dumps were alternated with sweeps up the Sang Siang River and across Tungting Lake to catch the supply fleets. Mechanics worked all night in the steamy heat to repair damage from missions, replace worn parts, and have a full complement of planes ready for a dawn take off. As fast as the planes returned from combat, armorers hung new loads of demolition and frag bombs under the wings and reloaded the guns. On many a mission pilots barely had time to dash to the alert shack, report on the mission, and be briefed on the next target before they were back in their cockpits on a new mission. As a result of the dissolving of the radio net, there was little weather information available, and they flew their own weather recons at dawn every day.
These efforts were indeed heroic, but pitifully inadequate to halt the march of the victorious Japanese. Changsha fell on 18 June, and within another ten days, after encircling Liuyang, the enemy was approaching Hengyang.69
Hengyang was of vital importance to both sides, for the city controlled the main lines of communication leading from Hankow to Nanning. Its position, moreover, was exceptionally strong, and if the Japanese drive could be halted at all, it was there. If the city fell, the southern half of the Hankow-Hanoi axis was almost certainly doomed. Gen. Fong Hsien-chien, who had accepted responsibility for the defense of the citadel, was determined to hold out as long as possible, hoping that aid might reach him in time to save the stronghold. He had important advantages. For instance, terrain forced the Japanese to follow a narrow avenue of approach, and made difficult any move to bypass the city.
Hengyang held for forty-nine days. During the first week in July the Fourteenth Air Force, performing superbly, staggered the enemy despite a major effort by Japanese air to defend its army's lines of communication. There were indications that the enemy was preparing to withdraw, and the streams of civilians seeking escape to the south paused in their flight. Some of them even turned back toward Hengyang. But the efforts of the Fourteenth Air Force had virtually used up its fuel at the forward bases, and during the second week of July no resupply came in from the western bases. On 12 July the 491st Bombardment Squadron, fearful of capture, withdrew on its emergency gas and temporarily left Liuchow for the Salween. Air operations were drastically cut, and between 17 and 24 July the 68th Composite Wing was practically grounded.70
On 8 August Hengyang fell. The long-anticipated Japanese drive from Canton had already begun in July. Heading north along the Canton-Hankow railway, a large and well-equipped force intended to strike Hengyang from the rear, but the early capitulation of the city simplified the enemy's problem. The Canton column turned west toward Liuchow, and the northern force late in August headed down the railway leading through Ling-ling to Kweilin. It soon became evident that in only a few weeks east China would be completely isolated. Already the air warning system, so painfully built up in earlier years,* had collapsed, with the result that the strips at Kweilin and Liuchow, chief of the remaining eastern airfields, were badly exposed.71
Kweilin was so immediately endangered by the fall of Hengyang, that the next job for Vincent-who, incidentally, had been made a brigadier general on 2 June 1944--was the defense of Liuchow. If Vincent's prospect was hopeless, it was no fault of the air task force he headed. From 26 May through 1 August its planes had flown 5,287 sorties, over 4,000 of them by fighter aircraft. A total of 1,164 tons of bombs had been dropped, and more than a million rounds of ammunition had been expended, chiefly in strafing attacks. Out of an over-all strength of approximately 150 aircraft, 43 had been lost but only 3 of that number were credited to enemy pilots. It was estimated that the task force had cost the enemy 595 trucks, 14 bridges, some 13,000 casualties, 114aircraft, and more than 1,000 small boats.72
Throughout the summer Vincent had tried desperately to meet the
* See Vol. I, 424.
needs of the retreating Chinese troops. During July he was able to undertake as many as 814 sorties to Hankow and its neighborhood, chiefly for the purpose of disrupting the enemy's communications, but the total fell to 587 in August.73 In direct support of the receding battle lines the Americans, whose tactics heretofore had emphasized attacks close to the fight, now experimented with strafing and bombing immediately in front of the Chinese soldiers. Kweilin, Ling-ling, and Chihkiang served as the bases from which operations were launched. Enemy air raids became more frequent, but though the Japanese usually enjoyed the advantage of surprise, they continued to accomplish little damage.74
It was indeed ironical that the increased Hump tonnage assigned the Fourteenth Air Force in June did not really make its effects felt at the front until sometime in August when the battle for the axis airfields was in its last stage. Nevertheless, Vincent was able to raise the tempo of his activity: in September his pilots logged 1,469 sorties.75 It was all in vain. The Chinese troops were too far spent in physical stamina and morale to stage a comeback. Ling-ling fell on 4 September, and on 26 September enemy forces advancing from Canton overran Tanchuk. By 11 October the Kweilin airstrip faced imminent envelopment.76 Sweeping past the little islands of Chinese resistance, the Japanese went on to take Kweilin on 10 November and Liuchow on the 11th. Only Nanning in the far south remained in the hands of the Chinese and Americans, and even that city was obviously doomed. Japan had all but completed the axial corridor between Manchuria and French Indo-China.
