Breaking the Stalemate in North Burma
A great semicircle of Allied forces stood around Burma in December 1943. With the exception of Stilwell's forces, which had breached the mountain barriers in north Burma, Allied forces were in positions that roughly conformed to the natural defenses that ring Burma in a long Gothic arch with its apex toward the north. The forces on the west or Indian side were under SEAC and Mountbatten; those to the east or Chinese side, under the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Gen. Wei Li-huang commanding. In the southwest, in the Arakan area along the Bay of Bengal, was the British 15 Corps (5th and 7th Indian Divisions and 81st West African Division). Since November 1943 they had been driving in the forward positions of the Japanese 55th Division in order to seize an area from which, with amphibious support, they might take the airfields and the port of Akyab on the Arakan coast. (Map 5*)
About 300 miles to the north, SEAC had its 4 Corps (17th, 20th, and 23d Indian Divisions). Here there was only patrol activity, but in early 1944 the corps was scheduled to take the offensive into Burma to keep Japanese forces from moving north to stop Stilwell. 4 Corps faced the Japanese 33d and 31st Divisions.
In the Hukawng Valley, Stilwell had the Chinese 38th Division, with elements of the 22d Division coming forward. They were fighting the Japanese 55th and 56th Regiments, 18th Division, and were driving across north Burma to break the blockade of China.
On the China side, on the long Salween River front, were the eleven divisions of the Chinese Expeditionary Force. Opposite them the Japanese had
Disposition of Forces
1 December 1943
their 56th Division. The Japanese deployment left one Japanese division in reserve, the 54th.1
The terrain feature on which the campaign, seen in its largest sense, currently focused was the town of Myitkyina. Lying in the center of north Burma, at the southern tip of the mountain range or Hump over which the transports flew to China, and possessed of road and rail links with the rest of Burma and with China, Myitkyina had strategic advantages to which the Joint and Combined Chiefs attached great importance. Were Myitkyina and its airfields in Allied hands, the transports of the ATC could fly a lower, broader route to China. Were Myitkyina in Allied hands, the Ledo Road and its companion pipelines could link with the prewar communications net of North Burma, Myitkyina would become a great supply center, and the end of China's blockade would be at hand.
In their current position around the obscure wrecked villages of Yupbang Ga, Sharaw Ga, and Ningbyen, Stilwell's Chinese were on the Burman side of the mountains that separate Burma and India. They were at the north end of the long corridor of the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys whose southern exit is within easy march of Myitkyina, and the Irrawaddy valley that forms so much of central Burma. The principal barrier between Stilwell and Myitkyina was the three regiments of the Japanese 18th Division. These skilled veterans under the competent leadership of General Tanaka could be counted on to make good use of the several dominant terrain features that lay between Stilwell's troops and the streets, houses, bazaars, and temples of Myitkyina.
The SEXTANT decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in December 1943 required that Stilwell occupy upper Burma in spring 1944. To carry out this order Stilwell would have to break the stalemate that had developed in the northern end of the Hukawng Valley. These were the elements of the stalemate: The three battalions of the 112th Regiment, Chinese 38th Division, had been sent forward into the north end of the Hukawng Valley to hold the line of the
Tarung Hka and Tanai Hka. The Tarung, flowing from north to south, enters the westward-flowing Tanai about six miles southwest of the village of Yupbang Ga. The rivers lay in the path of the engineers building the Ledo Road; it was essential to hold their crossings. Moving forward on this mission, the battalions of the 112th had met the outposts of the Japanese, elements of the 55th and 56th Regiments, 18th Division.
The Chinese battalions were soon cut off as the Japanese used their customary device of encirclement. The 1st Battalion at Yupbang Ga, the 2d Battalion in the Sharaw Ga area (both on the Tarung), and the 3d Battalion at Ngajatzup, about twenty-five miles southwest of Yupbang Ga in the Taro Plain, were all surrounded, relying on air supply, and apparently powerless to cut their way out. Nor had the initial attempts to relieve them been successful. The commander of the 38th Division, General Sun Li-jen, had tried unsuccessfully in mid-December to relieve the 1st Battalion at Yupbang Ga. He used reinforcements for whose presence he was in considerable measure indebted to a visit by the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang two weeks earlier.2
The Chiangs Visit Their Troops
On 30 November 1943 the headquarters of the Chinese Army in India was visited by Generalissimo and Madame Chiang on their way back from Cairo; they still believed the Allies were in accord on Burma operations. While the Generalissimo spoke with Generals Sun and Liao, Madame Chiang asked General Boatner if the Chinese troops had not failed to bypass the Japanese and go ahead. Boatner shared her impressions. Asked by Madame Chiang to explain, Sun replied that he had no reserves available at the front. On Boatner's asking if the arrival of these reserves would set him to enveloping the Japanese, Sun concurred. Madame Chiang again raised the issue, and again Sun said yes.
Then the Generalissimo called Boatner before him to receive his views, Madame Chiang interpreting. The Generalissimo asked that his expressions be passed on to Stilwell. Boatner reported the Generalissimo as saying:
. . . our forces were at a big disadvantage, that supply was most difficult, that no road was available for rapid troop movements and the Japanese had every advantage to include large forces in our immediate front. He stated that we should not provoke a large-scale battle with the Japanese and we should not cross the Tarung-Tanai River until February, because at that time the British would move to the South and the Chinese would move from Yunnan. He stated that the Chinese force used to hold the present river line should not exceed one regiment. He explained that this force was desirable because we had only six regiments and if two were cut off by the enemy we would have only four regiments left.3
General Boatner replied that at most two Japanese battalions faced the 38th
Division, that air supply kept the Chinese well fed and well armed, that the movement forward was, properly speaking, not an offensive at all but made necessary by the progress of the Ledo Road. Boatner also explained the system of liaison and command--that he, Boatner, simply passed on Stilwell's orders. Then the gathering paused for dinner.
The minutes of the conference suggest that in the light of the First Burma Campaign's experiences Boatner was alarmed by the Generalissimo's statements before Sun and Liao that the defensive should be adhered to and only one regiment risked. As soon as the Generalissimo's party sat down to dinner, the Generalissimo again stated that in his opinion only one regiment should defend the river line. Asked what would happen if that regiment were not enough, the Generalissimo replied: "Well, of course you will have to think up a method (Hsiang I Ko Pan Fa)." Boatner acted at once, and:
. . . immediately told Madame Chiang that I considered the Generalissimo's statement in reference to using only one regiment of the utmost importance; that if he told his division commanders that only one regiment would be used and if thereupon he, the Generalissimo, left the area, the situation might change abruptly and a catastrophe result before he could make necessary changes in orders. I quickly added, again to Madame Chiang, that this was of utmost importance and the Generalissimo must realize that many of his officers took his views and wishes as explicit orders, and that such would severely handicap future operations in this sector. Upon receiving Madame Chiang's interpretation, the Generalissimo quickly replied that these were not orders, only his views, and that you [Stilwell] had complete authority. I then asked Madame Chiang if she would make certain that the Generalissimo would make this crystal clear to Generals Sun and Liao. The Generalissimo agreed.
After dinner the Generalissimo told Sun and Liao in a very formal manner that his remarks on operations were simply his personal views and that Stilwell's orders were to be carried out in full. The meeting had been friendly and cordial throughout, thought General Boatner, and he so reported.4
On learning of this conference, Stilwell told Madame Chiang that the stalemate had been caused by General Sun's failure to maneuver aggressively. (It will be recalled that the tendency was to underestimate the number of Japanese then present around Yupbang Ga.) The discussion, partly personal and partly by radio, ended with Stilwell's assurance that reinforcements were coming, and Sun's solemn promise to Madame Chiang that he would indeed bypass the entrenched Japanese when his reinforcements arrived. Stilwell capped the episode by writing a letter to Sun asking him to make his promise to Madame Chiang a matter of record.5
Stilwell then told Boatner that Sun was free to use the whole 38th Division and could move up a regiment of the 22d Division to a reserve position if he
wished; the latter request Boatner had earlier refused because he wanted to train the 22d Division for a few months more.6
Almost immediately, General Sun tried to relieve the beleaguered 1/112th at Yupbang Ga. On 15 December the 1/114th, supported by the 6th Battery, 38th Division Artillery, attacked. Firing the first preparation of the campaign, the battery was thought to have driven away the crews of three of the four Japanese machine gun positions separating the two battalions. The Chinese waited ten minutes, then gingerly probed the Japanese positions with a small patrol. Fired on by the remaining machine gun, the Chinese withdrew to their own lines. The Japanese then reoccupied and strengthened their positions so that later attacks found them much more formidable.7
Taking up his duties as Commanding General, Chinese Army in India, Stilwell arrived at Shingbwiyang, in the Hukawng Valley, on 21 December. That day and the next he spent with General Sun and the several staffs in examining the local situation. In the Yupbang Ga-Sharaw Ga-Ningbyen area, the serpentine Tanai Hka, flowing roughly from southeast to northwest, most shapes the local topography. Almost immediately south and southwest of the Tanai is the hill mass of the Wantuk Bum. Flowing almost due south until it meets the Tanai is the Tarung. The two rivers thus form the eastern and southern boundaries of a small terrain compartment. The traveler or the army that wants to leave the compartment on the south must use the Kantau ford; the eastern exits are the fords at Yupbang Ga and Ningbyen. To get his campaign under way, Stilwell would have to pry the Japanese grip from the Chinese units at the Tarung Hka crossings at Yupbang Ga and Ningbyen. Fortunately for him, the Japanese had omitted to guard the Kantau ford, so that the exit to the south across the Tanai was open. (See Map 4.)
The Japanese positions seemed to Stilwell and his staff to be along the Tarung Hka with their left flank resting somewhere near the hills of the Wantuk Bum. Thus, their line ran north and south, roughly parallel to the Tarung, and the unguarded Kantau ford seemed to open an obvious opportunity to attempt an envelopment of their left or southern flank. If the Chinese could move a force across the Tanai at Kantau, then send it moving eastward along the Tanai's southern bank, they might well succeed in placing themselves in the Japanese rear and cutting off Tanaka's force north of the Tanai. Such a stroke might well result in disaster for Tanaka's 55th and 56th Regiments and decide the campaign in its first months.
Sun's initial proposals were to send the 3/114th, 38th Division, south across the Tanai at Kantau ford to cut around the Japanese left, while two additional companies tried to swing around the northern end of the Japanese line by crossing the Tarung north of Sharaw Ga. Stilwell objected that the proposed forces were too small. In lieu of the attempted envelopment of the Japanese northern flank by two companies, he substituted a strong attack toward Yupbang Ga, which, after breaking the Japanese center and relieving the 1/112th, would hook north and envelop the northern fragment of the Japanese line. The force sent to move around the Japanese left was finally set at a regiment.8
The commander of the Chinese 114th Regiment was put in command of the operations around Yupbang Ga, since his unit had been chosen to make the effort, with the 112th Regiment co-operating as best it could. Supported by the 5th and 6th Batteries, the 1/114th deployed with companies in line. Four Japanese strongpoints in a rough square barred them from the 1/112th.9
Preceding the attack, which was launched on 24 December, another artillery preparation was fired, with great accuracy, for only thirty yards separated the two forces at some points. When the Chinese went in at 1000, the Japanese held stoutly, because this time there was no element of surprise. The Chinese had waited five minutes after the fire lifted before attacking and had blown a bugle in the accepted Chinese practice. The Japanese fought with their accustomed stubbornness and counterattacked thirty minutes after the Chinese companies in the attack at last made contact with each other at 1300 in the Japanese position. Small parties of Japanese held out in foxholes and dugouts.
