by Jessica Leung
The Prelude to War
From January 1st, 1886 to January 4th, 1948 Burma was a territory amassed by the British; who seized it for its tremendous wealth. Burma was wealthy due to the Silk Trade route and its agriculture. Burma’s precious resources such as rubies and gems, gas, oil, tin, and rubber made it a prime target for many countries seeking profitable commodities for the war effort. The benefits of having these raw materials contributed to the economic production of other countries that can assist them in amassing great national wealth. Rubber can be used to produce tires as well a resource that was extremely valuable to the war effort. Nearly all war-related efforts needed rubber in order to achieve victory without rubber it would have been impossible for America success in WWII.
Similarly, to British and American motives the Japanese came to occupy Burma as well for the same raw materials. It was the primary reason why the Japanese came to Burma but there were also other reasons militarily and politically. The Burma road was used to transport troops and supplies to the Chinese nationalists in the which the Japanese they intend to blockade them. Once they achieved that the Japanese were able to isolate the Chinese Nationalists from receiving necessary commodities to survive combat. The Route started from Lashio and ended in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Their campaign was the most successful in Burma outside of the Chinese regions during WWII when Chiang Kai Sheik was effectively forced out of the region and ended in a Japanese victory. There were many reasons for the victory as the British forces were weak, the Burmese were an uprising against the Empire for independence and overwhelming manpower from the opposing forces. In addition to these factors, the British were not prepared for a Japanese invasion as they were short on equipment and poor formation while in combat is the one many reasons why the British lost the region to Japanese.
Internal Conflict within the NATC
In addition to poor equipment and training, internal conflict between the allied forces caused rifts between Chinese, English, and American forces. China was a valuable member to the cause, but the British forces had their doubts about the alliance due to centuries of the political rift between the two nations. A fear the British had was that the Indian insurgents would uprise against them if the example was set for Chinese troops to become successful in combat and respected for their merit.
Americans respected the Chinese as a valuable part of the Alliance but despite their poor training and being ill-equipped General Stilwell reorganized their formations while accommodating them their units when he was assigned to his post on January 1942 believing that the Chinese troops did not have proper supply or accommodations from their own government.
Defeating the Japanese
Morale was low on the Burma road when the Japanese occupation closed off all access the Chinese troops would have for supplies and back up. To make the situation more difficult the Fall of the Burma road in 1942 caused the British to stop supplying troops to reopen the roads as the British no longer saw any reason to help the Chinese. Despite the loss of the road Stilwell negotiated to train Chinese troops with Sheik. They turned out to be a valuable source of victory for the NATC after 6-week retraining with American commanders.
On October 1943, the NATC steadily began the offense to recapture Yup Bang Ga. Despite several attacks in an attempt to destroy the Chinese troops the Japanese general Tanaka was not able to break their formation or put a dent to their morale. The outcome was an astounding victory for the Chinese battalion ending with a 419 casualty and 429 were wounded.
On April 7th the 1st Battalion pushed back Japanese troops on Yup Bang Ga and recaptured the city by setting up a post to block them from entering at the Village of Setan. By May 18th the Japanese attempted an attack on the 150th Battalion but failed to capture Myitkyina after the offensive have been put to a halt. By late June of 1945, the Japanese withdrew from Myitkyina and Burma’s Rail Road is open once again in allied hands.
After the campaign ended for the Allies and NATO agreements were signed Burma became an independent country on January 4th, 1948. The last of the Allied troops left Burma and Burma is officially renamed Myanmar. The campaign is also significant due to consistent American participation from the beginning of the war to the end of WWII.
The Burma Campaign Timeline
January 1st, 1886- Burma is colonized by the British. Burma becomes a British colony.
December 7th, 1941- Bombing of Pearl Harbor triggers American participation in WWII.
January 1942- General Stilwell becomes the leader of the NATC. Reorganized and retrained Chinese to prepare them for the Burma Campaign. The campaign is effective as it led to a string of victories.
August 1943- The Japanese “declared” Burma independence and established occupation of the country. Independence was a mere ploy to gain control of Burma. The Burmese catch on that the Japanese do not intend to grant them true independence.
October 1943- The Burma Road Falls into Enemies Hands as a temporary victory for the Japanese. Temporarily defeating exhausted American forces.
December 1944- Allied offensive campaign begins Sin American army meet in Yunnan.
March 27th, 1945- Burmese uprising against Japanese occupation.
June 1945- The Japanese withdraw after being halted in India and leave Burma.
January 4th, 1948- Burma becomes an independent country after two centuries of occupation.
Frey, Kurt M. Colonel. Burma Campaigns: Battles Over Lines Of Communication
Schwartz, Jill < https://www.worldwildlife.org/blogs/sustainability-works/posts/myanmar-looks-to-create-sustainable-rubber-industry >
Sullivan R, Gordon. < https://history.army.mil/brochures/burma42/burma42.htm >