Under the circumstances, a complete revision of strategy was demanded of the Fourteenth Air Force if it was to survive--and there were some who thought that its days were over. Now, particularly, Chennault was not ready to quit, with unbelievably greater supplies coming to the front each day, and week, and month from the soaring totals of Hump tonnage. Determined to keep part of the Fourteenth in the east China provinces between the corridor and the sea where the fight could be maintained for at least many weeks and further assistance could be given to the troops of Marshal Hsueh Yo,77 Chennault placed his other units along a line of airfields, some of them recently constructed, which paralleled the corridor Sian to Poseh. The 321st Fighter Wing was in the north; the Chinese-American Composite Wing was between Laohokow and Chihkiang; and Vincent's 68th
Wing, commanded now by Col. Clayton Claassen, occupied a new set of fields between Kunming and the axis, following the Hengyang-Liuchow line. Thus, the Fourteenth Air Force was ready to continue the fight, and in some ways was stronger than ever before.78
General Stilwell, however, could find nothing favorable in the situation. In his final report to the Chief of Staff, USA, covering the period 21 May 1942-24 October 1944, he spoke feelingly about the loss of the China airfields, built at a cost of two billion Chinese dollars and intended to assist in the fulfillment of American strategy in the Pacific. All was gone, he said--two and a half years of American effort had been destroyed, and American air power was pushed back against the base at Kunming.79 Stilwell attributed the disaster to the rejection of his advice at TRIDENT in the spring of 1943.*
The loss of the airfields must have been very poignant to Stilwell, and certainly the serious reverses suffered in east China aggravated the unhappy and unfortunate personal relationship between the Generalissimo and General Stilwell. To recount the full history of the Chiang- Stilwell misunderstanding would require a study of some length, more voluminous, indeed, than The Stilwell Papers,80 the posthumously published book which gives only one side of the question, and it would go far beyond the range of air force interests. Yet, in an account of AAF activities on the continent of Asia, it is impossible to ignore Stilwell's recall. Stilwell's command of CBI, in addition to its diplomatic aspects, was primarily one of an air theater, and his departure affected a variety of decisions which thereafter governed the organization and operations of the AAF units in China, Burma, and India.
Although the misunderstanding between Chiang and Stilwell was old and deep-rooted, the relationship between the two men had become especially critical in the spring of 1944. Stilwell had long enjoyed control of lend-lease materials intended for China, a fact that probably gave affront to the Oriental dignity of the head of the Chinese state. When, after the Tehran conference of December 1943, promises made to Chiang at Cairo were revoked,t the Generalissimo found confirmation of his suspicion that the British were unwilling to
* See Vol. IV, 442.
† See Vol. IV, 495-97.
fight for anything other than their own interests in CBI. The Russian influence on the reversal of commitments made at Cairo seems to have become tied up in his mind with the "fishing agreement" between Moscow and Tokyo reached in 1944. And soon thereafter came suggestions through the American embassy at Chungking, with backing from CBI headquarters, that an American mission might be sent to Yenan "to contribute to the friendly and harmonious solution of difficulties" separating the Communists under Mao Tse-tung and the Kuomintang.81 In December 1943 Chiang had refused to commit his Yunnan Force to projected operations in the Salween region of Burma unless the British came through with full-scale supporting amphibious operations on the coast of Burma. Stilwell interpreted this refusal as one more indication of Chiang's unwillingness to fight, and determined to force his hand. On 7 April 1944 Stilwell informed Marshall that since "the Generalissimo won't fight in spite of his promises," it was necessary to direct all "remaining tonnage allocated by this headquarters to Chinese agencies for April to Fourteenth Air Force."82
Though Chennault was the immediate beneficiary of this decision, the action carried its own warning, and the Generalissimo soon agreed to commit the Yunnan Force to the Salween offensive in May. This offensive, thus belatedly started, made no progress, and meanwhile the Japanese launched their successful offensive in east China. Stilwell's delay in responding to the summons for consultation on the new emergency undoubtedly off ended the Generalissimo further,* for Stilwell was not only the ranking U.S. commander but chief of staff to Chiang.