At 1500 the Chinese battalion commander, Maj. Peng Ke-li, enveloped the Japanese right flank, and at 1515 another element made contact with the besieged battalion, which had remained in its lines during the fight. By dark the smallest Japanese pocket had been surrounded, and it was wiped out the next morning though one dogged machine gunner was still firing at 1000. The survivors of the other pocket fought their way clear during the night. The enemy's defense had been active. Every night patrols were out raiding, and the Japanese still held the west bank of the stream.
This little battle, bitterly fought at close quarters, made a great impression on the men of the 38th Division. Many of them were new, had heard stories of the 38th Division's successes in the First Burma Campaign, and now felt that they too could beat the Japanese. The Chinese soldiers talked of it over and over again during the rest of the drive on Myitkyina; the first victory is never forgotten.10
ATTACK ON YUPGANG GA. Reproduction of original sketch by General Stilwell.
The Japanese, too, were impressed by Yupbang Ga: ". . . the unexpected stubbornness of the Chinese troops in the fighting around Yupbang Ga led the Japanese to believe that troops that faced them were far superior in both the quality of their fighting and in their equipment to the Chinese troops they had been fighting in China for years. Too, after witnessing a spectacular [supply] airdrop of Allied forces the Japanese realized that the fighting power of the American-Chinese forces was not to be underestimated."11
The success pleased Stilwell, but a warning of a major Japanese threat may have spoiled his Christmas Day. Accepting at face value intelligence that he was to be attacked by the Japanese 18th and 31st Divisions, he called General Sun into conference and told the Chinese commander of his plans to meet so grave a threat. Stilwell planned to seize Taihpa Ga with the 38th Division, then fortify it, while the 22d Division did the same in the Taro Plain. Chih Hui Pu was to speed the arrival of the 65th Regiment, 22d Division. Thus, for the next few days Stilwell's intent was to seize good defense positions, "then let Japs attack."12
The initial success at Christmas did not take Yupbang Ga from the agenda. The Japanese between the 1/112th and the river still held, blocking the crossing. Three battalions were to be used in driving them out, the 1/114th, 2/114th, and 1/112th, supported by the 5th and 6th Batteries. Facing them were at least the 4th and 6th Companies, 2/55th, with machine guns attached, holding three strongpoints some 300 yards northwest of the river, and three more along its bank.
Attacking from the north, the three Chinese battalions began the operation at 1000, 28 December. By 1430 the 1/112th on the right flank had swept in behind the three outer strongpoints to take one of those along the river. The position forming the left flank of the Japanese outer defenses fell at 1400; then the Chinese found that this point and its immediate neighbor were linked by tunnels through which the Japanese freely moved. Little progress was made until the Chinese who had assaulted these defenses bypassed the Japanese supporting position and went on to the river. This stroke seemed to force the Japanese from the three outer positions. In the meantime the 1/114th broke the resistance at one of the points on the river, which had been somewhat isolated from the other Japanese positions. A counterattack that night from one of the two remaining strongpoints failed, and the point itself was wiped out the next morning.
The survivors of the Japanese companies split into small groups which held out for several days. There was a fluid situation, with "firing all around." The last Japanese strongpoint, in a sort of anticlimax, held out till 13 January.
In the first attempt to clear it on 5 January, the Chinese met land mines, which inflicted forty casualties. On the next day an attempt with three companies following an artillery preparation failed when one company commander attacked ahead of time. The position was penetrated but the Chinese suffered such losses that they had to fall back. By good fortune, the last attack was made as the Japanese were finally pulling back across the river and yielded an unexpectedly large dividend of casualties.
The Chinese units trapped to the north, in the Sharaw Ga area, were relieved by elements of the 113th Regiment on 31 December 1943, for with the Chinese successes around Yupbang Ga the Japanese position to the north was plainly untenable. The line of the Tarung Hka was now firmly in Chinese hands.
At the south end of the line, in the area where the Tarung flows into the Tanai, and where Sun planned to envelop the Japanese left, the envelopment had not progressed with the speed Stilwell desired. The 3d Battalion of the 114th, later followed by the 2d Battalion, marched south to the Kantau ford and crossed the Tanai in the second week of December, moving in column of companies. Its 8th Company stayed at the Kantau ford; the 7th Company halted at the second bend of the river from Kantau and dug in. To the very skeptical Stilwell, Sun claimed that he had ordered the 6th Company to proceed and cut off the retreat of the two Japanese regiments to the north. The 6th Company stayed where it was until 9 January 1944.13
Unknown to Sun and Stilwell the Chinese in the Kantau area faced a Japanese raiding force of about forty men which Tanaka had sent to swing wide round his left in order to cut behind the Chinese front-line positions and attack the truck parks, supply dumps, and command posts around Ningbyen and Shingbwiyang. The 18th Division had not expected to meet the Chinese. These latter posed so grave a threat to Tanaka's flank that their subsequent passivity puzzled their opponents as much as it gratified them.14
The fighting had by the end of 1943 cost the 38th Division 17 officers and 298 enlisted men killed, and 20 officers and 409 enlisted men wounded. The bulk of the casualties were suffered by the 112th Regiment, and 356 replacements for it left Ledo on 3 January 1944.15
Stilwell's role had not been easy. Analyzing the operation in his usual fashion, he noted grave Chinese errors: "Dissipation of force. . . . Piece-meal action. . . . Extreme caution and extreme slowness of movement. . . . Fear of imaginary terrors. . . . Bad recon and security. . . . Fear of going around. . . .
JAPANESE FIFTEENTH ARMY COMMANDER AND STAFF. Seen left to right, front row, are Lt. Gen. Genzo Yanagida, Commander, 33d Division, General Tanaka, Commander, 18th Division, General Mutaguchi, Commander, Fifteenth Army, Lt. Gen. Sukezo Matsuyama, Commander, 56th Division, and Lt. Gen. Kotoku Sato, Commander, 31st Division.
Result--Loss of men. Loss of chance to bag Japs."16 He felt that the 3/114th was not pushing its envelopment, that it could have slipped up behind the Japanese from the south. Stilwell found it difficult to get an accurate idea of Japanese strength. One trusted staff officer thought them "awfully strong" across the Tarung; another, that there were only 400 Japanese facing the 38th Division. But his major problem was trying to make the Chinese more aggressive.17
The Opponents Shape Their Plans
The warning of a Japanese offensive that had clouded Stilwell's enjoyment of Christmas was an exaggeration but not an error, for General Tanaka had had no intention of remaining on the defensive. He had planned to attack with his
55th and 56th Regiments, leaving the 114th Regiment to garrison Myitkyina, but had been overruled in mid-December 1943 by General Mutaguchi of the 15th Army. Since preparations were then actively under way for an attack on Imphal, Mutaguchi believed he could not spare additional motor transport units to give the necessary logistical support to the 18th Division. Tanaka therefore received orders that severely restricted him. The 18th's commander was told that any movement of reinforcements north of the Tanai must have Mutaguchi's personal approval. The 18th could counterattack in the area around Maingkwan, near the south end of the Hukawng Valley; at the very least, it must hold Kamaing, just south of the ridge line that separated the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys. Weighing his orders, Tanaka began to plan with the hope that by the time the monsoon rains fell in May or June he would have created a stalemate somewhere near the ridge line.18
Therefore General Tanaka planned a delaying action down the Hukawng Valley, for which he had several advantages. The terrain was admirably suited to such an attempt, and the Japanese had complete and detailed knowledge of the Chinese order of battle. Moreover, the Japanese infantry were now supported by the 18th Field Mountain Artillery Regiment with twelve 75-mm. mountain guns and four 150-mm. howitzers. Transport difficulties made it necessary to leave the remainder of the regiment in the rear. The engineers of the 18th Division were also present. After the war, Tanaka estimated his strength in the Hukawng Valley at 6,300 men. These plus the 114th Regiment stood between Stilwell and Myitkyina.19
Stilwell's plans immediately after the successful action at Yupbang Ga remained fluid. Probably he still feared that attack by the 18th and 31st Divisions of which he had been warned. Since his plans to meet that menace called for moving ahead to the line of the Tanai, and since General Sun was contemplating an envelopment to trap the Japanese north of the Tanai, the operations immediately under way could go on as Stilwell shaped his next move and prodded Sun to move faster. To encourage the latter, and applying his bargaining technique of dealing with the Chinese, Stilwell told Sun on 3 January that the 3/112th would be released from army control if Sun took the little settlement of Taihpa Ga on the Tanai in two days. Looking farther ahead, Stilwell also asked General Wingate to move the U.S. long-range penetration group (GALAHAD) up to the Hukawng Valley. Wingate agreed.20
With the Generalissimo's refusal to cross the Salween, GALAHAD lost the
mission for which it had originally been intended and was available for others. On 6 January, General Merrill was assigned to command the regiment, vice Colonel Hunter, who became second in command. GALAHAD's designation reverted to unit, perhaps because it would have been incongruous to have a general officer command a regiment.21
Mountbatten offered British troops to spearhead the Chinese, but Stilwell preferred GALAHAD because both it and the Chinese had been trained in the American system of tactics.22 Stilwell's request, though later yielding major results in combat, placed a logistic burden on the Advance Section and the combat zone for which no preparations had been made, because GALAHAD was to have operated under SEAC and Stilwell's decision reflected a last-minute inspiration two months after the campaign began. There was no replacement or convalescent system for the American combat troops (since GALAHAD had been provided by the War Department for one mission of three months' duration), while air support, both tactical and supply, had not previously been allocated with a view to support of U.S. infantry in north Burma. Arrangements by Stilwell's combat headquarters to support GALAHAD were therefore improvisations and many of them failed in combat.23
Seeking to give weight to the campaign from another direction, Stilwell sent a radio to Marshall asking that pressure be put on the Generalissimo to turn the Y-Force loose. Stilwell argued that the Generalissimo's inactivity would give to SEAC "the very reason they wanted to give up the attack on Burma." And he feared that if the Burma campaign was allowed to die away the Japanese would then be free to strike at Kunming either via Pao-shan or from Hanoi and French Indochina.24
Enveloping the Japanese Left Flank
General Sun's plan, as he finally settled on it after many talks with Stilwell, called for a regimental combat team to continue the wide swing around Tanaka's left flank while the rest of Sun's division attacked Tanaka's front. The enveloping force, the 114th Regiment of the 38th Division plus the 6th Battery, was sent circling south to cross the Tanai at Kantau while the 113th Regiment and the 2/112th in the center would wheel to the south, coming down from Yupbang Ga and reaching the Tanai, in the vicinity of Taihpa Ga. To the extreme north the 1/112th would march eastward across the Tarung, then turn south. The 4th and 5th Batteries would support the 113th Regiment. Far to the west the 65th Regiment, 22d Division, was sent into the Taro Plain on a wide envelopment calculated to cut into the Hukawng Valley well behind the
Operations in Northern Hukawng Valley
18th Division. This wide swing was Stilwell's touch, the hallmark of a battle fought Stilwell's way.25
Attempting to envelop Tanaka's left, the 3/114th had crossed the Tanai at Kantau in the second week of December. It then encountered the Japanese along two small creeks, the Sanip Hka and Mawngyang Hka. (Map 6) The jungle made it hard for the Chinese to organize; the supporting 6th Battery
could not fire until fields of fire were cut, and while this was being done, infiltrating parties of Japanese surrounded the battery. Fighting for their guns and their lives from 9 to 11 January, the Chinese cannoneers saved both. This Japanese attempt was greatly aided by the faulty disposition of the 3/114th, split into four fragments, no two of them in contact. Its commander stayed in his rear command post.26
The regimental commander, Col. Li Hung, now arrived and quickly restored the situation. The several portions of the 3/114th began to attack, thrust the Japanese out from among themselves, and after the 2/114th arrived on 15 January the revitalized 3d Battalion was able to force the Sanip crossing on 16 January. This effort pushed a group of Japanese back into the first bend of the Tanai east of its meeting with the Tarung. The 2/114th was now on the right flank, where it faced perhaps one of the two Japanese companies present.27
Here the Chinese halted for a week, and when the 1/114th arrived General Sun on 29 January sent the 3/114th back to rest and put the 1st Battalion to the slow job of digging the Japanese from their holes in the river bank.
