Objective, Burma!

The Burma campaign included some of the most charismatic and colorful soldiers of World War II: Vinegar Joe Stilwell and his X-Force, Claire Chennault and his Flying Tigers, Frank Merrill and his Marauders; the British commanders Harold Alexander, William Slim, Archibald Wavell, Claude Auchinleck, Orde Wingate and his Chindits, and Lord Louis Mountbatten, luxuriously ensconced in his headquarters in distant Ceylon; Chiang Kai-shek, Stilwell’s commander and enemy; the Burmese nationalist Aung San (father of the current Burmese leader), who first supported the Japanese, belatedly joined the British in March 1945, and was assassinated by a rival political faction in 1947; the wild Naga tribesmen who served as guides, the ear-slashing Kachin Rangers, and the 60,000 slave laborers who built the Kwai railway.

The Burma campaign began in January 1942 with the Japanese invasion from Thailand in the south.  Chinese troops, with Stilwell as Chiang’s chief of staff, invaded from the east, along the 715-mile Burma Road from Kunming to Lashio.  After their initial defeat, the Chinese retreated to China; the British, to India.  Stilwell led 100 Americans, including the Burma missionary-surgeon Gordon Seagrave, on foot and without losing one man, across the Indian frontier.  The Japanese controlled Burma; the Allies reorganized for an offensive.

The Flying Tigers, operating from Kunming, supported the remaining...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here