Burma Road

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BURMA ROAD AND LEDO ROAD. One of the largest engineering projects of World War II was the construction of a 400-mile military highway, the Ledo Road, that ran from Ledo, India, to Muse, Burma. There it joined an existing 717-mile highway, the Burma Road, that ran from Lashio, Burma to K'un-ming, China. In 1937 the Chinese started a crash project to build a passable

military road between K'un-ming, the capital of Yunnan Province, and Lashio, a railhead on a railway to Rangoon. There were difficulties, however. Bullied by Japan, the British closed their 117-mile Burma sector in 1940 for a short time. Japanese air power endangered growing traffic; the Chinese in 1941 countered with protective American Air Volunteers, famed as "Flying Tigers." Finally, Japan's conquest of Burma in 1942 blocked China's land route to Rangoon.

When Lashio fell, a Chinese division fled to India. In June 1942 General Joseph W. Stilwell, American theater commander in China, Burma, and India, conceived a project to use this Chinese army in India to retake north Burma and build a 400-mile highway to link up with the Burma Road at Muse. The Ledo Road project started in October 1942, but it made little progress during 1943. After Chinese troops under Stilwell captured Myitkyina, Burma, on 3 August 1944, the Ledo and Burma Roads could be joined. Opened 27 January 1945, the combined highways were officially named the Stilwell Road.

Built by seventeen thousand Americans, Ledo Road cost 1,133 fatalities, 625 from combat. Controversy plagued Ledo Road from its beginning, and it was a contributing factor in Stilwell's recall. Nevertheless, the new Ledo Road revived China's interest in modernizing its Burma Road. Sufficient lend-lease supplies arrived on them to equip thirty Chinese divisions in 1945 for a successful stand against an eleven-division Japanese drive in East China.


Allen, Louis. Burma: The Longest War, 19411945. London: Dent, 1984.

Anders, Leslie. The Ledo Road: General Jospeh W. Stilwell's Highway to China. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.

Ford, Daniel. Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

Ogburn, Charlton, Jr. The Marauders. New York: Harper and Row, 1959.

Charles F. Romanus / a. r.

See also China, U.S. Armed Forces in ; Flying Tigers ; Lend-Lease ; Merrill's Marauders ; Roads, Military .

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Burma Road, in China and Myanmar, extending from the railhead of Lashio, Myanmar, to Kunming, Yunnan prov., China. About 700 mi (1,130 km) long and constructed through rough mountain country, it was a remarkable engineering achievement. Undertaken by the Chinese after the start of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and completed in 1938, it was used to transport war supplies landed at Rangoon and shipped by railroad to Lashio. This traffic increased in importance to China after the Japanese took effective control of the Chinese coast and of Indochina. The Ledo Road (later called the Stilwell Road) from Ledo, India, into Myanmar was begun in Dec., 1942. In 1944 the Ledo Road reached Myitkyina and was joined to the Burma Road. Both roads have lost their former importance and are in a state of disrepair, but India began rebuilding its section of the Stilwell Road in 2007.

See study by L. Anders (1965).

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Burma Road a route linking Lashi in Burma to Kunming in China. Completed in 1939, it was built by the Chinese in response to the Japanese occupation of the Chinese coast, to serve as a supply route to the interior.