Stilwell thought this close to disobedience of orders, for he wanted Sun to move quickly and cut behind the 18th Division. On 13 January he had spoken very bluntly to Sun, asking him what orders he gave the 114th Regiment and if there had been any word from Chungking to slow the operation. Stilwell pointed out that Sun's 38th Division had gotten weapons, supplies, medicine as no Chinese unit ever had before; Stilwell was going to bring up tanks, 4.2-inch mortars, U.S. infantry, and flame throwers, but before (underlined in Stilwell's draft) Stilwell put them in, he wanted to know whether Sun would obey orders.
Stilwell told Sun that if he (Stilwell) could not exercise the command that the Generalissimo had given him, he would resign and report the whole affair to the U.S. Government. "Regardless of what anyone else may say, I assure you that my report will be fully believed in Washington." General Sun was confronted with the prospect that Chinese lethargy in north Burma might mean withdrawal of all U.S. help from China. Stilwell, Sun was told, had been alone in his fight to convince the United States that the Chinese Army was worth helping. "If I am double-crossed by the people I am trying to help I am through for good and I will recommend very radical measures." Stilwell closed by saying that he had done his part; would Sun reciprocate?28 But despite Stilwell's arguments and threats, General Sun did not meet Stilwell's ideas of how a dynamic field commander should conduct himself.
For his part, Sun in late January told an American liaison officer with the
38th that he had never had a failure in his life, and did not propose to have one now. His listener gathered that Sun would proceed with caution to avoid defeat, rather than accept risks to gain a victory.29
The 114th Regiment plugged away at its own pace, taking care to leave no Japanese pockets behind, despite the obvious chance to clamp a roadblock across the road which led from Kamaing to the Japanese positions between the Tarung and the Tanai.30
At this point the 66th Regiment, 22d Division, was sent into action on the right of the 114th Regiment. Finding no enemy, it began to make its way toward the Kamaing Road. This action again opened the prospect of enveloping the Japanese. The regiment's move to the front had been delayed because of a missed ration drop, which had brought the columns to a standstill and greatly worried General Liao, who was having his first experiences with air supply in combat.31
The Capture of Taihpa Ga
While the 114th Regiment was creeping through the jungle south of the Tanai, the 112th and 113th Regiments converged on Taihpa Ga from the north. The 1/113th crossed the Tarung near Yupbang Ga and sent patrols north to occupy Tabawng Ga on 13 January, then moved southeast to reach Kaduja Ga on the 15th. The 3/113th followed while the 2d Battalion stayed at Yupbang Ga in reserve. The regiment went southeast and lost two days "probing" at a Japanese delaying position. Then it bypassed on 17 January, left a company to contain the Japanese, and headed for Taihpa. Its pace was perhaps 150-200 yards a day. Patrols from another unit, reconnoitering the banks of the Tarung to its junction with the Tanai, and then swinging east along the Tanai almost to Taihpa Ga, did not meet any Japanese in the area through which the 113th Regiment was moving so cautiously.32
The battered 112th Regiment swung wide to the north and east to Warang Ga, then halted and patrolled to the north, east, and south. The 113th Regiment at about this time (mid-January) extended its right until the 3/113th closed in on the Japanese positions on the Tanai bank. Clearing the Japanese from their footholds north of the Brangbram Hka and west of the Kamaing Road, on 21 January it reached Ningru Ga, less than a mile downstream from Taihpa Ga.33
GENERAL STILWELL AND GENERAL SUN are shown in conference at General Sun's headquarters. Col. Edward J. McNally, liaison officer with General Sun's troops, is seated at left.
The 1/113th fought to within 1,500 yards of Taihpa Ga, then was ordered back to counter an expected Japanese flanking movement. This gave it the chance to clear a Japanese pocket previously contained along the Brangbram Hka. Artillery support, the 4th and 5th Batteries, was then brought up. The next 1,000 yards between the 1/113th and Taihpa Ga took two days to cross; then the 113th spent a week in what it called "preparations for attack." General Sun's men were now approaching the Japanese strongpoint in the area, and Japanese resistance was more freely offered, with heavy shelling by 75- and 150-mm. pieces.
At Taihpa Ga, the Kamaing Road crossed the Tanai on a long gravel bar which bullock carts could use quite well. At this point was the village itself, a humble collection of bashas, long since burnt out. About 800 yards upstream was a ferry across a stretch of fairly deep water. The Japanese used this ferry to bring supplies across the Tanai, rather than the vulnerable and easily spotted gravel bar. Here they had their strongpoint, well prepared and stubbornly defended.
The 3/113th was reinforced for the attack on the strongpoint. It moved
through Taihpa Ga over 30 January-1 February and went on to attack the strongpoint. The 2/112th came back into action to remove a Japanese pocket on a line with, and three miles east of, Taihpa Ga, the advance bringing it up level with the 113th Regiment. Now back to full strength, the 112th Regiment gave security to the north, east, and west. The Japanese held stubbornly for several days and then quietly withdrew about 4 or 5 February. While the drive on Taihpa Ga had been under way, other Chinese units had been clearing the Japanese from the Taro Plain on Tanaka's left, and the obvious threat to his communications dictated his withdrawal, even though the Chinese did not emerge from the Taro Plain beyond his flank for another fortnight. When the Japanese yielded the north bank of the Tanai, a 4,500-foot airstrip was begun at Taihpa Ga, though Japanese shelling initially made the engineers abandon their work and their camp (to the delight of Chinese who promptly added to their stores of lend-lease equipment).34
Clearing the Taro Plain
The Hukawng Valley is a corridor leading from north to south, and the Taro Plain has been compared above to a closet opening off the corridor, just inside the northern door. The Taro Plain is formed by the drainage system of the Hukawng Valley which tilts to the northwest and toward the Chindwin, as the Tanai is known in its southern stretches. About eight miles south of the Kantau ford, the hill line that forms the western boundary for the Hukawng Valley parts, and there the Tanai cuts a narrow, north-south gorge through the hills, a gorge that widens abruptly into the circular Taro Plain, with the village of Taro in its center.
Given the mission in October 1943 of clearing the Taro Plain of Japanese so that the Ledo Road might safely pass to the east of it, the 3d Battalion, 112th Regiment, and its commander, Major Chen, had never left Ngajatzup on the extreme north edge of the plain. Stilwell's comment was:
Sorry performance. Arrived about November 1. Sent one company forward. Pulled it back again. Thereafter did nothing. Maj. Ch'en cowered in dug-out. Terrific waste of ammunition. Told Sun to have him move or I would shoot or court-martial Maj. Ch'en. Sun sent [name illegible] to investigate. Ch'en killed by British grenade in his dug-out on December 27. (Report was during Japanese attack. There was none).35
Unknown to Stilwell's headquarters, Tanaka was making a real effort to stop the unhappy Chen's battalion. When the 3d Battalion entered the Taro Plain, Tanaka rushed the 3d Battalion, 55th Regiment, to reinforce the Japanese "Pacification Unit" of eighty men stationed there. This battalion "made no
headway" so Tanaka then sent a Colonel Yamasaki and the headquarters of the 55th, divisional units, and a second infantry battalion. Such a force was too much for the 3d Battalion, 112th, to handle.36
After Chen's death, the 3d Battalion was sent back to rejoin the 38th Division; and the 65th Regiment, 22d Division, plus attached Chinese engineers and the U.S. 46th Portable Surgical Hospital, was given the task of clearing the Taro Plain, with the extremely important added mission of cutting back eastward into the Hukawng Valley to threaten Tanaka's flank. On reaching the exit of the Hukawng Valley, the 65th's commander, despite means more than ample for his mission, contracted the same lethargy that had hastened Chen's demise. Stilwell was in no mood to delay a few more weeks with Colonel Fu, and ordered Liao to relieve him. Stilwell's diary hints that his rhetoric rose to the occasion for he recorded: "Told Liao this included division commanders unless they watched their step. Also that Fu really should be shot. Liao took it OK though it shook him up."37
On 22 January General Sun was told about this affair, the news softened somewhat by presentation of a silk banner for the victory at Yupbang Ga, a dramatic contrast of the respective awards for lethargy and vigor. Having made his point, and hoping that he had given the Chinese a healthy shock, Stilwell restored Fu to his command by 26 January. Fu's later performance in combat was rated as excellent.38
The 65th Regiment moved forward immediately after Fu was relieved of command. Some U.S. observers believed that the 22d Division, from Liao down, looked upon itself as somewhat of a rival of the 38th, and wanted to show itself to advantage. The 65th's progress was aided by that of the 38th Division in the Hukawng Valley, for Tanaka was so concerned over his reverses there that he withdrew the major portion of the 55th Regiment, leaving behind only the badly weakened and poorly supplied 3d Battalion of the 55th. These Japanese indulged in an ultimately fatal passivity which permitted the 65th to encircle them completely between the 23d and 25th of January. When the last shot was fired, the American liaison officers counted 323 enemy dead in a small area about halfway down the gorge through which the Tanai enters the Taro Plain.39
The next feature of importance was the Ahawk Hka, on whose far side was a trail, the Ahawk Trail, which was the shortest route from Taro back into the
Hukawng Valley--and to a point behind Tanaka's flank. The Ahawk Hka was reached on the 26th and crossed on the 28th. The 3d Battalion of the 65th put a block across the trail while the other two battalions went on to Taro. The 3d Battalion then went on down the trail toward the Hukawng Valley, pursuing the survivors of the Japanese Taro garrison, while its companions took Taro on 30 January.40
After the war, Tanaka concluded that the loss of the Taro Plain meant "the failure of the whole division in its operations along the Tanai" and traced that loss in turn to his having had to withdraw the main strength of the 55th in an effort to redeem the situation around Kantau.41
The Allies Reorganize for the Next Effort
With the arrival in the battle area of Liao's 22d Division and the American infantry of the GALAHAD force it was necessary to make appropriate changes in the headquarters directing this enlarged force. The changes began on 29 January. Command of the service troops supporting the Chinese had been exercised heretofore by the 5303d Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Provisional) Combat Troops, whose members had been concurrently the staff of Chih Hui Pu. On the 29th the 5303d became an "area command" and on 1 February 1944 the name was changed again to Northern Combat Area Command, or NCAC as it was ever thereafter called. Use of the adjective combat was to insure its remaining under Stilwell, as by prior agreement line-of-communications areas in Burma were to be directly under SEAC.42
General Boatner was appointed Commanding General, NCAC, and kept his old post as Chief of Staff, Chih Hui Pu. Under NCAC were: ". . . such special and service units as may be placed in the Northern Combat Area Command, except for SOS units specifically engaged in road construction and the auxiliary and service units necessary therefor. . . . Command of all combat troops in the Northern Combat Area Command remains as heretofore under the Commanding General, Chinese Army in India."
