The Chinese Take the Offensive
The Chinese decision of 12 April 1944 to attack across the Salween River came at a time when the Japanese had begun their drive on India, when Stilwell had decided to strike at Myitkyina, and when the Japanese had assembled along the Yellow River. As described by the Chief of Staff of the Chinese Army, General Ho, to General Hearn not later than 14 April, the Chinese plans had for their first objective the city of Teng-chung; for the second, Lung-ling. Their later actions and troop movements, the Chinese added, would depend on how the situation developed.1 General Marshall, on receiving Hearn's message to this effect, told General Ho that the Chinese move might well be the decisive blow in the campaign to regain control of north Burma.2
The Chinese (and it must be remembered that this campaign would be fought by Chinese armies in China Theater under Chinese leadership) therefore aimed at seizing two key points on the trace of the projected line of communications to China. Teng-chung, an old jade marketing center, lies almost due east and 124 miles from Myitkyina, on a rough but usable trail. Lung-ling is on the old Burma Road. Its capture would split the Japanese positions along the Salween. (Map 19*)
The specific objectives which Stilwell's officers, working with the Chinese commanders of Y-Force, had recommended on 29 March and which presumably reflected Stilwell's views of that date, had been to "secure and hold the general line: Mongmit-Lashio-Takaw-Monglen" while blocking any Japanese invasion of Yunnan from the direction of French Indochina. The result of success in such a move would be a grand converging attack of Stilwell's five Chinese divisions from India and the Generalissimo's Y-Force from Yunnan that would meet somewhere deep in north Burma south of the Myitkyina-Bhamo area.3 The trace of the Ledo Road would then be free of Japanese. That the offensive was not ordered until mid-April robbed the decision of some of the significance it might have had if the Chinese had made the decision
*For an explanation of Chinese unit symbols, see note 7(2) below.
The Salween Campaign
11 May-30 June 1944
to cross the Salween in December 1943 or January 1944. At that time about five months of good weather would have lain ahead. In February, Stilwell's mission to Washington told OPD that Stilwell thought a bold attack might lead to the enemy's yielding all Burma north of Mandalay. In that event, with the road open to China, current plans called for adding 1,350 tons of equipment to that already possessed by each Y-Force division. These munitions, mostly trucks and 105-mm. howitzers, would have placed a most formidable group of divisions at the Generalissimo's disposal.4 But the months had gone by and in mid-April the monsoon rains were but thirty to forty days away.
In April 1944 the American leadership saw the Salween situation as an opportunity created by the current state of the 56th Division, its strength depleted by detachments and stretched over 100 air-line miles. A strong Chinese blow at the thin line might crumble it and the Japanese grip on north Burma would be broken.
Battleground Above the Clouds: The Salween Front
The Salween or Lu Kiang (the name Salween is of Burmese origin) has cut for itself a deep gorge through land 9,000 feet above sea level. The river is rarely more than 200 feet wide, but its waters race exceedingly swift, deep, and cold through the lower extension of the Himalayas to win for it the Chinese name of "Angry River." During the spring thaw and later in the monsoon season the Salween swells into a torrent almost impossible to cross. During their hasty retreat in May 1942 the Chinese had destroyed the two bridges then crossing the Salween.
If the Japanese 56th Division was to be driven from its line along the Salween and across the Burma Road, the Chinese would have to be ferried across the Salween at several points. Then the Chinese would have to cross the grain of the Kaoli-kung Mountains, their advance funneled into the mountain passes. Once through the mountains, they would be moving toward their objective, the Myitkyina-Bhamo-Lashio area. Apart from the Burma Road itself, four usable passes through the Kaoli-kung Mountains offer as many gateways to Chinese invaders of Burma. From north to south, these are: Hpimaw Hkyet at 9,000 feet, the northernmost extension of the 56th Division's front; Ma-mien Kuan at 10,000 feet, thirty air-line miles south of the Hpimaw pass; Ta-tang-tzu and Hung-mu-shu, both at 10,000 feet, are traversed by pack trails between Pao-shan and Teng-chung.
Fifteen air miles west of the Salween and running parallel to it through a valley of the Kaoli-kung Mountains is a similar but smaller stream, the Shweli, whose mountain waters run 6,000 feet above sea level. Between Kaochiao, a
village at the western end of Ma-mien pass, and Chiang-chu, a small settlement at the terminus of Ta-tang-tzu pass, the Shweli cuts through a narrow valley. A secondary road, used for Japanese motor traffic in dry weather, links Kaochiao and Chiang-chu. This road continues to the southwest to become a natural avenue of approach to Teng-chung, the last large town on the China side of the border. West of the Shweli valley the terrain is not so high as that between the Shweli and Salween Rivers, but it is just as hard for any army to cross. A good trail, which offered the possibility of being made into a military road, ran between Teng-chung and Myitkyina, 124 miles north and west of Teng-chung.
While the general ruggedness of the Kaoli-kung area is unbelievable, and the monsoon rains in their proper season greatly increased the difficulties and miseries of the campaign, it was the veterans of the 56th Division with their skillful deployment over the mountains and along the valleys who were the principal obstacle to the Y-Force in meeting Stilwell near Myitkyina. Elements of three regiments, the 113th, 146th, and 148th of the 56th Division, plus two companies of the 114th Regiment, 18th Division, at Hpimaw pass watched the long front. The commander, Lt. Gen. Sukezo Matsuyama, and 56th Division headquarters were at Mang-shih on the Burma Road.5
Twelve miles northwest of Mang-shih on the Burma Road was Lung-ling, strongly garrisoned since it controlled trails that branched north and south of the Burma Road. Some forty miles north of Lung-ling, the 148th Regiment held Teng-chung and turned that old town with its thick walls into a formidable bastion of the Japanese line. From Teng-chung, patrols moved up and down the Shweli valley, watched the passes through the Kaoli-kung, and frequented ferry sites along the Salween. At the center of the Japanese line the 113th Regiment thoroughly fortified Sung Shan, a multipeaked mountain, which dominated the site of the destroyed Hui-tung Bridge over the Salween and the first twenty-seven miles of the Burma Road west of the Salween River. South of Sung Shan, detachments garrisoned Ping-ka and Hsiang-ta, cholera-plagued villages which controlled trails reaching the first great bend of the Salween before it cuts the Burma border. At Kunlong Ferry, sixty-five air miles away, where two years before the Allies had worked on the Yunnan-Burma Railway, the 56th Division placed three companies of its reconnaissance regiment to hold the southern end of its line.
The 56th Division depended on the Burma Road and the trails branching from it to link its forward elements with their principal supply base and headquarters at Lashio. The Japanese trucks were vulnerable to air attack, but throughout 1943 and the first half of 1944 the Fourteenth Air Force was unable to stop Japanese traffic along the Burma Road.6
Schematic Order of Battle of the Chinese Expeditionary Force
The Chinese Plan for the Salween Campaign
The Chinese Expeditionary Force consisted of two group armies, the XI and XX. (Chart 6) The XI Group Army, commanded by Maj. Gen. Sung Hsi-lien, commanded the 2d, 6th, and 71st Armies. Headquarters, 6th Army, remained in the rear while the army's two organic divisions were attached to different group armies, the 2d Reserve Division to the 54th Army, and the 39th Division to 2d Army.7 The XX Group Army, under Maj. Gen. Huo Kweichang, included the 53d and 54th Armies. Thus, at the start of the Salween campaign, Gen. Wei Li-huang commanded twelve divisions. Unfortunately, the Chinese Ministry of War had not brought these units up to strength, so that Wei's actual strength of 72,000 men was 40 percent below what it should have been.
By the end of February 1944 the five Y-Force armies had each been issued 540 .45-caliber submachine guns, 54 .55-caliber Boys antitank rifles, 162 60-mm. mortars, 72 rocket launchers, 12 75-mm. pack howitzers, and 54 Bren guns. The
GEN. WEI LI-HUANG (seated, center), surrounded by his staff officers, observes the result of Chinese artillery fire on enemy positions across the Salween.
ammunition for these weapons was ample to start the offensive and continued supply presented no problem to Y-FOS supply members.8
Estimating that the 56th Division was firmly entrenched along the Burma Road, and that it could easily bring reinforcements up the road to the Japanese forward areas, the Chinese decided to strike first at the flanks of the long Japanese line. When their task forces had successfully made their crossings of the Salween, they would move inland, then close in on the center of the Japanese
position from north and south. When the envelopment was judged almost complete, then the Chinese proposed to attack down the Burma Road. It was expected the Japanese would then be forced to retire from Yunnan. In falling back south and west, they would probably yield the town of Teng-chung, opening trails to Myitkyina and Bhamo.9
The XX Group Army was assigned the sector north of the Burma Road; the XI Group Army, the Burma Road and the Japanese positions to the south. General Wei's plan called for the XX Group Army to send three reinforced regimental combat teams across the Salween at as many points. When each had made good its foothold, reinforcements would follow and that portion of the attack would be under way.
