Prepared by
U.S. Army Air Forces Tactical Center

Published by
Training Aids Division
Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Training
Headquarters Army Air Forces


    This page features interesting maps, diagrams, illustrations and selected text from the original U.S. Army Air Force Handbook of Burma and Northeastern India, used in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II.  All text is exactly as published in the handbook.  Where indicated, you may click on the image to display it enlarged in a new window.


  This handbook presents pertinent facts about Burma, the adjacent Indian provinces of Assam and Bengal, and the Andaman Islands. Its purpose is to serve as a source of useful information for AAF personnel operating in this region.

  When the Japanese took Rangoon early in 1942, the Burma Road, vital supply route to China, was closed. Since then, the Japanese in Burma have constantly threatened direct invasion of India, Burma and the Andaman Islands afford the enemy bases for aerial and naval attacks on shipping in the Indian Ocean and on ports and important industrial centers of eastern India.

  The occupation of Burma by the enemy deprived the Allied nations of important quantities of petroleum, tin, tungsten, rubber and teakwood. The Japanese are not only utilizing these resources, but they have been able also to add to their supplies of badly needed zinc, lead and nickel.

Regional Map of the Southwest Pacific
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   Northeastern India and Burma lie in southeastern Asia along the north and the northeastern edge of the Bay of Bengal. The area extends from 8 degrees north to 28 degrees north (approximately the latitudes of Panama and daytona Beach, Florida, respectively); most of it is within the tropics The longitude of the area is from 88 degrees east to 102 degrees east, or directly on the opposite side of the earth from Central America and western Cuba. Burma covers 261,610 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Texas.

   Burma is separated from Assam and Bengal, the provinces of northeastern India, by a series of rugged mountain ranges known as the Border Ranges, which in September 1943 marked the westward limit of the Japanese invasion into the mainland of Asia. The southeastern pre-war boundary of Burma adjoined those of Thailand and Indo-China. The northeast boundary is formed by the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Sikang, and in September 1943 was the approximate line separating the Chinese and Japanese forces in this region.

Physiographic Provinces
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Surface Relief
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Surface Winds
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Vegetation and Agricultural Zones of Burma
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Vegetation Zones along the 21° Parallel
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Principal Languages
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Peoples and Population Density
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Principal Religions
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Mineral and Non-Mineral Deposits
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  1. Avoid Mosquito bites.
  2. Treat all cuts and scratches promptly, no matter how trivial.
  3. Drink only sterilized water or a beverage known to be safe.
  4. Take extra salt.
  5. Keep physically fit - exercise; get sufficient rest.
  6. Keep cool - wear loose clothing.
  7. Learn how to greet the local people - respect their religions and customs. Try to speak the local language - even a few phrases will help win over the people.
  8. Consult the headman in a village for permission to make camp, to attend a festival or to buy supplies.
  9. Be constantly on guard with the hill tribes of the frontier.
10. Enter Kachin houses by the front door only.
11. Respect the Buddhist monks - the religious leaders and wise men of the country. Many carry "begging bowls" - drop in a penny.
12. Learn the Hindu caste marks - they are the insignia of the people.
13. Treat native women with the highest respect.
14. Bargain when purchasing from Mohammedans and Hindus, because their first price is about four times what they expect to get. But don't bargain with a Burman - he has only one price and you may "take it or leave it."
15. Be generous with cigarettes and tobacco. salt is an excellent trading medium.

  1. Don't drink water unless it has been sterilized.
  2. Don't eat food sold at native bazaars and markets.
  3. Don't confuse the customs and religions of the different peoples.
  4. Don't bathe in public - the Burmans are very modest.
  5. Don't gamble with the Burmans; they're poor losers.
  6. Don't touch the food of Hindus or allow your shadow to fall across it.
  7. Don't offer Mohammedans pork.
  8. Don't offer milk to the Naga and other hill tribes - they regard it as impure.
  9. Don't offer Burmans or Mohammedans intoxicating liquors.
10. Don't stare at a Mohammedan woman or try to remove her veil - her male relatives may kill you both.
11. Don't show the soles of your feet to Mohammedans and don't touch Mohammedans with your left hand - these are insults.
12. Don't get into political arguments or become involved in Hindu-Mohammedan frictions.
13. Don't ask Hindus to violate their caste requirements. Don't argue with Hindus about caste.
14. Don't ridicule those who believe in nature spirits ("nats") and omens.
15. Don't touch anything in pagodas, temples, or shrines. Don't disturb them even if they are in ruins. If you enter a Burmese holy place on invitation, take off your shoes.
16. Don't enter or attempt to enter Moslem mosques.
17. Don't mutilate trees - many are considered the sacred dwelling places of spirits.
18. Don't be boisterous at festivals. They are serious religious occasions.
19. Don't shoot animals near Buddhist temples. Many temples have small reservations around them where hunting is forbidden.
20. Don't fish in pools near Buddhist temples.
21. Don't maltreat or kill the sacred cattle of the Hindus.
22. Don't treat animals unkindly, even though some, like dogs, are so numerous that they are a nuisance - the Burmans resent mistreatment of animals.
23. Don't go near water buffaloes - they can be very dangerous.
24. Don't take photographs of citizens unless you first get permission.



Capacity (Dry measure only; liquids are always sold by weight.)


Length and Area



RANGOON. Shwe Dagon Pagoda. This is the largest and most famous of Buddhist temples in Burma. It is built on rising ground and towers 370 feet above its surroundings. The huge cone is entirely covered with gold leaf and the surmounting spire is encrusted with gems. A myriad of fantastically carved gilded shrines covers a large area of the base.
 Note: In the Shwe Dagon, as in most of the pagodas of Burma, the visitor is required to remove shoes and stockings before entering.

Sule Pagoda. The Sule pagoda is adorned with curious shrines and carvings - scarcely less impressive than the Shwe Dagon.

Reclining Image of Buddha. This figure is smaller than the huge figure of Pegu, but well worth seeing.

Kemmedine (suburb). idol and umbrella manufacturer's shops are located here. The Burmese umbrella is an almost inseparable item of the Burman's costume; its manufacture is an interesting process.

PEGU. Reclining Image of Buddha. This Buddha is probably the largest complete image of the human figure in the world. It is an amazing piece of masonry measuring 180 feet in length and 46 feet high at the shoulder. The huge face may be seen across the landscape from a distance of several miles.

KALAW. Floating Islands and the Inle Lake. These are located at Inle Lake in the southern Shan States (elevation 4,300 feet), 80 miles from Kalaw. The Inthas of this area are the only people in the world who work their canoe paddles with their legs. The long-necked Padaung women may be seen in the district of Pekkon, 70 miles from Kalaw by road.

PAGAN. Lacquer Work and Pagodas. Pagan is the center of the lacquer-work trade. It is also the site of an ancient city of much historical and archaeological interest. There are many pagodas.

MOGOK. Ruby Mines. These are reached by motor from Thabeitkyin on the Irrawaddy above Mandalay.

MANDALAY. Golden Monastery. This monastery has beautiful wood carving and ornamental panels covered with gold leaf.

Arakan Pagoda. This is a pagoda of the Arakanese, which differs in some respects from the usual Burmese pagoda.

737 Pagodas. Mandalay is filled with hundreds of interesting padodas.

King Thebaw's Palace. This is the palace of the last of the Burman kings.

BHAMO. Bazaars. Bhamo is one of the terminals of the Burma Road and the old starting point of the great trade route to China. There are many interesting bazaars and people.



Special Thanks to Glenna Wilding

Copyright © 2006 Carl Warren Weidenburner