As American, British, and Indian combat units entered north Burma, they were attached or assigned to NCAC, with the exception of the American long-range penetration group, GALAHAD, which on arrival was attached to the Chinese Army in India and later assigned to NCAC.43 This brief initial attachment brought into focus some of the problems that arise when troops of different nationalities work together. In north Burma, some officers of each
force tended to feel that their men were being discriminated against in favor of the others.44 The British headquarters in north Burma, Fort Hertz Area, under Brigadier J. F. Bowerman, was attached to NCAC on 1 February.45
CBI personnel entered NCAC's area at the Tirap River bridge, mile 5.75 on the Ledo Road. As of 2 December 1943 there had been no boundary between the communications and combat zones with the result that SOS in the forward zone was duplicating work of the troops under the 5303d in supporting the Chinese. Matters were arranged to keep Ledo, its installations, and the building of the Ledo Road under SOS while everything beyond the Tirap River went to NCAC.46
Three motives underlay the publication of the orders activating NCAC: to show the Chinese Government in writing that Stilwell was directly and formally commanding the Chinese Army in India; to show General Headquarters (India) that the combat zone was well defined and commanded by Boatner and thus forestall any attempts to absorb it; to mark the zone of responsibility between SOS and combat troops, for it was considered "by all concerned that conditions make it impossible to establish the orthodox LOC Zone and Combat Zone."47 To anticipate a later development, it may be observed that by April the principle had appeared of removing any possibility that the British and American combat units in north Burma might come under Gen. Cheng Tung-kuo, the newly appointed vice-commander of the Chinese Army in India, while on the other hand, it was desired to place absolute control of the pay and supplies of the Chinese Army in India in the hands of the Commanding General, NCAC. This was done by severing Ramgarh Training Center from NCAC.48 As of 30 January there were 331 officers and 1,956 enlisted men of the U.S. Army in NCAC, and nine officers and 240 civilians who were British subjects.49
The engineers, the medics, and the supply men followed close on the heels of the fighters. A complex line of communications, with airstrips, hospitals, supply points, motor shops, ordnance repair plants, and gas stations, began to
DRAINAGE CULVERTS are installed on the Ledo Road.
twist its way south through the Hukawng Valley. The Red Cross clubmobile scurrying down the road, the ambulance plane and its tragic cargo, the bulldozer driven by a Negro engineer masterfully thrusting aside the jungle, each at its appointed time passed the samurai blade rusting in the undergrowth.
On 1 February 1944, the engineers began work on permanent road construction in the Hukawng Valley, and on a combat road to support the Chinese divisions. The combat road, a hasty improvement of the existing Kamaing Road plus Kachin and Naga trails, ran through Shingbwiyang, Yupbang Ga, and Taihpa Ga, then south. The trace of the Ledo Road was moved to higher ground on the north. Forward construction units were rationed from combat supply points.
In building the Ledo Road, location parties up ahead cleared a trace the width of a bulldozer and put in the center-line stakes. The final clearing averaged 150 feet. The route of the Ledo Road in some cases followed existing roads, a circumstance that did not greatly diminish the amount of clearing needed. Most clearing was by bulldozer. Combat trails and access roads were cleared to the necessary minimum that would permit heavy equipment to use them. In the valleys, the road was generally built on embankments in order to lift it above flood level. In mountainous regions, side-hill cuts were used.
PIPELINE CROSSING A STREAM by means of cable suspension.
The road itself had about seven culverts to the mile in the mountains and five to the mile in the lowlands. These culverts were most necessary as the road was a barrier to the normal runoff of water. Surfacing was with stream-bed gravel in the valley sections and, so far as hauling permitted, natural gravel in the mountainous sections. Surfacing was about ten inches thick on the average, and from twenty to twenty-eight feet wide. Compaction was by the normal road traffic. Two regiments of Chinese engineers did pioneer construction work.50
On 27 December 1943 Colonel Pick had opened a military road to Shingbwiyang and a convoy arrived that day. By 21 January 1944 General Covell saw more vehicles in Shingbwiyang than he could count. A subdepot was opened there in January with 21,600 cubic feet of storage space and facilities for bulk gasoline storage. An all-weather airstrip was built. Medical facilities were established.
Parallel with the road ran the pipelines. Generally they were in the right of way and close to the road, but in some mountainous sections there were short
cuts using cable suspension over deep ravines and paths through terrain unsuitable for road building. During the peak of construction on the pipelines 2,590 men from engineer petroleum distribution companies and 2,750 general engineers were at work on them.51
Medical reinforcements arrived in early 1944, the 42d, 43d, and 46th Portable Surgical Hospitals, the 13th Mountain Medical Battalion (less B and C Companies), and the 25th Field Hospital. The medical history of the campaign described the evacuation process of February 1944:
Casualties thus passed through the hands of Chinese battalion and regimental detachments to surgical teams, thence either to the Seagrave Hospital on the Brambrang Hka or to the 25th Field Hospital at Ningam Sakan. Seagrave evacuated seriously-wounded to the 25th Field Hospital on about a 10-day evacuation plan. Patients requiring general hospital treatment or who would require more than six weeks of care were evacuated from the 25th Field Hospital to Ledo through the air clearing station at Shingbwiyang.52
Planning To Force a Decision
Given the fact that Stilwell's battle plans, as he strove with the 18th Division, always included either a double or single envelopment, it seems possible to contend that Stilwell had in mind ending the campaign by a single decisive victory over the Japanese 18th Division. A successful envelopment would have been the speediest way of ending this part of the North Burma Campaign, and of offering the Japanese commanders their choice of yielding north Burma or canceling operations elsewhere in order to reinforce.
Totaling his assets in January, Stilwell found he had immediately at hand the 38th Division, the 66th Regiment, 22d Division, and the Chinese 1st Provisional Tank Group (less the 2d Battalion), Col. Rothwell H. Brown, USA, commanding.53 The Japanese he estimated as having a total of six divisions in Burma. He concluded that the 56th and 55th Divisions were tied down in the Salween and Arakan areas, respectively, that the 33d and 31st were contained by 4 Corps in the Imphal area, and that the 54th Division was protecting Rangoon and the Irrawaddy Delta against an amphibious attack. That left the 18th Division for him to deal with. Since that division's 55th Regiment had been well worked over, it seemed unlikely the Japanese could muster more than five battalions to face his four regiments.
The initial solution Stilwell reached took shape on 21 January. His decision then was to thrust an armored spearhead straight down the Kamaing Road, with a sizable infantry force following close behind. He expected an attack on this axis of advance to take his troops diagonally across the Japanese rear areas.54 One uncontrollable factor Stilwell did not list in his estimate--weather. Dry ground would be essential. Orders were issued over the 21st and 22d.
A few days passed, and it began to appear that the plan for an armored attack would have to be laid aside. January was all too plainly going to enter the records as a very rainy month, while Sun's attitude did not inspire Stilwell with confidence in his principal Chinese subordinate. A new plan would have to be made.55 (Map 7)
In his usual manner, Stilwell carefully charted his new course:
February 4, 1944, it had become evident that the 38th Division could not be depended on for any further serious effort. The 112th had been scattered and cut up in November and replacements had arrived only at the end of January. The 114th, which had fought well, had lost about 60% of its company officers, and enlisted casualties had been fairly heavy. The 113th was the only unit ready for further serious work, its advance to the Tanai having been slow and cautious. The division commander was showing a strong inclination to delay operations interminably in the hope of avoiding more casualties; his failure to push the attack of the 114th was the cause of allowing the Japs an open route to the south which could easily have been closed. To operate seriously south of the Tanai it was necessary to establish a bridge-head, which the 38th Division commander obviously was reluctant to attempt. The plan had been to put the 1st Tank Battalion across the Tanai at night and jump off from the bridgehead at dawn, objective, Maingkwan. The 1/66th was attached to the tanks and the 113th was to follow down the road to take over successive positions. The 114th was to assemble at Taihpa in reserve and the 112th was to protect the flank east of the Tanai, advancing on Mashi Daru.
The plan was altered on February 4 as follows: 22d Division, using 65th less one battalion (Taro garrison) and 66th less one battalion (attached to tanks) was to seize and hold line Yawngbang-Lakyen sending the 66th past the 114th, and the 65th over the Wantuk Bum. The 114th was to clean up south of the Tanai and the remainder of the 38th was to clear the area to the Tawang east of the Tanai. This was to be the first phase, followed as soon as possible by an advance to the south, using the tanks and the 65th and the 66th, in the hope of getting to Walawbum. By that time the 16th Brigade [of Wingate's Chindits] and the American brigade [GALAHAD] could make themselves felt at Lonkin and Shaduzup respectively. A plan was to be made to reduce Sumprabum and advance towards Nsopzup, and to edge towards Htawgaw from Luhow [illegible].
Bad weather had retarded Road work and hampered supply. The change in plan should give us time to build up a reserve in Shingbwiyang and Ningam, make progress on the Road, and build a field at Taihpa. It was felt that even though the seizure of a bridgehead might be delayed a few days, it would be a much better one and that the delay might well be made up for by cutting out the projected stop at Maingkwan and pushing on to the limit of our resources. A slower start, but a better organized one, with fresh troops eager to make good, and chance to go much further in less time, and with the added threats of the American and British LRPG's.56
Advance to Walawbum
23 February-4 March 1944
"We can fight here instead of M[Maingkwan?] and can maybe get behind the Japs and clean up," wrote Stilwell in his diary for 4 February. So it was to be an attempt at a decision which if successful would mean that only Japanese stragglers and the 114th Regiment would stand between two Chinese divisions and Myitkyina.
The first phase of the revised plan, the enveloping hook from the Taro Plain by the 22d Division, did not come off as planned. The 3/65th of the 22d Division had been pursuing the Japanese from Taro down the Ahawk Trail. The 2/65th was sent on from Taro to join it.57 The rains were annoyingly heavy, but on the morning of 14 February Stilwell waited confidently for news that the 65th Regiment had joined with the 66th Regiment, which had been operating in the Hukawng Valley, and had taken Yawngbang Ga, thus completing its part of the envelopment. In twenty-four hours it was very clear something had gone wrong. A Chinese officer of the 38th Division reported seeing the 1/66th, which should have been five miles away from him. Stilwell spent all of 16 February waiting for news of what had happened: "Is the 66th in Yawngbang or lost?" One set of American liaison officers reported the 66th Regiment was in place; another, that the regiment was miles away from its proper course. By noon of the 17th it was plain that the 66th Regiment had taken the wrong trail and lost its way.
