Remembering the Forgotten Theater of World War II  Click here fplain page
THE LEDO ROAD
General Joseph W. Stilwell’s Highway to China

 The Ledo Road

A typical sight along The Road as monsoon rains turned the trace into a muddy mess

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INTRODUCTION

    While researching my father's service in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of World War II, I learned that he worked for the Services Of Supply (SOS) in an air supply office which supported the building of the Ledo Road and other operations in northern Burma.  A Tribute To My Dad contains the information I was able to find about his service in CBI as well as photos, documents and other memorabilia he saved.

    Searching for information on the Ledo Road, I found various confusing statements about it and the Burma Roads.  I could find no single site about the Ledo Road that provided the story and photos of the road building effort.  I set about constructing this site as a single point of information about the Ledo Road.

    On this site, combined with details of the road building effort, are photos and personal accounts of the Ledo Road.  Like "The Road" in 1945, this site is subject to constant maintenance and improvement.  December 16, 2017 marked the 75th Anniversary of the beginning of construction of The Road in 1942.  Anniversaries will continue until 2020.

    Sincere thanks to those who have contributed to this site by sharing personal accounts, printed material, photos, and much more.  Additional information is always welcomed to help make this site more complete.  Your comments regarding this site are also welcomed.  Please contact me to comment on the site or if you have anything to add.


Copyright © 2019 Carl W. Weidenburner  







THE TOUGHEST JOB

  The Ledo Road was built by U.S. Army Engineers and native labor during World War II from the tea plantation province of Assam in India, through the mountains and jungle of northern Burma, to a junction with the Burma Road.  It went over tough mountain terrain, across monsoon fed swamps and through the thickest jungle.  General Lewis A. Pick, who commanded the road building effort, called it the toughest job ever given to U.S. Army Engineers in wartime.  Its purpose was to re-establish the land supply route to China that had been blocked by the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942.  Construction began 16 December 1942 and the completed road was officially opened 20 May 1945.  An estimated 147,000 tons of supplies were carried over the road by the end of the war.

  The usefulness of the Ledo Road was debated both before its construction and after its completion.  Even as it progressed into Burma, military planners had their doubts about whether it could be completed in time or even at all.  As it neared completion and until well after the war ended, many pointed out that it never lived-up to the original estimates of capacity as a supply line.

  Overlooked is the fact that it was decided not to build the road to the original specification of a double-track (two-lane) road over its entire length, the fact that it was never assigned the originally planned number of truck transport companies, and the fact that it actually assisted the airlift operation over The Hump to which it was constantly compared.

  As the road was built it served as a combat highway enabling the reconquest of Burma, serviced a pipeline that paralleled it to carry fuel all the way to China, and allowed safer more southerly routes for airlift flights to China.  The accomplishment of building the Ledo Road stands as a testament to the men responsible and the American spirit that made it possible.





THE CHINA-BURMA-INDIA THEATER

  Officially established June 22, 1942, the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations (CBI) is often referred to as the Forgotten Theater of World War II.  Of the 12,300,000 Americans under arms at the height of World War II mobilization, only about 250,000 (two percent) were assigned to the CBI Theater.  Relatively few Americans were in combat in the theater.  Except for a few stories, CBI did not often make headlines in the newspapers back home.  The 12,000 mile supply line, longest of the war, was often last in line for supplies from the United States.

  Not forgotten to Allied war planners, CBI was important to the overall war strategy.  Occupation of Burma in 1942 by Japanese forces cut the last supply line of communication between China and the outside world.  Keeping China in the war was important as it occupied an estimated 800,000 Japanese troops that might have been used elsewhere.  A military airlift to supply China was begun although it was generally agreed that this would not be enough and a land supply route would be needed.  A road from Ledo, Assam, India was begun in late 1942.  Ledo was chosen because it was close to the northern terminus of a rail line from the ports of Calcutta and Karachi.  Construction of the Ledo Road was completed in early 1945.

  Allied forces in CBI, mostly British, Chinese, and Indian, engaged large numbers of Japanese troops.  America's role in CBI was to support China by providing war materials and the manpower to get it to where it was needed.  The Flying Tigers fought the Japanese in the air over China and Burma.  The Services of Supply managed supplies from the U.S. to India and on to China.  Army Air Forces flew supplies Over The Hump from India to China.  Merrill's Marauders and the Mars Task Force fought through the jungles of Burma.  Army Engineers built the Ledo Road to open up the land supply route.


Symbols


 CBI CBI Theater - The left-hand symbol represents China and is the sun surrounded by 12 points for each hour in the traditional Chinese day. The star symbolizes the "Star of India". The red, white, and blue represent the United States. Worn since 1942 it was officially adopted on 13 November 1944.


 Ledo Road (red) Ledo Road - The winding road proceeds through Burma to China (represented by the sun). The three stars represent the three countries involved: China, Burma, and India. Approved for local wear only. Two different versions were worn, one with stars on red field and the other, more common, stars on blue field.


 SEAC Southeast Asia Command - A Phoenix rising from the fire. Most likely worn by only a few officers who held positions in this command of which CBI was a part. British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten headed this mostly British command.

These symbols were rarely seen in the field. The CBI insignia was officially approved one month after the theater was split in two. Ledo Road insignia was approved for local wear only.





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 - Japan invaded and occupied Burma in early 1942, blocking the Burma Road supply line.  Allied 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.  The Ledo Road did not enter 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 at the suggestion of Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, in honor of American General Joseph W. Stilwell, Commander of the China-Burma-India Theater and Chief of Staff to the Generalissimo.  The Stilwell Road covered 1,079 miles from Ledo, India to Kunming, China, 470 miles "as the crow flies."