The northernmost pass, the Hpimaw pass, was left by the Chinese to the irregulars who had harassed the Japanese there since February; no effort through it was scheduled. Twenty-five miles to the south was Ma-mien pass. The Chinese ordered the 54th Army to send the 593d Regiment, 198th Division, across the Salween on D Day. The 593d Regiment was to filter through the Ma-mien pass, using secondary trails to avoid Japanese patrols, and enter the Shweli valley which, it will be recalled, was a north-south corridor behind the main Japanese defenses. Once the 593d was in the Shweli valley, the Chinese believed they would be safe from Japanese counterattacks in the Ma-mien pass. Following the 593d Infantry would come the remainder of the 198th Division to clear the Japanese from the Ma-mien pass area and to drive on into the Shweli valley. The 593d Infantry's crossing of the Salween would be aided by the 2d Reserve Division which was to move south and seize the village of Hai-po halfway down Ma-mien pass to the Salween's banks, and thus prevent the Japanese from bringing up reinforcements to oppose the 593d's crossing.
Seventeen miles south of lofty Ma-mien pass, the main force of XX Group Army was to clear the Ta-tang-tzu pass, the third gateway through the Kaoli-kung Mountains. This pass was held by the 148th Infantry (less the 1st and 2d Battalions). At the western end of the pass was the principal Japanese stronghold in the immediate area, the fortified village of Chiang-chu. On D Day, the 36th Division of the 54th Army, plus one regiment of the 116th Division of the 53d Army, was to make the Salween crossing. With the bridgehead established, the rest of the 53d Army would follow. Three Chinese divisions would force their way through Ta-tang-tzu pass. This would place them in the Shweli valley, ready to link with the 198th Division, and to drive south down the Shweli valley as part of a great pincers on the Japanese.
The shortest route from Pao-shan, the Chinese headquarters and communications center, to Teng-chung is that which crosses the Salween at the site of the Huei-jen Bridge, but the pass on the Burmese side was so difficult that the Chinese intended to confine themselves to preventing its use by the enemy, rather than attempt to take it as part of their own attack. A regimental combat team reinforced, from the New 39th Division, was ordered to cross the Salween on D Day at three ferry sites three to five miles above the Huei-jen Bridge, which was firmly held by a Japanese battalion, then swing south on the bridge site. The rest of the New 39th Division would follow the combat team across.
Next in order of the gateways to Burma is that through which the Burma Road passes, but since the Japanese were believed to hold it in force, the Chinese plan called for postponing attack on it until the double envelopment was well under way. Therefore the next Chinese assault was to cross the Salween eleven miles south of the village of Ping-ka. Elements of the 71st and 2d Armies would follow and converge on Ping-ka, whose capture was expected to open the way up the Ping-ka valley into Burma. While Ping-ka was under attack, other elements of the 71st and 2d Armies would bypass it and swing northwestward toward the Burma Road and the important towns of Mang-shih and Lung-ling. Their capture would clamp a Chinese roadblock firmly on the Burma Road, cutting off some of the strongest Japanese positions. Once these two towns were under attack, the rest of the XI Group Army would cross the Salween.
The success of the operations outlined above would precede General Wei's commitment of his reserve to an attack directly down the Burma Road.10
Such then was the Chinese Expeditionary Force's plan for an offensive across the Salween, a double envelopment that would scoop out the Japanese from their fortified positions. The plan was good, but the hour was late and this would be a great handicap. As far back as February 1943, the Chinese had agreed to launch their attack in October 1943, thus insuring six months of good weather. Over this same period, Stilwell and his subordinates in China had worked closely with Y-Force to prepare it for its projected role in the North Burma Campaign.11 But the Chinese had let the months slip by and now in May 1944, on the eve of the monsoon rains, Y-Force would demonstrate the extent to which it had profited from American advice and aid.
The American Contribution
The American contribution to China's offensive took two forms, advice and logistical support. The Americans had no command functions in Y-Force, but since April 1943 they had been advising in training, in supply, and in operations.
AN AMERICAN LIAISON OFFICER studies Japanese positions across the Salween River before the crossing.
Studying the terrain, the Japanese positions, and the Chinese capabilities, the American liaison and instructional groups since early 1943 had been urging the Chinese commanders to accept certain basic principles. The first of these reflected the fundamental weakness of the Japanese position, that no matter how devoted the individual Japanese soldier or how skillfully he had fortified his position, the 56th Division had to guard over 100 air-line miles. Therefore the Americans had been urging the Chinese to prepare to infiltrate through the inevitable gaps in the Japanese line. As the situation suggested, all Chinese units should be prepared to break up into small, highly mobile, self-sustaining combat teams. Each combat team should be prepared to operate independently for several days. Each should be indoctrinated with the principle of moving ahead regardless of Japanese attempts at envelopment. If the Japanese succeeded in placing themselves behind a Chinese unit, that unit should in turn attack the Japanese rear and try to outlast them. In their advance, the Chinese should keep themselves deployed in depth so that there would always be combat units in the rear able to deal with infiltrating Japanese elements.
Warfare on the mountain trails would, the American advisers stressed, limit the Chinese Expeditionary Force to the use of infantry supporting weapons--
mortars, machine guns, and flame throwers--augmented by a few pieces of pack artillery. Weapons and ammunition of this nature could be airdropped to keep the advance under way. Few occasions would arise in which artillery would be used as a battalion to support a Chinese division. This belief led to preaching the use of individual batteries working with mortars and automatic weapons as integral parts of small combat teams.
Pack animals and coolie labor, the Americans foresaw, would provide the greater part of the supply transport in the early phases of the campaign. Carts could assist, but motor vehicles would be confined to a few routes. The Chinese were told that, because of the terrain and the probable possession of air superiority, troops must learn to co-operate with friendly aircraft attacking Japanese positions and in receiving airdrops. The monsoon rains would of course hinder air supply so the Chinese were urged to capture Japanese landing strips and sites adaptable to airdrops.12
After General Ho formally undertook to cross the Salween, the American operational staff with the Chinese divisions, or Y-FOS, had three weeks within which to complete its preparations. In making these final arrangements, Dorn stressed again and again the four responsibilities he had accepted. To meet them plus his other missions he devised an organization which closely paralleled that of the Chinese Expeditionary Force. On 21 April, General Wei outlined the liaison mission that Y-FOS would have in relation to his Chinese troops. One point was clear--no American had command over the Chinese. Y-FOS would, however, continue to (1) assist in training, (2) assist in supply, (3) perform its own administration, (4) exchange intelligence with the Chinese, (5) furnish air-ground liaison, (6) report to the Chinese Expeditionary Force "the needs of the Chinese front line troops so that CEF Headquarters may decide something to assist them."13
On 29 April, Dorn established the Field Headquarters, Y-FOS, with a G-2, G-3, G-4, and chief of staff. This group was to accompany General Wei's headquarters. Meanwhile, Y-FOS teams, plus attached medical units, either joined Chinese units or augmented American liaison groups already in the field. Because most of his divisions already had U.S. traveling instructional groups with them, Wei allowed Y-FOS to expand the teams in order to reach the regimental level. Each Y-FOS team varied in size from six to twenty Americans and usually included infantry, artillery, engineer, ordnance, signal, quartermaster, and veterinary personnel. Some 100 signal communication enlisted personnel were among the Y-FOS teams. Portable surgical and field hospitals and veterinary detachments were the major portion of U.S. table of organization
AMERICAN ENGINEERS ON THE BURMA ROAD supervise native laborers (above) and operate heavy maintenance equipment (below).