On the morning of 18 February Stilwell told General Liao that the 66th Regiment's performance had cost a chance to trap some Japanese, then went out personally to check on the regiment's location, with Liao accompanying him. The whole 66th plus the 3/65th were in the neighborhood of the 66th's command post. The main trail, Yawngbang Ga to Lakyen Ga, was found and so was a captured Japanese document giving the Japanese withdrawal order. It later appeared that the 66th Regiment had taken a nameless village on 16 February and thought it had taken Yawngbang Ga. The true Yawngbang Ga was occupied by the 65th and 66th jointly on 23 February.58
"If the Chinese 65th and 66th Infantry Regiments operating in the vicinity of Yawngbang had been prompt in closing in on our left rear flank on the 15th or 16th, as predicted," wrote Tanaka in 1951, "the main force of the 18th Division would have faced a grave crisis."59
Summing up the results of the attempted first phase, Stilwell told Marshall that unseasonable rains and a mistake by the 66th Regiment, which had lost its way, cost a chance to catch some Japanese near Yawngbang. He felt that the 22d Division had done as well as the 38th Division and had been easier to command. Supply was improving with truck convoys coming down the Ledo
Road to Shingbwiyang and with transport aircraft using the Taihpa Ga airstrip. The Chinese enjoyed winning, and their morale was excellent.
U.S. Infantry for the Second Phase
Twice before Stilwell had tried to envelop the 18th Division, once along the south bend of the Tanai and again at Yawngbang Ga-Lakyen Ga. Both attempts had failed. Now, in accord with his plan of 4 February, he would try to put U.S. infantry across the Kamaing Road at Shaduzup, while the 22d and 38th Divisions plus the armor pushed down from the north.
When GALAHAD was released from SEAC's operational control, Stilwell ordered Merrill to "close in on Ledo by 7 February," not an easy task, for the 1,000-mile journey involved changes from a broad-gauge to a narrow-gauge railroad and from that to river steamer. The last echelon arrived at Margherita, near Ledo, on 9 February, and between 19 and 21 February the 5307th assembled at Ningbyen, near the front. Stilwell's foot cavalry was ready for its first mission. With it as far as Shingbwiyang went American newspapermen, who christened it "Merrill's Marauders."61
Stilwell's orders called for GALAHAD and the 113th Regiment 38th Division, to envelop the 18th Division's east flank and block the Kamaing Road near Shaduzup. The two units did not have a common commander and so lacked something of being a task force. After the war, Merrill recalled that he and Sun would have appreciated some sort of formal working arrangement but that Chih Hui Pu had limited them to co-operation.
While the Americans and the 113th Regiment were cutting off the 18th Division in the Shaduzup area, the remainder of Stilwell's force--the other two regiments of Sun's 38th Division, the 22d Division, and the 1st Provisional Tank Group (-)--was to seize Maingkwan. Maingkwan had been a respectable little town before the war with permanent buildings and several thousand people, and Tanaka might elect to fight for it. So the attack on Maingkwan was set up as a smaller-scale edition of the complete operation, in that it was to be an envelopment, with the armor swinging around the Japanese right flank. Tanaka was to be offered unpleasant alternatives, fighting for the Maingkwan area at the risk of being surrounded, or fighting his way out through GALAHAD and the 113th Regiment, and thus giving up the whole of the Hukawng Valley. The remainder of the 38th Division, the 1st Provisional Tank Group (-), and the 22d Division were to push down from the north. If successful, the operation would pen the Japanese on the Maingkwan plain, and might well destroy the 18th Division, thus opening the way to Myitkyina.
For the operation, the boundary line between the 38th and 22d Divisions
was changed. The line now followed the Tanai to the Nambyu Hka, thence straight south to the Kamaing Road, giving the 38th Division the area to the north and east.62
Meanwhile, on the Japanese side there had been a growth of confidence. When the first shots were exchanged in October and November 1943, the Japanese had been almost contemptuous of the Chinese. Then in December they were sobered by contact with the material resources that the 22d and 38th Divisions commanded. But, as the fighting went on into February 1944, Tanaka several times saw a grave threat to his flank come to nothing because the Chinese moved so slowly. That the Chinese repeatedly moved as though to envelop, then let the opportunity slip because they did not exploit it, suggested to General Tanaka a way to defeat his powerful but lethargic opponents. Since Stilwell was spreading his forces wide in order to envelop, Tanaka consequently was operating on interior lines. He decided that "though threatened by enemy envelopment, we will exploit advantages of operations on interior lines, and, by utilizing every opportunity, defeat in detail the slow-moving Chinese forces without coordination on the exterior lines."63
Thenceforth, Tanaka waited his opportunity, which would arise when Stilwell attempted his next envelopment. Tanaka's intentions and Stilwell's plans meshed perfectly; a major trial of strength was inevitable. The engagement resulting took place around the little settlement of Walawbum, a pathetic cluster of sagging uprights and fire scars where once a few Kachin families had pursued their simple, inoffensive lives.
Walawbum is in the southern end of the Hukawng Valley. It is on the road running through the Hukawng Valley south to Kamaing. Ten miles or so south of Walawbum the traveler becomes aware that the ground is rising, for he is approaching the Jambu Bum, the ridge line forming the southern end of the Hukawng Valley. From Walawbum to the crest of the Jambu Bum it is about 13.7 air miles. Seven miles to the west of the village site is the valley's western wall; the eastern boundary is from 10 to 14 miles away depending on the azimuth taken.
The road to Kamaing, or Kamaing Road, takes a fairly straight course to the south until it reaches a point opposite, and about 10,000 yards west of, Walawbum. At this point it makes a 90-degree turn to the east, and runs almost due east until it reaches Walawbum. Perhaps a little more than halfway to Walawbum on this easterly course the road crosses the Nambyu Hka, at Kumnyen. When it reaches Walawbum, the road makes another 90-degree turn, this time to the south, and resumes its southward route to Kamaing.
The visitor to Walawbum itself notices that as the Numpyek Hka passes to the east of the village, the ground to the east of the river is higher than on the
west. Thus a force in position just east of Walawbum has the advantage of high ground and river moat in facing an enemy to the west, while its guns command the Kamaing Road. All about the area, save for a clearing at Walawbum, are the familiar trees and thick undergrowth, confining large units to the trails.
Difficulties of terrain began to force alterations in Stilwell's plan even before it was fairly launched. The armored force was to have enveloped Maingkwan from the east but no suitable avenue of approach could be found so the tanks were ordered to move generally southeast on a course intended to clear Tanaka's eastern flank and permit them to join Merrill as an attached unit near Walawbum.
The Operation Begins
The Chinese-American tankers, supported by a battalion from the Chinese 65th Regiment, got under way the morning of 3 March, from positions about 5,000 yards north of Maingkwan. The first light contact with the Japanese was at 1300. By 1500 the tanks were about 5,000 yards northeast of Maingkwan, as they sought to flank to the east. In this area they received heavy Japanese fire, and Brown soon concluded that perhaps a regiment of Japanese faced him. Warning Stilwell of this potential threat to his (Stilwell's) left flank, Brown buttoned up for the night. During the darkness the Japanese made a number of attacks on the armor's perimeter, which were beaten off. Next morning, the Japanese were gone (for events near Walawbum were alarming them) and the tanks moved about three more miles southeast, which put them in line with Maingkwan. On 5 March, after a quiet night, they were ready to roll again, and to try to join GALAHAD near Walawbum.64
The progress of Brown's tanks meant that one part of the ring Stilwell was trying to clamp on the 18th Division was moving into place. The adjacent segment of the ring's northern section, the 22d Division, was also moving ahead, and so far was in step with the tanks and GALAHAD. On 3 March, the 64th Regiment was near Ngam Ga, east of the Kamaing Road. The 66th to the west was in contact with the third regiment, the 65th, as it emerged from the Taro Plain. The 66th bypassed Maingkwan on the west, moved south, then sent its 3d Battalion cutting back north to enter Maingkwan from the south. The Japanese yielded it; Tanaka was not going to waste his strength fighting for real estate. For all that, capture of Maingkwan by the 66th on 5 March gave that regiment the distinction of liberating the first major settlement in north Burma to be reoccupied by the Allies. After taking Maingkwan, the 66th moved south down the Kamaing Road, and with two battalions of the 64th Regiment, began attacking a fortified Japanese position in the Kumnyen area, to the west of Walawbum. The 65th on 6 March was several miles southwest of Maingkwan, near the edge of the hills that mark the western boundary of the valley. Thus by the night of 5-6 March the 22d Division and Brown's
GENERAL STILWELL AND GENERAL MERRILL confer at Merrill's headquarters.
tanks were drawn up on a gently curving arc that ran through Maingkwan and tilted toward the south and east.65
Oral orders for the movement that was to put the rest of the trap in place were given Merrill on 22 February. He was ordered to cut the Japanese supply line, the Kamaing Road, well south of Walawbum, and to seek out and attack the 18th Division's command post, which was thought to be near Walawbum. Except for orders to avoid unnecessary heavy combat, Merrill had great freedom of action. At his disposal were the three battalions of GALAHAD, each in turn broken down into two combat teams. The teams bore the code names Red and White (1st Battalion), Blue and Green (2d Battalion), Khaki and Orange (3d Battalion). Each team included a rifle company, heavy weapons platoon, pioneer and demolition platoon, reconnaissance platoon, and medical detachment, with a combined strength of sixteen officers and 456 enlisted men.
On receiving orders to move to his forward assembly area, Merrill sent his three intelligence and reconnaissance (I & R) platoons to check trails as far as the Tawang Hka, the first of the three considerable streams that crossed the line of march. At 0600, 24 February, the 5307th moved out, screened by the I & R platoons. Next day two of them clashed with Japanese patrols and the
point of one platoon, Pvt. Robert W. Landis of Youngstown, Ohio, was killed.
The fortunes of war were with the Americans on this march, for radio communication between the 2d Battalion, 56th Infantry, and 18th Division headquarters broke down at this time, so that the 18th was unaware that a semidetached American unit was operating off to its flank.
On the afternoon of 28 February a liaison aircraft brought orders to shift the roadblock site to Walawbum itself. When the 5307th crossed the Tanai, last of the three river barriers, it went into an assembly area on 2 March, and Merrill called his staff and commanders together to get Chih Hui Pu's orders. The orders called for cutting the road on either side of Walawbum, the 2d Battalion (Colonel McGee) to the west, the 3d Battalion (Colonel Beach) to the south, and the 1st Battalion (Colonel Osborne) to patrol along the Nambyu Hka north of the Kamaing Road. Positions near Walawbum would be held until the 38th Division relieved the 5307th. Merrill's own plans had been to put his battalions at the Nambyu Hka, but Stilwell now believed Brown's tanks could reach and hold the river line.66
All battalions were away by dawn of 3 March. Patrols clashed with the enemy throughout the day, and the 3d Battalion had a sharp fight at Lagang Ga, killing thirty Japanese in seizing the area needed for the building of a drop field. One of the battalion's two combat teams, Khaki, stayed at Lagang Ga to build and protect the dropping zone. Orange Combat Team kept on to the high ground east of Walawbum and dug in, its heavy weapons commanding the Kamaing Road. During the day, 3 March, the 1st and 2d Battalions were still occupied in moving to their assigned positions. On 4 March the 2d Battalion put itself across the Kamaing Road west of Wesu Ga, making a roadblock. "This makes the net fairly good . . . ." wrote Stilwell.