THE COMMANDERS

 General Joseph W. Stilwell
JOSEPH W. STILWELL
CBI Theater

 Lieutenant General Lewis A. Pick
LEWIS A. PICK
Ledo Road

 Lieutenant General Raymond A. Wheeler
RAYMOND A. WHEELER
Services of Supply

 Major General Frank D. Merrill
FRANK D. MERRILL
Marauders

 Brigadier General John C. Arrowsmith
JOHN C. ARROWSMITH
Ledo Road Engineers

 Lieutenant General Daniel I. Sultan
DANIEL I. SULTAN
India-Burma Theater

 General Albert C. Wedemeyer
ALBERT C. WEDEMEYER
China Theater

 Major General Robert F. Seedlock
ROBERT F. SEEDLOCK
Burma Road Engineers


CLICK PORTRAIT FOR BIOGRAPHY





 Engineer poster

CLICK HERE FOR FULL IMAGE




THE ROAD BUILDERS

 Click for more about The Road Builders

"The Engineers have hairy ears and live in caves and ditches,
They bang their jocks against the rocks, those hardy sons of bitches."

  •  45th Engineer General Service Regiment
  •  71st Engineer Light Pontoon Company
  •  75th Engineer Light Pontoon Company
  •  77th Engineer Light Pontoon Company
  •  93rd Engineer General Service Regiment
  • 195th Engineer Dump Truck Company
  • 209th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • 236th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • 330th Engineer General Service Regiment
  • 352nd Engineer General Service Regiment
  • 479th Engineer Maintenance Company
  • 497th Engineer Heavy Shop Company
  • 797th Engineer Forestry Company
  • 823rd Engineer Aviation Battalion
  • 848th Engineer Aviation Battalion
  • 849th Engineer Aviation Battalion
  • 858th Engineer Aviation Battalion
  • 1327th Engineer General Service Regiment
  • 1359th Engineer Dump Truck Company
  • 1388th Engineer Forestry Company
  • 1575th Engineer Heavy Shop Company
  • 1875th Engineer Aviation Battalion
  • 1883rd Engineer Aviation Battalion
  • 1905th Engineer Aviation Battalion
  • 4023rd Quartermaster Dump Truck Company
  • 4024th Quartermaster Dump Truck Company

  • CLICK HERE FOR LIFE MAGAZINE PICTORIAL - “THE LEDO ROAD”





    SERVICES OF SUPPLY

     Services of Supply
    Victory and Liberty Ships being loaded with lend-lease supplies for overseas.




     Services of Supply
    Lend-lease medical supplies for China being unloaded at Calcutta





     Services of Supply
    Medical supply warehouse at Calcutta





     Services of Supply
    Carefully unloading delicate cargo





     Services of Supply
    Supplies await loading at rail yard for shipment to Ledo





     Services of Supply
    Supplies move on the Bengal & Assam Railway while elephants cool down after hard day's work.





     Services of Supply
    Construction of facilities at Ledo





     Services of Supply
    Fuel storage dump in Assam





     Services of Supply
    Aviation fuel being flown Over The Hump to China





     Services of Supply
    Sign warning that gas is "Hot Stuff" so No Smoking





     Services of Supply
    U.S. Army Air Corps. C-47, one of the planes used to air-drop supplies to forward areas.





     Services of Supply
    Supplies being air-dropped





     Services of Supply
    Awaiting the word to "kick" supplies out the door





     Services of Supply
    Air-drop supplies are pushed out the door of a transport plane





     Services of Supply
    Signal Corps. cameraman documents air drop





     Services of Supply
    Low-level parachute drop





     Services of Supply
    Packing supplies at the 14th Medical Supply Depot





     Services of Supply
    Native labor helping to unload supplies





     Services of Supply
    Wrecker hoists huge crate





     Services of Supply
    Unloading a bulldozer from a transport





     Services of Supply
    Part of the sprawling U.S. Army Installation at Ledo





    THROUGH THE JUNGLE
     Through the Jungle
    Laborers cut a 100 foot wide path through the jungle




     Through the Jungle
    Survey party on elephants meets up with bulldozer




     Through the Jungle
    Clearing the trace




     Through the Jungle
    Around the mountains...




     Through the Jungle
    ...and through the jungle




     Through the Jungle
    Engineers and equipment dwarfed by the massive jungle




     Through the Jungle
    General Pick, the man with the stick, consults with bulldozer operator




     Through the Jungle
    Graded slope along the road




     Through the Jungle
    Jeep moves on a "corduroy road" (bamboo laid over mud) during construction




     Through the Jungle
    Truck convoy at Hell Gate




     Through the Jungle
    The tough terrain and steep grades earned Pangsau Pass the name "Hell Pass".




     Through the Jungle
    Soldiers pose with Engineer's sign marking completion of road through the pass.




     Through the Jungle
    Jeeps follow the ruts during construction




     Through the Jungle
    Monsoon rains made traversing the road a constant struggle




     Through the Jungle
    D-8 bulldozer pulls smaller D-4 out of the mud




     Through the Jungle
    "That's not a river, it's the Ledo Road!"




     Through the Jungle
    Clearing mud from a bridge near Myitkyina




     Through the Jungle
    Drainage Culverts to prevent wash-outs




     Through the Jungle
    Rare color photograph shows cut through jungle and heavy traffic on the road




     Through the Jungle
    A look ahead at the mountainous terrain




     Through the Jungle
    When there wasn't room on the mountainside, Engineers made room.




     Through the Jungle
    Looking back on the low overhanging rock formation.




     Through the Jungle
    Construction continued around-the-clock.