When the Vice President of the United States, Henry A. Wallace, visited Chungking on 20 June 1944, he found a dangerous situation. Reporting to Roosevelt in a message of 28 June, Wallace conveyed Chiang's request for the appointment of "a personal representative" to act as liaison between Roosevelt and himself and advised the President that "a move of this sort, but of an even more far-reaching nature" seemed to be indicated by the political and military situation to China. Chiang had bluntly stated that Stilwell no longer enjoyed his confidence, "because of his alleged inability to grasp over-all political considerations." Wallace doubted that any American officer currently in China could undertake the responsibility. Chennault had Chiang's full confidence but he should be left in "his present effective military
* See above, pp. 219-20.
position." What was needed was a man who could win the confidence of Chiang and thus influence political as well as military decisions, and who, commanding all American forces in China, could "achieve full coordination between the American and Chinese military efforts." Since Stilwell could not abandon his responsibilities in Burma, the appointment of another commander for China seemed to Wallace a logical move. Such a commander might be Stilwell's deputy in China, "with a large measure of local independence and the right to deal directly with the White House on political questions," or China might be separated from Stilwell's command. Lt. Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer had been strongly recommended to Wallace for such a post. Wallace expressed regret at the necessity of making such a recommendation without having talked with Stilwell, but did not doubt the need for the action recommended. Time was a vital factor. East China seemed to be imperiled, and its loss could be expected to produce "a violent political and economic shock to the already weakened Chungking regime." But the right man might be able to persuade Chiang "to reform his regime and establish at least the semblance of a united front," both of which steps Wallace considered necessary to the restoration of Chinese morale.83
In Washington the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 4 July 1944 urged the President to secure Chiang's agreement to the placing of all Chinese forces under Stilwell's command, and recommended the latter's promotion to the rank of full general. The Joint Chiefs were "fully aware of the Generalissimo's feelings regarding Stilwell, particularly from a political point of view," but they argued that he had "proved his case or contentions on the field of battle in opposition to the highly negative attitudes of both the British and Chinese authorities." Had Stilwell's advice been followed, the argument continued, "we would have cleared the Japanese from northeast Burma before the monsoon and opened the way to effective action in China proper."84 Two days later the President announced to Chiang his intention to promote Stilwell and recommended that he be placed in command of all Chinese and American forces directly under the Generalissimo.85
General Marshall, in notifying Stilwell of the President's action, spoke with unusual frankness of the offense Stilwell had given both Chiang and Roosevelt, "usually in small affairs," because of a failure to promote "harmonious relations." While acknowledging the generosity with which Stilwell theretofore had accepted his "disagreeable
radios," the Chief of Staff urged that he make "a continuous effort to avoid wrecking your and our plans because of inconsequential matters or disregard of conventional courtesies.86 On 9 July Stilwell replied to this unmistakably plain message, promising to justify the confidence given even though the load promised to be heavy "for a country boy.87 That same day Chiang gave his agreement, though he maintained that political considerations would require some delay in fulfilling the promise.88 The President expressed his pleasure that Chiang had agreed in principle, but urged that the military situation had become so grave as to warrant immediate action without reference to political factors.89
Though Chiang had hedged his acceptance of the proposal with an important reservation, the American government had given Stilwell strong backing, and in mid-July he probably had within his reach full command of the armies in China. But the deep-rooted fears and prejudices of CBI were hard to bury. In Stilwell's mind the Generalissimo's delay evidently became only another example of his old tendency to "procrastinate.90 When on 20 July, in the desperate fight for Hengyang, the Chinese appealed through Maj. Gen. Thomas Hearn, Chief of Staff, USAF, CBI, for additional assistance via the Hump for Chinese ground forces, Stilwell in reply pointed to previous CCS decisions in favor of Chennault's strategy. "I do not see how we can move," Stilwell added, "until a certain big decision is made." He was doing the best he could meanwhile "to carry out plans the Gissimo insisted upon."91 When on 19 August Chennault appealed through Hearn for airlift from India of 1,000 tons of ground force supplies to equip a Chinese army for a possible attempt to retake Hengyang, Stilwell replied that the "time for halfway measures" had passed. "Any more free gifts" could only delay "the major decision and play into the hands of the gang." The cards had been put on the table but no answer had been given. "Until it is, let them stew."92 This was translated by Hearn into more polite language for transmission to Chennault, but the answer remained an unmistakable no.93
Meantime, and in harmony with Wallace's recommendations of late June, President Roosevelt had selected Brig. Gen. Patrick Hurley as his personal representative to the Generalissimo.* Hurley reached
* Unfortunately, Hurley was given only a verbal directive, but conversations with General Hurley, plus careful study of his personal files, indicate a three-fold mission: to facilitate Stilwell's assumption of command over the Chinese armies, to strengthen in all possible ways the Nationalist government of Chiang, and to encourage the development of a united front of Nationalist and Communist against the common enemy.
