Home / Exotic & Adventurous / Ledo-Burma-Stilwell Road

 

The toughest job ever given to U.S. Army Engineers in wartime.

General Lewis Pick who commanded  the road building effort for Ledo Road once famously said those words.  You can imagine why. It went over toughest mountain terrain, across monsoon fed swamps and through the thickest jungle.  Its purpose was to re-establish the land supply route to China that had been blocked by the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942.  The Ledo Road was quite an engineering accomplishment, made even more so by the fact that it was built in wartime in the battle zone of northern Burma.

 

THREE NAMES – TWO ROADS – ONE PURPOSE

Burma Road – Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931 resulted in the Second Sino-Japanese War which continued with sporadic fighting throughout the 1930s.  In 1937 full scale war broke out and Japan occupied most of coastal China.  This forced the Chinese to seek another method of bringing in supplies and war materials.  A route from Kunming, China to a railhead at Lashio, Burma was completed in 1938.  Supplies were landed at Rangoon, Burma and brought by rail to Lashio.  Built by Chinese laborers stone by stone, this route was known as The Burma Road.

Ledo Road – During World War II, Japan invaded and occupied Burma in early 1942, blocking the Burma Road supply line.  War planners decided to build a new road from Ledo, Assam, India, to bypass the cut off Burma Road.  Supplies landed at Karachi and Calcutta, India could be brought by rail to Ledo and trucked over the road to China.  It proved to be an extremely difficult task but the Japanese were driven back and a new route forged through the mountains and jungles of northern Burma.  The Ledo Road was completed by U.S. Army Engineers in early 1945.  It ran 465 miles from Ledo to a junction with the Burma Road at Mongyu, Burma, near Wanting, China.

Stilwell Road – In addition to building the Ledo Road, Army Engineers and local workers also upgraded over 600 miles of the Burma Road.  The Ledo Road and the upgraded portion of the Burma Road from Mongyu to Kunming were later named Stilwell Road in honor of American General Joseph W. Stilwell, Commander of the China-Burma-India Theater and Chief of Staff to Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.  The Stilwell Road covered 1,079 miles from Ledo, India to Kunming, China.

 

GETTING THERE 

Since the road runs through the insurgency-wracked Kachin & Shan regions over which Myanmar’s military rulers have limited control, they have been reluctant to allow tourists to freely travel for the safety reasons. But there are 2 ways to you could reach the famous road.

1)      From Lashio (Shan State) to Muse (Shan) to Bhamo (Kachin)

2)      From Myitkyina (Kachin State) to  Bhamo (Kachin)

 

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As of December 2013, government allowed tourists to travel up to Muse from the Lashio end of the Burma Road.. Myitkyina, in Kachin State, is open to travellers and is connected by road, rail, air, and ferry from Mandalay. Bhamo, also in the Kachin State, is also open to travellers and can be reached by the government owned ferry.

 

 

 
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