     Through the Jungle
    Construction equipment passes former Japanese positions




     CLICK HERE for next page (Merrill's Marauders)
    Anti-aircraft battery protects the road





    MERRILL’S MARAUDERS
     Merrill's Marauders
    The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) code name Galahad became famous as Merrill's Marauders




     Merrill's Marauders
    Merrill's Marauders move along the road




     Merrill's Marauders
    Coaxing mules up a steep hill




     Merrill's Marauders
    The Marauders on a newly cut portion of the Ledo Road




     Merrill's Marauders
    The Marauders pass the half-way point on the Ledo Road




     Merrill's Marauders
    Crossing a native bridge




     Merrill's Marauders
    General Merrill (far left) observes the Marauder's along the Ledo Road





    BUILDING BRIDGES
     The Ledo Road
    Engineers still at work as trucks cross temporary bridge over the Irrawaddy River south of Myitkyina




     The Ledo Road
    Before the bridge was complete supplies were ferried across the Irrawaddy




     The Ledo Road
    Three ways to cross the Irrawaddy




     The Ledo Road
    A more permanent bridge over the Irrawaddy




     The Ledo Road
    Floating design of the 1200 foot long bridge allowed it to adjust to the river's changing level




     The Ledo Road
    Bridge over the Mogaung River south of Warazup, Burma




     The Ledo Road
    Wooden bridge under construction




     The Ledo Road
    Bulldozer grades approach to bridge under construction. Temporary crossing at right.




     The Ledo Road
    Another bridge under construction. On average there was a bridge every three miles along the Ledo Road




     The Ledo Road
    A 450-foot Bailey cable bridge spans the Shweli River




     The Ledo Road
    Salween River Bridge. Early view shows bridge open for foot traffic only.




     The Ledo Road
    Suspension bridge under construction




     The Ledo Road
    Bridge ready for single-lane traffic




     The Ledo Road
    Truck crossing the bridge




     The Ledo Road
    Aerial view of the bridge




     The Ledo Road
    Another aerial view




     The Ledo Road
    Another view with bridge in distance




     The Ledo Road
    Chinese soldiers on foot and a Jeep share bridge




     The Ledo Road
    Crossing a pontoon bridge




     The Ledo Road
    Steel bridges in Burma




     The Ledo Road
    Trucks with bridge sections await unloading




     The Ledo Road
    General Pick poses with bridge builders




     The Ledo Road
    Bailey Bridges




     The Ledo Road
    Bailey Bridge




     CLICK HERE for next page (The Burma Road)
    Bridges over the Tarung River in Burma





    THE BURMA ROAD
     Stilwell Road
    In addition to building the Ledo Road, engineers also upgraded almost 600 miles of the Burma Road.




     Stilwell Road
    Survey party checks tough terrain




     Stilwell Road
    Truck rolls by laborers placing stones one-by-one




     Stilwell Road
    Native laborer works on shoulder of road




     Through the Jungle
    Cutting the road into the mountainside




     Stilwell Road
    Graders maintaining the Burma Road




     Stilwell Road
    General Seedlock at ceremonial link-up of construction parties at the Burma-China border




     Stilwell Road
    Famous 24-Zig near the Burma Road




     Stilwell Road
    Another view of the curves




     Stilwell Road
    Back and forth up or down the mountain




     Stilwell Road
    Chinese-manned American tanks on the Burma Road




     Stilwell Road
    Chinese tank crew




     Stilwell Road
    Tanks cross the Irrawaddy River in Burma




     Stilwell Road
    Fighter protects Chinese troops on the Burma Road




     Stilwell Road
    Trucks on the road...




     Stilwell Road
    ...and trucks off the road




     Stilwell Road
    This truck almost went in the river




     Stilwell Road
    Wreck on edge of road with Salween River Bridge far below




     Stilwell Road
    Pause to check-out explosion




     Stilwell Road
    Convoys passing




     Stilwell Road
    Tractor-trailer trucks just get by a nearly washed-out bridge




     The Ledo Road
    Truck rolls along the road




     The Ledo Road
    Lone truck kicks up dust racing rain clouds




     Stilwell Road
    Chinese troops move along the Burma Road




     Burma Road
    The Burma Road in Yunnan Province, China.







     Ledo Road driver award
    Driver Award

      This truck driver award was intended to go to the better drivers of the Ledo Road. At first there were to be only 150 of them issued, hence they were lettered by hand up to 150. It was designed by Robert S. Fenn of Engineer Division 2 at the request of General Pick. Unfortunately, the same day the design was completed, the name of the road was officially changed from Ledo Road to Stilwell Road. The award was never used as by the time it was completed it was already outdated.


    CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT THE AWARD AND THE LEDO ROAD












    PARALLEL PIPELINES
     Parallel Pipeline
    Engineers built fuel pipelines that paralleled the road




     Parallel Pipeline
    Up to six 4" and 6" pipelines followed the supply line from Calcutta to Kunming




     Parallel Pipeline
    Pipe sections being welded




     Parallel Pipeline
    Pipeline suspended over a river




     Parallel Pipeline
    A landing craft and barges pull pipeline across river




     Parallel Pipeline
    The pipeline disappears as it crosses distant river




     Parallel Pipeline
    Pipelines take a shortcut over a hill




     Parallel Pipeline
    Pumping Station in Burma




     Parallel Pipeline
    Engineers maintain diesel pumping station




     Parallel Pipeline
    Installing support beams for the roof of a fuel storage tank near Myitkyina




     Parallel Pipeline
    Storage tanks




     Parallel Pipelines
    Pipelines carried fuel for planes and trucks. Here convoy trucks refuel at a depot.