China by way of Moscow and India. He met Stilwell in Delhi on 4 September, and together they left the next day via Chabua for Chungking, where they arrived on 6 September. Twenty-four hours later Hurley informed Roosevelt the Generalissimo had given his assurance that Stilwell would get the command requested by Washington.94 Although almost two months had passed since Chiang's original promise to Roosevelt had been made, certain details remained to be worked out: Stilwell's title, the preparation of a written commission (something not familiar to the practices of the Chinese Army), and the drawing of organization charts fitting Stilwell into a Chinese chain of command. These details might easily be regarded as evidence of an inclination to further delay, but Hurley was convinced of the Generalissimo's good faith. By 19 September General Hurley felt that the issue had been settled.95
That very day, however, events took an unexpected turn. Unknown to Hurley, Chiang had summoned Stilwell to a conference on 15 September and informed him of a purpose to withdraw the Yunnan Force to the east bank of the Salween unless Stilwell got his forces moving from below Myitkyina toward Bhamo within a week.96 This ultimatum, however great may have seemed its justification in the mind of the Generalissimo, was received by Stilwell as further confirmation of old suspicions. In a message to Marshall, of which neither Chiang nor Hurley received word or copy, Stilwell reported the conversation. His troops were not ready for renewal of the offensive; the demand could mean only a purpose to sabotage the Burma effort on the part of Chiang, who would "not listen to reason, merely repeating a lot of cockeyed conceptions of his own intention."97
Stilwell's message reached Marshall during the closing hours of the OCTAGON conference at Quebec. Marshall reported its contents to the Combined Chiefs on 16 September and summarized a message to be sent to Chiang by President Roosevelt.98 The President's message, dated 16 September, spoke "with complete frankness." By continued cooperation in Burma the Generalissimo might expect a land route open to China early in 1945. To prevent the enemy from achieving his objectives in China, there was no other course open than for Chiang to press the Salween offensive and to place Stilwell "in unrestricted command" of all his forces. This action would strengthen the British and American decision to pursue vigorously their purpose to open a land route to China. Withdrawal of the Salween forces would doom this hope and even jeopardize the air route to China--developments
for which Chiang must be prepared "to accept the consequences and the personal responsibility."99 Thus, in reply to Chiang's ultimatum, there was an ultimatum to Chiang from the President of the United States, to be delivered by Stilwell who was the Generalissimo's chief of staff.
For some reason this message was not received in Chungking until the morning of 19 September, and it came to Stilwell. That afternoon Hurley, still ignorant of the President's action, went from Chungking to the Generalissimo's summer residence in the hope of completing negotiations for Stilwell's appointment as commanding general of the Chinese armies. The discussion was interrupted by Stilwell bearing the presidential communication. Chiang, having read the document, indicated only that he wished to be alone.100
Three days passed with no action taken, and then on 23 September Stilwell sent a memorandum to Hurley.101 The first three paragraphs are quoted in full:
Something must be done to break this stalemate, and it is up to us to do it. CKS is sulking, and the W.D. expects us to handle him.
It is obvious that CKS is listening to our recommendations. He changed his plans at Kweilin, he put Pai Chung Psi back in,* he executed the 93rd Army Comdr., and he is moving six divisions down from the N.W.† Apparently he is ready to pass the command, and even use the Reds, if they will acknowledge the authority of the C.G.‡
What he is really gagging at is Lend-Lease, and it is a serious matter of face with him that Stalin and the British can handle the stuff and he can't. The pros and cons are well known; the problem remains unsolved.