units with the Chinese Expeditionary Force. U.S. antiaircraft batteries were stationed at vital bridges and airfields.14
In rear areas, G-4 of Y-FOS and SOS expedited delivery of food, ammunition, and equipment. These were received at the Kunming and Yun-nan-i depots, and brought forward from them by trucks along the Chinese portion of the Burma Road, by pack and coolie train over the mountains, and later by airdrop on the battlefield. Because there were no accurate maps of the Salween area, the Fourteenth and Tenth Air Forces flew photo-reconnaissance missions to produce aerial mosaics. American engineer troops, always convinced that the D-Day crossings could be successfully made, planned to ferry the five assaulting task forces over the river and gave Chinese engineers intensive training in the use of rubber boats. Daily practice was conducted across the turbulent Mekong River.15
Reconstruction and improvement of the Burma Road from Kunming to Pao-shan was a major preoccupation, and Y-FOS engineers were detailed to co-operate with a Chinese agency, the Yunnan-Burma Highway Engineering Administration, in planning the work. On 1 May SOS assumed this responsibility from Y-FOS, and on 15 June organized the Burma Road Engineers. Enjoying its own table of organization, this unit was attached to SOS. General Dorn gave strong support to every phase of the Sino-American effort to rebuild the vital highway from Pao-shan to the Salween, including plans for reconstructing the destroyed Hui-tung Bridge which had carried the road over the Salween's dramatic gorge. Dorn gave the Burma Road Engineers first priority on Y-FOS personnel for its engineering staff.16
In working out the details of tactical air support and air supply with the Fourteenth Air Force, Y-FOS received complete co-operation. The 69th Composite Wing had the responsibility of supporting the China Expeditionary Force's ground effort. Sergeant pilots of the 19th Liaison Squadron were attached to Y-FOS for courier service in their little L-5's. Since he had felt obliged to assure the Chinese that the United States would contribute the factor of air supply to their offensive, Dorn asked Stilwell for a C-47 squadron plus necessary personnel. Though the request could not be filled at once, the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron joined the Fourteenth Air Force in late May.17
Beginning the Offensive
Following the preparations from afar, the Generalissimo telephoned General Wei on 27 April to make a few last-minute changes in the Chinese order of battle and to set D Day. The Generalissimo also demanded that his commanders
"succeed--or else!" On 9 May Dorn notified Stilwell that the Salween crossings were to be made on the night of 10 or 11 May, that hopes were high of reaching Myitkyina before Stilwell did.18
The crossing of the Salween River, an operation the Chinese had regarded with justified apprehension, since Japanese machine guns and artillery might turn the Salween line into a most formidable obstacle, went with clocklike precision. The Japanese had decided not to defend the crossing sites, but to place their main line of resistance along the main ridge line some ten miles west. From decoded Chinese radio messages and from the forward movement of Wei's headquarters, the Japanese had concluded the offensive was imminent, and made their last-minute preparations, but these did not include contesting the landings.19
Assembling ten miles east of the Salween, the 198th Division (Ma-mien pass sector) received an army order on 9 May to move up to the crossing site. During the night of 11 May, Chinese engineer companies, supervised by seventeen Y-FOS soldiers, commenced the ferrying operation. Throughout the moonlit night and on until noon of the following day, engineers shuttled the rubber boats, bamboo and oil-drum rafts, and similar expedients across the Salween's swirling eddies and currents. So strong were the Salween's currents that it took four engineers to paddle but four infantrymen and their impedimenta across the river at a time. Larger ferry boats carried pack animals and artillery. During late afternoon of 12 May this force of Chinese attacked its first objective.20
On 11-12 May, the three regiments of the 36th Division plus the 346th Regiment of the 116th Division (Ta-tang-tzu pass sector) successfully crossed the Salween at Meng-ka ferry. From D Day on, the ferrying operations went smoothly, "elements behaved quietly and obeyed instructions . . . throughout."21
The regimental combat team assigned to hold the Huei-jen Bridge area, which comprised the 115th Infantry Regiment, plus a battalion of the 116th with artillery and service troops, was ferried across the Salween without incident on the night of 10-11 May. The Chinese did not receive heavy fire until morning.22
The southernmost crossings, those near Ping-ka, were rather elaborate in conception. Before D Day, four companies of the 9th Division, 2d Army, slipped across the Salween and moved close to the village of Ping-ka to keep Japanese patrols from leaving it to go to the river's edge. On D Day, the
CHINESE TROOPS CROSS THE SALWEEN, in rubber boats (above) and by means of a ferry constructed from oil drums (below).
Chinese made two crossings, one in the area eleven miles below Ping-ka, the other, seven miles northeast. Below Ping-ka, the Chinese sent across the 228th Infantry as a regimental combat team reinforced, from the 76th Division, 2d Army. Above Ping-ka, the attack was begun by a similar combat team built around the 264th Infantry, 88th Division, 71st Army. The two task forces were to converge on Ping-ka from north and south. Here as everywhere else fighting did not begin until the Chinese were well over the river.23
Pushing Through Ma-mien Pass
Fighting in Ma-mien pass, where the Chinese were trying to clamp the northernmost part of their pincers in place, began on the afternoon of 12 May when a battalion on the right flank of the 198th Regiment attacked the first Japanese outpost. Making good progress, by dark the battalion had occupied several Japanese pillboxes and part of the trench system. All that night, the Japanese quietly filtered down from a nearby ridge and assembled near the Chinese position. Attacking at dawn, they surprised the Chinese and almost wiped them out before aid came. The Chinese battalion commander was killed, also 2d Lt. Kirk C. Schaible, the first Y-FOS liaison officer to die in action. Seeking to cover an exposed flank and find a better field of fire, Lieutenant Schaible left cover and was instantly killed by a Japanese rifleman. Chinese reinforcements restored the situation, and Japanese resistance in the immediate area ceased on the next day, 13 May.24
The Japanese defenders at Ma-mien pass had been the 2d Battalion, 148th Regiment, under a Colonel Kurashige. Kurashige had moved his men into the pass in January. He had relied on patrols to watch the ferry sites, while small garrisons in strongpoints held the mountain trails.25
The Chinese established their line of communications across the Salween on 29 May, when a footbridge was repaired to permit supplies and pack animals to cross the river. Telephone wire had been strung across the river two days earlier. The Chinese were then no longer dependent on their first means of communication with the rear, L-5 liaison aircraft operating from a landing strip which Chinese engineers had hacked from the mountainside between 12 and
FOOTBRIDGE ACROSS THE SALWEEN at the Hui-tung Bridge site.
20 May. Unfortunately the footbridge proved inadequate to sustain the Chinese in Ma-mien pass, and air supply was required.
Having beaten off the first Japanese counterattack, the 592d and 594th Regiments of the 198th Division began clearing out Japanese strongpoints while the 593d moved west over mountain byways to emerge into the Shweli valley on 16 May, near the village of Kaochiao. Promptly, the Chinese attacked the Japanese garrison of Chiao-tou-chieh which, surprised and momentarily panicked, took to its heels. But the Japanese panic was of brief duration, and stouter resistance kept the 593d from moving farther south and down the Shweli valley. The 593d Regiment halted, posted guards to close off the western end of Ma-mien pass, and waited for the main strength of the 54th Army to arrive.
Within Ma-mien pass itself, the survivors of the 2/148 fell back on the fortified village of Chai-kung-tang. Already present were the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 113th Infantry, rushed north from Ping-ka and Bhamo as soon as the 56th Division had made its estimate of the Chinese intentions. Chai-kung-tang, while the Japanese held it, would close the narrow Ma-mien pass to Chinese traffic.
Well fortified, the Japanese resisted staunchly, and only desperate fighting
by the Chinese cleared them from the pass by 13 June. When the Chinese could not take a bunker by their usual technique of frontal attack, they would request the American air liaison officer to call up support from the 51st Fighter Group of the AAF at Yun-nan-i. Y-FOS personnel taught the Chinese how to prepare ground indicators to guide the P-40's on their target runs. Using rockets and fragmentation and demolition bombs, Chennault's pilots acted as artillery for the Chinese and flew close support missions as often as weather permitted.
The weather grew progressively worse as the monsoon rains closed in. In those high altitudes the rains became blinding sleet and fog, an added misery of war for the poorly clad Chinese soldiers. The rains threatened to wash away the Chinese line of communications, and as the siege of Chai-kung-tang went on day after day, the coolie pack trains proved incapable of keeping the 54th Army's supplies from nearing the starvation level. Fortunately, the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron arrived at Yun-nan-i on 26 May and was in action two days later dropping tons of ammunition, rice, and much-needed raincoats. This was a welcome relief, but a brief one, for the weather from 3 to 10 June was so bad that flying was impossible. Chinese and Americans did what they could on what was left of their rations, supplementing them by bamboo shoots and unwary Burmese livestock. On one occasion, the American liaison team was able to supplement its rations by shooting a mountain tiger and converting it into steaks.
With TNT charges dropped by the 27th Troop Carrier's C-47's when the weather cleared, the Chinese blew up the last pillboxes at Chai-kung-tang on 13 June. When the last shots had been fired and the Chinese farmer boys of the 54th Army reported the area secure, there was bewilderment at finding only 75 Japanese bodies in defenses that must have been manned by at least 300 men, and shock and nausea when the Japanese kitchens revealed how the defenders had been able to prolong their stay. Pitiful and ghastly evidence showed that the Japanese had resorted to cannibalism when their rations failed.