     Pipeline manifold

    LONGEST PIPELINE IN THE WORLD       FUEL FOR FREEDOM




     Parallel Pipelines
    Pipeline system from Assam to Kunming

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW MAP FULL SCREEN





    THE FIRST CONVOY
     FIRST CONVOY OVER THE LEDO ROAD ~ PICK'S PIKE, LIFE LINE FROM INDIA TO CHINA
    FIRST CONVOY OVER THE LEDO ROAD
    PICK'S PIKE, LIFE LINE FROM INDIA TO CHINA

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SLIDE SHOW







     First convoy formed and awaiting departure
    American and Chinese soldiers place flags on a Jeep for the First Convoy over the Ledo Road






     First convoy formed and awaiting departure
    First Convoy formed and awaiting departure from Ledo






     Decorating truck for first convoy
    Lead vehicle is decorated with American and Chinese flags






     Generals Sultan and Pick
    At symbolic ceremony, General Pick (right) receives orders for first convoy from General Sultan (left).






     First Convoy heads out on the Ledo Road
    First Convoy heads out on the Ledo Road, 12 January 1945.






     Truck decorated for first convoy
    6x6 Deuce 'n' a half (2½ ton truck) decorated for first convoy






     Truck decorated for first convoy
    More than just a pretty picture - lead truck was also armed with an anti-aircraft gun






     Motorcycles lead first convoy
    Motorcycles lead the 113 vehicle-long convoy






     Trucks pause on a narrow stretch
    Trucks pause on a narrow stretch






     Lead truck continues past one of the many bridges
    Lead truck continues past one of the many bridges






     The First Convoy winds its way through Burma
    The First Convoy winds its way through Burma






     Army ambulance passes convoy
    Army ambulance passes convoy






     The convoy made several extended stops
    The convoy made two extended stops as the final route was cleared






     The convoy made several extended stops
    Correspondents with first convoy during 3-day layover near Namkham, Burma






     MPs prepare for overnight layover
    MPs assigned to the convoy prepare for overnight layover






     General Pick addresses drivers
    General Pick addresses drivers prior to leaving Myitkyina






     Junction of the Ledo and Burma Roads
    General Pick in lead jeep at the junction of the Ledo and Burma Roads






     Photographers follow lead vehicles
    Photographers follow lead vehicles






     Truck passes ceremonial junction
    Truck passes ceremonial junction






     Sign marks passing of first convoy
    Sign marks passing of first convoy

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW A CLOSE-UP OF THE SIGN       CLICK HERE TO VIEW TEXT OF SIGN







     First convoy sign in different location and with Chinese translation
    American and Chinese soldiers view the sign, in a different location and with translation added.






     Convoy traverses the 21 curves at Annan
    Convoy traverses switchbacks on the Burma Road.






     Passing Temples and ruins
    Passing Temples and ruins






     Flags and fireworks greet the convoy
    Flags and fireworks greet the convoy as it passes through Saikwan, China.






     Boy gives traditional Chinese good luck greeting
    Boy gives traditional Chinese good luck greeting as convoy passes.
    Cover of May 4, 1945 issue of YANK The Army Weekly.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COVER







     Convoy assembled for triumphant entry into Kunming
    Convoy assembled for triumphant entry into Kunming






     Welcome the First Convoy
    Convoy passes under sign "Welcome the First Convoy on Stilwell Road"






     General Pick waves to crowd lining streets of Kunming
    General Pick waves to crowd lining streets of Kunming






     People crowd the convoy
    People crowd the convoy






     First convoy arrives Kunming
    First convoy arrives Kunming, China on 4 February 1945.






     The long convoy in Kunming
    The long convoy in Kunming






     General Pick arriving in China
    General Pick arriving in Kunming






     General Pick at road opening ceremony
    Lead truck navigates the crowded street






     General Pick at road opening ceremony
    General Pick at road opening ceremony






     Governor of Yunnan Province greets General Pick
    Governor of Yunnan Province greets General Pick





    STILWELL ROAD SIGNS
     Milepost Zero Sign at Ledo






     Milepost Zero Sign at Ledo
    Another version of the sign with CBI and Ledo Road emblems added.






     Milepost Sign at Ledo
    General Pick points out Myitkyina, 268 miles from Ledo.






     Milepost Zero Sign at Ledo
    Soldiers pose in front of the large Milepost sign at Ledo






     Probably the first Milepost Zero sign at Ledo
    Probably the first Milepost Zero sign at Ledo






     Sign at Shingbwiyang
    Sign at Shingbwiyang shows number of miles to Kunming






     Sign at Shingbwiyang
    Closer look at the "MP" on the sign






     Ledo Area Command Headquarters
    Ledo Area Command Headquarters






     Chinglow Hill sign
    General Pick inspects Chinglo (Chinglow) Hill sign
    with Col. William J. Green and Col. Charles S. Davis






     Ledo Road sign
    Convoy parking area south of Bhamo, Burma
     Ledo Road sign
    Mileage sign along the road








     Ledo Road sign
    On the way back to Assam near Shingbwiyang
     Ledo Road sign
    Instructions for crossing the Irrawaddy River








     Ledo Road sign
    Not your average speed limit sign
     Ledo Road sign
    Pin-up Girls always got a driver's attention








     Ledo Road sign
    Another curve warning
     Ledo Road sign
    And another warning to take it slow








     Ledo Road sign
    "Speeders Beware! Mark my words,
    Wait and see, You'll get caught, Just like me."
     Ledo Road sign
    "Listen cats I ain't jivin'
    Take it easy while you're drivin'"








     Ledo Road sign
    Engineers were also known as "Hairy Ears"






     Ledo Road sign
    UNCLE SAM CAUTIONS "SPEED LIMIT 25
    BE SMART - BE CAREFUL"
     Ledo Road sign
    "DON'T BE A SAD SAC - BE ALERT - OBEY
    TRAFFIC RULES - SPEED LIMIT 25 M.P.H."