On 1 March General Tanaka had been told that the Americans were at Walawbum.67 It was premature, but this was the chance Tanaka had awaited. Quickly analyzing his situation, he decided that the Chinese 22d and 38th Divisions were moving so slowly that he could contain them with a small rear guard while the main strength of the 18th Division hurled itself on the Americans. On 2 March he made his decision, and the movement back began on 3 March. The Americans had cut behind the 55th Regiment on Tanaka's east in order to place themselves across the Kamaing Road, so the 55th in turn was to hit them on their northern flank while the 56th drove for the place where the Kamaing Road crosses the Nambyu Hka.68
Fight at Walawbum
4-8 March 1944
GALAHAD's Fight at Walawbum
Small parties of Japanese blundered into the American lines on 3 March, but there were no organized attacks until the 4th. (Map 8) The drop field at Lagang Ga was attacked at dawn on the 4th but the garrison held. Orange Combat Team opened the battle in its sector with mortar fire on Walawbum, drawing mortar and 75-mm. fire in return from the 56th Infantry Regiment,
which had been Tanaka's left flank, as it assembled for attack. When it moved, the 56th tried to cross the river and work around the Americans' flanks, where it met booby traps and ambushes thoughtfully prepared for just such a contingency. Some Japanese did cross to the east, but this failed to affect the course of the action, and seventy-five dead Japanese were counted, as against one American dead and seven wounded. These latter were evacuated by air the same evening.69 The 2d Battalion, 5307th, to the west, received much heavier blows, for it was closer to the main Japanese concentration. Beginning late on the evening of 4 March the Japanese attacks lasted until the next day.70 Ammunition began to run low in the 2d Battalion, and during the last thirty-six hours of the fight it was without food and water.
Orange Combat Team of the 3d Battalion was under no great pressure during the day of the 5th, but the men believed Japanese reinforcements were being brought up from Kamaing for an attempt to remove the roadblock. The Americans from Stilwell on down were convinced they had trapped Tanaka; it did not occur to any of them that Tanaka was trying to destroy the Americans. Several times during the 5th the Japanese appeared to be forming for an attack, but mortar fire seemed to be successful in breaking up such attempts. To the south, Allied aircraft could be seen bombing and machine-gunning what Orange Combat Team took to be Japanese reinforcements. One indication that the Japanese were increasing their strength in the immediate area lay in their being able to force Orange Combat Team's I & R Platoon back across the river about noon of the 5th.
Meanwhile, to the north and east of where the 2d Battalion and Orange Combat Team were fighting, heavy and constant pressure from Brown's 1st Provisional Tank Group was forcing Tanaka to alter his plans. Brown's reconnaissance had found a good trail running south from Tsamat Ga, and on the morning of the 5th the tanks moved out through the jungle. After the engineers had prepared a small stream for crossing, the tanks broke into a freshly evacuated Japanese bivouac area. Jungle vines looping across the trail from either side, and connecting masses of vegetation and trees, made effective obstacles as they slowed down the tanks by catching their turrets; not until late afternoon did the armor break out on the trail running east and west between Maingkwan and Wesu Ga. Almost immediately the tanks encountered what seemed to be a company of Japanese defending a small but marshy stream. The stream did not seem fordable, so Brown attacked by fire alone. Unknown to him, his tanks were firing on Tanaka's division headquarters, and now lay squarely between the 18th's headquarters and its 56th Regiment.
Further compounding the Japanese commander's problems, Brown had brought his tanks down the trail that the 55th Regiment was to have used for its
attack on GALAHAD. The 55th as a result had displaced westward so that instead of coming up on line with the 56th for an assault on GALAHAD it had in a sense fallen in behind the 56th in a sort of column formation. The 56th itself was making little progress against GALAHAD.
Tanaka decided to give up his attempt to crush GALAHAD. Instead, he decided to swing his force around the American roadblock, using a Japanese-built trail of whose existence the Americans were unaware, and then to re-establish his front facing north in an east-west line across the Kamaing Road once more. So resolved, Tanaka, or one of his staff, late on the 5th of March, picked up a field telephone and began to give the necessary orders. The bypass road over which the 18th was to withdraw had been built by the Japanese engineers some days before:
The Engineer Regiment commander, Colonel Fukayama, had considered the possibility of reversals in our position and, in order to facilitate the withdrawal of the division, he had previously cleared a secret jungle trail about 20 kilometers long leading from the vicinity of Lalawng Ga to Jambu Hkintang on his own initiative. This trail was used in the withdrawal of the main body of the division.
Meanwhile, within the 2d Battalion's roadblock, Sgt. Roy H. Matsumoto had been monitoring Japanese telephone conversations, for the 18th's wire communications passed through the roadblock and had been tapped by the Americans. Sergeant Matsumoto immediately picked up Tanaka's order, and in a matter of minutes the American commanders knew of Tanaka's intentions.
In the light of this disclosure, and since the 2d Battalion lacked food and water, the decision was reached to withdraw the 2d at nightfall. The 2d was ordered to fall back on Wesu Ga, receive fresh supplies there, then march south to join the 3d Battalion below Walawbum. Colonel McGee and his men arrived at Wesu Ga at noon of 6 March, and went on to rejoin the 3d.71
Late on the next day, the 6th, the fighting reached its climax, as Tanaka sought to move his division from between the 22d Division on the north of his current positions and the American roadblock to the south. Supported by the other combat team of its battalion, Orange Combat Team spent the morning and early afternoon of the 6th in bracing itself for the expected supreme Japanese effort. Shells from Japanese medium artillery suggested it might not be long in coming. The pack animals suffered severely from this preparation, but the men in their foxholes with overhead cover took few casualties. At 1715 an estimated two companies of Japanese in line of skirmishers, with heavy supporting fire, crossed the river. The American mortars continued their work; the automatic weapons held back until the Japanese were within fifty yards. Two heavy machine guns, which had a clear field of fire along the river bank, were especially effective. The Japanese failed, leaving many dead on the open ground east of the river and on the river banks. Orange Combat Team found
its ammunition low, and so sent a request for more to Khaki Combat Team, which was about one hundred yards downstream.72
From the Japanese point of view, withdrawal was begun just in time, for the leading elements of the 113th Regiment, Chinese 38th Division, which had been teamed with GALAHAD, met General Merrill about a mile northeast of Walawbum at 1600 hours, 6 March. The arrival of the Chinese meant that the outcome of the battle could not be an Allied defeat; the problem was now to make the outcome a real and if possible a decisive victory.
There was an unfortunate incident when the remainder of the 38th Division and an American patrol met near Walawbum on 7 March. The recognition signal had been arranged as three bursts of three rounds each. This necessarily meant there would be firing when the Chinese and Americans met. When the tops of the American helmets, which looked not unlike the Japanese pot helmet when their brims were invisible, appeared through and over the brush, there was a brief exchange of fire in which three Chinese were wounded before identity was established.
As soon as the Chinese were present in strength, Merrill by arrangement with Sun but over the protests of his battalion commanders withdrew GALAHAD on the morning of 7 March. His intent was to circle south and cut the Kamaing Road again farther to the south. Merrill was very mindful of Stilwell's order to keep his casualties down, and since he had held his position until the 38th Division appeared, he believed he had complied with Stilwell's orders. In effect, his decision removed GALAHAD from the battle of Walawbum.73 In announcing his withdrawal from the Walawbum area, Merrill told Colonel Brown, the tank commander, that he was relieved of attachment to Merrill's headquarters and should radio Stilwell for further orders.74
Apparently determined to make every moment count, Brown while waiting his next orders attempted on the morning of 7 March to arrange a co-ordinated tank-infantry attack toward Walawbum. He asked the commander of the Chinese 113th Regiment to join him in a thrust direct at Walawbum, but the Chinese officer was unable to agree because his orders were to hold at Wesu Ga, about 4,000 yards north-northeast of Walawbum. Brown returned to his own bivouac area and talked the situation over with staff members of his attached Chinese infantry battalion and his own people. While the discussion was under way a battalion commander of the 64th Regiment, Chinese 22d
Division, appeared. Placed between two Chinese divisions which because of communications difficulties were operating almost independently, Brown had to make his own arrangements for a suitable role, so he turned to the newly arrived battalion commander with his suggestion for an attack. This officer, as it turned out, had no specific orders from his own higher headquarters, but he did have an aggressive disposition, and promptly adopted Brown's suggestion that tanks and infantry join to move south from their present site and place a block across the Kamaing Road as it runs due east toward Walawbum.
About 1500 on 7 March, the tanks and the battalion of the 22d Division placed themselves across the Kamaing Road in not one but two places, respectively one and two miles west of the Nambyu Hka. The infantry set up a roadblock, while the tanks moved out aggressively along the road to east and west.
One tank company moved west along the Kamaing Road and had bad luck, for it met nothing but an impassible stream that halted further progress. A second company went east along the Kamaing Road until it came to a bridge that proved to be well covered by Japanese antitank guns. The lead tank was almost across the bridge when it gave way, dumping the luckless vehicle into the water. Antitank fire ripped through the thinly armored portions and killed all but one of the crew.
The third tank company was the most successful. Its commander decided to turn off the Kamaing Road onto a trail that showed signs of heavy traffic. This may have been Tanaka's evacuation route, for the tanks encountered a body of Japanese on the march and scattered them. Two weeks later a mass grave of 200 dead Japanese was found in the area. On the evening of the 7th the tanks reassembled after dark.75
The "Big Squeeze Play"
When dawn broke on the 8th, Stilwell's forces, with the already-noted exception of GALAHAD, occupied areas forming a great arc whose several segments were seeking out the Japanese near them, the task of search no easy one in the country around Walawbum. In order from west to east were two regiments of the 22d Division, the tanks, and the 113th Regiment of the 38th. The 22d's regiments were not arrayed neatly in line but had their elements over a considerable area which included the ford over the Nambyu Hka at Kumnyen--thus explaining how Brown's tankers met a battalion of the 22d near the Nambyu Hka. Tanaka seems to have made his withdrawal from the area through which elements of the 22d were moving but they did not keep pressure on him, and to this he later attributed his escape from the Allied arc that might have become a deadly ring: "The cautious movement of the Chinese forces
engaged in the frontal attack made it possible for the 18th Division to save itself."76
Back at his headquarters, Stilwell on 8 March checked over the situation as it appeared to him on the basis of the information available at his headquarters. He believed Merrill to be still in place along the Kamaing Road south of Walawbum, Sun's 38th Division to be on the field, Brown's tanks to be in action, Liao's 22d Division to be coming down from the north, and the 18th Division to be withdrawing. Victory on a major scale appeared to be in sight, so Stilwell issued orders for a "big squeeze play" of every unit he had to converge on the 18th Division and crush it. The 64th Regiment Stilwell thought to be on the west of the Japanese position so the 64th was to attack towards the east; Sun's 113th Regiment was to attack towards the southwest, and so on round the arc.77 What followed illustrates how dependent the commander is on forces and factors beyond his immediate control or even knowledge, for the shortcomings of the radio net made Stilwell and Merrill unaware of each other's intentions and movements. Moreover, the several units, Chinese and American, often did not know of each other's locations and maneuvers, and so instead of a co-ordinated assault on an encircled 18th Division what actually took place was a battalion and regimental commanders' battle as units engaged what Japanese they could find.78
In compliance with Stilwell's orders, the tanks and the 38th Division began the moves that ultimately placed them in what was left of the village of Walawbum. The tanks, which were on the Kamaing Road west of Walawbum and separated from it by the Nambyu Hka, moved out eastward to seek a ford. Japanese antitank fire covering the ford on the main road at a place called Kumnyen Ga discouraged thoughts of crossing there so bulldozers covered by infantry prepared a new crossing one and a half miles to the north. Once this was done, Brown was ready to take his tanks across the stream and attack Walawbum itself. The site itself had nothing of value but since the Japanese had put up such a fight in the immediate vicinity Brown felt they must value the location and so he resolved to make a determined effort to get it. To do this, he decided to send two tank companies across the newly prepared ford to bypass the Japanese position covering the old ford at Kumnyen Ga, and go on to Walawbum, while one company of tanks made a frontal attack on the Japanese.79
The envelopment went very smoothly, and as soon as the two tank companies had cut behind the Japanese positions and were on the main road they continued on toward Walawbum. Unfortunately, the tank company and
A CHINESE COOK makes his way forward with his cooking equipment.