With their food stocks exhausted, the defenders had been ordered by Colonel Kurashige to escape at night and to fall back into the valley of the Shweli. Annihilation was inevitable if the Japanese garrison clung longer to its defenses, and Kurashige wanted its survivors to live and fight another day.
With Chai-kung-tang firmly in Chinese hands, with clearing skies permitting the C-47's to return again with their cargoes of food and bullets, the 54th Army, victors of Ma-mien pass, began moving on into the Shweli valley.26
Clearing Ta-tang-tzu Pass, 11 May-12 June 1944
The mission of the 53d Army was to drive through Ta-tang-tzu pass and unite with the 54th Army coming down from Ma-mien pass in the north. As
the 53d Army moved over the Salween, American liaison personnel with it were dismayed to learn that XX Group Army had ordered no Japanese position was to be bypassed. This meant that every Chinese unit north of the Burma Road would be forced to dig the stubborn Japanese from their mountain strongholds rather than move past them on into Burma. This order from XX Group Army had grave implications for the success of the Chinese effort.
By dusk of 12 May the 36th Division had surrounded the Japanese outposts in the eastern end of the pass. When darkness came, the 36th went into bivouac. That night, the Japanese attacked vigorously, overrunning the division command post and causing the flustered 36th Division to fall back to the Salween. At dawn, the 53d Army commander, Maj. Gen. Chou Fu-cheng, pushed a regiment across the Salween and restored the situation by attacking the Japanese flank. General Chou was an aggressive and tenacious fighter, whom his Manchurian soldiers had nicknamed Old Board-Back, and who had the reputation of never having yielded an inch to the Japanese. But even Chou could not immediately restore the morale of the 36th Division, which for some weeks took no further part in the Ta-tang-tzu fighting, and the rest of the 53d Army had to bear the burden of clearing the pass.
Though the smoothness with which the 53d Army brought its reinforcements across the Salween drew praise from American observers, its assaults in the eastern part of the pass fortifications were praiseworthy only for the wasted courage of its troops:
In view of the enemy's defensive attitude and our superior strength, American liaison officers urged the use of a small continuing force and a strong encircling movement to cut the trail . . . behind the Japs. Nevertheless orders were received for direct attacks on the prepared positions . . . the 116th Div. to attack from the north and the 130th Div. from the south. Several days were wasted and heavy losses incurred . . . in suicidal charges by a succession of squads against enemy pillboxes. Teamwork in use of weapons and supporting fires and the use of cover were conspicuously lacking . . . most casualties resulted from attempts to walk or rather climb up through inter-locking bands of machine gun fire. As a demonstration of sheer bravery the attacks were magnificent but sickeningly wasteful. Some platoon leaders were killed within one or two meters of the enemy embrasures and several of the best company and battalion commanders were killed and wounded in personal leadership of their troops. A general coordinated assault might have overrun the positions by sheer esprit and weight of numbers but adjoining or supporting units would idly watch some single squad or platoon get mowed down in a lone advance then try it on their own front. . . .27
On days when the overcast disappeared the 51st Fighter Group struck at the Japanese bunkers, but the aerial artillery was not too effective against the Japanese bunkers of logs and concrete. Meanwhile, in order to support the valiant Chinese frontal assaults, Y-FOS personnel radioed American depots at Yun-nan-i for more ordnance matériel, for Chinese crews sometimes wrecked their weapons through misuse or lack of maintenance. Because of Chinese
AIR-SUPPLY DROPS like the one shown above were the key to success in Burma operations.
advances some miles to the north, the Japanese decided to thin out their garrison and constrict their holdings in the Ta-tang-tzu pass area. Their withdrawal on the night of 22-23 May permitted an eight-mile advance by the Chinese.
Over 28-31 May the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron replenished the 53d Army's stocks. Deliveries were made at so fast a rate that the airdropping crews were sometimes obliged to assist the packers, who found themselves unable to keep pace.
To clear the remaining Japanese from Ta-tang-tzu pass, the 116th and 130th Divisions continued the attack. The 36th Division, which had been so roughly handled in the opening days of the campaign, was ordered to bypass the Japanese in the Ta-tang-tzu area, and to make its way sixteen miles northwest, to where the 54th Army, after clearing Ma-mien pass, was stalemated in the upper Shweli valley. The 36th Division found its way open because early in June Colonel Kurashige had been ordered by the 56th Division to send the 3/148th to the Japanese northern flank.
Behind the front, Chinese and Americans worked at communications and supply. Chinese engineers laid lend-lease telephone wire to open communications with General Wei's Pao-shan headquarters. At the pace of the coolie's
slow climb, supplies and pack artillery began to filter through to the upper Shweli. The efforts of the coolies, strenuous though they were, could not yield results comparable to the thirteen C-47's, whose crews began to feel they knew the Kaoli-kung peaks and valleys as well as they knew their hometown corner drugstores. Numbered airdropping sites were now well past the twenty mark.
In addition to the obvious contribution of air supply, the Americans found themselves making two other important contributions to the campaign. Liaison radio teams forwarded considerable intelligence, air target, and supply data to Pao-shan, helping Wei and Dorn co-ordinate the Sino-American effort. Y-FOS liaison officers also reported tactical and logistical mistakes the Chinese made so that Wei and Dorn could take remedial action. Gradually, Sino-American co-operation in the field began to grow effective.
But at this early stage of the campaign, reports from the American liaison teams were not always cheerful. Americans observing the Ta-tang-tzu and Ma-mien actions found that Japanese fire was accurate and economical, and that the enemy's use of camouflage and concealment approached perfection. The Japanese revealed no disposition to surrender though they were heavily outnumbered, often surrounded, and had neither air support nor air supply. On the other hand, the Americans reported that the Chinese endlessly wasted manpower and ammunition in costly frontal attacks. They reported that relations with the Chinese were not always as friendly as had been hoped, and they believed there would have to be better co-operation between Chinese and Americans if the Japanese were to be defeated. The Chinese were described as merely tolerating the Americans' presence and as paying little attention to their advice. The liaison personnel freely admitted their own shortcomings, and by their reports suggested that patience was the most important quality for a liaison officer to cultivate when dealing with the Chinese.
Most Americans liked the aggressive spirit and tenacity of General Chou, the 53d Army's commander of picturesque nickname. To Chinese officers like Chou, the offensive was theirs to plan and to fight, and the Americans were merely guests to be shielded from harm. While liaison officers appreciated the kindness of the Chinese in giving them the status of guests with all this implied of concern for their safety and comfort, they were appalled to observe the degree to which these same Chinese commanders considered their soldiers expendable. Liaison officers were horrified to learn that a company commander could execute a soldier but that it took a group army order to shoot a horse or mule.28 A month's experience with the way the Chinese proposed to fight the Salween campaign provided a clue to the difficulties the Chinese and Americans would have to face and surmount before General Wei's soldiers could meet with General Stilwell's.
Securing the Huei-jen Bridge Area, 11 May-14 June 1944
The regimental combat team of the 115th Regiment reinforced by a battalion of the 116th Regiment, which was to take and hold the Huei-jen Bridge area for the Chinese, made its crossing at sites five to nine miles above the bridge. From the crossing site, the Chinese task force swung south to drive the 1/113, commanded by its regimental commander, from the immediate area of the Huei-jen Bridge. Behind it came the rest of the New 39th Division. By 17 May advance elements of the combat team were in the village of Hung-mu-shu, well behind the Japanese, and only twenty air-line miles from the key city of Teng-chung.
The Japanese soon recovered from the initial surprise of the Chinese offensive and the 1/113 drove the Chinese from Hung-mu-shu. The Japanese exploited their success and pushed the entire New 39th Division back against the Salween. The Chinese collected themselves, renewed the attack, and by 27 May had one element back within five miles of Hung-mu-shu, while the 115th Infantry took hill positions overlooking the enemy's defenses at the bridge site and engaged the Japanese artillery. The monsoon rains seemed to the Chinese and American liaison officers to be confining both sides to their positions. In reality, the Japanese, in line with their tactics of a mobile defense, withdrew most of the 1/113 and sent it north to attack the Chinese 53d Army near Ta-tang-tzu pass, leaving only a few men behind.
The pressure exerted by the 53d Chinese Army in the north in effect ended the Japanese defense of the Huei-jen Bridge area, for the Japanese were not able to return the 1/113. On 12 June the Chinese 115th Infantry was back in Hung-mu-shu, after killing thirty of the Japanese rear guard. Pushing west, Chinese patrols occupied a pass on the Hung-mu-shu-Teng-chung trail, opening a route to the Shweli valley.