     Ledo Road sign
    "TAKE MY ADVICE SOLDIER
    WHENEVER YOU DRIVE -
    DON'T BE FOOLISH
    AND YOU'LL STAY ALIVE"
     Ledo Road sign
    Soldier beside "Stay Alive" sign








     Ledo Road sign
    "Speeders Beware" sign apparently
    before it got out on the road






     Ledo Road sign
    "I LOVE MY SOLDIER - DRIVE CAREFULLY"






     Ledo Road sign
    Making reference to gas rationing back home, sign urges conservation






     Ledo Road Milepost 00.00  Go Easy on the Curves
    A small sign marking Milepost Zero and one featuring a Pin-Up Girl urging caution on the curves.

     India-Burma border Pangsau Pass 3827 ft above sea level  Pangsau Pass - 7+ miles of steep grade with sharp curves - Reduce speed and use low gear
    Signs in Pangsau Pass mark the India-Burma border and warn of steep grade and sharp curves.






     Ledo Road sign
    Sign at Mongyu, Burma marks junction of the roads






     Ledo Road sign
    China-bound truck passes sign at junction of Ledo and Burma roads










     Ledo Road sign
    Signs memorialize one of the 261 engineers who lost their lives during construction.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW CLOSE-UP OF SIGN       CLICK HERE TO VIEW TEXT OF SIGN











    LEDO ROAD TIMELINE

     1937  JAPANESE AGGRESSION

      SECOND SINO-JAPANESE WAR  More
       After years of Japanese aggression, full-scale war breaks out.
       Many historians regard this as the start of World War II.


     1938  CHINA ISOLATED

      JAPAN BLOCKADES CHINESE PORTS  More
       Capture of Hankow and Canton completes blockade of ocean ports.
       Supplies must be brought by road through Indo-China and Burma.


     1939  GUERILLA WARFARE

      CHINESE FIGHT GUERILLA WAR  More
       Under Japanese occupation a relentless guerrilla war is waged.
       Staggering losses fail to destroy Chinese morale.


     1940  CHINA IN CRISIS

     17 JUL - JAPAN FORCES BRITAIN TO CLOSE BURMA ROAD  More
                  leaving Russia as the only land supply route to China.

     05 SEP - U.S. DECLARES NEUTRALITY
                  while military and other aid is authorized for Britain and France

     18 OCT - BRITAIN REOPENS BURMA ROAD
                  as no progress toward peace is made with Japan

        NOV - LEND-LEASE PROPOSED  More
                  allowing "lending" of military equipment to U.S. allies.


     1941  DRAWN TO WAR

     04 MAR - AMERICAN MILITARY MISSION TO CHINA ESTABLISHED  More
                  to support China's war effort was the mission of AMMISCA

     11 MAR - LEND-LEASE ACT SIGNED  More
                  authorizing lending of war supplies to China

        APR - RUSSO-JAPANESE NEUTRALITY PACT
              ends China's hope for supplies from Russia

     10 JUL - FLYING TIGERS DEPART SAN FRANCISCO  More
                  The American Volunteer Group (AVG) heads to China

     26 JUL - U.S. FREEZES ALL JAPANESE ASSETS
              the situation becomes critical

     07 SEP - JAPANESE FINALIZE PEARL HARBOR ATTACK PLAN
              while diplomatic talks with the U.S. continue

     16 OCT - TOJO COMES TO POWER  More
                  as the military gains control of the Japanese Empire

     07 DEC - JAPANESE ATTACK PEARL HARBOR  More
                  "awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve"

     08 DEC - UNITED STATES DECLARES WAR ON JAPAN  More
                  Roosevelt forever labels December 7th the "Day of Infamy"


     1942  MOBILIZING FOR WAR

        JAN - JAPANESE INVADE BURMA  More
                  Japanese "co-prosperity" sphere grows

     22 FEB - WAR DEPARTMENT APPROVES ROAD PROJECT
              to be supported with Lend-Lease supplies

     04 MAR - HQ. AMERICAN ARMY FORCES IN CBI ESTABLISHED  More
                  The United States organizes in the Far East

        MAR - SERVICES OF SUPPLY (SOS) ESTABLISHED
              to deliver lend-lease military supplies to China

     06 MAR - JAPANESE TAKE RANGOON
              closing the important port

     02 APR - INDIA-BURMA CAMPAIGN BEGINS  More
                  the defense of India and Burma begins

     29 APR - JAPANESE TAKE LASHIO
              thereby closing the Burma Road

     04 MAY - STILWELL WALKS OUT OF BURMA  More
                  and reports "We took a hell of a beating"

     22 JUN - CHINA-BURMA-INDIA THEATER ESTABLISHED  More
                  Commanded by General Joseph W. Stilwell

     04 JUL - CHINA DEFENSIVE CAMPAIGN BEGINS  More
                  the defense of China begins

     06 JUL - FLYING TIGERS JOIN CHINA AIR TASK FORCE
              ex-volunteers join the Army Air Corps.

     22 OCT - BRITISH-AMERICAN PLANNING
              Joint planning for the retaking of Burma in 1943

     29 OCT - STILWELL ORDERS ROAD BUILT
              from Ledo forward to Chinese lines

     05 NOV - MERRILL PROPOSES ROUTE OF LEDO ROAD
              based on British surveys and a refugee trail

     26 NOV - SOS OPENS OFFICE IN KUNMING
              to coordinate both ends of supply line

     15 DEC - BASE SECTION 3 ESTABLISHED
              Command for all Ledo Road related operations

     16 DEC - CONSTRUCTION OF LEDO ROAD BEGINS
              Ill-equipped engineers hack away at the jungle with machetes


     1943  BUILDING THE ROAD

     26 JAN - MILE POST 34.5 "HELLGATE"
              beginning of the road's ascent into the Patkai Range

     28 FEB - LEDO ROAD REACHES INDIA-BURMA BORDER
              36 miles into the Patkai Range of the Himalayas

     04 MAR - "SHIPMENT 4201" REACHES INDIA
              Engineers and support personnel for the road project

     17 MAR - THE MONSOONS COME
              Unusual fury bogs down construction progress

     24 MAR - FIRST SUBDEPOT ESTABLISHED
              Rest and refueling stop at Hellgate

        MAR - TROOPS ON THE LEDO ROAD
              Chinese 38th Division crosses the Burma border