Chinese infantry which were making the frontal attack moved only as far as Kumnyen Ga itself, which lay on the west of the ford. It was then 1600 and the Chinese infantry refused to move farther. The appearance of Chinese soldier cooks with rice kettles suggests one reason for the delay. But the Chinese tankers were willing to keep on, and the tanks crossed the Nambyu Hka at the main road. They soon rejoined the other two companies in Walawbum. At dark, the tanks pulled back out of Walawbum to the Nambyu Hka, where the Chinese infantry had halted, as Brown did not want the armor to be without infantry support during the night. Next morning, the 9th, the tanks and their accompanying battalion moved back to Walawbum and found it, as Brown later recalled, "swarming with people from the 64th Infantry and the 113th Infantry" who, to the tankers' great disgust, disputed the latter's claim to have taken Walawbum.80
The largest share of the 38th Division's work at Walawbum had fallen to the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 113th Regiment. It was the 2d Battalion that had established contact with GALAHAD and relieved that unit. The 1st Battalion, which followed it, was kept in reserve. The 3d Battalion, which had
moved up by forced marches, re-established the roadblock west of Walawbum that GALAHAD's 2d Battalion had been forced to yield several days before, and kept its hold during the 8th and 9th after considerable fighting. Presumably it was this battalion the tanks met in Walawbum on the 9th. General Sun used the 112th Regiment to guard his rear and eastern flank lest the Japanese attack him from across the hills which mark the eastern boundary of the Hukawng Valley, the Kumon Range. The 114th, Sun kept in reserve.81
After GALAHAD was withdrawn from Walawbum and on its way to cut the Kamaing Road again farther south, communications between Merrill and Stilwell were finally re-established late on the evening of the 8th. Merrill was ordered to halt, for Stilwell was now looking toward the next phase. Stilwell recorded in his diary that he learned of GALAHAD's maneuver only after issuing orders for a co-ordinated action by the 64th, 113th, GALAHAD, tanks, artillery, and the rest. Weighing the situation, Stilwell decided that his orders to Merrill had not been clear enough. In saying, "use your discretion" he had meant to keep casualties down, not "go roaming." Stilwell's conclusions and his willingness to assume responsibility for not making his orders more clear deserve respect, but the communications difficulties that kept Stilwell in the dark as to the movements and location of the several units, plus the extreme caution of the Chinese 22d Division, seem major factors in Tanaka's successful withdrawal from the Walawbum area. The 18th Division made good its escape from Stilwell's trap, but in so doing it had yielded control of the greater part of the Hukawng Valley to the Allies, and the Chinese Army in India could celebrate a well-earned victory.82
Between the Hukawng Valley and the Mogaung River valley is the ridge barrier of the Jambu Bum. Once Stilwell was fairly over the Jambu Bum, he would be in a corridor, the Mogaung valley, which leads directly into the Irrawaddy valley and Burma proper. The North Burma Campaign was beginning to yield results. For them, the 22d and 38th Divisions were paying a toll in casualties. From fall 1943 to 18 March 1944, the campaign had cost 802 Chinese dead and 1,479 wounded, plus 530 undifferentiated casualties. Of the dead, 539 were from the 38th Division.
Medical aid for the Chinese victors of Walawbum was provided by the U.S. Army. The 42d, 43d, and 46th Portable Surgical Hospitals worked with the 22d Division. Surgical teams from the Seagrave Hospital Unit, the 25th Field Hospital, and the 13th Mountain Medical Battalion were with the 38th Division. An ambulance shuttle up the Kamaing Road evacuated patients to the 25th Field Hospital at the new Taihpa Ga Airstrip.83
The two-month stalemate around Yupbang Ga in November-December 1943 finally obliged Stilwell to leave CBI Theater headquarters and assume command in the field. The arrival of reinforcements that gave the Chinese a considerable numerical superiority, the constant air supply that gave them mobility unprecedented even in jungle warfare as the Japanese conducted it, enabled Stilwell, Sun, and Liao to make a series of envelopments that forced Tanaka to loosen his grip on the strategic area where the Tanai and the Tarung join. The long stalemate was broken and a war of movement began. Stilwell decided to use a fresh regiment of U.S. infantry for his next envelopment, while Tanaka decided that because his opponent moved so slowly he could safely mass his forces against the attempted envelopment and defeat his opponents in detail. A confused and stumbling clash around Walawbum followed, in which the Japanese were outfought and thrust to the south. This was the first series of Allied victories in the North Burma Campaign and a major slice of Burma was freed from the Japanese. But four months had gone by since the first shots were fired. Progress forward had been slow, if victorious.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (3) * Next Chapter (5)
*. For explanation of enemy unit symbols, see note 82(3), page 42, above.
1. (1) The strength of the Japanese forces during the winter of 1943-44 caused discussion among Allied leaders at the time, a discussion reflected in some postwar accounts. The Japanese took Burma with four divisions, the 18th, 33d, 55th, and 56th. In summer 1943 they added a fifth, the 31st Division. In December 1943, while trying to persuade the Chinese to attack across the Salween into Burma, Stilwell used the estimate of five Japanese divisions. He erred, in that the 54th Division had entered Burma in fall 1943, but had not yet been identified. The Generalissimo in December told Stilwell that there were eight Japanese divisions present. As noted in Chapter I, above, reports were circulating in October 1943 that the original Japanese force of four divisions had been reinforced by four more; the Generalissimo's estimate may have reflected these reports. During the months of January and February 1944, the 2d Division entered Burma by rail, while the 15th Division arrived during the three-month period of January-March, moving by foot and truck over the Kengtung-Takaw road. This made a total of eight Japanese divisions in Burma by March 1944. The statement in the Mountbatten Report, Part B, paragraph 66, that "by January"--presumably by 1 January 1944--the Japanese forces in Burma had been increased to eight divisions cannot be reconciled with the information in the SEATIC bulletins and Japanese studies. If one allows for the period of many weeks needed for a Japanese division to close at its Burmese station, the Mountbatten Report necessarily implies that leading elements of the 2d and 15th Divisions entered Burma in October and November 1943. Statements to that effect do not appear in the Japanese sources used by the authors, Japanese Studies 89, 133, and 134. (2) SEATIC Bull 240. (3) Mountbatten Report, Pt. B, pars. 32-53.
2. Overlay, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 13 Nov 43; Overlay, 4 Dec 43. NCAC Files, KCRC.
3. Memo, Boatner for Stilwell, 2 Dec 43, sub: Rpt on Conf with Generalissimo and Mme. Chiang, 30 Nov 43. Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library.
4. Memo cited n. 3.
5. Ltr, Stilwell to Sun, 11 Dec 43, sub: Unsatisfactory Methods Employed During Present Opns; Ltr, Stilwell to Sun, 9 Dec 43, sub: Accomplishment of Promise Made to Mme. Chiang 30 Nov 43. Folder, Combat Rpt Fwd Ech and Ln O's, ALBACORE Hist Files, NCAC Files, KCRC.
6. Sun had complained to Stilwell that the orders he received even specified the units he was to use. Rad, Stilwell to Boatner, 14 Dec 43; Rad RELOT G 335, Boatner to Ferris and Hearn, 6 Dec 43. Items 1518, 1504, Bk 5, JWS Personal File.
7. Comments by Col Dupuy on NCAC History, 1, 29 (hereafter Dupuy Comments); Notes by Col Dupuy on draft MS (hereafter, Dupuy Notes); Ltr, Dupuy to Ward, 24 Sep 51. OCMH.
8. Note in Stilwell's hand, written between 8 and 11 January 1944. JWS Misc Papers.
9. (1) Dupuy Comments. (2) The Stilwell Papers, pp. 273-74. (3) Stilwell Sketch, NCAC History, I, 30B. (4) Dupuy Notes.
10. (1) Photostat 203, Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library. (2) Stilwell Sketch, NCAC History, I, 30B. (3) Dupuy Comments. (4) Major Peng received the Silver Star for this action. GO 46, Hq USAF CBI, 15 May 44.
11. Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II. Draft chapters on the north Burma fighting were sent to General Headquarters, Far East Command, to obtain Japanese comments. (See Bibliographical Note.) The comments were returned in a manuscript, hereafter cited as Japanese Comments, which is in OCMH.
12. Stilwell Diary, 25 Dec 43.
13. (1) Note cited n. 8. Stilwell doubted Sun's aggressiveness. (2) NCAC History, I, 31A. (3) G-3 Per Rpts, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 4 Jan, 11 Jan 44; Sketch of Sharaw, Hq Fwd Ech, 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 28 Dec 43. NCAC Files, KCRC.
14. (1) Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II. (2) Japanese Officers' Comments, Incl 4, Tanaka.
15. (1) Stilwell Sketch. Photostat 209, Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library. (2) Overlay and sketches, NCAC History, I, 30-32. (3) Dupuy Comments. (4) Overlay, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 28 Dec 43; Sketch, Disposition of Units of 1st Bn, 113th Regt as of 8 Jan 44, signed Capt N. R. Lester. Folder, Overlays, ALBACORE Opns, Sitreps Hist, etc., 11 Jan 44, NCAC Files, KCRC.
16. Handwritten note, 1943. JWS Misc Papers.
17. (1) Stilwell Diary, 26-30 Dec 43. (2) Tanaka gives his strength in the engagement as 600 men. Japanese Officers' Comments, Incl 4, Tanaka.
18. Japanese Comments, Sec I.
19. (1) Statement of Gen Tanaka, 5 Oct 51, Japanese Comments, Sec. I. (2) The Japanese strength estimate by Theodore H. White of 40,000 to 60,000 Japanese troops in the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys cannot be reconciled with what is known of the Japanese order of battle. The Stilwell Papers, p. 269. (3) Tanaka Interrog. OCMH. (4) Wkly G-2 Rpt, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 12 Jan 44. NCAC Files, KCRC. The 55th Regiment was on the south of a boundary line roughly Ningam Sakan-Yupbang Ga (both in the 55th Regiment sector); the 56th Regiment was on the north. Headquarters, 18th Division, was at Shingban.
20. Stilwell Diary, 3 Jan 44.
21. (1) GALAHAD, pp. 5-7. (2) Rad CHC 1241, Stilwell to Marshall, 3 Jul 44. SNF 131.