Instead of being directed on Teng-chung, the New 39th Division was sent south on a trail paralleling the Salween. Its orders were to unite with elements of the New 28th Division, 71st Army, that were attacking the Japanese stronghold of Sung Shan, which controlled the Hui-tung Bridge area.29
Driving the Japanese Rear Guards From the Shweli Valley
The Japanese withdrawal of several units from the northern flank in the upper Shweli valley to bolster the southern flank near Lung-ling left Colonel Kurashige's Japanese less able to hold the 53d and 54th Armies in the north. As the Japanese positions at Chieh-tou, Chiao-tou-chieh, Wa-tien, and Chiang-chu, along the upper Shweli, began to fall, prospects of a more speedy capture of Teng-chung by the Chinese began to appear. On 1 June units of the 54th
Army, from the 2d Reserve and 36th Divisions, emerged in the Shweli valley from Ta-tang-tzu pass to join the 593d Regiment from the Ma-mien pass. Next day the Chinese occupied Chieh-tou village and invested Chiao-tou-chieh with two regiments of the 36th. Once 53d Army patrols commenced operations in the Shweli valley, they took the advice of Y-FOS officers and donned Burmese clothes. So disguised, they found it easy to enter Japanese-held villages. When taken by surprise, the Japanese were willing to abandon many of their outer defenses. On 14 June the Japanese quit Chiao-tou-chieh, leaving many stores to the 2d Reserve and 36th Divisions.
The garrison of Chiao-tou-chieh retreated in two columns, each pursued by a Chinese regiment. One Japanese column crossed to the west of the Shweli valley and marched westward to reach a trail that would take it to Teng-chung. The other Japanese column, its strength raised to perhaps 500 by patrols and outposts it picked up as it went, withdrew southward on Wa-tien, twenty-five air-line miles above Teng-chung. The Chinese snapped at its heels until it entered the defenses of Wa-tien, then began to prepare another siege.
At this point the 56th Division ordered the 2/148th to fight a delaying action toward Teng-chung and to release the 3/148th to meet the growing Chinese threat toward the 56th Division's southern flank. The next Chinese objectives in the Shweli valley were Wa-tien and Chiang-chu, four miles southeast of Wa-tien.
On 18 June the 36th Division opened the attack on Wa-tien as the 116th and 130th Divisions arrived before Chiang-chu. While the 53d Army prepared to attack Chiang-chu, the 4th Infantry marched southward toward Ku-tung on the road to Teng-chung. Ku-tung fell on 19 June, and Wa-tien on the 20th. Both Chinese and Japanese converged on Chiang-chu. Luckily for the Chinese, monsoon rains that for a fortnight had greatly hampered air support now lifted. The transports quickly completed airdrops to each Chinese division, while fighter bombers pounded the Japanese around Chiang-chu. The Japanese yielded Chiang-chu on 22 June, and the 51st Fighter Group profited by the break in the weather to strafe and bomb a long column of Japanese with animal transport caught on the trail to Teng-chung.
With the fall of Chiang-chu, the Japanese had been forced to abandon the upper Shweli valley, and were now moving in some disorder toward Teng-chung over three excellent trails. In Chiang-chu, they left behind large quantities of ammunition and a few pieces of artillery, suggesting a disorganized withdrawal. One hundred and fifty dead Japanese were found in Chiang-chu itself; more than 300 Chinese gave their lives for the village. South of Chiang-chu, the Japanese hastily destroyed their ponton bridge to slow the Chinese pursuit.
On reaching the Chiang-chu-Wa-tien-Ku-tung line, XX Group Army had wrested 4,000 square miles from Japanese control in forty days of fighting. The advance had been made over the precipitous ranges of the Kaoli-kung Mountains
in an almost constant rain, a downpour sometimes heavy, sometimes light, rarely abating, and always turning to fog and sleet in the higher altitudes. More than 150 coolie supply porters fell to their deaths from the narrow, slippery trails that snaked precariously over the mountains.
Once solidly established in the Shweli valley, XX Group Army lost no time in ordering an advance on Teng-chung. The 2d Reserve Division plus elements of the 36th Division advanced southwest along the Ku-tung-Teng-chung trail. Advance patrols of the 198th Division proceeded directly south from Wa-tien while the rest of the division stayed to reorganize after its grueling advance through Ma-mien pass. The 53d Army was ordered to move from Chiang-chu and across the Shweli for an eventual concentration on the east side of Teng-chung. By 25 June General Wei received a personal order from the Generalissimo to take Teng-chung. A few days later, XX Group Army, though delayed by the need to rebuild bridges over each of the swift mountain streams that crossed its advance, had pressed the Japanese rear guards back to the hills that surrounded Teng-chung at a distance of two to three miles from the formidable walled town itself. Meanwhile, the Fourteenth Air Force was trying to soften Teng-chung by daily attacks with bomb and machine gun.
During the clearing of the Shweli valley and the approach to Teng-chung, Y-FOS personnel with XX Group Army sent back a number of critiques of that force in action, reports which suggested the Chinese advance might have gone more swiftly and cheaply had American techniques and advice not been disregarded by the Chinese on entering battle. Y-FOS observers wrote that Chinese regimental commanders could not ask directly for support from their attached artillery, but had to route their requests through division headquarters. When artillery support was granted, it was almost worthless. Targets were not bracketed, and delay between rounds was often as long as five minutes. Artillery observers were sometimes two miles behind the front. The Chinese gunners disdained cover and concealment, drawing on themselves accurate Japanese counterbattery. Chinese pack artillery did not march in orderly fashion but straggled into position. Battery positions were occupied in daylight with individual pack sections arriving at half-hour intervals. The Chinese neglected to maintain their pieces, which quickly grew rusty during the rains.
To the Americans, the Chinese seemed equally indifferent toward proper care and use of infantry supporting weapons. Chinese mortar crews dismissed their American-taught techniques. The firing batteries in rocket launchers were kept in place during the rains, which ruined them in twenty-four hours. The Chinese infantryman raised the hair on the Americans' heads by casually using the ring of the hand grenade to hang the weapon from his belt. Between all units, wire laying was bad. At night, an entire Chinese regiment would open up on a Japanese patrol. Ammunition was wasted endlessly, and weapons soon grew unserviceable from constant use and lack of maintenance. Such practices on a battlefield, far removed from supply depots and over 12,000 miles from
the makers of critical parts, reduced the fighting power of General Wei's 72,000 men far below what it should have been. Y-FOS personnel recommended that a strict inspection system be established to make spot inspections and corrections. They urged that a high-ranking Chinese officer be present at every such inspection to follow through on recommendations and insure their performance.30
Gradually, the Chinese came to be more receptive to U.S. advice than they had been. In retrospect, it might seem that Wei's troops had appeared to accept U.S. teachings in the training centers only through Chinese courtesy, but with no notion of losing face by actually applying what they had heard from a foreigner. Then came combat, and standing side by side American and Chinese officers could see what results the Chinese attitude yielded. The senior U.S. liaison officer with XX Group Army wrote:
As a result of the lessons of this campaign, I believe that Commanders of all ranks in the 20th Army Group [sic] are in the most receptive state of mind as pertains to American supervised training. The fact that American and Chinese officers stood side by side and watched excessive casualties pile up day after day, chiefly as a result of violations of proper tactical and technical procedure, furnishes a common ground of ideas for improved training. These same Chinese officers saw important objectives taken and held, at comparatively small cost, by troops following American training doctrines. There can be no doubt but that the American Liaison Team concept has been justified. The Chinese have acquired a new respect for the American Liaison Officer who shared with them the dangers and hardships of campaign, and a new confidence and understanding of the American training methods that proved their correctness in the final test--battle.31
The Southern Flank, 11 May-30 June 1944
To insure its hold on the key Burma Road towns of Lung-ling and Mang-shih, the 56th Division had occupied most of the larger villages lying south and west of Lung-ling. Lung-ling was vital to the Japanese because a fair road ran north from it to Teng-chung. If Lung-ling fell the whole Japanese position would be unhinged and would have to move many miles west. This would probably make Teng-chung untenable, while the momentum of the Chinese coming into Burma along the Burma Road might be enough to carry them into the vital area around Lashio. Lung-ling, therefore, was a prize worth striving for. When the Chinese first struck, the 56th Division judged the greatest danger to be in the upper Shweli valley, and so weakened its southern flank to aid Colonel Kurashige. Therefore in the opening phases of their operation the two Chinese task forces of XI Group Army that were attempting to converge on Ping-ka from the north and south made excellent progress.