     08 APR - CONSTRUCTION BOGS DOWN
              Engineers fall back to strengthen the road against the monsoon

     01 MAY - ADDITIONAL ENGINEERS ARRIVE
              330th Engineers reinforce the construction effort

     25 JUN - ARROWSMITH PROMOTED
              Commander elevated to Brigadier General

     06 JUL - ROAD HEADQUARTERS ESTABLISHED
              at Hellgate

     15 AUG - SOUTHEAST ASIA COMMAND (SEAC) ESTABLISHED  More
                  under British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten

     17 AUG - QUEBEC CONFERENCE  More
                  Plan to regain northern Burma is agreed on

        SEP - MORE RAIN HALTS WORK
              14.88 inches fall late in the month, halting work on the point.

     17 OCT - GENERAL PICK IN COMMAND OF ROAD BUILDING  More
                  injecting new life into the road building effort

     22 OCT - MILE POST 60
              near Tincha progress on the road reaches about a mile a day

     31 OCT - MERRILL'S MARAUDERS ARRIVE  More
                  volunteers for a dangerous jungle mission "somewhere"

     27 DEC - ROAD REACHES SHINGBWIYANG
              117 miles to the first "town" in Burma


     1944  ONWARD TO VICTORY

     13 JAN - STILWELL'S TROOPS CROSS TARUNG
              Chinese 22nd and 38th Divisions in heavy fighting

     09 FEB - MARAUDERS DEPART LEDO
              10 day hike to Shingbwiyang headed deeper into Burma

     17 MAY - ALLIES TAKE MYITKYINA AIRFIELD
              largest air field in north Burma

     26 JUL - MARS TASK FORCE CREATED
              remnants of the Marauders and Chinese troops

     03 AUG - ALLIES TAKE MYITKYINA
              the 79-day siege ends

     18 OCT - STILWELL DEPARTS CBI
              Chiang Kai-shek prevails and Roosevelt concedes

     27 OCT - CBI THEATER REORGANIZED
              China Theater of Operations (CTO) & India-Burma Theater (IBT)

        OCT - ROAD WITHIN 80 MILES OF MYITKYINA
              using Myitkyina's airstrip speeds progress

     13 NOV - CBI THEATER INSIGNIA/PATCH APPROVED
              having been worn in theater for years

     15 DEC - ALLIES TAKE BHAMO
              the tide has turned in Burma


     1945  "INEVITABLE TRIUMPH"

     12 JAN - FIRST CONVOY DEPARTS LEDO
              the entire route not yet cleared of Japanese resistance

     28 JAN - INDIA-BURMA CAMPAIGN ENDS  More
                  as the Ledo Road is completed

     28 JAN - STILWELL ROAD NAMED
              at the suggestion of Chiang Kai-shek

     04 FEB - FIRST CONVOY ARRIVES KUNMING, CHINA
              first supplies are delivered by land since 1942

     07 MAR - ALLIES TAKE LASHIO
              on the way to Rangoon

     20 MAR - ALLIES TAKE MANDALAY
              the drive to Rangoon continues

     03 MAY - ALLIES TAKE RANGOON
              Japanese are cleared from Burma

     04 MAY - CHINA DEFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ENDS  More
                  war in the Far East winds down

     20 MAY - STILWELL ROAD OFFICIALLY OPENED
              General Pick formally announces completion

     06 AUG - ATOMIC BOMB DROPPED ON HIROSHIMA  More
                  Enola Gay delivers "Little Boy"

     09 AUG - ATOMIC BOMB DROPPED ON NAGASAKI  More
                  Bocks Car delivers "Fat Man"

     15 AUG - VICTORY OVER JAPAN
              Emperor Hirohito announces acceptance of surrender terms

     28 AUG - SURRENDER IN BURMA
              Japanese sign the surrender instrument in Rangoon

     02 SEP - OFFICIAL SURRENDER
              Japanese sign Instrument of Surrender aboard USS Missouri


     1946  WINDING DOWN & MOPPING UP

     02 MAR - ASIATIC-PACIFIC CAMPAIGN ENDS
              curtain falls on the old CBI Theater

        MAR - MILITARY USE OF STILWELL ROAD ENDS
              after being officially open for only 10 months

        APR - CHINESE CIVIL WAR RESUMES  More
                  destined to bring communism to China

     12 OCT - GENERAL JOSEPH W. STILWELL DIES
              Cancer claims "Uncle Joe" in California

     31 DEC - END OF WORLD WAR II
              President Truman officially proclaims end of hostilities


    START 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946

    World War II Timelines: Asian Mainland Pacific





    ROAD MILE POSTS

    Information in the table below is from various published sources. MILE POST indicates the distance from Ledo along the road. Mileage shown in RED is estimated based on maps. DATE REACHED is approximate and indicates the progress of the roadhead (the farthest point along in construction). Location names in BOLD are shown on the Mileage Sign at Ledo.