This introduction was followed by a suggestion that Stilwell and Hurley lay before Chiang two propositions as a basis of settlement: first, that Stilwell be sent to the Chinese Communists with proposals to accept the authority of the Generalissimo and Stilwell's command of their forces in return for a promise to equip five divisions; and second, that Chiang be given control of Chinese lend-lease materials, on the understanding that the "X and Y forces," those committed in Burma at Ledo and the Salween, enjoy first priority.
Hurley considered Stilwell's proposals as a very hopeful move, but when he went to Chiang for the purpose of discussing them he was promptly told that Stilwell would have to go.102 Two days later, 25 September, Hurley received an aide-mémoire from Chiang for transmission to Roosevelt formally requesting Stilwell's recall.103 The Generalissimo
* As Deputy Chief of Staff.
† All these moves were advocated by Stilwell.
‡ Central Government.
agreed to the choice of an American general officer as "Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese-American forces fighting against Japan in China," to his appointment as "Chief of Staff of the Chinese Theater," and to American control "of the Chinese Service of Supply." But he asked for Stilwell's resignation "as Chief of Staff of the China Theater and his relief from duty in this area." In reviewing the conversations he had had with Hurley, Chiang expressed the opinion that "we were indeed on the eve of complete agreement," but it had become clear that Stilwell "had no intention of cooperating with me, but believed that he was in fact being appointed to command me." Any other American officer possessing the "spirit of genuine inter-allied collaboration" would be warmly welcomed.
On 5 October Roosevelt urged Chiang to reconsider.104 In a second aide-mémoire of 9 October to Hurley for transmission to the President, the Generalissimo charged that Stilwell had sacrificed east China for the sake of his campaign in Burma. More than that, he had "exhibited complete indifference to the outcome in East China," having refused even to consult with Chiang on the situation there until the first week of June 1944."105 On 13 October Hurley advised Roosevelt "that if you sustain Stilwell in this controversy you will lose Chiang Kai-shek and possibly China with him."106 The President replied on the next day with a request for Chiang's choice of a successor.107 Eisenhower had been the first choice, Hurley informed Roosevelt on 15 October, but since this was out of the question, the list was Patch, Wedemeyer, and Krueger, with preference for the second over the last because of age.108 On 18 October Stilwell received orders to proceed to India at once and thence to Washington.109 That same day Roosevelt informed Chiang of Stilwell's recall and emphatically protested his own, rather than Stilwell's, responsibility for the decision to concentrate on opening the Ledo Road. He did not intend to appoint an American officer as commander in chief of the Chinese armies, but Wedemeyer had been selected for appointment as the Generalissimo's chief of staff for the China Theater. CBI was now to be divided into the China Theater, with Wedemeyer in command of American forces there, and the India-Burma Theater with Lt. Gen. Daniel I. Sultan in command. The Generalissimo was requested to place under Sultan the Chinese forces committed to the Ledo offensive.110
When Sultan assumed command of U.S. Army Forces, India-Burma Theater, on 27 October 1944,the separation of CBI into two theaters became an accomplished fact.111 Wedemeyer reached China on 31 October
and formally assumed command of U.S. forces in the China Theater at once.112 The change pleased Mountbatten,113 who had had his own difficulties with Stilwell regarding proposals for reorganization within SEAC. Mountbatten promptly resumed his efforts to win support for his plans. First, he undertook to persuade the Americans to redesignate IBT as the Southeast Asia Theater because of the advantage such a designation might have in advertising "to the world at large" the Anglo-American partnership in that area.114 His request was refused on the ground that a large part of Sultan's forces, being in India, were not within the boundaries of SEAC.115 Mountbatten had better luck with his other suggestions. He had little difficulty in winning American approval of the appointment of Gen. Sir Oliver Leese as the Allied Land Forces Commander-in-Chief, a new post in the Southeast Asia Command, made effective 11 November. There was some opposition, soon overruled, by Washington and EAC to the appointment of Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, then serving under Eisenhower, as the successor of Sir Richard Peirse, who retired as Air Commander-in-Chief, SEAC. On 16 November Mountbatten was informed that the plane bearing Leigh-Mallory had been lost, and the appointment went to Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park on 1 December.