Eleven miles below Ping-ka a task force of the 76th Division crossed the
CHINESE 2D ARMY ARTILLERYMEN prepare to fire their 75-mm. pack howitzer in the Ping-ka valley area.
Salween on D Day, while one from the 88th Division crossed seven miles above. Three days after the crossings, the 76th Division met outposts of the 1/146 and forced them back to the heights overlooking Ping-ka. Meanwhile the 88th Division from the north was fighting through a series of fortified villages as it headed south to join the 76th Division. By 16 May thirteen villages were occupied in the area northeast of Ping-ka, but the Japanese, as they withdrew, received reinforcements. Strengthened by the 2/113 the Japanese did not attack the Chinese who were pursuing them, but moved south and hit the Chinese 228th Regiment south and west of Ping-ka. On 23 May the Chinese were forced to yield hill positions. Next day the Chinese 226th and 228th Regiments tried to force a way across the ridge which forms the southeastern edge of Ping-ka valley. Not waiting to co-ordinate their efforts with the 88th Division coming down from the north, and deprived of air support by inclement weather, the Chinese found their efforts futile. The 1/146 had carefully selected mortar and machine gun positions, and had cleared fields of fire by burning away the brush. Each Chinese frontal attack failed with heavy losses.
After 25 May the 2d Army could not hope to co-ordinate its efforts with the 88th Division since the latter was ordered to rejoin the 87th and New 28th
Divisions (71st Army) in a drive on Lung-ling. Therefore, 2d Army assumed responsibility for the conduct of operations in the area Ping-ka-Hsiang-ta-Mang-shih. It ordered the 76th Division to bypass Ping-ka, leaving the 226th Regiment to besiege the valley. With only enough men to place forty to fifty soldiers on every mile of the twenty-four-mile semicircular front, the 226th Regiment remained before Ping-ka until the Japanese yielded the valley in late September. Tragedy and comedy alternated in the long three months' trial of endurance. The Chinese regiment faced a Japanese battalion, the 1/146, and the Japanese easily filtered through the thin Chinese line. When, at night, the Japanese found it hard to locate Chinese positions, they could stir the Chinese into revealing themselves by uttering weird cries and slapping their rifle butts. Then bursts of fire would spread back and forth across the front as the Chinese blazed away at the noises. But the Japanese paid for their tenacity. Cholera and malaria plagued the Ping-ka valley, and the Japanese twice had to reinforce the 1/146. Finally, on 22 September, the Japanese sent a rescue column to evacuate Ping-ka and bring out what disease and malnutrition had left of a first-rate fighting team.
On 1 June 2d Army brought two regiments of the 9th Division across the Salween and sent patrols of the 76th Division probing toward the Burma Road. The 9th Division isolated the Japanese in Ping-ka valley when it cut supply lines running from the road junction town of Hsiang-ta that lay between Lung-ling and Ping-ka. Hopes of American liaison officers with the 2d Army that a speedy victory on the Salween front might be in the making soared when a unit of the 9th Division put a block across the Burma Road itself on 9 June, at a point four miles south of Mang-shih. These hopes promptly foundered on the hidden rocks of Chinese Army politics. The 2d Army suspended its operations and complained bitterly that it was being discriminated against in supply. Investigating the charge, Y-FOS found that there was an old feud between Headquarters, XI Group Army, and Headquarters, 2d Army. American attempts to point out the results that might flow from holding a block on the Burma Road were not enough to close the breach. The 2d Army took its block off the Burma Road and contented itself with holding what it had and with brushing off Japanese patrols.32
71st Army and the Fight for Lung-ling, 28 May-15 July 1944
Aware that the 56th Division had withdrawn troops from its southern flank to meet XX Group Army, Gen. Wei Li-huang decided to exploit the situation by throwing in the rest of his forces. At the end of May he ordered the remainder of the 71st Army to cross the Salween below the Hui-tung Bridge to
seize Lung-ling while a containing force attacked the strong Japanese position on Sung Shan. Thus, hoping to gain an early victory over the 56th Division, Wei decided to commit his entire force, save the 8th Army then en route from the Indochina border, on three widely separated sectors.
G-4, Y-FOS, had argued against the decision. G-4 questioned Sino-American ability to sustain a twelve-division offensive. It pointed out that the abandonment of the original concept of using small, highly mobile task forces and the decision to reduce every Japanese position in turn was placing a heavy burden on the long-neglected Chinese services of supply. Moreover, the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron was complaining about having to support four Chinese armies on a hundred-mile front with but thirteen C-47's. G-4 suggested that attention should now be given to bringing forward replacements. The methods of attack to which the Chinese had reverted were steadily reducing the combat strength of their units. Replacing these losses was a major task requiring early planning and constant attention, for the nearest Chinese troop pool was 516 miles from Lung-ling and Chinese transport to the front was not in shape to move forward a mass of replacements on short notice. The Fourteenth Air Force added its objections by stressing the difficulty in giving air support to so many Chinese units with its few available aircraft.33
Stilwell, however, on learning of Wei's decision, joined Dorn in welcoming it. Current reports on the progress of the fighting at Myitkyina were most encouraging, and so, addressing Dorn by radio on 3 June, Stilwell directed him to encourage Wei. Stilwell was most anxious to join his forces with Wei's for he wished then to move the Chinese Army in India and Wei's forces to east China to meet the Japanese threat. "Impress on all concerned the vital importance of getting forward on your front. I refer to what may happen soon in central and south China. It would be wise to establish early contact with X-RAY [Chinese Army in India]. Then your boys could at least eat. You had better arouse them to realization of future possibilities. How are you doing?"34
General Wei's decision to commit the 71st Army (less the 88th Division which had already crossed near Ping-ka) came just as a sudden and heavy rain caused the Salween to rise sharply. On 28 May the first elements commenced preparations for the ferrying operations west of Shih-tien, eight miles south of the Hui-tung Bridge. Three days later, the Y-FOS liaison team with XI Group Army left Pao-shan to assist. Under the direction of Y-FOS engineers, 20,000 troops reached the west bank of the Salween by 5 June. Unopposed by the Japanese,
71st Army climbed up and out of the Salween gorge and started north and west toward the Burma Road. Since its pack artillery was carried by coolies, but few rounds of ammunition were with the pieces.
At La-meng village, four miles west of the Salween, the New 28th Division attacked the outposts of the Sung Shan Defense Unit, forcing it to abandon the village on 4 June and to fall back into the mountain fortress of Sung Shan. While the New 28th Division deployed to contain the 900 effective troops of the Sung Chan garrison, the 87th Division kept on toward Lung-ling. There it would meet the 88th Division which, supplied by air during its march from Ping-ka, had arrived outside the east gate of Lung-ling on 7 June. The Japanese still held onto the Burma Road east of Lung-ling, but as of 7 June the 87th Division had covered about two thirds of the distance along the Burma Road from the river to Lung-ling. The Chinese had to deal with small Japanese tanks, which had some moral effect but failed to halt the Chinese advance. Indeed, the latter had been fairly swift, for the Chinese had surprised the Japanese, and had been able to ease their supply problems by the capture of some Japanese rice depots. The scale of the fighting down the road to that point is suggested by the figure of known Japanese dead, 150 during the first week.
The 88th Division deployed its troops along the eastern and southeastern heights overlooking Lung-ling and broke through the outer Japanese defenses on 8 June. That same day its sister division, the 87th, reached Lung-ling's North Gate. By sending the 261st Regiment off to the north, XI Group Army took control of the Man-lao Bridge on the Teng-chung-Lung-ling road, thus blocking that important Japanese supply route.35
If the Chinese could take Lung-ling and break the center of the Japanese line on the Salween front, the five crack Chinese divisions under Stilwell and the twelve under Wei would be very near to meeting. The whole Japanese position in north Burma might crumble, and the blockade of China would then be broken. After a brief period for resting, refitting, and recuperating, the divisions of the Chinese Army in India could be flown to east China from the Myitkyina air strips to stiffen the defense of that area, if the Generalissimo, as Supreme Commander, China Theater, should so order, and if the local war area commanders should desire the presence of central-government troops.36 Wei's twelve divisions would be in position to cover this airlift. When the ground dried in October, a line of communications over existing and usable roads would be open from the Myitkyina-Mogaung area to Kunming. Over it, Wei's divisions could receive lend-lease equipment, and from Kunming, replacements, always assuming the Chinese Ministry of War so desired. Then,
if the military situation in Burma and the political situation in China permitted, units of the twelve divisions could be moved to east China, and there receive a measure of logistical support made possible by taking north Burma. The intervention of any or all of Wei's divisions might have been ineffective, for their performance against one Japanese division does not, in retrospect, suggest they could have halted Hata's eleven divisions. But the five divisions under Stilwell's command had proved their efficiency, and the opportunity to move them to east China was a prize worth grasping. It was the only combat force Stilwell could offer to defend Chennault's airfields. Therefore, a victory at Lung-ling might offer the chance to save the day in east China.