     MILE  POST
    DATE REACHED
    LOCATION
    ALONG THE LEDO ROAD IN INDIA AND BURMA
    0.00
    01 OCT 42
    LEDO Construction begins from small tea plantation town in northern Assam.
    4
    16 DEC 42
    Lekhapani Depot at the northern terminus of rail lines from Karachi and Calcutta.
    15
    31 DEC 42
       
    34
    26 JAN 43
    Hell Gate The road begins its ascent to Pangsau Pass through the Patkai Range of the Himalayas.
    36
    28 FEB 43
    Pangsau Pass The road crosses the India-Burma border near its highest point at nearly 4,600 feet.
    50
    01 AUG 43
    Nawngyawng  
    55
     
    Loglai Sub-depot.
    60
    22 OCT 43
    Tincha Progress on the road reaches about a mile per day.
    69
     
    Namlip  
    79
     
    Tagap Ga Northernmost point of Japanese infiltration into Burma.
    92
       NOV 43
    Nathkaw  
    95
     
    Taga Sakan  
    98
     
    Chinglow Hill Through "seven miles of steep grades and sharp curves" the road descends to Shingbwiyang.
    103
    27 NOV 43 SHINGBWIYANG First large "city" reached in Burma was a Kachin village. Here the 497th Engineer Heavy Shop Co. established "Little Peoria."
    118
      Ningam Sakan  
    128
      Yupbang Ga Tarung River
    143
        Tawang River
    148
        Lamung River
    151
      Nritu Ga Tanai River
    159
        Magwitang River
    161
      Walawbum Numhkang River
    175
      Tingkawk Sakan  
    178
      Jambu Bum  
    183
      Shadazup  
    189
      WARAZUP Low point in this area required the building of a causeway through the swamp, 18 inches above the highest flood level.
    205
       OCT 44 Nampin  
    222
      Tumbonghka  
    234
      Namti Kachin village midway between Myitkyina and Mogaung.
    254
      Myitkyina Fork The north fork to Myitkyina, the south fork (Ledo Road) bypassing the city, to the Irrawaddy and Nampaung.
    268
       AUG 44 MYITKYINA The airfield at Myitkyina was the largest in north Burma and became an important hub for air operations supporting road construction and Hump flights.
    272
    06 DEC 44 Irrawaddy River 1,627-foot long bridge (853 feet of it floating) spans the Irrawaddy between Myitkyina and Waingmaw. Completed 31 MAR 45.
    287
      Nampaung  
    299
      Kazu  
    329
      Nalong  
    354
      Myothit Taping River
    372
      BHAMO  
    439
      Namkham Dr. Gordon Seagrave's hospital overlooked this city in the Shweli River Valley.
    465
    27 JAN 45 Mongyu Last Japanese resistance is cleared and the Ledo Road joins the old Burma Road near Wanting, China.






    MAPS OF THE ROAD
     Ledo Road Maps
    The China-Burma-India Theater

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW ENLARGED MAP




     Ledo Road Maps
    Early progress of the Ledo Road

    Map from The Ledo Road by Leslie Anders, University of Oklahoma Press. Used by permission.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW ENLARGED MAP



     Ledo Road Maps
    Planned route of the Ledo Road

    Map from The Ledo Road by Leslie Anders, University of Oklahoma Press. Used by permission.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW ENLARGED MAP



     Ledo Road Maps
    Shingbwiyang to Warazup

    Map from The Ledo Road by Leslie Anders, University of Oklahoma Press. Used by permission.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW ENLARGED MAP



     Ledo Road Maps
    Myitkyina to Mongyu

    Map from The Ledo Road by Leslie Anders, University of Oklahoma Press. Used by permission.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW ENLARGED MAP



     Ledo Road Maps
    The Stilwell Road (Ledo and Burma Roads)

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW ENLARGED MAP




     Click to view enlarged chart
    CLICK HERE TO VIEW ENLARGED TABLE









     Next
    FORGOTTEN FACTS




       A primary source of information for this site was The Ledo Road by Leslie Anders, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. This book is an excellent source of information about the building of the Ledo Road.

       Below you will see some facts about the building of the Ledo Road, including the cost in dollars and more importantly, American lives.   You will see numbers supporting the fact that the Ledo Road was quite an engineering accomplishment, made even more so by the fact that it was built during wartime in the battle zone of northern Burma.


    CLICK HERE TO VIEW COVER PHOTO





    The Cost


      While supplies that moved over the road were lend-lease (to be paid for or returned) the cost of building the road itself was borne mostly by the United States. The exact cost could not be determined for various reasons, including the fact that some of the costs attributed to building the road were actually incurred on other smaller projects carried out by the road engineers.
    The final estimated cost:

      U.S. Troop labor.................. $ 31,766,000
      Materials and Supplies............   33,912,000
      Equipment, fuel, repairs..........   51,956,000
      Overhead..........................   19,424,000

      Sub-Total.........................  137,058,000

      Chinese Troop labor...............    2,410,000
      Indian military, civilian labor...    9,442,000

      Sub-Total.........................   11,852,000

      Grand Total....................... $148,910,000

      Present Day (2018) Dollars...... $2,062,353,305






    The Greater Cost


      The greater cost of building the Ledo Road is measured in human lives. The entire length of the Stilwell Road was 1,079 miles. American fatalities in the area commanded from Ledo were 1,133. For this reason the human cost is often stated as "A Man A Mile."

      Overall
     The Kohima Epitaph

    CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT
    THE KOHIMA EPITAPH
      Killed in combat.................  624
      Died of Typhus...................   63
      Died of Malaria..................   11
      Died by Drowning.................   53
      Died in Road Accidents...........   44
      Died in Aircraft Accidents.......  173
      Total Ledo Road Fatalities....... 1133

      Among Engineer Units
      Killed in combat.................. 130
      Died of Typhus....................   8
      Died of Malaria...................   7
      Died of Other Causes.............. 116
      Total Engineer Fatalities......... 261






    More Than Miles...