The Eastern Air Command, too, underwent a final reorganization early in December 1944. In planning the renewal of offensive operations in Burma, Mountbatten desired the release of two RAF groups from other duties for direct support of specified ground forces based on intimate contact between air and ground headquarters. Consequently, Stratemeyer inactivated the Third TAF, effective 21 November, and on r December, by a general order effective three days later, he reorganized EAC as follows:
|Tenth Air Force||AAF||Protection of ATC and NCAC|
|Strategic Air Force||AAF and RAF||Strategic offensives|
|221 Group||RAF||Support of Fourteenth Army|
|224 Group||RAF||Support of 15 Corps|
|Combat Cargo Task Force||AAF and RAF||Air supply for Fourteenth Army|
|Photo Reconnaissance Force||AAF and RAF||Photographic missions for EAC|
|Wing Headquarters (Baigachi)||RAF||Defense of Calcutta area and VHB bases|
It was with these last-minute changes in organization that SEAC and EAC faced the new and victorious year of 1945.
Notes to Chapter 7
1. Theodore H. White, ed., The Stilwell Papers (New York, 1948).
2. Memo for CCS from JCS, 17 Feb. 1944, ccs 45215.
3. TWXs, Arnold to Stilwell, action Stratemeyer, 16 Mar. 1944, and 14 Apr. 1944; Certificate, Hq. AAF IBS CBI, 20 Mar. 1944, a Pledge of Secrecy signed by all officers attending the conference of 19 Mar. 1944; TWX, Hq. AAF IBS CBI, sgd. Maj. Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, 20 Mar. 1944; TWX, Stratemeyer to Arnold, 27 Mar. 1944;TWX, Arnold to Stratemeyer, 28 Mar. 1944.
4. TWX COSSEA 80, Air Ministry to SAC, 24 Mar. 1944, quoting JSM, Washington.
5. Revised draft of COSSEA 80, 12 Apr. 1944, Hq. SEAC.
6. Msg., Stilwell to Marshall, 24 May 1944.
7. Msg., Marshall to Stilwell, 27 May 1944.
8. Rpt., Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell to C/S USA, covering 21 May 1942-25 Oct. 1944, p. 120.
9. Msg., Marshall to Stilwell, 27 May 1944.
10. Extracts of ltr. from Theater Observer, forwarded by Col. J. L. Loutzenheiser to Combined and Joint Staff Division, 30 June 1944.
11. Ltr., Arnold to Stratemeyer, 27 Dec. 1943.
12. Rpt. of Subcom. to Study JPS 337/D, 23 Dec. 1943.
13. Draft, ltr., Marshall to Mountbatten, late Dec. 1943. Whether this letter was sent or not has not been determined.
14. This statement is supported by many documents, but more especially by the personal reminiscences of those who participated in the decisions of 1943 and 1944.
15. Interview with Gen. Stratemeyer by Lee Bowen, I1 Jan. 1949.
16. See, e.g., ltr., Stratemeyer to CGs and CO's All Units of Comd., 19 Apr. 1944; memo for CGs and CO's All Units of Comd. from Maj. Gen. Charles B. Stone, III, C/AS Hq. AAF IBT, 1 Feb. 1945; memo for CGs and CO's All Units from Hq. AAF IBT, 4 Apr. 1945; memo for CGs and COs All Units from Hq. 778AAF IBS, 16 July 1944; ltr., AG to CG Hq. USAF CBI Rear Ech., 29 Feb. 1944; ltr., AM L. W. Hollinghurst to Stratemeyer, 8 Mar. 1945; ltr., Stratemeyer to Hollinghurst, 18 Mar. 1945; ltr., Hollinghurst to Stratemeyer, 21 Apr. 1945; ltr., Stratemeyer to Hollinghurst, 28 Apr. 1945.
17. Memo for Col. Alvin Luedecke, AC/S Opns., Plans, Tng., and Intel. (OPTI), from Stratemeyer, 13 Apr. 1944.
18. There are many references pertaining to these decisions, such as R&R, Col. Luedecke, AOX to A00 Hq. EAC, 22 Apr. 1944; R&R, Col. S. D. Grubbs, A00 to AOX Hq. EAC, 27 Apr. 1944; R&R, H. T. Alness, A00 to Col. Grubbs, 23 Apr. 1944; memo for AOX from G/Capt. the Earl of Bandon, Dep. Asst. C/S, 28 Apr. 1944; R&R, W/C A. T. Richardson, A01 to AOX, 28 Apr. 1944; R&R, A. W. Williamson, AOP to AOX, 28 Apr. 1944.