From the body of a dead Japanese officer, the Chinese took a map showing Lung-ling's defenses and the strength and composition of the garrison. Three 5,000-foot hills dominated the surrounding town and suburbs. A Japanese battalion held Lao Tung-po hill while a company of engineers and the garrison's few artillery pieces were on Shu Tung-po. The remaining 800 troops manned a central hill almost in the middle of town.
Personally led by Gen. Sun Hsi-lien, XI Group Army commander, the youngest group army commander in the Chinese Army, 71st Army attacked the two outer heights from three sides on 9 June, in accord with the classic Chinese custom of leaving an escape route to a surrounded enemy.37 By 10 June, the 87th Division had greatly reduced the volume of Japanese fire from Lao Tung-po, but despite some attacks by night the 88th was not able to silence a lone battery on Shu Tung-po. Inclement weather prevented tactical air support; 436 parachute loads dropped some 75-mm. ammunition for the Chinese, little enough to reduce the Japanese positions. Nor were 600 pack animals plying between the Shih-tien ferry over the Salween and Lung-ling able to keep pace with the expenditure of ammunition. Four days of un-coordinated infantry attacks, with little artillery support, failed to carry the three mountains inside Lung-ling, and there was nothing to show for the heavy drain on the 71st Army's ammunition stocks.
Despite numerous reports that the 56th Division was gathering reinforcements for a counterattack, 71st Army did not consolidate and concentrate its available forces. Early on 14 June, 2d Army elements south of Lung-ling were attacked by Japanese patrols probing toward Lung-ling. That same morning, 400 Japanese of the 113th Regiment who had been rushed south from Teng-chung crossed the Shweli west of the Chinese position at the Man-lao Bridge and attacked the outposts of the 261st Regiment. At dusk, 200 more Japanese ferried the Shweli, and at 1900 about one battalion of Japanese drove the Chinese off the bridge (which the latter did not destroy), and brought a small motorized column across the river. The Japanese inside Lung-ling counterattacked
THE SUNG SHAN MOUNTAIN AREA. Lao Tung-po hill is show above; below, American road building equipment moves past former Japanese defensive positions.
vigorously, and when 16 June ended, the 87th Division had been pushed back three miles from Lung-ling.
The following day, Gen. Sun Hsi-lien ordered the 88th Division to abandon its positions near Lung-ling and retire on a line with the 87th, eight miles to the northeast. Repeated attempts by American liaison personnel with the 71st Army to learn how a small Japanese garrison could drive back a Chinese group army only brought embarrassed smiles from Chinese officers. Knowing by now what was prescribed by Chinese etiquette for facing the unpleasant, the Americans feared the worst. The Chinese finally related on 25 June that the 261st Regiment had bolted, and that the commanding general of the 87th Division had attempted suicide. Hopes somewhat revived that same day when reports came that the Honorable 1st Division (8th Army)38 was arriving to reinforce, but in fact it was too late. So passed a brilliant opportunity; General Wei's attempt to exploit his initial successes by committing his reserves had been shattered by Sun's withdrawal before the counterattack of 1,500 Japanese. Meanwhile, in Burma, a major effort to take Myitkyina between 13 and 16 June had brought no gains of great importance.
When fuller details of the fighting around Lung-ling were available anger and annoyance spread from Y-FOS to the Generalissimo himself. Y-FOS personnel considered the Chinese decision to withdraw from Lung-ling inexcusable because XI Group Army had sent forward no reinforcements to meet the initial Japanese counterattacks. Of twenty-one battalions that XI Group Army had in the vicinity of Lung-ling on 14 June, only nine took part in the fighting.39 The Japanese thus had been able to drive back 10,000 Chinese effectives by an attack with 1,500. In describing the defensive attitude of the 259th Regiment, as an example of the conduct that had cost the chance of a speedy breakthrough into Burma, one American liaison officer wrote: "From the time that we crossed the river until we reached Lung-ling, the regimental commander continually had his troops in the rear digging emplacements and trenches in the fear that they would have to retreat."40
When later reports on the Lung-ling battle filtered in to Dorn they were moderate in tone, and blamed faulty leadership and lack of training for the loss of the Chinese grip on the vital communications center. The Generalissimo was extremely angry when word reached him. Harsh orders from him, the arrival of the Honorable 1st Division, and a heavy raid by twenty-four B-25's on Lung-ling were all instrumental in halting the Japanese attempt to exploit their success. At Hwangtsoapa the Chinese forced the Japanese to fight for
every foot of ground, though they were handicapped by especially inclement weather that interfered with air supply and air support. The Generalissimo intervened again with orders to General Wei to report all commanders who had shown themselves incompetent, and to spare no effort in eliminating Teng-chung and Sung Shan so that there might be a new effort from two directions against Lung-ling.41 But the lost opportunity was past, and months of slow battering against Teng-chung and Sung Shan could not replace it.
In mid-May, the Chinese crossed the Salween toward Burma. The crossing was unopposed, but hopes of a speedy break into Burma began to dwindle when the Chinese insisted on reducing Japanese strongpoints in turn, and disregarded the long-standing American advice that they should infiltrate through the scattered Japanese and move on into Burma. Nevertheless, considerable progress was made, and in late May Gen. Wei Li-huang decided to commit his central force to an attack straight down the Burma Road. After initial successes, the Chinese were thrown back from the key point of Lung-ling by a counterattack of 1,500 Japanese and the middle of June found the Chinese with no hopes of a speedy break-through into Burma, while in east China the Japanese seemed to be moving at will.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (8) * Next Chapter (10)
1. Rad CFB 16100, Ho to Hearn for Marshall, 14 Apr 44. Item 2214, Bk 6, JWS Personal File.
2. Rad WAR 23478, Marshall to Ho, 15 Apr 44. Item 2225, Bk 6, JWS Personal File.
3. Plan RAINBOW, for the Salween operation, is contained in Incl 1 to Ltr 0, Col Richard M. Sandusky, Deputy CofS, Y-FOS to COs, Traveling Instructional Gps 1, 2, and 3, 29 Mar 44, sub: RAINBOW Opns Plan. OCMH.
4. Min, 4th Conf, USAF CBI Offs with OPD WDGS, Washington, 12 Feb 44. OCMH.
5. Although 56th Division was originally a part of 15th Army, it was placed directly under the control of Burma Area Army on 15 February 1944. Japanese Study 93.
6. Japanese Study 93.
7. (1) Of the five Chinese armies, the 2d was transferred from west Kweichow Province and the 53d from Hunan. The rest had been stationed in Yunnan. See General Plan of ANAKIM, 19 May 1943, cited note 9(2). (2) A Chinese army may be considered, on the basis of its authorized strength, to be the equivalent of an American army corps and is, therefore, indicated on the maps by a corps symbol. The actual numerical strength of a Chinese army, however, was closer to that of a U.S. division, which it resembled in organizational concept. Its divisions were organic to it, just as three infantry regiments are an organic part of the U.S. infantry division.
8. (1) Min cited n. 4. (2) As of 20 April 1944 lend-lease weapons and ammunition issued to the Y-Force by Y-FOS G-4 included:
Weapons Ammunition 75-mm. pack howitzers 244 75-mm. high-explosive 378,334 37-mm. antitank guns 189 75-mm. smoke 4,910 Boys antitank rifles (.55-caliber) 536 37-mm. armor-piercing 55,020 60-mm. mortars 1,238 37-mm. high-explosive 11,260 Rocket launchers M1A1 395 .55-caliber armor piercing 623,980 Thompson submachine guns (.45-caliber) 5,631 60-mm. high-explosive mortar 630,037 Bren machine guns (.303-caliber) 603 2.36-inch antitank 2,880 .45-caliber ball 18,640,400 .303-caliber ball 25,232,000 7.92-mm. ball 164,551,500
In addition Y-FOS furnished 475 jeeps, 1,999 radio sets, and 420 pounds of napalm gasoline thickener. Ltr AG (USAF CBI) 400.3591 and Incls, Gen Evans, Deputy CofS, to Stilwell, 15 May 44. Stilwell Documents, Hoover Library.