    Engineers moved 13,500,000 cubic yards of earth in building the road
    Enough earth to build a wall 3 feet wide and 10 feet high from New York to San Francisco

    Engineers dug 1,383,000 cubic yards of gravel from riverbeds to surface the road
    If loaded on rail cars the train would be 427 miles long

    The Ledo Road crossed 10 major rivers and 155 smaller streams
    Seven hundred bridges over the length of the road

    Construction was as much a drainage project as a road building effort
    An average 13 culverts per mile were used totaling 105 miles of pipe

    Foresters gathered 822,000 cubic feet of lumber for use in building the road
    One million board feet of lumber and 2400 pilings were used in a causeway over the swamp

    Of the 15,000 Engineers who built the road, over 60% were African-American
    The "colored" or "negro" troops received the jobs nobody else wanted

    The supply line from the United States to CBI was 12,000 miles long
    Longest supply line in World War II







     Conversation Piece - The Ledo Road    by Sgt. Smith Dawless - Ledo, Assam, India, 1943   

    Is the gateway to India at Bombay
    Really as beautiful as they say?
    Don't rightly know, Ma'am. Did my part
    Breakin' point in the jungle's heart;
    blasted the boulders, felled the trees
    with red muck oozin' around our knees;
    Carved the guts from the Patkai's side,
    Dozed our trace, made it clean and wide,
    Metalled and graded, dug and filled:
    We had the Ledo Road to build.

    Well, surely you saw a burning ghat,
    Fakirs, rope tricks and all of that.
    Reckon I didn't. But way up ahead
    I tended the wounded, buried the dead.
    For I was a Medic, and little we knew,
    But the smell of sickness all day through,
    Mosquitoes, leeches, and thick dark mud
    Where the Chinese spilled their blood
    After the enemy guns were stilled:
    We had the Ledo Road to build.
    Of course, you found the Taj Mahal,
    The loveliest building of them all.
    Can't really say, lady I was stuck
    Far beyond Shing with a QM truck
    Monsoon was rugged there, hot and wet,
    Nothing to do but work and sweat
    And dry was the dust upon my mouth
    As steadily big "cats" roared on south,
    Over this ground where Japs lay killed:
    We had the Ledo Road to build.

    You've been gone two years this spring,
    Didn't you see a single thing?
    Never saw much but the moon shine on
    A Burmese temple around Maingkwan,
    And silver transports high in the sky,
    Thursday River and the swift Tanai,
    And Hukawng Valley coming all green,
    Those are the only sights I've seen.
    Did our job, though, like God willed:
    We had the Ledo Road to build.


    CLICK HERE TO VIEW POEM FULL SCREEN       CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE FROM SMITH DAWLESS






    LEDO ROAD STORIES

     The Ledo Road

    The Ledo Road - by James W. Dunn
    And Along The Road, Pick - by John McDowell
    First Convoy Over Ledo Road - by William B. Sinclair
    I Drove the Lead Vehicle - by James M. Garvin
    Driving the Ledo-Burma Road - by Godfrey C. Barnosky
    The Tengchung Cut-off - by Carl W. Weidenburner
    Ledo Diary - (unknown)
    Truck Convoy to China - by Dave Richardson
    The Ledo Road - a LIFE Pictorial
    Stilwell Road - a LIFE Pictorial
    LIFE Goes Over The Stilwell Road
    The Jungle's Victory - by Dave Richardson
    Building the Ledo Road - by Lloyd L. Kessler
    World's Largest Service Station - from Roundup
    330th Engineer Regiment Unit History
    Of Men and Mud - 879th Engineer Battalion history
    First Convoy over the Ledo Road - Story of Pick's Pike
    My Trip Over the Ledo Road- by William Dawson










    THE ROAD TODAY
     The Ledo Road Today
    A recent photo of the Ledo Road in Burma.




     The Ledo Road Today
    The trace is still visible in this photo from along the road.




     The Ledo Road Today
    While much of the Ledo Road has been reclaimed by the jungle,
    portions are still in use by traffic as shown here.




     The Ledo Road Today
    2004 photo shows sign marking Mile Zero on the Ledo Road.
     See more at  A TRIP TO THE ZERO MILE OF THE LEDO ROAD




     The Ledo Road Today
    It's still STILWELL ROAD.




     The Ledo Road Today
    Hell Gate marked the road's entry to Pangsau Pass near the India-Burma Border.




     The Ledo Road Today
    Jungle and muddy track in the Hukaung Valley.




     The Ledo Road Today
    Much of the Hukaung Valley is now a "Tiger Reserve" as indicated by these signs near Kamaing.




     The Ledo Road Today
    The route of the road from Kamaing to Pangsau is part of the Hukaung Tiger Reserve.

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW MAP





     The Ledo Road Today
    Trucks would have no problem on this well-built stretch, even today.




     The Ledo Road Today
    March 2005 photo of the "24 Zig" curves near the Burma Road.






    ROAD JUNCTIONS

    Links to more about Ledo and Burma Roads and CBI Theater    [CHECK LINKS]

    The Ledo Road - information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Route of the Ledo Road through Burma to China
    History of the Road 1942-44 - Official Report
    The Road That Couldn't Be Built - from Popular Mechanics magazine
    Pictorial Record - of the 497th Engineer Heavy Shop Co.
    Mile Zero - and other recent photos from the Ledo area
    The Twain Meet - Pick's Pike in Water Color and Words
    The Ledo Road - LIFE magazine pictorial
    More Photos of The Ledo Road - from LIFE Photo Collection
    Aerial Views of the Ledo Road - The Road under construction
    First Convoy on Burma-Ledo Road - from LIFE Photo Collection
    Life-line to China Re-opened - Universal News Newsreel Video
    The Stilwell Road - movie narrated by Ronald Reagan
    Ledo Road Shoulder Sleeve Insignia - Story of the Ledo Road patch
    CBI Manhunt - The Story of Pvt. Herman Perry
    China-Burma-India - Remembering the Forgotten Theater
    More Links - to information about the CBI Theater

    Explore THE LEDO ROAD on the Internet using   Google  Search eBay

     ALL LINKS ARE OPENED IN A NEW WINDOW    





     LEDO ROAD SIGN