19. R&R, G/Capt. the Earl of Bandon to Col. Luedecke, 30 Apr. 1944; Hist. Rpt., AAF IBS CBI, May-June 1944.
20. Extract of Diary, CG TCC, 2 May 1944; msg., Old to Stratemeyer, 5 May 1944.
21. Ltr., Stratemeyer to Old, 9 May 1944.
22. Order abolishing TCC, to Baldwin and Slim from Stratemeyer, 4 June 1944.
23. Rpt., Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell to C/S USA, 21 May 1942-25 Oct. 1944.
24. Gen. Randall, CG 10th AF Advon, "The Fall of Myitkyina."
25. Msg., Slim to Gifford, 14 June 1944.
26. Msg., Stilwell to Marshall, 22 June 1944.
27. Interrog. Rpt. of Lt. Gen. Tanaka Shinichi, CG Japanese 18th Div.
28. Randall, "The Fall of Myitkyina."
30. Lt. Col. Emile Z. Berman, spec. rpt., "The Development of Close Support Technique in North Burma," 6 Sept. 1944.
31. Randall, "The Fall of Myitkyina."
32. Berman, "The Development of Close Support Technique in North Burma."
35. Randall, "The Fall of Myitkyina."
37. Berman, "The Development of Close Support Technique in North Burma."
40. Randall. "The Fall of Myitkyina": ltr:, Stratemeyer to Arnold, 15 July 1944:
41. Berman, "The Development of Close Support Technique in North Burma"; ltr., Stratemeyer to Arnold, 15 July 1944.
42. See Berman, as in note above.
43. Ltr., Maj. Gen. H. C. Davidson to CG USAF CBI thru EAC, 11 Aug. 1944, and 2d (21 Aug. 1944) and 3d (27 Aug. 1944) inds. thereto.
44. Hist. Off. 14th AF, Air Support of Ground Troops, n.d., n.s.; Hist. 69th Comp. Wg., May thru Dec. 1944; Hist. Off. 14th AF, The Salween Campaign, May 1944-Mar. 1945.
45. Hist. Off. 14th AF, The Salween Campaign, May 1944-Mar. 1945.
46. Direc., Chennault to Vincent, 1 June 1944; rpt., Hq. 14th AF, Analysis of the Hunan Campaign, 11 July 1944.
47. Msg., Chennault to Stilwell, 31 Mar. 1944.
48. Msg., Stilwell to Chennault, 1 Apr. 1944.
49. Ltr., Chennault to Stilwell, 8 Apr. 1944.
50. Stilwell presented this thesis to Stratemeyer who in turn asked for an explanation from Chennault. The latter declared he had never intimated he would not defend Chengtu but sought to point out the danger if the enemy should take the Peiping-Hankow railway (msg., Chennault to Stratemeyer, 16 Apr. 1944).
51. Msg., Chennault to StilwellJ 20 Apr. 1944; Stilwell to Chennault, 22 Apr. 1944.
52. Msg., Chennault to Ferris, 15 May1944; ltr., Chennault to Arnold, 16 May 1944.
53. Msg., Chennault to Stilwell, 1 June 1944.
54. Msg., Chennault to Stilwell, 2 June 1944.
55. Msg., Stilwell to Ferris, 3 June 1944.
56. Msg., Ferris to Stilwell, 28 May 1944.
57. Msg., Stilwell to Ferris, 28 May 1944.
58. Aide-mémoire for Roosevelt from Chiang, 31 May 1944.
59. Transcript of info. passed to Gen. Shang Chen by Gen. McNarney in conference, 9 June 1944; also memo for Gauss from Ferris, 22 June 1944.
60. Msg., Boatner, sgd. Lindsay, for Stilwell, 4 June 1944.
61. Msg. 1148, Stilwell to JCS, 4 June 1944.
62. Msg., Ferris to Stilwell, 3 June 1944.
63. Statistics supplied by ATC Hist. Off.,Sept. 1948.
64. Ltr., Chennault to Stilwell, 6 June 1944; 24th SCU, 14th AF Annual Sum. 1944.
65. Brig. Gen. E. E. Glenn, Narrative of Experiences as Chief of Staff of 14th AF, Mar. 1943-Dec. 1945.
66. Ibid.; Claire L. Chennault, Way of a Fighter (New York, 1949), p. 303.
67. 14th AF Wkly. Intel. Sum., 8-14 June 1944.
