Confusion Beyond Imagination: Ledo Road Signs
Veterans of CBI often said it stood for "Confusion Beyond Imagination."
Information about the Ledo Road, both on the internet and in articles and books, can be confusing at best.
Inquire Ledo Road from an online encyclopedia and the response is usually see Burma Road,
which is not completely accurate.
Articles claim the length of the road to be anywhere from 271 to 507 miles.
Apparently, this confusion started over 70 years ago, along the road itself !
On January 28, 1945, the First Convoy over the Ledo Road reached the ceremonial junction with the Burma Road.
It was a special day and plenty of photographers were on-hand to document the event...
In the photo at left, General Pick in lead jeep passes the ceremonial junction.
The photo at right is presumably later that same day and is of a lone truck passing the junction
with much less fanfare.
One sentry has replaced all the photographers and dignitaries.
Note the sign at right in both photos.
Here are close-ups of the sign from both photos.
At left, the sign from the photo of General Pick, which appears to indicate 565 miles to Kunming and
475 miles to Ledo.
At right, from the photo of the lone truck, the sign indicates 566 miles to Kunming and 478 miles to Ledo.
Although angle, age and source make the close-ups hard to view, its clear that the two views are of the
same sign and that the numbers are different.
Its quite possible that an engineering officer, maybe even General Pick himself, noticed that the sign was
incorrect and ordered it changed. Based on the fact that the lone truck bears a flag on its right-front it can
be assumed that it is part of the first convoy. This would indicate that the sign was changed while the
113 vehicle-long convoy was still passing the junction.
According to published data compiled in the
below, neither version of the sign is correct.
The total length of Stilwell Road (the name given by Chiang Kai-shek to the newly completed route of the Ledo
and Burma Roads) was 1,079 miles.
The left-hand version of the sign totals 1,040 miles and the version on the right, 1,044 miles.
The junction of the roads is at Mongyu, Burma, near the China border, 465 miles from Ledo.
Both versions are close to that number.
The distance from Mongyu to Kunming, however, is 614 miles.
Most likely the differences are due to the fact that all distances at the time were estimates based on
information from various sources.
There were also changes made to the route as the road was improved from original construction.
Once the road was completed, the distances were more accurately recorded as shown in the
About all this sign has right is the road name.
Nothing seems to add up and even the distance to Tokyo is wrong.
The sign shows 256 miles to Ledo and 569 miles in the opposite direction to Kunming.
That would make the road 825 miles long, which is more than 200 miles off.
Based on the distance shown to Ledo, this sign is north of Myitkyina (refer to the
If this sign was posted prior to the capture of Myitkyina, distances beyond would be guesses since
the final route of the road was not yet determined.
This sign maker appears to have gotten it right.
Most likely, this sign at Shingbwiyang was erected after the road was completed.
Shingbwiyang was at Milepost 103 on the Ledo Road (103 miles from Ledo).
Wanting is shown as being 404 miles from here, or 507 miles from Ledo, which is as shown on the
Also correct is what appears to be 976 miles to Kunming, which is also exactly as shown on the
At left, General Pick points to Myitkyina on the large road sign at Ledo (Milepost 0.00).
At right is an earlier version of the sign showing Kunming to be 1,079 miles from Ledo.
Back to the First Convoy on January 28, 1945...
Here are two photos of General Pick in lead jeep passing the junction.
Looking closely you will see that they are by different photographers who are at slightly different
angles. The photos appear to be a split-second apart as the jeep appears to be a little further
along in the photo at right.
Larger views of the photos above...
One view of General Pick's jeep.
Another view of General Pick's jeep, perhaps a split-second later.
Lone truck and sentry.
General Pick points to Myitkyina on Stilwell Road sign at Ledo.
Earlier version of sign.
Other signs from along the Ledo Road.
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Copyright © 2005 Carl Warren Weidenburner
if you have additional information or to comment.
THE LEDO ROAD