22. Ltr, Mountbatten to Marshall, 16 Jan 44. Case 297, OPD 381 Security, A47-30.
23. Notes by Gen Boatner on draft MS. (Hereafter, Boatner Notes.) OCMH.
24. Rad, Stilwell to Marshall, 9 Jan 44. Folder, Rads, Stilwell to Marshall, Oct 43 to 25 Mar 44, NCAC Files, KCRC.
25. (1) "The 65th made a good river crossing," noted Stilwell in his diary. ". . . good discipline and no grenade fishing." Its colonel, Fu, swore he would get after the Japanese. It was the "first time in his life," added Stilwell, "Fu ever saw a real envelopment." Stilwell Diary, 6 Jan 44. (2) G-3 Per Rpt, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 11 Jan 44. NCAC Files, KCRC.
26. (1) Dupuy Comments. (2) Stilwell Sketch. Photostat 215, Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library. (3) Overlay, Ln O, 38th Div, sub: Situation as of 8:00 PM, 16 Jan. Folder, Overlays, ALBACORE Opns, Sitreps, Hist, etc., 11 Jan 44, NCAC Files, KCRC.
27. (1) Stilwell Sketch. Photostat 214, Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library. (2) Overlay cited n. 26(3).
28. Memo, Stilwell for Sun at Ningam Sakan, Jan 44. SUP 7.
29. (1) Dupuy Notes. (2) Ltr, Dupuy to Ward, 12 Sep 52. OCMH.
30. Stilwell Sketches, NCAC History, I, 34A-34D.
31. Rad Y-23, Boatner to Col John P. Willey, 12 Jan 44. Fwd Ech CP Rads Out, NCAC File, KCRC.
32. (1) Notes by Col Rothwell H. Brown on draft MS. (Hereafter, Brown Notes.) OCMH. (2) Ltr, with Incl, Brown to Ward, 25 Aug 51.
33. (1) Stilwell Sketches. Photostats 212, 213, 218, 220-23, Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library. (2) Van Natta MS. (3) G-2, G-3 Overlays, 38th Div, 27 Jan 44; Overlay, 15 Jan 44, ALBACORE Opns, Sitreps; Rads 16-781, 21 Jan 44; Rads 14-77, 38th Div. NCAC Files, KCRC.
34. (1) G-2, G-3 Overlays, 38th Div, 20 Feb 44; G-2. G-3 Overlays, Hq Fwd Ech (Prov) Combat Trs, 24 Feb 44; G-3 Per Rpts, 31 Jan 44, 8 Feb 44, 20 Feb 44. NCAC Files, KCRC. (2) NCAC History, I, 35-38. (3) Dupuy Notes. (4) Brown Notes. (5) Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II.
35. Stilwell Sketch. Photostat 210, Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library.
36. Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec II.
37. (1) Stilwell Diary, 20 Jan 44. The entry for the 19th makes it clear that Stilwell was angered because the 65th Regiment was still "stalled," the attack was a "fizzle," and Fu was "petering out." (2) Memo, Liao for Stilwell, 21 Jan 44, sub: Relief of Col Fu, 65th Regt. Item 266, Bk 3, JWS Personal File.
38. (1) Stilwell Diary, 22, 26 Jan 44. (2) Boatner Notes.
39. (1) Capt. Roy R. Van Dusen, Operations of the 2d Bn and 3d Bn, 65th Regt (22d Chinese Div), in the Battle for Taro, 29 Dec 1943-30 Jan 1944 (India-Burma Campaign). The Infantry School, Gen Sec, Mil History Committee, 1946-47. Captain Van Dusen's monograph has interesting tactical detail but says nothing of Fu's relief. (2) Notes by Col Van Natta on draft MS. (3) Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II.
40. (1) NCAC History, I, 34A-34D, 36. (2) G-3 Per Rpts, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 25, 26 Jan, 8, 15 Feb 44. NCAC Files, KCRC.
41. Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II.
42. Boatner Notes.
43. (1) History Ramgarh Training Center, 30 Jun 42-15 May 45, MS, p. 14. OCMH. (2) GOS 11, 12, Hq USAF CBI, 29 Jan 44; GO 14, Hq Rr Ech USAF CBI, 5 Feb 44; GO 74, Hq USAF CBI, 17 Jul 44. (3) Memo, Stilwell for Wheeler and Boatner, 6 Apr 43. Item 214, Bk 3, JWS Personal File.
44. (1) Boatner Notes. (2) For charges that Stilwell discriminated against the Chinese, see Ho Yung-chi, The Big Circle. (3) For charges that Stilwell discriminated against the Americans, see letter from Colonel Hunter to General Ward, 14 August 1951. OCMH.
45. Ltr, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs to Bowerman, 25 Jan 44, sub: Orders. AG 323.3, NCAC Files, KCRC.
46. Ltr, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs to CG, Fwd Ech, USAF CBI, 2 Dec 43, sub: Responsibility of Comd and Opns Within Combat Zone. AG 323.3, NCAC Files, KCRC.
47. Ltr, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs to CG, Hq Rr Ech USAF CBI, 20 Jan 44, sub: Organization, 5303d Area Comd. AG 323.3, NCAC Files, KCRC.
48. (1) Ltr, Hq NCAC to Deputy Theater Comdr, USAF CBI, 13 Apr 44, sub: Responsibilities of CG, RTC, and CG, NCAC. AG 323.3, NCAC Files, KCRC. (2) Ramgarh Training Center prepared the Chinese Army in India for combat. The staff and instructors were American; logistical support was from the Government of India; unit administration, discipline, and replacements were the responsibilities of the Chinese Army.
49. Strength Rpt, G-1 Per Rpt, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 30 Jan 44. NCAC Files, KCRC.
50. (1) Rpt, Maj Gen Lewis A. Pick, CG, Hq Adv Sec USF IBT, to Lt Gen Raymond A. Wheeler, CG, USF IBT, 9 Aug 45, pp. 22-35. OCMH. (2) For background on the Ledo Road project, see Stilwell's Mission to China.
51. (1) Ltr, Covell to Somervell, 21 Jan 44. Somervell File, Vol IV, Hq ASF, TS of Opns, CBI 1944, A46-257. (2) Pick Rpt, pp. 15, 48, 51-58, 90-94, cited n. 50.
52. U.S. Army Med Service in Combat in India and Burma, 1942-45, MS by 1st Lt. James H. Stone, Medical Historian, IBT (hereafter, Stone MS), I, 122, 126, OCMH.
53. The 1st Provisional Tank Group was then the only Chinese Army unit, under Stilwell, commanded by an American. The group had an integrated Sino-American staff, a Chinese vice-commander (Col. Chao Chen-yu during most of the campaign), and an American medium tank platoon in support. The number of Americans, both officers and enlisted men, increased steadily from the initial component of 11 officers and 9 enlisted men, to a final peak strength of 29 officers and 222 enlisted men. Its equipment was American. See NCAC History, App. 5, First Prov Tank Gp, Chinese-American, 8 Aug 43-9 Mar 45. OCMH.
54. (1) Stilwell Diary, 21 Jan 44. (2) Paper, sub: Estimate of Situation. JWS Misc Papers, 1944. (3) The Japanese 2d Division was also now in south Burma. Japanese Officers' Comments, p. 12.
55. Stilwell Diary, 21-30 Jan 44.
56. (1) JWS Misc Papers, 1944. (2) Stilwell Diary, 4 Feb. 44.
57. G-3 Rpts, 29 Feb 44; G-2, G-3 Overlays, 25 Jan 44. Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs. NCAC Files, KCRC.
58. (1) Stilwell Diary, 9-18 Feb 44. (2) Overlays, Folder, X-RAY Force, NCAC Files, KCRC.
59. Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II.
60. Rad 74, Stilwell to Marshall, 25 Feb 44. Folder, Rads, Stilwell to Marshall, Oct 43-25 Mar 44, NCAC Files, KCRC.
61. (1) The reference on page 276 of The Stilwell Papers is to the 16th Brigade of the 3d Indian Division, not to GALAHAD. Stilwell Diary, 9 Jan 44. (2) GALAHAD, pp. 1-8, 10, 16.
62. (1) G-3 Per Rpt, Hq CAI, 29 Feb 44; G-3 Per Rpt, Hq 5303d (Prov) Combat Trs, 7 Mar 44. NCAC Files, KCRC. (2) Notes by Gen Merrill on draft MS. (Hereafter, Merrill Notes.)
63. Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II.
64. Brown Notes.
65. (1) Rpts cited n. 62(1). (2) Stilwell Diary, 5 Mar 44.
66. (1) GALAHAD, pp. 16-20. (2) Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II. (3) Ltr, Merrill to Sunderland, 10 Apr 48; Ltr, Merrill to Ward, 26 May 52. OCMH.
67. (1) GALAHAD, pp. 21, 23. (2) Memo, Hunter for Kent R. Greenfield, Chief Historian, OCMH, 11 May 45, sub: Comments on "Merrill's Marauders." OCMH. (3) Stilwell Diary, 4 Mar 44.
68. (1) Lt. Gen. Shinichi Tanaka, The Fighting of the Japanese 18th Division in the Kamaing and Walawbum (Burma) Area, MS, May 1949. (Hereafter, Tanaka Narrative.) OCMH. (2) Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II.
69. GALAHAD, pp. 21-22.
70. (1) Tanaka Narrative. (2) Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II. General Tanaka claims the 3/56th captured the Nambyu river crossing with one rapid attack on 4 March, the one major point at which his account differs from the American.
71. (1) GALAHAD, pp. 24, 27-28. (2) Tanaka Narrative, p. 2. (3) Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II. (4) Brown Notes, p. 6.
72. GALAHAD, pp. 27-28.
73. (1) Merrill's Marauders. (2) The statement by Gen. Dr. Ho Yung-chi in The Big Circle, page 86, that the 5307th broke and ran at Walawbum is denied by Hunter and Merrill. Some doubt is cast on Dr. Ho's charge by his own claim that the 38th Division subsequently chased the Japanese "to the walls of Walawbum." Walawbum was half a dozen burned-out grass shacks on a dirt road. On page 44 of Merrill's Marauders is a picture of the Chinese moving in while the Americans moved out, which event may have given rise to the story. (3) The brief account in Fred Eldridge's Wrath In Burma (New York: Doubleday Doran & Company, 1946), page 221, is not accurate. (4) Ltr to Sunderland, cited n. 66(3). (5) Merrill Notes.
74. Ltr, Brown to Ward, 25 Aug 51. OCMH.
75. Brown Notes, pp. 7-11.
76. (1) NCAC History, I, 63. (2) Unidentified overlay, showing Opns, 1-3 Mar 44. Folder, X-RAY Force, NCAC Files, KCRC. (3) Tanaka Narrative, p. 2. (4) Quotation from Tanaka, Japanese Comments, Sec. II.
77. Stilwell Diary, 8 Mar 44.
78. For comments on the communication problem, see Merrill Notes.
79. Stilwell's diary entry of 9 March describes Brown as having done his part.
80. Brown Notes, pp. 8-11.
81. G-3 Per Rpts, Chih Hui Pu, 7, 12 Mar 44. NCAC Files, KCRC.
82. Stilwell Diary, 8, 9 Mar 44.
83. (1) NCAC History, App. 5, History of 1st Prov Tank Gp, Chinese-American, 8 Aug 43-9 Mar 45, pp. 8, 14. (2) Rad Y-285, 26 Mar 44; Rads, Fwd Ech OUT. NCAC Files, KCRC. (3) Stilwell Diary, 4 Mar 44. (4) Stone MS, pp. 131, 133, 135.