68. Robert Finney, Albert Hoxie, and F. J. Erickson, History of Fourteenth Air Force, chap. 12.
69. Rpt., Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell to C/S USA, 21 May 1942-24 Oct. 1944, pp. Ô47-49.
70. Rpts., Vincent to Chennault, July 1944; 24th SCU, 14th AF Annual Sum., 1944; 14th AF Wkly. Intel. Sum., 13-19 and 20-26 July 1944.
71. Ltr., A-2 to CG 14th AF, 2 Aug. 1944.
72. 24th SCU, Campaign Statistics, 21 July 1945.
73. Hist. Off. 14th AF, Air Support of Ground Opns. in the China Campaigns, n.d.
74. Hist. Rpt. of CACW, Aug. 1944; A-2 14th AF, Japan's War in China, in 24th SCU, 14th AF Annual Sum., 1944.
75. 14th AF Wkly. Intel. Sum., 13-20 Sept. 1944.
76. Rpt., Stilwell to C/S USA, 21 May 1942-24 Oct. 19447 pp. 147-49.
77. 24th SCU, 14th AF Annual Sum., 1944; Chennault, Way of a Fighter, pp. 326-27.
78. 14th AF Wkly. Intel. Sum., 8 and 15 Nov. 1944.
79. Rpt., Stilwell to C/S USA, 21 May 1942-24 OCt. 19449 pP*147-49-
80. The Stilwell Papers (New York, 1948).
81. Maj. Gen. Thomas Handy, AC/S, Sum., 4 Mar. 1944; ltr., Stettinius, Actg, Sec. State, to Stimson, 28 Feb. 1944.
82. Msg., Stilwell to Marshall, 7 Apr. 1944.
83. Msg., Wallace to Roosevelt, 28 June 1944.
84. Memo for Roosevelt from JCS, 4 July 1944-
85. Msg., Roosevelt to Chiang, 6 July 1944.
86. Msg., Marshall to Stilwell, 7 July 1944.
87. Msg., Stilwell to Marshall, 9 July 1944.
88. Msg., Chiang to Roosevelt, 9 July 1944.
89. Msg., Roosevelt to Chiang, 13 July 1944.
90. Conversations with Hurley byH. L. Bowen; The Stilwell Papers, pp. 80, 116, 119.
91. Msgs., Hearn to Stilwell, 20 July 1944;Stilwell to Hearn, 22 July 1944.
92. Msgs., Hearn to Merrill for Stilwell, 19 Aug. 1944; Stilwell to Hearn, 21 Aug. 1944.
93. Msg., Hearn to Chennault, 23 Aug. 1944.
94. Msg., Hurley to Roosevelt, 7 Sept. 1944.
95. Conversations with Gen. Hurleyby H. L. Bowen.
96. Msg., Stilwell to Marshall, 15 Sept. 1944.
97. Ibid.; see also The Stilwell Papers, pp. 33-33.
98. CCS 176th Mtg., OCTAGON Conference. Ouebec. 16Seot. 1044.
99. Msg.,'Roosevelt to Ckiani .16 Sept. 1944; see also The Stilwell Papers, pp. 330-35.
100. Interview with Gen. Hurley by Col. W. J. Paul, Albert Simpson, and H. L. Bowen, 24 Jan. 1949; see also The Stilwell Papers, pp. 333-35 for Stilwell's account and reaction.
101. Memo, in Stilwell's hand, for Hurley from Stilwell, 23 Sept. 1944, used with special permission of Gen. Hurley.
102. Interview with Gen. Hurley, cited in n 100.
103. Aide-mimoire for Hurley from Chiang, 25 Sept. 1944.
104. Msg., Roosevelt to Chiang, 5 Oct. 1944.
105. Aide-mkmoire for Hurley from Chiang, 9 Oct. 1944.
106. Msg., Hurley to Roosevelt, 13 Oct. 1944, cited by special permission of Gen. Hurley.
107. Msg., Roosevelt to Hurley, 14 Oct. 1944.
108. Msg., Hurley to Roosevelt, 15 Oct. 1944.
109. Msg., Marshall to Stilwell, 18 Oct. 1944.
110. Msg., Roosevelt to Chiang, 18 Oct. 1944.
111. Hq. USAF IBT GO I, 27 Oct. 1944.
112. China Theater GO 2, 31 Oct. 1944.
113. Extract from SAC's Personal Diary, 30 Oct. 1944, Hq. SS War Diary, Vol. 39.
114. Ltr., Adm. Sir James F. Somerville, Br. Joint Staff Mission, Washington, to Marshall, 8 Nov. 1944.