9. (1) Stilwell's Mission to China, Chart 8. (2) Y-Force, with the advice of Y-FOS, had begun planning for the Salween operation early in 1943. The product of its staff work was Plan RAINBOW, which the Generalissimo never approved. The General Plan of ANAKIM (Y-Force Project), 19 May 1943, OCMH, contains the general scheme for re-equipping the Y-Force divisions from Chinese and U.S. contributions and the initial plan for the conduct and objectives of the Salween operation. See Stilwell's Mission to China, Ch. VIII. (3) Plan RAINBOW, Dec 43 and Feb 44 versions, AG (Y-FOS) 381, KCRC.
10. (1) Japanese Study 93. (2) CM-IN 10243, Ho to Marshall, 14 Apr 44. (3) Rad 313, Dorn to Hearn, 19 Apr 44. Item 2244, Bk 6, JWS Personal File. (4) Ltr, Dorn to Stilwell, 19 Apr 44; Memo, Dorn for Stilwell, 9 May 44. SNF 35.
11. Stilwell's Mission to China, Ch. VIII.
12. (1) Hist Rpt, Y-FOS (1 Jan-24 Oct 44). (Hereafter, Y-FOS 1944 Hist Rpt.) AG (Y-FOS), KCRC. (2) Stilwell's Mission to China, Ch. VIII. (3) Memo, Dorn for Stilwell, 2 Feb 44. AG (Y-FOS) 381, KCRC. (4) Plan cited n. 9(2).
13. (1) See Ch. VIII, above. (2) Quotation from Memo, Tsen 2114, Wei for Dorn, 21 Apr 44. AG (Y-FOS) 319.1, KCRC.
14. (1) GO 3, Hq Y-FOS, USAF CBI. (2) Y-FOS 1944 Hist Rpt.
15. Y-FOS 1944 Hist Rpt.
16. (1) SOS in CBI, App. 1, SOS in China, Burma Road Engrs. (2) Interv with Col Robert F. Seedlock, former CO, Burma Road Engrs, Dec 1950.
17. Y-FOS 1944 Hist Rpt.
18. (1) Rad CYF 407, Dorn to Stilwell, 27 Apr 44. Item 2273, Bk 6, JWS Personal File. (2) Memo, Dorn for Stilwell, 28 Apr 44. SNF 35. (3) Memo cited n. 10(4).
19. Japanese Officers' Comments, p. 27; App. 1, Col Fujiwara.
20. Y-FOS 1944 Hist Rpt, App. V, Rpt, U.S. Detachment, 54th Army Engr Co, 18 Aug 44.
21. (1) Ltr, Col John H. Stodter, CO, U.S. Ln Gp, 53d Army, to CG, Y-FOS, 15 Oct 44, sub: Opns of 53d Army. (Hereafter, Stodter Report.) OCMH. (2) Interv with Col Stodter, 11 Apr 47.
22. Rpt, Maj Lawrence W. Beilson to Dorn, 10 Aug 44, sub: Rpt on Opns of 39th Div. AG (Y-FOS) 317.1, KCRC.
23. (1) Memo cited n. 10(4). (2) U.S. liaison reports on 2d Army's role in the Salween campaign consist of the following: Rpt, Col Robert C. Lutz, CO, U.S. Ln Gp, 2d Army, to CG, Chinese Combat Comd, USFCT, 5 Feb 45, sub: Opns of 2d Army During Salween Campaign; Rpt, Capt Eugene D. Hill, 2d Army Ln Gp, 26 Aug 45, sub: Brief History of 2d Chinese Army; Rpt, Maj Thomas G. Maris, Jr., CO, U.S. 76th Div Ln Team, 16 Dec 44, sub: Opns of 76th Div; Rpt, Maj William L. Lowry, CO, U.S. 9th Div Ln Team, 1945, sub: Opns of 9th Div. AG (CCC) 314.7, KCRC.
24. (1) GO 69, Hq Chinese Combat Comd USFCT, 7 Nov 45. (2) The best U.S. Army source for a detailed combat story of the Salween offensive is a daily G-2, G-3 Journal kept by Headquarters, Forward Echelon Y-FOS, at Pao-shan between 11 May 1944 and 28 February 1945. The journal consists of two volumes. A carbon copy is filed with ZEBRA Force Records, KCRC. (Hereafter Y-FOS Journal.)
25. Japanese Study 93.
26. (1) Y-FOS Journal. (2) Rpt, Capt Arthur M. Murphy, U.S. Ln Off, 592d Inf, 198th Div, 26 Jul 44. AG (Y-FOS) 371.1, KCRC. (3) Hist Rpt, Hq 69th Composite Wing, Fourteenth AF, 29 Jun 44. USAF Hist Div. (4) Memo, Col Frederick W. Hein, CO, U.S. Ln Gp, 54th Army, for CG, Y-FOS, 17 Oct 44, sub: Ln Off Rpts on Salween Campaign. OCMH. (5) Japanese Study 93.
27. (1) Stodter Rpt. (2) Interv cited n. 21(2).
28. (1) Hist Rpt, 27th Tr Carrier Sq, Fourteenth AF, May-Oct 44. USAF Hist Div. (2) Stodter Report. (3) Y-FOS Journal. (4) Ltr with atchd rpts, Col Harry A. Buckley, CO, U.S. Ln Gp, XX Group Army, to CG, Y-FOS, 1 Nov 44. OCMH. (5) Japanese Officers' Comments, p. 29.
29. (1) Rpt cited n. 22. (2) Y-FOS Journal. (3) Japanese Study 93. (4) Japanese Officers' Comments, p. 31.
30. (1) Ltr with atchd rpts cited n. 28(4). (2) Rad CFB 18989, Ferris to Stilwell, 22 Jun 44. Item 2641, Bk 7, JWS Personal File. (3) Y-FOS Journal.
31. Quotation from Col Buckley's ltr cited n. 28(4).
32. (1) Rpts cited n. 23(2). (2) Y-FOS Journal. (3) Rpt, 2d Lt Raymond D. Ashman, Jul 44, sub: Action of 226th Regt, 76th Div, at Ping-ka. AG (Y-FOS) 371.1, KCRC. (4) Japanese Study 93.
33. (1) Rpt, Col Walter S. Wood, CO, U.S. Ln Gp, XI Group Army, to Hq USAF CBI, Jan 45, sub: Salween Campaign. (Hereafter Wood Report.) OCMH. (2) Memo, Col Reynolds Condon, G-4, Y-FOS, for Dorn, 2 Jul 44, sub: Supply of Opns. Y-FOS 1944 Hist Rpt. (3) Memo, Dorn for Stilwell, 23 May 44; Ltr, Col Clayton B. Claassen to Chennault, 17 Jul 44, sub: Rpt, Conf, Fourteenth AF Personnel with Dorn. SNF 35. (4) Memo, Dorn for Chennault, 13 Jul 44. AG (Y-FOS) 381, KCRC. (5) Memo, CO 27th Tr Carrier Sq to CO, 69th Composite Wing, 22 Jun 44, sub: Air Supply Opns. AG (Y-FOS) 373, KCRC.
34. (1) Rad CHC 1141, Stilwell to Dorn, 3 Jun 44. Item 198, Bk 6A, JWS Personal File. (2) Ltr, Dorn to Ward, 2 Jun 52. OCMH. (3) Stilwell Diary, 2 Jun 44.
35. (1) Wood Report. (2) Notes, Maj Herbert E. Feldman, U.S. Ln Off, New 28th Div, 1944. OCMH. (3) Japanese Study 93.
36. General Merrill was convinced that Stilwell would have airlifted the Chinese 38th Division to east China. One may speculate that others would have followed, as they were to do in late 1944-early 1945. Interv with Merrill, 20 Apr 48, OCMH.
37. (1) Wood Report. (2) Ltr, Col John K. Sells to authors, 1 May 47. OCMH. Colonel Sells was Commanding Officer, U.S. Liaison Team, 71st Army. (3) Dr. Ho Yung-chi in The Big Circle, page 130, explains the escape route device.
38. This division and one other, the Honorable 2d Division, received the honorific title of Honorable because they were made up of men who had been wounded and then returned to battle.
39. (1) Wood Report. (2) Y-FOS Journal. (3) Ltr cited n. 37(2). (4) Ltr, cited n. 34(2). (5) Japanese Officers' Comments, p. 32. (6) For details of the fighting at Myitkyina, see Chapter VI, above.
40. Memo, Capt Frederick E. Van Tassell, CO, U.S. Ln Team, 259th Regt, for Dorn, 29 Jun 44. AG (Y-FOS) 319.1, KCRC.
41. (1) Wood Report. (2) Memo, Dorn for Ho Ying-chin, 5 Jul 44. AG (Y-FOS) 381. (3) Rad cited n. 30(2).